Sailing off the mainstream
As I always say at any wine event I present, one of the really great things about wine is the sheer variety: so much to taste from so many different grapes from so many different regions '“ so little time.
So a few wines, maybe slightly off the mainstream, to taste this week. Thinking about spice, grüner veltliner is a grape variety which is now generating more and more column centimetres outside its native Austria.
Its signature characteristic is its spiciness. Think cracked black pepper and it can make a very food-friendly white wine.
Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner 2014, Traisnetal (Waitrose £7.99 on offer from £10.79 until May 10) is a great introduction to this grape.
The nose is really fresh with apple blossom, citrus and that classic black pepper spice. This is followed by fleshy white fruits and citrus acidity on the palate.
This would go really well with lighter Asian-style dishes, or try it with some fresh English asparagus now the season has arrived.
Vermentino is a white grape which you will in all probability have tasted without realising as it makes oceans of dull wine in Italy.
However, it can make refreshing, zesty summer wines when treated with a bit of care.
From the very forward-thinking producer, Jean-Claude Mas in the south of France, comes Cote Mas Vermentino 2014, Pays d’Oc (Waitrose £6.79 on offer from £8.49 until May 10).
It’s crisp and refreshing with citrus, a touch of pear and lively acidity.
It is very drinkable and just needs a touch of summer, a simple salad and not much else.
Moving to Spain, mencia is a red grape you are going to be hearing a lot more about in the future.
Tempranillo, which is grown almost everywhere, dominates Spain, but the little-known mencia comes from the cooler north-west region nearer the Atlantic.
It reminds me a little of cabernet franc from the Loire Valley, with its strawberry and blackberry fruit, as well as cherry, spice and mouthwatering acidity.
Valderroa Mencia 2013, Valdeorras (Waitrose £6.79 on offer from £8.49 until May 10) is delicious.
It’s young, unoaked with pure black cherry fruit, a touch of liquorice and a generous, silky palate with great elegance.
Chill for half-an-hour and serve with cold meats or chorizo-based tapas.
Still in Spain, Ramon Bilbao Single Vineyard 2014, Rioja (Majestic £9.49 but £7.49 as part of a mixed six until Monday) is probably not something you expected to find in this list. But this is a young, modern, fruit-driven style of Rioja, light years away from some of the dried-out fruit and oak wines that can line the shelves.
Made from a blend of 70 per cent tempranillo and 30 per cent garnacha from a single vineyard, this is full of plums and strawberries and a mouthcoating palate which never falls into the jammy category. You could also slightly chill this one too.
It works well with spicy dishes. Indeed, I served it with chicken jalfrezi.