Making Sense of the Unknown
Start your wine journey with “stepping-stone” alternatives to familiar styles
For many of us, making that first foray into the world of wine can be a daunting task. Even those of us working in the trade can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the industry (it is of course this very nature of the beast, nevertheless, that keeps our interest forever piqued in the pursuit of new and exciting experiences). For those just starting out on their wine journey however finding sense within a sea of bottles sporting evermore idiosyncratic labels, each headed by exotic-sounding names from even more exotic-sounding regions, can often lead to a sensory overload of sorts serving only to reinforce the notion of the wine world as being esoteric and almost deliberately inaccessible.
It is this impression of inaccessibility that has in part resulted in the wines of the New World in particular (Australia, New Zealand, USA, Chile etc) becoming the go-to for many in the UK and Ireland as far as wine is concerned in recent times, as their easy-to-comprehend labelling techniques (by wine standards anyway), competitive pricing and (now) ubiquity provide the path of least resistance for many eager novice drinkers (and have led to soft marketing revolutions along the way – need one mention Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc?) For those reading that fit into the aforementioned category, it is likely that you have joined the JN Academy because you have at least some interest in wine and wish to broaden your horizons beyond your consistently relied-upon brands, grape varieties and regions. In this short piece we will recommend a few alternatives to the “go-to” styles that you will likely already have encountered to hopefully provide you with a stepping stone from which to ease into your wine journey - gradually making sense of the unknown.
If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you may like:
Finca Montepedroso Rueda 2017, €16.99 / £12.69
Recently featured by Susy Atkins in her Sunday Telegraph column and subsequent tasting event while visiting us at our shop, this light-bodied Spanish wine comes from the Rueda region (not far from the city of Valladolid) and is made with the Verdejo grape variety. Although it is not quite as aromatic as typical New Zealand/Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, fans of this style will likely appreciate the fresh floral, green apple and melon flavours of this wine, combining a citrusy acidity with a creamy mouthfeel owing to the 5 months it spends aging on its lees. Keen tasters may even notice a hint of green herbs, almond and a salty minerality too, making it not only the perfect aperitif but an assured food wine as well (think white fish, chicken, salads and tapas).
White grapes from Quinta Soalheiro
If you like Italian Pinot Grigio, you may like:
Quinta Soalheiro Allo 2018, €14.95 / £10.49
A regular feature of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s “Top 100 Wineries” and beloved of top wine critics galore, Quinta de Soalheiro make excellent wines at affordable prices. This Alvarinho (known elsewhere as Albariño) and Loureiro blend from the Melgaço region of northern Portugal (here the white wines are often referred to as Vinho Verde – literally “green wine”) will find favour in those Italian Pinot Grigio drinkers seeking something slightly more serious, with its pure notes of pear, peach and slight stoniness providing ample similitude. At only 11.5% too it’ll be of interest to those of us wishing to practice relative moderation. An ideal partner of seafood. The perfect summer tipple!
If you like fruity, ripe Californian reds, you may like:
Michele Biancardi Uno Piu Uno 2018, €15.99 / £11.75
This organic Primitivo/Nero di Troia blend from Puglia, southern Italy, has become a JN customer favourite in recent times with its plush, jammy, chocolatey character (and good value!) finding the favour of many. Perfect for those seeking a more interesting alternative to similarly-priced Californian reds beloved of the supermarkets and off-licences; this easy drinking wine is bereft of the grippy tannins and dryness that some find austere in many red wines of the Old World in particular, favouring a smooth fruitiness while retaining its full-bodied character. Excellent when enjoyed on its own or when paired with pizza, tomato-based pasta dishes and BBQ’d meats.
If you like Australian Shiraz, you may like:
Chateau Ventenac Cabardes La Reserve de Jeanne 2016, €15.50 / £10.95
Shiraz, or “Syrah” as it’s known in its native home of the south of France, is generally favoured by drinkers seeking full-bodied, rich, spicy wines often with more than a liberal use of oak (although they don’t always appear this way). The Shiraz/Syrah-based blends of the Languedoc-Roussillon can provide just that, as this offering from Maison Ventenac bears testament. A blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Syrah and the rest Merlot and Grenache farmed near Carcassonne, this wine combines rich black fruits with roasted herbs, oak and spice with tonnes of structure yet no hard edges. With the previous vintage receiving 91-93 points from the Wine Advocate it’s a whole lot of wine for the money and sure to satisfy those looking for something to go with their Saturday night steak or Sunday afternoon roast. Readers should note that many red wines of the Languedoc-Rousillon feature these characteristics and are for the most part extremely good value – get exploring!
If you like White Zinfandel-style Rosé, you may like:
Ambroisie Rosé D'Anjou 2017, €12.99 / £9.29
For those who look for a touch of sweetness in their rosé’s, the go-to for many will be “White Zinfandel”, “White Grenache”, “Pink Moscato” or similar style wines from the USA often found in abundance in the fridges of off-licences or supermarkets. Similarly, sweet (but less sickly and cloying) rosé can be found from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley in northwest France. The rosé here is often medium-deep salmon pink in colour with aromas and flavours of strawberry, raspberry, white peach and pink grapefruit – combining summery, fresh fruit with lively acidity. The perfect accompaniment to a sunny day. Also try it with spicy or Asian dishes – the slight sweetness helps quell the fire!
Readers that find the transition from White Zinfandel-style rosé to Rosé D'Anjou less challenging should be urged to try the paler, dryer (but just as aromatic and fruity!) styles of rosé from the south of France (eg. Provence, Minervois, wider Languedoc-Rousillon etc). Beautifully light, elegant and fresh and very much en vogue – perfect with seafood platters and salads. The taste of Summer!
If you like Prosecco, you may like:
JN Sparkling Crémant NV, €23.85 / £13.99
The Prosecco revolution seems to show absolutely no sign of relenting here and it perhaps comes as no surprise, as its light, easy-drinking, slightly-sweet character and relative inexpensiveness (when compared to other sparkling wines) ticks all the right boxes for many fans of bubbles. For those however that have grown weary of the trend and seek something slightly more complex (but are unprepared to pay typical Champagne prices!) the answer may lie in Crémant. You can find reasonably-priced Crémant from all over France (Bordeaux, Alsace, Burgundy etc) made in the traditional “Champagne method” which imparts slightly more body, texture and depth of flavour than your standard Prosecco. In this case, our own JN Sparking Crémant is made for us by Bouvet-Ladubay, one of the oldest producers of sparkling wine in the Saumur region of the Loire Valley. This Chenin Blanc-based sparkler is a firm JN customer favourite and leaps out of the glass with hints of ripe green apple, peach, honey and white flowers with a creamy mousse and persistent, refreshing effervescence. The ideal aperitif!
Patrice & Juliette Monmousseau, Bouvet Ladubay
These wines are available as a case. Click here for more information.