This week, Times Drinks editor James Viner greets spring with four crisp, bright and breezy wines, including a Spanish rosado (rosé) to sip with friends in your garden.
With the arrival of the new milder season, sunnier days and lighter evenings, it’s time to change the mood and find refreshing and convivial wines to meet.
It’s time to explore the many world-class wines on our doorstep here in Kent. And if you want to taste and learn more about the superb local wines, be sure to grab a ticket (£25 on Eventbrite) to the unmissable Wine Garden of England summer festival at the iconic Squerryes Court in Westerham on May 29. because tickets are selling out fast. Long live spring!
1. Fall for this lovely cheap Chilean red from Aldi
2018 Valle Hermoso Reserva Chilean CountryMaule Valley, Chile (£6.99, Aldi, 13%)
The dark-skinned País is identical to the Criolla Chica from Argentina and the Mission grape from California and Mexico. It’s Chile’s most historic red grape – though not the most widely planted (Cabernet Sauvignon is still king here) – brought to the country by the Spanish conquistadores and now being rediscovered. This silky, deliciously refined, medium-bodied, vegan-approved, dry-grown rendition will no doubt appeal to Pinot Noir lovers and give me a spring boost. Fab País (with 10% Carignan) drink now, all ripe, mellow summer fruit, light herbs, spice and silky, nicely layered tannins. Well developed and reaching its peak, with some balsamic and minty touches, this wine drinks like an exotic delight. Cool slightly and serve with poultry and fish. Such a great find at last month’s Aldi tasting at the Tate. Even more of a bargain now that it’s been reduced by a pound. Well done Aldi.
2. The essential pale pink rosé to sip with friends during your first BBQ of the year
2021 Ramon Bilbao Rioja Rosado, Spain (£8, Tesco, 12.5%)
From crisp, fruity rosés to aromatic reds, there’s a wonderful range to suit all tastes, budgets and occasions at Tesco this spring. Get this trendy new pale pink, Provencal-style, garnacha-dominant, easy-drinking DOCa Rioja that ticks all the boxes. Think honeydew melon, roses, chamomile, berries, citrus and peach. The tiptop grapes came from parcels of high altitude vineyards in the Alto Najerilla sub-region of southwestern Rioja, on the slopes of the Sierra de la Demanda, which protects from the fierce summer heat of the hot central Spanish plateau (Meseta ). While not a heavy hitter, this delicate, juicy, fragrant rosado instead leans on its class through the gentle art of persuasion. It’s nicely dry and indulgent with a dollop (15%, the rest is garnacha) of Viura (aka Macabeo), Rioja’s main white grape. Tremendous drinkability. Grilled fish/vegetables, Niçoise salad, light seafood, sushi, risotto primavera, it’s all there. It’s also the perfect bottle for the first barbie of the year. Salud in spring!
3. A quick and fragrant Kent alternative to Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Chapel Down BacchusKent, England (£13.95, The Wine Society; 20% off, up to £12.79 until May 17, Waitrose; 12.5%)
Chapel Down is a local hit. Named after the Roman god of wine and revelry, Bacchus is a highly aromatic, early-ripening German cross and the fourth most widely planed grape variety in the country (after Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Voguish Pinot Meunier). Cooking steamed or boiled green asparagus with lemon or butter, shrimp and asparagus tagliatelle, an asparagus and goat cheese tart, fresh trout or looking for an oyster pairing? Look no further. England meets Sancerre in this liquid excellence with a pure, herbaceous and pungent taste, which has scents of grapefruit, hedgerow, elderflower and nettles. Its fresh climatic refinement ends long and lively. It’s hard to imagine that it will ever be nicer than it is now. A real success. Look for this local vinous hero once again this spring.
4. Would you like asparagus brunch? Try this superb sparkling affair ‘Wine Garden of England’
Balfour Hush Heath Estate, 1503 Foxwood Classic Cuvée Brut NVKent, England (£17.50-£24.99, Co-op & Majestic, 12%)
Based in nearby Staplehurst, family-owned Hush Heath Estate produces seamless, crowd-pleasing, orchard-fruit speckled, floral and citrus-scented Traditional Method sparkling wines under the Balfour label. This is composed mainly of pinot noir and chardonnay, embellished with a hint of (very trendy) pinot meunier. It’s an appetizing, accessible and charming sparkling wine with fresh pears, baked apple pie, hedge and toasted spiciness. One for a decadent brunch plate of asparagus and eggs topped with Hollandaise sauce – and just as divine with fish and chips, might I add. It has a hearty roll and delectability throughout. Certain to revive jaded palates and delight seasonal asparagus too. Delicious and mouth-watering, this is a fine example of a classic method English sparkling wine and a bargain to boot. I love it for a treat. Discover more Balfour wines at the Wine Garden of England Summer Festival on May 29 (see below).
SIP AND SAVOR AT THE ‘GARDEN OF ENGLAND’ WINE FESTIVAL
The first Wine Garden of England festival takes place in the historic gardens of Squerryes Court on May 29. Visitors can sample 21 of the finest still and sparkling wines from some of Kent’s finest wineries, listen to relaxing live music and brush up on their local knowledge. knowledge of wine by enrolling in one of the many workshops. Buy your tickets here
Follow Jack on Twitter @QuixoteWine