Pro Version | USD Change Currency | Help | Mobile Site
Advertisement

Hugh Johnson's Wine Recommendations For 2013

Hugh Johnson's Wine Recommendations For 2013
© Octopus Books/Hugh Johnson
In this excerpt from his latest "Pocket Wine Book," Hugh Johnson urges wine lovers to try something new.

"We all have our comfort zones, in wine as in everything else. Perhaps we’ll explore outside them tomorrow, but tonight let’s just have another bottle of… It’s a pity. Wine is wonderfully various, and you never know what potential new favourite you’re missing if you never try it. So, here are some leads to more exploratory drinking. If you love Elvis you’ll love the Everly Brothers. Or maybe not, but I do, so here goes.

If you like late-harvest Tokáji, try Sercial Madeira

Good Tokáji (and quality and style do vary) has searing acidity, smoky fruit and an intense fieriness that is like nothing else – unless you swap a continent for an island, and Furmint for Sercial, which has (wait for it) searing acidity, smoky fruit and an intense preserved-lemons citrus note. Two caveats: Sercial Madeira is bone-dry, and Tokáji is sweet, though late-harvest styles, which won’t be labelled with any puttonyos rating, tend to taste less obviously sweet because of their acidity. Both are utterly compelling.

If you like Médoc, try Saperavi

You know that beautiful cigar-box and plum-skins flavour of proper mature Médoc? Ripe but not overripe, balanced by good acidity, and with some bottle-age? If you can find a good Saperavi, it’ll have it in spades. Saperavi is a grape we hardly know; there’s a vast acreage of it in Georgia, Moldova and various places around the Black Sea, but the winemaking can be a little, shall we say, erratic. So it’s not much exported. But it’s worth mentioning because the odd supermarket is exploring the area, and occasional Saperavis are appearing on the shelves. They’re worth a look.

If you like white burgundy, try Australian Chardonnay

'Surely not!' I hear you say. “All that butterscotch and pineapple and oak – what has that to do with Meursault or Puligny?” But times have changed, and so has Aussie Chard. Out with the oak and in with the elegance. Choose cool-climate spots like Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula or the slightly warmer Yarra, close your eyes and be transported to – not any particular part of the fractured geology of the Côte d’Or, but somewhere surprisingly close.

The steep Llicorella slopes of Priorat, in northeast Spain
© Angela Llop | The steep Llicorella slopes of Priorat, in northeast Spain

If you like Viognier, try Fiano di Avellino

The best Viognier is not obvious or overblown, and its apricot fruit is subtle and minerally. Some of the best comes from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône, but there are contenders from as far apart as Australia and Virginia. Apricot-type fruit is not that uncommon in wine, but few combine it with Viognier’s low acidity and tendency to high alcohol – making Viognier a difficult grape to grow and a difficult wine to make.

Southern Italy’s Fiano grape has a flavour of honeyed peaches, which, given the traditional Italian suspicion of aromatic grapes, is subtly presented, with a little more acidity than Viognier. Avellino is not the only place to grow Fiano; Coriole makes some, and Australia’s McLaren Vale does, too.

If you like Napa Cabernet, try Priorat

This is one of the last bastions of very overripe grapes in a world edging nervously towards better balance. Hang-times are super-long because producers seek the most velvety tannins possible, and don’t mind the low acidity and high alcohol that are inevitable side effects.

It finds an echo in the raisiny, figgy fruit of Priorat in Spain, where a variety of grapes, usually involving Garnacha to some degree (usually a high one in alcoholic terms), make wines you could stand a spoon in. Priorat is not quite as massive as it was, true, and it has earthier flavours than you’ll find in Napa Cab, but the profile is not dissimilar.

If you like Vin Santo, try Amontillado

Vin Santo can be a bit of a risk because while some are very good, some are not good at all. Choose a reputable producer, and enjoy the walnut pungency that takes the edge off the sweetness. It’s made all over Italy (Vino Santo in Trentino) but the principle is the same: grapes are picked and left to dry on trays to concentrate their sweetness.

Amontillado Sherry is made in a very different way. Here the concentration comes from long ageing in solera, while the wine oxidizes to tawny nuttiness and gains that characteristic austere bite. Real amontillado – proper amontillado – is bone-dry, but the richness and weight of the wine balance the lack of sweetness. It is also the biggest bargain in the world of wine.

Nebbiolo vines above the town of Barolo, Italy
© Megan Mallen | Nebbiolo vines above the town of Barolo, Italy

If you like Clare Riesling, try Godello

Australian Riesling has carved out its own style among Rieslings: lime-cordial fruit, complete dryness and total purity. It ages well, developing more honeyed flavours in bottle, and it always has the high, ripe acidity of Riesling. That lime-ness, that precision, finds its counterpart in Spain’s Godello grape, which in turn reaches its apogee in Valdeorras. The limes can have a note of pineapple here, minerality comes singing through, and there’s richness, too, to keep it all together. Godello, incidentally, is the local name for Verdelho, which in Australia’s Hunter Valley gives wines of huge richness and spice, while remaining dry.

If you like red burgundy, try Langhe Nebbiolo

The burgundy I mean here is light, young and crunchy. It comes from a good grower, and probably from one of the lighter appellations of the Côte d’Or: eg. Savigny-lès-Beaune or young vines in a grander AC blended into plain Bourgogne Rouge.

That same freshness and lightness is to be found in Langhe Nebbiolo, a world away from the weight and concentration of Barolo, and lighter than Nebbiolo d’Alba or Nebbiolo d’Asti (though often this is where it comes from). The wines have the same floral spiciness as young burgundy, the same freshness, the same bright moreishness."

* "Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2013" is published by Octopus Books at $15.99.

Signup for our Free Weekly Newsletter


Write Comment









Recent Stories

Author Maximillian Potter, whose book revolves around Romanée-Conti

DRC Detective Story Casts Long Shadows

The story of what happened next when the owner of the world's most valuable vineyard was given a ransom note.

Hand in Hand with the Winemaker

A new book by Natalie Berkowitz features conversations with winemakers around the world.

Exploring Madeira, the Island of Wine

All you ever needed to know about Madeira is in this book.

"Only Natural Wines Can Be Truly Great" Claims New Book

Isabelle Legeron makes the case in favor of natural wine.

Everything You Need to Know About Jura

Wink Lorch's guide to the wines of Jura makes for a good read.

DRC Owner Disappears

From Burgundy to China, police go in search of missing winery owners.

Wine-buying Guide Hits the Right Note

We review Tom Stevenson's new wine guide.

Getting to Grips with the Wine Grapes of Italy

We review Ian D'Agata's new varietal bible: "Native Wine Grapes of Italy"

The French Wine Industry - Just Like Dallas

The seemingly idyllic vineyards surrounding Saint-Émilion are depicted as the setting for a sordid soap opera.

The Birth of Penfolds Grange

"A Year in the Life of Grange," uncovers the creation of the "one true first growth of the southern hemisphere."

The Best of Barbaresco: Tom Hyland's Top Picks

A 12-year "odyssey" through the vineyards of Italy is reflected in a new guide to the country's wines.

Scratch & Sniff Not Up to Scratch

A new guide to appreciating the aroma of wine doesn't quite hit the mark. Even the dog looks unimpressed.

Château du Blah Blah: Why Bordeaux is a Turn-Off

Jason Wilson believes that by focusing on top-end wines, Bordeaux has made itself "almost entirely irrelevant" to two generations of wine drinkers.

What Kind of Wine Taster Are You?

W. Blake Gray talks to Tim Hanni MW, author of "Why You Like The Wines You Like," about his research into "taster types."

Finding the Perfect Match Beyond Champagne & Oysters

Champagne expert Richard Juhlin believes that matching fine fizz with food needs a delicate touch.

 
Site Map About Contact Business Advertising Social