My thoughts have turned to wines from sunnier places such as those from countries around the Mediterranean of which we hear little and taste even less.
Sardinia, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Israel, Lebanon and Morocco all produce wines we should get to know better.
These are not the wines you enjoy on holiday in the sun, bring home and then find disappointing.
Greece has some really good reds and whites from their own individual grape varieties such as Assyrtico and Malagousia for whites, Agiorgitico and Xynomavro for reds.
I love the whites from the volcanic island of Santorini using the Assyrtico grape.
FOOD & DRINK: Wines from the Italian east coast
Atlantis 2017 Santorini, Greece 13pc (M&S £12) Made from Assyrtico with a little Aidani and Athiri. Aromas of lime and pear, some gooseberry with dry, melon palate, lovely fresh flavours.
Thymopolous Atma Assyrtico 2017 Imathia, Central Macedonia (Waitrose £12.99) Citrus with mineral finish. Ionos 2017, Achaia 11.5pc (M&S £8.50) Very different. Made from Roditis 85pc and Moschato grapes this is very floral, grapey and off dry. Great with Asian dishes.
Ocean White 2017 Idaia Winery (StarmoreBoss, Sheffield £15.95) The grape is unusual — Thrapsathiri — but a rising star in Crete. The taste is tropical, grapefruit, lemon, melon, bright and crisp.
For reds try these three from the Thymiopolous family in the Peloponnese hills of Central Macedonia, all from the Xinomavro grape.
Thymiopolous Atma Xinomavro 2017 (Waitrose £11.99) Somewhere between a Pinot noir and an Italian red with a lovely nose of damson and blackberry.
Nouassa Jeune Vignes, Thymiopoulos 2016 13pc (The Wine Society £10.95) Nice silky palate from the Xinomavro grape. Rapsani Terra Petra, Thymiopolous 2016 (£20 The Wine Society) Lovely ripe, sweet fruit.
Nouassa 2016 Diamartakos 13.5pc (Costco £14.85) Again from Greece’s top red grape Xinomavro. this is similar in style to an Italian Barolo. Great drinking.
Ionos Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2017 12pc (M&S £8) From the Peloponnese hills, sweet berry flavours. A lovely summery wine.
Further east are Israel and Lebanon, both with very good reds. Israel has a few whites from the cooler areas near the coast.
Carmel Selected Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Galilee 12.5pc (Waitrose £10.99) Citrus with some tropical fruit notes.
However it is the reds, usually from the international varieties, that shine.
Barkan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Galilee, Israel 13.5pc (Sainsbury have the 2014 at £10, Waitrose the 2015 at £10.20) Full, round, soft and fruity, berries, blackcurrant and some cocoa notes from its time in oak.
Racanati Shiraz 2015 (Waitrose £14.99) From Upper Galilee. The Racanatis were originally from Italy. This is full flavoured blueberry, cranberry, herby and spicy. Great with roasts.
Lebanon produces some superb reds, mainly in the Bekaa Valley, but new areas are being developed such as round Mount Lebanon.
Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest winery, established around 160 years ago and Chateau Musar are the big names to look out for.
Chateau Héritage, Bekaa Valley, 2015 13pc (Le Bon Vin, Sheffield £12.50) Full and round, blackberry and blackcurrant nose, black fruit and nicely tannic palate.
Chateau Ksara Réserve du Couvent 2016 (The Wine Society £9.95) A robust and peppery blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvigon.
Chateau Ksara 2014 (The Wine Society £16) Their top blend of classic Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Verdot.
Hochar 2015 13.5pc (The Wine Society £12.95) Chateau Musar’s second wine, a real mix of Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. Delicious.
Levantine by Chateau Musar 2017, Lebanon 14.5pc (M&S £16.50) Lovely damson fruit from the Cinsaut grape.
Chateau Musar 2011, Bekaa Valley, 14pc (The Wine Society £24), 2003 (Waitrose £24, Majestic £27.99, £24.99 mixed six) Based on Bordeaux grape varieties it is very complex with lots of dark dried fruit, leather and musk. It gets better each year and is at its best after ten years.
I’ve been a bit short on white wines so going back westwards what about a Sardinian white?
The grape is Vermentino.
The Best Vermentino 2017 (Morrisons, £6.50) Citrussy and tangy and excellent value.
Finally, back to the western end of the Med to try a wine from Morocco.
Several years ago one of my favourite wine growers from the Rhone Valley, Alain Graillot, went on a cycle tour in the area between Casablanca and Rabat and came upon the Thalvin Vineyard. Since then their collaboration has produced:
Domaine des Ouled ‘Tandem’ Syrah du Maroc, Alain Graillot et Thalvin 2015 13pc (The Wine Society, Yapp Brothers, Mere £12.99; Wiltshire £15.50 – mail order but a terrific company for Rhone wines) Dark, rich and ripe with a subtly baked, raisiny undertone to the sweet berry and cherry fruits, and some earthy, spicy hints.
So there you are. A quick trip round some of the lesser known Mediterranean wine areas.
It’s a pity there are so few of these wines in our larger supermarkets.
I hope you try a few.
This article was first published in CHASE magazine January 2019. You can read the latest edition of CHASE online now
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