Wine: A question of taste
Saturday 01 November 2008
Isn't it strange how certain styles of wine keep returning? Just as flared trousers and mutton have regained popularity, so too a number of the wine styles we consigned to history have started to make a comeback. Among the worst offenders were German riesling, sherry and beaujolais, which had all sold their good names down the river.
Prejudice against German riesling runs deep, due to the legacy of sweet, anodyne Liebfraumilch, which contained a tiny percentage of riesling, and therefore damned it by association. But the new, light-bodied, off-dry kabinett styles are a breath of fresh air. As evidence, the 2007 Leitz Rüdesheimer Rosengarten, Rheingau, £8.99, Waitrose, is an authentic off-dry riesling whose deceptively delicate 8.5 per cent alcohol is enhanced by a mouthwateringly explosive sherbet lemon and grapefruity tang. Ernst Loosen's aromatic 2007 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett, £11.99, M&S, is another mouthwateringly lime-zesty drink.
When the gamay grape of beaujolais is allowed to express its exuberant, berry-fruity personality, uninhibited by oak, real beaujolais – as opposed to the tarted up, rushed-out nouveau variety – is a pure delight. Take Christophe Cordier's 2007 Morgon 'Côte de Py', £10.99, or buy 2 = £9.99 each, Majestic, for instance, with its substantial cherry fruit and juicy acidity in traditional mould, or Laurent Guillet with his bright, red berry fruit 2007 Morgon, Domaine de la Chaponne, £9.60, Tanners, Shrewsbury (01743 234500). Over in Fleurie, the 2007 Domaine Verpoix Fleurie, Clos de La Chapelle des Bois, £11.49, Oddbins, is almost pinot noir-like in its juiciness. And not forgetting Chénas, where the 2007 Chateau de Chénas, £10.99, Waitrose, is a sumptuously juicy gamay.
Is sherry the toughest of nuts to crack? I wasn't surprised to find young sommeliers at a recent training session turning their noses up at the dry finos and manzanillas in favour of a sweeter oloroso. But more than half of all sherry drunk in Spain is fresh, dry manzanilla and there are some fine examples, made all the more appetising partnered with salted almonds, olives and wafer-thin slices of Iberico ham or chorizo. The new Tesco's Finest Manzanilla Pasada, £6.99, 50cl, is a complex, nutty, aged style with a fresh savoury tang, while for the richer style with undertones of cinnamon and a hint of sweetness, the Fernando de Castilla VOS Antique Oloroso Sherry, £20, 50cl, Waitrose, John Lewis Food Hall, is a remarkably accomplished example of its type.
The region's producers are pinning their hopes on VOS (Very Old Sherry), VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) and Añada (vintage), authentic aged sherries as distinct from the vast majority of sickly sweet commercial examples. The threshold isn't always obvious. One person's dry is another's off-dry and that person's off-dry is another's sweet, but the ultimate test is balance. Before returning to the subject for Christmas, there's one category of rare sherry that should be deeply unfashionable because it's both fortified and incredibly sweet. Yet the extraordinary sweet dark sherries made from Pedro Ximénez, or PX, could just defy the doubters. If the idea of liquid black toffee treacle and molasses appeals to you, try Gonzalez Byass' Noé, around £14, half-bottle, Sainsbury's, Harrods, Fortnums, an unctuously concentrated confection oozing prune and raisin flavours.
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