What makes a wine fruity?

One of the weird things about wine is that, despite frequently being described as fruity, it seldom actually tastes of grapes: raspberries, cherries, gooseberries, peaches, all kinds of summer fruits, yes, barring the one it’s actually made from.

In fact, even those descriptors can be offputting. What if you don’t find them in a wine? Does that say something about your tasting ability, or lack thereof? Not in my book. It’s perfectly possible to taste a couple of wines of exactly the same type or grape variety, and pick out different flavours in them. I recently tasted a couple of nero d’avolas from Sicily and found black cherries in the sulphur-free Cortese Nostru Nero d’Avola 2020 (see today’s pick below) and red plums in the Colomba Bianca Nero d’Avola Kore 2020 (£11.18 strictlywine.co.uk, 14%), so you can’t claim that nero d’avola tastes definitively of cherries or plums.

Much depends on your own experience of tasting wine, too. Do you have those flavours tucked away in your palate memory? If you’ve never tasted a gooseberry, for instance, how would you recognise it in sauvignon blanc? Or if your only experience of peaches are the under-ripe examples you get in British supermarkets, as opposed to a sunny Mediterranean food market, what would that lead you to expect of a so-called “peachy” wine?

There’s also a difference between raw and cooked fruit. I often find wild strawberries in Provençal rosé and strawberry jam in red rioja, which is a quite different beast. And the older a wine gets, the more that primary fruit fades, replacing fresh fruit flavours with dried ones. So if you want a wine to be “fruit forward”, as they call it in the trade, look out for younger vintages.

Just for clarification, wines don’t actually have any of these fruits added to them, though I’m not averse to adding a bit of real fruit to fizz at this time of year. And drinks that can seem sickly at other times of year often taste delicious cold and sweet in summer: the classic peach bellini (make it with prosecco rather than a drier sparkling wine) is my favourite, but I confess I love a frosé, too – that is, frozen rosé (a slightly sweeter one than the Provence style is best) blitzed in a blender with fresh strawberries and a touch of sugar syrup. That might offend purists, but on a hot summer’s day – and we have had some of those this year already – it really hits the spot.

Five summer fruits to find in your glass
Cortese Nostru Nero d’Avola 2020 £11.95 Vino Direct, £12.60 Rodney Fletcher Vintners, 14%. Organic, Sicilian red just bursting with ripe cherry fruit. And it’s sulphur-free. Perfect for grilled chicken.

Earth’s End Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 £15 Marks & Spencer (in store only), 14%. Pinot from New Zealand’s South Island has particularly intense fruit character. This one’s like wallowing in a bath of raspberries.

Morrisons The Best Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 £9, 13%. Love it or leave it, this has all the explosive gooseberry and passion fruit character of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

TreRè Arlùs Albana Secca Romagna 2020 £9.95 The Wine Society, 13%. Not the most memorable name, but if I tell you this lush, Italian white (albana is the grape variety) is gloriously peachy you might – and should – be tempted.

Waitrose Blueprint Moscatel de Valencia £6.49, 15%. This steal of a Spanish dessert wine is more orangey than grapey (the latter is more usual for a muscat), and would be perfect served ice-cold with a summery, syrup-drenched pastry such as baklava.