The weather outside is starting to get a lot less frightful and a whole lot more delightful. Like animals coming out of hibernation, we humans are tentatively emerging from the house without a coat, and even attempting to drink a glass of wine whilst sat out on the patio.
But whether you're still drinking indoors or not, what are the best wines to sip during the spring?
1. Vinho Verde
Translating literally to 'green wine', (although it basically means 'young' or 'not matured for very long' wine) this is a little beauty from Portugal.
Vinho Verde is actually the name given to a wine-producing region right up in the north-west of the country. The wine here is made to be enjoyed young (within a year or so of bottling) and it is well known for having a tiny bit of 'spritz' or 'fizz' to it, which makes it all the more refreshing.
If you want to try some for yourself"
- I'd highly recommend Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde (£6.75, The Wine Society) as an absolute textbook example and really competitively priced. If you're not a member, you can also get it at Majestic for £7.49 at the moment.
- Remarkably enough, Aldi even does a Vinho Verde for £4.79 (normally £4.99) and it really isn't half bad for spring sipping.
There are also red vinho verdes, as Freddy discovered for us a couple of years ago.
Right, if you're new to Beaujolais, you probably only know of it as that sharp, nasty Beaujolais Nouveau stuff. Yeah, it is foul, it's not just you.
But Nouveau totally overshadows all the wonderful wines this region produces - and they're often fantastic value, especially compared to other French regions. (Freddy's already told you why you should bloody love Beaujolais, by the way.)
The essential facts about this wine are: It's almost entirely red wine made with the gamay grape, and the way it's often produced (something called carbonic maceration) can give it a cherry/kirsch/bubblegum character - and even banana flavours sometimes!
It's normally lighter in alcohol than most red wines, and is best served lightly chilled, which is why it's brilliant in spring. It's great with tuna steaks, turkey and sausages.
You'll find it hiding in every supermarket, but I'd recommend the following:
- Tesco Beaujolais Rouge, £4.49 - a real bargain if you want something light and fruity. Really not bad at all.
- Brouilly, Pisse-Vieille, £5.50 for a half at The Wine Society - my go-to Beaujolais (and halves are always handy) this is full of red fruit flavour and also has a name which translates roughly to 'old woman's piss'. Don't worry, it got this name from an old local legend about a woman mishearing a priest, it's nothing to do with the taste of the wine.
- Tesco Beaujolais-Villages, £6.49. 'Beaujolais-Villages' is basically a classification for everyday Beaujolais of slightly higher quality, and this is a cracking example, with more vibrant fruit and complexity than its cheaper counterpart.
- Fleurie, Georges Duboeuf, currently £9.98 at Majestic. There are 10 'crus' in Beaujolais, which are basically special classifications given to the best wine-growing areas in the region. Fleurie is arguably the most famous and this is a classic, floral Fleurie.
3. French Sauvignon Blanc
Although in recent years New Zealand has reigned as Sauvignon Queen Supreme, more and more people are turning away from the predictable gooseberry, herby flavours and returning to the wonders of sauvignon from France.
You'll find it mostly in the Loire (where some of the world's finest sauvignon is made, most famously Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume), in Bordeaux (where it's often blended with semillon and can be aged) and in southern France, where producers seem increasingly to be trying to emulate the New World characteristics.
It's generally much cooler in France than the New World regions where sauvignon blanc flourishes, and so you tend to find a more refined, slightly more subtle sauvignon blanc. Generally, I find it's less 'in your face' tropical and herbaceous flavour and more citrus-filled and grassy.
Ideal with spring seafood and goats cheese salads, it's also a lovely wine to sip as the evenings get longer.
Want my recommendations for a range of French sauvignons to try?
South France: Vignobles Rousselet, £4.69, Aldi. Yes, you read that right, it's under a fiver. And it's fantastic! Crisp, citrussy, and really brilliant value.
Loire: La Grille Touraine Sauvignon, £7.49 (usually £8.99) at Majestic. Leave your Sancerre for a special occasion - you don't need to spend that kind of money to discover the Loire's sauvignon gems. This is green, zingy and refreshing.
Bordeaux: Dourthe La Grand Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, currently £6.89 (down from £9.29) at Waitrose. A large and reliable producer in Bordeaux, this is another good value introduction to Bordeaux sauvignon. Gooseberry and blackcurrant leaf abound, making it an ideal match to cut through a spring vegetable quiche.
So there you have it! What are you top spring wine picks? Let us know in the comments!