Holiday buys to bring home the sunshine
Even though the weather may stay warm into September, there’s always a summer’s-over feeling at the end of August, and I want to prolong the summer as long as I can. And that means drinking the wines and other drinks I’ve been enjoying on holiday – despite the generally held view that they never taste as good back home.
That may have been true at one time, when wine quality was a lot dodgier than it is now and maybe our palates less discerning (it’s amazing how good a ropey red can taste with a kebab when the sun is shining), but there’s no reason to deprive yourself of the enjoyment of a bottle you loved.
In fact, the weather’s been so great this summer that I’ve not been travelling much, bar a long weekend in Menorca ... which turns out to have a deliciously herby gin – Xoriguer (pronounced sho-ri-gair), which has its own denomination. Unusually, it’s made from grape rather than grain-based alcohol, in wood-fuelled copper stills, and is served, as in the rest of Spain, in gigantic (and somewhat lethal) goldfish-bowl-sized glasses.
Another regular holiday buy when I used to spend summers in the Languedoc in the south of France was crisp, fresh Picpoul de Pinet, which went down a treat with a plate of the local oysters. It’s still worth loading up the car if you’re down there, as it’s much cheaper than it is back home, but Lidl has a decent one in its latest wine release – Les Figuerettes (12.5%) at £6.99 – if you’re not in that part of the world.
If you’re wary of retsina, you should try Tear of the Pine from Kechris, a producer I visited near Thessaloniki last autumn to see the resin harvest. It has none of the coarse, oily flavour of cheap retsinas, just a slight smokiness and a lovely minerality that goes brilliantly with the local meze. Take advantage of still being in the EU by buying it direct from Greece (see the sidebar). It’s hard to find in the UK.
Another holiday habit worth prolonging is white port and tonic, which has been a surprise hit at Sainsbury’s this summer, I’m told, with customers experimenting with different tonics (I liked the Merchant’s Heart hibiscus tonic with it – also at Sainsbury’s at £1.30 for 200ml).
Finally, if you’re flying and plan to bring booze back, it’s worth picking up a set of reusable, padded Wine Skin bags (£12.99 at Amazon) to protect your bottles if you’re packing a few treats in your check-in luggage.