Updated: May 12
Growing up, I used to love going to see my grandparents up in Lancashire. Their old stone house backed onto green fields as far as the eye could see. I would climb over the back fence and run through the lush grass, hopefully avoiding the odd cow pat, while singing until my lungs burst. (Anyone who can guess what I was singing will get a free bottle of wine! Hint: It had something to do with "hills".) At some point, I would collapse on my back and close my eyes and listen to the skylarks – a sound that just lifts the soul. When I returned, cheeks flushed and a huge grin, my grandma would always exclaim, “Well, you look as fresh as a daisy!”
This week I tried a wonderful rosé from the Umathum family in Burgenland, and the vibrancy and energy in the glass – not to mention its vivid color that evokes spring flowers – conjured the apt phrase: “Fresh as a daisy!”
The Umathums are Franks whose family goes back to the 3rd century. The Franks as a people fought the Romans to settle across Northern Europe, and are France's namesake. The Umathum's vineyards, which sit on the Austrian- Hungarian border, are on dark soils full of round pebbles which impart a smooth, soft minerality rather than the more linear quality you get from native rock. The nose had me straight away. So fragrant and vital with fresh hibiscus, passion fruit, and a light perfume of tea rose. In the mouth it is so complete and balanced with a laser core that just drills through your palate. Take it to every summer party and watch people swoon. This is just a killer rosé that’s worth stocking up on for summer days ahead.
Next, I found two exceptional reds, one from Italy and one from France, that also have that wonderful energy and tension that make you want to take sip after sip.
A fun Sangiovese from the Le Benducce family in Montalcino, Italy. Made from their younger vines, this has the most alluring, yummy nose with that typical Sangiovese character of rich polished leather interspersed with black cherry. You get a mouthful of fruit, but with an earthiness and great acids that balance it out and make it a true crowd-pleaser. At this price, pull this out any weekday evening, especially if you’re cooking up a rich pasta dish or having a pizza night. In fact, I almost want to serve it out of a clay jug, rustic Italian-style.
A little fanfare for this last wine. Lapalu has God-like status in Beaujolais and for good reason. This Gamay from the Cote de Brouilly, one of the most southerly and warmest areas of Beaujolais, is perfection in a glass. A mixture of whole cluster and destemmed which gives it some up-front fruit along with the stunning minerality from the famous ‘corne verte’ or Blue Stone of Brouilly. This is an ancient diorite, a very dense volcanic rock, which give these wines their depth and tension. Fragrant cherries abound and it dances in your mouth just like a scene out of Dirty Dancing. Epic, epic, epic wine. If anyone likes roast duck, this is your wine…seared with a little red wine berry reduction or a rare roast lamb as well. We had it with a simple, Mediterranean roast chicken dish, and it was superb. This is a must-try wine – you won’t be disappointed!