Summer is here! Blue skies, bumble bees, balmy strolls through country lanes…. but best of all folks, the warm golden days herald the ultimate date in my drinks diary: sipping wine outdoors. For me, life's greatest pleasure is sharing a bottle of vino over a nibble or two in a convivial setting with friends, family and relaxed conversation. And especially when it's outdoors with the gentle breeze and soundscape echoing up into blue skies, the hours merge into golden moments of laughter, memories and bonding over a few special glasses.
Al fresco dining is the very emblem of enjoyment, whether it's a full day off or a luxurious lunch break to celebrate the sunshine. Serving wine outdoors for me is all about informality and while I love the theatre of fine dining and the exuberance of a finely wrought decanter, the simple carafe and enjoying wine by the glass is when wine outdoors becomes a passport to paradise. Each Hotel du Vin offers an ideal outdoor garden or terrace to settle in and toast the good times. A glass of fizz is always fabulous and when the sunbeams are tickling the skyline, I love thinking pink such as Champagne Lallier Rosé Premier Cru which offers invigoration and refreshment in equal measure. And when it comes to embracing a bit of food and wine pairing, wines by the glass and carafe offer us the perfect chance to sample multiple combinations - while you're feasting on the Hotel du Vin's sublime Scallops Ceviche with a peachy cool glass of Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner, others at the same table are diving into their juicy Steak Haché Burgers with a carafe of hearty Catena Malbec from Argentina. The point is, we can all mix and match according to the flavours on our plate, the mood we're in, or simply by the wine we love best. Serving by the glass and by the carafe offers flexibility as well as fun. If it's lunchtime, you might fancy a mere glass or two rather than sharing a whole bottle. But the true brilliance of carafes is the automatic aeration of the wine - the very act of pouring amplifies both aromas and flavours maximising your enjoyment. Have a crack at a chilled carafe of Mahi Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for a buzzing zesty white or for a sleek fruit-fuelled red, Byron's Californian Pinot Noir. Bliss!
When it comes to wine and food, there are simple guidelines such as matching the wine to the most powerful flavour in the dish - steamed fish, for instance, is a hugely different wine pairing to Goan Fish Curry. But the truth is, if you enjoy the food and wine pairing, whether a light chilled red with a tuna steak, or a chilled crisp Italian white with a platter of whitebait, then consider it the best match in the world. Every glass of wine should be about your enjoyment, not someone else's idea of enjoyment. And with that in mind, the frontiers of flavour beyond wine are superbly enticing when sipping outdoors; from a punchy cool glass of Brewdog's Punk IPA beer to a classy Cosmopolitan cocktail. I'm completely delighted to be working with the Hotel du Vin to share my message of good times with great taste and I hope very much to welcome you in person over the coming months. Cheers!
Follow Olly on Twitter @jollyolly or visit his website www.ollysmith.com for more great wine tips.