Give your Cabernet a break and shake things up with one of these under the radar wines
We’re now in Week Six of the Covid quarantine. And judging by your Instagrams, I’d wager most of you are also on Wine Case Six.
Props to you for doing your part to keep your favourite winery in business. You are helping the greater good and contributing positively to the economic engine and for that you deserve a glass of wine. Seriously, give yourself a top up. Hang on, I’ll give myself one as well. Cheers.
But just between us: tell me honestly, is your wine routine becoming a bit of a wine rut?
Hey, I’m not saying you need to break up with your favourite bottle. But after weeks of staying true, maybe Old Faithful just doesn’t hit like it used to? (And let’s not even talk about those PJ’s).
Yeah, you’re in a wine rut and it’s time to spice things up a bit.
About a year ago, The Wine Sisters rolled out a new tasting for corporate groups. called “alternative wines.” It’s been very successful and we’ve made it part of our regular service options offering for similar groups.
The below list is certainly not exhaustive – I can easily think of four or five wines for every one of the tried-and-trues noted here. But this is a good place to start. Maybe when I feel that itch to break free once again I’ll round up a new list of exciting new bottles to try.
The crisp white wine from the hilly region of the same name in the Veneto is made with the indigenous Garganega grape and offers up fresh minerality and subtle notes of almond and citrus. Soave, the region, is about an hour from Venice and in the staggeringly beautiful foothills of the Dolomite mountains (Pinot Grigio also hails from around these parts). To be called “Classico” means the grapes were grown on those precarious volcanic slopes (as opposed to the flat land at the bottom) and have had the good fortune to suck up that gorgeous saline and mineral terroir.
Try: Pieropan Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy $20
The star grape that goes into the blend for Port, Touriga Nacional has impressive flavours of plum, cassis, violet, earth and spice. It’s nearly a dead ringer for Cabernet in its youth. However, it can be a bit powerful, and often requires a blending partner or two to wrestle it down. Pair this with roast game or robust ribeye, and you’ve got a very fine match indeed.
Try: Quinta do Cavão Riserva Touriga Nacional, Dão, Portugal $33
Albariño is the name of the zesty white grape in the Rias Baixas region of southern Spain, while just south of the border in Portugal’s Vinho Verde, it goes by the name Alvarinho. Light, fresh and crisp, there’s delicate notes of white peach, citrus, and crunchy yellow fruits. And don’t forget about that racy, mouth-watering acidity. A fantastic option to sip poolside with a mountain of fresh seafood. Now that’s breaking out of your wine rut.
Try: Lolo Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain $15
Earlier this year, I hosted a tasting where the guest of honour only drank rich, robust, New World reds. My job was to show him some options that he’d love just as much as his beloved powerhouse wines of familiar grapes and names. I brought the Esporão I’ve recommended below, a Portuguese red blend made predominately of Alicante Bouschet. It’s a weird little grape that almost no one has heard of. Alicante Bouschet is a Teinturier grape which means it has both red skin and red flesh (use that little tidbit at your next zoom cocktail hour to really impress people), and is seriously robust with ripe flavours of plum, black cherry and pepper spice. Oh – and everyone at the tasting loved it.
Try: Esporão Reserva Red, Alentejo, Portugal $30
Marsanne has been used for eons in the Northern Rhône as a blending partner with Rousanne and other grapes as well. Very much an under the radar grape, rarely does Marsanne make a solo appearance, but it’s a wine worth seeking out. Young Marsanne is vibrant with stone fruit and mineral-edged flavours. And they age beautifully, darkening to a shimmering gold colour, with weighty, oily texture and flavours of honeycomb, jasmine, poached pear and even quince.
Try: Tahbilk Marsanne, Victoria, Australia $18
Dolcetto hails from the prestigious northern Italian region of Piedmont and it’s often overshadowed by its legendary neighbours of Barolo and Barbaresco. But if you’re looking to try an excellent new (and affordable) wine to bust out of your wine rut, then look no further than this joyous red. Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, but make no mistake this is a dry, mid-weight wine with character. It bursts with flavours of maraschino cherry and dark chocolate, and has that classic Italian acidity. So drink this like the Piedmontese do – casually gathered over weeknight meals of meat pizza, sausage ragus, and mushroom lasagna.
Try: La Ginestre Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy $25