If you’re a fan of sauvignon blanc you’re going to love this fresh, aromatic Sicilian white from one of the island's best known wineries, Planeta.
Admittedly the weather in England right now isn’t quite as gorgeous as it was when I tasted it in a beachside restaurant in Ragusa in sweltering 34°C heat (below) but I still think you’d enjoy it
It’s based mainly on the island’s indigenous grecanico (70%) with 15% each of grillo and sauvignon blanc and is really quite sauvignon-like but with more of a zesty citrus than a gooseberry/elderflower flavour. It went brilliantly well with a vast array of different seafood dishes from salads to grilled fish.
The reason I’m recommending it at this particular moment is that Great Western Wine has it on offer, reducing it from its usual £13.75 to £9.95 which is an incredibly good deal. You get a further 10% off if you buy a case which reduces the cost per bottle to £8.96.
Alternatively you could split the order between the Alastro and Planeta’s very attractive, crisp rosé which is also on offer at £9.25. (That should appeal if you’re a Provence rosé fan.) The deal lasts until the end of the month.
I travelled to Sicily as a guest of Planeta.
You may not remember but back in the '70s kir was ‘a thing’ - the drink you invariably got offered in a cod French bistro or poured for your friends as a sophisticated aperitif back home.
With more glamourous cocktails and the rise and rise of prosecco it’s somewhat fallen from favour but it’s still a lovely summery drink and perfect for this time of year.
All you need is a bottle of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and one or two bottles of dry white or sparkling wine - nothing with too much flavour of its own. The traditional go to was aligoté which at that time was uncomfortably sharp - you could use something like a petit Chablis these days or, cheaper, still, a pinot grigio.
If you’re making a kir royale use a fresh-tasting rather than a toasty champagne or a cheap French crémant sparkling wine like Aldi's Cremant du Jura. (Most prosecco is in my view too sweet).
A small splash in the bottom of the glass - not too much or it will taste of Ribena, top up with wine or fizz - et voilà! Robert is indeed your oncle.
The reason I’m revisiting this is that Aldi is stocking a Crème de Cassis liqueur which has just won a gold medal in the International Wine and Spirits Challenge beating off competition from much more expensive bottles. I haven’t done a comparative tasting but can definitely vouch that it’s deliciously blackcurranty.
Cassis is also useful for adding extra oomph to a summer pudding or a blackcurrant sorbet which is a good idea as it needs drinking up relatively quickly. I suggest within a couple of weeks which shouldn’t be too hard . . .
If you’re a fan of Spain’s fashionable white wine albarino you’ll almost certainly like its Portuguese cousin alvarinho which is made just over the border.
It also tends to be slightly cheaper and more consistent in quality than the Spanish version
This one comes from Casal de Ventozela and is labelled Minho - a denomination that has the same boundaries as Vinho Verde but slightly different regulations - and is as fresh and crisp as a blast of sea air.
It costs a very fair £8.99 a bottle from Majestic on their Mix Six deal (by far the best way to shop at their stores) and would be perfect with any kind of fresh shellfish , especially clams and crab. Or a fish barbecue. (Think mackerel and sardines.)
Whatever happens as a result of the Brexit vote, wine prices are bound to rise so if you’re visiting France this summer it’s a good moment to stock up for the months ahead.
In my Guardian column this week I’ve flagged up some of the wines I’d buy at the Wine Society’s outpost at Montreuil which sadly closes at the end of this year. Here are eight more you might want to put in your trolley if you're a Society member (which is very much worth the initial one-off £40 joining fee*)
The first price is the price at Montreuil, the second the UK price on the Wine Society’s list. You’ll obviously need to calculate the saving you’re making at the point of purchase given that the exchange rate seems to change every day at the moment but you should save at least £24 a case
Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne-Viognier, Pays d’Oc 2015 12% €4.60/£5.75
A full-flavoured, slightly spicy Rhone-ish white at an extraordinarily good price. Would be great with summer barbecues.
Muscadet was one of the first French wines I fell in love with and this is a textbook example - still amazingly fresh and crisp even though it’s almost 3 years old. Ideal with fresh shellfish like oysters and crab.
The Society’s Exhibition Albarino Rias Baixas 2015 13% €12.45/£11.95
The price differential isn’t quite as great on this popular Spanish white, part of the Society’s top end ‘exhibition range’ but any saving is worth having and it’s among of the best 2015 albarinos I’ve tasted. Perfect for a simply cooked piece of grilled fish
Domaine Cordier, Maçon aux bois d’Allier 2014 13% €11.10/£10.95
Really classy white burgundy with far more finesse than the average Maçon. I’m thinking scallops …
Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud, Morgon Côte de Py 2014 13% €13.20/£12.50
An exotically rich, spicy, almost smoky Beaujolais that should please natural wine enthusiasts though, don’t get me wrong, it’s not weird. Needs food (bavette, I suggest) and aerating but really delicious.
The Society’s Sicilian Reserve Red 2013 13.5% €6.75/£7.50
Big, boisterous but not in any way crude. Perfect for pizza and gutsy pasta sauces with tomatoes, aubergines or olives
Momo Vendimia Seleccionada Ribera del Duero 2012 14% €9.25/£9.50
If you’re a rioja - or even a malbec - fan you’ll love this big, rich generous plummy red. Made for steak.
Weinert Carrascal Mendoza 2010 (14.5%) €7.95/£8.50
If you like mature wines such as reserva and gran reserva riojas here’s a chance to buy one of Argentina’s classics - a blend of malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot - at a brilliant price. Would make great autumn drinking with feathered game or slow cooked lamb shoulder.
* of which you get £20 back off your first UK order. More details here.
I travelled to Montreuil as a guest of the Wine Society.
Gin isn’t the only drink you can serve with tonic and this is the perfect time of year to try a delicious alternative: white port. Which, as I’m sure you know, comes from the Douro region of Portugal.
At 20% rather than 40%, it's lighter (and sweeter) than gin so you need rather more of it - about 40/60 I’d say (although the Taylor’s website recommends 1/3 to 2/3). Simply pour both drinks into a tumblerful of ice, stir and top with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. Simple and incredibly refreshing.
You can find it on special offer at Ocado at the moment for £10.63 instead of £13.29 which is the price Waitrose is currently charging but that still compares well with other stockists who are typically listing it for between £15 and £16.
Although it’s a drink you’d have Portuguese-style as an aperitif it’s also a great match with melon and ham.