I've recently been tasting a whole bunch of wines from a specialist online merchant called The Daily Drinker that was an exercise in the unexpected. Owners Caspar and Victoria Bowes, who've been in the wine business for decades, launched the company specifically to explore - and help wine lovers explore - the more adventurous side of wine with new varieties, new countries and new styles. Among the wines I tasted were Cypriot Xynisteri, Croatian Malvazia, Turkish Narince and Spanish Sousón.
As a wine lover and, let's face it, someone who is so exposed to wine as to run the risk of boredom with the same old 'international' varieties cropping up again and again, I am of course inclined to be excited about anything that's new or unfamilar. But that excitement has to be balanced by the reality of the wines being good: novelty without quality would soon become even more boring. Thankfully, every one of Daily Drinkers wines was a joy, with nothing weird or second-rate about the aromas, flavours or winemaking, but just some really fresh and fascinating characteristics in each.
And they are not alone of course: even on the high street, the boundaries of wine are being pushed by at least some of our biggest wine retailers: Marks & Spencer perhaps leads the way on this, which given their reputation for solidity and 'middle-Englishness' is perhaps surprising. Their clothing sales still reports disappointing results, perhaps battling against the outmoded stereotype that M&S is the home of sensible knickers and Y-fronts, but food and drink sales are strong, perhaps giving their wine buyers the confidence to stock flor-influenced dry white Pedro Ximenez, or Croatian Grasevina.
It's great to see some real diversity amongst UK wines, at a time when pressure seems to be on some of the big multiples to reduce ranges and consolidate profit margins. Well done Daily Drinker and well done M&S. Others, please take note.