Off the Beaten Path
Last month at one of our Thursday Commuter Tasting events, we chose to do a tasting of staff picks for summer where each buyer chose a wine from their department that they’re enjoying drinking this summer.
I chose to feature a delightfully light Slovenian white blend that we’ve carried in the store for some time that I knew not many people were not aware of. And why would they know this wine? It’s tucked away in the back corner of the store.
It’s not often we get to feature Slovenian wines at one of our tasting events, and in reality it’s not very often that a customer comes into the store thinking I’m going to check out the Slovenian wine section. But I knew that people would really enjoy this wine once they tasted it.
As it turned out I was right, and it was one of the best selling wines of the afternoon. It got me thinking about all the other wines we have in the store that are “off the beaten path,” but I know people would really enjoy if they were aware of them or just tried them.
Whether the wines are in a less traveled section of the store or are from an unfamiliar region of a familiar country or made from an unusual grape, these wines are often overlooked or just different enough that you, our customers, are hesitant to pick up. So I thought it would be fun to write this article about some of those “off the beaten path’ wines that I fell in love with and feel are really worth you searching out and giving a try.
This lovely dry white wine from Slovenia is an amazing buy and the quintessential summer sipper. The delightful blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling and Müller Thurgau is light, refreshing and aromatic with bright acidity. At only 11.5% abv it’s hard to stop drinking so it’s a good thing it comes in the liter bottle! The Crnko (pronounced Chair-n-koe) Winery is family owned and located in Eastern Slovenia.
$14.99 per 1 liter bottle
I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of this wine region until the sales rep from Kermit Lynch brought me a sample of this wine earlier this year. Gambellara is a small wine region on the hillier eastern edge of the more famous Soave region in the Veneto. Gambellara wines are also produced from the same Garganega grape. What makes Gambellara different is the terroir. The volcanic soils of Gambellara are rich with black basalt, unlike Soave, which creates texturally complex wines with brighter tones and stony minerality compared to the softer, more round Soave wines. The Garganega grape delivers those classic flavors and aromas of citrus flowers and pears but those volcanic soils take the wine to a more serious level.
$18.99 per bottle
Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest wine region located in the Alps in the northwest corner of Italy on the border of Switzerland and France and produces a wide range of wines mostly from local Alpine grapes. Petite Arvine is a grape of Swiss origin dating back to 1602. Petite Arvine is not your every day sipping wine. This is a wine, like most old world wines, made for food. Grosjean’s Petite Arvine is medium to full bodied, rich in texture and packed with flavors of apples and citrus with a touch of fennel in the background. It’s elegant and aromatic and lingers on the palate for quite some time. The classic pairing would be cheese fondue but this wine had enough body and texture to pair with risotto, seafood, white meats and sausages.
$23.99 per bottle
This lovely lightly sparkling white wine is the quintessential aperitif wine. Avinyo is a Cava producer in the Penedes region of Catalan and they also produce this dry and lightly sparkling "Vi d'Agulla" which translates to "prickly wine." The wine is clean, light and fresh and bursting with just the right amount of honeysuckle and citrus fruits to satisfy and clean the palate. This wine goes down dangerously easy but at only 10.5% abv you can relax and keep sipping away.
$13.99 per bottle
Hárslevelű is a grape indigenous to Hungary and now only found growing in the volcanic hills of Badacsony. This family winery is located near Lake Balaton and is now run by the mother and daughter. This elegant wine is highly aromatic with white flowers and honeysuckle. The flavors are of bright citrus and ripe pears with zippy acidity to wipe your palate clean. A delightful dry white wine!
$18.99 per bottle
This is one of Bibich’s most unique wines and I fell in love with it at first sip. The blend is made with five grapes, mostly indigenous to Croatia and then aged in new and used American oak for a year but you’ll only pick that up on the nose. The dry white wine is bright and layered with flavors of fresh apples and pears with some nuttiness and salty undertones. Great with seafood dishes, roast chicken or pork and some salty Croatian cheese and cured meats.
$19.99 per bottle
This is a lovely dry white wine made by one of the oldest Port houses in Portugal; Ferreira Porto. It’s a blend of six indigenous grapes from the Douro Valley. It’s a highly aromatic wine with scents of citrus flowers and white peaches. On the palate the wine is light to medium bodied with citrus and white fruits with hints of tropical fruit. It’s bright and fresh and delicious!
$11.99 per bottle
This is another great buy hiding in the back corner of the store. Refošk is an ancient, black skinned grape variety that is part of the Refosco family of grapes that are primarily grown in western Slovenia, northeastern Italy and Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. The grape produces juicy, inky and brambly wines with vibrant acidity and classic peppery notes. The wine is easy drinking and an amazing food wine and can be paired with almost anything from cured meats and cheeses to pastas, burgers, white meats and grilled meats. Good thing it comes in a liter bottle!
$12.99 per 1 liter bottle
The Marche region on the central Adriatic coast of Italy is mostly known for producing their world class Verdicchio white wines but this is Italy so you know they must make great red wines too. Bisci has always been one of my favorite Verdicchio producers and I was so happy to discover this easy drinking red they produce. Made from 90% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese, this medium bodied wine is fresh and fruity with ripe berry fruits and hints of wild herbs. A crowd pleaser for sure and great with a wide range of foods.
$12.99 per bottle
The Algueira Winery is located in midst of old oak and chestnut tree forests on the banks of the Sil River in northwestern Spain. They’re better known for their fantastic Mencia wines but they also produce very small quantities of this gorgeous 100% Merenzao (Trousseau) wine which is light to medium bodied but aromatic and complex. It reminds me of a great, finessed Burgundy. Red berry fruits layered with spice and herbs and hints of tea leaves. Only 187 cases produced.
$46.99 per bottle
Muhr-van der Niepoort is collaboration between acclaimed Port producer Dirk Niepoort and Austrian Dorli Muhr and they’re producing some of Austria’s best Blaufrankisch wines. Blaufrankisch is Austria’s 2nd most planted red grape and is also commonly found in Hungary (Kekfrankos) and Germany (Lemberger). Their ‘Samt & Seide’ wine, which translates to ‘Velvet & Silk’ is smooth and silky as the name implies. It’s a medium bodied wine, dense with red and black currants with some nice toasted oak spice to balance the bright fruit. A great introduction to Blaufrankisch if you’ve never tried it.
$21.99 per bottle
Alicante Bouschet is of French origins, was quite popular in California during prohibition and now is a common blending grape in wines around the world. But Alicante Bouschet has really found its home in the warm and sunny wine region of Alentejo Portugal. Sao Miguel’s Alicante Bouschet is a big wine, rich and dense with black plum and berry fruits. The wine is aged 12 months in French oak to smooth out the tannins and add those wonderful notes of vanilla and baking spices. Fans of bold California Petite Sirah should give this wine a try. An amazing buy at this price!
$15.99 per bottle
This is a must try wine for fans of Nebbiolo wines from Piedmont Italy. Xinomavro is an ancient grape varietal grown in the most northeastern, cooler regions of Greece. Naoussa was Greece’s first wine appellation and the Xinomavro wines from Naoussa are recognized as their finest and most age worthy. Xinomavro is often called the Barolo of Greece as the wines share similar characteristics of elegance, power, complexity and ageability. Karydas’s Xinomavro is light brick red in color with aromas of red cherries and dried tomato. This is a highly structured wine with plenty of black cherry fruit, mountain herbs, earthy tannins and hints of black olive. Give this elegant wine a decant to really bring out all of the complexities.
$27.99 per bottle
Fans of light, bright and peppery red wines will love this 100% Vespolina from Alta Piedmont. Vespolina is an offspring of the Nebbiolo grape and is typically used as a blending grape in the wines of Ghemme, Gattinara and Novaresi. Vespolina offers all the flowery, cherry and spicy qualities of Nebbiolo but with much softer tannins. Ioppa’s Vespolina is bright and crunchy tart red fruits, hints of white pepper and a touch of green tannins. This wine screams for a big platter of salumi and cheese!
$19.99 per bottle