July – the height of summer before the August break. Or at least that’s what we hope for; picnics and garden parties, lazy summer Sundays and long evenings, barbecues and salads.
Summer foods are lighter and we need wines to match – this means generally whites, with the odd barbecue red.
Umbrele Sauvignon Blanc, Romania – Bacchanalia (Â£6.49)
I used to visit Romania regularly on business – I never fell in love with Bucharest as a city, but I quickly became a fan of the wines there; mostly well-made, modern food wines with plenty of fruit.
This entry-level Sauvignon is in much the same vein – lots of ripe tropical fruit expression, good acidity and a touch of zestiness.
With its zingy freshness, it will work well as an aperitif, with mixed anti-pasti, grilled fish or roast white meat.
An unexpected twist is some late harvest character that adds rich fullness and atypical aromas of ripe peaches, apricots and galia melon over the more-usual nettles and gooseberries.
If you are bored of Sauvignon, or like the idea of something different, this is definitely worth a try – and an absolute bargain to boot.
Esporao Reserva Branco 2011, Portugal – Cambridge Wine Merchants (Â£11.95)
Historically known for its ports, Portugal has been on the cusp of receiving recognition for its table wines, both reds and whites, for a long time now.
The country’s most famous white is vinho verde – a very light and refreshing wine from the north. This Esporao from Alentejo region is, however, quite different and rather more ambitious.
On first opening, it has lots of everything – ripe tropical fruit, sweet spice, florality and toasty new oak; a bit like you ordered the entire menu.
But with some aeration, it all starts to fall into place – the oakiness settles down and is matched by a lovely streak of acidity with good savoury depth and pure fruit expression.
Precise, elegant and balanced, this is a lovely wine with plenty of aging potential. It has an IWC Trophy and featured in Olly Smith’s Top 50 Portuguese Wines.
Jancis Robinson, reviewing the 2007, notes it is more Rhone-esque than Portuguese and almost impossible to identify blind – which should make for some interesting dinner party discussions.
Match with roast white meats or sea bass.
Bodegas Borsao ‘Monte Oton’ Campo de Borja Garnacha, Spain – Noel Young Wines (Â£5.99)
This Spanish red is a perfect barbecue wine or picnic sipper – it’s sealed with a screw cap and has lots of juicy, food friendly acidity.
Spain is traditionally home to dusty, chunky reds, but this is grown at altitude on north-facing slopes for freshness.
It is full of expressive aromas of morello cherries, plummy fruit, liquorice, leather, vanilla and spice.
The palate is juicy and mouthfilling, with a lovely sour-cherry acidity, more plummy and dark berry fruit with sweet vanilla, spice and roughed-up herbs.
Another summer bargain – match with mixed anti-pasti or barbecued meats.
Main image credit: http://www.ub.indiana.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/summer-sun.gif