Wine writer and broadcaster Susy Atkins finds the 10 wine styles you should have on your wine list for 2009.
New Year, new wine list, perhaps? Certainly a revamp might be in order, now that customers are getting more wine-savvy. Modern drinkers want to strike out, not rely solely on traditional Chablis and Claret, or indeed, Aussie Chardonnay and Californian White Zinfandel (sooo ‘last season’). This year, in particular, it pays to keep ahead of the latest trends, wine-wise, and make sure exciting new bottles continuously appear on your list. One thing’s for sure, nothing stands still in the wine world. Grapes are constantly planted in different regions, wineries are revamped and revitalised, winemaking areas segue back into vogue. So what’s hot this year? Here are my top 10 must-have wines for 2009, and the best food matches for each. Pick your favourites and let the revamp begin.1. ProseccoItaly’s classic sparkler is big news over here this year. With its refreshing, sherbet-lemon fizz, prosecco is a delightful apertif, and much better value than most sparklers. Choose carefully, though, as quality varies a bit. Make sure your Prosecco is dryish, fresh, aromatic and moreish. 2. RieslingRiesling continues to sashay back into fashion, mainly for its naturally lighter, low alcohol style and zesty, wake-me-up citrus flavours. Put it this way, riesling couldn’t taste more different to over-oaked chardonnay if it tried. Premium German versions are fab, but some people still confuse it with basic Lieb, so unless you have connoisseurs for customers, it’s best to stick to hipper New World riesling, especially the limey, mineral-laced ones from New Zealand and Australia. Made to go with zingy, healthy salads and simple grilled white fish. 3. Gruner VeltlinerAustria is getting a lot of attention from wine critics at the moment, and although it doesn’t export to the UK in vast quantities, something of a cult is developing around its Gruner veltliner grape, which makes lean, racy dry whites with the flavour of grapefruit and a twist of white pepper. Listing a ‘GV’ (the nickname that shows you love it) is a clear sign that you know your stuff, and it will also make a great partner for smoked salmon, seafood and lighter, Thai dishes. Sushi too.
4. English winesYep, England can now cut it in the winery, and, as with local food, there are now plenty of consumers who want to fly the flag. The styles to go for are the sprightly, meadow-scented whites and the premium sparklers, which taste more like Champagne as each vintage goes past. English wine is not cheap, to be honest, but it shows a commendable commitment to UK produce, especially if you pick from a winery close to your restaurant. Something to offer as a seasonal special (Spring and Summer) or by the glass, perhaps? Aperitif wines, these.5. RoseThe current trend for rose shows no signs of letting up, and diners are now prepared to sip pink all year round, not just in hot weather. The New World pinks tend to be fuller, richer and a little sweeter than European styles. Try Chilean wines for well-balanced examples. But the best roses, in my opinion, come from France and Spain, with the odd Italian gem popping up. Bordeaux and Rioja are regions to rely on. Match with charcuterie, prawns and tapenade/olive snacks. Should go down well by the glass at lunch. 6. Dry SherryFortified wine is better understood than it used to be, especially the dry, pale sherries (labelled Fino and Manzanilla, according to the area where they are produced). Both restaurants and many consumers now know that dry sherry needs to be served ultra-fresh and super-cold, straight from the fridge, and from normal wine glasses, not those stingy old-fashioned schooners. Bone-dry, salty, lemony - there’s no better way to start a big meal, either on its own or with salty snacks like crisps, olives, little amuse-bouches. Have cool dry sherry on hand, always, and make a point of offering it - you’ll get repeat orders, for sure. 7. Australian Pinot NoirYes, Pinot Noir (as in red Burgundy) has been sought-after for ever, and New World Pinots have been cultish for a few years (think California and the film Sideways). But while New Zealand won plaudits for its Pinot Noir, and Chile stepped up its standards too, Australia seemed a little left behind. Not any more. Aussie Pinot, from cooler spots than the hefty Shiraz and Cabernet, is a real talking point this year. Expect juicy, ripe, rounded flavours and suggest it for duck and pork dishes. 8. South African blendsLooking for a new chunky, full-bodied red? Then take a close look at the extraordinary depth and concentration coming from the Western Cape. And look at blends of grapes for once, not single varietal wines. South Africa’s top winemakers are adept at combining grapes like Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and Pinotage to make reds of great complexity and staying power. Obviously, these blockbusters are meant to go with the heartiest dishes or a rare steak. 9. Spanish AlbarinoSpain has nothing to prove with its top red wines, and they remain as popular as ever. But check out the new-wave whites, especially Albarino, made in Galicia, at the far north-west corner of the country. Albarino is the grape variety and it produces a tangy, peachy white with clean, fish-friendly flavours. Much prized in the top restaurants of Madrid and Barcelona, this is now emerging as Spain’s best white wine. 10. Dessert winesAt last, some enthusiasm in premium dessert wines is starting to shine through. It’s simple - make sure your list has more than a desultory glass of port or Sauternes on offer. Nothing against these wines at all, but add interest with more unusual styles, like decent sweet Muscats, Californian or Australian gems, Italy’s Vin Santo, Hungary’s Tokaji. Offer these, by the glass and half-bottle, perhaps, and you can only expect your orders of pud to increase, as well as your wine sales. Just desserts, in other words.
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