Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

After chilly April and soggy May, sultry June is upon us. Normal service has been resumed, so it’s time to reach for appropriate wines to welcome in the summer months.

Tonight also sees the start of the Euro 2020 Football championships which were postponed due to the pandemic. I have a sneaking feeling that Italy will do quite well and although I will of course be supporting England, Italy is my go-to country for summer wines. Sparkling wines are just the ticket to kick things off and get us in the mood. The sound of popping corks is as synonymous with summer as ball on willow or the crack of the Wimbledon serve.

Prosecco is the UK fizz of choice offering affordable, simplistic sophistication to any outdoor soirée. The Italian sparkler is fruity and fun but rarely possesses the depth of flavour found in Champagne. I always try to encourage people to trade up a bit for more flavour, so look out for words such as Conegliano, Valdobbiadene and Superiore on the Prosecco label, as they are a good indicator of higher-quality grapes and, therefore, wine. There are plenty of affordable examples to be found in shops.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the words ‘Extra Dry’ on the label mean that the wine is off-dry. Confusing, huh? You bet! When it comes to dry, white, refreshing wines nobody does it better than Italy in my opinion. There’s far more to Italian white wine than Pinot Grigio. Most Pinot Grigios are friendly and perfectly drinkable, but they can be let down by a dearth of character. (Tip: look for words on the label such as Trentino, Alto Adige and Friuli for more flavoursome versions.)

Look further afield around Italy and there are some vinous gems to be found. Getting to know the grapes is a good way to start to appreciate wine, and my perfect winning Italian team of grape varieties would be as follows:

Vermentino
Fiano
Greco
Falanghina
Grechetto (Orvieto)
Cortese (Gavi)
Garganega (Soave)
Verdicchio
Pecorino
Grillo (Sicily)
Turbiana (Lugana)

Subs:
Arneis, Vernaccia, Friulano, Malvasia, Moscato

I’m a particular fan of dry and crisp Gavi made from the Cortese grape. It’s a bit like Italy’s answer to Chablis and is great with fish and seafood. These days there are some fantastic bargains to be had out there under the name Soave, and look out for the word Classico on an Italian label which is a sign of higher-quality vineyards, meaning better grapes.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without rosé and Italy has it covered with its Rosatos. Look out for the pale-coloured, floral scented Bardolino Chiaretto or from Italy’s eastern coast the deeper-coloured, cherryish Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or from down in Italy’s heel the crisp, delicate Primitivo Rosato. Not forgetting Prosecco rosé too.

In the warmer months I’m often looking for a red wine that works well lightly chilled, and Italy wins again here. The Marzemino grape from the Alpine North provides a perfect juicy, cherry delight. The Frappato grape from Sicily ticks all the right boxes and is the perfect summer chiller, and you can’t go wrong with Corvina-based Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. I’m very partial to Dolcetto too from the North West. Also seek out the pleasures of red Lambrusco which works as a smashing accompaniment to anti-pasti dishes.

For food friendliness you can’t beat Italy. With their generous, ripe flavours, Southern Italian reds are perfect barbecue wines. Look out for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Nero d’Avola from Sicily or Primitivo.

So let’s raise a glass of Italian vino to the next few weeks. The perfect wine country to kick off the summer.

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