|The fashion world is riddled with them - Lacroix, Versace, Dolce and Gabana, Yves Saint Laurent, and so is the high fashion wine world - Verduzzo, Arneis, Lagrein, Chambourcin, Alicante Bouchet, Marzemino - names that are just as hard to pronounce as they are to pay for, but oh, so cool. The ever fashionable Ben Canaider walks as through this seasons collection of cool wines.
New and different is better; we hate routine and we hate the same old thing all the time. Novelty is our guiding light, probably because our parents were all on drugs and watched too much telly and didn't bring us up properly. Yet we live much longer and safer and secure lives, too, which means we get bored more easily and find it hard to be grateful for small mercies. I know a bloke who gets all het up about the weeds that grow in between the pavers at the back door. His name's Ben and he's a tosser.
Wine, being the most important thing in the world ever ever ever is subject to the same sort of novelty nausea. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon became so popular 20 or so years ago because they were easily treated with stacks of oak and offered easily recognisable flavours; people loved them (and many still do) because they were always the same. That won't do now. Cutting edge wine lifestylers drink unpronounceable varietals in a desperate effort to be individuals, and that's OK - if weirdo wines can help us get there then hooray for weirdo wines.
So if you're in need of a bit of a varietal makeover, then this is what's on offer. Use this information shamelessly, use it to impress good looking prospective sexual partners at parties. Call it your own and see what it gets you.
Durif. Good old Dr. Durif. This fella was a Frenchman who got Shiraz to intermarry with another grape variety called Peloursin - the baby was Durif. (At least, this is the theory.) It's a red variety and goes by the name Petite Sirah in the US. Durif makes its living in Australia in the North East of Victoria and in NSW's Riverina. Durif from Campbells (called The Barkly), Morris, and Stanton & Killeen in the North East are all powerful, dense and heavily textured wines. The give you hits of chocolate and earth, and they're not so jammy and fruit sweet as you'd think a big bold Rutherglen red might be. The Morris or S.& K. are good places to start with this wine, and both are in the low to mid $20 range. Drink it with a T-bone or two. Cheaper stuff from the Riverina, De Bortoli's Durif, is more lightly bodied and a little gruffer, but it's under $10. It's OK, but stick to the real thing.
Viognier. This is a bit of a darling among serious white drinkers nowadays. Some say it's the red wine drinker's white, but, God, if we only had an American dollar for every time we'd heard that line. This grape helps make Northern Rhone white wine; used on its lonesome, it also makes the enigmatic and $$$ Condrieu, of which Guigal's is a reliable example. Just be sure to take your credit cards with you when you put a deposit down on a bottle of it. Viognier is a waxy and peachy sort of drink, with plenty of weight in your mouth, but with a drying and uplifting finish. This makes it more-ish. Some reckon it's flavour is a bit like sucking on an apricot stone, but, as ashamed as I am to have to say, I've not been to one of those parties yet... Yalumba make an example of it here in Ockerdom called Growers Limited Release. It's a $20 something drink that has a few people doing backflips, but more because of the wine's novelty value than much else, or so this correspondent has the gall to suggest. Hardy's Le Baume - made in Southern France, is about $15 and has those weirdo paradoxical flavours: it's lean but a bit fat, fresh but weighty; there's sweetness on the lips but attractive sourness at the back of your palate. Acidity and tightness come along for the ride too.
Spend a week drinking both these varieties and get back to me. Durif is pronounced with a long "u"; say Viognier anyway you like - everyone else does. But it's something like "Vee-ohn-yeh". And if that's not enough to keep you ahead of the Jones', why not try Verduzzo, Arneis, Lagrein, Chambourcin, Alicante Bouchet, or Marzemino.
Stay tuned, next issue we'll look at the last two.