As a wine drinker, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut — you know you love Pinot Noir, so you always reach for the same bottle at the store, always order the mid-priced glass of it at the restaurant. Same old, same old. Whether it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay, we all have our classic go-to’s we know we can trust to avoid disappointment.
But a new year provides inspiration to try something bold. To think outside the box. To be different. In this post we’ll explore some wines to try to expand your palette in the new year, and simple switches that are similar to the wines you know and love, but are just more interesting.
If you love Pinot Noir, try… Gamay
Both Pinot Noir and Gamay are thin-skinned red grapes that produce highly expressive, light-bodied wines. Their flavors lean towards red fruit flavors with a dash of floral or earthy qualities, depending on the terroir and producer.
Gamay wines are well-loved for their food-friendly nature, delicate floral aromas, and beautiful flavors. It primarily grows in Beaujolais, France, however, more and more US producers are beginning to lean into this varietal. The best part of making this switch? You can usually find high-quality Gamay at a much friendly price point than Pinot Noir.
If you love Sauvignon Blanc, try…Verdejo
Verdejo may be a bit tricky to find, as it’s pretty much exclusively grown in the Duero region of Spain. It’s well-worth a try if you see it on a menu, however, as it packs great value for the price point.
Verdejo is a light-bodied white wine that explodes with aromas of sweet lime, mouth-watering peach, fresh cut grass, fennel, and refreshing cucumber. While it’s similar in style to wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, it truly deserves its own category. Unlike most whites, Verdejo shows improvement with age, developing beautiful and complex flavors such as toasted almonds, supported by a rich and almost waxy texture.
If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, try…Tempranillo
Tempranillo is like the Spanish cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied, muscular, and generally aged with a healthy dose of oak, Tempranillo displays flavors and aromas of red and black fruits, plums, cassis, and tobacco, all similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tempranillo is most known for its role in Rioja, Spain, however, it is found all over the globe and is actually the 4th most planted grape varietal in the world.
If you love Chardonnay, try…Viognier
Chardonnay is such a classic wine, with a full-bodied mouth feel and delicious fruit flavors. Depending on where you grow it in the world, it could have tropical fruit notes, such as pineapple and mango (warm climates) or greener fruit flavors, such as apples and citrus (cool climates). When aged in oak, it has a luscious mouth feel with a creamy finish.
Similar to this, Viognier’s primary aromas are dominated by citrus and floral notes, with a creaminess that hits mid-palate and builds into a slightly oily sensation. Unlike Chardonnay, however, Viognier tends to be a bit richer and more aromatic in style. It’s sure to delight!
If you love Malbec, try…Syrah
With its smoky undertones and rich, fruity palate, Malbec is a certain crowd-pleaser. If you’re looking to mix things up, try swapping it out for Syrah: it’s absolutely similar, with a brooding mystery and dark fruit notes.
Syrah is known for its blackberry flavors and jammy accents. It’s perfect for pairing with food due to its more savory aspects, such as olive, pepper and even meaty, bacon-like flavors.
The wines we tend to drink most often may be fantastic, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg in the wine world. It can be well-worth your time to experience new varietals, and the easiest way is to branch out from wines you already know you love.
Happy exploring, friends!