bottles of wine on a shelf

How many of you managed a dry January? I managed 10 days, then one of my wines winked at me from the fridge and begged me to open her… Hopefully you had more self-restraint than me, and you’ll be cracking open a bottle over the weekend to celebrate. But rather than reach for your usual tipple, why not mark a new year with a new wine? Something from off the beaten track, something that stands up against the ‘big boys.’ Not sure where to start? There are oodles of undiscovered gems out there, and we’ve picked out a few suggestions to get you started…

Q: I always order Sauvignon Blanc. What should I branch out to?

We’re all inclined to stick to what we know, and what many of us know and love is a zingy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – it’s the go-to wine of choice for many of us.

But there IS life beyond Sauvignon… and there are some lesser-known alternatives that are similar in style to the ever-ubiquitous Savvy B (and they are equally delicious).

Take Verdejo for example.

Verdejo is a Spanish white grape that has the same grassy, citrus notes as Sauvignon Blanc does. Franck Massard’s medal-winning Herbis Verdejo is super-refreshing, crisp and has a zingy finish that’ll keep your tongue tingling for hours on end. It’s lip-spankingly delicious!

Q: I love Malbec, but it’s not always available or affordable at restaurants, what’s a similar alternative to try?

A: Malbec, with its huge flavour, full body and smoky finish is a massive favourite of food-lovers. It’s incredibly good with a succulent hunk of char-grilled steak.

There are a number of big, inky, ripe beauties that make a purse-friendly alternative to Malbec. Shiraz has the same body and dark fruit that you find in a Malbec – and it pairs seriously well with a juicy steak.

Try Carmen Stevens A Little Heaven Shiraz for example. It’s made from super-premium grapes that would normally go into wine 3 times the price. It’s big, brooding and seriously powerful, with a decadent streak of yummy oak. Sheer indulgence.


Q: I find white wine refreshing in the summer, but what’s a good white wine to have in the winter?

Just because the weather’s on the chilly side doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking white wines. Winter is the perfect time to try a richer white that evokes the same comforting feeling as a tummy-warming red.

Viognier, for example, is a gorgeous, silky and fruity white with plenty of body for the winter months.

Ben’s Viognier is possibly the richest white wine you’ll ever taste. It’s packed to the rafters with delicious apricot and lemon fruit, all whirled around in a creamy mix, finished off with a delicious zing.

Q: What should I serve at a dinner party that’s not going to break the bank? 

The house is spotless, you’ve laid the table and cooked a feast that would make Jamie proud. All you need now is some show-stopping wines, guaranteed to draw a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from your dinner party guests.

Here are a couple of impressive, yet budget-friendly dinner party wines. These unusual little gems are much higher in quality than their modest price tag suggests.

Try Dominic Hentall Primitivo IGT Puglia 2012 (£8.49) and Moerbei White Gold Chardonnay/ Semillon 2012 (£8.99)

Primitivo is a grape from the heel of Italy. It’s very smooth but with lots of lovely red and black fruit flavours.

White Gold is a seriously delicious Semillon/Chardonnay blend. It’s very classy and is sure to impress guests.