There you sit, another night out. You’ve been here before. However tonight, something is a little different. You can’t decide what you want to drink!! This month has been longer than the wait between episodes of GoT and honestly the person that you are drinking with thinks they know everything about wine, and if you have to drink another glass of Barossa Valley Shiraz paired with your oysters you are quite possibly going to top yourself!! Thankfully, you arrived first and quite frankly, NEED a drink and your friend would be highly disappointed if you waited for them to arrive before ordering yourself a cheeky something. So when asked “what would you like?” your response is “Red… Anything but Barossa Shiraz because I’ll be drinking it the rest of the night… Please!” When you hear the reply of “I have just the thing, it just came in yesterday and it’s amazing!!” you nod appreciatively and settle in to finish that final email that you just need to get sent before your friend arrives.
Distracted by the electronic world (of course, the boss responded to your email and expects the same from you) you miss the waiters return, only to realise that someone is talking to you as you hear the words “Zweigelt Blaufränkisch!” and see the waiter talking to you! Taken aback, and never having being spoken to like that before, you immediately take offence and respond “What did you just call me??” with a look of affront, indignation and quite frankly befuddlement on your face!! The waiter, equally puzzled stares back, that stupid grin he was sporting solidly slapped off his face by your sharp and intense reaction. “Y-y-y-your w-w-w-wine…. Its a Zweigelt / Blaufränkisch blend. Its from Austria. We just got it in yesterday. I thought you might like it.”
“Oh!! Zweigelt / Blaufrankisch! Of course. I should have known. Sorry I misheard you! I thought you said something else. Thanks.” you respond, still having no idea what has just happened and honestly, with the day you’ve had, you just need that drink. The waiter lingers as you lift your glass and take your first sip of what you can only assume is Pinot Noir. (It is the other end of the “Please not Barossa Shiraz” spectrum), and what hits your lips is… completely different! A heady, elegant mass of flavour bound together with a delicacy of red fruit, a lick of dark, and wait, chalky tannins. “Where is this Pinot from?” you ask the lurking waiter. “Its not Pinot” he replies. “As I said, its a Zweigelt/Blaufränkisch blend coming out of Austria. Delicate, fresh, vibrant, and so delicious. Do you like it?”
All of a sudden it hits you what has happened. You smile, almost laugh out loud. You ask to see the wine list and see that there are more wines likes this listed. Things that sound like something out of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Your email forgotten, you strike up a conversation with the bartender, who is now also grinning ear to ear, the joke not lost on him of what has gone before.
When your friend arrives you exclaim “Hey! So glad you’re here!! You have to try this Mencia!!” To which you receive the same response that you now realise you gave the expectant waiter, because you catch each others eye and there is a silent acknowledgement.
We have all been in a situation where we have seen a wine on the list and shied away because, quite frankly it sound more like a North Korean Dictator than it does any wine you have ever encountered. Well there is no longer any need to fear. There are thousands of grape varieties out there and many of them may feel like it is easier to win RISK than it is to say them, let alone know what they are going to be like. But never fear, if in a wine bar and the waiter/sommelier starts saying things to you that sound like something you would never want said in front of your mother, there is a good chance they are just telling you about some of the “other” wines that are available!!
Here are some of the ones that we will be tasting today, and wines that can often be similar to them (and a little how to guide on pronunciation):
This grape varietal was once the most famous of the indigenous varieties of the region, reportedly loved by Livia, 2nd wife of Augustus Caesar. Refosco Del Peduncolo Rosso is named such for the red stems that it has. This is best described as Italian Beaujolais, but if you love Pinot and Gamay (especially fruitier styles more so than savoury, earthy styles) gives this a go.
Heady in its aroma, deeply fruity and often with chalky/dusty tannins, Mencia is a little known grape variety coming from the Galicia region of Spain. Mencia produces pale, light and relatively fragrant red wines with a dusty, dry earthy edge. I f you love this guys, look also to Barbera and Dolcetto.
An ‘old world’ Spanish grape varietal known for its rich and wonderful perfume, spiciness, acidity and wonderful tannin, and was once a component for Rioja Gran Reserva. Late ripening and prone to disease, it has slowly lost favour over the ages, only to see somewhat of a resurgence recently. Known for its spice, tannin and acidity, fruit profile here is generally one of blue and tart red fruits. Think Sangiovese meets Central Otago Pinot! If you a Sangiovese or Tempranillo lover, this should appeal to your senses.
Touriga Naçional is a Portuguese grape variety that is what Tempranillo is to Spain! Best known for its use in Port, as a table wine it can often have a soft herbal nose indicative of bergamot, rosemary and soft violets to dance withs its blue fruited nature. For me this is best described as “Cabernet Sauvignon without the tannins”. If you love this, you may also want to try Malbec, Cab Sav and South African Pinotage.
Attracting a couple of names (depending on origin) Blaufränkisch is a dark skinned grape variety that many could call a “summer wine”. Whilst the flavours coming through sit in the smokey-sweet, black fruit characteristics, this is another wine that many Pinot lovers could possible fall in love with. Can often be served lightly chilled and has been referred to as an alternative to some Cru Beaujolais.
This is the fruit-forward masterpiece from Sicily that no one ever talks about. It tastes like raspberries and candied oranges wrapped up in soft leather and its lower tannins make for easy drinking… almost too easy!
For someone looking for a lighter, more delicate style of red.
Black cherry, plum, liquorice and tobacco with a touch of pepper spice coming through, this varietal has finally started to come into its own, even being grown in many regions here in Australia. Known for its full body and bold fruit forward flavours, this is a grape that our Cab Sav and Shiraz drinkers should try!!