The best summer sparklers
Taittinger Nocturne Sec, Champagne, France NV (from £38.10, hedonism.co.uk; greatwine.co.uk; woodwinters.com) After a year without its distinctive cocktail of buttoned-up suburban stuffiness and elite international sporting glamour, Wimbledon is back at last tomorrow. And (at time of writing) with up to 15,000 spectators allowed into the grounds in SW19 each day, the event’s return will be a relief to British soft-fruit producers as well as tennis fans. In a normal year, the Wimbledon crowd gets through about 200,000 portions of strawberries across the tournament’s fortnight. There are strawberries, too, in the many thousands of glasses of Pimm’s (276,291 of them in 2019, according to the Wimbledon website), although the drink that most of us associate with the fruit at Wimbledon is champagne. The official brand, since 2001, is Lanson. But I’d save a glass of that house’s very good, very bright, racy and pristine, but also really quite dry Black Label Brut NV (£35, widely available) for smoked salmon, and go for something a little sweeter for my punnet of strawberries and cream, such as rival firm Taittinger’s creamy, softly cushioned Nocturne.
Maison Sassy Cidre Rosé, Normandy, France NV (from £4, majestic.co.uk; selfridges.com) Served on their own, strawberries are a happy match for all kinds of sweet, but not too sweet, sparkling wines. The Nocturne fizz, for example, clocks in at around 17.5g of sugar a litre, which isn’t all that much more than the 8g to 12g a litre you find in brut champagne. Once you start adding sugar to your strawberries, either sprinkling on a spoonful or two as they’re served, or macerating them for a couple of hours before serving, you want something sweeter, like Lanson’s patisserie-rich White Label NV (£45, champagnedirect.co.uk), which, has 32g/l of sugar. For something a little lighter in alcohol than champagne, and more gently foamy than fizzy, two softly sweet, charmingly summer-fruity matches spring to mind: a moscato d’Asti such as the grapey-floral Araldica Alasia Moscato d’Asti 2020 (£6.99, vinofandango.co.uk) or the wonderful cranberry, plum-raspberry-infused apple of Maison Sassy’s superb pink cider.
Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Rhône, France 2017 (from £18.95, yapp.co.uk; thewhiskyexchange.com) If the full Wimbledon strawberry experience calls for a glass of bubbly, summery strawberry desserts are just as happy with sweet still wines – with those made from the various members of the muscat grape family (ingredient of moscato d’Asti) among the best for tarts, fools, ice-creams and sorbets. Muscat wines are very good at retaining pure fruit flavours: drinking a young muscat wine is very close to drinking its must (unfermented juice). This also means it can function as a liquor for a fruit salad or the base of a slightly boozy granita. The muscat diaspora extends throughout the wine world, and for summer-fruit dessert-matching purposes recent favourites include the luscious, honeyed, subtly lemony Waitrose Blueprint Moscatel de Valencia 2020 (£6.49, Waitrose) and the essence of apricot orchard (fruit and blossom) that is the Domaine de Durban.