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As the weather heats up, enjoy one of our Summer Sizzlers, just perfect for enjoying the best of Summer!
Summer weight whites are what's needed for this glorious season. So out go those full-bodied, alcoholic, oaky, ponderous whites made from the chardonnay grape and others that sit uncomfortably with summer fare, and in come lighter, fresher, dryer and more aromatic wines, whose leafy, floral flavours echo those of the season.
It is not just the season that demands a change in wine diet, but people's palates and perceptions change, too, with cravings for wines with mouthwatering, tart, zingy, perfumed fruit dominating now.
Just like your your wardrobe in summer, your wine choice needs a thorough overhaul, too.
Start your summer-weight white selection with sauvignon blanc. This juicy, verdant grape, scented with fresh grass cuttings and flowering currant, plus a zippy palate that's reminiscent of gooseberries and nettle, for me is summer in a glass. Cloudy Bay New Zealand Marlborough sauvignon has an almost cult following now, and I can see a stampede developing for our 2006 Maven Marlborough Sauvignon, which has a lively, floral, steely style and just oozes flowering currant and fresh asparagus-suitable finesse. Also try a Loire classic, the herby, equally steely, gunflint-smoky Pouilly Fumé from Fournier, which is great with the salad leaves. A cheaper option is the intense, verdant, floral spice of Touraine a great white to enjoy with Fish.
Challenging sauvignon blanc as the champion summer-weight white is racy, floral riesling which, unlike the others here that are best drunk young, takes on some honeyed, lime zest-spiked notes with age. It also offers a refreshing, crisp, high acidity and low alcohol content; Germans weigh in at around 6 to 8 per cent. Delightfully undervalued, Mosels are versatile summer aperitif and light-food wines, with the fat, waxy, spicy and lingeringly bosky notes of the 2000 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling, from the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, a £5.99 steal at Majestic. Australia's answer to the Mosel is the Clare Valley, and here Tim Adams 2006 Riesling is one of his best vintages yet, an exotic, richly aromatic, spicy, lime-zest dream (£7.99, Tesco). Austria's lighter, herbier, more apple-scented rieslings, such as Gobelsburger's 2006 Riesling (£7.99, Waitrose), are more versatile still.
The Rhône's the home of this ultra-modish grape, renowned for its rich, seductive perfume and heady style, part hawthorn blossom, part peach and apricot. Outside the Rhône and the costly appellation of Condrieu, viognier has come up trumps in southern France. Laurent Miquel's new 2005 Verité Viognier from very low-yielding vineyards is a star, all moody, spiced-peach and apricot fruit (£11.99, Waitrose) and a great summer garden aperitif.
Surprisingly, South America hasproduced some great value, al-fresco food-suitable viogniers, and my vote goes to the 2006 Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier from the Rapel Valley in Chile with its gentle summer blossom spice (£8.49, or £5.66 each for three, Thresher and Wine Rack), as well as the elegant grapey, stone fruit spice of Argentina's great value 2006 Las Moras Viognier (£4.79, Co-op).
Once about as thrilling as drinking a glass of water with a squirt of lemon, ubiquitous pinot grigio has reinvented itself as a tasty summer white. Pink and sparkling pinot grigio is best avoided, so too cheap, bland, boring
sub-£5 Italian versions. Yet trade up to fancy, finer, single-vineyard Italians from producers who treat this grape seriously, and all manner of elegant, lemony, appley, apricoty summer flavours, that work well as summer aperitifs and with meaty summer salads and garlicky charcuterie, will be yours. Best buy this summer is the 2006 Punggl Single Vineyard Pinot Grigio from Nals & Margreid in the Alto Adige (£9.99, or £7.99 each if you buy two, Majestic). If you want to spend less, try the flavoursome 2006 35 South Pinot Grigio (£4.99, Morrisons), whose gentle, peachy spice is good value, or the surprisingly good, ripe, perfumed fruit of Marks & Spencer's £3.99 Pinot Grigio from Hungary.
Red wines have their place on the summer table, too, especially if the barbecue is lit. Save your finest clarets and burgundies for another day, and instead, opt for easy, fruit-filled gluggers such as beaujolais and the beaujolais-inspired 2005 Mâcon Rouge made from the same gamay grape (£5.99, Marks & Spencer), whose lively, fragrant, plummy spice is a summer treat.
Ditto the consistently impressive, easy-glugging 2006 Los Robles Fairtrade Carmenère, whose fat, peppery, raspberry fruit is one of Chile's best sub-£5 bottles.
If you're determined to match the fire on your plate with a hefty red, the biggest and boldest are your only hope, such as the 2005 Rutherglen Estates Durif (£7.99, Waitrose), whose burnt peppery spice and whopping 14.5 per cent alcohol is the summer route to take.