It’s all very well for wine writers like me to tell you to go forth and broaden your drinking repertoire, but how? There’s a sea of new wines flooding our supermarket shelves every week, but where’s the recommendation life raft to clamber aboard? Well, look no further!
Spain is my go-to place for new wines. With more area under vine than any other country, there is very little that can’t be grown there. With spring on the horizon, it’s time to check out Spain’s rich array of light whites and vibrant reds; in particular, Godello, a white ‘It Grape’, with a brisk and herbaceous flavour-profile, not dissimilar to white Burgundy. A favourite of wine-savvy drinkers, it’s something unusual, undiscovered and a versatile food friend.
If you’re a red wine fiend and up for a challenge, dip into Spain’s treasure chest once more and give Prieto Picudo a whirl. Aside from the fascination of tasting something with a name that sounds like a car trying to start on an icy morning, it’s also hard to find. The flavour payoff is worth it though; think sun-drenched black cherries rolled in mocha and spicy cinnamon.
While we already know that Greece is no longer all about Retsina, we can be wary about trying wines made of varieties we can’t pronounce. Allow the white Assyrtiko (ass-ear-teek-oh) grape to untie your tongue, with creamy Muscadet-like flavours of greengage and lemon posset, ramped up a notch or two for your sipping pleasure. Similarly, if you can pronounce Agiorgitiko (Ey-or-yeety-co) without sounding like you’re having a funny turn, you’re already one step ahead.
Greece’s most widely-planted red grape is a shape-shifter, with the ability to make a gamut of styles, from soft and bouncy Beaujolais-a-likes, to barrel-aged beasts, through to pretty rosés. If you’re a fan of Merlot’s soft and juicy style, this is definitely one to take for a test drive. Likewise, Sicily has its own armory of top-notch indigenous grapes to bring to the party. Its wines have a knack of knocking it out of the park with their flavour/value ratio, and are a great jumping-off point when you’re handed the wine list in a restaurant.
One Sicilian grape that mirrors Pinot Noir’s versatility as a food pal is Nerello Mascalese. Unique for a red grape, its wines can pair as well with oily fish as they can with spiced lamb dishes. Grown in the volcanic soils surrounding Mount Etna, its notes of ripe cherries and sweet tobacco are well worth discovering. Here’s a clue to pronouncing it right, Nair-ello Mask-a-lazy. Now, go forth and enjoy!
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink. He appears regularly as a wine expert on TV, and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He is a brand ambassador for Rathfinny Estate and can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven
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