I admit it—I keep a box of Pinot Grigio in the fridge. I also have various Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Pinot Noirs on my wine rack. These are my House wines, the wines I sip (or gulp) after a day at the office while I corral my children to the dinner table.
Most of these wines I pick up at the grocery store on Saturday mornings, when I am loading up the cart with diapers, peanut butter, bananas, and the other staples of life. From month to month, the wine brands I buy change, but the grapes frequently remain the same. This is not unusual—most wine consumers tend to settle on brands and grapes. “Give me the Chardonnay” is one of the most uttered sentences in modern America.
It’s cliche but true—variety is the spice of life, and these days there is no excuse for mindless repetition. Try a different grape. The market offers an incredible array of wine options at prices that hedge risk. Pasqua Sangiovese runs $10, and is a long way from the dreck that used to come in the straw basket clad bottles. It noses of blackberry, vanilla, and leather, and it paired well with bacon pizza.
The Romance brand of Argentinian wines offers some intriguing choices. The white ($10) is a 50-50 mix of Viognier and Torrontes. Viogniers can be buttery, and Torrontes wines carry notes of peach and apricot. Romance reds are similarly delectable: a Bonarda Reserva ($14), Bonarda-Malbec mix ($10), and Korta Carmenere ($15). Bonarda is a grand grape, one that tastes of plum and tobacco and has the fortitude to age well in bottle. Carmenere makes lovely wines that show earthy and smoky flavors. All these Romance wines are well worth your time and dollar.
Those who feel like splurging should buy Masi Vaio Armaron Serego Alighieri 2008 ($40). It is produced from grapes rarely seen in the United States: Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, and tastes nothing like the grapey reds one encounters so often. Indeed, the Italian section of the grocery or wine store tends to be a very good place to hunt for unusual grapes, as is the Spanish and Portuguese shelves. Masi Vaio pairs well with nearly any chow.
This Saturday morning, I’ll once again be shuffling through the Safeway with kids in tow. To keep the kids in order, I’ll do as I usually do—promise to give a doughnut from the bakery to each one who is good. To make the slog more interesting to me, I will set myself a challenge: find three or four bottles of wine made from grapes that are anything but the usual.