How can the new year influence the way you taste wine, beer and spirits? What kind of resolutions might those look like? Perhaps it is as simple as forcing yourself to take a note each time you taste, venture into new countries and grapes… or not fear to ask more questions. If we aren’t constantly pushing ourselves to drink outside the box, we stagnate. We get comfortable in with a particular style or region, forgetting that there is literally a world of variety (and varietals) out there! Don’t get us wrong, sometimes you just need something familiar to come home to… But for all those other times, I challenge you to take a walk on the wild side in 2013. If you can’t pronounce it… try it. If you’ve never heard of the region…take it home. And if you’ve had it before, reach for something else. Challenge your senses. You just might fall in love a few times this coming year.
Here are some of my favorites… Don’t worry if you can’t find them easily. We can usually ship some out of the store I call home: Little’s Wine & Spirits.
2010 Tikvel Vranec ($12)
An ancient variety, Vranec can be found just north of Greece, landlocked as such by Serbia, Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria. This native varietal packs a lotta punch per sip. Just looking at the velvety ruby robe in the glass will tip you off to its persistence on the palate. A scrumptious substitute for Malbec or Syrah!
Vins de Seigneurs Mayolet ($20)
Just when we thought we had all the random grapes of the world covered, Italy (of course) threw us on our side with this funky red varietal: Mayolet. So unusual, we even stumped a Master Sommelier the other day. A local grape in the Valle d’Aosta region of northern Italy, this wine is as delicate on the palate as it is in the glass. The bouquet is the real treat, loaded with layers of dried flora, cranberries and herbs. These vines are trained on glacial moraine soils… and you can almost taste it!
2010 Clos Lojen Bobal ($17)
A grape that finds its heritage in the hot southern Spanish sun, Bobal is quite powerful, both in tannin and acid. It has some of the greatest health benefits of any red varietal, heavy as it is with resveratrol. This jammy, spicy wine would be terrific with bbq, lamb or a hearty winter stew.
2011 Laya Garnatxa Tintorerra($12)
Wouldn’t you know that most of the world’s red grapes are full of white juice? Not this guy. Garnatxa Tintorerra (also known as Alicante Bouche) is one of the only to bleed juice as red as the color in your glass. Its flavor is quite intense, with hints of cocoa, savory mineral notes, concentrated jam and black pepper. Not for the faint of heart! Appeals to the sense of Cab lovers!
2011 Bookcliff Vineyards Malbec ($19)
It seems to be no surprise that the Malbec grape is doing so well in Colorado. Like Mendoza, Argentina, our state offers up high, dry patches of land—the kind the finicky Malbec really digs. Bookcliff puts out a lovely interpretation of this much-loved grape. Soft, chubby and friendly on the tongue.
2010 The Franc ($17)
Cabernet Franc, otherwise known as Cabernet Sauvignon’s dad, is a rather sophisticated tasting chap. He is stately, severe yet supple. It manages to be light, peppery and energetic, whilst maintain strength in its execution. A great Cali introduction before moving to the motherland: France.
2009 Casalone La Bricca Freisa ($15)
Imagine a rustic, fruity, high acid Italian red with a bit of a spritz. This is Freisa—the red grape that is harvested after the rest of been shuffled in to the winery. It is fast losing its ground, literally, but we thank Casalone (an over 400 year old estate) for keeping this grape around for us.
2010 Juansolo Cannonau di Sardegna ($14)
It may be ‘Cannonau’ in Sardinia, but to most of us, it is still Grenache. Name for ‘Juan’, a local favorite who walks alone on the streets, Juansolo is a perfectly interesting, social red, meant for tables, rustic fare and friends.
2008 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso ($21)
Landlocked and surrounded by the likes of Tuscany, Marche and Rome, Umbria is home to some of the most overlooked, yet insightful reds. One of their secrets is the Sagrantino—a grape that demands your attention once you taste it. This blend sees a healthy dollop in a sea of Sangiovese—another varietal that makes food pairing a cinch.
Selim Brut ($17)
Aglianco is often known for its strength, volume, heat and shear intensity, coming from hot, southern Italy. Not this one. No, here we see Aglianico stripped of its muscular, red skins and left to reveal its softer, cleaner, spritely white flesh made evermore energetic with the process of bubbles. A simply divine alternative to Cava or Prosecco.
2009 L’Argnetier Cinsault ($14)
Sometimes called the forgotten grape, Cinsault has a personality that, when done right, can really make a lasting impression. Though it often is seen as a blending varietal that all but loses its identity when produced in the high volume it naturally tries to achieve, a disciplined grapegrower will find that cutting back yields and giving it some TLC will produce fruit that has a most savory, mysterious aroma. This is a superb introduction to Cinsault. Elegant, well-woven, an perfect for a Pinot lover.
2009 Clos les Montys Muscadet ($19)
Trenching their roots deep into the silty sand soil, these vines love in the cool Maritime climate of the Atlantic coast, Muscadet refers to a region on the western part of the Loire that thrives on the once cast-away Burgundian varietal: Melon de Bourgogne. Thankfully, this burly, hearty grape lives! Perfect with grilled shrimp and a squeeze of lemon. One of the best interpretations on the market.
2010 Tibouren Clos Cibonne ($35)
Possibly the weirdest grape of them all (or at least the most fascinating history), Greece-born Tibouren really found its home in Provence, but it was ripped up and replaced with other more profitable and recognizable varietals. When Claude Diforge took over this historical estate, he wanted to restore it to its original grandeur. He took out all the Mourvedre and gave the land back its beloved Tibouren. A ‘rose’ of sorts, this wine actually ferments under flor and as such takes on real ‘sherried’ oxidized notes. A truly hardcore geeky wine. Bonus points!
2011 Da Capo Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato ($24)
A wild child, Ruche was not so much abandoned as it was misunderstood. For a long time, this Piemonte red was mistaken for Barbera. They aren’t incredibly different. Both are medium in body, full of wonderful acidity and charming. Ruche just has a little more mysterious, herbal, high-toned notes. A beautiful choice for any rustic, homey dish this winter.
2009 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim Douro Reserva ($25)
The Douro may be famous for its port, especially those from this historic estate, but it also manages to put out some blockbuster, full-bodied, dynamite red blends. Using local grapes that are hard to pronounce and often in port, this selection is a perfect choice for steak, lamb, hard salty cheese and venison if you are lucky enough to find it!
2011 Folk Machine Chenin Blanc ($18)
This wine is what is known as an ‘amber wine’ (a recent cork dork trend that has been growing more popular the past decade). In simple terminology, this Chenin Blanc sees time in its skins. A process that is typically reserved only for reds, this gives white wine a deeper color and a touch of tannin. The medieval picture of Joan of Arc speaks to this unfiltered, old school style of winemaking. Bruised apples and honeycomb are just a few of the surprises you will find!