High in the hills above Venice is a line of vineyards that make Prosecco. At their heart is the fabled ridge of Cartizze. The Bisol family are the biggest owners (it’s one of the most expensive vineyards in the world) making Prosecco like you’ve never tried before. The characteristic pear and peach soft fruit, but here with complex wild flowers and sweet almond spice. Truly one of the world’s greatest aperitif wine.
There’s a wonderful combination of the traditional and modern at Hattingley. It is the UK’s first winery to use solar power, and yet sits in quintessentially English countryside. But you can taste the innovation; here they use some oak barrels (like mighty Krug and Bollinger) to give the wine a softer, complex mouthfeel and structure. Truly delicious fizz.
Jenkyn Place is one of the newer estates in England, made in Hampshire where there are some of the country’s finest soils and climates for wine production. It has a slightly exotic touch to the aromas, particularly of quince and a hint of tropical fruit, whilst the palate is focussed on being silky and refined rather than rich and heady. By a couple of bottles and lay one down to see how it ages for the next 3-5 years.
Nyetimber is one of the most highly regarded names in English sparkling wine and the Classic Cuvee is the heart of the range. Delicate, refined and blending the lift of citrus fruit with the richness of almond, honey and toast from its ageing. It’s perhaps best as an aperitif wine although lighter dishes are a great match too. Taste the future of globally-important sparkling wine.
English wine is a not a new thing, and Bolney was established in 1972 and looks to New Zealand for inspiration, as an estate that specialises in reds. This is the estate’s divine pink fizz suffused with strawberry fruit and a mouth-coating yeasty richness. That fruit gives it the weight to match with food. For a particularly delicious and interesting combination try it with really good Chinese food.
There’s a special place reserved in the future histories of English Sparkling wine for Bob Lindo and multi-award winning Camel Valley. Cornwall’s largest winery makes exquisite, refined and delicious sparkling wines, and this is the classic. It’s led the way for others, but few match this delicious fizz, and now Champagne producers will be looking to him and son Sam for tips.
Moschofilero is sometimes called Greece’s answer to Gewurztraminer – it’s floral and scented, with aromas of roses and sweet, muscat grapes. Like the best aromatic wines it keeps that sweet fruit in check with a refreshing palate, so that it smells sweet and tastes dry. It’s the perfect wine to have with salads and lighter dishes.
I ADORE this wine. It’s mad. Imagine a Chablis that’s been to the gym and then gone hiking in the woods. A Bear Grylls of a wine. The steely, citrus tang of Assyrtiko has an added savoury complexity and depth. It’s still got that focus and clarity of the grape, but with more complexity. Perfect with grilled shellfish, baked whole fish or Pacific Rim dishes.
Let’s get the pronunciation things over with first. ‘ay-or-YIH-tiko’ is the ‘St George’ grape and makes dense, dark, bramble and black-fruity wines, lifted by brighter red fruit aromas and a herbal, savoury edge. It’s a fine, elegant wine too, and one of the great wines of the Med. I have enjoyed this with steaks and grills and mushroom dishes.
Anyone who enjoys white Bordeaux will (a) love this wine and (b) be utterly astonished by this wine. It shares the same production idea and half the same grapes, but with the eye-opening refreshment of Assyrtiko. Look for a peach and mineral fruit with lovely vanilla spice. Richly flavoured fish dishes and creamy sauces are perfect matches.
There’s a wonderful spirit of experimentation among Greek producers, like matching the familiar zest of Sauvignon with adventurous aromatic and heady aromas of Malagousia. This is a richly textured wine, a foodie not a drinkie. Herby roast chicken or fish stew are perfect combinations.
You simply cannot go wrong with this wine. Remarkable. Cissac is one of those wines every young merchant learns to recommend often. And 2010 was a phenomenal year. It will last longer as a result but I’d not lay this down. I’d roast a leg of lamb and give this an hour in the decanter. I love the vibrant fruit, the integrated oak and the lovely cedar spice. But the structure is the best bit. Firm tannins hold the fleshy fruit together.
If you haven’t drunk a lot of Bordeaux, begin here. This is everything Bordeaux should be in a fruity vintage with ripe tannins but still approachable when it’s young and lush. It’s a generous wine and a bit of a treat. Look for cassis and plum, cedar and spice and a minerally elegance that other regions can’t match. This is one for duck or lamb when it comes to food matching really.
Buy this wine and tell your grandchildren you had some 2004. The ‘last affordable vintage’ for some collectors, it went mad in 2005. It was also in the fresher, cooler style of claret that I was introduced to in the 70’s and 80’s. Ready to drink but still with the fruit at its heart to cope with duck or beef. It’s now developing a lovely scent of cedar and leather that will continue to evolve for a few years.
The Marquis de Segur famously said “I make my wine at Lafite and Latour, but my heart is in Calon”. Here we have the second wine of his beloved estate, made from younger vines. It has that St Estephe austerity, but the firm tannins of 1995 have withdrawn now, replaced by elegance and the cigar box cedar and dry currant fruit of truly lovely Claret. I would have this with a rack of lamb.
Sometimes we don’t know how lucky we are. Gran Reserva Rioja for under a tenner. Almost a decade between oak and bottle bringing our warm strawberry fruit, savoury leather and sweet cocoa aromas, and the supple-est of supple tannins. This is luxurious and relaxation in a glass. Cheese, lamb and very good friends and what you want to match this to. It’s the kind of wine that gets people into wine.
Wine from the mile-high club. The vineyards here are over 1500m up in the Andes and that gives the wine its perfume and also (curiously) its colour. Each day is hot to ripen the fruit, each night cold to keep zip and tang and darken the skins. Malbec dominates which is why it’s so good with steak, but there’s Cabernet and Tannat for complexity and nuance, giving more herbal aromas and muscular structure.
I have a real soft spot for Rubicon, a left-bank Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is still very young and the purple hue and bright fruit will withdraw, replaced by tobacco and cedar and a russet tinge. Today that sweetness matches with venison, but if 10 years, I’d be pairing this with a grouse or even a pheasant.
This isn’t just Stellenbosch, but Helderberg, the prized bit of vineyard land between Stellebosch and False Bay. Here the wines have an earthy complexity to the fruit and the kind of focussed currant core and neatly packed tannins that make for a great wine of the world. Great with food, this is made to go with lamb and pork and even some lighter game dishes.
Possibly the oddest wine we’ve recommended. But it had to appear with the spirit of Italian adventure. A Pinot Noir (red grape) vinified and produced as a white wine. The wine-knowledgeable will recognise that this is the same as a blanc de noirs Champagne, and you have the same tinge to the colour and slight oddness of some red fruit among the peach, citrus and floral notes of the wine. A delicious curiosity.