The great thing about wine is that we’re never too old to find a new one we like. So, while we all have our favourites, it’s exciting to experiment and find different grape varieties we enjoy.
Neil Phillips, ‘The Wine Tipster’ and Jockey Club Catering’s resident raceday expert, has helped us pick out some alternatives to the household favourite red wines we’ve been drinking for years.
Now’s the time to find your new favourite red wine so - unlike most experiments – DO try this at home.
Trying new wines can be liberating and with time on our hands now is a great opportunity to expand our gastronomic horizons and choose something different to accompany our fish supper or Sunday roast.
Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of finding a wine we love and getting stuck in a rut. It happens to me all the time; I get obsessed with a new grape variety and before you know it my wine rack is overloaded with Australian Shiraz and co-favourite Argentinian Malbec.
If I drink the same wine for too long my palate begs for something new. Experimenting doesn’t have to be scary, it could be as easy as looking at your favourite style of wine just from a different part of the planet.
Pinot Noir is what I would describe as a Pedigree grape variety. Top class, fickle, doesn’t like too much heat or getting rained on - we could all name a few of those I’m sure.
But back to the wine. Burgundy in France is arguably the greatest region in the world for Pinot Noir, but for less expensive alternatives look to New Zealand or Oregon. If you’re looking for something to match with your mid-week pasta at under a tenner your best bet is Romania or, closer to home, Bolney Estate Pinot Noir from Sussex.
If you already know you like Pinot Noir try something similar. Other light and fruity wines on my rack are Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape. If Beaujolais is a new one on you then I recommend M&S’s own label.
Great value can also be found in the form of Bardolino from North East Italy. It’s very light and can be served chilled and enjoyed with some olives and toasted almonds.
Did you know oak flavours in wine vary depending on the age of the barrel? When I think of my favourite oaky wines, great Clarets from Bordeaux, in France, or classic classy Rioja are top of the list.
But when the oak is overdone in cheaper wines made with Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon it can drown out the taste of any fruit and that’s the last thing you want.
So, if you like a well-priced oaky red my choice for newcomers to your collection would be from the Languedoc-Roussillon, in France, Portugal and Italy.
All are a great choice for your Sunday lunch – perfect paired with meat or a delicious plate of roasted butternut squash and vegetables.
If you like a wine that stays on the finish then a meaty Malbec or juicy Shiraz are probably high on your shopping list. You can’t go far off course with a bottle of St Hallett Faith Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia.
However, in the spirit of trying something new, look at Portuguese reds or Zinfandel from California. Both offer big, chewy, powerful and great value reds perfect with a nice steak on the barbecue. Try with oven-baked aubergine with a rich sauce - even splash a drop of wine in it for good measure.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most recognised wines in France and one many will have heard of. It can be officially made with 13 grape varieties but the predominant two are Syrah and Grenache. Ranging from medium to full-bodied, there isn’t always parity in price versus quality so look out for Vacqueyras and Gigondas as alternatives.
Merlot is a go-to wine for many and it’s good to have some to hand as it’s what I would call a crowd pleaser. There are big, spicy versions but if you prefer easy drinking then Chile is a great country to start your journey.
Merlot lovers should also head over to Barbera, Italy, or pick up a bottle of Garnacha from Spain.
These versatile wines are perfect with cheese and charcuterie or tapas.