Trying wines from unfamiliar grapes is one of the enjoyable things about wine. Many people are delighted to share such an exploration with their wine aficionado friends; after all, you may be only a sip away from your new favorite. A good example would be the grape Grüner Veltliner. I have shared many bottles with many friends, but having written and talked about Austria’s number one grape often, I must recommend some other grapes. Any number of grapes could be included. It may be hard to believe there are hundreds to choose from. Look in the lamentable titled area of wine lists, in wine shop aisles labeled “other wines,” or hidden among the country of origins more popular grapes. Nothing is wrong with the popular grapes, after all they became popular for a reason. However, you will be rewarded by a new adventure, and perhaps great value and excellent food affinity. Here are five grapes you need to try.
Five grapes you need to try: white
Torrontés is Argentina’s number one planted white grape. It should be on your list of one of the white five grapes you need to try. A crossing of the Muscat family, it is the only place where you see this grape produced. That makes it a true Argentinean specialty. Originally believed to be from northwest Spain, it produces a fresh, rich, crisp and very aromatic wine. When you put your nose in a glass, the profusion of spring flowers instantaneously makes you think of springtime. Try Torrontés as an excellent apéritif or with seafood. I believe the best area for Torrontés in Argentina is Salta. It is the most northern area for grape growing in Argentina. It makes two-thirds white wine and specializes in Torrontés. Salta means “very beautiful.” It is home to Bodega Colomé, owned by Hess. At 8,300 feet it holds the distinction of being the world’s highest vineyards.
Try: Torrontés Bodega Colomé 2014
The primary white grape of Sardinia is Vermentino. This grape’s lineage is Italian, but it is most known for being a Sardinian grape. It is planted in Liguria under the synonym of Pigato. In Piedmont it is known as Favorita. Vermentino is one of the five grapes you need to try due to it’s delightfully linear citrus-mineral-driven white wine, typically un-oaked and a perfect accompaniment for seafood. The finest example of Vermentino is produced in northern Sardinia in an area called Gallura. Vermentino di Gallura is hard to find, but is a more bodied, richer and sometimes oaked aged version. The Sardinians enjoy drinking wine and eating the Mediterranean diet. That is perhaps why it possesses one of the world’s largest populations of centenarians in the world.
Try: Vermentino di Sardegna Argiolas Costamolino 2014
Five grapes you need to try: red
The name Carmenère originates from the French word for crimson. Carmenère, once thought to be Merlot in Chile, is an ancient Bordeaux varietal brought to Chile in the 1800s from Bordeaux. It is all but extinct in France. However, it thrives in Chile for its uniqueness. It is commonly found in the Central Valley of Chile. Put it on your list of five grapes you need to try for it’s soft tannins, deep red color, red and black fruit flavors, and an herbaceous character. This herbaceous character is decreasing and becoming more balanced as winemakers allow the grape to ripen longer. Its qualities are similar to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and of course Merlot. It is often blended with them.
Try: Carmenere Cono Sur Bicicleta 2014
The number one red grape in Campania is Aglianico. It is planted throughout southern Italy and reaches its zenith in Taurasi. Taurasi is both the name of the place as well as the wine. This is a wine of great body, black fruits, structure and age ability. It can be austere in its youth. Taurasi must be aged three years. One of those years it must be aged in wood. To be labeled Riserva, it is required to be aged an additional year. Of that additional hear, half of that it must be spent on wood. A couple of the best producers are Mastroberardino and Terredora Di Paolo. Members of the Mastroberardino family own both wineries. The 1968 Taurasi Mastroberardino is considered one of the most legendary wines of the region. Other areas for good quality Campania Aglianico are Irpinia and Taburno.
Try: Taurasi Terredora Di Paolo 2008
Yes, Lambrusco. Believe it or not there is quality Lambrusco made. That is why it is one of the five grapes you need to try. I am not referring to the bargain-made and priced wines, but rather the small family winery versions. The grape Lambrusco hails from the food epicenter of Italy: Emilia-Romagna. Many versions have what the Italians call “frizzante,” or lightly effervescent. These are extremely fruity if not with a hint of sweetness. Both of these characteristics means it goes well with a variety of foods such as spicy barbecue, or a classic pairing with cured meats. The saltiness of those dishes are offset by the hint of sweetness and bubbles. It makes for a delightful pairing.
Try: Lambrusco Sorbara Rose Fiorini Corte Attimi 2014