Interesting Wines to Try in 2021

Interesting Wines to Try in 2021

New Years Resolutions don’t have to be torture: this year, make an effort to try some less-common (and delicious) wines! In addition to expanding your palate and learning a little more about the world’s wine regions, you just might find a new favorite wine or pairing.

Spumante

You might think of Prosecco when you think of Italian sparkling wine, but Italy also produces other exciting sparkling wines. Many are labeled “spumante,” which means “sparkling wine” in Italian.

Italy provides the designation of Vino Spumante di Qualità (VSQ) for superior spumanti. These wines are heavily regulated when it comes to the winemaking process, but the designation does not require specific grapes to be used in the wine. Therefore, a VSQ wine is an opportunity to taste a high-quality Italian sparkling wine that might be made from grapes you have not tried.

The Carrega Malabaila has owned their estate near Alba since the 15th century (and wine has been produced there since 1362). Today, the family’s 65th generation tends to the vineyards and hand-harvests the Nebbiolo and Arnies grapes that go into the Pas Dose. The light gold wine has very little residual sugar and aromas of green apple and toasted bread. On the palate, it exudes richness with brioche notes, yet also has a light finish that lends itself to shellfish, sushi, raw oysters, and seared scallops.

Pinot Blanc

Perhaps you are familiar with Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, but have you heard of Pinot Blanc? The grape is actually a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir, which is such a genetically unstable grape that it has been known to produce an entire vine of red wine grapes and then one cluster of white ones. Thanks to this instability, we have been gifted with a grape that produces exactly what you might expect from the white wine version of Pinot Noir: a wine that is medium-bodied, elegant, and nuanced.

This EU-certified biological wine comes from 35-year-old vines located in the famed Alsace region. Grapes are hand-harvested and then undergo a careful selection process before being fermented in stainless steel; this maintains its apple, pear, and citrus fruit flavors and allows the wine’s more complex peach, red apple, and mineral notes to shine. The wine is beautiful alongside risotto with baby vegetables, salads with citrus dressings, roasted chicken, and pesto.

Friulano

Friulano has undergone an identity crisis over the past few decades. Although it is originally from Western France, it is mainly produced in the region of Fruili in Northeastern Italy. There, it was known as Tocai Friulano until 1995, when European Union courts awarded exclusive use of the name to Hungarian Tokaj winemakers for their dessert wine. It is also often referred to as Sauvignonasse, which causes many to confuse the wine with Sauvignon Blanc.

In short, poor Friulano is its own unique variety, yet it is very rarely celebrated. Considering it is one of the very few wines that go well with difficult-to-pair vegetables––like asparagus, cabbage, artichokes, and brussels sprouts––we think it should be given more acclaim.

Winemaker Carlo De Lorenzi’s family has been producing wine in Northeastern Italy since 1973 and boasts vineyards in two prime regions that hold Denominazione di Origine Controllata(DOC) status: Friuli Grave and Friuli Lison. The 2016 De Lorenzi Verduzzo Friulano has beautiful freshness and notes of green apple and herbs. It is perfect with white fish with lemon butter and capers, roasted vegetables, and prosciutto and arugula appetizers.

Brachetto

Even the most avid Italian wine lovers may not be familiar with Brachetto (full name Brachetto d’Acqui). This red wine grape is most often grown in Piedmont, where it was awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status starting in 1969––and was then upgraded to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1996.

Brachetto can be used for still or sparkling wines (we recommend both!). As a still wine, it is a lively, bright garnet color with elegant notes of fresh-picked strawberries and cherry blossoms. The palate contains red fruits and notes of spice, followed by a silky finish with smooth tannins.

The 2017 Malabaila di Canale “Cardunaj” is made from 100% Brachetto grapes grown on just a two-acre vineyard in Roero, Piedmont. Just 250 cases of this wine were made from the Brachetto from this estate, which has produced wine since 1362.

Collioure-Banyuls

Just above the Spanish border on the Mediterranean coast lies Collioure-Banyuls, a region known as the best red wine-producing region in France’s famed Languedoc-Roussillon––the largest wine-producing region in the world.

Within this large region, we find the Collioure Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and the Banyuls AOC. Banyuls is known for its fortified red wines made predominantly from Grenache Noir grown on the region’s steep, terraced vineyards. The sun-kissed grapes are hand-picked and then fermented. Halfway through fermentation, winemakers add a pure alcohol (also made from grapes) to stop the fermentation process; they then age the wine in small oak barrels––often for 20 years or more. The result is a delicious, robust red wine with 16% alcohol . . . and a dessert wine that gives Port a run for its money.

This blend of 90% Grenache Noir, 5% Grenache Gris, and 5% Grenache Blanc comes from Clos Saint Sebastien’s two small plots in Collioure. The hand-picked grapes are cold-soaked then left in contact with the skins for a 30-day maceration, which adds depth to the wine. The end result is blended with other barrels from up to 20 past vintages for the perfect cuvee.