Mairead Robinson celebrates the arrival of summer
It has certainly been a long wet and windy spring time, preceded by a long cold and wet winter – it is no surprise that so many of us are jetting away to the sunshine at the first available opportunity. But if you cast your mind back to summer 2022 – remember it was a stunner. We enjoyed long sunny days at the beach, al fresco dining, walking, fishing, golfing and generally loving the bright warm days that blessed our summer last year. The only complaint I heard about the weather was how it impacted the garden and necessitated daily watering to keep the plants healthy and the grass green. Would that that would be the only thing we have to worry about this year!
And so when the bright summer days arrive we love to dust down the barbeque and bring the dining outside. And then we need something bright and cheerful to drink with our food. Whether it is just a couple of people, or indeed a large gathering, my first choice for al fresco dining is a glass of bubbles. Just think of those summer weddings, everybody sipping a glass of Prosecco and looking incredibly happy. While traditionally it was always champagne, now a glass of Cava or Prosecco or indeed most sparkling wines if they are not too sweet, is very acceptable at these gatherings.
So there is no excuse not to pop open a bottle of bubbles – except for one thing. I have often bemoaned the price we have to pay in Ireland with the excise duty on every standard wine, and particularly for sparkling wine. Irish consumers pay €6.37 excise duty on every bottle of sparkling wine. And that is more than any other country in Europe. Unfair or what? So the best suggestion I have is to decide which are your favourite sparklers, and keep your eyes open for when they are on special offer. This could be more often that you thought, so stock up when you can.
Among the best value quality sparklers, which I believe are very acceptable on any occasion and are on my list of summer tipples include the wines from celebrities Graham Norton and Kylie Minogue. Graham Norton’s wines are extremely popular, and now his collection has two new additions. Together with Invivo he has launched a Frizzante Rose produced in Northern Italy by the same partners that make the Graham Norton white Graham Norton Prosecco and Frizzante. It has sweetly scented notes of tropical flowers and strawberry, such a lovely summer sparkler. Like its twin, the white Frizzante, this blend is crisp yet delicately structured with that delicious strawberry drive through the perfectly balanced palate. And the Frizzante itself is the fourth addition to the Graham Norton range, which according to Marie Claire magazine is “one of the most successful celebrity wine collaborations ever”. It comes from the wine growing regions in Northern Italy where Sparkling Frizzante vines have been grown for generations.
Both of these sparklers are widely available in Tesco, Dunnes and SuperValu around the country. And they will certainly not break the bank at just €13 Once again, keep the eyes open for special offers and promotions for even better value. Graham Norton wines have been heralded as the fastest growing wine brand in the UK!
And so to another of our favourite celebrities whose wines have proved to be very popular, Kylie Minogue
Once again from the heart of Northern Italy, Kylie has a Vino Frizzante Prosecco from vines aging ten years and grown on limestone-rich soils that give mineral complexity into the base wines. The temperate climate and cool nights allow grapes to retain acidity and freshness. The grapes are harvested between the end of August and mid-September.
And from the same region, she has also produced a Frizzante Rose which is a lightly coloured sparkling rose with fine and delicate notes.
It has an intense and fruity aroma, evoking memories of wisteria flowers and apples. This wine is excellent as an aperitif and an ideal accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres, risottos, fragrant fried food and grilled fish.
If you are wanting to enjoy bubbles with your summer dining but want to stay off the alcohol or need to drive, it is good to know that there are alcohol free options also. Kylie Minogue has produced a 0% alcohol free Sparkling Rose where the fermentation process reduces the sugar content, contains no alcohol and yet delivers all the flavours you would want in a quality rose wine. It is both refreshing and finely balanced.
Once again these wines are widely available in Tesco and Dunnes, and retail at €14 with the alcohol free wine just €10
And finally, if you really want to celebrate with a good classic Champagne, but don’t want to spend big money on the top Champagne names, I would suggest checking out Louis Armand Champagne, which retails for just €30
Located in the heart of the Champagne region, Maison Louis Armand is a family winery since 1996. The vineyard is located among the most prestigious villages of Champagne and their wines are proudly characterized by elegance. Their Brut Louis Armand is light, fruity and floral, produced according to the champagne tradition and are made up of a traditional blend of Pinot Noir 55%, Chardonnay 5% and Pinot Meunier 40%
I have to say this is an excellent Champagne, which will delight any ‘champagne connoisseur’ and will add a real sparkle to your summer celebrations. Enjoy the sunshine this summer – we deserve it!