Extend your wine horizon beyond France

A lot of people in the UK buy French wine because they are familiar with the names and they are relatively easy to pronounce in restaurants (compared to, say Greek or German ones).  Because of this ready market much French wine can be rather over-priced, so here are some alternatives to try:

  1. Muscadet – a fairly neutral wine that goes with seafood.  Try Albarinho from Spain or Alvarinho from Portugal (it’s the same thing) you still have the Atlantic influence that you get with Muscadet but also more flavour.
  2. Sancerre – a continental climate sauvignon blanc.  Don’t go for Marlborough as it will have a very different flavour profile, instead try a Chilean sauvignon from Casablanca or Leyda which will likely fall somewhere between the two styles but can be cheaper than Sancerre.
  3. Champagne – this one is easy, go for English Sparkling wine from Sussex, such as Ridgeview, Wiston or Nyetimber, they regularly beat Champagnes in blind tastings.
  4. Burgundy red – supposedly the top expression of pinot noir but that is based on history, places like Oregon (USA), Otago (NZ) and Mornington Peninsula (Australia) are now equally good and a lot more affordable.
  5. Burgundy white – a rich, oaked version of Chardonnay.  Try California’s Sonoma Coast or Yarra Valley in Australia
  6. Norther Rhone Syrah, e.g. Hermitage.  Go for an Aussie Shiraz from a premium region such as Barossa.
  7. Bordeaux red – most Bordeaux red is pretty plain stuff but everybody knows about the massively expensive classed growths.  For an alternative cabernet sauvignon / merlot blend I suggest trying wines from Stellenbosch (S Africa) and Coonawarra or Margaret River (Australia).  The latter has soils and climate very similar to Bordeaux.
  8. Provence dry rose – this was tricky as they dominate the market for rose; however I can recommend Left Field rose, an unusual blend of Arneis, Pinotage and Merlot from New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region, wonderfully fresh and fruity and available from Waitrose.
  9. Chateauneuf du Pape – a familiar name but it can be a combination of up to 13 different grape varieties so there can be wide variation.  Most is a grenache-based blend and for that you can try a top example from Priorat in Spain.
  10. Chablis – another familiar name, most being dry, unoaked chardonnay.  There are plenty of good examples from Chile, or go for New Zealand’s flagship chardonnay region of Gisborne.
  11. St Emilion – this is usually based on merlot or cabernet franc.  Be adventurous and try an alternative from Washington State or Virginia (USA).