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Wine List: Perfect serves for garden party season

With celebrations to be had and promising weather in the forecast, it’s officially garden party season. But which wine to serve? Hamish Wakes-Miller, manager of Cambridge’s Majestic store, has the answer

What makes the perfect wine to serve at a summer garden party (56521660)
What makes the perfect wine to serve at a summer garden party (56521660)

Flaming June! The most beautiful month of the year. It’s also the most wonderful month to celebrate England and everything English: with fantastic sporting events taking place and a massive celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, this year more than ever there is something for everyone.

The long summer nights with an amplification of magnificent floral fragrance lend themselves to garden parties and celebration. I have previously written about Champagne, English sparkling wine and what Champagne the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry served at their Royal weddings. However one of the most difficult decisions is what wines to serve at a party.

At Majestic Cambridge we have recently been inundated with requests to supply weddings, street parties, end of term feasts, garden parties and delayed birthday celebrations. We like to chat with

our clients and meander around the store trying to get a feel for the style of the occasion and the expectation for what should be served for the guests.

In my few months as manager I have already been surprised by some extravagance as well as some unexpected frugality. The wonderful thing about wine is that everyone has likes and dislikes! As we enter more restrained economic times there is still a pent-up desire to splurge on magnums of vintage Champagne; while some clients

arrive and quiz us for the best wine for a fiver, others order Bollinger Champagne without a quibble on price. That is why I love my job.

When selecting party wines, generally it is safe to choose something in the middle of the road. A wine that will be charming and pleasant without being deeply controversial. A wine that can easily be quaffed on its own or accompanied by canapes or food. A versatile little number.

If food is being served, there are a plethora of decisions and styles that can be discussed. An easy party white wine is Abbots & Delaunay Viognier (£7.99), which is a lovely aromatic white wine from the Languedoc. The good clean acidity enhances the freshness and light apricot and peach aromas give the wine a subtle elegant feel. The fact that it is in screw caps has great appeal if catering in the garden!

For red party wines, I like to explore Beaujolais. Whilst Bordeaux wines can have a tannic grip and value, red Burgundy has become an oxymoron; the soft gamay grape has elegance and style without being too heavy and cloying. Alternatively, we have a soft southern Italian red wine called Desire, Lush and Zin, which has a suitably ridiculous label with a scantily clad lady, but the wine is actually very good. Produced from the Primitivo grape variety (same as Zinfandel), this wine has a velvety, voluptuous texture and would be ideal with barbecue or roasted meats.

Rosé is also incredibly versatile and popular at this time of year. Our shelves are heaving with Whispering Angel, AIX, Hampton Water (Jon Bon Jovi’s collaboration with Gerard Bertrand), Minuty, Miraval (one of the few things left from Brad and Angelina’s marriage), Berne, Ott and many more. One of my favourites is Muga Rosado from Rioja. A pure elegant style of Grenache.

For pure enjoyment of bubbles, every party should have Bouvet Cremant de Loire. Amazing value and quality fizz to start the party.

Hamish’s Wines of the Month

Bouvet Ladubay Brut, Saumur, £9.99 as part of the Majestic mixed six

An exceptional fizz from the Loire made mainly from Chenin Blanc. This makes bubbles fun.

Muga Rioja Rosado 2021, £9.99 as part of the Majestic mixed six

Pure elegance in the bottle and the glass. Chic, stylish rose.

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir ‘Isabelle’ 2018, £49.49 as part of the Majestic mixed six

We opened this wine in the store recently and we all took a moment to really appreciate the fine style of elegant Pinot. Not overdone, just wonderful. Would certainly compare favourably with top red Burgundy.

Hamish manages the Majestic Wine store in Cambridge. Majestic Wines also has stores in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Bishop’s Stortford.

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