Being faithful to one particular variety or region not only limits your wine IQ, it robs you of wine’s greatest gift: Exploration. As importer Kermit Lynch recently put it, drinking wine is not a marriage. Here’s your cheat sheet to playing the palate field in 2014.
The Body: Light Aromatic White
The Rut: German Riesling
Try This: Lodi Kerner. Riesling’s kissing cousin, it’s an aromatic, green apple hit of acid. Try one from Borra Vineyards, where winemaker Markus Niggli honors his Swiss roots with a crisp Kerner-Riesling-Gewürztraminer blend.
The Body: More Robust White
The Rut: California Chardonnay
Try This: Margaret River Chardonnay. Pick up Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series, which is muscled in bold tropical fruit and toasty coconut oak.
The Body: Rosé
The Rut: Bandol Rosé
Try This: California Old-Vine Rosé. These Golden State pours are generally more crisp, but just as silky. Try Cochon’s blend of Grenache Gris, Cinsault and Carignane. It’s showy with white peach, strawberry and melon flavors.
The Body: Light Red
The Rut: Beaujolais Nouveau
Try This: Touraine Gamay. Made from the same grape but grown in the Loire Valley. Equally fresh and fruity, but with a tad more structure and a longer finish. Producers to buy: Henry Marionnet and Domaine Geoffrenet-Morval.
The Body: Medium & Spicy
The Rut: California Pinot Noir
Try This: Friuli Schioppettino. This is a red that’s light in texture but mischievously spicy with cinnamon and pepper notes. Look for bottles from Bressan and Villa Rubini.
The Body: More Robust Red
The Rut: Rioja Tempranillo
Try This: Mexican Nebbiolo. From Mexico’s hippest wine region, Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe, the Nebbiolo is as slick as a telenovela. Look for wines from L.A. Cetto, Monte Xanic, Paralelo and Casa de Piedra.
The Body: Full-bodied Red
The Rut: Northern Rhône
Try This: Washington State Syrah. These will often be rich, deep and dark, with intense earth aromatics. Look for Syrahs from the Horse Heaven Hills region.
The Body: Structured Steakhouse Red
The Rut: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Try This: Napa Valley Charbono. Blackberry? Check. Cassis? Check. Structured tannins? Check. And while this inky stuff is a bit harder to find, it’s worth it. Look for these producers: Robert Foley, Shypoke and August Briggs.