Expand Your Palate with These 7 Wines

Paige Comrie

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As a wine drinker, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut -- you know you love Pinot Noir, so you always reach for the same bottle at the store, always order the mid-priced glass of it at the restaurant. Same old, same old. Whether it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay, we all have our classic go-to’s that we know we can trust to avoid disappointment.

But a new year provides inspiration to try something bold. To think outside the box. To be different. In this post we’ll explore some wines to try to expand your palette in the new year, and simple switches that are similar to the wines you know and love, but are just a little bit more interesting.

If you love Pinot Noir, try… Gamay

Both Pinot Noir and Gamay are thin-skinned red grapes that produce highly expressive, light-bodied wines. Their flavors lean towards red fruit flavors with a dash of floral or earthy qualities, depending on the terroir and producer.

Gamay wines are well-loved for their food-friendly nature, delicate floral aromas, and beautiful flavors. This grape primarily grows in Beaujolais, France, however, more and more US producers are beginning to lean into this grape varietal. The best part of making this switch? You can usually find high-quality Gamay at a much more friendly price point than Pinot Noir.

If you love Sauvignon Blanc, try…Verdejo

Verdejo may be a bit tricky to find, as it’s pretty much exclusively grown in the Duero region of Spain. It’s well-worth a try if you see it on a menu, however, as it packs great value for the price point.

Verdejo is a light-bodied white wine that explodes with aromas of sweet lime, mouth-watering peach, fresh cut grass, fennel, and refreshing cucumber. While it’s similar in style to wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, it truly deserves its own category. Unlike most whites, Verdejo shows improvement with age, developing beautiful and complex flavors such as toasted almonds and supported by a rich and almost waxy texture.

If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, try…Tempranillo

Tempranillo is like the Spanish cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied, muscular, and generally aged with a healthy dose of oak, Tempranillo displays flavors and aromas of red and black fruits, plums, cassis, and tobacco… all similar to a bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tempranillo is most known for its role in Rioja, Spain, however, it is found all over the globe and is actually the 4th most planted grape varietal in the world, although it’s not very well-known in the U.S. (yet!)

If you love Chardonnay, try…Viognier

Chardonnay is such a classic wine, with a full-bodied mouth feel and delicious fruit flavors. Depending on where you grow it in the world, it could have tropical fruit notes, such as pineapple and mango (warm climates) or greener fruit flavors, such as apples and citrus (cool climates). When aged in oak, it has a luscious mouth feel with a creamy finish.

Similar to this, Viognier’s primary aromas are dominated by citrus and floral notes, with a creaminess that hits mid-palate and builds into a slightly oily sensation. Unlike Chardonnay, however, Viognier tends to be a bit richer and more aromatic in style. It’s sure to delight!

If you love Malbec, try…Syrah

With its smoky undertones and rich, fruity palate, Malbec is certain to be a crowd-pleaser. If you’re looking to mix things up, try swapping Malbec out for Syrah at your next gathering: it’s absolutely similar, with a brooding mystery and dark fruit notes, and is just as likely to please your guests.

Syrah is known for its blackberry flavors and jammy accents. It’s perfect for pairing with food due to its more savory aspects, such as black olives, cracked pepper, and even meaty, bacon-like flavors.

If you love Merlot, try… Sangiovese

Merlot is most famous for being the counterpart to Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends, but also stands up on its own quite well. With soft tannins, bold flavor, and moderate acidity, Merlot is a fantastic food wine for those who enjoy a full-bodied red with dinner. The wine skews towards dark fruits and oaky notes. Think: black cherry, juicy, plump blackberries, and cigar box mixed with leather.

If you’re a fan of Merlot, give Sangiovese a try. Similar in weight to Merlot, but prized for its bright acidity and firm tannins, this wine is another food-friendly winner. Dark cherries and plum are the most typical characteristics, and may be backed by secondary herbal or earthy notes. Plum and sour cherry are also predominant. On the palate, Sangiovese has a tannin structure similar to Merlot and is oh-so enjoyable.

If you love Riesling, try… Gewurztraminer

Riesling is a wine that transcends boundaries, again and again. Well-known to be a favorite of Sommeliers, Riesling is made in a range of styles: from sultry and sweet to refreshingly dry, there’s a Riesling out there for everyone.

Great Riesling is incredibly aromatic, with beautiful fruit and floral flavors. The best bottles create an enticing balance between sweetness and tart acidity, with complex flavors that keep you going back, sip after sip.

To expand your palate, consider a bottle of Gewurztraminer. Although its name may be intimidating, this wine is anything but. Fuller-bodied than Riesling, Gewurztraminer is similarly aromatic and enticing. In the glass, you’ll find notes of jasmine, orange blossom, and mouth-watering lychee. Lychee is this wine’s sure-fire tell, and it’s delicious!

Expand Your Palate

The wines we tend to think of and sip most often may be fantastic, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg in the wine world. With over 10,000 known wine varietals in existence today, there’s so much more to explore!

It can be well-worth your time to experience new wines, and the easiest way is to branch out from wines you already know you love. There’s always something similar to what you’re already familiar with!

We hope this post encourages you to reach for something new and keep your wine journey fresh in 2021.

Happy exploring, friends!

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Paige Comrie is a Certified American Wine Expert and holds her WSET3 Advanced Certificate in Wine. She's passionate about helping connect consumers with great bottles of wine, and inspiring people to live the "wine lifestyle". This phrase, to her, means elevating the everyday, enjoying the little moments, and taking time to sip and savor everything life has to offer. In addition to wine and food, Paige also writes on the subject of Social Media and Digital Marketing, specifically focusing on the wine industry. Follow her on Instagram @winewithpaige

Napa, CA
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