Apéritif Wine Styles

Jukes Wine And Food Aperitif

Pre-dinner nibbles like dry roasted almonds, bruschetta, cashews, canapés, crostini, crudités, olives and gougères (those heavenly cheese puffs served by the plateful in Burgundy and Chablis) are designed to give your palate a jump-start and get your juices flowing before a feast.

It is important at this stage of the proceedings not to overload your taste buds with big, weighty, powerful wines. Save these bottles for later and zero in on for refreshing, taste-bud-awakening styles that set the scene, rather than hog the limelight: Champagne is, not surprisingly, the perfect wine if you’re feeling loaded but, if not, sparkling wines from the Loire (Saumur), the south of France (Limoux) or Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy) would do the job nicely. Italy offers up superb, dry, palate-enlivening fizz in the form of Prosecco, from Veneto, or some more serious sparklers from Franciacorta, Trentino or Alto Adige. I never really drink the Spanish fizz Cava unless I’m in Barcelona because there are only a few worthy versions to be found in the UK. The best, authentic Champagne-taste-alikes these days come from England – there are loads of estates with world-class wines and you will see lots of recommendations in my various columns, but mainly in my monthly Vineyard Magazine piece.  You can read these free as a Friend of matthewjukes.com.  New World sparklers are usually very good value, too (around half the price of Champs) – New Zealand, Australia (particularly Tasmania) and California are the places to go to find awesome quality. Fino and manzanilla style sherries are wonderful palate cleansers, particularly with salty dishes, despite being thought of as perpetually ‘out of fashion’.

The least expensive option (and often safest, particularly if you are eating out) is a zesty, uplifting, palate-sprucing dry white. Even a moderately expensive number is often half the price of a bottle of Champs and there are thousands of these around, so go for it. There are also loads of first-class examples on this website.   Stay with unoaked styles and keep the price under control, and then step up the pace with the next bottle, when the food hits the table.

If the choice is poor (a short restaurant wine list or a poorly stocked off licence) then grab a neutral, dry, inexpensive white wine (Loire perhaps) and pep it up with a dash or two of Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Spend upon the cassis, as it will go a long way, and make a Kir.  Use the same liqueur to turn a dry, inexpensive, sparkling wine into a glitzy Kir Royale.