Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year, New Wine

We all have our wine preferences. Some of us prefer whites over reds. Others resolutely stick to a particular region. Some stick to a particular grape. For others, wine has to be big and bold, like a full-flavoured “Super-Tuscan (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot), Cabernet Franc or Italian Nebbiolo.

Why not add a new resolution to your 2008 list? How about exploring beyond your boundaries and tasting wines that you wouldn’t normally? It can even be as simple as trying organic wines to coincide with your decision to live a “greener” life. Or you can open the door of possibilities wide and give your taste buds a treat…or a shock. Be adventurous!

Try some varietals you’ve never heard of, or wines from different regions or whites if you love reds. Even pop the cork on a sparkling wine like a Spanish Cava to enjoy with your meal instead of saving bubbly for special occasions. Just try something new. Discovery can be rewarding—and fun.

Do you like whites, but fear the power of reds? Try a rosé or some “starter reds” like Pinot Noir (aka French Red Burgundy) or Merlot to get you taste buds whetted. Gamay (aka French Beaujolais) is also a good bet. Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes have lighter skins, therefore they don’t have the powerful and often astringent tannins some white wine lovers don’t like.

So far, so good? Try an easy sipping Italian Barbera, which is full of berry flavours and has low tannins.

If you want something with more body, try a Cabernet Sauvignon, Aussie Shiraz, French Syrah, Bordeaux or a California Zinfandel.

Been there, done that? How about a big, rich Argentinean Malbec, an earthy, fruity Italian Chianti (Sangiovese is the main grape) or a medium-bodied, fruity Spanish Rioja (Tempranillo is the main grape)?

If you think whites are too wimpy or boring, try an oak-aged Chardonnay, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Riesling (German brands tend to be sweeter than North American or French) or a full-flavoured, spicy Gewürztraminer.

Want something crisp and clean? Dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, French Muscadet or a unoaked Chardonnay might be what you’re looking for. How about soft and fruity? Try a Chenin Blanc.

Maybe you’ve never tried sweet wines before. A nice off-dry or sweet German Riesling would be good. Or Muscat or Sauternes. Maybe a BC ice wine would be a tasty sipper with dessert (or instead of it). Or try a fortified wine like Madeira, Port or Sherry.

Still unsure? Think about flavours and aromas you like.

Do you love floral scents and can’t wait until stone fruits, like peaches and apricots, are in season? Try a Gewürztraminer or a less floral French or Californian Viognier.

Love spices of all kinds? Again Gewürztraminer is the perfect white choice, along with Riesling, Pinot Gris (aka Pinot Grigio) and Viognier. For reds, Shiraz (aka Syrah), Tempranillo and Zinfandel are good bets.

Do you love the smells of raspberry jam and dark chocolate? Try a powerful Chilean Carmenère.

Like crisp mineral smells? Try Riesling or Chablis (unoaked French Chardonnay).

How about fresh baked bread with strawberry or peach preserves? Champagne might hit the spot.

Can’t get enough of earth and leather? Try a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (mainly Grenache) or Spanish Garnacha.

Like anything loaded with red berries? Shiraz, Zinfandel and Barbera are good bets. Cabernet Sauvignon offers darker fruit flavours, like blackberry, black cherry and cassis.

When it comes to trying new wines, your options are many and so are the days in a year, so start tasting and enjoy! By experimenting you’ll discover new wines to love and new food pairings to make your meals even more enjoyable.

Happy New Year!