With the doors of our Cellar Showroom in Stevenage open and more members making their way back to visit us once again, we thought it would be good to hear from some of the Showroom team about what they’ve been recommending and what members have been looking for on the shelves.
Conrad’s tips on bringing a bit of Iberia into your summertime drinking
Having endured all the elements that can be thrown at us in pursuit of an outdoor drink over the previous couple of months, the welcome return of more clement weather means, hopefully, we can at last dispense with coats and get more pleasure from outdoor drinking, rather than it resembling something like an endurance sport!
In the Showroom, I have been promoting Iberia, but maybe not what you’d expect as I always look to try something a little different.
With the recent resurgence of gin in its many guises, gin and tonic is rightly considered a traditional alfresco aperitif, but I thought I would revisit my Portuguese roots by drawing members’ attention to Port… white Port, that is, from the famous Graham’s stable.
While its red sibling may get all the plaudits, this white Port offers up an aromatic alternative to the classic G&T. It too is great with tonic, served in a long glass over ice and garnished with mint and citrus zest. It’s clean tasting and refreshing with just a touch of sweetness and is half the price of most gins.
Heading further south and over the border to Spain and Jerez, I seldom need an excuse to share my sherry passion. It’s an underrated wine with a gamut of flavours and styles to suit all tastes and pockets. While its culinary credentials are well known (it has to be pretty versatile to partner all those different tapas dishes), I feel, there is also great pleasure to be had by just slowly sipping it on its own
Of all the styles available, I would pick Allegria Manzanilla, a bone-dry manzanilla with a crisp, subtle saline quality or Palo Cortado (no, not a pale coffee!) – a rare beast that combines delicacy with intensity, offering up a nutty and toffee palate that is dry but has a lingering finish lasting long after your glass has returned to the patio table. Both offer remarkable value for their quality and as mentioned can enhance the main event wines; think garlic prawns for the former or a grilled tuna steak for the latter.
So, why not virtually visit a different part of the Iberian peninsula this summer for some alfresco sipping and see why less is more.
Conrad Braganza, Fine Wine Adviser
Don’t judge your rosé by the colour alone, advises David!
Though it is shocking to think we have already passed the summer solstice, the evenings are still lovely and long and we’re all of us are enjoying a little more alfresco drinking. This is the time when rosé wines come into their own and we find members making a beeline for this particular section in the Showroom. More often than not, the first thing they ask me is, ‘do we have any pale ones?’ assuming that these will be the driest and the most subtle in flavour. But, as I explain to them, this isn't necessarily the case as the colour largely tends to be determined by the grape variety or varieties that the wine is made from. Some have higher levels of colour compounds in their skins and the time the juice is left in contact with the skins after the grapes have been pressed, during fermentation (between 6 to 12 days) will also have an effect.
So, for me it does seem as though our eyes are telling our taste buds what to think and pale doesn’t necessarily mean more interesting! So I always advise members to ignore this aspect because there are a whole host of rosés you can find in the Showroom (and online) that although they are by no means pale are nonetheless perfect to create a bit of alfresco atmosphere on a late summers’ evening. So, if you would like to put my theory to the test while you are sitting in the garden or on your balcony, here are my three to try:
Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, Contesa 2020 is a deep-coloured but delicate rosato that’s full of crushed cranberry fruit from vines close to Pescara not far from the Adriatic. Of a similar hue, Tavel Cuvée Prima Donna Rosé 2020 from Domaine Maby is the one to pick for your fix of the south of France. Finally, and by way of contrast, the Bougriers are specialists in the art of crafting pale AND interesting rosé in the Touraine region of the Loire. Their Rosé de Loire ‘Pure Loire’, Famille Bougrier 2020 is pure pleasure!
David Connor, Showroom Assistant
Read our ultimate guide to rosé
Hugh on chilling reds for alfresco sipping
Picture this: after a long day at work or out in the summer sun, you get home looking forward to a well-deserved cold drink. You open the fridge and there’s not a cold drink in sight; what do you do? Risk putting a bottle of fizz in the freezer and walk the fine line between warm fizz or an exploding bottle? Pop a bottle of white in the fridge and hope that it eventually reaches a temperature that refreshes enough to quench your thirst? (It always takes longer than you think). How about a gin and tonic? But, there’s no ice in the ice cube tray and no one likes a warm G&T. So, this is when you turn to the red wines in your wine rack, remembering that you read about chilling red wines too. 20 minutes in the fridge (just enough time to prepare something to eat) and you have yourself a perfectly chilled and refreshing glass. Chilling down your reds a little if you’re going to be outside on a hot day is a good idea too. Nobody wants a glass of warm, soupy red with their barbecued food! If you’ve already given them a spell in the fridge, you can keep them nice and fresh in a cool box outside rather than having to go in and out of the house.
If you’re outside on a hot day, you might want to consider chilling all your reds, but as a general rule lighter wines such as Beaujolais (from the gamay grape) and pinot noir are best suited to being chilled. I’ve been recommending these to members visiting us in the Showroom lately: Château d'Emeringes, Beaujolais-Villages Vieilles Vignes 2020 is made in a lovely refreshing style but with bags of flavour, and you can’t go wrong with the wines of Fleurie, such as Domaine Montangeron, Fleurie 2019 – don’t overchill it or you’ll mask its seductive perfume!
Hugh Dutton, Showroom Assistant
Read more on chilling reds