The last of the summer wine?

Late summer wines
Late summer wines

The Last of the Summer Wine? Not necessarily.

Although the more ‘lizard-like’ types among you, who love to bask in 30-degree sunshine, may be thinking that current temperatures are on the chilly side, 21 or 22 degrees is pretty much par for the course for a summer in southern England.

According to forecasters, it looks as if our summer weather may extend itself into the autumn.

Wine producers both in Sussex and throughout Europe are jumping for joy, with what looks like a bumper grape harvest, for both quantity and quality. Virtually no late frosts in the spring, perfect weather for flowering, and hot, dry weather throughout the summer has resulted in large amounts of fruit on the vines, with hardly any disease or rot. Many vineyard owners in Sussex believe that 2018 could be the best ever year for English wine, although their comments are tempered by the fact that the harvest is not in yet and disasters of Mother Nature could still strike.

Yet, here I was only back in May this year, lamenting the fact that 2017 was the worst year for wine production for 60 years! Strange how often Nature seems to balance itself, with 2018 set to be a bumper year, at least in Europe. Reports are coming in from across the continent of large quantities of great quality grapes and early harvests. Again, in some regions, such as parts of Austria, this is tempered by the effect of the high summer temperatures and period of drought, which has reduced volumes, despite the earliest harvest in this country for decades.

So, before we brace ourselves for winter, here are a few suggestions for easy drinking and very affordable ‘it’s still summer!’ wines.

Italia Pinot Grigio 2017, from the Provincia di Pavia in Northern Italy, is crisp, aromatic and refreshing. A dry white, the honeyed apple flavours are balanced by a fresh, zesty, citrus finish. Cool fermentation and extended lees contact are designed to capture the personality of the region. £7.99 from Waitrose. Pair with Grissini Stirati, which are hand-pulled breadsticks.

A pair of succulent late summer wines, which are marketed under the name of La Belle Angèle, can be found at Majestic – £8.99 per bottle or even cheaper at their mix six price. La Belle Angèle was a famous character of the early 20th century and was the muse of many French impressionists. Modern wine-making techniques, with clarification, cold settling and long, cool fermentation ensure fruity, fresh and aromatic wines. The Sauvignon Blanc 2017 is delicate with aromas of gooseberry and blackcurrant leaf. The pale rosé is made from Grenache and Cinsault, giving a well-balanced and lively wine, with both floral and fruity notes and aromas of grenadine and raspberry.

In the true spirit of the French woman on the label, both have charm, elegance, fine taste and joie de vivre. All are perfect accompaniments for a late summer evening.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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