By Isabelle Webster
We’re still in the shit storm that is 2020, and honestly, I couldn’t tell you if it’s March or November. But it’s definitely 5 o’clock somewhere. G&T Time.
Where I am—Sydney—we’re still kind of allowed out and about (for now), but as a country we are literally grounded, so what better to do than drink (alone) in our rooms? You’re not going out, so when it comes to wine, you can do better than 5$ at Aldi. At a time when photos of wine bottles and sourdough have replaced images of tanned bums, wet hair and far away beaches, sip your way through a seven-stop continental liquid holiday with me.
FRANCE: Didier Grappe DISTORTION 2018 $51
First stop, France. The land of bread, cheese and wine. This wine is fizzy, which means two things: it’s appropriate to drink at all hours, and you can have more of it because it has bubbles, which are air. This wine is made with a grape called Seyve Villard which is the last names of the two dudes who claim to have created the hybrid. It’s a naturally fizzy wine which basically means that they capped it before the ferment finished, and the ferment in the bottle makes it go fizzy-good—like when tomato juice goes off because you made Bloody Marys at home and then forgot about the other ¾ of the bottle in the back of the fridge… except delicious. Science! This wine smells like oysters and tastes like a mermaid saved her tears and drip-fed them to you from a shell with a squeeze of lemon to keep it fresh. It makes me want to hurl myself into the sea, and later, watch the sunset and let the salt crust on my skin while I eat all the hot chips and drink a second bottle.
CHILE: Vinateros Pipeño Bravos Blanco 1L 2018 $41
I’ve never been to Chile, but I’d bloody love to. Pipeño is a word that roughly means the wine is made by the people who grew the grapes (aka, vignerons in French) but also the etymology refers to the wine being stored in a beechwood vessel called a pipa. This Pipeño has had four weeks of skin contact* (which I could really go for right about now), and that makes the wine textural and grippy on your tongue… like chalk. The grapes are Moscatel de alejandría, Corinto and Semillon, and if you even recognise one of those, I’d like to offer you my congratulations. I can imagine drinking this wine in the Atacama Desert, solving the problems of the world; although, truthfully, all I know about the Atacama comes from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. However, the 1L format lends itself to having a government-approved number of people over for empanadas and exactly two glasses of wine each.
*white grapes left to ferment with their skins and seeds etc. are often called ‘orange wine’ or ‘skin contact’ wine and are considered to be the oldest format of winemaking according to the Georgians, who never ceased making these textural styles. They’ve recently gained popularity again, mostly because they’re fucking delicious.
PORTUGAL: Luis Seabra Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2018 $45
Portugal is somewhere I have visited and olá, obrigado, pour me a glass while I tell you about a surf break called ‘Coxos’ I went to during the 2014 WSL and how I was too scared to get in the water because Dion Agius was surfing there and I wasn’t about to let him see me eat shit. This wine is from Douro, which is not close to Coxos, but Portugal is pretty small. The signature coffee of Portugal is a galão, which pairs perfectly with a Pastéis de Nata because it’s milky and sweet. The grapes in this wine are unpronounceable local varieties. This wine is not sweet, nor does it contain eggs. It’s juicy, for sure, but in the way of nashi pears and pie apples. It’s also cool and lean, fresh with aromatic white blossom, but still a bit salty. Yes balance, hello. If the consumption of a wine can replace actually being abroad, this one comes pretty close. It’s so good it almost erases the memory of sitting in an international departure terminal wondering if you packed enough undies or if you forgot your toothbrush. Drink this with sunshine on your face but probably don’t share it, unless you’re trying to show off or get laid.
SOUTH AFRICA: Testalonga Keep On Punching Chenin Blanc 2018 $42
I had a trip to South Africa planned for this year, which obviously never happened, but we can travel vicariously through this fuckin’ belter of a wine. Chenin is what I like to call the chicken of wine: it’s versatile and 90% of people like it. Often from the Loire, this one comes by way of ZA and—in a land that is known for its stodgy, flabby zinfandel—this wine is in a league of its own. It tastes like a fresh, white, juicy peach—the kind that runs off your chin—and bright, tart green apple and (go with it) fresh-cut grass. It’s youthful, verdant and incredibly moreish. I’m going to use a really wanky wine descriptor here, please forgive me… This wine is energetic. What I mean by that is it tastes so bright and good and fresh you half expect it to jump out of the glass. Drink it in the shower, or with oysters. Pants should definitely be optional.
SPAIN: I Think, Manzanilla Navazos NV $29
Okay, I zagged here, and it’s a sherry, not a wine; but damn, man, keep it in the fridge because we all know if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. Manzanilla is one of those things that has to come from a certain place to have its name. For sherry, it’s Jerez in Spain. This is another oceanic beverage; I’m craving hot days and long evenings; Spring is here and Summer is just hovering around the corner, waiting to pounce on our COVID curves. I like Spain, especially because drinks come with big garnishes and free snacks most of the time, and I like snacks and also free things, and a garnish is also both of those. Maybe make a snack to go with this? Some kind of small fish, or a deep-fried ball of rice, vita-wheats with butter and vegemite, I don’t know, I’m not your mum. Manzanilla (and this one is a perfect example) usually tastes like sea spray, olive brine and almonds. I’d serve it straight from the fridge, in a tumbler over ice, garnished with green martini olives, or drink it straight from the bottle on a sensible, socially distanced walk. It kind of looks like a kombucha bottle.
AUSTRIA: Gut Oggau Theodora 2018 $67
Things I know about Austria: Mozart, Freud, sacher torte, and… I think that’s it. Vienna looks cool, but this wine is from south of the capital, near the Budapest border. A cult wine with an international following, these wines form a fictional family tree, with labels illustrated to reflect the personality of the wine within. Theodora is my favourite and whether that’s because it’s delicious or it’s because she looks like me and is described as sassy, vivacious and stubborn, is completely beside the point. Why would you even bring that up? It’s gruner veltliner and welschriesling—no relation to riesling—and one-third of it does that sexy skin contact thing, so it’s a hazy kind of wine, textural and bright and herbaceous. It’s a little salty (me too) and pretty dry (me too) and maybe not everyone’s cup of tea (me too). Drink it on the balcony in the afternoon. Pairs well with the crossword, or a rousing piano concerto.
ITALY: Occhipinti SP68 Rosso 2018 $48
If there’s anywhere I want to visit just so that I can say YES I HAVE BEEN to all the people who ask (but also to bag a husband with ties to the mob), it’s Sicily. A wine region renowned for grapes grown on volcanic soil, most notoriously Susucaru Rosato, thank-you Action Bronson. But we’ve been in white/textural territory, and so you can have a little red wine, as a treat. Arianna Occhipinti makes a lot of cool, fancy wine, but you can cop this for less than a pineapple ($50 AUD) and it’s my favourite, anyway. It’s il frappato and nero d’avola, both Sicilian grapes, and it tastes like the colour purple and earth. It makes me think of nights when the sky looks like velvet and you can see the stars. It’s like kissing someone whose name you don’t know. It’s charismatic and elegant, so you don’t have to be. The End.