Varied charms of unfamiliar wines
FOR adventurous wine lovers and armchair travellers, heading off the beaten track and picking up a label from less familiar places is a fresh way to enjoy a grape escape.
Moving away from reliable names and places to regions such as Central and Eastern Europe, the south-east Mediterranean or the Middle East can be an exciting experience, and the chance to break out of a wine rut if your usual tipple has lost its mojo.
Wines that need an introduction are often well priced with characterful and distinctive flavours, and offer the tastebuds a journey of discovery... whether it's a brief encounter, or lasting friendship.
Romania is emerging as a popular choice for drinkable wines that suit parties and entertaining friends, and it enjoys success with two of our favourite pinot grapes: pinot grigio and pinot noir.
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Sainsbury's House Pinot Noir, Romania (£4.79, Sainsbury's) is flying off the shelves. It's smooth and simple with dark cherry fruit, raspberry flavours and a dash of sweet spice on the finish.
Bulgaria shows increasing quality with its cabernet sauvignon, and this southern Bulgarian belle is perfect with sausage and tomato casserole, and heavier autumnal dishes. Try Sainsbury's Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon, Bulgaria (£4.49, Sainsbury's), which delivers a smooth, fruity palate with ripe blackcurrant fruit, a hint of tobacco and silky finish.
Quietly gaining fame for its top-drawer sauvignon blanc, Slovenia is worth exploring for its unique take on this New World favourite. Try Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Slovenia (£6.74, Waitrose), which has vibrant gooseberry and apricot flavours, grassy notes and a spritz of elderflower, to create a harmonious food-friendly wine – it's a terrific match with shellfish.
A favourite destination for holidaymakers, Turkey was a rising star at this year's Decanter World Wine Awards 2012, and impressed the judges with both its winning whites and reds. To evoke those sun-drenched Mediterranean moments, try Sevilen Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Turkey (£9.99, Marks & Spencer), which is a safe bet if you're after a crisp, richly fruited wine with plenty of gooseberry and lime, a touch of pineapple and good acidity finishing with some tangerine zest.