Summertime can bring a variety of exceptional or unseasonal weather. Will it be a sun- baked outdoor barbecue or an indoor gathering in case it rains. But whatever the weather, the key to pairing food and wine is very simple and can be summed up in one word – balance. Generally, full-bodied and oak-aged wines with high alcohol over 13.5pc match well with rich red meaty dishes. While medium-bodied non-oaked wines under 13.5pc work best with lighter and white meat, fish and poultry dishes.
Red wines with assertive tannins work best to tenderise red meat. Grapes with thicker skins contain more tannins, most notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, aka Shiraz. If red wines have been aged in oak barrels, then go for peppery/ spicy sauces/seasoning to match.
Oily fish – smoked salmon and mackerel needs a wine high in natural acidity to cut through the richness – a Riesling, Albariño, Verdejo or Muscadet. More meaty fish can handle an oak-aged white such as a Chardonnay. While a dense and pink fleshed fish like tuna or salmon can go to the dark side with a red, but light in tannins, typically an unoaked European Pinot Noir or young Beaujolais, lightly chilled.
Rosé wines work so well with vegetarian dishes because they are mostly medium- bodied. If herbs are the principal flavour, choose an European rosé. But if piquant spices are the stimulant, then Rosés from the New World will match with their contrasting fruitier exuberance.
As with any dish, focus on the sauce. Creamy, oily, cheesy or tomato-based sauces need wines high in acidity to refresh the taste buds and cut through the richness by stimulating palate cleansing saliva. Most of Italy’s whites will work well as will reds with lower tannin: Barbera and Valpolicella.
Oak influenced spicy whites work with fowl or a fish foundation curry. If the heat comes from chilies choose much lower alcohol and off-dry wines because high alcohol fans the flames of the dragon’s heat. A German Riesling Halbtrocken, a medium/off-dry Chenin Blanc or any rosé around 10pc is ideal because they contain a little residue of the grape’s unfermented sugar, e.g. Rosé d’Anjou and White Zinfandel.
To be prepared for every record-breaking weather condition this summer, here are a few of my versatile summer favourites.
1. Vinho Verde 2017, Cazas Novas, Portugal 12% ABV
Portuguese for “green wine” implying best enjoyed while young, this Vinho Verde is made from a blend of Avesso and Loureiro. The four months aging on its lees gives it an added texture which compliments the classic freshness of Vinho Verde. The attractive grassy aromas have a depth of personality and long finish for a wine usually regarded as a light summer cooler.
Food friend: an ideal summer salad wine with baked chicken or fish.
€14.95 at Wicklow Wine Company; Morton’s, Galway and Bradley’s, Cork. In Dublin: Baggot Street Wine; Greenman Wines; Lilac Wines; The Corkscrew; Redmond’s; Gibney’s and On the Grapevine.
2. Albarino 2018, Laurent Miquel, Lagrasse, Southern France 13% ABV
A grape synonymous with Spain’s north-western Galicia region. Believed to have been broughtto Spain by French monks from Cluny centuries ago when on the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This French offering claims to be bringing Albarino home. My first ever French Albarino; fresh lemon zesty aromas follow through on the invigorating palate where the citrus character is joined by peach fruit. Crisp and refreshing, the wine finishes with a salty mineral note.
Food friend: enjoy with a platter of seafood or as a palate sharpener.
€10 at Dunnes Stores nationwide
3. The Lady Pinot Grigio 2017, Veneto, Italy 12.5% ABV
A Pinot Grigio with attitude. Fragrant from fermenting at cool temperatures with a creamy texture from bâtonnage/ lees stirring adding personality to this cool Alpine Italian. Light-bodied and very tasty and refreshing.
Food friend: perfect with spicy chicken wings.
€14.99 reduced to €10 during Italian Wine Sale (25th May – 6th June) at SuperValu nationwide
4. Torrontés/ Riesling 2018, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina 12.5% ABV
Made with Argentina’s signature white grape, Torrontés appreciated for its fruity fragrance of peach and grape. The blending with Riesling boosts the wine’s acidity and freshness and enhances its versatility as a food wine.
Food friend: pair with exotic Asian seafood dished in a creamy sauce – prawn korma.
€17.99 in Dublin at Jus de Vine; The Corkscrew; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Baggot Street Wines; Kelly`s Off Licence; Blackrock Cellar; Martin’s and in Clonmel, Red Nose Wine.
5. Tarrango (Rosé) 2017, Brown Brothers, Milawa, Victoria, Australia 13% ABV
Dark for a rosé with a deep carmine colour. An Australian creation by crossing Touriga with Sultana grape varietals, resulting in a wine with rich aromas. Best served chilled to highlight the dry palate underpinned by light redberry and blueberry fruits.
Food friend: match with cold ham, salami and paté with crusty bread.
€17 – €20 in Dublin at Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Clontarf Wines and Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown.
6. Fairview’s Goats do Roam Red 2017, Western Cape, South Africa 14% ABV
Aromas or dusty red and black fruits. A fruity palate with gentle tannins and refreshing acidity. Its easy red berry fruity style is inspired by a take on France’s similar sounding name, Côte du Rhône and from the same blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre mostly.
Food friend: serve with grilled burgers and sausages slicked with a barbecue sauce.
€15.95 reduced to €12.95 during May at O’Brien’s off-licences nationwide.
7. Grande Reserve Malbec, Domaine Bousquet, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 14% ABV [Tindal’s]
A serious wine with a rich and meaty bouquet. Made with Certified Organic grapes and aged for a year in French oak barrels. This prestigious full-bodied Malbec will continue to age for several years. Currently, it delivers firm but accessible tannins and a peppery spice to its tarry fruits.
Food friend: needs a premium steak and a peppercorn sauce optional.
€24.95 at Searson’s, Monkstown and online at searsons.com ; Blackrock Cellars; Donnybrook Fair; wineonline.ie; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; and in Waterford: World Wide Wines.
8. Old Bush Vine Grenache 2014, Yalumba, Barossa, Australia 13% ABV [Cassidy’s]
Pale in colour, typical of Grenache’s grapes’ thin skins giving wines light in colour and low in tannin. Made from vines between 35 and 80 years. This mature wine had evolved its strawberry aromas into its maturing baked fruit stage. Aging in French oak has added a little white pepper spice to this medium-bodied wine.
Food friend: loves a smoky meat dish – pork and corned beef.
€24.99 widely available at independent off-licences including in Dublin at The Corkscrew, Chatham Street and Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Avenue.
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 a judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.