Caviste’s summer wines have been shown at a number of tastings, most memorably in the presence of a crested eagle – a Bateleur no less – at the Hawk Conservancy. The star of the show had to be woken for his early evening snooze in order to make his celebrity appearance but when he did he immediately emptied the tasting room as we rushed out into the unseasonable cold of an early May evening to greet him. ‘Bateleur’ means street performer in French and you can see that he is a real crowd-puller. Sadly there is no record as to whether he prefers Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc.
In countries with reliable summers, it is quite clear what you will be drinking in the months ahead. In southern Italy, the big reds are given a break and are replaced with quite substantial, food-friendly rosés or the improving whites. In Provence, it has to be rosé. But in England, we have a much more demanding task in choosing our wines to match the moods of summer. Here is my selection from the new wines on show at the Hawk Conservancy tasting.
Whites and a rosé
The British can do smart summer occasions. The season is not just about the flight to the beach or the garden barbecue. It is just as much about opera festivals, boating and Wimbledon. Whatever the weather, the wine has to rise to the occasion, be distinctive, classy and versatile. Champagne from Camille-Saves, Carte Blanche 1ER Cru (£27) would be perfect for a special occasion but Crémant de Bourgogne from Caviste-favourite Patrick Piuze at £17.95 is more accessible. If you think Chablis with bubbles you will be on the right lines: pale in the glass, classy steeliness on the nose reflecting its origins in northern Burgundy, ‘non dosé’ and therefore attractively dry, mineral rather than fruit led, fresh and persistent. A fine, unusual wine from a single vineyard cultivated biodynamically and fermented with wild yeast.
And then finally when the sun does shine, everyone’s mood rises instantly, and we get our things together for that casual picnic, the beach or the riverside. The wine here has to be attractive and gluggable, not serious. It will add to the merriment of the occasion rather than being the centre of attention. If we are driving we need something with a lowish alcohol level where we can enjoy a glass without anxiety. The perfect choice for these special days would be Bodegas Carballal, Sileno Blanco, Spain, £8.95. This is clean and crisp on the palate with an enjoyable leafiness. Made from the Godello and Palomino grape varieties, this hails from cool Galicia and hence the 11.5% alcohol content. A perfect picnic wine. An alternative would be Grillo, Di Giovanna, Sicilia, 2012, £11.95. From organic viticulture and a co-operative winery, this combines lemon and crystalline fruit with an intriguing mineral touch. Despite being grown in the warmth of Sicily it is surprisingly Riesling-like. And when summer really takes over your mood and you don’t have a care in the world, what you need is a few glasses of Le Rosé Osé, Domaine Muret, Pays d’Oc, France, £8.95. Made from Cinsault (quintessential rosé grape variety for its youthful perfume) and Syrah, this is attractively pale in colour, perfumed, light and refreshing. The perfect escape.
Summer is certainly the time for large outdoor parties, with generous, carefree hospitality. From the same source as the rosé mentioned above, Syrah, Domaine Muret, 2012, £8.95 will provide limitless purple-edged, aromatic, redcurrant and plum refreshment, without breaking the bank. But summer has its weightier moments too. The weather is sulking, the barbeque has gone into hopefully short term retirement and we need something evocative of warmer places which will complement weightier foods. Recently the Mencía grape variety has really begun to impress with its lush red-berried fruit and stylish palate. Erebo Mencía, Bodegas Carballal, Spain, £12.95, shows succulent bramble and plum fruit on nose and palate, some subtle stony notes and is full and invigorating. It would grace a summer evening when we are being stoical about the summer – or go well with mixed grills and salads. The sweet fruit makes this pleasant to drink on its own or with salads with a bit of acidity in the dressing. Equally, its intense fruit will stand up to those sausages and chops coming off the grill … Here’s to the British summer and its changing moods!