When buying wine, particularly white wine, I find myself increasingly looking away from France. It’s not that I don’t like French wines – I do – but there are just so many interesting and different grape varieties to explore. And the more widely I look, the more exciting and attractive flavours I find.
Take Italy for a start. I’ve been a big fan of their whites for many years. If you’ve not tried Greco, Fiano, Verdicchio or Vermentino, then do; you’ve got some delightful surprises awaiting you. Then there’s the lovely whites from Albariño and Loureiro grown in Galicia in north-west Spain. And don’t forget Austria’s Grűner Veltliner – I blogged about that a few weeks ago.
You may be familiar with all of those, but the 2 bottles pictured above feature varieties that fewer will recognise. Firstly, Malagouzia. That’s native to Greece and Giannikos Winery’s example from the Peloponnese region is a fragrant delight. Tangy and fresh with lovely peach and apricot flavours, this would be perfect on its own or with fish, delicately cooked chicken dishes or light summer salads. Local independent wine merchant Grape and Grind have it for £15.99 and it’s worth every penny.
With Fitapreta’s Ancestral from Portugal’s Alentejo region (Corks, £16.50) you get – not one obscure grape variety, but a blend of 6 including 2 – Tamarez and Alicante Branco – that the winemaker says have been rescued from near extinction. I’ve not heard of either, so I won’t argue. On pouring, the wine is almost gold in colour, so much so, that I wondered at first if it was oxidised. But no, it was in perfect condition, rich, tangy, honeyed and savoury with real body to it; a friend who shared it with us thought that, tasting it blind, he would have said it was a red wine. I know what he means; it’s likely that there was some skin-contact involved in the winemaking. Not your standard easy-quaffing white, but a really enjoyable and deeply flavoured glass suited to more robustly flavoured poultry or, perhaps, young game birds.
2 very different bottles but each showing the benefits of looking beyond the familiar.