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Celebrate summer with Olly Smith at The Glass House


Wine expert Olly Smith reveals how to make the best wine pairings this season – and invites you to sample his favourites at The Glass House, two times winner of the Cruise Critic Awards Best Bar at Sea

Wine expert Olly Smith


Which wines would you recommend to enjoy this summer?
Picpoul de Pinet from France is a whistle-clean white that’s fab to sip on its own or paired with shellfish. It offers great value for money and is widely available on the high street as well as on the shelves of independent wine merchants. For me, the first sip at this time of year is a bit like spotting the first swallow soaring overhead – it’s a sign that summer is well and truly on the way.


How do you decide which wines go best with a dish?
Always pick the wine to match the most intense flavour in the recipe. A wine matched with steamed chicken is very different to a wine paired with chicken in a spicy curry sauce. You can echo the flavour in the dish or contrast it: for example, salty stilton cheese is stunning with sweet wine such as Tokaji from Hungary. The main thing is to have fun and enjoy it. Remember that everyone has their own favourite flavours, so the best advice is follow your instincts. And for a simple but joyful pairing, try a glass of bubbly Prosecco with fresh mozzarella cheese. Simple and scrumptious!


Which wines work best with vegetables and herbs?
In general, herby flavours such as rosemary and thyme tend to work best with country reds from the South of France, such as Corbières and Fitou, whose vineyards are surrounded with fresh herbs that can give an aromatic boost to the wine. But there are specific matches for veg that are glorious at this time of year, such as asparagus with Austrian Grüner Veltliner. It’s a thing of beauty.


Which wine region or grape is particularly impressive or popular at the moment?
For me, Greece is still the place to watch. Local grapes are creating wines with stunning unique character, such as Malagousia for a peachy white and Xinomavro for a hearty red. You can find examples of both those yummy grapes on the shelves in M&S under the Thymiopoulos label. Waitrose stocks Hatzidakis Santorini white, and independent wine merchants are carrying more and more quality Greek wine. It’s by no means bargain basement, but for an off-the-beaten-track treat or gift for a wine lover, Greece is hard to beat.


Which wines work best with cheese?
Whites often work best as a general pairing for a cheeseboard as they allow more of the flavours of the cheeses to flourish. There’s a huge difference between a brie and a stilton, and with the ranges of textures, flavours and intensities on offer, one bottle is tough to cover all bases. For a safe bet, Tawny Port served lightly chilled is my tip.


Do you have a favourite wine on the Britannia menu?
I’d have to say the Bon Viveur range, which celebrates my brand-new blends for P&O Cruises. I’m very proud of  the red, white and rosé wines that are only available to sip on board and are packed with vibrant fruity flavours. Summery splendour in every sip!


When it comes to celebrations or special occasions, which wines would you suggest?
English sparkling wine every time. The best include Camel Valley, Gusbourne Estate, Furleigh Estate and, of course, Wiston Estate, whose wine I picked for the Queen to launch Britannia.


Which red-meat friendly wines do you recommend?
Malbec from Argentina is a brilliant match with beef but I’d also give a general shout-out to Rioja from Spain. Reservas are among my favourites for their balance of bold fruit with mellow spice.


More specifically, which wines work best with pork?
Light reds, such as Beaujolais, can work but the best option for me is a lightly oaked white, such as Chardonnay. It may not be fashionable, but it’s the best pairing in the business.


What are your top tips for getting started as a wine buff? 
Start taking notes whenever you sip a wine whether you like it or not, at home, in a restaurant or at a party and exchange views as much as you can – either in person or online via social media. You could even publish them on your own blog. Wine is a wonderful exchange of views and encompasses a global range of wonder. There’s a flavour out there for every palate and every budget. It’s the job of a wine expert to link the best bottle to the right occasion and transform a moment into sheer magic.