If you can’t get near the vine at least phone a friend

If I am honest, my own wine journey started relatively late in life. I spent my formative years at Edinburgh University and Durham University supping the likes of Tennent’s Lager and Caledonian 80 Shilling, having been put off wine by a cheap Lambrusco. I didn’t really appreciate wine until a trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys in the late ‘90s.

Visiting the wineries of Domaine Chandon, Robert Mondavi and Beringer gave me a change of heart. There’s something about tasting wine where it is grown, and being surrounded by the wondrous sights and smells of a winery, with the winemaker pouring wine in its immaculate and untravelled condition. The wine just tastes special. You can’t replicate those conditions at home, so what followed the visit to California were visits to the Loire Valley and Alsace, now home to some of my favourite wines.

In my opinion, the only way to get close to the winery taste and experience is to taste it with good food and good company, which I like to do regularly. Wine is for sharing. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, which has become my favourite white over recent years, then the Slovenian Krasno Sauvignon Blanc Ribolla 2015 is definitely worth trying. The dash of local grape Ribolla Gialla adds a welcome twist.

KrasnoThis white bears the name of the village Krasno which in Slovenian means “beautiful, charming, good” - most apt for this fresh fruity number. Krasno is the leading wine producer in Slovenia, a co-op of more than 400 individual growers. This was my first try of Slovenian wine and I hadn’t realised this country has been making wine longer than France has.

Unlike many major European wine regions, Slovenia’s viticultural history predates Roman times and can be traced back to the early Celtic and Illyrian tribes who began producing wine between the 5th and 4th Centuries BC!

I wasn’t disappointed. The flavours of apple and floral worked really well with a Saturday evening vegetable risotto (thanks to my wife, Emma, for that suggestion) and I imagine they would complement many fish dishes too. Krasno has come up with a real quality wine – exceptional value for money. I’ve bought six more already – it’s hard to argue with. At this price it’s a real steal.

Vina MajesticaI saved the ‘Definition’ Vina Majestica Rioja Reserva 2009 for Sunday and it really complemented our roast beef. It was made in La Rioja Alta’s Torre de Ona winery, established in 1890 in the Rioja Alavesa area of Spain. Growers there are renowned for excellent fruit and richness throughout their wines, sourcing quality grapes from the 360 hectares they own.

The Rioja Reserva spent 20 months in oak and, while wrapped in it, is not drenched by it. Full of flavours, cranberry, cinnamon, chocolate.

Superb! After a post-lunch walk and tuning in to watch Chris Froome’s third tour victory procession along the Champs Elysees, I was pleased we’d saved some of the bottle for a lazy late afternoon in the garden. It went down particularly well with some Manchego cheese and crackers. I recommend you grab a few bottles of this excellent Rioja while you can!

Krasno Sauvignon £7.99 single bottle price, £6.99 mix six price
Definition Rioja £11.99 single bottle price, £9.99 mix six price.
Wine supplied by Majestic Wine Warehouse, Gosforth

Published: 19 August 2016

Article by Brian Nicholls
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