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Wednesday 12 October 2011

Weekly Wine: Grapes That Might Grow On You

A couple of weeks ago I gave you some tips on finding sneaky wine bargains, and one of the best ways to get something more delicious for your dollar is to explore the unknown. The chances are, if you're not all that familiar with a particular grape, then neither are most people - and the less fashionable or well-established names can't charge through-the-roof prices.

Our wine tastes and experiences are all different so I can't promise every one of these will rock your world, but I hope you'll find at least one hidden treasure from these lesser-known grapes.



I've lumped these two top Rhone varieties together because they're often paired in a blend. The South of France makes some cracking ones, but New World countries are also cottoning on. They're crisp and fruity, but often with added herby notes to make them ideal food wines.

Majestic sell this Marsanne-Roussanne blend from the Cotes de Thongue in the South of France. It's £7.99 and works well with pates and smoked cheeses, so we'll get on just fine. If you want to see what the New World has to offer, Tesco Finest Roussanne is from South Africa and really pulls on the honeyed, herbal potential.


Garganega makes cheap and cheerful Italian whites, and it rocks my socks when I'm looking for a good slurping wine for gossipy evenings in with the girls. This one from Alpha Zeta is only £5.95 from N. D John Wine Merchants but is really aromatic and fruity - better than most of the budget Chardonnays or Pinot Grigios you can get your paws on for that price.


Kind of like a poor man's Muscadet, Picpoul is often round and full-flavoured. It's pretty much owned by the South of France, and this Domaine de Felines Picpoul de Pinet from Waitrose is nutty and zesty - a perfect food wine, particularly with fish. At £7.99, you're paying a lot less than you probably would for a decent Muscadet.



Oh, beloved Carignan, Chile really has been good to you. I first heard about this grape when I fell in love with Undurraga's Carmenere-Malbec-Carignan blend (which, by the way, at £6.50 is still very much in favour Chez Laura) but then I found the pure-Carignan De Martino El Leon from The Wine Society and realised how gorgeous this spicy, black-fruit-scented wine can be. You can even keep it cellared for two or three years and let it mellow into an even smoother, silkier treat.

You can also find delicious carignan from the South of France - try places like Corbieres and Fitou.


If you know this grape at all, your first thought will probably be 'Beaujolais'. Yes, Gamay is pretty much the one and only grape you'll find in this region of mostly light, fruity wines, but it has been making headway elsewhere too. The Loire does some lovely, sappy gamay reds, and it's even being grown in South Africa and New Zealand.

Te Mata Gamay Noir is one of my fave Kiwi reds ever. It's not often you find a lighter red from New Zealand, but this one is deliciously ripe and fruity. Great if you're looking for a Pinot Noir alternative that's lighter both on the palate and your pocket. It's £10.95 from Lea & Sandeman.


Tannat is the grape that's had all the good press in the last few years about being good for your heart. I'm not medically inclined so I can't confirm or deny that, but it's tasty enough that I'm going to drink it anyway and hope for the best. If you like full-bodied, robust reds but don't want to spend Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec prices, Tannat might be right up your street.

Majestic have sourced this beauty from Argentina which is spicy with great complexity of flavour, and it's only £7.49. Alternatively, the South of France is kind of the home of tannat, and the best example I can find is Madiran, Domaine Pichard 2004 for £9.50.

What wines have you explored lately? Tell us all about it on our Twitter or Facebook pages so the Sluts can get tipsy trying it.

Image taken from Nick Allen's photostream under the creative commons license.


  1. I hadn't heard of any of these awesomely named wines before. I'm off to Waitrose at lunchtime to look for that picpoul.

  2. Gargenega is fun to say. I want that one.


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