‘Armand’ goes off-piste


Grüner Veltliner

Sublime mountain vistas; decadent coffee and pastries; terrifying ski runs; singing nuns: these are a few of my favourite things. Having travelled to Austria a number of times, I’m always delighted by the contrast between the Alpine way of life and the wonderful cities of Vienna and Salzburg. It’s probably not exactly where you’d expect to go for excellent home grown wine, but Austria has a lovely little secret nestling under the shadow of its Alpine scenery. Grüner Veltliner is a grape that accounts for almost a third of land under vine in the country, and is somewhat of a speciality in the areas around the old Habsburg domains. Like most grapes, it does extremely well in areas with poor soil, and is grown on very steep slopes. It does require a fair bit of care, which is part of the reason it’s not as common as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc; and it has a reputation for producing rather simple wine, which should be drunk whilst still relatively young. This particular offering from the Taste The Difference range proves that given a little time, a truly delicious beverage can ensue. It has a developed nose of pepper and honeyed stone fruits, with hints of lemon and a good streak of minerality. The palate is a little denser than the nose would suggest, but without being cloying. The finish is crisp, if rather short. An ideal aperitif wine, it’ll also stand up to a simple starter – particularly anything with asparagus – and makes a classic pairing with shellfish. The hills are alive!

  Sainsbury’s, around £8 per bottle


Ophir Oriental Spiced Gin

Earlier editions of this column have focussed on a styles which probably suit the everyday gin drinkers’ palate: nothing to stretch you too far. Gin is, after all, the drink of the masses, as someone misquoting Marx probably said. However, it is the avowed intention of this column to attempt to educate and delight in equal measure; and so now it’s time for something completely different. This is a London Dry with a difference. For a start, the nose is unique; and different from anything you might find on a supermarket shelf – unless your supermarket is Bakers & Larners, in which case this gin might be a bit run of the mill. Some people would be hard pressed to tell you this was gin, if they were doing a blind smell test. Any zest is produced by coriander and orange, and it can be quite off-putting to even seasoned gin drinkers. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing scent, with plenty of spice and scents you might not normally associate with Mother’s Ruin. On the palate, it’s extremely smooth; but the hints of spice are warming and tongue-tingling. It has a long finish, with the orange backing up the spices well. It makes an interesting twist on any gin cocktail, and for a G&T, deserves to be served with a piece of stem ginger, rather than the usual citrus fruit.

Widely available at around £22 per 70cl bottle