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Wine expert explains why variety is the spice of life

Fri 01 Oct 2010 11:15

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Drinking wine should be about discovery and adventure, so this week Tom Cannavan decided to take a look at some of the more unusual grape varieties which produce tasty tipples.

Although the old favourites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc still dominate the wine shelves, there really is a whole world of choice out there to try, so next time you go wine shopping, why not try something a bit different?

Countries such as Hungary and Greece have their own indigenous grape varieties rarely seen elsewhere, often making very fresh, unoaked styles that would appeal to those who like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling wine.

And of course there are always new grapes breaking through and becoming popular. Just a few years ago, very few people would have heard of Viognier or Grüner Veltliner for white wines, or Carmenère or Zinfandel for reds. Keep an eye out for the emergence of the Sauvignon Gris wine – it’s set to make quite a mark on the wine world.

If you fancy trying something a little bit different, here are wine expert Tom Cannavan’s top selections.

1. Hilltop Estates, Cserszegi Fuszeres 2009, Hungary, £3.99 from Morrisons
Once marketed as "the unpronounceable grape", the Cserszegi Fuszeres (Cherr-sheg-ee Foo-sher-esh) is in fact a cross between a Hungarian grape called Irsai Oliver and Gewürztraminer, two very aromatic grapes that give this wine and intense, exotic perfume.

This is a dry white wine however, so it’s food-friendly as well as being deliciously easy to drink. Delicious tastes of passionfruit, pears and jasmine make this wine a perfect pick for Chinese food, sushi or sashimi.

2. Secano, Sauvignon Gris 2009, Chile, £7.49 from Marks & Spencer
This wine is not, as you might guess, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, but a grape in its own right and one that is currently enjoying a bit of a boom.

Sauvignon Gris is a pink skinned mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, and tends to be a bit fuller and fruitier but with some of Sauvignon Blanc's punchy character. This example comes from the prime Leyda Valley on Chile's coast.

Fresh flavours of green apples and pea pods make this wine a nice match for dishes such as seared scallops, pan-fried halibut and risottos.

3. Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2009 Santorini, Greece, £9.49 from Waitrose
This is a wine made from the Assyrtiko grape from vineyards on the Greek island of Santorini, where the volcanic soils give the wine an interesting minerality.

Vines are grown low and protected from high winds by basketwork screens, and their main source of water in the baking heat of the Greek summer is night-time fog.  Assyrtiko is one of Greece's main white wine grapes.

Tasting cues of lemons, nuts, and white flowers make this wine a nice match for fish and seafood.

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