Wines Off the Beaten Path

Looking to try some new wines? Bristol Bar and Grille Master Sommelier Scott Harper shares some unfamiliar wines that might become your new favorites:

The old cliche variety is the spice of life couldn’t be truer when it comes to wine. Sure, we have our favorites and our tried and true wines and there is nothing wrong with that. These are the wines we don’t have to think about, the wines we order in a restaurant when nothing else seems to jumps out at us, the wines we pick up at the wine shop when we need to run in for a quick bottle for dinner. But, why not occasionally if not regularly try something new or different, sometimes change for the intention of change can be enjoyable. I know when I was first getting into wine, I would try a new wine, go home and pull out a wine book and read about it. Doing this afterwards, some how made it more intriguing, more interesting and memorable. It is a great way to learn about wine. You may find yourself remembering a wine more than you normally would because it creates more of an experience that evening as well as the next time you order that particular bottle again.Sauternes wines to try

The wines I want you to try may be commonplace depending on what you’re drinking customs are, and by no means am I suggesting that you regularly stay away from the big ones, but for the criteria of wines off the beaten path we will be avoiding Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. No, nothing is wrong with any of these grapes. As a matter of fact, some of these grapes are my favorites varietals.

Now when you go to order or buy wines off the beaten path, you may want to do a little bit of Cork versus screw topinquiry first. Ask your knowledgeable restaurateur or wine shop person, but don’t get to much information, as it will spoil the fun of your research afterwards. You may just want to know ahead of time, for example if it is dry, sweet, full-bodied or light-bodied and from there let the fun begin. Also, the producer of the wine can be as fascinating as the wine itself, lending even more interesting facts and complexity to the wine and its experience.

Here are a few wines to try that are off the beaten path and a little bit of info on each, so you have only an idea of what you may be trying. When going off the beaten path, you may find that, unfortunately, one of the wines you try you don’t like. But more than likely you will have a new favorite, a wine you would have never known about if you hadn’t been a little venturesome . Below there is also a list of three recommended books. With all the information available on the internet it isn’t really necessary to purchase a lot of wine books when a Google search engine will do the trick, but it is good to have a couple of wine books to read while you are in your easy chair drinking your wine off the beaten path.


Gruner Veltliner is a light, dry wine from the most popular grape in Austria.

Riesling, yes Riesling. Riesling gets a bad wrap because of its stereo type for being sweet. Riesling from Alsace is rarely sweet and there are a lot of Rieslings from Germany, Australia and New Zealand that are fruity, crisp and dry.

Albarino is a light, dry and vivacious wine that is the hot white wine of Spain.



Rioja is an excellent medium-bodied dry wine that is arguably one of Spain’s finest.

Rosso Piceno is a medium-bodied, dry and tasty Central Italian wine value.

Vacqueyras is a Southern French wine medium to full-bodied and dry.



Malmsey Madeira is an excellent full-bodied, rich sweet wine to end your meal with.


The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson 2001. This book is an absolute tomb of information with plenty of facts, maps and assessments on almost every wine region in the world. A handy reference wine book clearly not meant for arm chair reading.


Wine Companion by Hugh Johnson’s Fully Revised and Updated by Stephen Brook 2003. A More concise and up to date wine book than “Sotheby”, with more producer information and producer profiles.


The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil 2001. Clearly one of the best value wine encyclopedias out there at about half the price of the above two books. This is a book you can just pick up and read or look up your wine’s information.