When it comes to wine drinking it's easy to stick to the countries you know, but why not try some interesting alternatives, says Christine Austin

 

Dry January is at an end and while this brings all the usual signs of spring, such as snowdrops and daffodils, the great benefit is that people stop banging on about how little they have drunk during the month.  They may have observed a dry January, or just managed a few days of abstinence, but from now on, we can all drink what we like, when we like, without anyone feeling superior just because they are on the wagon.

Now you can pour your favourite wine without feeling you are letting the side down, there is the temptation to go back to the same old favourites, but why not take this opportunity to look again at the huge range of wines available on our shelves and try something new.

Whatever you normally drink, there is probably a similar set of flavours from another country or another grape and this is a perfect opportunity to expand your tasting horizons and give your tastebuds something new to try.

Depending on your favourite grape, here are a few suggestions.

Sauvignon Blanc

This mouth-wateringly fresh, gooseberry and citrus variety has become far too popular for its own good.  With so many good-value Sauvignons on the shelves there is the chance that it will soon be ignored as a cheap and cheerful variety. This would be a great shame since New Zealand’s wine economy is built on this grape, so instead of heading for the lowest price why not step up a notch?

Rather than the big brands, head to single estate Sauvignons, such as Greywacke, made by Kevin Judd, the man who put Cloudy Bay on the map.  Now set up on his own, he has created a set of wines that pack layers of crunchy, minerally, lime and mandarin-infused wine, balancing acidity and fruit perfectly. These wines age elegantly, expanding in flavour and developing a herb-scented depth which makes them even more food friendly.

Find Greywacke 2018 at Roberts and Speight in Beverley on offer at £15.99 and pour it alongside fish, shellfish and asparagus.

Try Kevin Judd’s Greywacke for a single estate Sauvignon

As a variation from Sauvignon Blanc, head to North East Spain and the region of Rueda where the Verdejo grape makes wine with crisp, zesty flavours like a Sauvignon Blanc, but with rather more herbal and fennel notes amongst the lemon and lime fruit.  This is perfect alongside a salad.  Try Morrisons Canto Real  Verdejo  2017 (£7.75) or head to Booths where they have a blend of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc under the apt name of Tuna Club, now down from £8.50 to £6.50 until 12 February.

Chardonnay

In recent years this grape has endured the ups and downs of popularity and is gradually making a comeback in a fresher style than before.  Gone are the deep gold colours and threat of splinters from too much oak aging.  Now many Chardonnay wines are fresh and rounded, making them perfect to go alongside roast chicken, salmon and seafood risotto.

Long before we called this grape by its name it went under regional designations so this is a good time to head back to the classics such as Chablis and the excellent wines of Burgundy.  Chablis wines are rarely oak-aged and they have a freshness of style with melon fruit and a minerally complexity that seems to come straight from the tiny oyster shells that can be found in the soil.   Waitrose has an excellent Petit Chablis 2017, from Louis Moreau that gathers up that minerally crunch, backed by citrus and pear notes. This is currently on offer, down from £12.99 to £10.39 until 19 February.

If you would rather head for a New World Chardonnay then New Zealand is emerging as a fine place to grow this grape.  Kumeu River, located just outside Auckland is often listed and judged alongside top Burgundies with favourable results.  The wines are hand-crafted and shine with precise fruit, and complexity that allows the wines to age.

Harrogate Fine Wine has 2016 Kumeu Village at just £13.99 which is on form right now while Bon Coeur in Melsonby has the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2016 at £20.89.  This is a serious, age-worthy wine if you can resist drinking it now alongside your finest roast chicken.

Shiraz/Syrah

The shelves are full of warm-flavoured, spice-edged Shiraz wines and almost all of them are perfect at this time of year alongside a casserole or a steak.  And while you can alternate the source of your Shiraz, from Australia to South Africa and even South America there is a lot to be said for going back to its homeland, the Rhône.  Here it goes by the name of Syrah, which may be shown on the label, but more often than not it travels under the name of the region it comes from. The hill of Hermitage marks the start of the northern Rhône vineyards where the only red grape planted is Syrah.  These reds have all the usual warm, spicy flavours but with more emphasis on white pepper and just a little more structure.  The result is a serious complex wine that can partner venison or a rib of beef with ease. Try Crozes Hermitage 2016 from Marks and Spencer (£14) for a taste of French Syrah.

As an alternative to Syrah there are some wonderful wines from the Douro, made from a whole basketful of varieties that blend together to give deep flavours with a touch of spice.  Head to Waitrose for their partnership wine, Douro Valley Reserva made in collaboration with Quinta da Rosa (£11.49).

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

The deep, supple blackcurrant and cedary notes of good Cabernet are easy to find from regions around the world, but if you occasionally want a change then Malbec is one to try.  This grape started off in Cahors but over a century ago cuttings were taken to Argentina where it thrived in warm sunshine with cool nights.  Vines are planted in the foothills of the Andes and so altitude helps determine the character of the wine.  At just £5.99 Aldi’s Exquisite Argentinian Malbec is the first one to try, but if you like that then step up to the dark plum and structured style of Angulo Innocente Malbec 2017 (£15.30 from Field and Fawcett).

About The Author

Christine Austin

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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