Part of my job at Novel Wines is to source something off the beaten track, something delicious, we can bring back to the UK and share with wine lovers up and down the country. This means I’m privy to some pretty interesting stuff, including some grapes you don’t commonly find. As the guy doing the importing, I can also see which of those punts really pays off. So here’s three grapes that my customers love and you should definitely try.
No-one is quite sure where this one comes from, but it thrives on the highlands of Mantinia in Peloponnese, Greece. It has a pinkish, purple skin and produces white wines (still, sweet and sparkling) that share some similarities with Muscat on the palate.
The grape is becoming more and more popular in Greece, partly thanks to winemakers like Leonadis Nassiakos. Leonadis is the leading winemaker at Semeli, founded in 1979, with is stylish winery located 660m above sea level amidst the low yielding vineyards of the hilly Koutsi region. He has quickly gained a reputation as the “master of Moschofilero” and one of the wines you should try is his Semeli Mantinia Nassiakos, a mix of light spice, peach, lime and guava. On the nose it’s floral like Muscat but not intensely so.
My favourite thing about Moschofilero is it easily transports you to the Med. There’s an oily, rich texture that can only be achieved in the sun-kissed Mediterranean, which is balanced by a fresh, intense fruit ripeness that fills you with happiness. I’m generally both sunned and satisfied in Greece, so the experience is nostalgic and bliss.
Perhaps best of all, Moschofilero is never outrageous. Leonadis’ top line, the ‘Thea’, which is lees-aged, is under £20. His ‘Feast’ entry line (also excellent) is under £10. The Mantinia Nassiakos is on Novel Wines for £13.99.
Pronounced ‘Nah-rin-djeh’, this indigenous Turkish grape variety comes from Anatolia in central Turkey. Interestingly, Narince is a table grape as well as used for production in wine. It’s depth and sweetness makes for a richer, pear-like note on the palate. Ironically, the word ‘Narince’ means ‘delicately’ but the straw-coloured wines I’ve tried are often viscous and full of Asian pear, acacia and pink grapefruit; even in the freshest, stainless steel style they carry a citrus rind character I associate as unique to Narince.
This makes Narince a perfect partner with oily fish, especially when you poach cook it. I’m thinking salmon especially. The salt from the fish will cut through the zing of the wine and bring out familiar Med flavours of ripe orange, pineapple and fruit blossom.
Originating in Istria, Croatia, Malvazija-Istarska is now the second most-planted grape variety in the country after Grasevina (a grape known by other names like Welschriesling and Olaszrizling, along with others). Unlike the fairly simple style of most Grasevina, Malvazija-Istarska is an exciting variety with a herbal bite on the finish. In aged styles it can bring a full, honeyed note to the fruit. Young styles from vines near the Adriatic Sea have a saline, salty note in a fresh style that’s great with a Greek meze of Dolmades, Spanikopita and Feta-laden Greek salads.
Malvazija-Istarska, in its pure form, often varies from a ripe green apples to fresh apricot with hints of fresh cut grass, pepper spice, saline minerality and lemon. Oak-mature versions can add straw, honey and fig notes. While the more premium Amfora-aged Malvazija-Istarska wines carry deep notes of roasted peaches, candied citrus, ripe honeydew melon and sweetened honey.
It’s certainly one to try!
Got a grape variety I should try? Let me know in the comments below.