8:00 AM 12th February 2022
Wines: Travelling The World In Search Of Fine WinesOur new wine correspondent Nathan Lane picks a number of fine wines to start his column.
I always tell people that I have volume-based knowledge when it comes to wine. There are lots of people who can describe in great depth the quality of the soil and which direction the vineyard faces, but I’m not one of them. I hope to drink some interesting wines that I find along the way and share them with you.
Castillo de Mendoza, Noralba Crianza, 2017
On a weekend in the North Yorkshire Coast during one of the biggest storms of the year, this big Spanish red was a welcome choice. It had all the fruit and liquorice you want in a Crianza without the heavy oak you get with some older Rioja.
It is a big, bold, easy-drinking red with mouthfuls of blackberry and spice with a hit of liquorice. The Noralba is made with Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes. Tempranillo is the predominant grape in the Rioja region and gives the wine the juicy strawberry, spice and leather notes that are loved around the world. The Garnacha adds more fruit and peppery spice to this fantastic, easy-drinking wine.
It drank well without decanting but would no doubt have been even smoother with an hour or two to breathe.
Rioja is Spain’s best-known wine region. It offers four types of red wine; Joven is the youngest, Crianza must be aged for at least two years, with at least six months in oak barrels. The older wines are Reserva, which means the wine has been aged for at least three years, including at least one year in oak barrels, and Gran Reserva is applied to wines aged in oak barrels for at least two years before being bottled for at least three years.
As an organic wine, it is made from certified organic grapes farmed without artificial fertilisers or pesticides.
At 13.5%, it packed a punch and paired well with red meat.
Available online at around £17.
Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2015
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has won a lot of fans in recent years. The poster child is undoubtedly Cloudy Bay, and I will probably upset a few people when I say that this is better.
A crisp and dry white that offers a lot of fruit and a long finish. It’s a wine that you want to take big gulps of and roll around your mouth. The zesty grapefruit and apple notes are the first thing you taste, followed by a mineral aftertaste that fans of sauvignon blanc will enjoy.
It’s a wine to be enjoyed at any time but paired well with seafood and fish. Fermented in steel tanks with a portion in older oak gives a wonderful mixture of texture and complexity without losing the zesty acid that makes this wine so appealing.
Marlborough is the best known wine-producing region in New Zealand. It has the ideal climatic conditions to produce excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines and has gained a reputation that competes with the best examples from France or Italy.
The vineyard has made wine since the 1990s and shares the valley with a satellite communications station, hence the name Spy Valley.
Without the rockstar credentials of other Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Spy Valley can be found online from £13.
Estate Papaioannou Nemea, 2016
Fives years ago I was a stranger to Greek wines. I had plenty of choices on wine lists from France, Spain, Italy and the New World to keep me occupied.
But a few holidays in Greece have changed that view.
I’m still a novice but I’ve found a whole new world of grapes and wines that I had shut off for years. Big juicy reds and crisp, zesty whites await anyone willing to give Greek wines a try.
Modern Greek wines use both international and indigenous grape varieties, but the emphasis has been on their own grapes, which are of excellent quality. Look for white Assyrtiko and reds made from Agiorgitiko from the Peloponnese or Xinomavro from Macedonia. Greece produces much less wine than the likes of France or Spain and producers run small, high-quality-focused operations.
I enjoyed the Estate Papaioannou Nemea over dinner in a little hotel in North Yorkshire. The wine waiter explained it was organic, which means it’s produced to strict standards, free from chemical pesticides.
Made from the Agiorgitiko grapes, the wine was medium-bodied but offered lots of fruit and an appealing level of spice. It had notes of cinnamon with an earthy, mineral after taste. It was quite dry with good tannins and low acidity.
Without waxing too lyrical, this is a smooth, easy-drinking red that offers lots of fruit and enough complexity to keep it interesting. It took me straight back to a little taverna on a square in Kos with the sun going down and some lamb souvlaki.
Available online from around £15 this wine is a bargain and competes with French red at twice the price.
Lamoresca Nerocapitano Frappato
Independent wine merchants are always a great place to spend half an hour chatting about new and interesting wine. On a visit to Wayward Wines in Chapel Allerton, I came across Nerocapitano Frappato. A fantastic Sicilian wine it offered a light and easy-drinking red with bags of fruit and herbs.
The wine comes from twenty-year-old vines and the grapes are fermented on the skins for seven days before being pressed. It’s a light red that offered a depth of fruit with a strong taste of cherry and strawberry.
The wine is organic and the grapes are only picked when fully ripe to give greater complexity and balance. There was certainly no need to decant the wine and it paired well with lamb.
Southern Italy offers some fantastic wines from Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily, which often represent better value than their Tuscan counterparts. The warm climate and plenty of sun create full-bodied fruity wines that use a wide variety of grapes.
The Nerocapitano is a great example of Sicilian wine. The island has three key red grapes; Nero d'Avola, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese. Fans of Frappato like the soft tannins and strong floral notes that make it easy to drink.
It is available from various online retailers from around £25.
Gran Cerdo Tinto 2020
It is always great to find a bargain and this Rioja is a firm favourite in my house. A biodynamic wine, the Tempranillo grapes are fermented with native yeasts, unfiltered, with minimal additional sulphites. The result is a red wine that packs a punch with lots of bramble fruits and low tannins.
Take a big swig and you’ll find blackberry and plum with some minerality, but it’s a smooth and drinkable wine. It’s a cherry colour in the glass with surprising complexity and a long finish.
The wine is made by the fabulously named Gonzalo Gonzalo, who is building a reputation for his biodynamic wines. The bottle features a fat pig (Gran Cerdo in Spanish), which is an insult aimed at the bankers who turned down a loan needed to complete the first harvest.
What’s the difference between organic and biodynamic winemaking you may ask? While organic wines avoid the use of chemical pesticides and fertiliser, biodynamic winemakers take it to the next level.
Biodynamic wines follow a balanced, harmonic agricultural ecology. They are made using biodiversity and crop rotation to optimise soil health. Grapes are grown using a calendar of activities on specified root, flower, fruit, and leaf days that are tied to the phases of the moon. Natural elements like flowers and nettles are used instead of crop sprays.
Grab a bottle and see if you can taste the difference between conventional and biodynamic wine.
This smashing wine is available online for around £11.
Zahel, Orange T
Austria may not be top of your list when it comes to fruity white wine but this cracker may change your mind.
Made from the Orangetraube grape using biodynamic methods it delivers a lot of gooseberry and apple fruit with a lovely long mineral finish. It’s a great alternative to a Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre.
The wine is fermented in stainless steel and gives a vibrant crisp finish with just a hint of sweetness. It paired brilliantly with seafood but you could easily open a bottle to enjoy on its own.
The family-owned winery is based in Vienna and is focused on organic and biodynamic production. It uses traditional Austrian grape varieties selected from vineyards around Vienna.
Orangetraube translates as orange grape, hence the name of the wine Orange T. It shouldn’t be confused with orange wines, which are white wines made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice to produce a deeper orange-hued product.
If you are on the lookout for something a bit different I would highly recommend this wine. Vienna isn’t the obvious choice for a great white and it takes an even bigger leap to try a grape you’ve never heard of before.
The Zahel family have made wines for four generations and it shows in this wine, which comes with a great mix of crisp fruit and minerality.
The wine is available from selected online retailers for around £20.