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For those of us who make New Year’s resolutions, perhaps one of them should be to celebrate wine’s diversity and try some new styles. Simon Woods offers his recommendations for 2011 in three parts
Continued from Part 1...
The list of contenders for the title of Spain’s finest white wine region isn’t exactly a long one. Albariño from Rias Baixas probably tops the list, and still in Galicia, the Godello grape can perform brilliantly in Valdeorras, as the superb wines of Rafael Palacios demonstrate. But Rueda can stake a convincing claim, especially with wines made from the versatile Verdejo.
Verdejo is a grape that can turn its hand to everything from clean, crisp, Sauvignon-esque styles to barrel-aged charmers that have much in common with top white Bordeaux. In the former style is Bodegas Naia’s K-Naia 2009 (£7.56-9.00; All About Wine, Noble Green Wines, The Sampler), a wonderfully zingy, zippy wine, brimming with confident rhubarb and guava flavours reined in by citrus acidity. In the latter style is the Belondrade y Lurton 2008 (£26.50, Antique Wine Co, Amphora Wines, Decorum Vintners, Fortnum & Mason, Fino Group, Planet of the Grapes), which has something of the same pungent fruit, but also a smoky mineral edge and super finish. Great now, but with five-plus years of life ahead of it. Drink the K-Naia with shellfish and the Belondrade y Lurton with chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce.
New Zealand fizz
Don’t waste your money on cheap Champagne – for every decent one, there are several duds. Instead, why not try sparklers from New Zealand, and in particular from the Marlborough region? Not for nothing have several French companies invested here and planted vineyards of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And their expertise comes through in the wines, which tend to have more forward fruit flavours than Champagne, while also having something of the same yeasty complexity.
Lindauer is the most widely available with the rich, toasty Special Reserve NV (£10.59, Waitrose, Majestic) being the pick of the range. Cloudy Bay produces a couple of crackers called Pelorus. The non-vintage (£19.99, Majestic) is a crisp, appley aperitif-style wine, while the vintage (currently 2006) spends an extra year on lees and has more chocolate richness and creamy depth (£17.25, Master of Malt, Slurp.co.uk). The rich, yeasty Morton Estate Blanc de Blancs 2000 (£15.50-16.99, Corks Out, Master of Malt) has spent a mammoth seven years on lees, adding crème brûlée and chocolate notes to the peachy citrus flavours. Finally Hunters Miru Miru NV (£13.95, Jeroboams) combines savoury, honeyed notes with green apple and lemon flavours to impressive effect.
Once upon a time, Chianti Classico seemed to want to be an Italian version of Bordeaux. Sturdy, structured and propped up with new French oak, it sought to impress rather than seduce. However, thanks to improved strains of the main grape Sangiovese and a little more tlc in the cellars, several of the wines emerging have something of a litheness, fragrance and sense of place more commonly associated with wines such as Barolo and red Burgundy. Yes, the wines have crept up in price, but they’re still decent value.
Importer Liberty Wines brings in three of the best in the shape of Fontodi (polished, £17.95), Felsina (warm-hearted, £18.99) and Isole e Olena (one that creeps up on you, £19.95). All drink well on release (especially with a good rib-eye), but can be cellared for five or more years.