It’s a new year, so why not try something new!
We all have our favourite wines which we buy and enjoy on a regular basis. There’s nothing wrong with drinking what you like. But do take the opportunity to try something new from time to time. You may find there is something else out there that you will find to your taste.
It’s not like you don’t have a lot of choices. There are more than 3,000 wines available at the NLC. A lot of them are your old standards based on the “international” varieties — cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, sauvignon blanc and shiraz/syrah. Even with the standards, you can try something new by looking to a new label, or a new country. If you are used to drinking Australian shiraz, maybe something from the Rhone in France might be interesting.
If you only drink red wines, consider giving white wines a try, and vice versa. Make sure it is a good try, though. Don’t bother experimenting with sauvignon blanc with a steak, or a hearty cab with your pan-fried cod! (Try it in reverse.)
There are several varietals that have gained a lot of interest in the last few years, including malbec, tempranillo, sangiovese and pinot grigio. If you haven’t yet branched out to these choices, there are many good value wines in these categories from Spain, Argentina, Italy and elsewhere.
If you are really interested in trying new things, you might consider some of the less common varietals available at the NLC. I’ve listed a few varietals and wines that I have enjoyed in the recent past.
Les Jamelles Mourvedre, France ($14.48): mourvedre (also known as mataro and monastrell) makes a hearty wine rich with tannin and fruit. Another example of this variety is the Juan Gil Monastrel 12 Month, Spain ($24.38).
The Grinder Pinotage ($14.98): pinotage is a signature variety of South Africa that has been praised and criticized. Modern methods are showing what this variety can achieve — big wines with smoky, brambly fruit. It also appears in “Cape blends” with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Another example I have enjoyed is the Horse Mountain Pinotage ($19.65).
Carmen Reserva Carmenere ($14.16): carmenere was once a major part of the Bordeaux blend before it was replaced by merlot. It has almost disappeared in France, and was long mistaken for merlot in Chile. As Chile grows in experience with this grape, its smooth tannins and spicy fruit character are proving quite tasty. The Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere ($23.49) has impressed me in the past.
I have tried at least two of the nero d’avola wines of Sicily — Barone Montalto Organic ($15.49) and Donnafugata Sedara ($19.48). Both of them show off the silky tannins and plummy fruit aromas and flavours that make this wine so enjoyable.
Yllera Cuvi Blanco, Spain (13.78) is based on the verdejo variety, also known as verdelho in Portugal. The variety produces a soft, full-bodied, and moderately aromatic wine. The Marques de Riscal Limousin ($21.49) is another fine example of this variety.
A few other white varietals worth considering are the albarino (Spain), pecorino and vermentino (Italy), and the marsanne (France).
Enjoy something new in the coming year!
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at email@example.com