There are dog people and there are cat people. There are Pinot Noir people and there are Cabernet Sauvignon people. But who says that we can’t mix and match? Here we round up recommendations to sub out what you know you like, with something that you’ll probably enjoy just as much! (And for those of you that have birds, or fish, or reptiles as pets, don’t worry...there’s something here for you too!)
If you like...
Pinot Noir, try Gamay: Gamay and Pinot Noir share a homeland in France’s Bourgogne region. Pinot Noir represents classic red Burgundy from the Côte d’Or while Gamay is Beaujolais all the way — from fresh and fruit nouveau to elegant and refined Cru Beaujolais. Gamay is light-bodied and chillable, cultivated around France and the world, with excellence coming from the Finger Lakes, Switzerland, California, and Oregon.
Sauvignon Blanc, try Gruner Veltliner: Sauvignon Blanc is an around-the-world homage to bright acidity and versatility. For a food-friendly alternative, look out for Gruner Veltliner. This is the signature white variety of Austria, where it’s crafted to meet every taste: from light and zippy to spicy and peppery. Structured acidity is always a hallmark, and the most powerful releases can age for decades.
Napa Cab, try reds from California’s Central Coast: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has a solid reputation for a reason, but just down the coast lies some of North America’s finest growing regions — plenty of spots for elegant and complex red wine to shine. Some of our favorites include Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Ynez Valley, Edna Valley, Santa Maria Valley. There’s really no end to the quality coming out of this part of the wine world — always worth a lengthy exploration.
Red Burgundy, try Oregon Pinot Noir: Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces world class Pinot Noir at levels that have attracted several of Burgundy’s most influential winemaking families to lay down roots in the new world. It can be tempting to compare and contrast the regions, but that’s not necessary. These are complementary expressions of one of the world’s most highly regarded wine grapes, and both sides of the coin deserve consideration.
Provencal rosé, try rosé from California: California doesn’t have a “type” when it comes to rosé production — in fact nearly every red wine grape cultivated there can and will be made into a rosé at some point. But for those of us serious about crisp, dry, food-friendly rosé, the Golden State has the goods. From places like Mendocino County, Santa Barbara, and the Russian River Valley one can expect quality to rise to the top, just like your favorite spot in the South of France.
Natural wine, try wines cultivated biodynamically: Biodynamic agricultural methods consider the farm to be a closed system, where outside inputs aren’t used in the cultivation of crops and livestock. Similar to natural and organic wines, this means no chemicals are allowed. Many biodynamic farmers have simply kept up the habits of their ancestors, following the rhythm of the seasons to produce low-intervention products from around the winemaking world.
Champagne, try Crémant: If you don’t know, now you know. Crémant is French wine made in the same style as Champagne (the traditional method) but in other parts of France. Here we find the quality craftsmanship of the world’s finest bubbly, but made with grapes grown in revered places such as Jura, the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and elsewhere. Bonus: it’s often a fraction of the price of Champagne.
Chenin Blanc, try Riesling: Chenin Blanc is a somm favorite, versatile while retaining terroir-driven qualities. For another option, take a second look at aromatic Riesling. Culturally tied to Germany, there’s promising acreage around the United States, Austria, Alsace, Australia, and New Zealand. We love that it’s made in such a range from sweet to dry and even bubbly. For foodies, Riesling is a must.
California red blends, try Côtes du Rhône For a wine to use French origin labeling, the rules of the appellation must be strictly followed, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t regions blending varieties. In fact, Côtes du Rhône is famous for allowing 23 grapes to be used in crafting these wines. And with so many soil types and climatic distinctions, this category promises something for every instance.
White Burgundy, try west coast Chardonnay: If you think that west coast Chardonnay has nothing in common with the famous white Burgs, you would be right and wrong at the same time. There’s no reason to switch from your favorite Côte-d'Or and move into new world territory permanently, but it’s time to at least give Chardonnay from Oregon and California some space in your cellar. From oaked to lean, there is truly a west coast Chardonnay for all manners of taste.
Here’s to trying something new! For your next weeknight dinner, pull up an alternative to your tried and true favorite. Or purchase a gift that gets your buddy out of the same-old, same-old. With this discovery compass, you’ll never be stuck in a wine rut.