Every once in a while, I get bored with the regular. For instance, malbecs are great, but I can only drink them for so long before I want a different taste, and not just a different brand of malbec, but a whole different wine. I’ll drink whites for a while, but that sauvignon blanc that was way too grassy pushes me away, too. When I’m in a funk like this, I go off the beaten path. I find a wine that is hard to pronounce upon first look and upon first taste, it’s indescribable. I don’t think it should be any more scary to pick a wine for its label than to pick it for its unknown name. Here are a few of my favorites:
Uvaggio Vermentino: Vermentino grapes originally flourished in Italy but have found in a new home with this wine in California. Personally one of my favorites, I drank it at my wedding reception back in 2006. It is floral and slightly sweet without being sweet. Perhaps it’s a little bit more rich or creamy or “fat” as one tasting note added than what you might find in the Old World Italian or Sardignian drier style vermentinos, this is one wine I believe the New World’s California did right.
Crios Torrontés: I always sought this wine out at any wine tasting I attended. Made by an Argentinian winemaker Susana Balbo, she also makes a damn good malbec. She persevered in a male dominated wine world to create a portfolio of top of the line wines that are also sustainable from vineyard to bottle to community. The Torrontés could be best likened to a Viognier, but that is yet another unusual name for some. Amidst some dramatically flowing language from the website, I do think they describe it best as “fruity, floral and yet still quite dry.” It smells like flowers, it tastes fruity, has a great length and a lot of flavor but it’s never overpowering.
Feudi Falanghina: An awesome Italian wine that is as fun to say as is fun to drink. The vineyards and winery are on the same grounds along with a Michelin rated restaurant. The abundance of fruit and olive trees, rosebushes and gardens supply the restaurant as well as providing great biodiversity for the vineyards. On the drier side of the scale, this wine smells of flowers but has fruit and minerals on the backbone. This wine isn’t over the top yet has enough flavor to stand up in the meal. Elegance in a glass.
Michele Chiarlo Gavi: Michele Chiarlo is another great producer relying on sustainable agriculture to make fantastic wines. Grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, Gavi is made from 100% Cortese grapes. Upon my first taste of this wine, I wanted sushi. It has a subtle reminiscence of sake but is definitely wine. There is a certain amount of mineral without being a sauvignon blanc and it is fruity and dry but not a pinot grigio. If you’re having fish, especially sushi or whole fried fish, this is an exceptional pick.
Salneval Albariño: From the southern wine growing region of Rais Baixas near Galicia, Spain, this wine has leanings toward a sauvignon blanc. Made from an owner/grower co-op, this 100% Albariño wine is delicious. With notes of pear and honey combined with a slight minerally-ness, this is a perfect pairing with fish or spicy Asian cuisine. The website also recommends having it with barbeque ribs which blows the normal “white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat” motto away but at least one other tasting note concurred.
Feudo Maccari Saia: Yet another Italian wine, this wine is made from the Nero d’Avola grape. It is a rich and hearty wine that has come from the earth but is soft at the edges to keep you reaching for another glass. If I had to pick one country to drink wine from for the rest of my life, I would have to choose Italy and this wine is just one of the reasons why. It is definitely a grilled meats, heavy meal kind of wine because of its full flavor but worth just drinking anyway.
Brachetto and Lambrusco: The Lambrusco I have tasted is from the Italian winery Zonin and sells for less than $10, but for the life of me, I cannot remember the brand of Brachetto. Both wines are similar in that they are sweet and they are sparkling but they are red and are best served chilled. Of the two I have tasted, the Lambrusco is lighter in flavor, perhaps a bit more tannic but still very fruity and slightly sweet. The Brachetto was like drinking an incredibly flavorful and bubbly raspberry with just the perfect amount of sugar to make it sweet but not coated in simple syrup. Plus it came in a beautifully spiraled bottle worth keeping. Before drinking these two wines, I had never heard of a sparkling red nor a red that should be chilled. What an experience to be had. I would recommend these as an aperitif perhaps with a simple bowl of red berries or with dessert, namely chocolate. I could also see these being a great accompaniment to turkey, much like Beaujolais is good at Thanksgiving.
With warmer weather coming up, I’ve provided more wines that pair nicely with a lighter fare. A savory salad would pair with the Albariño, the Vermentino could cut the spice in a mild curry nicely and the Gavi is excellent with sushi. For those who love a good red wine, you can’t go wrong with Feudo Maccari, but you’ll want to adjust the meal choice accordingly to match its richness. Personally, I don’t believe you can go wrong with the bubbly. It’s sparkling, it has a bright berry flavor and it will bring the sweet mother in your life even more sweetness this Mother’s Day. Next time you’re stumped in the wine aisle, apply a hint of Robert Frost’s advice to your choosing adventure and take the bottle less known.