At the start of every year I exhort my readers to get out of their comfort zones and drink something besides chardonnay and merlot. And, I remind myself too. All of us have our favorites and when pushed, we fall back on them much too often. Such a shame when the market is flush with wines from so many countries and with obscure grape varieties that deliver new flavors.
I at least got the year off on the right foot by heading to local stores in search of something different. I stopped first at a store that sells only organic wines -- those made without the use of sulpites, pesticides, herbicides, fungacides and any other nasti-cides. Frankly, I don't see how such a store will survive -- it just opened -- but perhaps I'm underestimating the interest in natural wines.
Organic notwithstanding, I was stunned by the 2015 Domaine Vaceron Sancerre ($35). Unlike so many uninspiring sancerres I've tasted, this one was full-bodied, lush in texture and long in finish. I couldn't stop at one glass. Was the quality a direct result of organic farming -- or was it a gifted winemaker's skills?
I was also impressed with the organic 2014 Chateau Ste Anne ($42) from Bandol. I can't remember the last time I had a rouge from Bandol. Score a big one on the "something different" meter.
Stopping at another store, a merchant recommended the Passi di Orma from the village of Castagneto Carducci in Bolgheri. Like the super Tuscan wines made east of this relatively new Italian region, it is a delicious blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Although these are traditional Bordeaux grapes, it was interesting to taste them grown in a different terroir. This is a region I have forgotten, but one to watch -- another victory for my new year's resolution.
On a quest to find more gems from the Roussillon and other southern French regions, I bought the Caladroy "Les Schistes" ($16) and the Ollieux Romanis "Classique" ($17) from Corbieres. I haven't tried them yet, but I'm excited.
And that's the whole point. I look forward to trying a new wine, which is far different than beginning a meal with a mass-produced wine that tastes like so many others in its category.
Look around: there are plenty of unique wines just waiting to be discovered.