The Wine Rut



Wine Tasting at La Derniere Goutte, Paris                 Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012


Humans are, for the most part, creatures of habit. We tend to stay with what is familiar and easy. In clothing, I like black sweaters and tees, a certain brand of jeans. I like boots of all sizes and shapes. My choices are easy, simple and classic. Most of us have some sort of brand loyalty, whether it be in paper towels, shampoo, yogurt, laundry soap, athletic shoes or skin care. Most of us also have preferred foods and wines. And, too often, we don’t venture out of that little box I call…The Wine Rut.

I have fallen victim to The Wine Rut.  When I entered the work force in Pennsylvania several years ago, my wine of choice was Chardonnay. I always drank white wine, never red…my first Wine Rut. Over time, I discovered Merlot. When I really became interested in wine, I focused on Zinfandel. Then I went on to Cabernet Sauvignon and…no whites. Again, a Wine Rut. My little wine cellar consisted of current vintage Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels. I then graduated to the California Cab Rut, where I find so many people end up and never get out. I don’t mean to sound judgmental here, as I have been there too.

The best way to get out of a Wine Rut is to get out and try different things. If you like a California Cab, try a Cabernet blend…a Bordeaux (French), Meritage (American) or Claret, the British term for a Bordeaux blend.  And, guess what, if your Wine Rut is Merlot, again, try the blends, as many are Merlot based. Or, try a Cabernet Franc, one of my favorites. It is grown and produced in California, France’s Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. This grape is part of the Bordeaux blend and is a single varietal in Loire and in California, where it is gaining popularity as a single varietal.

A beautiful wine boutique in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France, October 2011    Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

If you like Syrah, known as Shiraz in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, try a Rhône blend, comprising primarily of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. These blends are common to Paso Robles and, of course, the Rhône valley of France, where they originated. Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain, is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, especially Spain, France, Sardinia, where it is known as Cannonau, Australia, Washington and California. This grape is also used in rosés and pairs well with many foods.

If you like the heavier California Syrahs and inkier Australian Shiraz, you may like Malbec, a grape that originated in Cahors, southwestern France, but is the top grape in Argentina.

Zinfandel lovers, try Petite Sirah. Other very nice reds come from Italy…Sangiovese (Chianti and Barolo), Nebbiolo and Barberas. Tempranillo, primarily from Spain can be another heavier red alternative. And of course, within the Pinot Noirs, there are decided differences between different AVAs in California. Oregon makes beautiful Pinot Noirs, many that are more similar to those from Burgundy, than many in California.

To get out of the white Wine Rut, if you just can’t live without California Chardonnay, try Sonoma as well as Napa, and definitely  try the Chardonnays of our Central Coast.  The white Rhône blends that have a lot of Rousanne resemble lighter Chardonnays. And, again, the Burgundies are fantastic. They are generally lighter and less oaky than their California counterparts. And, of course, they are made to age. While they are all Chardonnay, some other names from Burgundy you may not realize are from there are Chablis and Pouilly-Fuissé.  This Chablis is not the mass produced stuff from large American producers like Gallo. It is from the Chablis region of Burgundy in France. It is less expensive than its prestigious counterparts to the south in the Côte D’Or.  For more information on the misconceptions about Chablis, check out dont-hate-on-chablis. Pouilly-Fuissé comes from the Mâconnais appellation in Burgundy, south of the Côte D’Or.

Domaine Marc Bredif, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France        Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, both from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and from the Loire Valley. Or, try a refreshing Italian Pinot Grigio or its Pinot Gris counterpart. Viognier is another aromatic white that can be appealing to a Chardonnay drinker. The Loire Valley is also home to Chenin Blanc, known as Steen in South Africa. It is a versatile grape that can be produced in various degrees of sweetness, from sparkling wines in Vouvray in the Loire, to dessert wines, as well as crisp, white table wines.

I visited this Troglodyte cave at Marc Bredif, October 2010   Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

I will be talking about rosés in a future post, as summer is fast approaching.

I have given you alternative interpretations of well known grapes to get you out of your Wine Rut, if you are in one. Now, go out, have some fun and try something new!


Until next time….à votre santé!

©  2012 by Christine Humphrey


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