Christine Austin raises a glass for Independence Day with a selection of the best wines from across the Pond.

In these weeks after The Wedding I have come across many Americans who have expressed the opinion that they wished that they too had a Royal Family.  I have hesitated to remind them that they once did, instead switching the conversation to safer ground that doesn’t involve tea, Boston, massive casualties and the Treaty of Paris.

However it does occur to me that the loss of colonial America back in the 18thcentury may not have been a bad thing. Depending on the way things worked out we could have become an outpost of the USA with the result that we would have to wish everyone a nice day, take up baseball as a national sport and mispronounce the word ‘laboratory’.

So July 4 next week is not only a celebration of independence for Americans, it is a relief for us too.

With that in mind, here are a baker’s dozen of wines to help you toast the fact that they are on their side of the Atlantic and we are on ours and while we are definitely friends, neither of us actually wants to swap our heads of state.


Sandiford Pinot Grigio 2017, Central Valley, Waitrose normally £7.99, down to £5.99 until 10 July

There is a lot of cheap Californian wine I don’t like, but this one manages to be great value and rather good at the same time.  With the aroma of ripe pears, a touch of nectarine fruit and a streak of fresh lime, this is a good, easy, aperitif wine.

Château Souverain Chardonnay 2016, Coastal region, Waitrose £10.99

A classy style of California Chardonnay with lemon peel zest underpinning the rounded tropical fruit and a touch of creamy yeasty notes adding depth and texture.  A wine for Sunday lunch.


Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2016, Livermore Valley, Roberts and Speight (Beverley) £13.99

Named after the blanket of cold fog that sits around the vines until late morning, keeping temperatures down and flavours fresh, this is a lively Chardonnay, with green crunchy apple and melon notes and a mere hint of vanilla oak. Also available at Field and Fawcett in York.

Four Vines Naked Chardonnay 2014, Santa Barbara, Field and Fawcett £15.50

Described as naked because no oak intrudes on the sheer exuberant guava, peach and green apple flavours.  Perfect for summer.


Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, Latitude Wines £25.88

Made by the Jim Clendenen the ‘Wild Boy’ of California wine, this shows just how good West Coast Chardonnay can be.  Forget big and flabby flavours, these are precise, focused and full of layers of fruit and crisp minerality.  Perfect with grilled white fish, heaps of fresh vegetables and great conversation. That’s how I drank it when I was at the winery.

Jim Clendenen, the Wild Boy of Au Bon Climat – with his dog, Emmy


 Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Waitrose down from £8.59 to £6.79 until 10 July

Mainly Cab with a splash of Petit Verdot which has deepened the colour and boosted the juicy aromas, this wine is packed with dark, chewy blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, layered with spice and supple tannins. Great with sausages and steak.

Underwood Pinot Noir 2016, Oregon, Marks and Spencer £14

From the cool vineyards of Oregon this is a cherry and strawberry-filled Pinot, with herbal notes and a soft, gentle, gentle structure. Perfect with flavoursome fish, grilled duck breast, or charcuterie.

Hedges Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Washington State, Marks and Spencer, £14

This wine rarely makes it to the shelves at M&S but it is available on-line and is well worth a taste.  Made from grapes farmed bio-dynamically on Red Mountain in Washington State this is a deep, cassis-filled wine with soft, structuring, elegant tannins.

Ironstone Petite Sirah 2015, Lodi, Ake and Humphris, Harrogate and Collingham, £14.49

Petit Sirah is not the Syrah grape although it has some of the same DNA.  It makes dark, savoury, blackberry-filled wines with hints of chocolate, pepper spice and smooth, rounded tannins.  There is a splash of Zinfandel in this wine that adds more muscle and concentration. Ready now, all this needs is a barbecue and some meat.

Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2014, Central Valley, Majestic, £14.99 or £12.99 on a mix six deal

Ravenswood has access to some of the oldest vines in California.  Gnarled, twisted and producing tiny quantities of grapes per vine, the wine made from these vines is simply unique.  Dark, intense, filled with black fruits, plums and spice this is a wine to pour alongside the spiciest sausages or just a plain peppered steak.

Tête-à-Tête 2011, Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Sierra Foothills, California, Martinez Wines £20.99

Despite the French-sounding name this is from the cool Sierra foothills where Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache work together to give lively, sappy, spicy, bramble and cherry fruit flavours.  With 14.5% alcohol, it isn’t a lightweight, but its clear fruit-driven style is balanced and ends with rounded, meaty complexity.

Qupé Syrah, Central Coast 2013, Bon Coeur Fine Wines £21.98

Made by Bob Linquist who operates out of the same winery as Jim Clendenen, this wine is made from grapes sourced from the Bien Nacido vineyard, in particular from a high-density, steep slope that catches the best of the afternoon breezes. Here the focus is definitely on the Rhône style of Syrah with fruit and complexity, not just power and alcohol.  There is a definite streak of Rhône pepper and spice adding depth and character to the layers of plums, black fruits and liquorice.



Quady Orange Muscat Essensia 2015, Majestic £11.99 or £9.99 for a half bottle on a mix six deal

Andrew Quady is the sweet wine guru of California.  He started out by finding a patch of Orange Muscat grapes, which he turned into this peach and orange-zest sweet wine. It goes fabulously well with light chocolate and orange flavoured desserts.  Also well worth discovering is Quady’s Elysium made from Black Muscat grapes. Derventio in Malton have it at £10.50 a half bottle.  It is the ultimate wine to serve with chocolate.


About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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