Over the years, my wine journey has gone down many roads, through multiple countries and certainly with different mindsets. In the same way that I view travel, I feel there’s so much to experience and even more to taste when it comes to wine. As much as I’d like to fancy myself “a white wine connoisseur,” I’m really just an experienced drinker. After watching The Somm earlier this year, I think it’s safe to say I am nowhere near expert level. I couldn’t tell you if something tastes like quince, white linen, or flint, but I can tell you if I like it or not.
After years of sticking with labels I knew and literally drinking what seemed like every single Pinot Grigio under the sun, I started branching out and trying new grape varietals. And I’m so glad I did! There’s a huge world out there. No one should get stuck drinking one kind of wine. My current favorites are all dry, un-oaked, everyday white wines that pair easily with different foods. The majority are from France and Italy, but I’ve found some Spanish, German, Austrian and even Greek wines that I’ll save for another post. Here are some lesser known grape varieties that are worth trying. I recommend focusing on the varietal as opposed to the actual vineyard, that way you’re bound to find something similar.
MUSCADET – This is an inexpensive and easy to drink French wine from the Loire Valley. Light-bodied and dry, it’s the perfect place to start when looking for an alternative to Pinot Grigio. I’d say it goes with just about everything, but it’s known for being the perfect compliment to oysters and other seafood. The NY Times recently published an article about Muscadet making a comeback and I was really chuffed to have already been on the pulse. The two listed above are super affordable and easy to find, but there are many fancier versions also worth seeking out.
FALANGHINA – I’ve written about my love for Falanghina in the past. I discovered it many years ago and have yet to drink a bottle I didn’t like. It’s a fantastic, ancient grape grown in the Campania region of Southern Italy. I was hoping to visit a vineyard while we were there this past summer but unfortunately it didn’t happen. It’s one of those wines I order whenever I see it listed on a menu. The only problem is that it can be tricky to find. Other notable wineries to look for are: Terredora diPaolo and Feudi di San Gregorio.
ROERO ARNEIS – I learned about this Italian wine last year at my children’s piano recital. It was completely new to me and I immediately pulled the host over to find out more about it. Forget the piano music! Let’s talk about this wine… I’m pretty sure they wanted to keep it a secret but I believe in spreading the good word. The Arneis grape originated in Piemonte hundreds of years ago. Arneis means “little rascal” as the grape can be quite difficult to grow, which might explain for it’s obscurity. It’s more of a medium-full bodied, straw colored, aromatic white compared to the other wines listed. Although it can be found in other parts of the world, including America, the best reportedly come from the hilly Roero district.
JACQUÈRE – Thanks to a recent dinner party, this was an exciting, new discovery and perhaps one of the most frustrating wines I’ve ever tried to locate. I think I may have bought the last 6 bottles of this particular (pictured) wine in the country. But if by some wild chance you can find a Jacquère wine from the Savoie region of Eastern France, TRY IT. From what I’ve learned, it’s infrequently distributed outside of this alpine area, which accounts for it’s rare appearance in the United States. I may just have to head to France to check it out in person.
I hope you enjoy trying these lesser known white wines. Be sure to let me know of any worthy discoveries you make. I am always on the lookout for something different. Cin Cin!