Written by Matt Dicks, WSET qualified Beers, Wines and Spirits Specialist for Waitrose
I couldn’t think of anything more uplifting to start this article than with a quote from some lyrics written by music legend Mungo Jerry ‘In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky…’. Indeed, whilst the weather may sway between mild and hot, drinks, friends and music are some of the things which make summer one the year’s favourite seasons. What else motivates you during this hot and happy season? Maybe it’s the long, warm evenings, or even a delightful stroll in the countryside, followed by a pub lunch. It could even be the excitement of a water fight with friends and a chance to show off your most recent purchase, the latest Super Soaker! The childhood memories certainly come flooding back.
Whatever makes you rise and shine, and maybe stretch right up into the sky with excitement, there’s so much to like about summer. A delve into this month’s Eastlife magazine and you are blessed with an array of things to do and places to visit in our much loved region, including an excellent article by Laurie Cleland-Harris about the wonders of the North Norfolk coast. Hunstanton was always the go-to destination with the family, despite the notoriously congested journey and the battle for a car parking space, especially on a blue sky day during the holidays.
Summer also allows us to raise a glass to the exciting range of drinks available to us, from thirst-quenching gin and tonics, to refreshing ciders and fruit-filled rosé. There’s something for everyone. It’s also Wimbledon season whilst the vineyards are decked with flowers in the Northern Hemisphere. A great opportunity to watch your favourite tennis star serving on Centre Court, whilst enjoying the gentle beat on bubbles with a glass of fizz.
With the season in full swing, here are a selection of my favourite drinks to raise a glass to summer.
Hambledon Classic Cuvée, England
For some, the temptation don the straw-boater and enjoy classic game of cricket on the village green maybe the essence of an English summer. Whether you watch from the enjoyment of your chair or thrive in sound of willow striking leather, the birthplace of the game in this country can be traced to the village of Hambledon in Hampshire. Known as the ‘cradle of cricket’, the local club played an important role in the history and development of the sport, and you’ll certainly be bowled over by this quintessentially English fizz. Bursting with notes of fresh soughdough, magnolia and baked apple, with a sprinkle of smoke over a core of greengage and red plums, its the perfect accompaniment for an evening with friends.
Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, Beaujolais, France
Move aside the milk and switch the shelf with the salad, there’s a new contender competing for space in your fridge. This summer try chilling your reds for 30 minutes to an hour before serving, depending on your fridge setting of course! This, rather unusual method actually freshens and brightens the wine. The lighter bodied and less tannic the red wine, the cooler you can drink it, with Beaujolais being traditionally served lightly chilled. This example is one of my top choices for summer drinking. Packed full of fresh, red fruits with supple, silky tannins, its perfect with meaty fish such as salmon or tuna.
Zenato Villa Flora Lugana, Italy
Whilst many of us make a beeline for the hot, sunny beaches of the Mediterranean this summer, others may opt for the picturesque scenery of the lakes and mountains of Europe. Italy is a popular choice for many wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, whilst also catering for those with an appetite for food and wine. It may be, without doubt, the world’s most diverse and exciting wine-producing country with a range of wines for each of its regions. Produced from Trebbiano grapes grown in vineyards to the south of the shores of Lake Garda, it boasts a delicate, yet floral bouquet brimming with lively fresh fruit and depth of flavour. Perfect for pairing with white meats or simply enjoyed on a lazy afternoon with your favourite book.
Rustenberg Rosé, South Africa
During the summer there’s nothing nicer than dining alfresco with a chilled glass of rosé. But is rosé a summer-only beverage? I say no. As consumers, we may still home in on its qualities as a seasonal-only drink, but with its spectrum of colours mirroring a Dulux paint chart, its all-year-round versatility with food shouldn’t be forgotten. For many, the sun-drenched French region of Provence may a popular choice, but I’ve recently fallen in love with this sublime stallion from Stellenbosch. Big and bold in its appearance, this soft and fruity rosé has a hint of sweetness and bags of strawberry an cherry fruit. A dusting of spice compliments the palate making it a perfect pairing for tapas, seafood and spicy foods.
Orchard Pig Cider
Here’s something worth sniffing out. Whether you’re a Reveller, a Charmer or a Truffler (the names of three of their cider’s), nothing quenches summer thirst than a frosty-cold glass of cider. Try chilling your glass in the freezer beforehand. Produced from orchards overlooked by the imposing Glastonbury Tor, close to the location of the world-renowned Glastonbury Festival, the cider farm uses ‘honest-to-the-core’ Somerset cider apples as is 100% natural. Charmer boasts a refreshing and intensely appley medium-dry flavour, whilst Reveller has a gentle sparkle and a tangy lime note on the finish. Truffler has a bittersweet flavour complimented with a long, rounded finish.
Warner Edwards Gin
Gin is undoubtably the perfect summer tonic (excuse the pun). Whether you favour botanical, floral, citrus or juniper-lead gin’s, there something to cater for everyone’s palates. This traditional favourite has been winning new friends of late and is steadily growing in popularity. To get you ‘gin the mood’ I discovered this at a tasting in London during the spring. Distilled in Northamptonshire, the rhubarb comes from a crop originally grown in the kitchen garden at Buckingham Palace. This is blended with spirit resulting in a beautifully coloured, sweet and tangy delight. Try with a splash of Prosecco for the perfect treat.