Don't get left behind on the Pinot Grigio band wagon. The days of lacklustre Pinot Grigio and bog standard Rioja have gone the way of the dodo. It's time to update your wine choices with wines that are still under the radar, but are turning heads and raising eyebrows (and a few glasses!):
Vermentino has taken a back seat to its spotlight loving compatriot, Pinot Grigio, but not any longer. Thirst quenchingly refreshing with notes of pears and mandarin with a delicate, enticing minerality and moderate alcohol levels, Vermentino is the perfect anytime sipper. Mainly found in Sardinia and Corsica, it is also thriving in the Languedoc region of southern France and in the warm climates of Australia. Pair it with chicken caesar salad and baked haddock.
Malvazija Istarska - the name is a bit of a mouthful (it's pronounced Mal-va-ZEEA Is-tars-ka) and so is the wine! From the Istrian coast of Croatia, this grape variety produces wines that elicit thoughts warm beach holidays. They're refreshingly citrusy with notes of lemon and grapefruit along with crisp green apples and a touch of fresh herbs. They're a wonderful pick-me-up at the end of a long day or paired with grilled prawns, crab cakes and pan-fried cod.
Anjou Blanc - you're probably familiar with the Loire Valley in France for their Sancerre and Muscadet, but the wines of Anjou in the centre of valley are relatively unknown and certainly underrated. Made with at least 80% Chenin Blanc with some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, these wines burst with juicy fresh peaches and quince. A touch of oak (don't be scared) adds a softness to the body and rounds out this wallflower of a wine.
For you red wine fans, there are plenty of exciting grape varieties to unearth, here are three to look for.
Mencía - a Latin lover of a grape variety - alluring, sensual and charming. From Valdeorras or the hip region of Bierzo in Spain, Mencía can be light and raspberried like a soft Pinot Noir or powerful and spicy with sweet tannins and a touch of earthiness. Try chilling it for a few minutes to bring out those seductive aromas. Serve with balsamic chicken and mushroom risotto.
Cabernet Franc - Napa has Cabernet Sauvignon, Oregon - Pinot Noir, but Cabernet Franc has found a home in Virginia. Even though Thomas Jefferson never succeeded with his plantings, this region is quickly becoming a serious contender on the US wine stage. Cabernet Franc is often blended, as in Bordeaux, but in Virginia, it shines all by itself. The wines are elegantly European with moderate alcohol and are brimming with plums and figs, savoury with a pleasant slightly bitter finish. Serve them with roast beef and grilled steaks.
Languedoc reds - The labels will say Fitou, Corbières, Minervois, Faugères and St Chinian and they are poised to steal the spotlight from France's more famous wine regions. The wines are blends of Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. They are generally dark, brambly, spicy, herby reds, perfect to warm a cold winter's evening. The overall quality of the wines has improved immensely and the value can't be beaten. Match them with thyme roasted pork chops and beef casserole.