The best of unusual wines this week

The grapevine species vitis vinifera (of which all wine grapes of quality are a member), can in theory be grown anywhere on earth between 30 degrees and 50 degrees Latitude.

The best of unusual wines this week

There are few countries on the planet in those bands that do not at least experiment with the vine, but grape growing is not easy and there is a reason that I feature so many Spanish, Italian and French wines — practice makes perfect.

Normally if you need something rare you go to a specialist but you might be surprised to learn that there is a supermarket that stocks wines from some of the wilder fringes of the wine world.

Wine writers (well this one anyway) can be rather critical of the average supermarket’s treatment of wine.

Too often the wine section is there simply to drive footfall — if a brand doesn’t sell it can quickly be replaced by another one that does.

However there is one supermarket that truly embraces the obscure and that is Marks & Spencer.

Of course M&S stocks Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Shiraz and good value regional Spanish Garnacha and Tempranillo (not to mention Bobal), but I know of no other supermarket in Ireland that stocks a sparkling Brazilian Sauvignon Blanc, a Uruguayan Tannat (see below), a Georgian Saperavi and Agiorgitiko and Assyrtiko from Greece.

Throw in a white from the Republic of Macedonia, a rich Israeli red, a crisp Indian Sauvignon Blanc and a Lebanese wine or two and you will begin to see just how eclectic are the tastes of the M&S wine buyers.

Of course not all these wines were to my taste but all were at least correctly made and more interesting than many similar wines from more typical regions.

My selections this week cover some of the best of the unusual wines in M&S, but also some wines from the independent sector for balance.

My quest for decent (affordable) Pinot Noir continues and this week I have a couple of German Spatburgunder and also a sweet Italian that I doubt many people have tasted or even heard about.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Palataia Pinot Noir 2013, Pfalz, Germany — €14.79

Stockist: Marks & Spencer

Grapes for this fruit-driven wine are cold macerated for a number of days to maximise flavour and there is some careful use of oak to round out the finished wine. Ripe fruits on the nose and palate, a strawberry-rich middle with good balancing acidity and a lingering earth-tinged finish — a supremely well made wine for the price.

Pisano Cisplatino Tannat 2014, Uruguay — €13.25

Stockist: Marks & Spencer

Tannat is the main red grape in Gascony and the French Basque country — its thick skins are packed with polyphenols which are good for your heart. Pungent ripe fruit aromas, concentrated flavours with solid but flexible tannins. Given the tannins, it will show best with food — perhaps a slow roasted lamb shoulder or a chargrilled steak.

Recanati Carignan Petite Sirah 2013, Judean Hills, Israel — €14.99

Stockist: Marks & Spencer

This is one of the very few Israeli wines available in Ireland and easily the best I have tasted. A blend of 60% Carignan and 40% Petite Sirah (no relation to Syrah) — ripe and richly textured with lots of concentrated and complex juicy fruit lingering on the palate. A big wine that needs strong flavoured food.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Killian Hunn Spatburgunder 2009, Baden, Germany — €15.15 (was €18.95)

Stockist: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

From Baden, arguably the best German red wine region just across the Rhine from Alsace and perfect for Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir). Bright raspberry and cherry fruit aromas with an underlying earthiness. Light and fresh on the palate with lingering crunchy cherry flavours, great value.

Weingut Geil Spätburgunder 2013, Rheinessen, Germany — €17.99

Stockists: Mitchells, Baggot St. Wines. Sweeneys, Blackrock Cellar, Listons, On The Grapevine Dalkey, Redmonds.

A lighter style of Pinot Noir but with a beguiling fragrance of raspberries, redcurrants and a hint of rose petals. Soft fruit on the palate with some intriguing earthy tones and good acidity. Try with grilled lamb chops, barbecued vegetables or roasted aubergines.

Querci’Antica Vino e Visciole, La Marche, Italy — €18.95

Stockist: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

This intriguing dessert wine is made from violet scented Lacrima di Morro grapes blended with a syrup from wild sun-dried Visciola cherries. Ripe cherry and floral aromas, blueberry and blackberry fruit flavours with a hint of sour cherry on the finish for balance. Chill and serve with Wilkies Chocolate.

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