As the athletes of the world converge on London and the nation’s armchairs are moved to a commanding position in front of the TV, it is worth contemplating exactly what qualities are needed to compete in the various Olympic events, and whether it is possible to match the wine in the glass to the sportsmen and women in the arena.
They have to run faster, jump higher, or just do their sport with more style than the rest, but for the Wine Olympics there is another criteria – cost. My winners for drinking in the next few weeks have to beat all other contenders, as well as limbo under specific price points for the heats £8, the semis £12 and the finals £30.
Who would have thought they could turn the heart of London into a beach volleyball court? With several thousand tons of sand transforming Horse Guards Parade into a beach, lets hope that the rain stops otherwise the sand might be needed for sandbags to keep the floods at bay.
Beach volleyball attracts an audience far greater than the actual interest in the sport which may have something to do with the lean, honed bodies of the athletes and their skimpy outfits.
The event originated in California and so to accompany the preliminary rounds of this sport the obvious choice is the green apple fruit and floral style of Barefoot Pinot Grigio (£6.69 Waitrose, down to £4.89 until July 24) from California.
For the semi-finals and finals, move upmarket to other Californian offerings such as the rounded toasty flavours of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay 2009 (£9.99 on multibuy at Majestic) which will accompany a seafood lunch and for the finals Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2009 (£21.99 Harrogate Fine Wine) offers smooth, integrated, complex plummy flavours with plenty of punch on the finish.
Having spent several days on the Olympic website I managed to get tickets to the rowing finals but then was pressurised into relinquishing them to a family member who rows, so I will be watching these events from the comfort of my armchair instead of from Dorney Lake.
Team GB should be good for a few medals in these events and teamwork is essential in any boat so for the heats and repechages head to the co-ordinated range and excellent flavours of McGuigan from Australia. Majestic has the simple fruit-filled McGuigan Shiraz 2010 at £5.99 on multibuy but for semi-finals you should trade up to The Shortlist GSM 2009 (£11.99 on multibuy at Majestic). If we get a boat in the finals there will probably be an Australian crew alongside so toast the Aussies with Dead Arm Shiraz 2007 from d’Arenberg (£27 Majestic) which might just slow them down enough for our boat to sneak ahead.
With high hopes for GB medals in the cycling, there is only one wine which should be in your glass for these events. Cono Sur Bicycle range is named after the bikes the workers use to get around the huge Cono Sur estate in Chile, although they probably wouldn’t do terribly well in the Velodrome, mainly because most of them have baskets and vineyard tools hanging from them. But the range is good and great value with Asda offering the fresh-tasting zingy Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and the soft, mulberry fruit of Carmenère 2010 at £5 each.
These will be perfect for the early heats in the cycling but for later in the week the deeper, more complex flavours of Cono Sur’s Reserva range, still sporting a bicycle on the label, will hit the mark perfectly.
Trade up for the semi-finals to the lush, cherry and plum fruit of Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir 2010 from the Casablanca Valley (£9.99 Waitrose) and if we look like we are close to a medal in the finals it is time to pop the cork on a bottle of Bollinger (£37 Majestic on multibuy), selected because Madame Lily Bollinger always inspected her vineyards by bicycle.
With Ryan Giggs at the head of the GB Team football team it is only right that the wine in your glass should be Casillero del Diablo. This Chilean wine company sponsors Manchester United and their wines are full of great value flavours and so are perfect for the early rounds.
Tesco has the Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet, Pinot Grigio and the Shiraz Rosé down from £7.49 to £5.99 until August 14.
For the 100 metre sprint you need a racy, lively wine such as a Riesling and the medal-winning Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2011 from Clare Valley, Australia (£7.99 on multibuy from Majestic) is first off the starting blocks with bright citrus notes and minerally edges. Serve this with a spicy stir-fry.
The javelin events could be accompanied by a bottle of The Marksman English Sparkling wine from Ridgeview in Sussex (£22 Marks and Spencer) which is a frothy, toasty, clean-tasting English fizz, and you could keep some aside for the archery and shooting events.
All hurdle events should be accompanied by a glass of D’Arenberg’s High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (£12.49 Cairns and Hickey, Leeds) and this will also do for the high jump while the triple jump needs a wine that also has three important elements to it. Domaine des Trois Pierres 2011 (£7.29 Waitrose) from the Costières de Nîmes is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre and it will be perfect on its own or with grilled lamb.
The marathon needs a wine able to stand up to the distance such as La Gitana Manzanilla (£9.59 Tesco) from Jerez in Spain. Aged for years in old barrels it emerges fresh as a daisy with lively, zesty, almost sea-salty flavour and it will be perfect, served chilled alongside a bowl of salted almonds and maybe a few nibbles to keep you going.
Don’t forget to have plenty of English Fizz available to toast Team GB’s medals. Jamie Goodhart at Bon Coeur (01765 688200) has just taken delivery of a stack of Bolney Estate Blanc de Blancs 2007 Sparkling English Wine that won Gold in The International Wine Challenge. At just £24.95 this is a definite winner whatever happens out in the Olympic venues.