The cold winds of winter are upon us, but there’s always a bright side: Each season brings a fresh opportunity to find new wine varieties and explore new regions.
Here are six slightly outside-the-box wines to keep you warm and happy – with food or not!
Not just for New Year’s Eve: The next time you roast a chicken or serve a root-based dish, try a Cremant. This is a sparkling wine from anywhere in France that isn’t Champagne. Made with a variety of grapes but in the same way that Champagnes are made, Cremants are almost always rich, creamy, and delicious, while costing 30- to 50-percent less than Champagne.
My pick: NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace, $19.99
Notes: 100-percent Pinot Blanc. Aromatics of lemon, grapefruit, and slight yeasty character. Ripe fruits on a gently, creamy palate balanced by crisp acidity and a long finish.
You can expect wines labeled as Rosé to be dry, and that’s what you should stick with. The darker pink ones will have more heft...some even show a little tannin. Lighter colored wines will be lighter in weight, but both styles work wonderfully as an aperitif; the higher acidity stimulates both an appetite and conversation. Rosé pairs perfectly with honey-baked ham and shrimp cocktail.
My pick: 2017 Chateau Campuget ‘Tradition’ Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, France, $10.99
Notes: 70-percent Syrah, 30-percent Grenache, this pale-pink rose is delicate in both aroma and flavor, offering perfumed cherry blossom and crisp red cherry and raspberry notes. Dry and full bodied, refreshingly mineral, brightened by juicy, lemony acidity.
Gamay is a light-bodied red wine, similar to Pinot Noir, from the Beaujolais region of France. You can expect a highly aromatic wine offering fresh-cut violets, red cherry, and plums. Medium bodied, dry, yet with loads of expressive fruit, usually silky smooth and mouthwatering. They are a bit fuller than Pinot Noir from Burgundy and they come at a nicer price. Yet much like Pinot Noir, they are friendly with a lot of foods. Their floral aromatics and snappy style make them a delicious counter to cold weather.
My pick: 2015 Drouhin Beaujolais Villages, $15.99
Notes: Fresh and silky with both the freshness and fruit remaining for quite a long time on the palate.
Expand your horizons beyond California. There are fantastic Cabernets coming from Chile, Italy and, of course, France, with Bordeaux. Domestically, Cabernet grows magnificently in Washington State, delivering classic flavors at extremely competitive prices. They lean toward an Old-World style, with leather, mint, herbs, and bell pepper under currant and cherry flavors. These score high on the quality-to-price ratio.
My pick: 2016 Boomtown Cabernet by Dusted Valley, Washington State, $16.99
Notes: Refined yet rugged, offering wonderful cherry fruit and balancing acid, while giving you the rustic complexity of freshly crushed herbs.
Portugal has become the last, great wine frontier in Europe, offering an intriguing, affordable selection of wines. Two regions in particular seem to be easy to find: Alentejo and Douro. Alentejo, inland in the south of Portugal, is a hot region similar to California. Red wines from there are robust, powerful, and rich. Douro region wines are concentrated yet elegant.
My pick: 2016 Quinta do Crasto, Douro Tinto, $14.99
Notes: Excellent aroma expressiveness, showing notes of fresh red fruit and elegant florals reminiscent of violets. Seductive on the palate, evolving into a balanced wine of great volume and solid structure. The tannins are polished and well integrated.
Ninety-five percent of all Sherry is dry, with amazing amounts of flavor. Lighter Sherry offers raw almonds, herbs, a slight bitterness, and high acidity; the darker versions feature hazelnuts, caramel, oak, and raisins while remaining dry to slightly off-dry.
My pick: NV Lustau ‘Don Nuno’ Dry Oloroso, $27.99
This middle-of-the-road style offers a perceived sweetness of dark chocolate, walnuts, and roasted chestnuts. Very persistent on the palate, tempered with a slight acidity. Pairs deliciously with squash, root dishes, soups, hearty pastas, and roasted fowl. This is also an alternative to Whisky and a fun cocktail ingredient.
Maggie Harrison is a professional in the service industry, with more than 30 years of experience, with a specific focus on wine. She has experience in restaurants, retail, distribution, and training/education, and brings a broad and deep repertoire of skills to her clients and consumers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.