Stuck in a rut with your wine? Here are some great alternative choices
We all like our tried and trusted favourites, but there's a world full of wine varieties out there to try
Barc o del Corneta Cucú Verdejo, Castilla y León, Spain 2021 (£18, thesourcingtable.com) According to Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz's definitive reference work on the subject, some 1,368 vine varieties are used to make wine in the world. And yet, most of us, it would seem, limit our drinking to a bare handful, rarely straying from our tried and trusted favourites, most of which, with the exception of Italian pinot grigio (or, if we’re drinking something with bubbles, prosecco's glera), are French in origin. Nothing wrong with that, and, given that the grape variety itself is but one of several influential variables that shape a wine's character, you could limit your drinking to one or two of the more protean varieties (chardonnay and syrah/shiraz, say) and never get bored. In the back to school spirit of attempting a fresh start, however, any of you who might be looking for something to ease you away from sauvignon blanc could do worse than trying Barca del Corneta's similarly vibrant, exceptionally bright-fruited and enlivening verdejo.
Les Andides Saumur Blanc, France 2020, (£9.99, Waitrose) Other sauvignon alternatives, which also have the advantage of being among the best value white wines around, are the pungently green but cool-mountain-stream crisp and racy whites from Gascon, southwest France. Made from armagnac's colombard, Pujalet Côtes de Gascogne 2021 (£6.29, Waitrose) is all lemony zip and gooseberryish tang, while Tesco finest St-Mont 2019 (£7, Tesco) is mostly made of the great gros manseng bringing a more tropical lilt (or Lilt) to the bracing mix. If you’re stuck on chardonnay, on the other hand, my tip for varying your vinous diet would be to make your way through the fantastically varied world of chenin blanc. At its best in the Loire and South Africa, chenin can be bristlingly zippy with fresh gren apple fruit in unoaked examples such as Les Andides from Saumur or the more tropical Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 (from £6.45, Waitrose, Asda, Morrisons). But like chardonnay, it also works very well with oak, in toasty, honeyed, but satisfyingly clean-cut wines such as Stellenrust Stellenbosch Manor Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2020 (£14, Tesco).
El Enemigo Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina 2018, (£16, The Wine Society) I can understand why so many people have Argentine malbec as their failsafe red variety: it generally has a generous soft fleshiness that is immensely comforting, and that works just as well slumped on a sofa with a bar of chocolate as it does sitting at the table with Saturday night steak and chips. If you are getting even a wee bit bored with the same old plummy favourite you could do worse that try an alternative red variety from Argentina: a bonarda such as El Enemigo, with its sumptuous berry fruit softened and freshened by bright acidity, is one route; lovers of the more fragrant, floral end of the malbec spectrum might prefer a Mendoza cabernet franc such as the very refined, pure, leafy, crunchy Zorzal Eggo Franco Cabernet Franc 2018 (£18.95, hic-winemerchants.com). Or you could head back to the variety's source, and try a malbec from Cahors in southwest France such as the irresistibly black cherry juiciness of Château du Cèdre Camille Malbec, Vin de France 2020 (from £9.80, josephbarneswines.com; nattyboywines.co.uk; bottleapostle.com).
Follow David Williams on Twitter @DaveydaibachBarc o del Corneta Cucú Verdejo, Castilla y León, Spain 2021 (£18, thesourcingtable.com) Les Andides Saumur Blanc, France 2020, (£9.99, Waitrose) El Enemigo Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina 2018, (£16, The Wine Society)