In November 2017 a bottle of Tokaji was sold at a price that made it the third most expensive white wine ever. There’s something magical about the combination of marmalade and apricot sweetness and a refreshing citrus zest from the (mostly) Hungarian Furmint grape. This is a gorgeous, lighter introduction to the style from a winery owned by Spain’s famed Vega Sicilia.
Vermentino is a brilliant grape to have in your wine-back-pocket. It’s like a warm-climate Sauvignon with racy, citrus fruit through to more complex, mineral textures and flavours like here. It’s also just more interesting than so much Sauvignon. This is a corker, made by the super-smart Antinori family, with herbal complexity and richness making it ideal for interesting pasta dishes and salads.
Here’s a quiz question: what is the word most likely to persuade someone to buy a bottle of wine? Answer? It’s “fruity”. That’s why wines like juicy, plush… “fruity” wines like this are so popular. Almost the definition of “easy drinking”, if you want to know how it tastes, look at the name. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Enjoy with a Friday night in front of the TV. Watching The Wine Show.
“The wine lover’s Chateau D’Esclans”. This is the most serious wine from this winery. Made like a pink Puligny Montrachet, it has more complexity, a seam of integrated oakiness and firmer, food-loving acidity. This is the wine to have with richer meat dishes, slightly richer and more acidic sauces. It’s a pity that it lives in the shadow of its flashy siblings. I’ve always loved this.
Apparently the most expensive rose in the world. So why is it so popular? I refer you to the first sentence and vast numbers of very rich people with yachts who stay in St Tropez. This is genuinely very good. Complex, herbal, intricately textured and with serious, dry fruit. It’s gorgeous with sea bream plainly grilled. But it’s mostly famous for being, well famous. Not unlike some of its biggest fans.
Rock Angel is the drier, more restrained, more herbal sibling of Chateau D’Esclan’s pool-party Whispering Angel. It’s no wall-flower (it was launched at a party in LA with Rod Stewart) but perhaps more of a foodie style. Avoid anything with too much acidity or fat, but perhaps plainly grilled fish or a lightly-dressed salad.
Here you’ll find a refreshing spirit of adventure in Provencal rose making. Owners Lord and Lady Bamford (of JCB digger fame) add a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon to local grapes to inject more fruit, power and polish in their “secret”. It’s a wine for the table, not the beach, with a touch of currant and berry over the herbal, dry strawberry notes. Curious, as the vineyards actually run down to the beach in St Tropez.
Owner Sacha Lichine insists that if you listen while drinking this “you can hear the angels sing”. If you haven’t guessed he’s quite a charmer. Insanely popular, this is the fruity end of the Provencal rose spectrum. Ripe wild strawberries, soft and rounded mouthfeel and a hint of herbs. This is the one for parties on the beach and nights in the Jacuzzi. Or nights at home when you want to pretend.
Also known as Вранац, Vranac is the great red hope for the wines of southern Bosnia and Montenegro. It’s inky dark and cherry scented and marries well with large oak vats that soften its tannins. But the key is its refreshing tingle in the mouth. Think of the zippiness of cranberries. It gives the wine a lift and zest. These ancient wine cultures are coming back. Expect to see Вранац in your wine shop soon.
Rich, dense, supple and fruity. This wine suits the land it comes from. Rolling, beautiful hills but untamed. It’s impossible to drink it without thinking what and where it comes from. A battlefield on the frontline of a brutal war, made by people who lined up against each other. Walking through this vineyard I tripped up over a soldier’s canteen, lost in the soil twenty five years ago. It’s sobering.
Is this the world’s most dangerous wine? A curious blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Mount Bargylus near the Roman city of Antioch in Syria. For the taste, thing of a broader version of white Bordeaux (oak, citrus, stone fruit) and a minerally, salty tang. For winemaking though, think ISIS artillery shells blowing up vines and firefights 100m away. A remarkable story, and astonishing wine.
You may not see a Zilavka for a year, or several years. But keep it in mind. This refreshing, citrusy, ripe white is the future of wine from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Not complex, but we can’t all drink Montrachet every day. But great value, attractively bright, distinctive and characterful. It’s also generally good – we tasted lots and they were all lovely. If you see Zilavka like this appear on shelves, buy it.
Google translate recommends this wine “after a light carafage in accompaniment of a civet”. I suspect they mean “swirl this around and serve with stew”. It’s made from Marselan, the supple, aromatic, juicy son of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. Sharing the best of both in the warm vineyards of Camargue. This is comforting, soft, ripe, fruity, fresh… everything you want in a red.
Smart enough to share with friends. Friendly enough to drink with anything. This has the class of Chardonnay with the yuzu lemon lift of Vermentino. And on The Wine Show we love Vermentino. Oak-fermented for integrated, toasty complexity, it packs in the sunshine of the southern Rhone, lifted by cool night-time breezes from the coast. Drink with poultry and a good time.
The “black maiden” Feteasca Neagra is Moldova’s most prized indigenous red. A sort of hearty Pinot Noir I was once served this in old Tizer bottles in the immediate aftermath of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s rule. Like a rustic Pinot it’s a wine for earthy, savoury flavours, game pie, dark gravy, grilled cheese and roasted veg.
Try this now so you will be the first of your friends as gradually they all do. Georgia is the coming force in Eastern European/Caucasus winemaking. It’s interesting, hearty and savoury with thousands of years of winemaking history. It needs herby lamb, vegetable or beef stew to really give is something to work with. Delicious.
Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon is regaining some of the reputation it had in the 1990’s as the hearty party wine of choice across the UK. Don’t look for complexity or nuance. But do expect to find dependable, attractive, easy fruit. Perfect if it’s your turn to provide the wine for the barbecue or the PTA summer fundraiser.
Mtsvane is an ancient variety even in Georgia, often called the ‘cradle’ of viticulture. But only now are winemakers figuring out how to balance its exotic, honeysuckle and peach fruit with freshness. Experiment with intense aromas and tropical fruit – possibly roast chicken, possibly a fruity curry.
It’s important to know your wine matches in Tuscany. Chianti Classico is for big, dense dishes, whilst regular Chianti has a lighter cherry fruit that works best with pasta, lighter grills and even barbecued chicken. It’s an easier, mid-week wine and more generously fruity with less herbal complexity.