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Four Varieties You Need to Try NOW!

When it comes to spirits, I’m your gal. I can name five great whiskey-producing regions without batting an eyelash. But when it comes to wine, honestly, I’m still learning.

So I was excited to recently learn about a handful of wine varieties that are new to me. I’m enjoying all of them and frankly I wonder what took me so long to find them. I wish someone had encouraged me to seek them out years ago. They all either have unique flavors and qualities that are pleasantly distinct or pair excellently with food. So consider yourself strongly encouraged to seek out these varieties and expand your palate now.

Vinho Verde: The sparkling “green wine” from Portugal. It’s not really green, it’s more of a white wine, but it has fresh, light “green” notes like apples and cut grass. And honestly, it’s not really sparkling either, it’s more effervescent, like soda.  Add the fact that it’s also light in alcohol, and it’s an awesomely refreshing summer sipper.

Sangiovese: My co-workers are looking at me funny with this one. I guess I’m of a generation that missed the cheap, basket-encased Chiantis that were once the staple of American Italian restaurants. A fruity, earthy, herbaceous Italian red, Sangiovese is the main variety in Chianti and other Tuscan wines. It often plays a major role in Supertuscan blends as well and is loaded with acidity, pairing perfectly with tomato-based dishes. Apparently, it’s the #1 planted varietal in Italy, so I have to file this under “what took me so long.”

Viognier: One of the most fragrant grapes around and planted in multiple regions, the most famous being Northern Rhone. California and Southern France produce much more affordable versions. If you have a perfumy glass of white wine, with fantastic tropical fruit or floral notes, odds are there’s some Viognier blended in there. It ranges from medium to full bodied, and because of its lush florals and fruit, pairs well with spicy dishes.

Malbec: A deep red wine that’s most often associated with Argentina, specifically the famed Mendoza Valley. It got its start in France’s Cahors region centuries ago. But the Argentines have outdone the French in putting this variety on the map and Cahors producers are breaking with French labeling tradition of only listing the region and now include Malbec’s name as well, to attract consumers. It’s sumptuous and inky and stains everything in sight a glorious deep purple. Thanks to its robust, biting tannins, it’s also a great food wine, pairing especially well with juicy cuts of beef.