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.
The Okanagan Crushpad who make Haywire wines almost evangelical about expressing and revealing the distinctive, herbal fruit of the valley. And few grapes are better for this than Sauvignon Blanc. Zippy, fresh, citrus fruit, fermented and aged in concrete to leave exposed the essence of the land. This needs something like citrus salmon, fattoush or fish with cool, green herbs.
This is the sort of wine that makes people realise Canada is playing with the big boys now. Rich, complex, multi-dimensional wine that lingers on the palate. It’s a new world-style Chardonnay with baked pastry and spice over fleshy fruit. But seamless in the glass. Turbot, Halibut or Monkfish are the perfect matches while in time it will become more complex and is clearly meant to become a benchmark for the region’s top wines.
Canada’s most famous wine style is also one of its rarest wines. Mostly because of the punishingly difficult challenge of harvesting wines in the dead of night in the bitter cold. The berries are pressed while frozen leaving the skins and (water) ice behind, just eking out dribbles of sweet nectar. So we enjoy a sweet wine layered with marmalade and quince, with a tang of zest. Extraordinary with citrus puddings.
Named after the owls that burrow in Prairie Dog holes, this is the kind of Chardonnay that gets you excited about Canada. And we’re excited. The 2014 was a ripe, nectarine-scented vintage, while others have had more cool-climate restraint. It’s made using all the classic techniques of barrel-fermentation and gentle handling and it shows. Put Canada – East and West Coast – on your drinking “to do list” this year.
Two things you perhaps didn’t expect to hear in wine recommendations – Canada and concrete. Yet these are the secrets to this exceptional wine. The concrete captures the cool, raw, essence of Okanagan, leaving the wild, herbal, berry fruit naked for you to enjoy. The texture too is alive and exposed. Simple grills, roasted vegetables and mushrooms are this wine’s bedfellows.
See if you can dig out the 2010 vintage of this wine. It’s has a palate packed with fruit, so much so that it’s almost jammy, but just veers the right side of overdone. It was a big, lush vintage, and the winemakers have gone to town on new, glossy oak too. It’s no wallflower, but a fleshy, young-drinking claret with bags of fruit. Great for a sunday lunch, just keep a glass to snooze in front of the TV.
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Château Pichon Longueville Baron (or Château Longueville au Baron de Pichon-Longueville) is commonly referred to as Pichon Baron but not the same as Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Is that clear? Non? Don’t worry, but leap at the chance to try these opulent, fleshy, sexy wines with oodles of sumptuous fruit. In spite of the name similarity, the Lalande wines are more restrained, reserved and classic. This is why people become obsessed with Bordeaux.
One for when Matthew Rhys pops round for supper (buy two bottles). The dragon on the label is an homage to winemaker Nicola Allison’s Welsh upbringing. Today she makes this full-flavoured, minerally rose with her Kiwi husband Sean on the banks of the Gironde. Lots of fruit to match… well, anything. But my own favourite is a mild lamb tagine.
We don’t know what vintages of Chateau d’Issan were like in the mid 12th century. But they must have been good because Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine had it at their wedding. But I’ll wager this deep, intense, silky wine is better. The ’11 vintage (famously) put grander names, ten times the price, in its shadow. Floral today with the tannins to last decades. A joy.
Sore ear? Drink some Chacha. Stomach ache? Drink some Chacha. Feel grotty? Drink some Chacha. For Breakfast. This is more than Georgia’s precursor to Grappa. It’s an Alchemist’s cure-all. And we road-tested it with various members of the team swearing by this grape brandy’s curative properties. It’s got a kick, but it’s not harsh. The perfect way to help a Georgian feast down before bedtime.
Once tried, never forgotten. Wild, alive, complex. But where to begin? The 417 grape varieties (I won’t list them here)? The months on skins in a Kvevri, the earthenware vessel used to ferment wines for 8000 years here? It’s brick-red tinged, with a sourness that catches you at first, then melds into the complex flavours of a Georgian supra or feast. You have to try this. Even if it’s only once.
Honeysuckle aromas in wine are always a good sign. This has them in spades, along with a spiced melon ripeness that you’ll love. It’s bone dry and utterly fascinating. Rkatsiteli can be dull and flat, but not here where it’s been crafted into a delicious, Friday-night wine par excellence. Georgians eat richly flavoured dishes with lots of cheese and sauces. Do the same and this wine will be your friend.
It’s crackers to think that a generation ago, rose was a flibbertigibbet footnote in the wine statistics. Today there are pinks of every hue and palates from the tangy to tropical. This is in the melon, peach, strawberry, fruit salad variety. Lots of juicy fruit and light on the herbal notes. A dry wine, lovely with salads and tortillas (I discovered) but with a sun-warmed fruit.
Brawny, bold and no holds barred. Petite Sirah is the signature grape at Barra and they don’t hold back. Mocha and leather wrap up a full-bodied palate of blackberry fruit and mocha flavours. You’ll need plenty of flavour to match up to this, and hearty mouthfeel too with lots of rippling, muscular tannins. It’s smooth, but in the way a V8 engine roar is smooth. This feels American and all the better for it.