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We were close enough to the Mediterranean to be able to smell it, burning our fingers in our haste to eat oily, garlicky prawns, and spooning pungent onion and tomato salad onto our plates. I can still remember the wine. It wasn’t expensive and it wasn’t rare, just a bottle of white made amongst the hills inland from Barcelona that you can buy from an English supermarket.
Torres Viña Esmeralda 2018/19 (£11.25, Amazon) is tantalisingly aromatic – one of those wines that shimmers out of the bottle. It’s made from two floral grapes, muscat and gewürztraminer, and it smells of fresh grapes and freesia with citrus peel. It’s also very slightly off-dry, though you probably won’t notice any sweetness, the wine just feels gentler and more rounded than it might if it were bone-dry.
If you follow the curve of the Mediterranean coastline north and east and into France, just before you reach Montpellier, you will come to the Bassin de Thau – a saltwater lagoon famous as a beautiful spot for summer holidays as well as for its oysters. Close by, there are vineyards, and in those vineyards grows a grape called picpoul de pinet, which makes a crisp, dry white wine with a faintly salty tang. Look for one that’s as fresh as possible. As I write, the 2018 bottles are on shelves, but you’ll want a freshly minted 2019. One specific southern French white that really impressed me is Domaine Mandeville Viognier Pays d’Oc 2019 (£7.50, M&S). It’s an almost perfectly summery wine. Viognier has a faint aroma of honeysuckle. It can sometimes feel a bit oily in the mouth – but not this one. This is a lilting dance of a white that comes with a heady waft of scented flowers.
Keep going and you reach Provence, the global capital of pale rosé. Try Mirabeau en Provence Classic Rosé 2019 (£12, Waitrose). Rosé goes well with nearly every Mediterranean dish you can throw at it – stuffed tomatoes, garlicky lamb, you name it. And if you’re after a cheaper pink you probably need to double back to the Languedoc to find something like Maison Sur Littoral Rosé 2019 Pays d’Oc (£5.99, Aldi). I’m not sure about the royal blue bottle, but I do like the wine inside it.
We need to move on. I’ll pick two wines from Italy, both from the island of Sicily. One is a light but juicy red called Rupe Secca Nero d’Avola 2018 (£9.25, Haynes, Hanson & Clark) that is fantastic with oily fish or with pasta in an aubergine sauce. The other is Castellore Italian Fiano 2019 (£5.49, Aldi), a white that tastes faintly of oranges and orange blossom. Wines from Greece are a new discovery for many wine drinkers. I particularly like the wines from Domaine Lyrarakis on Crete, which you can find at Berry Bros & Rudd. Check out wine made from the dafni grape; the word means laurel, and the wines do taste of bay.
This month I’m drinking…
Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV Hampshire, England (Lea & Sandeman, £29.95; £31.95, coatesandseely.com)
Toast a summer evening with a refreshing glass of homegrown sparkling wine. Made from pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier – the three champagne grapes – this is a thing of beauty.
Rupe Secca Nero d’Avola 2018 Sicily, Italy (£9.25, Haynes, Hanson & Clark)
A red that tastes of stewed damsons to pair with one-pan coriander-crusted duck, roasted plums & greens.
Cantine Rallo Isola della Fiamma Grillo 2019, Italy (£6.50, The Wine Society)
All peach, plums and florals. Try it with the sweet, spicy sesame, halloumi & courgette fritters with chilli honey drizzle.
Read more articles by Victoria Moore
Why you should be drinking Chilean wine
Best wines for under £5
Top sustainable wines for 2020
How wine has changed in 30 years
Why you should be drinking verdejo this summer
Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).
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