There is quite literally a whole world of wine out there waiting to be discovered, yet many of us stick to our tried and tested favourites time and time again. Whether it’s fear of the unknown or the comfort that comes from familiarity, it’s about time we all got a bit braver.
Start off by looking at your favourite wine. What is it that you like? Is it the dryness (or sweetness), the flavours or the smoothness? Whatever characteristics you like, we’d suggest something in the same vein.
If you’re not sure, try having a look at the descriptions next time you’re wine shopping and pick out the key characteristics that you enjoy. If there’s a particular country, grape or even producer that you find delicious, try looking at other examples they make.
Here’s a few alternatives to popular grape varieties to help you get started.
If you enjoy a good Malbec, it’s likely that you love silky, ripe wines that are super smooth and full of rich fruit flavour. Luckily for you there are lots of wines that share similar characteristics that are well worth checking out.
Other rich styles include wines like Zinfandel (known as Primitivo in Italy), which can make big, robust jammy reds, particularly in California.
Also, Appassimento wines from Italy, where the grapes are dried before pressing to increase concentration and sweetness, are interesting and incredibly delicious. Look out for examples such as Amarone and Valpolicella Ripasso to try next time.
It may have gotten a rough ride in every wine buff’s favourite film, Sideways, but there is a reason that Merlot continues to be very popular. It covers a multitude of styles, from the super complex, full bodied Bordeaux to the everyday, easy drinking glass of red in front of the tv.
The smooth Nero d’Avola from Italy is full of ripe brambly fruits and is a great alternative to Merlot. If you like things a little richer, try a chocolatey Carmenere from Chile with hints of plum and cocoa. In fact, for a long time the Chileans thought that Carmenere was Merlot until advances in viticulture helped them to identify grape varieties more accurately.
Since the first commercial Sauvignon Blanc vineyards were planted in New Zealand in the 1980’s, the grape variety has taken the world by storm. With zippy acidity and intense green fruit on the palate, it’s easy to see why it has become such an instantly recognisable and popular wine.
However, there are alternatives, which are equally as good. One rising star to look out for is the modest Picpoul de Pinet from Southern France. Crisp, dry and citrussy, it’s a perfect match for seafood and is zesty enough for even the most ardent Sauvignon fan.
Another option is the light and delicate Vinho Verde (literally ‘green wine’) from Portugal. For this unique style the grapes are harvested just as they’re ripe, so the wine retains its acidity and a slight spritz. With it’s citrus and green apple flavours, it’s a great match for seafood and salad dishes.
There’s nothing quite like a good Viognier, with its opulent, full body and heady perfumed flavour. It’s a rich wine with low acidity and is sometimes oaked. If you like a richer style of white, Chardonnay has long been the obvious choice, particularly new world examples from Australia or California, but Chenin Blanc is another great option.
Like Viognier, Chenin is full of peachy, ripe fruit, while the best examples are rich, full bodied and sometimes oaked. These styles of white wine are incredibly food friendly, partnering really well with chicken or pork dishes, particularly those with creamy sauces.
Next time you’re choosing a wine, don’t feel overwhelmed by the choice available, positively embrace it! Winebuyers.com stocks thousands of wines from 40 countries, so there’s always something new for you to discover, you might just find your new favourite!
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