My top wines for summer

Lambrusco in Bologna

Like most things in Summer, less is more. I have been living on lighter wines that can get me through the bursts of heat that make London so fun in the summer. But if I am buying a case of wine to get me through this time of year, I want consistency. Something for a session on a long summer day. Not too much pondering over the glass.

I’m having a little pale rosé backlash these days. It kind of snuck up on me: at this stage, and with drunk crowds spilling out onto the pavement, I could do without the rosé rage. Can flavour be stupid? Banal, perhaps. It is the flavour of spun sugar and the soft texture of marshmallow. But it can end up being as bland as if you followed Kate Moss’ attitude to eating: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” If you are not really tasting, the pink slips down way too easily. You can see it in the tears of girls staggering after a day of drinking at about 11.30 pm like clockwork.

The aim of all the rosé – whether they are from South Africa, China, or Provence – is to look as pale and as pink as a white tourist on his first day visiting Saint Tropez. The universal pale pink colour is more important than the flavour, which has been rinsed out and cleaned up to the inch of its soulless life. It reminds me of that other famous pink drink – the Cosmopolitan – and where is that now? No bartender will touch it. The only place you will find it is on late night cable re-runs of S&TC.

Unless you actually have been in Provence and are just trying to recreate your holiday at any cost (with a few Domaine Ott amphorae before heading back to the City?) carrying around a half-finished bottle of rosé is as naff as a broken heel stuck in the wet grass at the racecourse car park. Even if it is a magnum. 

I’ve been drawn to sleeker, lighter alcohol wines with a bit of spritzy bubble. The slight tingle around the edges can be shivery and not as heavy as sparkling wine. Wines such as Vinho Verde or Txacoli. They can have a slightly sweet and sour taste like a grapefruit sorbet and just as refreshing. They are also the right price and what the majority of pale rosé should be priced today. At £6-8 per bottle, you won’t feel bad if you add a few ice cubes to a Vinho Verde when the temperature is nudging 40 celsius. (Yes, you can). 

Grecanico from Caruso & Minini in Western Sicily is another excellent summer session wine. When I found out that Grecanico is related to the same grape as Garganega grape of Soave, it did not surprise me. And I am very grateful. Of course I would like to drink more Soave, much as I wold like to drink more Champagne with every meal. Pieropan, Anselmi or Suavia are brilliant but their premium prices make you pause to consider opening a bottle. But more importantly, there is too much going on in the glass. Summer is not the time to think so much. 

What about reds? Some people might feel that is too hot to drink red wine in the summer. But red wines can keep their structure more than white wines when it gets hot. (I always put my red wines in the fridge once it hits a certain temperature.) 

Last month I was in Bologna – it gets seriously hot there away from the coast – and had a glass of frothy purple Lambrusco with some Parma ham at a bar near the university. It’s strange to think of sparkling red as refreshing, but that’s exactly what it was – especially cold. 

I am so happy to see Lambrusco more on menus in London, because it works well with the small plates menus around town. I wish more people would eat with their wine, even if it is a few slivers on ham or even crisps, just as they give spontaneously in Italy or Spain when you order a drink. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, especially when its hot, but at least something. Just as Lambrusco once had a bad reputation, it may even attract me back to the pale pink stuff.