UNLIKE when you laugh, drink and the world may not drink with you. One nation’s favourite can easily be another’s eccentricity.
And yet other countries’ wine lists are often sources of curiosity and even inspiration. And so, with help from some international wine gurus, I have gone looking for ideas overseas that we can try here at home.
First, to Norway, where influential wine writer and blogger Christer Byklum (check out his excellent tasting notes – in English – on mywinesandmore.blogspot.co.uk) reports that, like us, Norwegians enjoy drinking chablis with white fish and shellfish. Eyebrows may rise here, however, to hear that the top Norwegian choice with salmon and trout is riesling.
To test out the validity of that thinking, take a look at one of the delightfully dry versions of the grape, such as 2011 Jacobus, Peter Jakob Kuhn, Rheingau (£11.90, Tanners) with its soft, fresh, peachy touches and slightly creamy texture that, together, will cut nicely through any oiliness in – especially – salmon.
Seafood is also a popular choice in Maine, at the northern end of New England’s seaboard. But local commentator and food retailer Joe Appel of the Portland Press Herald says people there opt instead for muscadet with fish. If it is a while since you sampled this largely forgotten hero, a good (re)introduction is the agreeable yet inexpensive Simply Muscadet (£4.49, Tesco). It has all that familiar, crisp, lime-centred acidity and supports it well with the textured, greengage touches that give the wine substance. Appel, however, argues that even greater joys await if you trade up to, say, hand-harvested Muscadet de Sevre et Maine to luxuriate in its “ripe secondary-fruit qualities”.
Crossing that continent and also switching to reds, I also sought the views of Treve Ring from Vancouver, who is a national wine judge, critic for the authoritative www.winealign.com website and drink editor for Eat Magazine. Mature drinkers there, she tells me, now tend towards lighter reds, with wines such as Loire Cabernet Franc gaining traction. To reinforce her conclusion, she points to the way Canadian consumption of Cru Beaujolais, in particular, has “skyrocketed”. Anyone here keen to follow that particular trend should seek out the brilliant 2010 Chateau des Jacques Moulin à Vent Louis Jadot (£13.99 as part of a mixed case, Majestic) with its rounded bramble, blackcurrant and raspberry fruit and nicely integrated spicy edges.
Head even further west and you eventually hit the wine world’s growth market – China.
Sophie Liu is an accomplished wine critic and author there, writing, for example, the first Chinese language book on Italian wines. She confirms that the well-heeled in Shanghai still demand top-level claret but, in their wake, those of more modest means are now pursuing entry-level Bordeaux reds. That region’s cru bourgeois wines are good examples and, to emulate those new Oriental wine drinkers, look out for 2010 Chateau Chantemerle Medoc Cru Bourgeois when it hits the shelves of Aldi next month at £9.99. However, in Liu’s words, new drinkers “are learning very rapidly about wine so Burgundy, Rhone, Rioja and barolo could quickly also become a trend”.
So, as we become even more familiar with the global village, why not draw flashes of creativity from what discerning people are drinking in other countries.
• 2012 Villa Maria Private Bin Dry Riesling Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5 per cent
Here is a fresh and flowery New World take on the riesling mentioned in the main story. It comes from an excellent producer and provides textured and mouth-filling lime-based fruit that is made all the more vibrant by tangy and zippy acidity. £9.99 (down to £7.99 from 29 October) as part of a mixed case, Majestic
• 2009 Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet South Australia, 13.5 per cent
A beautifully crafted red with rich yet soft blackcurrant and bramble fruit, generous body, substance and structure but with a rounded finish that contains hints of nutmeg, vanilla and other spices. £9.77, Spirited Wines, Edinburgh