Stretch your red wine horizons…

Even the most adventurous red wine lovers get caught in a rut.

Maybe they like lighter styled reds and can’t get past Pinot Noir? Was a Merlot your first red… and that’s all you’ll drink to this day?

Break out of your comfort zone and try a red you’ve never sipped before. New styles of red wine are being made from traditional ‘Old World’ grapes. Ancient wine grapes are being rediscovered. New life is being injected into well-known wine grapes by creative young winemakers.

A popular red wine grape in Romania and Hungary, Kadarka or Skadarska is known as Gamza in Bulgaria. Currently in the throes of being ‘rediscovered’, Gamza makes a lighter bodied red wine with the delicacy of some Pinot Noirs. Often it is blended with Merlot to add weight and body.

Unoaked and ready to enjoy right now, Lovico Gamza ($10.99) is the easiest drinking red wine made by Bulgaria’s renowned Suhindol Winery. Light tart cherry and flowery pomegranate aromas and flavours dance over notes of raspberry and plum. Don’t be afraid to chill this red for 15 minutes before serving.

Created in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University, Pinotage is a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault – which was known as Hermitage at that time in South Africa. Over the last 30 years growers and winemakers have refined their techniques with this challenging grape.

Maybe its all that South African sun in the Swartland, an hour’s drive north-east of Capetown, below Kasteelberg Mountain, but Riebeek Cellars Pinotage ($12.99) has plummy, ripe blackberry flavours reminiscent of Australian Shiraz. Wisps of rich chocolate and coffee linger in the finish of this well-priced red.

A pioneering wine grape in the Americas, the grape known as Mission in California and Mexico and Criolla Chica in Argentina is called Pais in Chile. Up until very recently, the pale coloured rustic wines the over-cropped grapes made were relegated to local consumption as jug wines.

Chile’s Bouchon Family Wines is upping the ante on this forgotten grape. J.Bouchon Canto Sur ($13.97) is primarily Carmenere, blended with roughly equivalent amounts of Carignan and Pais. The peppery Carmenere embraces the soft, fragrant strawberry fruit of the Pais while Carignan adds deeper colour as well as tannins.

Some of the best values in red wines, today, continue to come to us from the Iberian Peninsula. Regardless of the price, the quality of wines from Spain and Portugal exceeds the cost from entry level through premium brands all the way to luxury cuvées.

Out of Portugal’s famed Douro Valley, Porca de Murça Reserva Tinto ($24.99) is an ultra-modern blend of traditional Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz wine grapes. Aromas and flavours of ripe plums, blueberries and blackcurrants lead this complex red with vanilla, caramel and minty cedar lingering though into the aftertaste.

As retailers in the US and the UK begin to discover and import some our own homegrown BC reds wines, consumers here are starting to become convinced of their quality. World-class winemakers are doing amazing work with high-toned cool-climate grapes from mature vines.

From the Lake Country district, north of Kelowna, richer and more complex than equally excellent Okanagan Valley competitors, 50th Parallel Estate Pinot Noir $33.99 moves from initial notes of blueberry and black cherry through a bouquet of savoury herbs – sage, rosemary and thyme – into spicy mushroom, bacon and dark chocolate… all in that silky way. This is Pinot Noir in perfect balance.

Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be capable of producing excellent red wines wherever it is grown but few regions can produce wines with the structure or varietal clarity and intensity of the best we get from Chile.

A single vineyard offering from old vines, Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Block Las Terrazas, Old Pirque Vineyard, Pirque, Maipo Valley 2015 $38.99 is always exceptional, whatever the vintage. A medley of red and black fruit aromas waft into earthy wet soil and graphite. Blackcurrant, mint, soy and molasses tantalize the taste buds as this magnificent red wine opens up in the glass.

Is it time to stretch your red wine horizons?

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