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In the Spirit: New Year. New Wine.

Here we are in a new year, even a new decade it’s time to break the cycle and try something new for yourself.  As creatures of habit it is always far too easy to grab our good old standby bulk wine, with its clean label or pretty box and easy price tag.  There are nearly 10 thousand different types for a reason, finding one you’ll enjoy can be a lot easier than you may think

From my own personal experience back when I was first getting into the daunting world of wine, I wore myself out (and my palate) bringing home the same things. In the beginning it was hard to convince me there were other noteworthy wines to taste.   For anyone that knows me, knows I love a good chardonnay.  I learned California chardonnay so well, I could probably identify it in a glass from across the room, without even tasting it or smelling it.  It was time for a change.

This may sound silly, but I developed a system for buying wine at my favorite store.  This particular store had five shelves on an aisle with their wine selections.  I would predetermine which of these 5 shelves I would choose from before I got to the store making sure not to purchase something I already have had.  After a while I started to choose by label color, again predetermined before I walked in.  Eventually, I would mix it up by choosing which country or region it would have to come from like France, Italy, Germany, Australia and such.  This got me over a few of the preconceived notions that come with wine such as all German wines are sweet, all French wine is stinky, or all South African red wines smell like a burnt match.  You’ll learn quickly that well-made, great tasting wine can come from anywhere grapes are grown.

Another factor that drives us to purchase our standby wine is the price.  I find that most consumers are afraid to spend a little (or a lot) more on something they may not be familiar with, in fear of not enjoying it.  Simply put, if it’s in the bottle chances are it’s going to be a decent wine.  A winemaker or importer won’t put their name on the bottle if the product isn’t up to their standard.  You don’t have to break the bank to try something new, even spending a few dollars more than the box wine can lead to some very cool finds.

So, if you are in the same camp as me with Chardonnay there are a lot of what we call in the industry as “laterals” that you should try.  For example, perhaps a nice Chenin Blanc from South Africa (known as “Steen” locally) is fun to try.  The texture and mouthfeel of some higher quality examples show extremely like some of the California Chardonnay’s.  Are you more into Oak Free Chardonnay? Then maybe a Torrontés from Argentina could be a nice fit.  The floral aromatics of Torrontés bound out of the glass giving a nice lift to the flavors that you’ll find in the palate.  Even a Soave from the Italian region of the Veneto would be a great Lateral, so much so, they sometimes blend chardonnay into them.  It’s almost pearlescent on the palate giving a rich and full mouthfeel, yet still having a nice acidity to allow pairing with multiple types of food.

Red wine more your speed?  Another South African option would be Pinotage.  At first this wine gained a bad rap, but with a recent resurgence in the American market it’s surely easier to find a great one.  The red fruits on these wines shine right through with a touch of earthiness and firm acidity to round them out.  If Cabernet Sauvignon’s is more to your liking, it could be met with one of its genetic parents like Cabernet Franc.  California and Washington State examples of Cab Franc are showing far more rich and powerful than its Old-World counterparts now a days.  Opulent and medium-bodied with focused tannin, these lush wines could please many palates.

Like I said in the beginning, there are over 10 thousand different kinds of wine in the world.  The production and manufacturing of wine has been around since before Christ, there is a reason why.  Break your own cycle and branch out a little.  If you are not the biggest fan of what you have selected, the good news is there is only a little of it left and next time you might get lucky

– Ronald Magliochetti, Director of Wine at The Greenbrier Resort. Hashtag #121. January 2020.

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