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Adventures in wine tasting: discover something new

December 18, 2014

It may seem a bit odd to start making New Year’s resolutions about wine right now – and especially one that involves drinking more of it. Actually it’s the continuation of a constant resolution, a quest to keep learning, exploring and knowing more about the wonderful, endlessly fascinating world of wine…. and this involves tasting as many different and new wines as possible.

I’ve always thought this was a bit difficult here in Dubai. As everything is shipped in and it’s a relatively small market, we tend to get mainstream wines, big brands and very familiar grape varieties. I’d love to join the Wine Century Club which you can join if you’ve tasted 100 grape varieties (see my friend Erin’s account of getting through her century) but considered this pretty impossible in the U.A.E. So I was genuinely pleased to see the new ‘discover’ collection at MMI.

To quote the leaflet:

With wine, make sure you try something new as often as possible….

Hear, hear

…don’t just stick to your favourite wine of brand because it’s safe – your new favourite bottle is out there waiting to be discovered.

So you can guess how intrigued I was opening the sample box of the discover wine selection (for November and December) that MMI sent me.

Exploring wine My Custard Pie

Let’s look at the whites.

  • Are you surprised if I say that the Greek wine was the one I was itching to open first? Forget Retsina or dodgy wines you’ve sipped while on a package holiday. This wine is from beautiful Santorini; the wind whistles up and over the island so the Assyrtiko vines are trained in a basket shape to protect them.  Grown using organic farming methods, with old vines on volcanic soil this is bone dry, citrussy with a tiny hint of green olives. Not an overly complex wine but balanced and superbly drinkable. Domaine Sigalas Asssyrtiko reminded me of a fino sherry without the yeasty notes (if that makes sense) and would be fantastic with olives and salty or fishy nibbles. It’s firmly on my list to buy again.
  • I know the Martín Códaz Albariño well, it’s from the Rias Baixas region of Spain (pronounce it all with your tongue between your teeth) and adore it. Again it’s crisp, dry and very elegant with orchards of lemons, lime and grapefruit with a touch of stone fruit on the nose. It’s the perfect aperitif and is wonderful with seafood. I tasted an Albariño (by Paco & Lola Arousana) with a sea bass crudo and a prawn tartare at Sea Fu the other evening and it was the perfect pairing with these fairly acidic dishes. Definitely one to discover if you haven’t already…
  • …and this also applies to the Laurenz V Singing Grüner Veltliner from Austria (a magnum of this will be making an appearance at our Christmas dinner). Aromatic, refreshing but balanced with a bit of creaminess.
  • If you are struggling to get your tongue round the name Grüner Veltliner, give up and just grab the leaflet and point to the Moncaro Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classica ‘La Vele’ if ordering. When studying Italy for my wine exams it was easily the most difficult country. But I digress – looking forward to tasting this wine and while not expecting it to blow my socks off, the refreshing acidity of the Verdicchio grape means it could be, potentially, my new house wine for pouring to visitors who won’t drink anything other than Sauvignon Blanc. Here’s hoping….
  • I have no idea what to expect from the Nadaria Grecanico (made from a grape variety brought to Sicily by the Greeks centuries ago); bargain basement price so not expecting wonders but who knows….
  • The Freixenet Mia Blanco is made from some of the main grapes that go into Cava and is slightly sweet…. Let’s see. Could be a crowd pleaser (thinking back to the Moscato at a ladies lunch that had everyone swooning).

Exploring wine My Custard Pie

Onto the reds….

  • …and the only one I’ve tasted before is the Zuccardi Serie A Malbec which is great value, full-bodied, bursting with black cherries, with structured tannins and leaves your teeth satisfyingly purple.
  • I’ve longed to taste more Portuguese wine (bucket list wine trip) so the Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos from the Douro will be the first I’m going to try.
  • As a Southern Rhone lover I’m always attracted to the luscious juicy grenache grape and similarly drawn to its Spanish equivalent garnacha. The Pablo Old vine Garnacha from high altitude vineyards in Calatayud in Spain has the potential to be a fantastic match for your Christmas turkey. Hand harvested from 100-year-old bush vines, I’m hoping this good value red is a juicy, berry explosion. I’d better try it pronto (or should I say rápidamente).
  • And talking of Rhone blends, the Spanish Campo de Borja from Penelope Sanchez is made of both Garnacha and Syrah. Not sure about the look of the label… but this is what ‘discover’ is all about.
  • Tasting wine on a visit to Istanbul this year (read The Hedonista’s account) was a great experience but bringing some home prohibitively expensive so excited to see K of Kapadokia on the list. Drinking it must be easier than pronouncing the grape varieties of Öküzgözü and Boğazkere.
  • Finally if you think wine from China is obscure you might be surprised to hear that it is now the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. This is my first taste so let’s see what I make of the Changyu Cabernet Gernischt…..

If you fancy trying any (or all) of these in Dubai or (RAK) just ask for the discover leaflet in MMI stores.

Bonus tips for obtaining your tipple in Dubai this festive season

  • KP arranges an annual golf game in Al Hamra Ras Al Khaimah a couple of weeks before Christmas which is handy as you pass right past the door of The Cellar. There have to be a few compensations for golf widows – start dropping those hints about 18 holes by the sea now.
  • Seasonal visitors arriving by plane? Call Le Clos, ( 04 220 3633) order and pay for your fine wines, then give the details of the incoming flight. There are some excellent 12 days of Christmas offers right now. Your visitors have a five bottle allowance each that you can make the most of. Otherwise drop big hints about this allowance and the availability of duty free in arrivals.
  • Book your Smart Drive now, as it’s going to be busy.

Thanks to MMI for these samples – I had no obligation to write about them and I’ll give you an honest opinion about which ones I liked (or not).

Do you like discovering new wines? If not, what stops you from trying out something different?

  1. December 18, 2014 9:09 am

    I love Assyrtiko and your description (“a fino sherry without the yeasty notes”) is great. It’s salty and bracing like a fino.

    • December 19, 2014 7:40 am

      Thanks Jameson. Salty and bracing – spot on.

  2. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    December 18, 2014 9:24 am

    I love Freixenet Negro, have enjoyed the occasional bottle now for over 25 years, I actually prefer it to the really bubbly stuff. Didn’t see the Mia Blanco during my little road trip. Can you ask KP to add Mr GA to his annual golfing soiree please 🙂

    • December 19, 2014 7:48 am

      The Prosecco craze has relegated Cava to bottom place – and there are some dodgy ones – but it’s made in the same way as Champagne i.e. fermented in the bottle (where Prosecco is tank method) so good Cava is very good. There were moves afoot in Spain to label the better quality Cavas with a different appelation recently but I think it got waylaid.

  3. daver001 permalink
    December 18, 2014 9:28 am

    Interesting as always, Sally. Must get to The Cellar sometime. I’m confused though about the duty free allowance – different reports say it’s either four or five bottles… Meanwhile, looking for some old favorites in Europe next week – I traditionally start with a dozen oysters and a couple of glasses of Quincy.

    • December 19, 2014 7:49 am

      I must taste your beloved Quincy sometime 🙂 I think it’s 5 bottles and I’m sticking to it!!

    • daver001 permalink
      December 20, 2014 2:59 pm

      Quincy would probably remind you of a Petit Chablis. knot that I can afford a decent bottle of that. My other go-to would be St Veran, just south of the Chablis AC.

  4. December 18, 2014 12:05 pm

    Fabulous wines! Unfortunately, I know none of them…



  5. December 19, 2014 2:29 pm

    My reasons for picking wine are often pretty shallow – I like that one with the polka dots on the label! I need someone like you to help me pick something more adventurous to match my food.

  6. December 23, 2014 7:27 am

    What fun! I’m a red drinker, but I love the Paco & Lola Albariño, too. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

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