New year, new grape varieties: ten grapes and wines for 2016
Remember Grü-V? Yes, the American moniker for Grüner Veltliner. The trouble was that by the time sommeliers and their customers were saying Grü-V it was anything but, er, groovy. Fashions come and go in wine as in all things and there’s always somebody out there trying to outdo everyone else by requesting the most recherché lesser-spotted grape variety, To help you keep ahead of the game, here are ten cool grapes and wines to try as soon as possible.
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An ancient but newly fashionable Armenian variety from Vayotz Dzor, the province where the remains of the world’s oldest winery have been found – 6100 years old, no less. Gives medium/full-bodied wines with generous, spicy, red-fruit flavours and touches of sweet earth and herbs. Some wines, including the one below, are aged in amphorae (karas in Armenian). Food friendly: loves duck, game and cassoulet.
Try this: Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2013, Yeghednadzor, Armenia, £21.71, thedrinkshop.com
There’s more to Austria than Grüner Veltliner. Plenty of reds for a start. Blaufränkisch, the second most widespread red (after Zweigelt), is medium-bodied with a black-cherry fruitiness, a hint of redcurrant, and a spicy, black-pepper character which makes it a good match for meat dishes with smoked paprika or piment d’espelette, with chorizo and pizza. There’s also more to Blaufränkisch than Austria: it’s Kékfrankos in Hungary.
Try this: Feiler-Artinger Blaufränkisch 2013, Burgenland, Austria, £11.29, Waitrose.
On the grounds that it was chewy and rustic, Spain’s second most planted red grape after Tempranillo has largely been kept in the shadows – or at least the blending vats. But given a little tlc, as it has been recently, especially in Utiel Requeña, it shows its dark, juicy, berry fruit and its more velvety side. Goes well with herb-strewn lamb or steak. Also produces fruity, dry rosados.
Try this: La Malkerida Bobal 2013, Bruno Murciano, Utiel Requeña, Spain, £10.75, devinos.co.uk.
The stylish Nerello Mascalese haserupted on to the wine scene from the lofty slopes of Mount Etna (sorry, irrestible pun). The name Nerello might suggest black, but the wines aren’t dark, or even full-bodied, as you might expect from the South. Instead, they’re light-footed and perfumed with cherryish fruit, mineral layering and delicate tannins – Sicily’s answer to red Burgundy, perhaps. Think pork, veal, osso buco.
Try this: Graci Contrada da Arcuria Etna Rosso 2012, Etna, Italy, £29.50, Berry Bros & Rudd.
How did the prettily named Trousseau become Bastardo in Portuguese? The jury is out, but in its French – Jura – form, it has a floral, raspberry/cherry fragrance and crunch and a savoury, often gamey or earthy, undertow. Can be light and Beaujolais-like – just right for charcuterie, carpaccio, bresaola, salmon – or firmer and more tannic, in which case try game birds, venison, hard cheeses.
Try this: Stéphane Tissot Singulier Arbois Trousseau 2013, Jura, France, £27.50, Berry Bros & Rudd.
Widely planted in Alsace, but little loved and seldom seen on labels, Auxerrois is suddenly on every grape-spotter’s radar after being discovered in a forgotten sub-region of Burgundy called Auxois. There, and at its best in Alsace, it gives medium-bodied, fresh, floral, dry whites with a spicy lift to the peach, pear and citrus fruit. A winner with shellfish, squid, simple chicken or as an aperitif.
Try this: Simonnet-Febvre Esprit de Lyre Auxerrois 2014, £12.49, Partridges (Gloucester Road); £13.25 Chester Beer & Wine.
One of a clutch of southern Italian whites which produce far more distinguished wines than they used to be credited with. Falanghina’s stronghold is Campania where, solo or blended, it produces dry, medium to medium-full whites with a leafy or dill-like freshness and stone-fruit and citrus flavours, edged sometimes with white pepper or smoke. A match for all sorts of fish, even oily fish with a pinch of chilli.
Try this: Terradora Falanghina 2014, Campania, Italy, £11.99, or £8.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic.
When Godello first appeared a few years ago, it was seen as a poor relation of fashionable fellow-Galician, Albariño. In fact, Godello is every bit as good and sometimes better. It shares peach, zingy lemon zest and a salty mineral character with Albariño, but often has a little more roundness, depth and wet-stone minerality. Spot on with fish and seafood and more than a match for chicken.
Try this: Valdesil Sobre Lías Godello 2013, Valdeorras, Spain, £15.99, Waitrose.
Savoie’s most important white grape has come into its own with the swerve towards lighter whites. Effortlessly light, dry and naturally low in alcohol (11–11.5% abv), Jacquère has all the cooling freshness of an alpine stream. Sometimes it’s enhanced by a gentle spritz but, either way, there’s a delicate blossomy scent, crisp, zesty pear/apple fruit and maybe a hint celery salt. Drink young as an aperitif.
Try this: L’Orangerie 2014, Philippe et Francois Tiollier, Savoie, France, £10.95, Yapp Brothers.
The stampede for Sauvignon Blanc was bound to reach its pink-skinned sibling, but Sauvignon Gris is more than an also-ran for Sauvignon Blanc. It’s streaked with classic green, herbal flavours, but is fleshier and fruitier – more passion fruit than gooseberry – and not a million miles off Pouilly-Fumé. Found in Chile, New Zealand, the Loire and Bordeaux. Try it with spicy fish and seafood.
Try this: Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Gris 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand, £6.75, on offer (down from £9) Sainsbury’s, £9, Tesco and Ocado.
This was first published in the autumn 2015 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle magazine. Some stockist details have been updated.