Coastal wines: five of the best to try for summer 2022

Whether from Bordeaux or Marlborough, coastal wines are often crisper and fresher than their inland counterparts.

Proximity to the ocean can even give a grape variety its unique character. In Corsica, Liguria and Sardinia, where vermentino thrives, the cool climate, stabilised by the sea, make the wine a little less rich and high in sugar.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Fiona Beckett
Published 17 Jun 2022, 06:04 BST

Many of us will have a memory of sitting in a beach cafe somewhere, enjoying freshly caught fish and sipping a glass of cold white wine. At the time, it seems to taste better than any wine we’ve ever drunk — but is it all in our heads? Do wines really taste better by the sea?
They may well do if they’re made nearby. Coastal wines have a certain quality: a freshness, purity and even — in the case of whites — a salinity that makes them refreshing and ideal with seafood. These qualities are particularly desirable in white wines, but you’ll find rosés and even reds that benefit from being produced by the sea. For instance, pinot noirs from California’s Sonoma, parts of Chile and Australia’s Mornington Peninsula all have that characteristic crispness.

A remarkable number of the world’s vineyards are positioned alongside the sea — those down the Pacific coast from Canada to Chile, for example. Or the vineyards on the Atlantic coast in Galicia and Portugal, where albariño and vinho verde are produced, respectively. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean vineyards close to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in southern Spain, are home to fresh, salty manzanilla, while across the sea, in Santorini, the exposed volcanic soil is used to grow assyrtiko. And there are many others, such as South Africa’s Western Cape and New Zealand’s Martinborough and Marlborough.

But why does a coastal location make a difference? “The sea is a stabilising factor on temperature,” explains Master of Wine Mark Pygott, who’s involved in winemaking all around the Med, including producing the Amu Vermentino below. “Bodies of water have a dramatic effect on acid retention and the volatile aromatics in grapes. They can also, as in Bordeaux, keep the temperature warmer than the season would suggest it should be, which helps grapes ripen and develop flavour.”

Proximity to the ocean can even give a grape variety its unique character. “Take vermentino. It’s quite a chubby variety that naturally produces high levels of alcohol, which you manage by planting at altitude — but also through proximity to the coast,” explains Pygott. In Corsica, Liguria and Sardinia, where vermentino thrives, the cool climate, stabilised by the sea, make the wine a little less rich and high in sugar.

There are downsides to coastal vineyards, however, as they’re more exposed to the elements and can be wetter than areas further inland. Furthermore, certain red grapes — particularly shiraz, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon — do best in the warmer temperatures of inland vineyards. That said, cabernets from Australia’s Coonawarra and Margaret River, and from Bordeaux, benefit from a proximity to the sea, resulting in a fresher, more elegant style.

Five wines to try

1. Baron Amarillo Rias Baixas Albarino 2020/21 , Galicia, Spain

This Spanish white is great value for money and so fresh and salty you’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a wave. It’s bone dry, so perfect with shellfish 
— particularly oysters. £6.99.

2. Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla, Andalusia, Spain

Find a vendor with a good turnover for this strikingly saline dry sherry from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, as you want a bottle that’s as fresh as possible. Chill well before serving — it’s great with anchovies and fried fish. £9.99.

3. Amu Vermentino 2020/21, Sardinia, Italy

A smooth, lush, citrussy white from Sardinia that should appeal if you’re a sauvignon blanc fan. It would be lovely with all kinds of seafood, especially grilled lobster and clams, or a seafood barbecue. £9.99.

4. Bandol Mas de la Rouvière Rosé 2020/21, Provence, France

From a vineyard right on the Med, this mourvèdre rosé has a particularly intense, savoury character that can stand up to lamb chops or even a steak, although it’s great with seafood, too. £21.50.

5. Paringa Estate Estate Pinot Noir 2018, Victoria, Australia

The Mornington Peninsula is, of course, surrounded by water, which contributes to the freshness and purity of this exceptional pinot noir. Tuck this one away for a few years before enjoying with guineafowl, duck or chicken. £46.95.

Published in Issue 13 (summer 2022) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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