Time for an aperitif?

A selection of aperitifs from Flagship Wines.

A selection of aperitifs from Flagship Wines. - Credit: Flagship Wines

There is much wine talk about food and wine matching but how about the times when you fancy a pre-lunch, pre-dinner drink that is enjoyable on its own.

An aperitif is defined as a drink enjoyed before a meal, usually alcoholic, designed to stimulate the tastebuds for the meal to come.

To encourage the appetite, it is usually dry, and the choices of wine-based drinks include Champagne, light dry wines, sherry and vermouths. Champagne and sparkling wines with their refreshing bubbles are often the go to aperitif choice and why not?

Aperitifs have been written about since the 5th century becoming popular in France and Italy in the 19th century especially Vermouths used initially for medicinal purposes where the quinine was masked by herbs and spices, and they became trendy in local bars.

Currently there is renewed interest in vermouths and new examples are being launched all the time including those from Padro & Co based in Spain.

For the white dry version, they use very ripe Macabeo and Xarello grapes to which wine spirit is added to prevent fermentation together with some aromatic herbs and then is aged in barrels during which the flavour develops.

They are often used as the base in delicious cocktails with wine, gin, lime, mint and ice etc. Worth experimenting with!

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Manzanilla and Fino sherries are also high on the aperitif list as it is shaking off it is reputation as a cheap sweet drink and emerging as a stylish deliciously dry wine with flavours of citrus, bread and salted almonds. The Amontillado Seco and Palo Cortado are also great aperitifs especially when mixed with soda, ice and citrus peel.

A list of aperitif wines includes light Italian Gavi and Orvieto, a crisp French Sauvignon Blanc or a Viognier such as those from Mont Rocher in the Languedoc.

There is lots more to try – the lemon fresh Pecorino or the delicious Assyrtiko from Greece are high on that list.

The popular Picpoul de Pinet from the tiny Pinet region is a great palate refresher with its lovely zesty fruity flavours.

Young French wines from blends such as Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes, Chilean Sauvignons and Godello from Spain are also worth seeking out.

Light fresh whites from the Loire Valley in France such as the Touraine Sauvignons or around Anger near Atlantic Coast you will find Muscadet with its appealing flavour and texture.

If you like Muscadets look out for some of the crisp uncomplicated whites from the Albarino grape in Galicia in NW Spain.

These wines are full of flavour yet light and refreshing as are their Portuguese counterparts made from the Alvarinho grape with a lovely minerality and crisp yet fruity dryness.

New Zealand Pinot Gris is a good alternative to a Sauvignon as is a Chenin Blanc from South Africa such as that made by Jeremy Borg under the Painted Wolf label.

Roses come into their own as aperitifs with their light touch especially those from traditional red wine making regions such as the Albia Rose from Tuscany made from the Sangiovese grape by the renowned Chianti producer, Ricasoli and is light, fragrant and refreshingly fruity with a lovely soft note but still dry.

Southern French rosés such as the light coloured, fresh rosés from Provence and those from the Languedoc Roussillon with their vibrant yet light raspberry, strawberry and cherry notes are the quintessentially summer aperitif.
Aperitifs no longer mean just sherry or Champagne, and once poured deserve time to savour them – relax and enjoy!