Last night I hosted a wine tasting for my community in Naples. Like at others I have hosted, I am impressed by wine enthusiasts who say they no little about wine -- but do.
I like to expose people to unfamiliar grape varieties that take them out of their comfort zones. Most consumers are content to stick with their chardonnays and merlots instead of paying good money for a gewurztraminer or furmint -- wines they can hardly pronounce, let alone drink. I get it. Even the sales staff doesn't know half of these wines.
I presented four white wines: an albarino from Spain, gruner veltliner from Austria, picpoul de pinet from southern France and a grillo/inzolia blend from Sicily. Two reds were more common: a Spanish garnacha and a Australian shiraz.
These wines were under $15 and are great alternatives to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Most were very simple wines that quenched the thirst in warm Florida temperatures. They had in common good acidity and citrus flavors that are ideal for spring and summer sipping. Although most struggled to define the wine, they drew from their knowledge of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to compare them.
Not everyone liked all the wines, but they were eager to try something different and they focused their palates. The Sicilian wine was the most controversial. I love grillo but there is so much inconsistency in quality that you have to be careful. This one from Kalia was an oxidized disaster. And, the tasters knew it.
There are more grape varieties available on the market than ever. Why not try them? Except for the weird grillo/inzolia blend, the three white grape varieties offered simple, crisp flavors to greet spring. Go for it.