Wine & Food

    What to drink this summer: from Austrian Blaufrankisch to Greek Assyrtiko

    21 July 2020

    2019 Laurent Miquel Nocturnes Viognier, 13%vol, (£6.99 from 8-28 July, thereafter £9.39; Waitrose)

    Laurent Miquel is one of the leading lights of the Languedoc and its vinous renaissance and he’s a man of fabled charm, too, whose wines perfectly reflect his easy-going affability. He’s also the only French winemaker I know with an MA in quality assurance from Leeds University.

    Laurent makes wines with focus, single-mindedness and care and his Viognier is one of my favourites. Harvested at night and cold-fermented to preserve its freshness, it’s lively and inviting with plenty of typical peach and apricot aromas and flavours and, although fruity, it finishes perfectly dry.

    2018 The Society’s Blaufrankisch, 13%vol, (£9.95; Wine Society)

    Blaufrankisch is to Austria what Zinfandel is to California, Pinotage to South Africa and Malbec to Argentina. I can’t remember ever having seen this very tasty red grape produced outside Austria where, clearly, the terroir suits it just so. This, from Weingut Hans Igler in Burgenland, in the east of the country at the foot of the Odenburg or Sopron Mountains, is perfect summer fare: fresh, vibrant and bursting with ripe hedgerow fruit and a whisper of spice. It’s the perfect wine to knock back in some quantity at a post-lockdown barbecue with old mates.

    2018 Lyrarakis Voila Assyrtiko, 13.5%vol, (£9.99 if you mix 6, otherwise £11.99; Majestic)

    Hands up who had heard of Assyrtiko a year or so ago. In my ignorance, I thought it was a particularly fiendish anagram. Greek wines, though, are now all the rage and Assyrtiko is becoming reassuringly familiar. (It’s a white grape indigenous to Greece if you’re still not up to speed.) This is a cracking example and a great place to start if you’re new to its delights. Bone dry but lusciously fruity, it’s sophisticated and elegant and a great way to get a taste of Greece if your holiday in the Aegean has been cancelled.

    2017 Vergelegen Chardonnay Reserve, 14.5%vol, (£16.69;

    I’ve visited Vergelegen in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a couple of times and what a glorious spot it is. They’ve made wine here since 1700 and delight in pointing out that their perfect soils are some 600 to 1000 million years old. And this is a classy glass of wine for sure, produced from three special vineyards with minimal intervention. It’s rounded and mouth-filling, with plenty of peachy, buttery notes lit up by a keen citrus acidity. Time in barrel gives it a welcome texture and if fine, restrained Chardonnay at a relatively modest price compared to Burgundy is your thing then this is for you.

    2019 Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc, 13%vol, (£32; Harvey Nichols)

    So, this is nothing if not quirky and rare, a still white wine from New Zealand made entirely from Pinot Noir. Well, when I say white, it’s actually the palest of pale pinks but since the juice spends no time on the skins it counts as white and, gosh, it’s utterly, completely beguiling. Akitu is one of Central Otago’s finest Pinot Noir producers, as anyone who’s tried their A1 and A2 expressions will know. This is the first time they’ve made a white wine from the variety, though, and it’s a corker – fresh, herbal, fruity, delicately spicy and with a long sophisticated dry finish.

    2016 Nathan Kendall Pinot Noir, 12%vol, (£41; 9 Elms Wines)

    Yes, they do make wine in New York State and bloody good wine too if you stick to the classic Vitis Vinifera varieties. Indeed, New York is third after California and Washington in terms of volume of grape production in the USA. With some 11,000 acres under vine, New York’s Finger Lakes is an especially blessed spot for Pinot Noir and Riesling and this scrumptious Pinot is gorgeously light and accessible with a delicate texture, subtle red and dark fruit flavours and a refreshing finish. To enjoy it at its best chill it very lightly.