Whether you’re a veteran oenophile or a budding wine enthusiast, you’ve
probably fallen into a wine rut at one point or another.
Perhaps you’ve never been disappointed by a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon,
so these days, it’s all you buy. Or maybe you stock your pantry with
perennial crowd pleasers like Washington State Merlot and California
Chardonnay, so those are the only wines you drink.
All too often, I find myself reaching for Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. My
favorite examples combine all the elements I look for in Pinot — rich, ripe
aromas of cherries along with fresh herbs and earth, together with lively
acidity — so regardless of the season or the meal, it’s my go-to wine.
Such complacency is easy to understand. After all, we’re creatures of habit.
But it’s silly. The world of wine is infinite. There are, quite literally,
thousands of different wine grape varieties planted in dozens of countries.
Tasting different wines is the best way to learn, and surprising your palate
is the best way to keep things fun.
So be adventurous.
To begin, consider exploring different regions. If you like Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, try a classic, Left Bank Bordeaux or see what Chile has
to offer. If you regularly reach for Sonoma Pinot Noir, explore the wines of
Burgundy, Oregon, or New Zealand.
Next, look for wines with similar profiles. If you like Chardonnay, consider
Viognier. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try Torrontes or Albarino. If Pinot
Noir is your go-to grape, try Tempranillo or Blaufrdnkisch. If you’re a fan
of Cabernet Sauvignon, consider ordering Malbec or Merlot.
Seek obscurity. Some of the most exciting wines are hard to compare to the
more popular styles on the market.
This summer, for example, I’ve fallen for Muscadet, a white wine produced in
France’s Loire Valley from a grape called “Melon de Bourgogne.” Typically,
the wines are marked by subtle yet precise aromas of apples, limes, and
seawater. Thanks to extended contact with the dead yeast cells left over
after fermentation, Muscadet is also known for exhibiting a creamy
mouthfeel. These wines are perfect with shellfish and light seafood dishes.
Plus, like most obscure-but-delicious wines, Muscadet is generally
Orange wines are also worth finding. Despite the moniker, these wines aren’t
made from oranges — they’re white wines produced like red wines, remaining
in contact with their skins for an extended period during fermentation. As a
result of this process, the wines pick up features that are typically
associated with red wines, like tannins. These wines are certainly unusual
— many taste sour — but they’re captivating.
Unpopular doesn’t have to mean esoteric — there are plenty of fun, food
friendly wines that simply haven’t caught on in the United States, even
though they’re guaranteed hits. Austrian Gr|ner Veltliner, a white, and
Sicilian Nero d’Avola, a red, are two varieties that’ll pair with virtually
everything. Both work great if all your dinner companions have ordered
The wine world is vast, so avoiding complacency is easy. You just have to
David White, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His
columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the