Unveiling the Hidden Treasures of the Wine World
We are all guilty of sticking with our tried-and-tested wine choices, not daring to stray from our comfortable picks. Perhaps you've found your safe haven in a bottle of Chianti, are always on the hunt for those elusive budget-friendly Burgundies, or are patiently waiting for that coveted Sancerre to drop. Whatever the case, it's easy to find comfort in the familiar.
However, the world of wine isn’t a place to confine yourself. With over 10,000 grape varieties available, there is a plethora of flavors, aromas, and experiences waiting to be uncorked. Here, we explore seven unique grape varieties that fall outside the "noble grapes" family but are just as capable of delighting the palate.
Born in the island vineyards of Corsica, France, Nielluccio has a unique story. This grape started as Tuscan Sangiovese, and arrived in Corsica when Italy controlled the island. Over the centuries, it’s adapted to the maritime environment to the extent that it’s considered a separate, now native, grape variety by the locals. While it shares similarities with Tuscan wines, Nielluccio's characteristics diverge, delivering herbal and savory notes that echo its maritime, seaside upbringing, rather than the rustic, earthy vibes of Chianti.
With over 900 years of history under its belt, Savagnin has its roots in the Jura, France. In the realm of wine, Savagnin is most commonly used for Vin Jaune, or "yellow wine." This sherry-like wine ages under a film of yeast in a barrel, leading to an intricate tapestry of flavors and a nutty, heady aroma that's sure to captivate your senses.
You’ll find Frappato in Sicily, Italy, where the light-bodied red grape variety is grown on the southeastern coast. It’s cherry-colored, aromatic, and low in tannin. It brings an exciting new dimension to varietal wines and forms an integral part of the regional Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine. Expect to find a delightful mix of power and delicacy in a bottle of Frappato.
Also native to Sicily, Italy, Carricante is an ancient grape variety that thrives on the slopes of Mount Etna. This high-acidity grape is often used in the blended whites of Etna, and is characterized by refreshing citrus notes. Depending on its production, you can also expect flavors ranging from tart green apple to honey and cream. Look for bottles named “Etna Bianco.”
Marquette, a newcomer introduced in 2006, is a hybrid grape found in the North East of America. This grape variety has been specifically adapted to its terroir, producing dry, light to medium-bodied red wines that encapsulate the unique character of their landscape. Vermont winemakers, in particular, are leading the charge, showing that hybrids are not a second-rate option but a path to authentic, terroir-driven wines.
Also known as Mission, Pais is a grape variety that can trace its origins back to Spain. The Pais grape is grown in North and South America and, despite its low acidity and sweetness, has begun to turn heads. Given proper attention and care, this grape variety can deliver a wine that beautifully represents the terroir of South and North America.
Broadening Horizons: An Invitation to Taste the Unexpected
While it's easy to fall into comfortable habits, the wine world is a vast landscape, full of surprises. By exploring new wines made from different grape varieties, we can enrich our experience and expand our horizons. So, next time you find yourself reaching for that familiar bottle, remember the seven grape varieties we've explored today and consider trying something new. The best place to start is by talking to your local wine shop, or by exploring this collection of wines made from unique grape varieties. Check them out, and you’ll be sure to find a few of the gems we discussed here.