Wine & Food

    The best wines to bring back from Europe

    30 July 2019

    Wine always tastes better on holiday. In fact some wines, like Retsina, should only be drunk in the place where they are made. In his excellent new book Alchemy Rory Sutherland, aka the Wiki Man, remarks on this phenomenon: “The situation or place in which we find ourselves may completely change our perception and judgement. As a good illustration of this, one reliable way to lose money is to go on holiday to some exotic locale, fall in love with the local speciality alcoholic drink and decide to import it to your home country.”

    My parents drinks cupboard is stuffed with bottles that prove Sutherland’s point. Wines from popular holiday destinations never needed to be that good as they would just be guzzled by legions of holidaymakers happy that they’d escaped the drizzle of northern Europe. Now, however, things have changed. Places such as the Canary Islands, Croatia and Greece all now make exceptionally good wines. So, for all your summer drinking needs, I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite holiday wines plus some from less popular destinations. All of them will taste as good by the beach in Margate as in Malaga, well nearly. Oh, and it might be a good idea to stock up in case the continent is cut off post 31st October.

    White wine

    Dourthe Roquebrun Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (Waitrose £9.49)

    Say Bordeaux and most people think red, but the regions makes some very nice whites too. If you’re tired of shouty sauvignon blanc, then this is the wine for you. It’s all about elegance with gentle peach and pink grapefruit notes, and a creamy finish. Class.

    Idaia Winery Thrapsathiri Ocean 2018 (Wine Direct £13.95)

    The grape here, Thrapsathiri, is indigenous to Crete. It smells very opulent with notes of honeysuckle and lime rind. When you taste it, the perfume is still there but it’s also racy and refreshing. You can almost taste the grilled fish.

    Falanghina 2017 La Sibilla (£11.17 Justerini & Brooks)

    Campania, famous in Roman times for its wines, is blessed with some fascinating native grapes, including Falanghina. At its best, it makes exotic-tasting wines like this one with distinctly spicy cumin notes, preserved lemons and a full round texture.

    Red wine

    Hugel Pinot Noir 2015 (Soho Wine Supply £15.95)

    Alsace Pinot Noir is rarely seen outside of France but in a year like 2015, it can be superb. Put your nose in and you can really smell the warmth of the vintage with lots of dark cherries, a touch of violet and some spicy vermouth-like notes.

    Un Vent de Folie, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages,2016 (Laithwaite’s £14.99)

    This is from my favourite part of France, the Roussillon or French Catalonia. The vines, mainly grenache, would have originally been used to make port-style wines but now make dense dark reds that taste of olives, brambles, rosemary and liquorice. Bring on the lamb chops.

    Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, 2016 (Wine Direct £16.50)

    The reds from the volcanic soil on Mount Etna in Sicily are true originals. Good examples like this one, have something of Burgundy about them with their light body, colour and raspberry fruit, but there’s a smokiness and bite that’s like nothing else you’ve tried.

    San Marzano Talò, Salento 2018 (All About Wine £11.35)

    Puglian reds can sometimes reflect the heat of this part of Italy a little too much. The Talò, however, is very different. Made from malvasia nera, it smells of rose petals, blueberries and wild herbs, and tastes fresh and juicy with almost no tannin.


    Ramón Bilbao Rioja Rosado 2018 (Great Western Wines £10.95)

    We drank this in the heat of Almeria earlier this year, and then had it again in London and it tastes just as good. It’s so pale that’s almost white but there’s no shortage of flavour: ripe strawberries, tangy, refreshing and very moreish.


    Domaine des Guts Perrays, Crémant de Loire Brut NV (Lea & Sandeman £12.95)

    The often superb sparkling wines of the Loire are rather unsung which makes them exceptional value for money. This blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc offers mouth-watering green apples, lemon peel and a little honey, all wrapped up in the most delightfully gentle fizz.