Cambridge is a great place to be in the summer – we get some of the driest weather in Europe’s northern half and we have lots of green spaces.
I can think of no other city where you are likely to see cows grazing in the centre – and that it is against the backdrop of King’s College and the river just makes it even more special.
After a couple of years of wash-outs, we are also shaping up for that much-promised and equally derided barbecue summer of a while ago.
There are plenty of spots to choose from, but my own favourites in Cambridge include sitting at the top of Cambridge castle with a view of the city’s skyline, lounging by the river bank at Trinity College watching tourists struggling to steer their punts (answer: use the pole) or, further afield, in Grantchester Meadows.
The energetically inclined could take in all three of these, via a walk through the city’s historical centre which retains its quirky medieval layout and either a punt or a stroll to Grantchester.
Naked Wines, one of the most exciting wine retailers in the internet-only space, recently sent me a case of their six best picnic wines for review; the company’sÂ “house-style” is well-made, fruit-driven wines that impress straight out of the bottle – just what you need for a picnic – and you could do a lot worse than packing one of these, pre-chilled, into your hamper. Most are sealed under screwcap, which is another handy feature.
Best for lazy lounging – Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet, Â£9.99
Picpoul is a somewhat unusual grape from southern France’s Languedoc region; it makes refreshing, crisp wines with a hint of seashell and sandiness – in a good way. This one is sandy coloured in the glass with aromas of ripe, thick-skinned grapes and a refreshing cox’s apple and pears acidity, with hints of varietal sand and seashells; a good, light quaffer with just 12.5% alcohol, despite its warm-climate origins.
Best with light foods – Arabella Viognier 2011, Â£7.99
I like Arabella’s wines a lot – this one is lemony, with lots of ripe tropical fruit, some typical varietal peachiness, elderflower, rounded acidity and a touch of mid-palate sweetness. There is some ripe toastiness and a good, balanced finish. An easy quaffer with the acidity and body to stand up to picnic foods like quiche, chicken drumsticks and salad leaves with cherry tomatoes.
The most perfumed – Classic South Pinot Gris 2010, Â£10.49
Golden in the glass, this is very very floral and perfumey on the nose, almost Gewurz-like with aromas of lychees and beeswax; there isÂ good, tropical acidity with passionfruit and guava and some honeyed weight.
The best rosÃ© – Castillo de Tafalla Rosado 2010, Â£6.99
As something of a recent convert to food-rosÃ©, I thoroughlyÂ enjoyed thisÂ ripe and juicy more-ish Spanish rosÃ©.Â Â With raspberry aromas, rounded acidity and a pleasing hint of spice it has a good, savoury finish. Instantly appealing and more-ish, it also feels very well-made and is excellent value.
The most celebratory – Sacchetto RosÃ© Brut NV, Â£10.49
If you are looking to make a statement, nothing says it better than fizz and for the wow factor, a bottle of pink fizz takes some beating. The added body of a rosÃ© also makes this a little more food-friendly. With aromas of redcurrants and raspberries on the nose and an easy-drinking feel, it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.
The best with hearty food – Benjamin Darnault Minervois 2010, Â£9.49
If your picnic food is a little more hearty – pork pies and sliced ham, rather than mixed leaves and salad – then the Darnault Minervois is what you need. It has ripe bramble fruit and plums on the nose, some soft vanilla-y tannins, gentle hints of cloves and spice with good, balanced acidity and tannic grip on the finish.
The fizz makes the biggest statement here, but for all-round appeal – and value too – I recommend Castillo de Tafalla Rosado.
All wines are available from Naked Wines, with up to 33% cash back for Naked Angels.
Copyright Tom Lewis 2011
Images reproduced from nakedwines.com