Unusual wines to try in 2019
Treat yourself to a glass (or two) of wines from these surprising countries around the world, from Lebanon to Patagonia.
Abstinence (of any sort) isn’t in my DNA, so when everyone else is making resolutions to stop this or cut down on that at the start of the year, I’m always busy thinking about new things I might try next – hence this column being devoted to wine from unexpected places.
The throaty reds and crisp island whites of Greece are sorely undervalued. For reds, look out for xinomavro, which makes wine that smells of wild strawberries and is slightly reminiscent of barolo. For whites, I love malagousia (think ripe pears and subtle mango); bracing, grapefruity assyrtiko from Santorini; and the refreshing, herb-scented whites from Lyrarakis Winery in Crete. Try Lyrarakis Vóila assyrtiko 2017 Crete (£11.99, Majestic Wine).
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Bulgaria was one of the world’s biggest wine producers, churning out lakes of red plonk. The huge shakeup that came with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 took a long time to settle, but the country is now emerging as a producer of higher quality wines, many of them made from local grapes. You still have to pick carefully but Domaine Boyar Deer Point chardonnay 2017 Bulgaria (£5, Booths) is excellent.
Grapes have been grown in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley for thousands of years, but the modern political situation means that viticulture is no straightforward task: the Bekaa today is a Hezbollah stronghold, as well as being home to Syrian refugee settlements, cannabis plantations – and some extremely fine vineyards. Château Musar, run by the Hochar family, is the most famous Lebanese wine export, but I also love the wines made by the energetic young Faouzi Issa. His Domaine des Tourelles red 2015 (£10, Sainsbury’s) is an earthy, rich blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cinsault and carignan that smells of dried herbs, cedar and mulberries.
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In Argentine Patagonia, you’ll find the most exciting wines among the blue lakes and arid plains of Río Negro – think poised pinot noir and luscious merlot. Try Humberto Canale Estate pinot noir 2016 Patagonia, Argentina (£11.50, Booths). Slovenia Bordering Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, Slovenia produces some pristine white wines and is often unfairly overlooked. One company making zesty, refreshing whites is Puklavec Family Wines. I like Puklavec & Friends furmint 2016 (£9.99, Waitrose & Partners), which has a faint orangey tang.
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Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is the The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).
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