It’s easy to get into a wine rut. You like what you like and sometimes it just takes too much thought to try something different.
That is a real shame because there are literally thousands of different wines made from hundreds of different grapes available in the world today.
One way of staying out of the dreaded wine rut is to plan ahead and dedicate each month to one particular type of wine. Here are some suggestions for each month of 2017.
Red wine: Amarone
The northern Italian wine Amarone is really a cold-weather wine. We do not get cold weather in the Cayman Islands, but January is generally as cool as it gets. Amarone is rich, fruity and high in alcohol content. Pair it with Cayman-style braised beef, pastas with meat sauces or a hot date.
White wine: Chardonnay
Chardonnay is the chameleon of grapes; it takes on the traits of its environment and depending on the process used in winemaking, it can be light and refreshing or fruity, buttery and oaky. Try the Chardonnays from Burgundy – everything from Chablis and Meursault to Pouilly Fuisse. Pair with seafood, risotto and creamy pasta dishes.
Red wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
If you like your red wines fruity, the Cabs from California are a good bet. If you like them more on the elegant side, try them from Bordeaux. Pair with steaks, beef ribs or lamb.
White wine: Gewürtztraminer
This cool-weather grape that thinks it’s a warm-weather grape produces soft textured, aromatic wines that typically smell like lychees and flowers. Try some from the Alsace region of France. It is usually slightly sweet and pairs very well with spicy Asian foods, lobster and vegetarian main courses.
Red wine: Nebbiolo
The grape Nebbiolo is used to make the iconic Italian wines Barolo and Barbaresco and is sometimes sold simply as Nebbiolo. As long as it comes from the Piemonte region of Italy, you are fine. Although Barolo usually needs some aging, the other forms of Nebbiolo are softer when young. Pair with stews, rich pasta sauces and mushroom dishes.
White wine: Sauvignon Blanc
You might ask, “What’s there to say about Sauvignon Blanc that everybody doesn’t already know since it’s so doggone popular in the Cayman Islands?” Well, the Sauvignon Blancs from France known as Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, or the ones from northeastern Italy just known as Sauvignon, are all really good wines you should try.
Red Wine: Tempranillo
It might be called Tempranillo in Rioja, but the same grape is called Tinto Fina, Tinta de Toro, Negral, Cencibel or Tinta del Pais in other regions of Spain. Whatever it’s called, it a full-bodied wine with lush fruit flavors that pairs well with Spanish and Mexican foods, filet mignon or a nice, juicy cheeseburger.
White wine: Riesling
Rieslings are produced in cooler climates in many countries, but the best ones still come from Germany. They can be sweet, semi-dry or even bone dry. Because of their high acidity, Rieslings can age for many years and as they age, some can develop a petroleum-like smell that is not only normal, but also desired. Try with sushi, spicy Asian or Mexican food, or fresh tuna.
Red wine: Merlot
Merlot got a bad rap in the film “Sideways,” which was really bad for Merlot producers but really good for Merlot lovers because the price dropped like a rock. Well, except in Bordeaux, where the Right Bank still produces excellent Merlot-driven blends that weren’t affected by the film because Merlot isn’t in the name. Drink them and enjoy.
White wine: Viognier
May is the month of Mother’s Day and Viognier wine smells like flowers in a glass. It is used in Rhone Valley red blends to give them better aromatics, but it’s being increasingly produced as a varietal wine. Try one from California with curries, jerk chicken or Thai food.
Red wine: Sangiovese
You might not recognize the grape Sangiovese, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of Chianti, and not just because it pairs well with liver and fava beans. Chianti is Tuscany’s most famous wine and it’s made mostly from Sangiovese. There’s also the rather nebulous “Super Tuscan” category, the wines in which can be made entirely of Sangiovese or with no Sangiovese at all. Pair it with a rare porterhouse steak, pasta with meat sauce or charcuterie and strong cheeses.
White wine: Grüner Veltliner
The biggest strike against Grüner Veltliner is its name; most English speakers cannot pronounce it so they tend not to order it. To get past that issue, just call it Gru Vee (like groovy, man) as the trendy-set do and just enjoy this great alternative for Sauvignon Blanc. It pairs well with many foods, including sushi, smoked salmon, salads and vegetable dishes.
Forget about red wines and white wines in July and just drink rosés. Drink them from Provence, to be sure, but try some from Oregon, Italy, Spain, Argentina and other parts of France. They pair well with almost all foods and they are the perfect summer wine. Just ignore anyone who suggests drinking pink wines is not cool.
Red wine: Grenache
Grenache is often used to make red wine blends, but in Spain, where it is thought to have originated and is called Garnacha, it is increasingly being used to produce excellent varietal wines, especially in the Priorat region. Grenache is most famous for being one of the grapes used in southern France rosés and in southern Rhone Valley Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Pair with veal, foie gras or vegetable dishes.
White wine: Albariño
Albariño’s heritage remains a bit of a mystery. It likely originates from Alsace, which has been part of France, then Germany, then France, then Germany, and now France again. But while the French and Germans fought wars, the Spanish adopted Albariño and gave it a loving home. Its wines have beautiful floral and stone fruit aromas and it tends to be low in alcohol and high in acidity, making it a lovely summer wine that pairs well with seafood dishes.
Red wine: Pinot Noir
This temperamental grape produces some of the best wines in the world. Burgundy is the king of Pinot Noir, but good ones are being produced in Oregon, California and New Zealand. The can be fresh and fruity or earthy in style. They pair well with many foods, including salmon, duck and ham.
White wine: Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
Pinot Grigio, which is called Pinot Gris is Alsace and Oregon, does not have to be that insipid white version that is mass-produced for people with simple palates. From the Fruili region of Italy, it can be as bold and charming as Casanova, and from the Alsace region, it can be as friendly and sweet as the girl next door. Drink it with seafood or chicken.
Red wine: Malbec
Malbec is the ugly stepchild grape France threw out of the house, only to have the Argentineans take it in and make it a star. It’s generally dark and fruity with velvety soft tannins, but some from the high altitudes of the Mendoza region of Argentina are elegant and complex. Drink it with steaks, hamburgers, ribs or just about any red meat off the grill.
White wine: Chenin Blanc
Although the French never threw Chenin Blanc out of the house, it is the stepchild they kept around to mop the floors. The South Africans, however, made it their white wine darling. Now the French have also recognized its charms, especially in sweet and sparkling wines. When vinified dry, it has high acidity and aromas of flowers, honey and apples and it pairs well with Asian foods, egg dishes and salads.
Red wine: Syrah
You say Syrah, I say Shiraz … if I’m from Australia that is. While powerful Australian Shiraz tends to have sweet fruit flavors and firm tannins, the most elegant expressions of the grape come from the northern Rhone Valley. Pair with lamb, steak and pork ribs.
White wine: Verdejo
Verdejo might not be the prettiest girl at the ball, but she’s real cute and easy … to drink. In a country dominated by red wines, Verdejo is the de facto house white wine of Spain. The wines have crisp acidity to go with a creamy mouth feel and flavors of citrus and nuts. Pair it with Spanish food; that is what the Spaniards do.
December is the month for Champagne, and Champagne is just wine with bubbles in it. If you really do not like white wines, drink rosé Champagnes. And if you really don’t like Champagne at all, just send it my way and drink whatever wine you like.