Wines to drink outside need a little extra punch of flavour to cope with the distractions of bumblebees, flies and children.
For impromptu picnics a bottle of fizz is a must in my view and there is something wonderfully decadent about drinking Champagne while sitting on the grass — put some opera on the iPod and you can pretend you are at Glyndeborne.
My best tip for enjoying a picnic is decent wine glasses. I have a selection that have broken at the base which makes them useless at the dinner table but perfect for sticking into soft ground.
Many people switch to white wines in summer for their refreshing qualities but don’t be afraid to lightly chill reds — if anything it can bring out the fruit in the wine. Beaujolais is the classic red for chilling but also try any low-tannin red such as Barbera, Merlot or Grenache — especially Joven Spanish versions.
One summer food and wine match I urge you not to miss out on this year is Lobster (or shellfish generally) with albariño from Galicia. In mid-June I was in Belmullet for a weekend and picked up two lobsters in the town square from local fisherman Martin O’Donnell for just €20 — they weighed around 700g (1.5lbs) each.
Hannah in Léim Siar B&B at Blacksod on the stunning Erris Peninsula was happy to let me cook them in her kitchen and along with some new season Queens (also bought in Belmullet) we washed it all down with fragrant peach and mineral-infused albarinño looking out at the setting sun over Blacksod Bay — it felt like heaven.
Lidl have a Spanish food and wine sale on at the moment so I recommend a couple of cheaper options from them below along with some of the best Spanish wines I have tasted this year but haven’t had room to mention before.
One Quiriz Navarra Reserva 2009, Spain — €8.99
Navarre is just beside Rioja and is often criticised for trying to copy its more famous neighbour. However, a solid oak and fruit driven wine that tastes as good as this for just €9 is just fine by me; they can copy away. The €8 Tinto version is good also if you prefer your wine un-oaked.
Stockists: O’Donovans, JJ O’Driscolls, Jus de Vine
Made with the local Mencía grape in Bierzo in Castillo y Leon on the border with Galicia. Mencía is almost always interesting and this is made in a nice meaty ripe style that has a lovely density and complexity and even a hint of chocolate. This is one for barbecued steak or perhaps a butterflied leg of lamb.
Somontano is in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Aragon in Northern Spain much cooler than those other good-value Aragon regions Cariñena, Campo de Borja and Calatayud. I liked the white peach and melon aromas and liked the mouth-feel and tangy finish. Served nicely chilled this would be excellent with tapas such as calamares or croquetas.
Petit Albet Cava Brut N/V, Spain — €13.86
Stockists: Organico Bantry, Lettercollum Kitchen Clonakilty, Clontarf Wines, Mortons Galway, the Grainey, Scariff, and O’Donovans.
I have mentioned other Albet i Noya wines here before but not their Cava. As usual, from this producer this is very well made wine with a classic yeast and brioche nose with some lemon and citrus touches. The palate has a creamy quality and the finish reminded me of boiled lemon sweets.
Stockists: JJ O’Driscoll, Matsons, Next Door Kilkee, Lohans, Ardkeen, Searsons, Vintry.
Graciano is a rather neglected grape of Northern Spain that is generally used to add a bit of backbone to Rioja. This is made from 30-year-old vines and is powerful stuff. First thing you will get is the aroma of blackcurrants and black fruit gums followed by fine pure fruit flavours that linger on the palate. Rich, lively and satisfying.
Stockists: Curious Wines, Red Nose Wines Clonmel
Curious Wines in Cork (and recently opened in Naas) always have good deals and currently have a Summer Whites case for €125 when it should cost €160. This wine is not part of the current sale but is still good value for Albariño (spending less is rarely worth it). Peach and sweet lemon curd aromas with a floral touch and fine washed stones minerality and a zing of fresh acidity on the finish.