By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 9 June 2019
It’s alfresco dining time of year – so if you are packing your picnic basket for the beach, riverbank, park or just swinging in the hammock in the garden – you need to choose a certain style of wine.
The best wines for drinking outdoors are dry examples from aromatic grape varieties – dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Gruner Veltliner are ideal choices. They need to be fresh, young, pungent, vibrant and dry with a high natural acidity, so wines from cool(ish) climates suit best. I prefer dry whites, but light roses and chilled reds can also work well.
Those to avoid are heavily oaked wines, very high in alcohol and tannins or low in acidity as they will not refresh you in the heat – and don’t pick a wine that is too mature or expensive as you will not be able to appreciate its subtle nuances if it is competing with a stiff sea breeze.
If you are heading off on a picnic, remember to chill the wine in advance in the fridge and then put them into ‘rapid ice’ wine sleeves. If you don’t have any wine coolers, just wrap the bottle in wet newspaper or find a running stream near your picnic spot – as liquid cools faster in running water. If you can take a screw top bottles, that is so much more convenient – but if not remember to pack the corkscrew as well.
Gascony, France: TESCO FINEST COTES DE GASCOGNE BLANC 2018 Plaimont (11%)
This lightly perfumed simple blend of local Gascon grapes Gros Manseng with Colombard is one of the best value in Tesco’s updated Finest range. This screwtopped subtle white has lime and grapefruit flavours, succulent and juicy on the palate with a hint of sweet sour and crisp dry appley flavours made by winemaker Christine Cabri of Plaimont – one of the best co-operatives in France.
Vinho Verde, Portugal: THE SOCIETY’S VINHO VERDE 2018 Adega de Moncao (12%)
£6.75 The Wine Society
This great value Vinho Verde from a large co-operative based on the Spanish-Portuguese border has all the ingredients to refresh you on your picnic. Light lime and apple fruits, slightly sour hints, crisp dry palate with a slight spritz giving it a lively petillant feel – and a screwcap for easy access.
Lisbon, Portugal: ARINTO 2017 Quinta de Chocapalha (12.5%)
£11.95 Corney & Barrow
Portugal’s Arinto grape is perfect for picnics with its high natural acid, refreshing lemony notes and steely minerally backbone. It originates from Bucelas north of Lisbon, but is often found in Vinho Verde blends too (where it is known as Pederna). This single varietal example comes from one of Lisbon’s best organically-run estates made by well-known winemaker Sandra Tavares de Silva. This style would suit anyone who normally likes dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc.
Valencia, Spain: SOL DE VALENCIA GEWURZTRAMINER 2018 Bodegas La Vina (12%) ***STAR BUY***
There is very little Gewurztraminer in Spain, but this is an intriguing wine. Very pungent aromas – it smells so exotic with sweet honeyed with lychees – but the palate is zingingly fresh and bone dry with moderate alcohol. A zesty dry screwtopped bargain made in Alforins valley by Bodegas La Vina’s winemaker Martha Martinez.
Marlborough, New Zealand: HOMER RIESLING 2015 Eradus Wines (12%) ***STAR BUY***
£12.50 Corney & Barrow
Very popular with our tasters for its petrolly aromas, zesty juicy character and limey toasty flavours. It smells surprisingly sweet, but it is sleek and dry to taste. If you wanted to introduce someone to Riesling for the first time, this sumptuously fruity dry example would be a good choice. It is also well priced for Kiwi Riesling, which can be pricey. If you were wondering about the name, Homer is winemaker Michael Eradus’ dog.
Eastern Crete: ASSYRTIKO VOILA 2018 Domaine Lyrarakis (13%)
£9.99 Majestic Wine; £12.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
You might have tried Assyrtiko from nearby Santorini island, but Crete also grows this grape. I loved the tropical fruit aromas, bone dry crispness, fresh citric flavours and hint of spicy ginger in this Cretan white made by Bart Lyrarakis at his small family winery. This comes from the unirrigated Voila vineyard at 500m altitude on the slopes of Mount Alagni, so it benefits from sea breezes in eastern Crete – giving the wine vibrant minerality and high natural acidity.
Rias Baixas, NW Spain: ALBARINO 2018 Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes (13%) ***STAR BUY***
£15.99 Waitrose Cellar; £16.50 The Wine Society
By far the best Albarino I have tasted so far in the 2018 vintage, from one of Rias Baixas’ most historic bodegas. Appley, blossomy nose with a soft texture and underlying dry minerally palate with a refreshing lemony twist. This would suit those who normally drink Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, it is like a combination of the two with the creamy texture of Chardonnay and zippy acid of Sauvignon.
Wachau, Austria: GRUNER VELTLINER WACHAU TERRCES 2018 Domaine Wachau (12%)
Well done Lidl for stocking more Austrian wines – this is one of the best wines from their recent 2019 Spring Tour. This Gru-Vee (aka Gruner Veltliner) is made by a highly acclaimed co-operative based in Durnstein in Austria’s top white wine region, Wachau – our tasters loved its pepper and celery notes, racy acidity and refreshing bright peachy fruits.
Loire, France: EXQUISITE COLLECTION TOURAINE ROSE 2018 (12%)
Considering the price, this blend of Gamay with Malbec & Cabernet Franc is great value for money. For those who like light dry rose with raspberry and strawberry notes and earthy undertones. Quite a simple wine with a fairly short finish, but it hits the note for alfresco drinking.
Beaujolais, France: FLEURIE LA BONNE DAME 2017 Louis Tete (13%)
£15 Fine Wine Musselburgh; Exel Wines, Perth; Great Western Wine
Louis Tete’s flagship wine from the lightest Beaujolais Cru, Fleurie. Violet and cherry aromas, bright and racy with juicy succulent flavours and silky texture – made from the Gamay grape, this light red is superb for alfresco dining and would benefit from being served slightly chilled.
Join Rose’s ‘A Taste of Champagne’ to celebrate the Edinburgh Festival at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on Thursday 29 August £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com