Eke out the last few picnic days of the year with a sprightly albariño or picpoul, a floral sauvingnon blanc, or experiment with a vinho verde or assyrtiko
September isn’t necessarily the end of summer, but it does mark a change in the seasons even in this weirdest of years. The gradual end of picnics in the park, fish and chips on the beach, spontaneous visits to the crab shack … (Well, in my dreams, anyway, where I have a handy crab shack down the road.)
I know most of you will have been quaffing rosé for the past few months, but, for me, ultra-dry, unoaked, high-acid white wines hit the spot just as successfully. “High acid” doesn’t sound all that appealing, admittedly, but think of the mouthwatering sharpness of freshly squeezed lemon juice or biting into a crunchy green apple.
The usual suspects I trot out are picpoul de pinet and the increasingly popular albariño, but if your budget is tight, don’t overlook the much-maligned pinot grigio, especially from the supermarkets’ premium own-label offerings. Asda has a decent one in its Extra Special range that’s currently on offer at £5.50. It’s from Trentino, which is a part of north-east Italy worth looking out for on labels; Sainsbury’s does one for £7 in its Taste the Difference range.
I also like sauvignon blanc, with its high summer elderflower flavours, especially those from the Loire. Watch out, though: sancerre has got stupidly pricey, so for a more affordable option, look for sauvignon de touraine. Majestic has a really appealing one from Thierry Delaunay for £8.99 on its mix-six deal (and that’s much better value than its new Definition Sancerre, which is almost twice the price).
If you want to explore less familiar territory, I’d recommend Portugal and Greece right now. From the former, you’ll find vinho verde (pronounced “vinyo verd” rather than “vino verday”), which comes in two styles – the low alcohol (11%-ish) spritzy type, which is pleasant but generally unremarkable, and the slightly more expensive but more elegant examples from named grape varieties such as alvarinho and loureiro. They’re the ones that really rock my boat.
Greek whites also seem to be having a bit of a renaissance, although we have been there before. (Remember Oddbins in the noughties?) Aldi recently added an assyrtiko to its range, while the Wine Society has just released a Greek wine under its own label for the first time.
As someone who hasn’t made it abroad this summer, it’s at least some compensation being able to indulge in a bit of holiday-style drinking. Roll on 2021.
Four summer whites to enjoy before autumn sets in
Greek Assyrtiko 2019 £9.99 Aldi, 13%. Relatively expensive for this store, but great value for Greek’s distinctive, fish-friendly white. Perfect with meze.
The Society’s Greek White 2019 £8.95 Wine Society, 12%. Also from Greece, but this time a blend of moschofilero and roditis in a seductively floral vein. One to sit and sip on the last of the light summer evenings.
Casa de Vilacetinho Avessa & Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2019 £10.95 Bottles of Worcester, £11.99 Noel Young Wines, 13%. A classy Portuguese take on Spain’s albariño. Lovely, crisp apple and stone fruit with a refreshing streak of citrus. Perfect for grilled fish.
Antonio Macinita Arinto dos Açores 2018 £21.18 Portugal Vineyards, 12.5%. I blew some wine-loving friends away when I shared this with them recently: a thrillingly intense, mineral white from a variety that’s native to the Azores. Try it with oysters.