1 | Turkey
A secular state with a hardline Islamic government is not, on the face of it, the most promising source of fine wine. Sampling the insipid grog served up to thirsty tourists at Turkey’s coastal tavernas does little to further confidence, but remember the old joke about how the French kept all the good stuff for themselves? Well, imagine that in reverse.
Turkey is the world’s sixth largest grape producer, its harvest traditionally given over to table grapes and raisins. A handful of enterprising, well-travelled young winemakers have realised, however, that there’s more money to be made in wine – fine wine – for export.
Free of any prejudice or tradition, they’re turning out a clutch of fresh, charismatic styles.
(left to right, above)
Urla Vourla, 2010 £14.95, Robesron Wine – Bordeaux with backbone, and bursting with berries
Sevilen 900 Fume Blanc £19.99, Try Wines – the next vintage is coming in a month’s time. It’s well worth the wait, not least for its astonishing depth of flavour
Anfora Trio, 2012 £7.99, M&S – soft and lush red with masculine, cedary notes
2 | Santorini
Be honest – we all love the flatbreads, the taramasalata, the meze, the moussaka, but when it comes to the wine list in a Greek restaurant, we swerve the retsina, and head for the Italian section, right? Well, wrong actually. It’s time to seek out Santorini.
The holiday haven has been producing wine for 3,000 years, and is today home to two-dozen boutique wineries where native varieties thrive in vines curled into basket-like structures in the island’s dark volcanic soil.
This unique “terroir” gives the wines a distinctive mineral quality, best seen in the wonderfully tangy, salty assyrtiko grape variety, whose wild nature reflects the barren splendour of the Santorini landscape.
Hatzidakis Assyrtiko, 2012 £11.99, Waitrose – stony minerality allied to zesty citrus notes
Hatzidakis Nikteri, 2011 £22.50, Berry Bros & Rudd – as with the Gaia wine, this is fermented in barrel, and is wonderfully creamy and complex as a result
Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, 2012 £19.00, Highbury Vintners – the best white wine I’ve had in the last year.
3 | Tasmania
With Australian wine, the tendency is to conjure up images of big, bruising shiraz and blowsy, buttery chardonnay. All that has changed of late, though, and nowhere more so than in Tasmania, which has come to the fore with some beautifully restrained, delicate offerings.
The island state excels with pinot noir and chardonnay – the varieties forever entwined with that most ethereal of regions, Burgundy.
Tasmania’s cool climate but reliable sunshine yields more fruit forward renditions than the French mecca, all of which leads to clean, crisp textures and whimsical, haunting flavours. These three wines have been my most rewarding discoveries of the last year.
Spring Vale Pinot Noir, 2009 £29.50, Swig – elegant, savoury, delicious
Dalrymple Estate Chardonnay 2011 £19.60, Free Run Juice – creamy but crisp, never-ending flavour
Apsley Gorge Vineyard, 2009 £25.46, Justerini & Brooks – sweet and crunchy but with autumnal leafiness.
4 | Slovenia
I’m guessing that of the five wine regions listed here, this is the one that the fewest people will have encountered. I’m also willing to wager, urbane chaps that you are, this will change soon, especially if you’re doing your grocery shop at Waitrose.
As part of communist Yugoslavia (always the most liberal of states behind the Iron Curtain), Slovenia’s vineyards were previously entirely run as state-owned cooperatives.
Since independence in 1991, however, private producers have made terrific strides in establishing the country among the wine cognoscenti’s foremost regions to watch. Slovenia produces 80-90m litres of wine a year, with only around six million leaving its borders. For now.
Sipon Furmint Dveri Pax, 2011 £9.95, The Wine Society – light white with a spicy bouquet and a full, dry flavour
Stajerska Slovenija Sauvignon, 2012 £14.50, Vinoteca – vibrant fruit, good depth and length
Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc £8.99, Waitrose – fresh and aromatic white bursting with grapefruit and lime flavours.
5 | England
It’s a sign of how far the quality of English wines has come that our green and pleasant land is arguably the most established of the five regions listed here. We still feel it merits trumpeting as “new” though (especially as there’s not chance a French publication is going to trumpet its qualities).
English sparkling wines have lowered the colours of several storied Champagnes in countless blind tastings over recent years. And deservedly so – the best English fizz eclipses its French counterparts at the price. It’s why I served NyetimberClassic Cuvee, above, at my wedding.
And if climate change continues to have its wicked way, the amount of vineyards in the south of England can only increase.
Brut Reserve Gusbourne Estate £28.50, Fortnum & Mason – Gusbourne Estate won “English Wine Producer of the Year”
Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve, 2011 £11.99, M&S – English white wine brimming with crunchy apple flavours and herbal complexity
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, 2009 £29.95, Berry Bros & Rudd – attractive red fruit aromas, courtesy of the Pinots, cede to a rounded palate.
This article first appeared in Esquire Weekly, our iPad-only edition. Containing 100 per cent new and original content, it’s published every Thursday on the Apple Newsstand.