The summer of 2018 has given us plenty of opportunities to perfect our outdoor dining practices and skills. Wines light in alcohol and with high acidity are preferred for their refreshing qualities and versatility with al fresco dining and picnics.
Here are a few European white wines from France, Portugal, Austria and Hungary that enjoy being invited to the great outdoors:
Muscadet is an ultra-dry French white wine with a subtle stony character from the Melon Blanc, aka Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. From France’s most northerly vineyards the nearby fishing port of Nantes gives a clue to the dishes it prefers. The cooling Atlantic accounts for the lower alcohol levels, rarely more that 12pc and light-bodied with crisp acidity for added refreshment.
Picpoul de Pinet
Picpoul de Pinet exemplifies the impressive and inspiring quality of wines from the rapidly evolving and re-invented Languedoc, the largest wine region on the planet. Made with the Piquepoul grape, its modern crisp and cool style is of fresh grapefruit with a salty mineral character. Known as the Muscadet of the Mediterranean, Picpoul is excellent with shellfish but especially with salty and oily fish or salamis and cured hams.
Gascony/ Gascogne Region
Located in the south-west of France’s gastronomic region famous for its rich meats and patés, Well able to tackle the richness are Colombard and Ugni Blanc made as a crisp dry white wine to cleanse and refresh the taste buds from the local rich and savoury cuisine. In style, Colombard can be like a grassy Sauvignon Blanc. While Ugni Blanc plays a subservient role with its neutral character and mouth-watering acidity.
Portugal’s most northerly wine region, Vinho Verde means literally “green wine” referring to a wine best enjoyed very young. Typically, light-bodied with lower levels of alcohol around 11pc and sometimes with a little spritz from CO2 added before bottling for increased lively freshness.
Made from a blend of grapes, most notably Alvarinho, Portugal’s finest white grape. (Also grown across the border in Spain as Albariño.) Famed for its refreshing lemony acidity and giving structure to the wines. While Loureiro is the most aromatic of the Vinho Verde’s white varieties with its musky-grapey perfume, flowers and mineral. – making it the ideal picnic wine.
While Austria has thirty-five different grape varieties, its native, Grüner Veltliner accounts for a half of all white wine produced. In style it is like a cross between a crisper version of Pinot Grigio and a less grassy Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, it is dry with green apple fruit, spicy white pepper, moderate alcohol around 12.5pc and its trademark very crisp acidity. Loved smoked, herbal or spicy dishes.
Hungary’s principal grape for white wine is Furmint. Traditionally, Furmint was used to make sweet wines because of its magnificent counter-balancing acidity levels. Although the demand for dry wines grew in the nineties, it took a delayed decade until the noughties before Furmint’s potential to produce fire and brimstone dry whites was realised.
Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie 2017, Loire, France
€7.99 – Available at 132 ALDI stores nationwide as part of their exquisite collection
Scented with freshly peeled apples and lemon zest. Tongue tingling acidity with lemon sherbet and stone fruit. Light-bodied and very refreshing.
Food friend: Made to match with all molluscs, especially oysters – the parochial pairing in its port city of Nantes at the mouth of the Loire.
Picpoul de Pinet 2016, Villa Blanche, Calmel & Joseph, France
€15.50 at Celtic Whiskey/Wines on the Green, Dawson Street, Dublin 2.
Muted aromas but assertive on the palate. Depth of green apple flavour with subtle spearmint herbal notes. Lively and crisp acidity.
Food friend: Sufficiently assertive to tackle soy sauce with sushi.
Tradition 2017, Haut-Bastion, Domaine les Remparts, Côtes de Gascogne, France
€15-€16 in Dublin at Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellar; Redmond’s, Ranelagh. Parting Glass, Enniskerry and Wine Store, Kilkenny.
A combination of Colombard and Sauvignon. Citrus attack on the taste buds of freshly squeezed grapefruit and zest and finishing with crunchy green apples.
Food friend: Enjoy with warm tartlets of caramelised leek and goats cheese.
Loureiro & Alvarinho 2017, Azevedo, Vinho Verde, Portugal
€16.99 in Dublin at Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines, Fairview; Grapevine, Dalkey; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; McHugh’s, Kilbarrack and Malahide roads; Redmond’s, Ranelagh, Thomas’s, Foxrock and WineOnLine.ie
Delicious pithy freshness with a raw energy. Oily texture delivering boiled lemon fruit flavours and a floral finish.
Food friend: Pair with baked potato skins filled with prawns in a piquant marie rose sauce.
Grüner Veltliner 2016, Meinklang, Burgenland, Austria
€17.99 widely available at off-licences nationwide
Fragrant with milky mint sweets. Delicious, smooth and flavoursome. Creamy texture and very light-bodied but with depth of character.
Food friend: Perfect with fingers of cheesy quiche.
Tokaji Furmint 2013, Mád, Hungary
€16.95 (reduced from €19.95 from August and until stocks last) at Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown
Distinct mineral aromas. Very forward acidity and matching citrusy pith and zest. The tasty salty finish echoes an expression of the vineyard.
Food friend: Party with smoked salmon wrapped around asparagus spears.
Picpoul de Pinet 2016, Domaine La Serre, Languedoc, France
€13.99 at wineonline.ie; Carryout, Mallow; Cappagh Stores, Galway; Derwin’s Londis, Drumcondra and No. 21 Off-licence, Midleton.
Pale golden colour. A crisp white, oily textured with lightly flavoured citrus fruit and a savoury salty finish.
Food friend: Graze on a platter of garlicky salami, Parma ham, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.
Le Petit Gascoûn 2017, Les Frères Laffitte, Côtes de Gascogne, France
€15 at Londis, Malahide; Rowan’s, Rathfarnham; The Grape Vine, Glasnevin; Martin’s, Fairview; Londis, Terenure; The Wine House, Trim, Co, Meath; The 1601, Kinsale; Riney’s, Sneem; Daly’s, Boyle; Bradley’s, Cork and Morton’s, Galway.
A local duet of Colombard and Ugni Blanc. Intense perfume of freshly mown lawn and herbs. Lip-smacking tangy with the key gooseberry fruit married to lemony zest. Very light-bodied and a perfect picnic wine.
Food friend: Match with buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves and beef tomatoes and lots of crusty baguette.
Loureiro & Alvarinho 2017, Quinta Aveleda, Vinho Verde, Portugal
€14.99 in Dublin at DrinkStore, Stonybatter; Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Vintry, Rathgar; Martin’s, Fairview; McHugh’s, Malahide Road and Kilbarrick; World Wide Wines, Waterford and Bradley’s, Cork.
Intriguing bouquet of lanolin and waxed jacket. As fresh as an Atlantic sea breeze Refreshing and light-bodied with an attractive salty finish.
Food friend: Partner with smoked salmon paté and gerkins
Grüner Veltliner 2016, Terrassen Federspiel, Domäne Wachau, Austria
€18.99 at Kelly’s, Clontarf; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Donnybrook Fair; Higgin’s, Clonskeagh; The 1601 Off Licence, Cork; Ardkeen Stores, Wexford and widely available nationwide
Oily texture with a spicy and citrus peel palate and well-integrated acidity. Focused in a delicate and understated way.
Food friend: Try with spicy chicken wings and sweet corn fritters.
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.