The “Whine” Factor (or, “Why can’t I just order the house Chardonnay?”)
Admit it, most of us are all creatures of habit; to a fault in some cases. The thought of having to start over, re-immerse and expand our already over-stuffed brains seems daunting. “Why can’t I just order a bottle of that Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc that I know I like for the umpteenth time?” Because, that, sir or madam, is lame.
While you may or may not want to apply the old cliché, “variety is the spice of life”, to every scenario (i.e. long term relationships and/or marriages) you most definitely can, and should, apply it to your love affair with wine. She is not the jealous or scornful type; she won’t mind you stepping out on her for a night of salacious sampling of other varieties. And who knows? You may just learn that of the literally 5,000 different varieties of grapes that exist in the world, that bombshell Sauvignon Blanc that you thought was your favorite, really isn’t the “10” you thought she was.
Following are 10 sexy little varietals that you should be drinking, but (probably) aren’t:
1. Garganega: Here is a great first baby step into the world of wine indiscretions. Typically a delicate and effortless wine to drink that can occasionally be tangy or acidic depending on the region in which it is grown. I prefer anything, and I do mean anything, from the Soave region of Italy. The price points on these wines are easy on the pocketbook as well, ranging from $13-$20 typically.
- We love: 2012 Soavia Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy around $15
- Also: 2012 Inama Vin Soave, Soave Classico, Northeastern Italy $17
2. Grenache: Rarely tame, never sweet, this vixen of a varietal will surely dig her claws in you. You see, despite the fact this grape gets very little recognition considering it’s the most prolifically planted vine on the planet, she works her anonymity by seductively shape shifting from robust and juicy in regions such as Spain and Australia, to elegant and opulent in France and the US. Prices vary considerably depending on AVA and quality, falling anywhere between $20-$350, but let’s say just say you can get a great, nearly epic Grenache for under $100 for sure.
- We love: 2001 Sans Liege Groundwork Grenache, Central Coast, CA $20
- Also: 2011 Orin Swift Shatter Grenache, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $30
- Or: 2010 Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache, Central Coast, CA $48
- Epic: 2008 Booker “The Ripper”, Grenache, Paso Robles, CA $??? (If you can find it, buy it, it’s worth every penny)
3. Viognier: Up for a challenge? She may not be that wholesome Chardonnay of a girl next door that you fall for instantaneously, but give this one a revisit or two and you just may find yourself head over heels. She’ll try to seduce you with her intoxicating perfumed aroma as well as her luscious body, but if you’re immune to those superficial charms then stick around to see what’s under the hood. Slightly exotic with flavors varying from pineapple to honey and apples, this dame has got attitude and confidence to spare. What’s not to fall for?
*Note: Because Viognier is one of the most difficult wines to produce, it can of importance to splurge on quality picks to really appreciate the intricacies noted above.
- We love: 2012 Lariana Cellars, Viognier, Okanagan Valley, BC at $23
- Also: 2012 Stolpman, Viognier, Central Coast, CA $22
4. GSM: Ready for a delightfully satisfying and fruity threesome? If that’s not your thing that’s okay, but to that I say… “Stop being a stick-in-the-mud and go try it anyway!” True, it’s not a single varietal, but worth having a tryst with anyway. This Australian export combines that previously mentioned vixen, Grenache, as well as Syrah and Mourvedre.
- We love: Herman’s Story, Casual Encounters, GSM $37
- Also: 2011 Andrew Murray Vineyard, Esperance, Central Coast, CA $25
- Or: 2011 Denner Vineyards, Ditch Digger, GSM, Paso Robles, CA $63
- Epic: 2010 Favia, Rompecabezas Red Wine Amador, GSM, CA $80
5. Grenache Blanc: Hilarious wine expert Chris Kern calls her the “Dolly Parton of forgotten grapes. She’s blond, vivacious, and she’s got the kind of curves that other wines can only dream of and that knowledgeable wine lovers drool over. She thrives on her own as a solo act and can also duet with a variety of other Rhone-style grapes.” Need I say more?
- We love: 2013 The Bride, Sarloos and Sons, Central Coast, CA $25
6. Marsanne: This one likes to party, with a typically high alcohol content, she is usually found alongside her outgoing cohort (Rousanne), but get her alone on a rare occasion and she’ll take the guard down and exhibit a personality all of her own. Marsanne may look like a Chardonnay but with an absence of acidity. The often-present honey like characteristics liven the delicate stone fruit that is intrinsic to her makeup.
- We love: 2012 Sancha, Sans Liege, Marsanne, Paso Robles, CA $26
7. Petite Sirah: Do you like your ladies demure and unassuming? Than get the hell out! This dame is bold and spicy, yet structured and refined. She’s not related to Zinfindel, but they’re in good company together as the “cougars” of the wine world, both sharing a marked benefit when harvested from old vines.
- We love: 2010 Aaron Wines, Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, CA $34
8. Arneis: “Little Rascal” is the official nickname of this varietal when back home in Piedmont. Apparently this young lady has difficult tendencies in the vineyard and can be a bit of a handful when it comes to fruit production (aka “yields”). I wonder if she knows how to “twerk”?
*The flavor profile of Arneis is notoriously hard to put an absolute on but we recommend the slightly grapefruit and mineral tones that this varietal exhibits.
- We love: 2010 Damilano Langhe, Arneis, Piedmont, Italy $20
9. Cinsault: (pronounced on this side of the world as “Sin-so”) Pretty to say, even prettier on the palette. She embodies a defined femininity. Delicate and earthy, soft tannins and perfumed red fruit are all genetically passed down from her French origins. That seductive yet reserved style lends itself well to the Provence Roses of which she is frequently included, but she is equally lovely in full force as a stand-alone red wine.
*We recommend not just French Cinsaults, there are relevant styles coming out of Italy and Australia alike as well as South Africa and numerous other smaller regions across the globe.
- We love: 2012 Phoenix Ranch, Bechthold Vineyard, Cinsault, Lodi, CA $23
10. Mourvedre: Last but not least, it’s time to introduce the dominatrix of the group. She’ll wrap her legs around you and hold-on with those powerful, grippy tannins, get you dizzy with her high alcohol content, leave you lost in her opaque crimson hue and give you no choice but to stay and indulge her body as the tannins fall away and you’re left with nothing but the jammy sweetness of her finish. Go ahead, take a few minutes to catch your breath, and dive in for another sip…
- We love: 2009 Villa Creek Damas Noir, Mourvedre, Paso Robles, CA $45
- Also: 2011 Juan Gil Jumilla, Monastrell (same grape as Mourvedre, just a different name for a different region), Spain, $15