By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 18 February 2017
Variety is the spice of life – that’s my theme this week as I searched the world’s vineyards for unusual red grapes. If you are looking for something different to serve instead of your staple Pinot Noir or Shiraz, try one of these:
QUIRKY RED GRAPES
A traditional Eastern European grape now offering brilliant value sturdy reds – it translates as ‘Black Maiden’.
Romania: WINE ATLAS FETEASCA NEAGRA 2014 Cramele Recas (£4.97 Asda) ***STAR BUY***
Crunchy red fruits, smoky herby undertones, soft tannins, but still vibrant and fresh: a traditional local grape made using modern winemaking. This bargain would suit those who usually drink Merlot or Shiraz: 13%
Fashionable, but still rare and tricky to grow, Spanish grape; found in Rioja blends and increasingly as great value varietals from Navarra and La Mancha.
La Mancha, Spain: MONTANAR ORGANIC GRACIANO 2015 (£8.99 Fine Wine Company, Musselburgh; Valhalla’s Goat, Glasgow)
Delicious robust dark youthful red with violet scents with deep dark black cherry and blueberry fruits and bright acidity – would suit Syrah lovers: 14%
If you like your reds wild and smoky, south west France’s Fer Servadou (called Mansois in Marcillac, Brocol in Gaillac and Pinenc in Madiran) will appeal.
Marcillac, France: MARCILLAC LO SANG DEL PAIS 2015 Domaine du Cros (£8.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
Meaty, herby rustic youthful red with really juicy fruits and earthy undertones – grown on iron rich red clay south east of the Lot – plenty of fruit for your money here – bring out the saucisson: 12.5%
Fragrant fruity ancient Italian grape indigenous to Trentino Alto Adige in the Dolomites; tiny amounts are also found in Australia and New Zealand.
Trentino, Italy: MASTRI VERNACOLI MARZEMINO 2013 Cavit (£7.49-£8.99 Valvona & Crolla; www.allaboutwine.co.uk)
Plummy aromas with pure juicy red fruit flavours, unoaked, softly tannic with a sour cherry finish: 13.5%
Little known grape (aka Chenin Noir) with ancient history grown near Tours; previously used for rose and fizz, now being revived as a high quality red grape.
Loire, France: COTEAUX DU LOIR, LE ROUGE-GORGE 2014 Domaine de Belliviere (£24 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Pale colour, very vibrant acidity, delicate red fruits, light peppery notes, some tannins – an unusual, very fine take on Loire reds – suit Pinot Noir lovers: 13.5%
Much maligned traditional South American red grape, now being revived by producers like Morande and Torres in Chile.
Maule, Chile: MORANDE ONE TO ONE OLD VINE PAIS 2015 (£6.99/£8.99 Majestic Wine)
Chile’s answer to Beaujolais, with its cherry fruits and light colour; made from bush pruned 65 year old vines on clay and granite soils – can be served slightly chilled: 13.5%
Fragrant fruity grape (means ‘St George’s grape) popular in the Peloponnese, deserves to be better known outside Greece.
Nemea, Greece: SEMELI FEAST 2014 Nassiakos (£8.75 Oddbins)
Soft succulent red with black cherry fruits, cedary and spicy hints and underlying minerality: 13%
Charming perfumed southern Italian red related to Sangiovese and Nerello Mascalese, usually found in Calabria or Marche.
Calabria, Italy: CIRO ROSSO CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2014 Santa Venere (£8.75 The Wine Society) ***STAR VALUE***
If you normally drink Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, you should try this fragrant velvety sweet berry-fruited with its spicy tannic edge from Italy’s ‘sole’: 13.5%
A distinctive French grape with good potential for ageing found in Jura in eastern France, Galicia in Spain and Dao in Portugal, where it is known as Bastardo.
Jura, France: TROUSSEAU 2012 Domaine Pignier (£21.50 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
Rare example of deep coloured meaty Trousseau with some bottle age; crunchy red fruits, charming, medium bodied, smooth texture: 11.5%
Noble Sicilian grape producing light coloured, high alcohol, gently tannic ageworthy wines; thrives on volcanic soils of Catania province in eastern Sicily.
Mount Etna, Sicily: NERELLO MASCALESE FONDO FILARA 2014 Carmelo Nicosia (£8.95 The Wine Society)
Sappy cherry fruits with a lovely subtle character – our tasters loved it and thought it similar to a very herby Pinot Noir: 13%
Almost lost to extinction during phylloxera, this characterful grape (also called Ribolla Nera) has been revived achieving its best in Colli Orientale near Udine.
Friuli Venezia Giulia, NE Italy: MARCOSARA SCHIOPPETINO 2014 Marco Sara (£17.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Crunchy red fruits, crisp natural acidity, softly oaked with lovely smooth tannins; a very moreish red which will suit those who enjoy Rhone Syrahs: 13%
Ancient and distinctive Gaillac grape mainly grown north of Toulouse makes deliciously supple and fruity reds and roses – also found in California.
Fronton, SW France: TASTE THE DIFFERENCE FRONTON NEGRETTE ROSE 2014 (£6 reduced from £7 until 21 February Sainsbury’s)
Very fruity with strawberry hints and spicy undertones – great value rose at its knockdown price: 12%
Big sturdy grape known as ‘strong black stallion’ indigenous to the Balkans; grown in Montenegro, Serbia, southern Croatia and Macedonia.
Tikves, Republic of Macedonia: AEMILIA 2013 Stobi (£9.99 Waitrose)
Violet aromas with blueberry and spice flavours; a big voluptuously fruity blend of Vranec, Syrah and Petit Verdot offering a gentle introduction to this Balkan grape: 13%
Join Rose’s Rare Grapes wine tasting, Edinburgh: Thursday 9 March £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com