Wine and music have a lot in common. They are both experiential and difficult to describe. Personal preferences vary widely. There is no way to find either wine or music that you really enjoy other than to sit with it, revisit it, think about it, and ultimately decide whether it will become part of your personal catalogue. But this takes time. It is no coincidence that so many people discovered much of their favorite music during the early years of college, with the sudden arrival of free time, exposure to new friends, and consequently, new music. The exploration of new music then slows and ultimately ossifies, until you find yourself typing John Mayer into Pandora -- no judgment!
There is often a similar process with wine, although preferences tend not to be formed at college parties where wine is often served from a box, but at a nice restaurant or during the first trip to a wine growing region. There are so many different kinds of wine from all over the world that it is much safer to stick with a familiar bottle than to take a risk and spend money on something new that you may not enjoy.
Allow me to offer a few wines worthy of consideration for the addition to your catalogue. These wines are all different from, and less common, than the familiar Napa Cabs and Pinot Noirs. Like new albums, not all of them will immediately earn a spot on the favorites. However, they are all food-friendly and will offer a glimpse of something new and may lead to more rewarding risks in the future. Plus, the fact that they are less popular varietals (in the US) increases the likelihood that the bottle that you find will be both mid-priced and good quality. And the best part, even if there is only one bottle on the menu, you can order with confidence. Without further ado...
Savennières -- This is a full, dry, white wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape in the Loire Valley of France. The flavors that tend to be associated with this wine are red apple and chamomile, but the appeal here is that this wine is rich and complex without being too weird. Savennières high acidity makes it a good pairing with rich fish, poultry or vegetarian dishes, but it is also great to drink on its own.
Ruché -- This is a light, red wine from Piemonte and the operative word here is beautiful. This wine can smell almost like perfume or a bouquet of flowers, but in the mouth, it changes to fresh, red fruits. This wine is great with pasta dishes of all sorts, from those with cream-based sauce to traditional meat-based ragù. Salt brings out something great in this wine.
Blaüfrankisch -- This Austrian red wine can move between medium and full-bodied, depending on the style of the producer. In both cases, it yields a ripe and balanced drink that offers a lot of rich fruit, but also complexity that can sometimes be lacking from wines that cost much more. Of all of the wines on this list, this one seems to be the most undervalued, and will likely see greater exposure in the coming years. Blaüfrankisch can go with a variety of meat and potato dishes and is delicious with sausage.
Vin Santo -- This is a dessert wine and is therefore quite sweet. This wine has an interesting origin story: the peasants of Tuscany used to keep some of the feudal lord’s grapes for themselves. To hide their theft, this wine was made inside of hot attics, where the white grapes were dried and then aged for years in old oak barrels. The result is a delicious and complex wine that smells and tastes of nuts, caramel, dried fruits, and coffee. Traditionally, Vin Santo is served almost as a dessert unto itself, with small, stale biscotti for dipping. It would also work great with fruit tarts or even just some dried fruits and nuts.
Let me know what you think, and if any of these work their way into your rotation.