Friday, 25 June 2010

Any wine for tennis?

“You cannot be serious”  John McEnroe

Rain may stop play, British hopefuls may disappoint, but the fun that surrounds Wimbledon fortnight carries on regardless. All this seasonal sporting showmanship plus a surfeit of strawberries and cream accompanied by pints of Pimm's might seem to present a challenge to any wine-loving tennis fan. Actually Heather Aitken thinks she copes with it very well! For those of a more delicate constitution, fear not, we two Heathers of Red White & Rosé will guide you through the tennis trials and tribulations to come.

There's one wine that well and truly fits the short but sweet grass court tennis season: sauvignon blanc. This wine gives you a grand slam shot of one of the top ten evocative scents in the world - freshly mown grass. Add the subtle backhand sting of nettles, and the oh- so- English gooseberry tartness and this perfectly encapsulates the sporting summer “Season”. Try the ever-reliable Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc from Chile – down to £4.99 if you buy two bottles at Majestic.

If you'd like to watch your favourite player's game with a suitable tipple, then wine offers some apposite choices. When Nadal is mesmerizing with his matadorial elegance and brawn you could join in the drama with a dash of Domaine de Fondrèche Nadal – a powerhouse blend of meaty Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre from the Ventoux in the southern Rhône. A bottle can be yours for £12.50 from H2Vin of Epsom.

“I play each point like my life depends on it”   Rafael Nadal

Rafa hails from the island of Mallorca, famous for sun, sea and some other things, but not wine. However, we were both impressed earlier this year with an intriguingly named wine from Mallorca – 12 volts, made by 4 kilos winery. (If you want to know why that name, email us ). It's a full-bodied but sophisticated blend of the native callet variety, along with cabernet, merlot and syrah. TodoVino of London has it for £14.36, or Winedirect in East Sussex for £16.95.

If mercurial maestro Roger Federer overcomes his recent loss of form and comes good at Wimbledon, then there are plenty of suave Swiss wines to cheer him on with – though you will be unsurprised to learn that they don't come cuckoo-clock cheap. Nick Dobson Wines, based in Wokingham, is probably home to the widest selection of Swiss wines outside the canton, and you can order online.

“Victory is fleeting. Losing is forever.”  Billie Jean King

Ardeonaig Hotel, on the banks of Loch Tay in Scotland, will be commercially harvesting its grapes for the first time ever this year to produce a crisp Riesling. They have a philosophical outlook which could also apply to Scots tennis ace Andy Murray: if it’s not good enough (he/it) will be turned into vinegar. On a positive and patriotic note they also say of things Scottish, “somebody has got to be first”.

Strawberries and cream don't appear to be natural partners for wine and many tennis fans pair it instead with a glass of Pimm's. This can be fun in the sun, but it's easy to overdo it with spirits-based drinks that taste dangerously only of the lemonade you mix them with. A safe and more adventurous bet would be a light, frothy and fun Moscato d'Asti from Italy. Made from aromatic muscat grapes, lightly sparkling and just 5% alcohol, this is a naughty-but-nice lunchtime treat. The Wine Society list Perrone Elio Moscato d'Asti for £6.50 a bottle. More readily available is the less refined and fashionably retro Asti Martini NV, £6.99 from Waitrose.

Once you've savoured the guilty pleasure of something sweet and fizzy, there's nothing to stop you experimenting further, so pick up a bottle of Brachetto d'Acqui while you're at it. A light red sparkling wine, sweet and light in alcohol, its intense red fruit flavours are a wonderful foil for strawberries. Taurus Wines of Bramley have Alasia Brachetto d'Acqui for £7.99.

If you want to have more serious fun with your strawberries, there is no more heavenly match than Sauternes. Heather Dougherty reveals, “For years I pooh-poohed the idea of a lusciously sweet, unctuous and complex dessert wine with strawberries and cream, thinking that no-one who had actually tried the two together could seriously think they make a good match. Reader, I was wrong. Given the opportunity to try this classic combination a few years back, I was forced to eat my words”. Taurus Wines' Domaine du Haut Montlong 2006 is a bargain at £11.99. From neighbouring Monbazillac rather than Sauternes proper, it nevertheless has all the barley sugared charm you could wish for. The same amount of money gets you a half bottle of Castelnau de Suduiraut 2003 from Majestic. The second label of renowned Sauternes estate Chateau Suduiraut, the full-flavoured, sweet style is great for desserts.

“Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts.’ probably lost”   Martina Navratilova

The winners of Wimbledon this year will undoubtedly celebrate with a bottle or two of Dom Pérignon or Krug. If you can stretch to those prices – please get in touch, we'd love to come along to the party! If you're on more of a tight budget, then look no further than Lindauer Special Select Blanc de Blancs NV. A mouthful of a name, but this light and elegant, 100% chardonnay sparkler from New Zealand is no effort to drink. And at £7.49 a bottle from Majestic currently, it's easy on the wallet too.

Enjoy the soporific rhythmic clunk of balls against rackets and remember that “Tennis begins with love”.

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