Published on May 3, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


A European wine adventure

When asked “which three countries produce the most wine in the world”, you’re likely to guess one will be France, and you’d be correct. But did you know the remaining positions in the global top three wine producers are Italy and Spain? We caught up with Lanchester Wines’ buyer, Lesley Cook, about this summer’s hottest European wine trends and why the Stanley, County Durham-based business feels Italian and Spanish wines are the ones we all should be drinking this summer.

There’s a high probability that everyone reading this has at tried at least one Spanish or Italian wine– most likely more. And, you’re not alone.

In 2016 alone, the UK imported over 132 million litres of Italian wine and close to 111 million litres of Spanish. But, why do we Brits love wine from our European neighbours?

La Dolce Vita

Italy is the traditional home of classic wines such as Pinot Grigio or Chianti and, of course, the ever-popular Prosecco; sales of which have risen 6,000% since 2008.

When you think of Italy, often the first thing you think of is food and Italian’s usually only drink wine when they’re eating. Given Italy’s rich gastronomic heritage, it’s no surprise this is often most of our first foray into food and wine pairing as even the simplest foods, such as pizza and pasta, work so well with wine. And, there are so many delicious combinations to choose from that include a rich Chianti to match perfectly with a tangy tomato based pasta; a dry Vermentino with seafood, or a light Pinot Grigio with citric based foods like lemon chicken.

(*My top tip with any food and wine pairing is just enjoy what you enjoy. Try different combinations but remember your own personal opinion is always the best option for you.)

Did you know, Italian grapes have proven so popular that some, such as the previously mentioned Pinot Grigio have taken on the role of the “super varietal” with vines planted across the globe? Indeed, one of the other wine areas to watch over the next few years will be Italian grapes from New World countries. Australia, particularly, is leading the way here and we predict the summer launch of Victorian winery, McPhersons Wine Co’s Aquarius Sangiovese Shiraz to be a huge success.

Viva España 

Spanish wines are always popular and provide a great range of options. Rioja is undoubtedly the best known wine-producing region in Spain and the UK is its biggest export market. Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (Destination of Origin, or D.O.) meaning all wine production is closely regulated – similar to Stilton or Melton Mowbray. Only a strict number of grape varieties are currently authorised by the Regulations of the D. O. Rioja, which are:

Red: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo y Maturana Tinta.

White: Viura, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc y Verdejo.

While red Rioja is the most popular and well known, sales of Rioja whites grew significantly above the market average last year. Sales were up 16%, surpassing growth figures of other regions specialising in whites, with white wines currently making up close to 8% of total Rioja sales, compared to 5% five years ago.

Perhaps this is due to white Rioja’s light, citrus flavour profile which is similar to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – sales of which are continuing to soar. This familiar flavour combined with an attractive price point makes White Rioja a sure-fire hit for any Sauvignon Blanc lovers.


Within the wine sector as a whole, we’re seeing a move towards quality over quantity – spend a little bit more to try a more premium wine. Successful restaurants and importers already introduce quirkier wine varieties with “by the glass”, offering the perfect solution to trying something new but without having to splash out on an expensive bottle you might not like.

We’ve worked closely with both our Spanish and Italian partners to introduce a number of premium products with a key point of difference. Our ones to watch this summer are:

5 Oros Graciano: From Rioja, this is one of the only 100% Graciano wines available to the UK market. With flavours of cherries and fruits of the forest, this is an elegant and luxurious red.

Sal de Fiesta La Mona: This Moscato/Verdejo blend is presented in a beautiful, tall blue bottle. While the wine is excellent, the bottle is guaranteed to be the perfect centrepiece for any table.

Le Argille Cabernet di Cabernet: A refined blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Cabernet Franc, this unique wine is presented in the only cement-dipped bottle available to the UK market.

*Lesley Cook is Lanchester Wines’ buyer and is based in County Durham.

All wines mentioned are available across the North East through Lanchester Wines –
www.lanchesterwines.co.uk. Ask your local bar staff for more details.

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Alastair Gilmour

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