Looking to break the habit of drinking the same varietal, but are a little apprehensive to venture into something new? Look to these varietals to help you get at least one foot outside of the box.
- If you normally drink cabernet sauvignon, try cabernet franc.
You’ve been the enjoying the fruits, so to speak, of the most fortuitous crossing in viticulture history with cabernet sauvignon. It’s time to do a little field research and explore how this noble grape came to be. Cabernet franc, cab sauv’s father, offers similar enticing aromas and fruit, without the hard edges and tannins its rambunctious offspring can have. Here are a couple from the Napa Valley that are great candidates:
Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc ($20) – Usually retails for around $20 or less and always well done.
Selene “Chessler” ($65) – This is a dense but finesseful wine. A more premium priced cab franc, but oh so worth it. Try to track down the 2003 if you can still find any out there.
- If you normally drink zinfandel, try grenache.
There’s no question zinfandel is adored for it’s explosive, hedonistic. jammy and spicy fruit flavors. Grenache can exhibit the same types of characteristics, but with less arrogance and more finesse, depending on the region. Australia turns out some really cool styles that can be just as crowd-pleasing as American zinfandel.
Tintara grenache ($15) – Lots of candy fruit flavors and very easy for even occasional wine drinkers to enjoy.
Betts & Scholl – Oh these are some really, really cool wines. Sleek is what comes to mind. They make an entry level one called the O.G. ($30) and a more expensive label called The Chronique ($50).
- Normally drink syrah, try nero d’avola.
Sicily’s other treasure, besides the Corleone Family, is the most important red grape variety in this autonomous Italian island region. Like syrah, these wines are fashioned to be big, plump, smokey and fleshy. They’re tremendous values and most of them are priced well under $20.
Cusumano ($13) – Always a good value. Consistent year in, year out.
Morgante ($17) – A step up in quality and muscle from the Cusumano.
- If you normally drink chardonnay, try viognier.
Until recently, viognier was an almost forgotten varietal. In the Northern Rhone, its natural home, it has gone from 30 planted acres in the 1960’s to over 300 planted acres today. Now the grape thrives in many areas outside of the Rhone in places like Australia, California and the Languedoc. Like Chardonnay, viognier can be luscious and creamy even without oak aging. Both chardonnay and viognier can also share the same tropical fruit flavors that make them both so charming.
Melville “Verna’s” Viognier, Santa Rita Hills, California ($22) – One of my all time favorites. Huge fruit, but lots of minerality to balance it out. They make great pinot noirs as well.
Toasted Head Viognier, Dunnigan Hills, California ($14) – One of the more readily available and well-priced viogniers in California.
- If you normally drink sauvingon blanc, try albarino.
Albarino is a hot, up and coming grape varietal from the Rias Baixas region of Spain. Sauvignon Blanc’s zesty and sharp acidity are hallmark characteristics of Albarino as well, so if seafood or salads are your standard dining partners, albarino will be a perfect complement.
Licia Albarino ($16) – We sold a lot of this one during the days of our long gone retail wine shop. A lip smacker.
Fillaboa Albarino ($17) – Fresh, zingy and even briny-like. One of the hotter ones on the market, so it may be hard to find based on simple supply and demand.
Already have alteratives? Let us know what your drinking!