A sprinkling of whites to ease our lockdown blues: Richard Esling February 9

With harsh winter weather bringing sub-zero temperatures, icy winds, leaden skies and a sprinkling of snow adding to our woes, we need to find some reasons to be cheerful.

Monday, 8th February 2021, 2:10 pm
Updated Monday, 8th February 2021, 2:10 pm
Wines to ease lockdown blues SUS-210802-134835001

Thankfully, a few signs of spring are breaking through, with clusters of snowdrops in the woods and the first pale mauve crocuses showing their heads in my garden last weekend. Catkins hang from the hazel bushes and the thrushes and blackbirds are starting to sing as they stake out their territories. Signs of better days to come.

But for now, we need to keep the heating on, light the fire and hunker down, cheering ourselves with some tasty home-cooked meals and some interesting bottles to go with them. Here I am suggesting some different whites to try, and this week there is the added bonus of saving room in the fridge – just put the bottles outside the back door for an hour and they should be chilled to perfection!

Albariño has become one of my favourite white grape varieties in recent times, producing fresh, crisp, fragrant dry wines, which are deep, full flavoured and characterful. The prime area for this grape is the Rias Baixas in Northern Spain on the Atlantic coast, from where it originates. Pazos de Lusco Albariño 2018/19 is made from carefully hand harvested grapes, fermented with native yeasts and left to age on the lees for five months to impart extra body and flavour. Characteristic peach aromas and flavours, with a touch of lemon and herby, mineral finish, fresh and zingy. £15.49 from Ocado, with 20 per cent off until February 16. Vegan friendly.

Such is the appeal of the Albariño variety, that producers around the world are now growing it in earnest and with great success. The hugely successful Villa Maria produces an Albariño in the Gisborne region of New Zealand under their Cellar Selection label. Deliciously appealing white with more tropical overtones on the palate, with ripe peach, apricot and lime coming through, balanced by a zippy acidity. Around the £14 mark from Majestic for the 2020 vintage.

Staying with the New World, Ocado has an interesting Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2019 is another vegan friendly wine, coming from cool climate organic vineyards close to the Pacific Ocean. Astonishingly fresh, zesty and zingy, with vibrant and intense flavours of Sauvignon. Lime, herby and grassy, with character midway between a French and a New Zealand Sauvignon. £11.49. Crying out for a crab salad, smoked mackerel, or grilled prawns.

My last recommendation is for a wine which is in a category seeing a surprising resurgence during lockdown – that of sherry.

As reported recently in the trade journal The Drinks Business, Martin Skelton, managing director of Gonzalez Byass the distributors of Tio Pepe, said that sherry had undergone an incredible turnaround in the past year, with a surge in demand that appears to be continuing into 2021. Sales are up by 13 per cent in volume and 15 per cent in value, with far greater demand than in 2019.

Tio Pepe is a bone-dry sherry made from the Palomino Fino grape variety. Although often seen purely as an aperitif, it is a fabulous food wine and at 15 per cent alc is only slightly stronger than many table wines. Served well chilled, it is an outstanding accompaniment to fish and chips. Why not start a new trend? Amazing value for the quality at around £10, it is available from Waitrose, Ocado, Tesco, Majestic and others.