The summer party season is upon us and, with temperatures soaring to an unprecedented high, I have chosen three wines this month that you can serve ice-cold in order to soothe your palate and also demonstrate with unarguable accuracy that you are the most thoughtful host in town.
Party wines must be crowd-pleasers in the most all-encompassing sense of this expression. They must have flavours that are most appreciable by the largest group of palates and this means, in flavour terms, that they ought to be ‘straight down the middle’. Not tricks, not ticks, no quirks and no wrinkles, these wines are liquid deliciousness with as broad an appeal as possible.
They must also have another trait which is imperative and which few wines possess. A true party wine can be consumed in two different ways – firstly, with the brain engaged and secondly with the brain completely in neutral. The last thing you want is a wine which is too demanding or needy from its drinker. I adore a juicy glugger which slips down with ease allowing me to concentrate on the conversations going on around me. But if this same wine has hidden depths, which I can dip in and out of at will, then it will please me intellectually, too. These are critical components of the party wine scene.
Lastly, a great party wine has a ‘reason’. This is not as strong as a story nor as boring as a legend, but simply a reason for its being invited along. It is this reason – often a one-liner which can be bandied about to explain its appeal both to wine savvy people and also novices – which will underpin its success at your gathering.
So here are my three reasons for the wines overleaf: Greyfriars – it’s rare to find great Pinot gris in the UK and I love the bone-dry finish which is so unlike Pinot gris found on the High Street. Bolney – this is the Daley Thompson of the rosé world. Fit, characterful, a winner, and also multi-skilled from a food and wine-matching point of view. Nyetimber – It’s very, very big and also very, very beautiful.
2017 Pinot Gris
I love sophisticated Pinot gris and seek it out whenever I can. Sadly, this is often a fruitless task, but not so with Greyfriars’s new vintage which is an absolute cracker. A lot of thought has gone into this wine from the 24-hour cold soak on its skins to the fermentation in used oak and its five months of gentle ageing in these vessels too.
As with every great party wine, you can drink it at speed and revel in the dramatic acidity (6.7g/L and no residual sugar) and the nervy pear and apple flavours, or you can slow right down and forensically analyse the layers of glorious fruit, which comes from two relatively youthful plantings. I wrote ‘Alto Adige’ in my notes when I first tasted this wine and it has the sleekness and guile of the best examples from this region. But, given time, it will also grow on the palate and this will change its shape and delivery as it puts on a little weight around its midriff. This will transform it into Alsatian mood and no doubt prompt more discussion and fascination. Only 2,300 bottles were made so hurry along if you would like to join this party.
2009 Classic Cuvée
£250 Jeroboam 300cl
Fortnum & Mason
Tel. 020 7734 8040
Nothing screams party wine as loudly as large formats and because magnums are so last year why not track down a rare ‘jero’ and celebrate in unrivalled style this summer. Very few wineries in the UK bottle jeroboams and not only do they look awesome, I swear that every wine tastes better out of this format. I remember visiting Nyetimber back in early 2015 where I noted that this imperious vintage showed “great delicacy on nose, with decent creamy fruit, fringed with tell-tale green highlights. Vibrant and classy in equal measure, the silky nose and palate gives way to a finish which resonates with urgency and grip”.
Of course the finish is more mellow today, but it shows no sign of ageing and this underlines the calibre of fruit in this epic wine. In this format, I imagine that it will age for a further decade with ease, but why bother? Buy the cheapest kiddies paddling pool possible at Argos, fill it with ice and lower a few of these beauties in. Kitsch, glamorous, exclusive and ostentatious – what more could you possibly want at a balmy summer soirée?
Bolney Wine Estate
I like this wine a lot and, in common with the other two bottles on this page, it can be glugged without a care in the world or respected for the fine creation that it is. There is a lot of experience at Bolney, with over 35 vintages under its belt and a decade of rosé tinkering. While estates love to sing about the awards that they have won, I think that a winery is only as good as its last release and, with this in mind, Bolney is on tiptop form.
Cleverly combining 87% red grapes, Rondo and Dornfelder, with 13% white grapes, Seyval blanc, Reichensteiner and Schönburger (I love rosés that are ‘refreshed’ with white grapes), this is a classic all-year-round wine with a multitude of food-matching skills. Asian-influenced recipes would dominate the landscape if this was in my ice bucket, but as a party wine, instead of having to buy a few whites and a few reds for your canapés, you would only need this one bottle to take care of all dishes, such is its talent. Bone dry yet lush and engaging, this is a very accomplished wine indeed.