ALISTAIR GIBSON: Head to the New World for good wine amidst the gloom

Torres Celeste Crianza 2014, Ribera del Duero
Torres Celeste Crianza 2014, Ribera del Duero

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I hate to be the harbinger of doom but if you are a wine drinker, and I have to assume you are if you’ve read this far, then it hasn’t been a great year.

And, believe me, it’s not going to get any better.

Alsace is a good place to start. It’s not as fashionable as it should be...

We had to deal with the fall of sterling against major currencies and poor harvests in Europe last year.

And it looks like its going to be déjà vu this year.

The pound hasn’t really seen a recovery and the reports from Europe before many harvests have even begun is not encouraging.

When you look at this year’s weather patterns it is enough to remind you of the constant issues that wine makers and vineyard owners have to deal with.

It’s certainly enough to make you realise its not quite the idyllic lifestyle it may look like.

Depending where your grapes are planted, from rioja to Winchester (and there’s a sentence I wouldn’t have written even five years ago) vineyards have been subjected this year to frost, hail, rain and drought – not the perfect weather mix.

It is widely believed that 2017 will be remembered as one of the shortest harvests for decades, and even if you’ve not felt it, bulk wine prices are already rising and there is sure to be more to follow as many of the key wine regions such as Bordeaux, whose yields are believed to be about 50 per cent down, follow suit.

So now may be the time to stock up a little, and also possibly look at either slightly less well-known European wine regions or head to the New World.

Alsace is a good place to

start. It’s not as fashionable as it should be but it’s the home of some really great food wines.

Although the same grape as pinot grigio, Pinot Gris Reserve 2015, Cave de Beblenheim, Alsace (Waitrose £7.99 on offer from £9.99 until October 3) bears no resemblance whatsoever to its Italian entry-level relations.

This is very aromatic with notes of ripe pears, honey and a lovely smokiness.

The palate has some texture, with a generous fruit mouth-filling finish and just a hint of sweetness.

This would work well with Asian-inspired dishes or as they would in the region itself, pair it with roast pork or smoked fish.

If you are looking for a white wine all-rounder then in my opinion Cape chenin blanc is the place to go right, many examples can work as either aperitif or food partners.

Definition Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch (Majestic £12.99 or £9.99 as part of a mixed six) is made by DeMorgenzon Estate, one of the pre-eminent chenin blanc producers in the Cape, and the quality shines through.

This has all the hallmarks of top quality South African chenin blanc – pear skin, touch of spice, a little vanilla and a textured palate with fresh acidity.

Torres Celeste Crianza 2014, Ribera del Duero (Waitrose £9.59 on offer from £11.99 until October 3) is made from tempranillo, so think modern rioja.

There are some lovely, bright dark fruits here along with roasted coffee and a little vanilla, and silky, ripe tannins.

Open an hour before serving and serve with roast leg of lamb.

n Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk