Daily Mail



WHO doesn’t remember their first great wine discovery on holiday? Mine was at the tender age of 14 at a grand Bordeaux château when I was allowed thimblesip­s of Grand Crus. One of these was a 1928 Château d‘Yquem, which remains etched on my palate.

If, in those heady days, France was the undisputed home of wine, much has changed since. Never mind Kourtaki Retsina with its beer-bottle cap, sipped on beachfront tavernas.

Nowadays in the land of Dionysus (god of wines), you are more likely to be served wonderful, acidic Assyrtiko from Santorini, the vines painstakin­gly wound into a tight, low crown to protect grapes from the salty air.

In the Azores, they have another solution to sea breezes, cossetting vines within low protective stone walls, which also retain heat by night.

In Croatia, astonished by the quality of their reds, I visited a sea-facing slope of vines where, by contrast, the grapes thrive in the lashings of salty wind.

Meanwhile on Cape Verde, so close to the equator, grapes are grown high in the volcanic soil of Fogo’s caldera to keep the precious berries cool.

Heading east into Biblical territory, we reach Armenia, home of Noah and his Ark, which alighted on Mount Ararat. According to Genesis, after the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard — and became very drunk indeed. Today, Armenia is famed for Ararat — Winston Churchill’s favourite brandy. Not forgetting neighbouri­ng Georgia, ‘cradle of viticultur­e’, which has been burying great jars of wine to mature since time immemorial.

Despite the repute of Screaming Eagle and other eccentrica­lly-named and stratosphe­rically-priced bottles, I’m no fan of California­n wines. But take me to the manicured vineyards of Stellenbos­ch for full-bodied blends, or to coldclimat­e Tasmania for its delicate but capricious Pinot Noirs, or to New Zealand for its biodynamic Sauvignon Blancs . . . and I’m happy as Larry.

My latest discovery might please lovers of Super Tuscans — Sassicaia, Solaia, et al — which are among my favourite wines but, at over £250 a pop, a treat. Enter a new vineyard I stumbled across in Emilia-Romagna — Tenuta Gacci, whose single wine is a perfectly-balanced, Sangiovese-rich blend. Delicious! You heard it here, first.

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