At this time of year, I’d normally be going to back-to-back wine tastings, which is harder than it sounds, even if you think mine is the jammiest job in the world. I mean, would you like to sniff, slurp and spit 120-odd wines over the course of a couple of hours?
But such tastings at least give one a good idea of what’s going on in the wine world at any particular time, which has been impossible to replicate during lockdown, however helpful the retailers have tried to be. So it’s harder than usual to report on what’s hot right now. Wine, much like fashion, has a spring season, and that’s generally when the full-bodied styles of winter, white as well as red, make way for lighter, fresher ones.
Of course, there are the usual suspects this year, as in any other, namely shedloads of sauvignon blanc and lakes of rosé (109m bottles, a 15% increase, over the past 12 months, according to a Wine and Spirit Trade Association internal report). But it’s the byways that are always most fascinating, although I appreciate it’s hard to separate what you’re personally interested in from what constitutes a trend. It’s easy for wine writers to get overexcited about less familiar grape varieties such as pinot blanc, which has cropped up a few times at recent tastings, though it’s still a drop in the ocean compared with pinot grigio. (Speaking of which, Lidl has a strong line in Italian whites in its latest “world tour”, of which more next week.)
Retailers obviously think we’re gagging to travel (and we are), but given that that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon, they’re transporting us there via their wine ranges instead. Marks & Spencer’s new “Found” range delves from Greece to Chile, even unearthing an unusual grape variety, mazuelo (AKA carignan) in Rioja, which makes a much younger, more vibrant red than is typical of the region. Try the lively Pais in today’s picks below, which was brought to Chile by the conquistadors and is now a bit of a cult grape over there. The Wine Society is always good for an obscure grape variety, too – if you’re anything like me, you’ll love the Austrian roter veltliner below.
The fact that many of us are not going to be travelling is also good news for English wine, because some of us will instead find ourselves near a vineyard closer to home, of which there are now more than 500. If I’d said even five years ago that English wine was going to be big, would anyone have believed me? That certainly counts as a summer of 21 trend.
Five wines for spring
Casanova Costa d’Oru Rosé 2020
£7.50 selected Co-ops, 12%. Ignore the cheesy name, this is a really lovely, fresh, crisp, Provençal-style Corsican rosé at a brilliant price (and made from niellucciu and sciaccarellu, for the geeks among you).
Weissburgunder Weingut Jülg 2019
£11.50 The Wine Society 12.5%. Strangely, the grapes for this German pinot blanc are allowed to be shipped in from over the border in Alsace. Dry, smooth and gorgeously creamy – make an onion tart to show it off.
Familie Mantler Roter Veltliner 2019
£8.95 The Wine Society, 11.5%. Delicate, crisp, citrussy white from a rare Austrian grape. Perfect outdoor sipping or with smoked salmon or trout.
M&S Found Pais 2019
£9, 13.5%. Cool, edgy, Chilean red that’s deliciously juicy and perfect for spring and early summer barbecues. Think lamb chops with herbs.
Squerryes Vintage Reserve Brut 2015
£32 Waitrose Cellar, 12%. Rich and toasty Kentish fizz, but not showing its age – just deliciously honeyed.