Our buying team is in agreement that the New Year is an excellent time to experiment and try new wines. They have chosen eight wines for ‘Try January’ that are sure to add interest to any table and beat the January blues. Some are indigenous varieties, such as Nerello Mascalese, or lesser-known varieties, such as Durello, while others are made using interesting winemaking techniques, including the addition of white grapes to a red blend or the use of a traditional old screw press.
This NEW sparkling wine is made from the indigenous grape variety, Durello. It is grown in the mountainous area of Lessinia in the northern part of the provinces of Vicenza and Verona. The vineyards are mainly located on south-facing slopes on volcanic soils. ‘Duro’ means hard in Italian: Durello refers to the thick skins of this grape variety. The Durello Spumante is made using the Charmat method and has good structure balanced by excellent acidity. The thick skins and volcanic soils afford this wine its unique character, which sets it apart from many other sparkling wines produced in the north east of Italy.
Another NEW wine to try this New Year, ‘Tinto’. This wine is a modern interpretation of the classic Mendoza blend of Malbec, Bonarda and a touch of Semillon, with a nod to winemaker Antonio Antonini’s Tuscan roots, where Chianti was traditionally made using small amounts of white grapes in the blend. In Argentina, all three varieties were widely planted and co-fermented before varietally labelled wines came into fashion. While Malbec and Bonarda continue to be the two most planted varieties in Mendoza, Semillon has since fallen out of favour, with only 728 hectares left in 2017. In spite of this, Antonini believes Semillon is the white varietal most suited to the region, as it retains good natural acidity in the dry, sunny climate.
Although the winery is steeped in history, built over a Roman cistern and aqueduct, winemaker Marco Cerqua employs modern techniques to produce wines that are clean and vibrant and highlight the characteristics of the indigenous varieties. Try January is the perfect time to re-discover Frascati. This fresh white wine is made from the local Malvasia di Candia grape and is a serious wine with real finesse and elegance.
Venturing further south, to one of the first wineries to begin making high quality table wine in Sicily, ‘Sul Vulcano’ from Donnafugata is a new endeavour in Etna. The high altitudes (730-750 metres above sea level) and volcanic soils contribute to this extremely elegant expression of the indigenous variety, Nerello Mascalese.
Following the festive period of indulgence many are turning to wines with lower alcohol, so Contero’s Brachetto d’Acqui is the perfect fix with its 5.5% ABV. This deliciously light and slightly sweet red wine has a light sparkle which makes it perfect as an aperitif. It also works wonderfully with salty salami or winter fruit cake.
An elegant Chablis is the perfect wine with which to kick off the New Year. The Chardonnay grown in the 2.68 hectare ‘Les Champréaux` vineyard was fermented with indigenous yeasts in used oak (30% of the blend) and stainless steel, while further ageing on the lees contributed to the supple texture of the wine. The palate is balanced by the refreshing acidity, with winemaker Guillaume Vrignaud explaining “I like my Chablis to be lean rather than fat and full”. This wine is drinking beautifully now and will gain even more complexity from further bottle ageing.
A NEW producer to try in the New Year is Frédéric Berne from Beaujolais. Having grown up on a farm, Frédéric was encouraged by his parents to do something different. It was the ability of wine to express its surroundings that attracted Frédéric to winemaking. He is currently converting all his vineyards to organic viticulture. Try the Beaujolais Lantignié `Granit Rose’, made with 100% whole-bunch fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, resulting in an exuberant red fruit character and fine tannins in the wine. And don’t miss the Morgon `Corcelette`. The grapes were fermented on the skins for 14 days before being pressed in an old screw press and then aged for 12 months in used oak. This is a fine example of the new style of Beaujolais being produced, rich and powerful notes of cherry and liquorice.