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Wines for Summer Drinking

Let's assume we'll have at least a few more weekends this summer good enough to slap on the factor 20 and enjoy some quality al fresco eating and drinking. Choosing wines for sipping in the garden shouldn't strain the bank balance. Nor should the wines leave you incapable of lucidity by teatime! For me, garden drinks should be low to moderate in alcohol. I did try some alcohol-free wines (boy, do you owe me big time!) but just couldn't bring myself to recommend any of them. Instead, I turn to Germany for summertime whites. Many wonderful German Rieslings are naturally low in alcohol and display a breathtaking balance of fruit, sweetness and acidity: just perfect for sipping through a long, lazy afternoon. This month's reds are moderate in alcohol too, but are still powerful, fruity wines that will cope with the charry flavours of the barbecue.

UK stockist are given, with prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)


Ruppertsberg Riesling 1997
This wine from the southerly Pfalz region has only 11.5% alcohol and is full of crisp, crunchy lime and pear fruit. It is almost like drinking freshly squeezed apple juice on the palate, with citrus acidity lifting the finish. Off-dry and very gluggable. (Majestic £4.49)

Avelsbacher Hammerstein Riesling 1992
A much more traditionally-styled Riesling from the Mosel area. Along with a gorgeous weight of apple and peach fruit there are definite waxy aromas with hints of nettles and petrol on the nose (classic mature Riesling characteristics). It is quite luscious with sweet fruit, yet fine acidity that gives balance. Only 9.5% alcohol and perfect as an introduction to the style, and to accompany juicy barbecued fresh sardines. (Majestic £4.49)

Banrock Station Chardonnay 1999
This is a top Australian Chardonnay in the budget category. Creamy vanilla aromas are joined on the palate by succulent, buttery peach fruit and hints of exotic pineapple and guava. The finish is clean yet spicy, and this would be great with spicier flavours - maybe chicken satay kebabs? (Sainsbury £3.99, but widely available)


Sainsbury Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc 1998
Sometimes what you want for a garden get-together is a cheap but tasty red to wash down the barbied food. Here is one that hits the spot perfectly with its nose of raspberry jam, violet and blackcurrant. There is chewy, savoury fruit on the palate and some tannin and spicy oak that would match char-grilled flavours beautifully. (Sainsbury £2.99)

Safeway Australian Shiraz/Ruby Cabernet 1999
Like the previous wine, only a modest 12% alcohol. What a nose on this wine! It is like opening up a spice cupboard with pungent aromas of cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg, little hints of mint leaf and even basil. On the palate it is much more orthodox with ripe, sweet blackcurranty fruit that's easy to drink. The ultimate barbecue wine? (Safeway £3.99)

Marietta Old Vine Red, Lot 23
Ok, I'll confess there's nothing moderate and easy drinking about this wine: it's just a cracking value classy red that would be a brilliant foil to this month's spare rib recipe. Based on the Zinfandel grape, it is blended with a handful of other varieties to give a wine full of juicy, ripe berry fruit with a real liquorice and blueberry bittersweet edge. Fine structure and length. (Oddbins £7.99)