How can a Holiday Wine live up to expectations?

Going to a place where you love the wine, the food, or a particular fragrance usually comes to a head in the same way: wanting to take some portable aspect of your trip to relive that happiness at home.

In the headwinds of an Indian summer like we’re experiencing now, a chorus of corks pop all over the city: eager workers, after their first full month back at work, harking back to memories of sun drenched evenings on a balcony or piazza.

Often when the clinking bags are unpacked and wine stored ready for the right time, there’s a weight of heady expectation wrapped up in the wine rack. During the last vestiges of summer, when that bottle is uncorked, the memories of sun-drenched evenings and fragrant afternoon walks flood back. And then what?

Usually, disappointment.  From my discussions with people who use “summer” as a verb (I work in the City), Provencal rosé is a textbook case. You can laden your car with the salmon coloured beauty that you declared fantastic when lazing over your lunchtime tapenade, but on the side of fast cook pasta and pesto while standing in the kitchen at 8pm, the magic is somewhat lost.  Why is that?

Perhaps it’s the expectation that brings about the taste of disappointment. Your drinking experience at home can never quite live up to those on holiday – the mood, the daily routine, and likely the cuisine is entirely different. In light of that, is it worth taking an expensive risk?

While in Avignon last July, I took a punt on a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Jean Royer (2015) at Le Vin Devant Soi. I decided that, while Mirabel rosé was great, I’d be swilling enough of that through August. What I’d really be craving in a few months was a good bottle of red.

In celebration of my first week in a new job, the bottle was opened. It could have been left for another year or two, but it’s drinking well now. The aroma is complex – cherries, gently macerated raspberries and heady violets. Like walking down a well-manicured country lane in the South of France, and immediately as relaxing. In tasting, there’s cinnamon, sweet spice, and slightly brambly. The tannins are bold but smooth, with the first glass feeling like a kirsch-laden cherry cake with marzipan. You’ll also see from the picture that the bottle is nestled next to pesto – and it went pretty well with that too.

My tentative conclusion is that, there is no single way to guarantee that your holiday wine will be exceptional. But bolstered by this experiment, my approach is going to be:

  • Think about the season you’ll be drinking the wine in, or do you have a late summer barbecue that might suit that sauvignon blanc you love?
  • Lower your expectations – you might be drinking your wine in your pyjamas under a blanket, a very different vibe to white linens and sunglasses;
  • Good wine is made in the production but also the storage – so look after it until ready to drink; and,
  • If it doesn’t work, no big deal.
  • Finally, I should have bought another bottle. Merci Jean Royer.
Domaine Jean Royer Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 is available in the UK at Lea & Sandeman.

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