The new year is upon us, and with it comes resolutions… which are not necessarily easy to keep. So why not make this year’s resolution a delicious one – one of discovery and unexpected pleasures, exploring the world of wine from new angles… and new grapes?
You’ve probably heard of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, but did you know that there are approximately 1,500 grape varieties around the world used to produce wine? Have you tasted the beautiful red fruit and strong, yet ripe, tannins of an Areni from Armenia or a Saperavi from Georgia? Or, in whites, the energy of a Spanish Treixadura or the smooth roundness of a Piemont Timorasso?
The SAQ catalogue counts more than 220 grape varieties… and that’s just for white! Take the time to explore the aisles in the specialty section and lesser-known regions… you won’t be disappointed! Sure, the California sun is nice, but so is the sun in Greece and Uruguay. And a rosé from Australia or Spain is just as good as one from Provence.
In addition, lesser-known varieties bring their own benefits… budget wise! In California, the Carignan, Valdiguié, and Viognier are far less expensive than a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and this is reflected in the price of the bottle. And checking out a Negroamaro from Puglia or a Grechetto from Umbria won’t take away from Tuscany’s fine wines.
Of course, you may be hesitant to give a Falanghina, Agiorgitiko, Carricante, or Zweigelt a try… How do they grow in the winter, and what do they taste like come spring? But in this smart-phone era, a quick search online while at the store will tell you if the wine before you is smooth, structured, strong, or rounded, and what flavours may lie within a Loureiro or Pelaverga. That is, if the label or an in-store advisor haven’t already answered your questions.
Touring the regions
There’s no need to venture far into the unknown – you can also compare what the various regions bring to their Pinot Noir, Mourvèdre, or Merlot. Put a Spanish Grenache and an Australian Grenache side by side, and you’ll notice the differences… but also some resemblances. Is the fruit red, or darker? What spice aromas does each have?
Just like lesser-known grapes, lesser-known regions also often offer more competitive prices. Everyone would like a taste of the finest Burgundy or Barolo wines, but the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are still building their reputation. The price for even very high-quality vine hectares remains significantly lower than in Pauillac or Montalcino, which is conducive to maintaining more accessible prices, since production costs are also reduced. Furthermore, venturing a little deeper into the world of wine helps promote wine diversity and often helps keep traditions that would otherwise disappear, alive.
Here is there and everywhere
On your quest to try new wines, why not look in your own backyard? Quebec wines, which have been around for nearly four decades, are continually evolving. Wine tasters all over the world are singing their praises. You can even find Quebec wines in some of the hippest, most renowned New York restaurants.
In addition to producing surprising, quality Chardonnays and Pinots Gris, our winemakers are getting very good at dealing with the particularities of hybrid grape varieties adapted to our demanding climate. They are more and more clearly expressing the specific personalities of said varieties, as demonstrated by the various, pleasantly aromatic rosés, lively whites, and smooth and supple reds.
If you haven’t yet tried wines from here – or are hesitant to do so – keep in mind that we aren’t new at this. If you like the liveliness of a Vinho Verde or Muscadet, you’ll probably love a quiet wine (or sparkly) with a Frontenac Blanc, Vidal, or Vandal-Cliche base. For reds, if you like a Cinsault, Pinot Noir, and other, lighter reds, there’s a good chance you’ll fall for the Marquette grape, which makes up a big part of the Pinot Noir’s DNA …
Whether you’re reaching near or far, there’s a pleasant and distinctive bottle out there you’ll love. And if there’s a wine that doesn’t quite cut it for you, just remember that it can happen when trying something new, but it’s just one night – not five years. Come to think of it, you don’t need a resolution to explore wine… all it takes is a little curiosity!