Top 20 Summer wines
Raise a glass to the bank holiday and kick off the summer season with this unmissable guide to the best bottles and bubbles from Weekend's new wine columnist
We may not have the hottest summers in the world here in Ireland, but as a nation we're pretty good at making the best out of what we do get. The long evenings, and perhaps that odd stretch of a few warm(ish) and sunny(ish) days, are a perfect reason to get outdoors and enjoy it while you can. Personally, I'll use any excuse to get out for an impromptu picnic in the local park, to light the barbecue on the back patio, or to take a spin in the car up into the hills. Pick up a baguette and some cheese, maybe a rotisserie chicken or a couple of steaks, or just a few cold cuts for an improvised charcuterie plate, and I'm off.
That quick summer's day getaway will also involve a nice wine. It might be a crisp white to accompany fish or a goat's cheese salad, a refreshing rosé on a warm day, a fruity Beaujolais to accompany a lighter meal or perhaps, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a brawny Aussie Shiraz to stand up to flame-grilled red meat.
It's all good, and here are 20 of my suggestions for making the most of your summer wine-drinking experience.
Selected by Tesco Beaujolais Villages 2015, 13pc, €12
Beaujolais is made exclusively from the Gamay grape, which is one of my top choices for a lunchtime red wine on a summer's day. Light-bodied, with bright flavours of red berries, this wine has the slightest hint of spice on the finish. Slightly chilled, it's perfect for a picnic, or try it with Hazel Wallace's tandoori chickpea and courgette burgers (see page 12)
Finca El Paso Garnacha, 2015, 13.5pc, €12.95
Sometimes you want a wine that immediately hits the spot, and the generous stream of ripe strawberry flavours in this Garnacha has a drooling quality that makes it delicious to drink on its own, and it also goes great with food. Perfect for a barbecue wine that's not going to knock you flat.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown, all Dublin, and searsons.com
Antolini Valpolicella, 2015, 11.5pc, €14.50 (reduced from €15.50)
Another utterly drinkable wine, this time from the Veneto in the north of Italy. Delivering as a Valpolicella should, this wine fills your mouth with a wash of plum and fruity flavours. Smooth and refreshing, this is as good on its own as it is with pizza or charcuterie.Stockists: Wines Direct at Arnotts, Dublin, and winesdirect.ie
Pascal Bellier Cheverny 2014, 12.5pc, €14.99
Elegant and beautifully crafted, this delicious blend of 80pc Pinot Noir and 20pc Gamay is a silk-smooth, easy-drinking wine with fresh flavours of red cherry fruits. Again, like Beaujolais, if you serve it slightly chilled, it makes for a perfect lunch wine on a warm day.
Stockists: Bradleys, Cork; Cashel Wine Cellar, Tipperary; Morton's of Galway; Market 57, Westport; Dicey Reilly's, Donegal; jnwine.com
Domaine Le Novi Terre de Safres 2015, 13.5pc, €16.50
A deep-coloured red wine, this blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault from the southern Rhône Valley is a velvety wash of red cherry flavours, spices and liquorice tones.
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, CHQ Building, IFSC, Dublin 1, and 54 Glasthule Road, Sandycove, Co Dublin; Avoca, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, and Dunboyne, Co Meath; Myles Doyle, Gorey, Co Wexford; mitchellandson.com
DeBortoli Woodfired Heathcote Shiraz, 2015, 14.5pc, €18.50
Shiraz says 'Australia', and in its dark, brooding style, there's nothing low-key or shy about this full-bodied red. Rich, concentrated and flush with plum and dark berry flavours, the food-friendly tannins mean this wine will not sit still till it is accompanied by the char of a thick T-bone steak cooked rare on the barbecue.
Stockists: The Corkscrew, Chatham Street, Dublin; McHugh's, Malahide and Kilbarrack; Gibney's of Malahide, Redmonds of Ranelagh; The Winehouse, Trim; Kilkenny Wine Centre; wineonline.ie
Exquisite Collection Crémant de Jura, Brut, 12pc, €11.99
If you're looking for bargain bubbly that also tastes great, this French fizz, made from 100pc Chardonnay, is deliciously refreshing, with a crisp wash of green apples. A real crowd pleaser at a price that allows you to keep pouring. Perfect for a summer evening with friends.
McGuigan Frizzante, Extra Dry, 11PC, €12.99
Made by the same method as Prosecco, this well-priced fizz from South Eastern Australia is perfect for kicking off an evening, with its lively bubbles and gentle lemon and apple character. Try it with The Food Medic's turmeric roasted cauliflower with curried chickpeas (see page 14).
Stockists: SuperValu, Tesco, independents nationwide and winesoftheworld.ie
Villa Conchi Cava, Brut SelecciÓn, 11.5pc, €22.95
Cava, which is made by the same traditional method as Champagne, is produced in the Catalonia region of Spain using three local grape varieties. The Villa Conchi also has some Chardonnay in the blend, which brings a good balance between fruits, and a rounded note of toast. A delicious apéritif, or serve with salads and light fish dishes.
Stockists: Swans on the Green, Naas; Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown Co Dublin, and searsons.com
Alain Marcadet Crémant de Loire, 12PC, €24.50
A long weekend is the perfect time to treat yourself to some top-notch bubbles and this Crémant de Loire is a real alternative to quality Champagne. Made by the same method, this blend of hand- harvested Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc is light and elegant with golden fruity accents and a lingering finish.
Stockists: Wines Direct at Arnotts in Dublin, and online at winesdirect.ie
Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet, 2016, 12.5pc, €9
Lesser-known grapes deliver brilliant value, and Picpoul from the Languedoc in the South of France, with its crisp apple flavours and refreshing acidity, is fast becoming a favourite among people looking for an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect with seafood and grilled fish or just on its own on a warm summer's day.
Chéreau Carré Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2015, 12pc, €9.99
Muscadet got a reputation for screeching acidity when it first did the rounds back in the 1980s, but it's one of those below-the-radar wines which are tailor-made for summer. This well-priced bottle is dry, light and lively, and its crisp acidity makes it a classic partner for shellfish.
Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc 2015, 11.5pc, €9.95
(reduced from €14.95 until may 28)
While the fruit-forward flavours and zippy acidity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have put this highly rated grape firmly on the varietal map, the Loire in France is its more sedate birthplace. This example, with its crisp gooseberry flavours, has a touch of a Sancerre about it and is a great buy at this offer price.
Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Lugny 2014, 13pc, €14.99
We all have friends who roll their eyes when they hear the word Chardonnay, probably because they got lost in the woods for all the oak that was in it. Far fresher and more vibrant, but softened with a touch of apricot, this Mâcon-Lugny from one of the larger producers in the area, is perfect with a rotisserie chicken.
Stockists: Widely available from Tesco and independents nationwide
Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Terrassen Federspiel 2015, 12.5pc, €17.99
The Grüner Veltliner grape, which is grown primarily in Austria, is often described as having a characteristic nose of white pepper, and you get a touch of that in this example. The Federspiel classification means that this bottle is medium-bodied, so you get a nicely balanced, easy-drinking glass with fresh flavours of apple and a faint touch of passion fruit.
Stockists: Deveney's, Rathmines; The Vintry, Rathgar; and Grapevine, Dalkey, in Dublin; Number 21, Blarney and Cork; The 1601, Kinsale; Red Nose Wine, Clonmel
Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2016, 13.5Pc, €19.99
Fans of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc are in for a treat when they get a waft of the intense, lifted aromas of passion fruit, lemongrass and fresh thyme in this textbook example of the wine. There's plenty going on here with a balance of deliciously ripe fruit, mineral notes and a long, lingering finish.
Stockists: Bradleys, Cork; Blackrock Cellar, Green Man Wines, Le Caveau, Kelly's Off-Licence, Red Island Wine Co, Jus de Vine, and Mitchell & Son, Dublin; Egan's Wines, Portlaoise; Cheers Take Home; drinkstore.ie
Delheim Pinotage Rosé, 12.5pc, 2016, €12.95 (buy one, get one half price)
The rosés are starting to come in at O'Briens and it's well worth watching out for their offers, like this one, which runs for the full summer. Made in Stellenbosch from South Africa's Pinotage grape, this will appeal to the signed-up rosé lover who likes their wine just off-dry and bursting with ripe raspberry and cherry flavours. Stockist: O'Briens
Domaine de la Navarre Rosé, 13.5pc, 2016, €14.50 Even the slightest ray of sunshine is enough reason to open this elegant rosé from the Côtes de Provence region in France, generally considered to be the homeland of rosé. There's plenty of fresh acidity with ripe, pink grapefruit flavours and delicate notes of strawberry and cranberry. Try it with a vine-ripened tomato salad.
Stockist: Marks & Spencer
ChÂteau Sainte-Croix Rosé, 13pc, 2015, €17.95 Another example of a quintessential rosé from Provence. A glass of this 100pc Grenache, salmon-hued wine will transport you to the South of France with its lively fruit and refreshing character. Stockists: 1601 Off Licence, Kinsale; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown, Dublin, and searsons.com
Willunga 100 Grenache Rosé, 14PC, 2015, €18.99 With a bit more power than your typical rosé, this full-on taste of summer in a bottle from the McLaren Vale in Australia is packed with aromas of wild strawberries and fresh rose petals and is balanced by a nice lively touch of citrus acidity. Stockists: Bradleys, Cork; Florries Fine Wines, Tramore; Fresh (Grand Canal Square, Smithfield, Camden Street, Stepaside, IFSC), Baggot Street Wines and Jus de Vine, Dublin