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The grape beyond

It's a rare day indeed when wine sales material makes me laugh. But apparently Yellow Tail wines promote their Moscato white wine with the tagline: "Moscato -- it's never heard of you either." I've worked in the wine trade for more than 25 years and taste thousands of wines a year, but even now I come across varieties I've never heard of.

Italy does it most often, followed by Portugal. And for me that's a buzz. Novel grape varieties are a magnet, a chance to find new flavours and great value or both, but I suspect that the unknown is the very thing that scares the average punter off.

Buying something new that you find you don't like might turn out to be an expensive mistake. So, perhaps understandably, most consumers stick to the big names such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Merlot. And that's a problem if you're working with some of the thousands of indigenous grape varieties that are growing around the world in places like Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece.

It's a challenge, but the wine world will become a much duller place if we lose the spirit of discovery and dumb it down to a handful of similar styles made in interchangeable wine factories the world over.

So please, take a chance and buy something you can't pronounce. Getting some advice in a good independent off-licence should ensure you get more hits than misses and some great-value discoveries that will make you smile -- and maybe even laugh.