Chilled at the seaside
Don’t bring your finest wine down to the beach for a picnic – take something fresh and fruity instead, writes JOHN WILSON
MY FIRST RULE for drinking wine on the beach: it must be cheap. There is absolutely no point in bringing your finest wine down to the seaside for a picnic. All of those lovely complex aromas will simply disappear. It is far better to go for something simple – fresh and fruity.
As this is likely to be a daytime event, you don’t want anything too alcoholic, so steer clear of any wine that registers above 13 per cent alcohol. A light, fresh, white wine of any description will always go down well – a Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, my old favourite Riesling, a vinho verde from Portugal or even a Prosecco. There are plenty of options.
However, rosé wines are probably the best picnic wines of all. Not only do they shout sun, they go very nicely with a wide range of foods, including cold red meats. Try to avoid the richer styles. Any of those featured in this column a few weeks back would do perfectly.
Many people don’t think of red wines for drinking outdoors, unless having a barbecue, but a light fruity tannin-free red that can be served lightly chilled is one of my favourite options. Again don’t choose anything too powerful. Beaujolais would be perfect (although a little pricey) but the south of France, Loire Valley and parts of Australia are now producing plenty of juicy, easy-drinking lower-alcohol reds. Warm red wine is unpleasant, so don’t be afraid to use the chill-bag for reds as well as white wines (they will heat up quickly) or leave it for a few minutes in a rock-pool.
You could also consider making some sangria before you leave home. Just add some fresh fruit, a dash of orange juice, sparkling water or citrus-flavoured soda to a bottle of red wine. Alternatively make a sangria blanca with white wine. Either way, serve well chilled.
Do remember to bring the necessary accessories. A nearby rock-pool is ideal, provided is doesn’t get too warm, but a chill-bag is perfect. Some even have compartments for your glasses. Speaking of which, you wouldn’t need to take your best Riedel glasses; this is probably the one occasion when it is okay to use plastic tumblers, but a robust glass or beaker is much better. Lastly, don’t forget the corkscrew (unless, of course the wine is screw-cap).
BOTTLES FOR THE BEACH
Falanghina IGT Beneventano 2011, 12%, €8.79Marks Spencer has a very good range of inexpensive white wines at the moment, including several from France at less than €9, but I was very taken with this Italian wine from Campania. Most wines made from the Falanghina grape cost in excess of €15, but this version has very appealing succulent melon fruits that would go down nicely with salads, fish and white meats. Stockist: Marks Spencer
Cape Quarter Chenin Chardonnay 2012, Western Cape, South Africa, 12.5%, €8.79A light, fresh wine with very decent pure red apple and melon fruits. It might not impress the wine snob, but it will provide great all-purpose summer drinking. Stockist: Marks Spencer
Le Petit Bourgeois Pinot Noir Rosé 2011, Vin de Pays du Val de Loire, 12.5%, €12.99(available at three for the price of two all summer) Made for summer drinking, whether on the beach or relaxing in the garden. Light, fresh, red cherry fruits, with lovely zippy acidity and a good dry finish. Stockist: O’Brien’s
Domaine Preignes le Vieux Syrah 2011, 13%, €10.65The lighter side of Languedoc with easy smooth dark fruits and hints of spice. Perfect glugging wine to drink on its own, with grilled sausages or any other red meat. Stockist: Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie
Barefoot on the beach
Barefoot wines could be designed for the beach. Founded by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey in 1968, they set out to create wines that don’t take themselves too seriously.
Some 40 years later, it is one of the most popular, and most-awarded brands in the US, with a range of 13 wines, four of which are available here, all for €8.99 (or €7 on promotion).
Barefoot winemaker Jennifer Wall was in Ireland on a brief trip recently. “All of our wines are fruit-forward, fruit-friendly and affordable,” she says. Tasting the four wines available here, I preferred the rounded fresh Sauvignon Blanc and clean fruity Pinot Grigio to the sweetish white Zinfandel and the fairly jammy, oaky Merlot.
There is something evangelistic about Barefoot Wines, a company owned by Californian giant EJ Gallo. First there are barefooters – people who go into the community and raise money for charity through tastings.
The Irish barefooter, Samantha Caulfield, will do about 100 charity events this year – making “foot-friends” as she goes. If you have a charity in mind, contact Samantha on Sam@barefooters.com. “Our aim,” says Wall, “is to make the world a better place for wine.”