The Wine Blog

Explorers’ Delight

October 7, 2013


by: Amy Ullman

“Every time I open a bottle of wine it’s an amazing trip somewhere.” – José Andrés

Ever have those moments where the vinous landscape has just started to look a little ho-hum? Pinots have lost their pizazz, Syrah is no longer stellar, and Sauvignon Blancs have lost their sass? Yeah, we have been there too. Sounds like you might be stuck in a rut. Our solution: Snap out of it! Time to get out there and start exploring. Try a different country, a different variety or a different method of production (sparkling Sauvignon Blanc anyone? Love Burgundy? Try a Sancerre Rouge – Pinot Noir from the Loire valley). Here are a few suggestions to help you get get out there and start exploring.


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.05.47_PM37e349AKA Burgundy’s finest…well not really. Although Chardonnay rules the roost as the dominant white grape in France’s prestigious Burgundy region,  is often used in the base of many table wines. If Chardonnay is the diva, Aligoté is the underrated understudy. Because it is typically hardier and less difficult to grow, it is often used in less than stellar vineyard sites throughout the Burgundy region, where it is used for both still and sparkling wines. If you are looking for a a stellar example, Aligoté shines in the village of Bouzeron, where it is labelled Bouzeron-Aligoté AOC. Can’t find one? Look to the Bourgogne Aligoté AOC  At their best these wines are super fresh, and crisp with a mouth watering acidity, and flavors of lemon and apples.


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.09.32_PMde2bb0Although you might not be familiar with the name of the grape, itself, this Hungarian gem is actually what brings us Tokaj, the storied sticky sweet wine of Hungary. Like many grapes that produce beautiful dessert wines, Furmint is blessed with floral delicacy, defined fruit notes and a killer acidity. Totally worth seeking out


godello583115b4e327A grape that is coming back into fashion in spain’s Galicia region, especially Valdeorras. Don’t let it’s delicacy fool you, this grape is a master of expressing terroir, but is also super responsive to an expert winemakers touch. It has recently enjoyed a bit of a renaissance and become a darling of sommeliers across the country. We love it so much we even wrote about it over the summer.


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.14.49_PMKerner is an unsung hero in the Alto-Adige region of North-east Italy. The finest vineyards are nestled in the hills of the Dolomitte Mountains, part of the Eastern Alps. This rocky landscape produces a variety of microclimates, producing expressive airy whites. Like France’s Alsace and Corsica, and Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region, the Alto Adige is contested territory: It has been controlled by Austria, Italy. As such the region is split linguistically and vinously speaking: the entire region is bilingual, and the wines are informed as much by Austrian techniques as they are by Italian. Kerner is the perfect example of dichotomy. The wines are expressive, bold and mineral driven with that tell-tale piercing Italian acidity, and glorious minerals. Divine!


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.17.59_PM5fdd080801e5Ever had a Greek wine? If not, it’s about time you did. Say hi to Assyrtiko, the hot weather stunner from Santorini. Unlike most grapes that thrive in warmer climes, Assyrtiko has the unique ability to maintain its acidity throughout a long hot growing season rather than getting big and blowsy. The results are bone dry, and rock at transmitting the volcanic terroir for which Greece is known.


AglianicoGrapes1b4848This historic beauty hails all the way from Ancient Rome, where it was known as one of the blending grapes in Falernia (the Chateau Mouton Rothschild or DRC of the day). The modern incarnation is rich in plum fruit, tannin, acid and body. This wine is bold, bracing and delicious, but not for the faint of heart when young (Unless you like the vinous equivalent of a punk rock show – in which case go on with your bad self). However with age comes refinement: look for one with a bit of bottle age for a more elegant experience.


Blaufrankisch_close_up09c564Although this is what this grape  goes by in Austria it also known as Kékfrancos in Hungary and Lemberger in New York’s Finger Lakes. Like many grapes the expressions are unique depending upon the landscape, but there are certain delightful hallmarks. Dark, almost blue (hence the name) skins, a naturally high acidity (which can sometimes be tamed by oak) flavors of brambly black and blue berries, velvetty tannins, and a peppery finish. Regardless of it’s alias, this ia pitch perfect alternative for you Malbec drinkers looking to try something new.


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.26.45_PMe59bcdAnother undeservedly obscure Italian stunner. Gaglioppo is the grape behind the Calabrian Ciro appellation. The flavors are dark and brooding: think black fruit laced with dark cocoa powder, set alight over granite. Pair with Steak au Poivre and thank us later.


Screen_Shot_2013_10_07_at_1.28.47_PMThis Hungarian grape was the country’s most widely planted variety prior to World War II. Unfortunately, the communist regime and an influx of international varieties, almost saw its demise. With the resurgence of traditional wine making techniques, has meant a bit of resurgence for this working class hero of a grape. Although it can be found alone, it is often used as the base for Hungary’s famous Egri Bikaver (or Bull’s Blood) wine. Don’t let the graphic name deter you, these wines are exotic, interesting and totally worth seeking out. Think super rustic Beaujolais with darker fruit, and more robust tannins.

Pinot d’Aunis

pineau_daunis_grapesThis historic yet little known member of the Pinot family currently resides in the Loire Valley, specifically in Anjou, Touraine, Cheverny and Coteaux du Vendômois. Although you might not have heard of it by name, this delicate, expressive little grape produces not only reds, but roses and sparkling cremant de la Loire as well. Like it’s cousin Pinot Noir, it is excellent at transmitting subtle shifts in terroir. However, also like it’s cousin, it is very challenging to grow (hence the obscure factor). The results as a red are lean, light and leathery, with punchy notes of Raspberry, Strawberry, white pepper. astringent tannins, and like any good Pinot, high acidity. Looking for a red wine to go with seafood? This is your man!


Amy_Ulllman_e1374835166279Writer Amy Ullman is the irrationally exuberant founder of Wine for Rookies. She received a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Harvard University in 2009 with concentrations in Economics and French. She holds the title of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, and is currently working on her Diploma of Wine and Spirits via the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.