The Grape Gurus

Theo Sloot, Oxford Wine Company, on Albariño

“What fires you up about the variety?

I really like the minerality and aromatic freshness of Albariño as well as its salty tang – it’s a really expressive and exuberant variety. This is a grape which is mainly enjoyed young and fresh, but which can also age well. Albariño is one of the classic buzz wines in the restaurants at the moment and it’s easy to see why. They are all minerally-led, ultra clean crisp styles, which are unoaked, so they fit the current consumer spec perfectly.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“Giving customers a taste of Albariño never fails – they always like it because of its freshness. They are quick to pick up on the seafood connection too. I tend to describe the growing conditions and how they translate into the grape’s flavours to give them the full picture and set the scene.”

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“Seafood is the obvious choice because of the vines location on the rainy coast of Galicia in north-west Spain. The salinity and minerality of the grape makes for a perfect match. However, I was served Albariño with Jamón Ibérico in a Barcelona restaurant a few years ago and it worked beautifully.”

 

Louise Boddington, Crown Cellars, on Verdejo

What fires you up about the variety?

“I love this zingy white grape from Spain – it’s light, fresh and aromatic, but not overpowering. Definitely Spring in a glass.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“I like to describe it as a calm Sauvignon Blanc. Verdejo has all the crisp fruitiness but does not deliver quite the whack of personality you get from Sauvignon Blanc, especially those from New Zealand. “

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“Verdejo’s lively acidity make it a good match with fresh foods such as vinaigrettes and olives, plus it works well with simple seafood and fish dishes.

A classic combo is with grilled goats cheese salad, where the freshness of the wine works really well with the tangy saltiness of the cheese.”

 

Abbi Moreno, Moreno Wines, on Xarel-lo

What fires you up about the variety?

“It’s still relatively unknown as a variety. Historically it’s been used for blending to give texture and weight to wine and it is one of the three traditional varieties which is used to make Cava. However, now we find some great examples of how 100% Xarel-lo can work as a still wine.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“To be honest it’s been very successful for us. Once a customer tastes it they are hooked. It’s been described as the Chablis of Spain.”

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“It’s perfect for food as it has good weight on the palate with a clean fresh finish. This variety can cope with spicy Asian cuisine and is also a good all round tapas wine.”

 

Mark Wrigglesworth, The Good Wine Shop, on Godello

What fires you up about the variety?

“The unique white stone fruit characters and weight of the better-made wines from this grape make it attractive but distinctive. The fruit profile is generally easy drinking but with a serious edge.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“Probably best described as a cross between Chardonnay and Roussanne, and Galicia’s best kept secret now that Albariño is well and truly out of the bag!”

What foods does it best pair with and why? 

“Godello works well with most weighty white fish dishes with creamy sauces, also cream-based fish stews and mussels – but my pick would be with seared scallops.”

 

 

Sarah Jane Evans MW, writer and Spanish specialist, on Mencía

What fires you up about the variety?

“Mencia is up there with Spain’s top red varieties. At its best, it’s unbeatable: aromatic, deliciously fresh, elegant. Though it’s Bierzo’s red, you’ll find it across Galicia too. It’s important to pick and choose between producers; Mencía is rustic when it’s not well handled.”

How would you describe it to novices, what would you tell them about the variety?

“The best wines hover somewhere between Burgundy and the Loire: supremely refined, floral aromatics, glorious red fruits, memorable.”

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“Mencía is one of those super-useful crossover wines. It has the acidity and flavour to work with steak, and a delicacy to work with firm white fish, but also plenty more: jamón, mushrooms, fresh cheeses…”

 

Mark Flounders, Vagabond Wines, on Garnacha

What fires you up about the variety?

“What appeals to me most as a buyer is the versatility of the grape across price points. It’s available in numerous styles ranging from fresh fruity rose to more serious Priorat styles. It can be big and bold as well as elegant and soft. Personally I love the elegance that Garnacha offers … and it has an affinity for both new and old oak as well as stainless steel.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“The numerous styles it can hit make it an easy sell. The current trend of lighter styled red makes Garnacha a very good option.  Red berries, soft but textured tannin, offer a lot of complexity for not much money, another perk really. It’s available across regions as well as countries, so it is easy to for us to introduce that to new customers.”

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“The rose style lends itself to summer pasta options, while lighter reds pair well with fish and lamb dishes. Particularly I’ve enjoyed it with a veggie red pepper pesto and a coconut cream curry. The high potential ABV helps cut through fat and cream, as well helping balance some spice. Served slightly chilled it can be enjoyed on its own!”

 

Guillem Kerambrun, Caprice Restaurants and The Birley Clubs, on Tempranillo

What fires you up about the variety?

“It is with this superb grape that I discovered Spanish wines and that I still regularly enjoy them – especially when it’s a very fresh style, with all the complexity of flavours, fruit, flower, spices, herbs and some smooth tannins.”

How do you sell it to customers, what do you tell them about the variety?

“I think the UK market already loves Tempranillo, from Rioja or Ribero del Duero (as Tinto Fino). It’s definitely a good variety, with a great balance between notoriety, pleasure and price.”

What foods does it best pair with and why?

“I like to suggest Tempranillo with lamb, especially when the recipe reminds me of the flavours of the Basque region – Espelette pepper, chorizo, black olives, thyme…”