Thursday, 20 March 2014

Marzemino...what? Pignoletto...who? Unusual Wine Varietals to Love Right Now

Chardonnay - boring, Sauvignon Blanc - been there done that, Cava - ok, it's bubbly so we still like that one! I'll admit it, I get bored quickly, I like trying new things and it pains me to buy the same wine over and over again knowing that I might be missing out on something more special. We've seen Chardonnay done many, many ways, we know that Sauvignon is probably going to smell like gooseberries, cat's pee or grass - it's time to broaden your wine horizons my friends.

Whilst I do not claim to be Jancis and know an encyclopaedia's worth of grape varieties - far from it in fact - I was shocked that when I presented at a tasting this week half the group had not heard of Madiran, let alone Godello and Frappato. 'Have they been hiding under a varietal rock?' I thought. Or are us wine industry folk just blessed with the chance to try such a broad range of wines without having to pay for them?!

Well you need worry no more because I've found five varietals that you'll be able to impress your friends with, and they're all under a tenner!

Tesco Finest* Pignoletto, NV, £8.99 from Tesco
"If you like Prosecco, you'll love this! It has all the lovely froth and fizz required with fresh apple and pear flavours to boot."

Made from a grape called Pignoletto and produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, this is zippy and fresh and you would be hard pressed to pick this from a Prosecco - made from a different grape in a different region - in a blind tasting. Super fruity, light and with plenty of bubbles makes this a Friday-night-in-with-the-girls fizz, or a super quaffable party sparkler. It's new to the shelves so you might not yet have seen this, but when you do, pick up two bottles - I guarantee you won't stop at one!

Dry Furmint, 2011, Royal Tokaji, £9.99 (or £7.99 if you buy 2 bottles) from Majestic Wines
"Well defined aromatics comprising rich honey notes and stone fruits on the nose. Plenty of acidity gives the palate crispness and bite, with mineral tinges accenting the fruit-laden exotic feel."

Furmint, a Hungarian grape which is perhaps best know for producing sweet Tokaji wines in varying 'puttunyos' ratings, is here the varietal for this dry, crisp yet aromatic white. Biting acidity, juicy fruit and buzzing with an energy which I thought felt a little like a Vinho Verde, this grape is a bit of an unsung hero for its versatility. Eastern European wines are set to be making more of an appearance this year, so if you want to keep up with the Joneses take this one along to your next dinner party invite - pear and walnut salad on the menu? Check. Creamy risotto? Check. Perfect.

Tesco Finest* Pecorino, 2012, £7.99 from Tesco
"If ever there was a wine that was Springtime bottled, this is it! It's fresh, crisp and bursting with green apple and grapefruit flavours."

Yes, it's also a cheese, but this Pecorino (the name of the grape) from the Abruzzo region of central Italy is soon set be just as popular as its dairy counterpart - well I think it deserves to be. The name Pecorino comes from the Italian word 'pecora' which means sheep - Pecorino cheese is made from sheep's milk, but the grape is named so as it's thought that sheep used to roam the vineyards and nibble on the grapes. Vibrant and lively, it's a delight at first sip and the zippy citrus fruit acidity is mouth wateringly delicious. Nice with a piece of cod with a little butter, or a spring veg frittata perhaps?

*Keen Vinspire fans will note that Freddy reviewed this back in January AND the varietal appeared in our wines to watch for 2014 - it's that bloomin good and means you NEED to buy it.

Marzemino Trentino Castel Firmian, 2012, £6.95 from The Wine Society
"Fragrant and fresh with an attractive sweet fruit and appetising quality."

If you want to impart some knowledge to your friends, tell them that Marzemino was mentioned in Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. I've never seen it but it was the one consistent bit of information that appeared on every Google/Bing search for Marzemino, so I presume it's true. I have, however, tried this cheeky little fruity beauty from The Wine Society. Ruby red with aromas of strawberries, blackberries and violets, it's just 13% abv which is relatively light for a red these days and light enough to chill for about 20 minutes before serving - sounds crazy, but do try it, the fruit will be lovely and sweet.

Vranac, Plantaze, 2010, £6.95 from The Wine Society
"Full, ripe and juicy from the local Vranac grape which absorbs and reflects the 290 days of sunshine Montenegro enjoys beside the Adriatic."

First of all, please will someone take me to Montenegro on holiday - 290 days of sunshine! Secondly, this is delicious. It's dense, rich, robust and full of dark and red fruit flavours with a lingering spice. Akin to Southern Italian wines like Primitivo or a heady Syrah from the Northern Rhone, for £6.95 you will not be disappointed - mid-week spicy sausage pasta or a Friday night Lamb Rogan Josh, take your pick, they'll both work. FYI Montenegro is bordered by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea - I won't lie, I had to look it up.

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