Look out for the black cockerel on the neck; the legendary bird whose early rising meant Florence claimed much of Tuscany from the Siennese. Look up the legend for a wonderful dinner party tale. Here the spicy cherry flavours are balanced by a fresher, red fruit with dry, firm tannins making for a wine to match rich beef cheek.
The important word to look out for is “Classico”. That tells you this is in an altogether different league to just “Chianti”. Rather than a bright, red with a sour cherry tang, what you’ll get is richness, oregano and leather. This wine is a great partner for duck and substantial grills.
All Roses taste of strawberries (it’s a bit like a wine law) but not many have the honeysuckle and spice edge of this exotic Rose. It’s nothing like the ‘White Zinfandel’ of California, but drier and with a spiced, herbal element. It’s beautifully ripe and actually the most wonderful complement to a curry.
If this were an outfit it would be Elvis during the Vegas years. Big, glitzy and flash, it’s made in an expansive style with a long, lingering finish. Look for all sorts of spices like coffee and chocolate on the palate as well as ripe currants, cherry and blueberry. A shrinking violet it ain’t but if you like wines big, you’ll love this.
Grover produces this exotic, seductive white in the Nandi Hills in Bengaluru/Bangalore. Viognier is a warm-climate variety and producers look to bring out apricot fruit, luscious texture and a heady scent that can be a bit Marmite for some wine lovers. I am in the love category, pairing this with Thai spices.
This wine shows the ambition of a producer like Sula, making a more concentrated style of Shiraz, ageing it in oak and looking for depth and complexity. And achieving it. Look to match this to richer, weightier dishes and perhaps dishes with a lighter spice. This is more grilled, tandoori lamb or even cheeses.
One of my favourite dishes is Masala fish – the spice infused in the fish and then cooked in a tandoori oven. Here’s the perfect wine to match it. Bright and grassy with a New World vibrant gooseberry fruit. It’s almost South African in style although perhaps with a hint of spice. Or is that just because I know it comes from India?
A luxuriously odd wine grown near some of Chile’s most famous thermal springs. This is a spicy, decadent, plummy wine from Petite Sirah, an unusal grape sometimes called Durif. If you’ve had a tannic, rough example before don’t be deterred. This is smokey, inviting and delicious and glorious with rich and spiced dishes.
Producers are becoming more confident with grape blends in Chile and this brings together the structure of Cabernet with the pepper of Shiraz. Gorgeous with spicier dishes, the Shiraz softens and sweetens the wine as well as giving it a peppery edge. Colchagua is warm and ensures this is ripe and lush through the finish.
Limari is a name to look for in Chile. It’s a desert province to the north, with almost no rain but cooling Pacific breezes. In some ways similar to Marlborough in New Zealand it makes similarly fresh whites (and Pinot Noir). This has a distinct mineral crispness perfect for salads. If you like your Chardonnay bright, you’ll love this.
It’s Chilean Cabernet, but not as we know it. This has an adventurous spirit, happy to move on from the clean, spick and span currant and mint of much Chilean Cab and let leathery notes come through. Roast leg lamb is the obvious choice although the wine maker made Joe eat it with roast lamb testicles.
What people enjoy so much about the wines of the Old World is the wealth of non-fruit flavours they display. Like the walnut and coffee aromas here that come from long ageing in large oak Botti (casks). The casks also soften Sangiovese’s famously rustic tannins to give a substantial wine but with grace and suppleness.
Producers in India are keen to make wines that complement Indian food, so here you have the damson and cinnamon fruit and aromas of Zinfandel with a soft tannin that stays supple in the face of spicy heat. Perfect with lamb curries (or goat) it’s not quite in the same mould as the spiced Zins of California.
Some wines are so much more than the sum of their flavours. Sure, this is packed with layers of captivating blueberry and bramble fruit wrapped in muscular tannins and rustic charm. But it’s impossible to enjoy with grilled meat without thinking of Don Nivaldo hand harvesting and producing this in his home.
A truly ‘hand-made’ wine. Don Nivaldo crushes his grapes through home-made equipment into barrels older than he is. But from a rustic grape, and rustic methods, emerge sublime wild fruit, delicate aromas and robust but yielding textures. Cook beef or lamb long and slow to make the most of this extraordinary wine.
The slightly wild, animal notes here are from fermenting the grapes with the wild yeasts rather than using carefully selected strains that give pure fruit. Aged in pre-Colombian cellars, this blends flavours of red berries and balsamic with a feral touch that makes for a perfect match to wild boar.
From the ‘Napa Valley of India’, this Zinfandel rosé comes from one of the fastest-growing and most exciting wine regions in the world. It has a sweet, inviting strawberry aroma that lures you in, but don’t expect a sickly taste; this is dry, fresh and finishes with a lovely hint of fresh-cracked pepper.
Patrice Taravella, Villa Vignamaggio’s owner, firmly believes that Mona Lisa (of Leonardo Da Vinci fame) was born here. So the top wine is named in her honour – a bold Chianti Classico in a modern style with vibrant fruit to match the meat-loving tannins and freshness on the long, scented palate.
Buckingham Palace bought so much of the 1990 vintage of this it’s affectionately known in Moldova as ‘The Queen of England’s Wine’. Perhaps Her Majesty loves pairing lamb or venison with its mix of currant, plum and spiced Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with interesting, unusual flavours from Saperavi and Rara Negra.
More than half-a-century old, this is a frail wine now, tired and fading. There are still hints of the vibrant currant fruit and leathery spice that made this a favourite of leaders like Leonid Brezhnev and the Politburo. The Soviet answer to Claret echoes the politics it emerged from; faded but still just alive.