There’s something charming and terribly British about championing the underdog. I wanted to shine on a light on what we call at Vineyards the ‘B side wines.’ The flip -side wines that are not known as or produced with the ‘Big Hit’ grapes, but in our opinion offer a thrilling experience and something a little different to the norm. These are the little gems that you’ll find on the shelves of a good indie wine merchant.
You see, there’s a couple of ways you can look at B sides: you could question why somewhere along the line they have not climbed the charts and grabbed the number 1 spot, or you could see them as wines that are not commercial or made in a crowd-pleasing, pure money-making fashion and rather reflect the personal interests or passion of the winemaker behind them. The latter is our viewpoint – on the whole. Like in many industries, there’s a spectrum from commercial appeal to a niche market. We love a niche wine at Vineyards, but the sweet spot for us is finding a wine with the right balance of ‘quirky’ and for the right reasons.
Being ‘out there’ for the sake of it is not a good enough reason. We like to keep an eye on how many variables in the same bottle are ‘beyond the norm’ not to overdo it. So, when sourcing wines, we’re looking for ‘B sides’ that perhaps are unusual grape varieties from a well-known region, or the complete opposite – well known grapes from unexpected wine regions. From rare indigenous grapes to unusual wine production methods, we sample and source them all – if they pass quality control! Like the ‘Big Hits,’ if the wine in the bottle is not well-made and value for money, it doesn’t make the cut.
The moral of this story is to highlight the fact that behind every number 1 hit is a brooding B side with something extraordinary to offer. Now that’s what I call wine.
Some of our favourite B sides:
CHATEAU OUMSIYAT OBEIDY, MTEIN, LEBANON £11 P/BTL
Obeidy is an Indigenous grape variety to Lebanon – think a slightly cleaner/fresher style of Viognier with hints of citrus. This wine has exotic, mineral flavours with hints of peach through to a lovely, whistle clean salty finish. It also has delicate honeysuckle notes and a wonderful silky mouthfeel. Château Oumsiyat show respect for local tradition alongside modern techniques to craft contemporary wines. They create wines that are a fusion of Old World and New World.
VIÑEDO DE LOS VIENTOS ‘NOTOS’ NEBBIOLO, ATLÁNTIDA, URUGUAY £14 P/BTL
Yes, that’s right, a much-loved Italian grape but produced in Uruguay and we must say it’s absolutely delicious! Made in very small quantities (just 2000 bottles) from a boutique winery. Aged for 6 months in older, used oak barrels, so as not to take away from the fruit’s vibrancy, this has lovely fruit purity and varietal typicity, something you will almost never find in a new world Nebbiolo.
UMBRELE SAUVIGNON BLANC, VILIE TIMISULUI, ROMANIA £8.50 P/BTL
The Cramele Recas Estate have put a huge amount of work into transforming their slice of grape growing history into a contemporary winemaking haven. The immaculate vineyards are a combination of evolved plantings from 1447 and much more recent plantings too. Racy passion fruit, tangerine and gooseberry flavours are graceful and elegant, with a lovely zingy acidity. A ‘Big Hit’ grape variety from a lesser-known region.