Spring is all about sifting out the comfort-zone favourites and making way for the new. Whether we’re talking clothes, diets or simply a spring clean, an annual shake-up can make the world of difference to our outlook on life. Likewise, our wine palates can benefit from a freshen-up, as it’s all too easy to stick with what we’ve come to know and glug.
White wines made from grapes like Verdejo, Albarino, Torrontes and reds made from Nero D’Avola and Carmenere are where it’s at. These are the more interesting cousins of the trusty-buttested Chardonnay-Grigio numbers. Spain’s Verdejo grape typically tastes like freshly-mown grass after it’s been pummelled with lemon-bombs. If Sauvignon Blanc was your other half, Albarino would be the young, attractive pool-cleaner you’d have an affair with. Torrontes is Argentina’s sexy, Tangodancing vixen-grape that wears more expensive perfume than Italy’s Pinot Grigio, and smoulders with candiedpeach and jasmine intensity.
With so many wines competing to throw themselves neck-first into our shopping trolleys, and big brands beating us around the head with value promotions, it takes a savvy shopper to know where to look for the gems. Once discovered though, many will be in our wine repertoires for the long haul.
Pinot Grigio lovers have just found a new special friend in the Verdejo grape from Rueda in Spain. Achingly hot right now, at its freshest this grape smacks of lemon sherbets and mown grass clippings crushed up in a pestle and mortar. A grape destined to be on rotation in households far and wide is Torrontes from Argentina. Style-wise think Viognier post beach holiday; light in body with grapefruit peel, blue-stone and honeycomb flavours which make it a dab hand at accommodating more piquant, chilli-infused dishes. Albarino, from the North-Westerly region of Galicia, is planted close enough to the Atlantic that salty notes are brought from vine to wine, making it seafood’s rightful soul mate. Albarino’s delicate, fresh lemon and sea mist vibrancy is a must for Loire Sauvignon Blanc junkies like me.
For those who like a wine to wear its fruit on its sleeve, look no further than the Nero D’Avola grape from Sicily. The Marlon Brando of grapes, this one’s all about dusky damson and brooding cherry flavours and makes no secret of its affinity to grilled lamb dishes. Chile’s tour de force is its indigenous Carmenere grape; with enough sweet spice and ripe blackberry flavour to entice even the most loyal member of ‘Team Shiraz’. Often used for its pep-factor in Cabernet Merlot blends, by itself this wine puts savoury back on the map. Time to step away from the Spring-cleaning, pour yourself a glass and bask in its coffee and blueberry pie afterglow.
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink and appears regularly as a wine expert on TV and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven.