You, who like to explore the world of wine, may be already tired of sticking to the same old styles and varieties. Especially in such a year that really limited our possibilities of getting out and knowing more about the world.
Even though you may be home again, why not explore new grapes, beyond the classics? Might be the just the great warmup for your future travels!
For this post, we will give you tips on alternatives to some of the most famous varieties you normally find out there. Not necessarily substitutes, but options that you will surely want to give a try if you have interest in these famous ones.
Do you like the all-around Cabernet sauvignon? There are fine alternatives that can give you an interesting profile. Maybe you are already good with so many Pinot noirs? Or maybe you’re thinking of alternative choices other than oaky Chardonnay for Christmas?
Grapes and wine styles to try if you like these classics…
The full-bodied red is arguably the most popular in the world – leading to countless 100% single-varietal wines or as the dominant force in many blends – is all over the world.
For people who have been tasting good old Cabs for a long time, finding alternatives is an endless adventure. And not only in styles, but there are also similar grapes that also provide bolder, fuller-bodied reds with slightly different profiles that will cheer you up.
Darkish Touriga nacional is a wonderful Portuguese choice. Port aside, its use as the dominant grape in dry reds provides rare depth, structure and stronger tannins you might expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon, with black fruit tones and a complexity helped by blending with other native grapes you normally find in the Douro region. Uruguayan and French Tannat, which can heavily vary in style, are also great if you are a strong-tannin enthusiast.
Albeit more medium-bodied, Chilean Carmenère also provides pepperish flavors, boldness, and, for many producers, special oaky tones. No wonder many blends from the South American countries are Cabernet-Carmenère-led, such as the one and only Seña. And, if you are thinking of exploring more red fruit tones and acidity, the countless Tempranillo varieties from Spain are a great possibility.
(For our available Cabernet Sauvignon fine wine options, see our releases such as Viñedo Chadwick, our Bordeaux blends and our Bordeaux-style ones from Seña and Opus One here!)
The ever-famous light-bodied that is known as Burgundy’s red can hardly be paralleled. Its depth, acidity and long finish are unique.
But… there are lots of options if you enjoy the likes of this classic. Starting from Burgundy’s neighbouring Beaujolais, the 100% Gamay. Seek floral and fruity Cru-designated options and you won’t regret.
There’s always Garnacha/Grenache too, filling the gap for red fruit-tasting, low body and low-tannin red. Or maybe you can go for Languedoc Cinsault, quite easy to drink and with a more berried tasting profile.
In Italy, instead, you can also go for Sicilian Frappato, a remarkably acid red that is great for chilling. Oh, and if you want to add some effervescence there, Lambrusco has a somewhat similar profile to the ‘still’ Pinot noir – and light bubbles!
Call it Syrah or Shiraz. This dark, full-bodied red that spans so great between the Old and the New Worlds is pretty unique on its own, and different countries produce quite different outcomes.
But if you’re thinking of body and intensity with good a touch of acidity, Nebbiolo can be what you’re looking for – check Piedmont’s much beloved Barolo and Barbaresco. A great alternative could be also Mourvèdre, that displays great dark red berry fruit and also gives Rhône/GSM blends great depth.
If instead you’re looking for more powerhouse alternatives, with less acidity, ‘cousins’ Petite Sirah and Pinotage have great body and strong tannins.
Strong but balanced, Merlot is well-regarded all over the world, having a consistent structure. A very similar choice is Cabernet Franc, which you will normally find in blends, as well as bolder Carmenère.
If instead you’re looking for more original tones, a few options that could significantly differ from one another include:
Malbec (now mostly made in Argentina, bold and with remarkable notes of red and black fruit),
Sangiovese (the wonderful Italian staple that is behind the greatest food-friendly, tannic Tuscan wines), and
Nero d’Avola (Sicily’s most famous red grape, making bold reds that spanning from pepperish to black fruit on the palate).
Our American followers are quite used to this very fruit-forward delicious wine. But not many know that California classic Zinfandel has a relatively lesser-known cousin: Primitivo, from Italy southern region of Puglia.
Give it a try, if you still haven’t! Great plum tones, mild tannins and moderate acidity.
Now on the whites, the ever-traditional light white that has its grape grown all over the world is wildly popular as a single-varietal or leading part of Bordeaux white blends.
Delicious acidity and herbal notes that are easily recognizable in Sauvignon blanc are also found in Albariño, the Iberian white that holds together the Portuguese classic and slightly effervescent vinho verde.
Austrian Grüner veltliner can also give you that acidity mixed with a spicy touch, as well as crispier and drier Riesling, whereas Tuscan classic Vernaccia (the San Gimignano one!) provides a unique citric taste.
Moving on to the bolder, oaky and fuller-bodied classic that everyone knows on the white spectrum, Chardonnay provides many possible alternatives due to its inherent characteristics.
The French grape that provides wonderful blanc de blancs can find local alternatives such as Viognier (spicy, stone fruit-like, less acidic) and, when thinking blends, a bolder profile in some Sémillon.
When thinking monovarietal, buttery Chablis can lead the way to alternatives as Chenin blanc, while fans of more citric and stronger whites include Argentinian Torrontés, as well as drier Tokaji.
Given that the most prestigious sparkling wine in the world has quite different producing methods, this should be just a quick tip: try any between Catalan Cava and South African Méthode Cap Classique.
Let us know on our social media or our private wine enthusiasts group what you think of these bubblies!
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As you can see, finding alternatives means exploring, not necessarily substituting. Go for it, try these options.
Local shops and the online retailers can give you good hints on where to go with what’s available – and, of course, check out also the investment-grade wines we have. PS.: Don’t miss out on our Christmas gift cards for your loved ones.
Until next time!