As the chance of a quick sunshine break slips away into autumn, many of us who managed only a staycation have a distinct feeling of missing out on the usual two weeks’ summer break in France, Italy or Spain, not just for the holiday and family time but for the eating and drinking experiences it offers.
One of the joys of a holiday is finding a special wine in a local shop or trattoria and if there is room in the car or in a suitcase, bringing a few bottles home. From there it is just a short step to your local wine merchant to try to find the same wine so you can continue the feeling of being on holiday.
“We will always try to find a special wine that a customer has discovered on holiday, but sometimes it just isn’t possible so we try to find a similar wine from the same region,” says Andy Langshaw, at Harrogate Wine.
But there are snags in trying to match your favourite holiday wine. Anything bought in the sunshine, at a local market or direct from the producer always tastes better than something that you take from a shelf in the UK. A wine that tastes fabulous by the pool in Provence may not taste the same on a wet Wednesday in Wakefield.
So if this year you missed out on bringing your holiday wine home, here are a few suggestions to help you conjure up some of the tastes that you should have enjoyed this summer.
Just close your eyes and imagine that you are in the hills of Provence, where the breeze moderates the summer heat and your favourite little bistro overlooking the sea has grilled fish, olives and salads on the lunch menu. Try a bottle of Whispering Angel 2019, (£17.99 Martinez Wines and Roberts & Speight) from the Côtes de Provence which tastes of wild strawberry fruit with a rounded texture that can take on a salad Niçoise.
Alternatively head to Sainsbury’s for its own Taste the Difference Côtes de Provence 2019 (down from £9.75 to £8.50 until September 15). It comes in a traditional curvy bottle that adds to the illusion that you are in the region and the flavours are fresh and fruity.
Waitrose has the fashionably pale, cherry and raspberry fruit flavours of Mirabeau en Provence Rosé 2019 down from £11.99 to £8.99 until September 22.
The Loire is the land of magnificent châteaux dotted along the banks of the river. This is also a region of campsites, cycle trails and vineyards which makes it a popular holiday destination. There are dozens of specific wine-producing regions along the Loire, but one of the most famous is Muscadet whose wines are going through a revival in popularity as a string of good vintages has increased quality.
Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, a distant relative of Chardonnay, Muscadet is a crisp, fresh, almost salty wine, with its texture and complexity derived from spending time on its yeast lees. Look out for “Sur Lie” when you buy Muscadet.
Head to Morrisons for its own-label the Best Muscadet 2019 for lean, fresh, zesty flavours (down from £8 to £6.50 until Tuesday) or step up to Majestic’s Domaine de la Tourmaline Sur Lie version (£8.99 on a mix-six) for its elegant, minerally style and linear freshness.
Further upstream, Sauvignon Blanc grapes are gradually taking over from Chenin Blanc and making wines that capture the classic blackcurrant leaf and fresh grassy aromas of this grape.
If New Zealand Sauvignon is sometimes a little too bright and fruity, then try a Loire Sauvignon for more subdued, softer flavours. Head to Morrisons for the grapefruit and peach notes in the Best Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (£7.75) or try Waitrose for Touraine Attitude 2019 from Pascal Jolivet, (down from £12.99 to £9.74 until September 22). This is vibrant with lemon and lime flavours, with a streak of minerals and a crunchy bite on the finish. If you have oysters or prawns on your plate then this is the wine to pour alongside.
The Loire is also home to some terrific reds. Bourgueil and Chinon stand on opposite sides of the river, each famous for their reds. Cabernet Franc is the grape here, its leafy green tones adding interest and freshness to deep cassis fruit. Head to the Wine Society for St Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Rouillères from Domaine Frédéric Mabileau 2017 (£14.50) or try the silky bramble and black cherry flavours of Chinon from Serge and Bruno Sourdais (Harrogate Wines, £13.99).
This long sweep of coastline and hills between Spain and Provence acts as a magnet for many British tourists. The weather is good, the villages are beautiful and there are vineyards and restaurants in abundance. Head to the wines of Paul Mas, run by Jean-Claude Mas who works across the whole of the Languedoc, bringing together the classic tastes of the region.
Waitrose has the crisp, fragrant Paul Mas Viognier/Sauvignon blend 2019, currently down from £8.99 to £6.74. Chill this down and imagine you are in the region, perhaps eating at the excellent Paul Mas restaurant in Montagnac. Alternatively, head to Morrisons for a selection of wines from Gérard Bertrand, another star winemaker of the Languedoc. It has Les Aspres 2018, a rich, tasty blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah at £10, and on a multi-buy offer of three for two until Tuesday.
With a glass of wine in your hand and a little imagination you can think yourself into the holiday you might have had, and maybe start planning next year’s escape.
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