ALISTAIR GIBSON: Tread carefully when buying 2016’s European wines

A perfect partner to grilled lamb chops

A perfect partner to grilled lamb chops

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It might be wishful thinking, but it’s time to start turning our thoughts towards longer days and a little spring in the air.

I love the change of seasons and all they bring with them; spring to me is a time for less hearty food and the glimpse of ingredients such as asparagus.

From the first estate in the world to get a carbon zero certificate

From the first estate in the world to get a carbon zero certificate

With the southern hemisphere seasons being ahead of the north, we have had 2016 whites from New Zealand, Chile and South Africa on the shelves for a few months now and they are being joined by whites from the 2016 vintage in Europe. So there are now lots of fresh, lively whites to choose from as well as some younger, more accessible reds.

A note of caution however: 2016 was a fairly mixed bag in much of Europe . Many areas had both smaller and poorer harvests and with prices rising because of the currency situation this is a time to tread carefully.

New Zealand sauvignon blanc is probably the epitome of a spring wine and Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough (The Co-operative £6.99 down from £9.35 until February 28) is a well-made, good-value example.

The team at this producer is making some great wines and it is also the first estate in the world to get a carbon zero certificate.

Great with grilled chicken or a prawn salad

Great with grilled chicken or a prawn salad

This has everything you want from Marlborough sauvignon blanc with gooseberry, passion and guava fruits and a touch of blackcurrant leaf followed by a zesty, mineral-led palate with a nice crisp finish. This makes a change from the slightly sweet finish some Kiwi sauvignons have at this price. Try this with an Asian-inspired seafood dish or a goat’s cheese and beetroot salad.

Chenin blanc is one of my favourite grapes, a versatile food partner and, when not over-oaked, really comes into its own at this time of year.

Zalze Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015, Coastal Region (The Co-operative £7.99 down from £8.99 until February 28) is a little older but from the really excellent 2015 vintage in the Cape.

Made from relatively old, low-cropping vines, it did spend a few months in oak barrels, but that never dominates.

The bouquet shows apple, citrus, melon and a touch of honey followed by a nice creamy-textured palate with a long, crisp finish. Try this with some simple grilled chicken with fresh herbs or a prawn salad.

Lastly, a red this week. Chateau Capitoul 2015, Languedoc (The Co-operative £6.49 down from £7.49 until February 28) is a blend of syrah, grenache and carignan and is surprisingly elegant for a wine at this price.

There are dark fruits, a touch of spice and wild herbs on the nose, followed by supple tannins and a little vanilla in the background.

It might be a little early for spring lamb, but when it arrives this would make a lovely partner to grilled lamb chops.

• Alistair Gibspon is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth on 01243 431002.

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