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Summer

The days are long and we are getting used to spending more time outside (in the Northern Hemisphere that is). We want to share lazy lunches and relaxed evenings with neighbours, friends and family with the some party celebrations too. So what delicious offerings are in our glasses and on our plates for a long-planned event or an impromptu apéritif?

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What is going on in the vineyard in Summer?

Growing, growing and more growing. The vines, the wild flowers and plants, the grass and the weeds. But we encourage this lovely abundance which in turn encourages good bugs that eat the bad ones and we only step in to curtail it when it competes with the vines. Most of Bordeaux has turned their back on weedkiller and the practice of 'Sexual Confusion' instead of insecticide is becoming dominant too. To battle the weeds,  we cut them  at the base of the vines and they die back into the soil. By June, flowering has taken place and the small green grape bunches have formed. With the onslaught of Summer heat we turn the soil once to aerate it and then leave it with as little intervention or compacting (by machines) as possible.

Meanwhile in the winery, we are preparing to bottle the 2021 red wine vintage after it's ageing in barrel and we are getting the white wine barrels ready for the September harvest of the 2023 white wine grapes. 

Seasonal Fruit & Veg

What are we seeing in abundance in the markets? It depends a little where you live but here in South-West France, the market stalls are groaning under the weight of soft fruits - strawberries, raspberries, apricots and peaches along with late asparagus, radishes, baby new potatoes as well as artichokes, watercress and courgettes (and their flowers) by the kilo. 

 

We have some delicious wine and plant-based pairings to suggest for Summer - both recipe ideas and detailed recipes.

In the spotlight: Artichokes

Believe it or not, there are 50 varieties of artichoke. The Violet de Provence melts in the mouth and is the perfect taste of Summer. The tender and sweet Roussillon artichoke IGP (Indication Géographique Protegée)  is one of the earliest varieties in France and has been grown in the Pyréneés-Orientales since the 16th century. The Médoc is famous for the large, globe artichauts de Macau.

They can look a little threatening sitting on a market stall or supermarket shelf. Globe artichokes are part of the thistle family – and look like it! Not to be confused with Jerusalem artichokes, a root vegetable.

Are they good for you?

Artichokes contain a phyto-chemical in called cynarin, thought to help stimulate the liver. They are also full of fibre, great for the gut.

What wine to serve with them?

Cynarin affects our  ability to taste bitterness, salt, and acidity so they make everything taste sweet. So serve them with dry wines, ideally white or a dry light red, nothing too tannic as artichokes bring out the tannins in red wine. How and with what you serve with them is key and it's fun to experiment. Oily, lemony vinaigrette and luscious mayonnaise counteract the sweetening effect and makes them much more wine friendly. 

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In the Spotlight: Beautiful Berries

Berries are some of the healthiest fruit you can eat, a great source of vitamins especially C and K, minerals, potassium and magnesium, fibre, prebiotics and the magical anthocyanins that we also find in red wine. These compounds give red, purple and blue colours to food. 

Often, we think we should avoid fruit due to high sugar levels, but berries are relatively low in natural sugars and high in fibre. Research shows they are heart and brain healthy and may even help blood pressure regulation – true miracle foods. 

 

Eating locally grown fresh berries is best, but they freeze well which doesn’t damage their nutritional value. 

What to drink with them?

Another advantage of berries, red and black is they pair really well with wine. Wine tasters often use red and black fruit descriptions when describing wine: Pinot is often described as having strawberry or raspberry aromas, while Merlots red berries and cherries, Cabernet black fruits such as bramble and blackcurrant. And the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon has blackcurrant flavours is not fantasy - it actually shares DNA with the blackcurrant. 

Serve red wines young, on the fruit rather than tannic or aged. Many Summer desserts featuring berries will pair marvellously with a fruity rosé which may be in your glass during Summer in any case!. 

 

Berries go really well with sparkling and with sweet wines too especially when the berries are a feature of a dessert. Choose a lighter Sauternes – I’ve just discovered Brumes from Château La Tour Blanche, only 80g of residual sugar, it’s aromatic, fresh and fruity.

 

Don’t tell the wine maker, but you could pour the wine in an elegant glass full of berries or do the same with a sparkling wine or Champagne. That’s real wine and berry pairing - fun and glamourous. Try freezing the berries first. 

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