Charlotte Kristensen: Sunshine wines and love at first sip

In her first column for YOU, our new drinks expert picks six flavour-packed bottles from her favourite island getaways.

My introduction to wine was European in ethos. My younger brother and I would be offered a thimbleful over Sunday lunch. We’d inspect it, giggle and dare each other to have a taste.

For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the ceremony of wine. From watching someone pick a bottle, to selecting the glassware, carefully opening it up, that initial glug glug glug of the first pour, the clink of the glasses – and that moment of suspense before taking the first sip. I love wine because it’s about people and ritual, shared moments and experiences.

BW (before wine), I worked in the City at an international law firm, but my heart was always elsewhere. I found escapism through sensory pursuits – cooking, wine and travel. I’d long for the weekends hosting friends for dinner – and spent my evenings trawling through recipes and wines to create a memorable evening. As I began to travel to wine regions, I became enchanted by the culture and how people were bound by this soulful drink. Eventually, I followed my palate, retrained, gained my Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma and changed career.

island wines
Gett Images

For our first exploration, I want to take you on a journey to discover six island wines. Many are produced from more unusual, native grape varieties and offer something both unique and delicious in the glass. This selection includes fresh whites, a fruity rosé and a sultry red. My picks this week come from a range of wine retailers including some small independent stores (but all with online stores) that I’d love to recommend. Going forward I’ll be sure to show you some excellent and affordable options from supermarkets and high-street stores too.

So pick a bottle, crack it open, have a smell, take a sip, then close your eyes and let it transport you to the sound of the waves and the warmth of a balmy island sunset.

Sicily

Normanno Ciello Bianco

Normanno Ciello Bianco 2020 (12%), £8.25, thewhiskyexchange.com

The sunny island of Sicily, known for its dazzling landscape, cosmopolitan towns, ancient architecture and, of course, Mount Etna, is also home to many excellent wine producers. This organic white is made from 100 per cent catarratto grapes (native to the island) grown on vines planted outside the buzzing city of Palermo. It’s unfiltered, which brings lots of vibrancy and has refreshing flavours of lemon and ripe apple. My pairing of choice is a simple fritto misto – crunchy fried mixed seafood and courgette served with a garlic and lemon mayonnaise – which is a brilliant match with the wine.

To watch a video of Charlotte talking about this wine and cooking the fritto misto, go to mailplus.co.uk

Santorini

Gaia 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé

Gaia 4-6H Agiorgitiko Rosé 2021 (12.5%), £12.99, strictlywine.co.uk

Santorini has been a must-visit destination for decades, with its iconic whitewashed houses emerging from the cliffside, black sand beaches and glamorous clientele. Vines flourish in Santorini’s mineral-rich volcanic soil, delivering wines with great fresh fruit flavours. If you’ve been to this stunning island, you might recall how windy it gets – this can be harmful to vines, so many producers cleverly train them into nest-like structures low to the ground. This Santorini rosé has a big personality. It tastes of juicy watermelon and blood orange with a subtle aniseed note. I would love this with a burrata, orange and fennel salad to complement the flavours in the wine.

Crete

Karavitakis Nomas Assyrtiko

Karavitakis Nomas Assyrtiko 2021 (13.5%), £11.95, thewinesociety.com

The assyrtiko grape is often referred to as Greece’s answer to chablis. It’s grown on Greece’s islands and mainland, producing crisp white wines with notes of orchard fruit and citrus and a characteristic mineral finish. This bright, easy-drinking cretan white is made by a progressive producer committed to sustainability. Extremely refreshing with flavours of lemon, jasmine flowers and nuances of seafoam, it’s ideal for fresh fish and seafood dishes doused in lemon. My choice would be a whole grilled seabass stuffed with mixed herbs and lemon and gently charred on the BBQ. I’d serve it with a simple aïoli, little crispy roast potatoes and a tomato and green bean salad.

Sardinia

Eccelsa Vermentino

Eccelsa Vermentino 2020 (13.5%), £9.99, majestic.co.uk

Sardinia is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, with crystalline turquoise water and long stretches of white sand framed by the rugged landscape. I can imagine enjoying this lip-smacking Vermentino over a long, lazy lunch at the beach. It’s pure sunshine in a glass. Packed full of honeydew melon and fresh lemon and herb flavours, it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. This would be perfect with vegetarian dishes so my suggested pairing is spaghetti with a fresh basil pesto. For the pesto I combine blitzed basil, coarse salt, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, pecorino and extra virgin olive oil. The wine has a great synergy with the basil, and alleviates the heaviness of the cheese and nut elements with its bright lemon notes.

Majorca

Bodegas Macià Batle Añada

Bodegas Macià Batle Añada 2021 (14%), £13.49, nywines.co.uk

Majorca is home to the red Manto negro grape which is exclusively grown on this beautiful Balearic island. The long, sunny summers suit this late-ripening variety. It’s light, easy-drinking and often blended with international varieties to add depth. Bodegas Macià Batle is the oldest Majorcan wine producer. Their añada is made from a blend of Manto negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The wine has flavours of damson, plum, a hint of smoke and a touch of tomato savouriness with some lovely minty and lavender notes on the finish. I’d pair it with a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, served with an olive, caper, rosemary and anchovy butter.

Tenerife

Bodegas Tajinaste Listan Blanco

Bodegas Tajinaste Listan Blanco 2020 (13%), £15.75, terrawines.co.uk

With its subtropical climate, Tenerife is best known as a popular tourist destination. Its leading crop is bananas, so it may come as a surprise that there’s also a flourishing wine industry. Characterful, mineral-driven dry wines are being produced from vines planted in volcanic soils at high altitude. This organic wine is based on the Listan Blanco grape, which can produce complex, full-bodied whites. It’s a beautiful bottle packed with notes of grapefruit and pineapple, with a hint of toasted pine nuts, thyme and a saline freshness to finish. I’d pair it with flavour-packed dishes – my suggestion is a seafood and saffron risotto.