With everyone gearing up for their summer holidays the national critics this week turn their attention to what to drink over the hopefully hot summer months, plus tips on laying wine down for ageing, the merits of Australian wine and the peculiarities of vodka
A lover of cava Victoria Moore is not. And, having read a Tom Stevenson
article, she thinks she understands why: "It seems blindingly obvious now.
The richness produced by autolysis makes those cava grapes look vacuous and
flat." On the other hand, the prosecco enthusiast says the bubbles produced
by the tank method "lets the fresh, lightness of the grape shine through",
as with various other cheap fizzy wines.
"Take, for example, the insanely cheap, pink, sparkling low-alcohol wine
Lambrusco Rosato NV (£1.92, Asda; 4% abv)," says Moore, which she describes
as the definition of low-brow, "but at that price I could make myself quite
happy on it."
At the other end of the spectrum is Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Champagne 2002 (£29.99 from Waitrose: 12% abv), with a creamy mouthfeel
Moores loves. "From a wonderful vintage, it's complicated and collected, and
just right," she says.
"Keeping a wine is always a risk - leave it too long and it'll turn into a
shagged-out disappointment - but when you drink something with the right
amount of bottle age, it can be truly delicious," declares Tim Atkin, who
marvels at the statistic that nine out of 10 wines are drunk within 48 hours
of purchase - or rather at how the statistics are produced. No doubt by
people in white coats primed with clipboards at bottle banks, he thinks.
Since owning his own cellar, Atkin has become a man converted from his days
as a member of the DIY (Drink it Young) club. He recommends avoiding whites
(fizz, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay excepted) and lighter reds for
ageing in favour of wines with flavour and depth of character.
He suggests putting three bottles of "the dense, chocolatey" 2007 De Martino
347 Vineyards Carmenère Reserva (£7.49, or £5.99 each for two at Majestic)
in your cellar, or cupboard, and trying one within 48 hours, one in two
year's time and one in five for comparison.
The Sunday Times
Arriving home from a holiday a couple of years ago, Bob Tyrer smelt what
seemed like the back end of a party. Closer inspection revealed broken
bottles in his cellar. Stricken, Tyrer salvaged what he could by soaking up
the liquid, straining it into a glass and drinking it.
It was a Pavlovian response, he explains - a response derived from his days
as a Ten Quid Pom in 1960s Australia. A time before Australia had discovered
Chardonnay, Tyrer recalls halcyon days when the country's exports consisted
largely of fortified wine and sultanas and they kept still wine from pioneer
vineyards for themselves.
On one particularly flush day, the young reporter ordered the most expensive
wine on a restaurant list to be amazed. "Blackberries, blackcurrants, mint -
they're almost commonplace in decent wine now," he says, "but I'd never
tasted anything like it. So my reaction when the same fragrance and fruit
wafted from my cellar floor decades later was Pavlovian."
Not necessarily enamoured by supermarket offerings from Australia these
days, Tryer says there are still bargains that show Australia at its best -
even if drunk off the floor. He recommends trying Penfolds' Koonunga Hill
Shiraz Cabernet 2007 (£7.99) and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Barossa
Shiraz 2006 (£7.99).
Jane MacQuitty presents the first instalment of her Top 100 Summer Wines,
with the best buys on the high street for under £8. A slave to the Great
British public's palate, she reveals the perfect wines for all occasions.
She tackles difficult issues like when to drink good wine as opposed to
great wine, the best wine for drinking in "the great blustery outdoors,
which dilutes bouquet and removes flavour", as well as the "knotty business
of matching the right wine to the right palate."
Job done, first on her list of saviours is Majestic's 2008 Domaine de la
Tourmaline, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Gadais Père et Fils (£6.49 or
buy two for £5.99 each). "Summer white to enjoy with rich seafood and oily
fish," she says.
The Financial Times
Jancis Robinson MW spends time with Swiss entrepreneur Faure Beaulieu who has
tempted a handful of prized sommeliers to join his new company Sarment.
Members pay a heady £50,000 to join plus an annual fee of £12,000 "to have
their every vinous wish satisfied", says Robinson. Their personal sommelier
tends to their wine collection, takes care of the nuts and bolts of delivery
and storage, becomes a constant, trusted wine companion who provide stories
and information, reports Robinson.
"Selfishly," confesses Robinson, she would prefer Beaulieu's
"entrepreneurial skills harnessed to come up with ways to improve standards
in the wine business as a whole, rather than frittered away on 75
particularly well-heeled wine neophytes in emerging markets."
There may be no need to fret - membership might be limited to 75 clients,
with a maximum of 15 per sommelier, but the new business has yet to sign a
Jonathan Ray continues to be baffled by vodka, despite a day tasting with
experts Ian Wisniewski and Tom Innes. But it seems they're all perplexed in
the end, with Glen's winning their blind tasting test. "A supermarket
cheapy, distilled in Scotland from sugar beet," says Ray.
"I don't believe it!" exclaims Wisniewski. "Nor me," says Innes. "I've
always struggled to see value at the top end of the vodka range, which this
result vindicates. But I'm astonished."
So, Ray is left unconvinced, seeing vodka as "an efficient alcohol delivery
system, sold on the back of crafty marketing". Wisniewski, of course,
disagrees: "You can certainly get pleasure from neat vodka, but you have to
adjust your expectations. Compared to aged spirits such as cognacs or malts,
the details are much smaller."
The top three vodkas in their tasting are Glen's (£8.69), Russian Standard
(£13.29) and Absolut (£14.99). Bottom of the pile in ninth and tenth places
are Grey Goose (£30.79) and Smirnoff Black (£15.99).