You know that prickle of refreshing zest you get in a perfectly made gin and tonic. This is wine’s answer. And it’s better. There’s a spectrum of citrus with everything from lime to grapefruit, and then the wine’s characteristic tingly fizz. It’s the perfect sharpner at the start of the evening, or at 11.5%, it’s a great choice for lunch.
There’s been quiet experimention in Rioja, to look for a more modern style of wine for people who want more fruit and a tad more grip in their wines. This is Marques de Riscal’s answer. Less sweet oak, more bright fruit, a bit more bite. But still fresh. It takes brighter, more modern food too. A touch of spice, a bit of fruit, and maybe slightly richer meats like duck too.
Verdejo is like Spain’s classy answer to Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of citrussy fruit with an elegant restraint. It’s a refreshing, early-evening kind of wine, and Rioja producer Marques de Riscal is one of those who’ve captured Verdejo’s aromatic loveliness and made it famous. Have it with lighter salads, fish and chicken.
Maybe it’s the muscular fruit. Perhaps it’s the sweet oak. Possibly it’s the smooth texture. There’s something about Rioja that makes it a perennial favourite. It’s often the first wine people fall in love with. Served with a roast lamb Sunday lunch, it’s a classic, an archtype. And this one’s a classic in the mid-weight, ripe berry fruit style. Lovely.
We are reliably informed, do NOT pour your Txakoli from a height to froth up the light fizz. It’s only for tourists. Pour normally, nicely chilled and enjoy the brightly, zesty citrus aromas and refreshing palate. Itsas (“sea”) and Mendi (“mountains”) tell you all about what this wine goes with (fish) and where it comes from (the hills).
Rioja is divided in three parts – Baja, Alta and Alavesa, which is the smallest and highest region and the only one that sits in the Basque country. The climate here is more extreme from warm days to cool nights. But the results are a supple, smooth, lingering wine with a combination of ripe fruit and truffley earthiness. Perfect with lamb
Fresh cherries, redcurrant and sometimes raspberry in warmer valleys, German Pinot Noir is a “thing”. It’s grown fast in the last couple of decades, but Germans have kept much of this to themselves. Beautiful lightly chilled with a slighlty spiced duck salad or something involving aubergines. It also has the advantage of impressing wine friends who will notice how bang on trend you are.
Vibrant, refreshing and bright. This has a core of delectable peach fruit, but it’s the passionfruit zest and the lemon zinger freshness that gives the wine lift and vibrancy. The food-matches for these Rieslings are endless. Vietnamese and Thai dishes are a favourite. Spiced salads too work beautifully. And even barbecue dishes work a treat.
Weissburgunder is German for Pinot Blanc, and it captures the floral, creamy soft style of the grape. Fermented dry, with a keen, mineral freshness, this is a great match for lots of seafood and salad dishes. But it also works with pork, sausages and slightly fatty meats, cutting through the richness beautifully.
Let’s get into German wine terms. The producer here is Heinrich Klohr. He’s growing Riesling, in this case in the heart of the Palatinate, with its long association with Munich to the south. It was harvested from beautifully ripe grapes (Kabinett) and then fermented dry (Trocken). Look for apple, pear and pineapple aromas and a bright, eager character.
We quickly took to this as our “breakfast beer”, and regarded the banana aromas and malty sweetness like a healthy friut-topped cereal. It has a punchy alcohol though, so you don’t want too much. This has a lovely clove complexity and a frothy, refreshing head. And you can taste the purity of the ingredients and process through the beer too.
Soft and dry, herbal and fruity, this is made by two sisters Karoline and Dorothee. It’s curiously both reasonably full-bodied yet lively and deftly structured. Dornfelder doesn’t have the complexity and range of Pinot Noir, but gives a softer, easier fruit. Perfect with German pork dishes (I’m a particular fan roasted with caraway seeds). The key thing is the supple texture.
I’ve loved this wine for a long time. This lures you into the best German winemaking. It’s ripe and dense and marked by a clear, bright apple character, but fermented dry (rather than the off-dry, lighter style of Kabinett wine in the past). This mixes a musky sweetness with a dry finish; a luscious texture with a food-loving palate. Experiment with pan-Asian flavours and lighter white meats.
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.