BevX Spreading Good Cheer
Are you in a rut? Seriously. Take a look around. Have you been anywhere new lately? Are you watching the same shows on the TV, taking the same way to work and wearing the same clothes? Do your dinner choices simply boil down to A, B, or C? Are you drinking the same, boring wines?
If you have answered yes to any of the questions above, you may be slipping into a rut. If you answered yes to all of the questions above, you are definitely becoming a colossal bore and you are need of a serious shake-up. One correction that can be made with little effort is adding a little variation to your wine choices. If you think that Chardonnay is synonymous with white wine and Cabernet with red… then we have reached you just in time.
Common symptoms of vinotoregularis are the near exclusive drinking of: California Chardonnay, Italian Pinot Grigio, White Zin, New World Cabernet, Aussie Shiraz, or any regional exclusivity. Below is a simple listing of wines that are relatively easy to find and will offer a break from your usual, while adding spice to your life.
Rut Busting White Wines
Albarino is a white variety best known for its resulting crisp and fruity wines produced in NW Spain. These wines enjoyed a burst of popularity early this century, especially in Spanish Tapas restaurants. However, they can be just as enjoyable at home as they are extremely versatile and elegant with nothing but a glass. Buy them as fresh as possible.
Rhone (France) whites are crisp, and lively while subtly fruity. A unique combination of grape varietals make for rich and hearty whites resplendent in aromas of peach, apricot, almonds, and toffee. These wines don’t pack the buttered popcorn punch that comes with New World Chardonnay, but isn’t that what you’ve grown tired of in the first place? Look for basic Cotes du Rhone Blancs for under $15. Fancier, and pricier, versions can be had from appellations like Crozes-Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Torrontes (tor-RON-tez), from Argentina is a great break from Italian Pinot Grigio. The grape originates from Galicia, Spain, but traveled along the great pilgrimage path to Mendoza, Argentina where it now flourishes. Heady aromas of white flowers and tropical fruits accent this light and zingy white that plays nicely with seafood, complex cold salads, and fresh fruit. Don’t ignore the bottom shelf. Plenty of very tasty Torrontes carry a price tag of $8 or less.
Chenin Blanc; this varietal has tremendous properties being fruity while exhibiting great acidity and minerality and can age gracefully for many years. In the New World, Chenin Blanc is often treated as a bulk wine but this is not always the case. Chappellet makes two fine examples. One is simply labeled as “Dry Chenin Blanc” while the upscale Chenin Blanc offering is labeled as “Old Vine Cuvee” with no visible mention of Chenin Blanc on the front label. This is one of California’s greatest white Wines regardless of variety. In Chenin Blanc’s native home of Loire Valley, France it produces a variety of wine styles from dry, to off-dry, sweet, and sparkling. The most noteworthy appellations for Chenin are Vouvray and Savennières.
Falanghina; An ancient white variety, the Romans originally brought this variety from Greece, grown primarily in Italy’s Campania region. The wines are quite unique being fruity and exotic while crisp with bright acidity. It’s impossible to compare the flavors of this unique varietal to any popular style or grape.
Fiano di Avellino & Greco di Tufo are two wonderful varieties indigenous to Italy’s Campania region. They possess unique fruit notes with hints of spice and mineral. These wines are excellent aperitifs and superb food wines having good natural acidity.
Gruner Veltliner is perhaps Austria’s most popular white variety where it produces wines with great orchard fruit (apples, pears, and firm peaches) notes complimented by a healthy dose of minerality and great natural acidity. Wines form this varietal can be found in a wide range of qualities and price. Find one, recommended by your favorite wine shop, that you find moderately priced.
Riesling is a varietal that has a very poor, and unjustifiably so, image in the US. Many novices US wine drinkers get weaned on sweeter wines and Riesling is often among them. However, without a doubt, Riesling is one of the world’s greatest white wine varieties. It is native to Germany and grown throughout the world enjoying its greatest success at home and in France’s Alsace region.
Verdicchio is an ancient white variety of distinction most prominently used in Italy’s Marches region. The best wines are crisp with complex floral notes, refreshing natural acidity and unique nutty flavors. The districts of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica, are considered to be the absolute best Verdicchio producing areas. The wines from the producer Bucci can’t be beat.
Rut Busting Red Wines
Barbera is a tremendous red variety native to Italy’s Piedmont region where it enjoys DOC status. Barbera follows Sangiovese as Italy’s most widely planted variety. It was once a very popular variety in California where it often produced wines of distinction. Sadly, Barbera planting in California has been greatly diminished. Luckily, there are many fabulous examples of Italian Barbera available in US wine shops. Many are sold for less than $20 per bottle.
Beaujolais is often maligned and misunderstood as most people in the US only experience Beaujolais Nouveau. Certainly Nouveau can be charming but it was never intended to be serious, or drunk throughout the year. To miss the wonderful wines of Beaujolais would be a great mistake. Start with wines from Beaujolais-Village as this is a good step up in quality from wines labeled simply, Beaujolais. From here you will want to move up to one of the “Cru” Beaujolais. These are ten small areas within Beaujolais that are deemed to produce the best wines. Often the name Beaujolais appears on the label in small print only as the name of the cru Village dominates the label. The lightest of the crus are Brouilly, Chiroubles, and Regnie. The wines of Cote de Brouilly, and Saint Amour are bit more intense and structured. Morgan, Moulin à Vent, Julienas, Chenas, and Fleurie are robust and lively full-bodied wines that are often shocking to those familiar with only Beaujolais-Village.
Corbières, Fitou, Minervois, and the other charming little appellations of France’s Languedoc Region are superb providers of tasty, value-oriented reds. White and Roses wines are made here as well but the region is best known for its flavorful and unpretentious reds. (But don’t miss the great Rosé wines of the region that are released each spring) The grape varieties used varies widely from Bordeaux’s Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon, to traditional Rhône grapes of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah. The wines are most often available for less than $15 a bottle and will likely become some of your favorite red wines.
Malbec is one of the five major red varieties of Bordeaux and the solo performer in Cahors, the under appreciated wine of southwest France. It is widely planted in Argentina where it produces deep, dense, wines often displaying both finesse and intensity.
Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most noted red variety now grown in several southern Italian regions. It is growing in popularity thanks to a good number of exports sold at value prices. The wines are typically boldly flavored and spicy pairing well with anything from the grill or they can be enjoyed on their own.
Priorat is a small region in Spain that has produced great wine for more than eight centuries albeit it greatly in obscurity until the 1990s when the wines of the area boomed in popularity. The wines are boldly styled and tilt toward the modern style of winemaking meaning that they are fruit oriented with soft tannins.
Garnacha is the Spanish incarnation of the French grape, Grenache. (Here in the US, winemakers often make a tragic blush wine from it, but the rest of the world seems to have a handle on its magic potential.) Regions like Priorat deliver dark and brooding Garnacha-based reds with wonderful mineral accents. Check out Spanish DOs (official wine regions) like Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Cariñena for more brazen, and spicy versions under $15.
Tempranillo is a noble red variety used with great success in Spain and to a lesser degree in Portugal. Some have likened Tempranillo’s flavor to a rustic and robust Pinot Noir. Most wines made with Tempranillo will not make any mention of the variety on the label. Remember, in Europe wines are typically named for their location rather than the grape. Tempranillo is the primary red grape of Rioja and with the help of your wine merchant you can find a good, well-priced example.
Valpolicella is one of Italy’s best-known wine districts. There are many different variations of Valpolicella beyond the typical dry red wine that most people know. Valpolicella can be sweet, sparkling or a unique, rich red called Amarone that is made from grapes that have been allowed to partially dry after harvest. Valpolicella is the name of the district located primarily in the hills just north of Verona in Italy’s northern region of Veneto. Whether Valpolicella be the standard dry red, sweet, sparkling or the great Amarone, the wines are made primarily with a local grape variety named Corvina.
Drinking California Chardonnay or Aussie Shiraz does not necessarily make you a boring wine drinker. You certainly should not avoid drinking these wines. All we suggest is that you consider all of the choices available to you. Your favorite wine could be out there waiting to be discovered by you. This just won’t happen if you stick to the same two or three wines, and wouldn’t it be a crime to have never tasted the one wine that your individual palate finds most pleasing? We think so…