If I asked a roomful of wine lovers to pick just one white to go with (a) goat’s cheese, (b) fresh and cooked tomatoes, (c) pan-fried cod, and (d) a spicy prawn Thai red curry, there would be a chorus of “SAUVIGNON BLANC!”
They’d be right. Aromatic, brightly fruity sauv blanc nails it with all four, as well as with myriad other non-red meat dishes. But much I love this grape, it is utterly ubiquitous and sometimes we all need a change from it.
So let’s bring on another white that suits all the above and more, and this time it may be one you don’t know: Italy’s pecorino.
The pecorino grape is mainly grown in Italy’s central-eastern regions and is named after the Italian word for sheep, pecora. That’s because the bunches of its grapes hang in triangular clusters, reckoned to look like the shape of a sheep’s head. Yes, there’s also a gentle, mildly nutty sheep’s cheese called pecorino – the wine and food go together rather well in this instance, too.
Pecorino is probably indigenous to the Marche (it’s also grown in Abruzzo, Lazio and more westerly Liguria among other regions), and delivers a refreshing citrus and pear flavour, sometimes a little peachy, and at others more herbaceous with hints of tarragon and thyme.
It ends on a zingy note, mouthwatering and slightly lime-pithy, so is perfectly good to drink on its own as well.
The latest round of press tastings showed several appealing and keenly priced pecorinos from 2018, juicy and relatively ripe from a warm year. If you need a shove on from sauv blanc, even temporarily, give them a go.
Morrisons The Best Pecorino 2018
Abruzzo, Italy (13%, £6.75)
A serious bargain that won a silver medal in the recent Decanter World Wine Awards, bursting with lip-smacking orange zest and peach flavour, and with a rounded, smooth texture. Ends very dry but balanced. A good party white as well as a food matcher.
Marks & Spencer Terre di Chieti Pecorino 2018
Abruzzo, Italy (12%, £8)
Scented just like a juicy tangerine, with an apricot glow on the palate and a long succulent finish. The Chieti area produces fine pecorino, grown on sandy loam soils. Try this one with pan-fried or roasted white fish, especially cod, haddock or hake.
Contesa Pecorino 2018 IGT Colline Pescaresi
Italy (12.5%, Majestic, £9.99 or £8.99 as part of mixed six)
Orchard fruit flavours here – yellow apples and ripe pears – plus a hint of creamy almond and twist of lime pith that lifts the finish. A fine example of pecorino, and especially good with spiced seafood or a prawn risotto. Love the sheep label too…