This is the sort of piece I normally write at the close of the year, but I have more than enough material and deserving wines to mention already. Who knows how many more I may have by the end of the year?
So, the next big thing in wine is? Well, goodness, don’t ask me. If I knew, I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you, I’d be making sure I was in on the action and the rewards. What I can say is that I seem to have had more frontier-breaking wines this year than ever. Admittedly, I may have said this before (anybody else pick up an echo?), but let’s gloss over that and get on because it really has been a year for exciting, off-piste wines that maybe the next, er, niche thing. In no particular order…
Priknadi (which means freckles)
Also known as Prekniariko, it’s an old and rare white grape variety growing in Makedonía, northern Greece. I say growing, but there are only two growers, both with small amounts. I tried the 2014 and 2015 vintages (pictured above) from the key one, the Chrisohoou estate in Naoussa, and was particularly taken with the powerful, oak-aged 2015: wild, smoky, almost volcanic in character with ripe citrus, green peach/green apricot fruit, rich texture and high acidity. This is a dry white wine that can take quite weighty food and powerful flavours, including lamb, grilled/baked/roast with flavourings such as lemon, garlic, rosemary, anchovy, sumac, cumin, fennel and coriander seeds. It’s also good with sheep’s milk cheeses. The importer http://www.southernwineroads.com/ has a fascinating selection of Greek wines, some of which you can taste at The Wine Gang's winter festival in London on 26 November. Go to The Wine Gang and click on Events, but only when you’ve finished reading this blog.
You’ve got it: Riesling from Kazakhstan – from vineyards at over 1000m in the Assa Valley in the southeast of the country. The producer, Arba Wine, was founded in the early 2000s to revive a wine tradition dating back to at least the sixth century but which had largely disappeared in the Gorbachev anti-alcohol drive of the 1980s. The AK Arba Kazakh Riesling (above) is a textbook dry, Alsace-style Riesling – racy and floral with mineral, lime and apple intensity. The wines are not yet in retail in the UK, but do visit the website, a mine of information http://www.arbawine.com/
Riesling from a classic region, the Mosel, but made in a profoundly non-classic style by Australian Martin Cooper at Weingut Kloster Ebernach, a monastic winery to which he came to as a consultant in 2014 and now has on a longterm lease. I described this Orange Riesling as weirdly wonderful on social media and that still sums it up for me, but to be more descriptive it’s fresh and mineral on the nose with hints of dried apricot and ripe mirabelles. The palate is bone-dry and razor-edged with apple and citrus flavours, a chalky texture, smooth tannins and a long, salty, citrus finish. It was fermented on its skins for 30 days, hence the orange colour and name. https://redsquirrelwine.com/
Czech Pinot Noir
Stapleton & Springer in Moravia specialize in Pinot Noir – red, white and rosé – of purity, polish and ethereal aromas that we pinotphiles dream of. Lea & Sandeman is waiting for a new shipment of the two reds, but it has the rosé, which is called Orange Pinot Noir because it's, yes, orange in colour. It was my Wine of the Week on 17 March this year: read more here, or visit http://www.leaandsandeman.co.uk/
Wines from the Azores
From a volcano in the middle of the Atlantic and a UNESCO world heritage site: the island of Pico's rocky vineyards are protected from the lapping sea and sea spray by special walls (currais). Although the Azores Wine Company is a mere two years old, some of the Arinto dos Açores vines (aka Sercial) are 100 years old. The unoaked 2015 Arinto dos Açores (5000 bottles) has a peach and apple fragrance, a hint of vanilla spice, a supple texture and a bristling fresh, saline finish. There’s an equally good Verdelho and a field-blend rosé. https://redsquirrelwine.com/
Why not, if it's Chardonnay with Burgundian poise and precision? I'm talking about the Kalmergel Chardonnay 2015 (above) from Weingut Wageck-Pfaffman in the Pfalz region that borders Alsace: poise and precision with elegant toasted and mineral flavours and a creamy texture. The 2015 Tertiär Sauvignon Blanc, partly oak-fermented, is good too. Both from http://www.oddbins.com/ and there are due to be magnums of the Chardonnay.
It's Haywire in Canada
Mould-breaking natural, organic wines from Okanagan Crush Pad, a company founded in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia five years ago by Canadians Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie, now aided by a New Zealand winemaker, an Italian winemaking consultant and a Chilean viticulturalist. Applause please for the Gamay Noir Rosé 2014, White Label Gamay Noir 2014 (red), Cannonview Pinot Noir 2013 and Free Form White 2014 – the latter a decidedly free-form, amphora-fermented, natural wine made from Sauvignon Blanc. https://redsquirrelwine.com/
I tasted a range of Kayra wines with winemaker Daniel O’Donnell over dinner at Hakkasan in London and was impressed at how well they went with the Cantonese dishes, but the wine I fell in love with this last summer was Kayra's Beyaz Kalecik Karasi Rosé, a Blanc de Noir made from the indigenous Kalecik Karasi variety in the Denizli region – fresh, soft and packed with strawberryish fruit lifted by spice and zippy orange peel. https://www.strictlywine.co.uk/