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The unloved wines I wish we drank more often

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Beaujolais, Riesling, Muscadet…so many styles left off wine lists after the 1980s that it’s worth checking out.

What is it that makes some wines popular and others off limits? For example, during the 2010s, dry blanc pinet picpoul from the south of France became a must-have for every supermarket and wine bar. It was often sold as Languedoc’s answer to Muscadet. And yet, while picpoul can be perfectly enjoyable in a cleanse, doesn’t touch the sides, refreshes with seafood, and is reasonably priced, it’s never exactly exciting.

Muscadet itself, meanwhile, can be awful: painfully tart, tart and mean, a fact that may explain its loss of popularity since it was a staple of wine lists in the 1970s and ’80s. But the good news. bottles are much more exciting than rows of very good picpoul; at their best, salty, yeasted and lemon (Jean-François Baron Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2020; £11.25, yapp.co.uk) are a budget alternative to chablis. They would be at the top of any list you could make of “forgotten wines I wish people would drink more of.”

The rest of the list is dominated by fallen European giants: styles that were once popular and either fell out of fashion due to the New World wine boom, or are still tainted with memories of bad wines of the past. You could put German Riesling in the latter category. Today’s often exciting dry and under-dry wines, with their chilling flash of silvery acidity, are nothing like the sweet, sugar-water liebfraumilchs of yesteryear.

Next up would be beaujolais: the region’s best, complex and devouring, including the new breed of beaujolais nouveau, is in a different league than the bubblegum-banana-scented stuff remembered from cross-channel booze cruises. Although these wines may have lost their place in the mainstream, they have a small but growing cult following among wine geeks. The same is true of another once-conquering bestseller, sherry, which has been unpopular enough for the last 40 years to be absurdly cheap and for which I am as vociferous an almost tedious evangelist as anyone else. wine professional. He.

Other styles that deserve a wider audience come from regions that have never really been popular with anyone other than the locals. There is much to enjoy in the indigenous varieties and distinctive flavors emerging from modern scenes in Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Croatia.

But if I had to choose the single, currently forgotten wine that I think would add the most pleasure to people’s lives if they tasted it, it wouldn’t be a specific region or grape variety: it’s an entire genre, encompassing sparkling golden gems. such as Sauternes, Barsac, Tokaji, Monbazillac, Coteaux du Layon, Icewine or Eiswein, and the German and Austrian Rieslings known as Trockenbeerenauslese. I wish more people would give themselves the opportunity to experience the intoxicating and luxurious delights of the world’s great dessert wines.

Six wines that should return

Williams & Humbert Joy Chamomile Spain NV (£5.49, 37.5cl, Waitrose)

Perennially on the verge of a comeback, but never approaching its 20th-century sales heyday, sherry is absurdly good value for money. This is an example of the lighter and spicier style of the Sanlúcar estuary, a crisp, fresh, nutty, yeasty and salty combination for seafood.

M&S Classics Mineralstein Riesling Palatinate, Germany 2020 (£9.50, Marks & Spencer)

Riesling is a supple grape variety, capable of doing everything from starkly dry to lusciously sweet, but the best examples always have a backbone of bracing steely acidity, plus, as is the case here, some lime-peel acidity. delicious and tropical fruit. carnality

Domaines des Forges Côteaux du Layon Chaume Loire, France 2018 (£10.78, 37.5cl, justerinis.com; laywheeler.com)

An example of two things the world needs more of: the great white grape variety chenin blanc and golden dessert wines that are luscious yet balanced with sparkling acidity, this is a simply magnificent partner for strong blue or hard cheese.

Terra d’Alter ALF Alfrocheiro Alentejo, Portugal 2020 (from £10.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk; butlers-wincellar.co.uk; flagshipwines.co.uk)

Arguably, Portugal remains best known in the UK for its incomparable fortified wines: port and madeira. The 21st century has seen a revival of the country’s table wines, with this juicy, blackberry-fruited, supple southern red from the native alfrocheiro variety, simply brilliant value.

Oenops Apla White Wines Drama, Greece 2020 (£12.88, laywheeler.com)

Greece is an absolute treasure trove of distinctive wine that has never crossed the line of mainstream acceptance in the UK. This blend of malagouzia, assyrtiko, roditis and muscatel, typically scented with lemon, floral and white, is the perfect introduction.

Francesco Rinaldi Dolcetto d’Alba Roussot Piedmont, Italy 2020 (from £15.95, thewhiskyexchange.com; handford.net; noblegreenwines.co.uk)

Italy’s answer to Beaujolais is Piedmontese red wine made from dolcetto. Like its French counterpart, it used to be much more popular in the UK and examples from leading modern producers such as Rinaldi are a vast improvement on the past – all vibrant, dark cherry, herbs and freshness.


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