Three bottles to savour this summer

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A photo of two wines and a spirit sitting atop a beech table, against a backdrop of green houseplants.
Photo credit: Joe Woodhouse

In the third instalment of our summer series, we asked our team which bottle they can’t wait to open over the coming weeks. They’ve each chosen a bottle that brings back memories from before the pandemic, from Mexican adventures to Icelandic storms. 

A Mexican summer 

After a summer vacation to Mexico, I fell in love with this alluring spirit. After many cocktails and neat samples tasted at some majestic beachfront bars, I quickly realised this was the true drink of Mexico. The comparisons between Mezcal and Tequila are obvious: both spirits are made from the agave plant, but whilst Tequila can only be made from 100% Blue Agave, Mezcal has free rein over a plethora of other agave plants. Often these unashamedly traditional Mexican drink producers create fascinating blends with these spiky slow-growing succulents – such as this fifty-fifty blend of Espadín and Madrecuishe by Convite. 

Immediately you are encountered with a sweetly scented smokiness that many an Islay Scotch drinker will be familiar with. An earthy and herbaceous character, typical for Mezcal, shines through on the palate, alongside soft citrus notes to round everything off – a satisfyingly smooth and refreshing tipple. 

I like to enjoy this neat, perhaps even slightly chilled from time in the fridge, but you could also have this over ice to enjoy in the sun. For the more adventurous, try it with mango juice and a dash of lime. A jug of this would surely get the garden party in full swing. Mezcal is often overlooked, but if it’s good enough in the heat of Mexico, it’s good enough for the great British summer. 

Joe Hare, Senior Wine & Spirits Advisor 

On the road to Pauillac  

I’ve chosen the 2015 Les Tourelles de Longueville, one of Ch. Pichon Baron’s two second wines.  

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Bordeaux’s D2 road – the “route des Châteaux” from the city to the Médoc peninsula – is how unremarkable much of it is. This is not particularly beautiful wine country. But there are some highlights, none better than when travelling north on the stretch of road that connects St Julien and Pauillac. With the walled clos of Léoville Las Cases on your right-hand side, you could almost be in Burgundy. Keep going, and Léoville turns into Latour: you can see parts of it; the tower here, the château there. Excitement builds. Up next, a peak at Pichon Comtesse: I picture turrets through trees. But considering these are three of the greatest wineries in the world, you’ll hopefully forgive me for saying that this side of the D2 here is actually a little understated, a little subtle. 

Shift your attention (responsibly) to the other side of the road, and there’s your showstopper: Pichon Baron. It looks a bit like Palmer, which you’ll have passed 20-minutes-or-so ago (thank their shared architect, Charles Burguet). But Pichon Baron is bigger, bolder and louder. It’s got big, grand turrets; there’s a water-pool in front that’d give Bordeaux city’s miroir d’eau a run for its money. I first laid eyes on the place sometime around October 2015 – shortly after the grapes for Les Tourelles were harvested. I’ve properly visited two or three times since and pointed it out to every single person I’ve ever passed it with. Just thinking about it now, I can feel the unforgiving heat of late summer in the Médoc. 

Les Tourelles is named for the château’s iconic turrets (tourelles). With 55% Merlot, this isn’t exactly typical Pauillac. The fruit comes primarily from a dedicated plot, Sainte Anne, that lies further inland from the Gironde than that for the grand vin. The wine has some of those hallmark graphite and blackcurrant notes, but there’s also blueberry, dark chocolate and smooth, mouthcoating tannins. It’s medium- to full-bodied and lively, with mouth-watering acidity and energy.  

Pauillac may not scream “summer” to most people. But I’m not most people. While the grand vin here is something of a monster, Les Tourelles is – for me at least – a wonderful summer wine. It’s got the structure, acidity and tannin to deal with most barbecue staples, but it’s lively and energetic enough to enjoy with an apéro among friends. 

Charlie Geoghegan, Senior Copywriter  

Board games and Burgundy

This story will take us to a time before the pandemic. Me and my wife Zahra had gone to celebrate the New Year in my native Iceland. Icelandic weather, as most can imagine, is very unpredictable in winter months. We just made it in nick of time. But as it happened, we got stuck in my old hometown. The brutal Icelandic winter had struck again. Although we were with family, we had a prior engagement with our friends in Reykjavik – something we had been looking forward to for months – but Mother Nature said no.

When we finally made it in bad weather (good enough to travel in, but still not great) one of our good friends made quick arrangements to get as many people together as possible. Then came a beautiful surprise. My friend brought a bottle of 2018 Camille Giroud Bourgogne Rouge – it was so crunchy and delicate, yet inviting at the same time. After our ordeal, nothing was more welcome than playing board games with your friends over a glass of warming red Burgundy – especially a wine made by Camille Giroud. Despite my fond memory of enjoying this wine in the winter, its delicate fruitiness is perfect for summer. I really can’t wait to open it again and enjoy it with my Zahra on a warm evening.  

Siggi Gunnlaugsson, Wine & Spirits Advisor  

Read the first part of our summer fine wine series here, and the second part here.