A Polish masterclass as the global wine map is redrawn

With so many newcomers, wine lovers have far more choice than they did 30 years ago

At nine o’clock one recent Sunday morning, I attended a masterclass on Polish wine, followed by a tasting of 70 wines. Prior to this I was vaguely aware that Poland produced wine. The event was put together by three Polish wine enthusiasts living here in Ireland. None that we tasted are available here yet, but it must be only a matter of time; there were some very good wines.

From a standing start in 2009, there are now 380 wineries, mostly small, covering every part of the country, but concentrated in the east and south-west. See polishwinefest.com for details.

The tasting was a reminder of how the wine map of the world has changed over the past 30 years. I recently came across an old wine list from the early 1980s and was surprised to see how restricted our choice was back then. Three quarters of the list was taken up with France (mainly Bordeaux and Burgundy), followed by Germany (very big back then). There was a Rioja from Spain, a Chianti, Valpolicella and Soave from Italy, and one or two Austrian, Australian and Portuguese wines. No Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and of course nothing from behind the Iron Curtain.

Over the past few years, I have tasted wines from Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Georgia, Wales, England, Canada, Turkey, Israel, India, China, Armenia, Romania, Greece and, of course, Ireland, and featured quite a few on these pages. Not all have been brilliant and some very definitely fell into the “interesting” category, but there have also been plenty of excellent wines full of local character, many with a history going back hundreds of years. It was interesting to note that a recent Aldi tasting featured wines from Austria, Hungary, Romania, Greece and Germany, alongside the usual countries.

Georgian wine is now very much on trend (the oldest wineries in the world are believed to be in the Caucuses), Moldova is a significant producer with real potential, and Greece a treasure trove that is slowly finding a place on our wine shelves. Others are sure to follow as many have real potential. Another positive to this revival is that rediscovered countries often have their own unique grape varieties.

Some countries are very new to the world of wine. Quality sparkling wine came first in the UK, then white and now red wines. Like Poland, they have found that a degree or so more heat, plus new technology, allows them to produce wine on a commercial basis for the first time in centuries.

So, this week, why not try one these wines from four different ‘new’ wine countries?

Zamat Pink Chardonnay Rosé 2021, Hungary

13%, €7.49

I’m not sure how to make a pink Chardonnay, but this is an attractive, very pale, lightly textured rosé with candied strawberries and redcurrants. Drink solo or with summery light salads.

From : Aldi, aldi.ie

La Zouina Volubilia Gris Rosé 2020, Morocco

12%, €18.70

Not dissimilar to a Provencal rosé, but with more interest. Beguiling strawberry, raspberry, and redcurrant fruits, with plenty of refreshing acidity. By itself or with spicy Mediterranean grilled fish.

From: L'Atitude 51, Cork, latitude51.ie; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie.

Ramaz Nikoladze Tsolikouri 2019, Imereti, Georgia

12.5%, €31.75

Fresh, mineral and lightly herby with good intensity of lemon zest, green apples, finishing dry. Lovely wine. Before dinner or for authenticity, with a cheesy khachapuri.

From: L'Atitude 51, Cork, latitude51.ie; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Loose Canon, D2, loosecanon.ie

Rathfinny Estate Brut Rosé NV, Sussex

12%, €54.99

A very stylish sparkling rosé with strawberry, redcurrants, and shortbread fruits, finishing dry. A match for most Champagnes at this price. An aperitif to get people talking or with oysters, sashimi, or prawns.

From: Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, redislandwine.com; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Redmonds, D6; Redmonds.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Corkscrew, D2, thecorkscrew.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Wineonline.ie.