Each summer certain places draw epicureans and hedonists like a magnet. Crystalline waters, blue skies and beaming sunshine are all very well but as the beautiful people recline upon their beach beds, dance under the stars and dine under glorious sunsets, what I want to know is: what wine are they drinking?
St Tropez held a bohemian allure in the 1950s when renowned Parisian writers, painters and actors made the French Riviera their summer escape. By the 1960s the “jet set” were flying in for the beaches and bars and now the port gleams white with the super yachts of the ultra-wealthy.
An ideal spot to watch these ships come in is the Hotel Bar Sube, where people jostle for the balcony views and where I sipped the Provence rosé Chateau Minuty with owner Francois Matton. The heat was stifling but, knowing how many winemakers feel about ice diluting their wines, I was surprised to see Matton scooping cubes into his pale pink wine.
“Of course!” Matton scoffed, embodying the relaxed indulgence of the town, “it’s an easy wine, a pleasure wine. If it gets warm it ceases to be a pleasure and you feel the alcohol”. With the vineyards of Provence just inland, a light, fruity, visually pleasing rosé is clearly the winner for the glamourous St Tropez set.
The volcanic Greek island of Santorini is famed for its white-washed buildings clinging to rocks above the deep blue sea, its striking black sand beaches and its phenomenal sunsets. A place of mythology and beauty, it’s also one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Vines here date back hundreds, if not thousands of years, creating magical wines of depth and flavour.
Gaia Wines, set against the lapping waves of the Aegean Sea, may have ancient vines but their techniques are modern and youthful, led by Lito Paraskevopoulos, the winemaker daughter of the founder Giannis. The Assyrtiko grape is Queen here. Whether as a trendy orange wine (experimentally aged under the sea) or as Gaia’s delicious, complex Wild Ferment, these wines’ thrilling vibrancy personify the island itself.
Perhaps nowhere embodies hedonism like the Spanish island of Ibiza, where generations of ravers have danced beyond dawn at super clubs that started to emerge in the 1970s. Notoriously riotous in the drug-fuelled haze of the 1980s and 90s, where water was the drink of choice for the pill-happy punter, there is another thriving side to Ibiza.
Stylishly boho beach clubs, graceful hippies at yoga retreats and gleeful foodies like myself, all indulging in outstandingly fresh, delectable cuisine – which, of course, needs excellent wine. Just a handful of tiny wineries grace the island but, though small, they are perfectly formed. Illegal raves used to be signposted by coloured rocks and, in a nod to this, follow the pink rocks to find Ojo de Ibiza in the cool, green hills to the North. It’s a peacefully rustic outpost creating organic, low intervention wines that seek to embrace nature. Founded by Dieter Meier, the lyricist for the theme song for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there’s enough of a link to the island’s love of music to make you say, “Oh Yeah!”.
Candover Brook Brut, £37, candoverbrook.co.uk
Bursting onto the English wine scene with a gold medal from the International Wine Challenge and Best Newcomer at the Wine GB Awards, Candover Brook is one to watch. This sparkling Brut is beautifully balanced with a delicate fruity, floral finesse.
Isole e Olena Cepparello 2020, £80, Berry Bros & Rudd
An exemplary Super Tuscan that transports you to the hot rolling hills of Tuscany with its rich notes of blood orange, dark plums, ripe cherries and a lingering sweet spice finish. Smooth and suave, it’s a wine that makes an impression as soon as you open the bottle.
Misco Riserva Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG Classico, £60, Petersham Cellar
Slick with stone and ripe lemon peel, this is a grown-up Verdicchio that has been enhanced by careful ageing in an Italian region that has been making these wines since the 14th Century. Beautifully delicate white blossoms and a lick of sweet almond biscotti. Pure enjoyment.
Ibizkus Totem Rose, £40, Wanderlust Wine
From the party island of Ibiza this singular rosé is something (wonderfully) different, with its struck-match, savoury quality and sophisticated structure. Tasted blind you could easily mistake it for a white, but the fine red fruits and herbs are there. A beautiful wine to pair with food.
Champagne Castelnau Brut, £33.81, The Wine Society
An extremely refined champagne with a joyfully bright effervescence and light biscuit notes. Castelnau manages to offer excellent value for Champagne but without scrimping on quality. This wine feels like a secret shared by those in the know.