Discovering wines from places you least expected is a fun and interesting part of my work. Winemakers and viticulturists around the world whose aim is to make wines better and distinctive in character, introduce new grape varieties to a region.
Is there a risk that wines made from the same grape in different countries could taste exactly the same? Not really because there are so many variables; climates, soils, winemaking techniques, different blends. A well made wine will express characteristics that are unique to its home.
For wine lovers it means that there has never been a better time to drink wine with such a wide choice available.
While Tempranillo is the most widely recognised Spanish grape variety, for many wine drinkers in the USA and Australia the first Tempranillo they taste will have ‘Made in California’ or ‘Made in Australia’ on the label. Winemakers in both countries are planting more Spanish varieties to add other characteristics to their wines.
At a recent tasting I presented a Monastrell from Paarl, South Africa. Monastrell or Mouvedre, as it is known in France, is a hardy grape that needs heat and long hours of sunshine to ripen, hence it is well suited to the hotter vineyards of Valencia, Alicante and Murcia.
There are vineyards in the region of Paarl, about an hour north of Cape town, that are hot and dry and suitable to grow Monastrell. The wine was distinctive in style from its Spanish cousin, more rounded in style and not quite as raisiny.
Grüner Veltliner is a white wine that is not that well known outside of its native Austria, where it is used to make deliciously crisp, aromatic wines that are more subtle in style than the better known Riesling grape.
I recently tasted a Grüner Veltliner from Marlborough in New Zealand. Those of you familiar with the column with know about the worldwide reputation that this region of New Zealand has for its Sauvignon Blanc.
Winemakers are introducing other ‘cool climate’ varieties to experiment with new wines. The Grüner Veltliner from Marlborough was richer and smoother with more peach and apricot flavours while a typical Austrian Grüner will be crisper and more subtle.
This is a great food wine with its crisp acidity and body it is ideal to accompany seafood and a wide variety of red meats
Viognier is a white grape that produced wines rich with tropical and floral aromas and a creamy texture. It is best known for wines from Condrieu in the northern Rhone. The can be delicious but with a steep price tag. An interesting fact about this wine is that is blended with Syrah to soften the wines and add character.
The McLaren Valley in South Australia is where I found this grape. This region is one of the premium wine producing areas in Australia, where red grape varieties from the Rhone Valley are also grown, and growers and winemakers, such as organic specialist, Chester Osborne of D’Arenberg make excellent wines.
Next time you are out instead of ordering a Verdejo why not ask for a Grúner Veltliner or a Viognier in a restaurant or wine shop, it will really impress the sommelier.