Springtime Sipping with Fortnum & Mason
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
Spring is here and with it, the chance to Picnic and Barbecue with Family and Friends
What could be more stylish than a Fortnum's picnic hamper, and some Fortnum's branded wines to go with it? The same for the first barbecues of the season. Fortnum's wine department is one of the best, with a good range carefully picked, and at all price points from really good wines around £10, then upwards as high and superb as you might want to go!
Just to sweeten deal even further, you’ll save 10% on these fantastic bottles when you buy 12 or more. If ever there were a reason to stock up, this is it!
Let's start with fizz. Firstly, to celebrate being let out to meet our friends again, but also because it is the perfect aperitif on a sunny day and it gets the party going. Fortnum's have a great range of the best English Sparkling Wines, from Nyetimber, the deserved brand leader, to the splendid fizzes from Gusborne, Ridgeview and Hambledon.
The one that stands out for me however, is Fortnum's special label from Cornwall. The excellent Camel Valley at just over £26 on this offer, has been winning prizes and competitions all over so the price represents great value. They must be delighted to be regularly used by British diplomats for receptions, and the Royal Household, showing off how good British wines are and recently being granted a Royal Warrant!
Pink wine is still all the rage, mainly because it is made so much better than it used to be and is a serious wine these days. It is of course the perfect wine for a picnic and hopefully warmer days. One of the most famous and longstanding producers from Provence in the South of France is Domaine Ott. They own the Chateau de Selle and Clos Mireille, two of the most elegant Rosés in the region and now owned by the great Champagne House Louis Roederer. Fortnum's Côtes de Provence Rosé (£17.55 less discount) is made by Ott. It’s a delicious light, dry, fresh wine with lovely summer berry fruit and wild herb "garrigue" complexity. Perfect as an aperitif, with sandwiches, or cold meats and salads.
The most exceptional thing about the Fortnum and Mason own label wine range is that they all come from the most reputable and top producers.
The other Rosé we recommend is Italian, a pink Bardolino from lake Garda in Trentino, Northern Italy. This light fruity wine with a dry mineral backbone is perfect for cold meats, hams, and salads, and again a Fortnum's label wine made by the talented Caesaretti family. At just £11.66 less the discount, it is great value.
If you are planning some grilled fish on the barbecue, a crisp bright chardonnay from the south of Burgundy, Drouhin's Saint Veran is a perfect match (£16.16 less the discount). Joseph Drouhin makes a white and a red for Fortnum's and this white Burgundy is fresh, fruity and clean but also bready and complex. Drouhin own some of Burgundy's greatest vineyard plots and also manage and produce the Marquis de Laguiche holding of Montrachet. They are generally thought of as the "benchmark" of quality in the region, with their wine making concentrating on and retaining the true characteristics of each vineyard site.
Shellfish, crab, lobster and prawns require an even "brighter" wine and the Fortnum's Muscadet Sur Lie (£9.86 less discount), is perfect. Light, crisp, bright and refreshing, gastronomically just like squeezing a ripe lemon over the fish.
Fortnum's, of course, have a great cheese selection and for picnics and barbecues cheese is an easy food to serve out of doors. Two cheeses stand out as particularly crying out for the right wine pairing.
The first is Fortnum's British Goats Cheese. Fortnum's Sancerre Blanc, £16.65 less discount, is made by the Dezat family, is fresh pure and minerally complex. The bright fruit and minerality bring out the flavours and counter the dry creaminess of the cheese, whilst the cheese brings out the complex fruit and fresh grassy flavours in the wine. Truly a marriage made in heaven!
Another great cheese crying out for a wine to match is the Truffled Cheddar wedge. This works brilliantly with light reds as well as white wines, and also the rose wines mentioned earlier. The two reds (which would also be great with barbecued chicken) are the Fortnum's Fleurie from Dominique Piron £13.46 less discount. This lovely juicy strawberry and wildflower scented wine is light and fruity and a perfect match for the truffle flavours.
The second red is one of the lovely light fresh German red wines now being made with the help of global warming and some warm ripening seasons in the Rhein Pfalz. Fortnum's Spatburgunder (pinot noir) from Ludi Neiss, £15.75 less discount is light, fresh, juicy, wild berry flavoured wine. Best served slightly chilled and fresh, to bring out the lovely fruit, and would go perfectly with the truffled Cheddar at a picnic (or barbecue!).
My next selections are to go with barbecued beef or lamb, and for those who like more gutsy reds. Fortnum's Côtes du Rhône £9.45 less discount, is from the excellent producer Andre Brunel who makes superb Châteauneuf du Pape. The Côtes du Rhône is mostly made from the soft round juicy grape Grenache, as is his Châteauneuf and has lots of intense fruit and complex wild herb character, perfect for grilled meat.
Also from the Rhône but this time the northern Rhône and the more structured Syrah grape, is the excellent Cornas from Vincent Paris, £32.40 less discount. This wine, called Granite 30, as it comes from the granitic soils of the massif central where the Rhône River cuts its way through on its way south, has masses of blackberry and violet scented fruit, underpinned by complex leather and old oak vanillin flavours. Voluptuous, but with freshness to marry with any grilled red meat and in my opinion, worth the splurge.
To finish your outdoor entertaining with fruit, cheese or even a desert course, why not have another glass of the excellent Camel Valley fizz you started with? Or for those, like me, who love good, sweet wine especially with cheese or fruit, the Fortnum's Sauternes, Château Briatte is excellent £15.75 per 50cl, less discount. Lusciously sweet but balanced by lovely acidity so it is in no way cloying, this is a splendid way to finish.
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Christopher Burr MW. April 2021.
Christopher Burr, MW,
29th April 2021