Thursday, 29 August 2013

Try Sparkling Red or You're Dead! (not really)

Threats aside, let's call this an attempt to get your attention and encourage you to try at least one sparkling red wine before the summer fades into a distant memory and the autumn leaves begin to fall. Who's ready to get sparkly and inject a bit of fun into their wine routine? Yes, you, I know you want to.

Granted, it may be new to some to hear the words 'sparkling' and 'red' side by side, but if you're a true wine geek, like us here at Vinspire, then it's likely you've at least tried one. Sure, it'll probably divide the room, a little bit like Marmite - love it or hate it - but over the last few years some great quality red bubbles have jumped out of the cupboard to take us by surprise in the UK market. Without a doubt, I love it, and I've been witness to many who have converted to the dark side, but even the fussiest of wine critics have been singing red sparklers' praises.

You could say that sparkling red is probably best associated with cheap Lambrusco-style fizz - the stuff you drink before you go to Whetherspoons, the bottle you used to take to a dinner party....when you were 18 and you didn't really know what wine was all about.

But fear not, last week, I tried THE most delicious Lambrusco at a cheeky mid-week Italian wine tasting at my local, The Wine Society. The Lambrusco Ottocentonero (Albinea Canali) is a joyous reminder that Lambrusco frizzante can be a delightful drink when properly made. Whilst it's colour is a glorious, deep red, the journey really begins with the abundant perfume of sweet red fruits. Fizzy and full in the mouth, this is just perfect drunk chilled as an aperitif, and at just £7.95 per bottle, you may as well stock up with a few. I've got a bottle in my cellar (okay, garage) which I think I might try with a rich Bolognese dish, just as The Society suggests. 

Whilst European countries like Italy, France and Portugal have long been making lighter style sparkling reds, perhaps the country most synonymous with its fashionable return to the wine culture, is Australia. The hot summers and lazy BBQ days lend themselves to chilled, easy-drinking wines, and a sparkling red can be spied in many an Aussie's fridge. On moving to the UK, I was surprised how few friends (even in the wine trade) had never even tried red bubbles - as an Aussie, this is unheard of!

The most common varietal used to make Australian fizzy reds is Shiraz and the wines show the fruity, spicy character and depth of flavour of the grape. Sparkling Shiraz newbies are often surprised to find that Aussie sparkling red is quite dry, and not at all like the sickly sweet, almost alcoholic grape juice, which will come to mind. If you want a safe bet, try the Jacob's Creek Sparkling Shiraz. At £10.99 from Tesco, it's not cheap but it's certainly cheerful and a staple label in many Aussie households. If the reviews and ratings are anything to go by, this fun and charming wine from Australian wine maestros Jacob's Creek, is a hit with supermarket shoppers. The intro is positively engaging - "a cacophony of blackberry and raspberry flavours" - and I'm intrigued by their suggestions to try with a spicy meat curry.

For just a few pennies more, the Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz (pictured above) is my all-time favourite Aussie red sparkler. After a visit to the historic Bleasdale winery in the tiny town of Langhorne Creek in South Australia, I am more in love than ever, and it's the first wine to pop into my head if someone asks me to recommend something 'a little bit different'. At £12.95, also from The Wine Society (you do need to be a member, £40 one-off fee) it's deeply coloured, rich-tasting and thoroughly robust without being sickly or cloying. It would stand up to a serious chocolate cake or fruity summer pudding, but is equally happy to be the centre of attention as an aperitif. I've even served it with Christmas dinner - any excuse to pop open another bottle.

So I urge you, my Vinspirees, love it, hate it, but don't deny yourself a glass of perfectly chilled sparkling red wine.

Cheers mate!

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