Swap your fizz
As a nation we drink far more than our fair share of prosecco, spending more money on it than we do on champagne. And no wonder, it has a gorgeous, feathery lightness. But, if you like prosecco, there are so many more sparkling wines waiting for you to pour them into your glass…
One of the most prosecco-like is made in Emilia-Romagna in central Italy from a grape called pignoletto. It’s frothy, with an easing edge of sweetness. For sparkling wines with a bit more vinosity – ones that taste more like wine than grape-based pop – the Loire in France is a brilliant hunting ground. Look for the names sparkling Vouvray, Saumur Brut and Crémant de Loire. Styles vary hugely, and I recommend taking advice (or reading the back label) to find out whether you’re buying a cheek-pinchingly sour, dry fizz that tastes of cooking apples, or a more brioche-scented, meadow-grass-sweet sparkler that’s easier to drink. Other lesser-known French regions that make excellent fizz are the Jura, on the Swiss border; and Limoux, down in the Pyrenées; while New Zealand, Australia and England, too, all have superb sparkling wines that deserve a place in your fridge door.
Oddbins has been through some tough times but its wines have never looked better. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the 30 branches, pop in and have a look. If not, Oddbins’ website is one of the best in the business, with suggestions for what music to play and what to cook with each bottle. Look out for Luzon Verde Organic 2014 Spain (Oddbins, £8.50) – a big, chunky, rustic red with tasty brambly fruit, and an edge of orange peel and cloves. For a whites, try Famille Delaille Cheverny ‘Vignes des Marinières’ 2014 Loire, France (Oddbins, £11). It’s from sauvignon blanc country but also contains a dollop of chardonnay, rounding the edges and making it the perfect wine for early spring.
High street bottle
For the first time in my life, on tasting this wine, I used the phrase, ‘delicious grillo’. Grillo 2014 Italy (M&S, £7) is juicy, tastes of roasted pears and white peaches and is made in Sicily from the grillo grape. Try it with burrata or roquefort and pear salad.
Want to know what the pros are drinking? Jack Lewens at Ellory in Hackney says: ‘I’ve been enjoying serving Le Soula La Macération, a vermentino-macabeu blend that has spent a couple of weeks macerating on the skins. This type of skin-contact wine is really fabulous with food, especially bold, earthy flavours, or fish dishes with mushrooms.’
Queen of wine critics Jancis Robinson’s new book, The 24 Hour Wine Expert will take you from wine zero to wine hero inside a day. A clear and dependable reference book that answers tricky questions and includes suggestions to set you on the path to wine adventure. (£4.99, Penguin)