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7:00am Saturday 29th September 2012 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris discovers the joys of viognier, and why we should drink more of this voluptuous white grape.
The charms of unfamiliar wines
For adventurous wine lovers and armchair travellers, heading off the beaten track and picking up a label from less familiar places is a fresh way to enjoy a grape escape.
Moving away from reliable names and places to regions such as Central and Eastern Europe, the south-east Mediterranean or the Middle East can be an exciting experience, and the chance to break out of a wine rut if your usual tipple has lost its mojo.
Wines that need an introduction are often well priced with characterful and distinctive flavours, and offer the tastebuds a journey of discovery... whether it's a brief encounter, or lasting friendship.
Romania is emerging as a popular choice for drinkable wines that suit parties and entertaining friends, and it enjoys success with two of our favourite pinot grapes: pinot grigio and pinot noir.
For a very pleasant, fruity white, try Paparuda Estate Selection Pinot Grigio, Romania (£5.95, www.tanners-wines.co.uk). The winery takes its name from an ancient Romanian rain ritual, and this zingy Eastern European version can quench the strongest thirst. It's crisp and dry with brisk apple fruit flavours and a hint of pear drops on the finish.
And over in the red corner, it's easy to see why Paparuda's pinot noir is such a success with Tanners' customers. Try Paparuda Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2011 (£5.95, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) for a silky smooth pinot with attractive black cherries, raspberries, a lick of wild strawberries and a soft sweetness on the finish - it's certainly a wine that punches above its weight.
In the same token, Sainsbury's House Pinot Noir, Romania (£4.79, Sainsbury's) is flying off the shelves. It's smooth and simple with dark cherry fruit, raspberry flavours and a dash of sweet spice on the finish.
Bulgaria shows increasing quality with its cabernet sauvignon, and this southern Bulgarian belle is perfect with sausage and tomato casserole, and heavier autumnal dishes. Try Sainsbury's Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon, Bulgaria (£4.49, Sainsbury's), which delivers a smooth, fruity palate with ripe blackcurrant fruit, a hint of tobacco and silky finish.
Quietly gaining fame for its top-drawer sauvignon blanc, Slovenia is worth exploring for its unique take on this New World favourite. Try Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Slovenia (£6.74, Waitrose), which has vibrant gooseberry and apricot flavours, grassy notes and a spritz of elderflower, to create a harmonious food-friendly wine - it's a terrific match with shellfish.
Greece is blessed with many indigenous grapes, and none more famous than its minerally Santorini (made from the assyrtiko white grape), where you can almost taste the volcanic soil.
In contrast, Crete's signature grape, vidiano, is a rich, fragrant and honeyed dry white that tastes quite unusual. For an appealing style, try Diamantakis Winery Vidiano White 2010, Greece (£10.95, www.bbr.com). With an aromatic nose of white flowers and a fruit basket of peaches, pears and bananas, this grown-up smoothie is topped with almonds and the refreshing acidity completes a deliciously complicated palate.
A favourite destination for holidaymakers, Turkey was a rising star at this year's Decanter World Wine Awards 2012, and impressed the judges with both its winning whites and reds. To evoke those sun-drenched Mediterranean moments, try Sevilen Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Turkey (£9.99, Marks & Spencer), which is a safe bet if you're after a crisp, richly fruited wine with plenty of gooseberry and lime, a touch of pineapple and good acidity finishing with some tangerine zest.
Alternatively, try experimenting with a luscious red such as Vinart Kalecik Karasi Syrah 2010, Turkey (£10.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk). A blend of the local grape kalecik karasi (Turkey's answer to Beaujolais) and syrah/shiraz, this silky smooth seductress is packed with spiced black cherry fruits and bramble berries on the nose, plus a mineral note on the long, lingering finish... bring on the moussaka.
Lebanon's vineyards are concentrated in the Bekaa Valley, where international varieties thrive in the high altitude, rocky soils and warm sunshine. A French-Lebanese collaboration from one of the region's most respected producers, try Massaya Classic, Bekaa Valley 2009, Lebanon (£11, www.tanners-wines.co.uk). Rich and opulent, it's an elegant blend of Bordelais and Mediterranean varieties with cassis and blackberry layered with chocolate, warm spice and silky tannins on the long, rounded finish.
:: Best buy
Think pink... To support Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bottlegreen has launched a limited edition bottlepink Pomegranate & Elderflower cordial (£3.15, with 10% of each sale going towards Breakthrough Breast Cancer, major supermarkets nationwide), and this light and refreshing sparkle makes a delicious alcohol-free cocktail!
:: Red cooler
25ml bottlepink Pomegranate & Elderflower cordial, 25ml orange juice, soda water
Fill a highball with ice, pour in the cordial and orange juice, top with soda water and garnish with a slice of lime.
:: Liquid news
Australia triumphs at the world's largest wine competition... Neil McGuigan was crowned the 'world's best white winemaker' for the second time in four years at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) last week. McGuigan Wines also romped home with an unprecedented five gold medals across its premium white wine portfolio, which includes McGuigan Wines 2010 Shortlist Adelaide Hills Chardonnay; 2005 Shortlist Eden Valley Riesling; 2007 Shortlist Eden Valley Riesling; 2010 Shortlist Eden valley Riesling; and 2004 Bin 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon. For more information on the winery, visit www.mcguiganwines.co.uk or visit your local Tesco.