Some New Year’s resolutions are good for us, but no fun. They're tough to stick with. The right rewards make diligence easier though. Treat yourself to new wine experiences when you reach milestones. At the end of the year, you’ll be happy with your achievements and have broadened your wine perspectives too.
1. Try a new variety
Long gone are the days when American wine lovers struggled to find more than a dozen varietals at their local shops and restaurants. Sure, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc still dominate most lists and shelves. But scads of other options are easy to find now, They often offer better value too.
With so many different ones available, and many of their prices low, trying a new variety is a good reward for weekly milestones. Did you hit the gym five days this week? Try a grape you’ve never had before.
My new grape for last week was Keknyalu, a Hungarian variety that makes gently smokey, full-bodied wines. I found it at A Coté restaurant in Oakland, where it paired very well with wood-oven cooked mussels in Pernod. Yum!
Here are some other varietals to try from JJ Buckley’s well-curated offerings:
Lagrein from Terlano in Italy's Alto Adige
Cariñena Blanca from Catalunya in Spain
Stony, old-vine Godello from Spain
2. Explore a new wine region
As with grape varieties, there’s a much wider array of wine regions represented in American shops, wine bars and restaurants than there used to be. That includes emerging domestic AVAs, such as Malibu Coast, as well as previously unrepresented places in Europe, Israel, Australia and South America.
There are also countries, such as Chile and South Africa, whose wines have long been available but have improved dramatically in quality over the past decade or so. Red, Bordeaux-variety blends such as those from Sena (Aconcagua Valley) and Errazuriz (Maipo Valley) will make you a believer. Why not experiment with a new region to reward a month of hard work?
Here are some more options:
White and red wines from Domaine de Trevallon in IGP des Alpilles, France
White blends from Corsica
Rich red wines from IGP Côtes Catalanes
3. Take a class
Some people say the best way to learn about wine is to drink it. But, unless you supplement that drinking with reading, discussions with an expert, or a class, you’re really only learning what you like or the characteristics of individual wines.
Wine education has come along way from simple “wine appreciation” courses. Today, consumers can sit in on regional “master classes,” attend seminars on wine faults, and even get certifications alongside the pros.
Single seminars aren’t very expensive and don’t require any supplemental study. Those are perfect as monthly incentives. Full courses, such as Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, WSET, and California Wine Appellation Specialist require greater commitment in time and money, but they’ll greatly increase your understanding and appreciation of wine. And they’re an ideal year-end reward for yourself or a loved one.
4. Travel to a wine destination
Nothing’s better for getting the flavor of a wine region than going there in person. Classes, even with maps and videos, can’t fully convey the terrain, the climate, or personality of an area. Motivate yourself with a trip to wine country.
Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Tuscany are great destinations, but there are many less-traveled areas which are just as interesting and less expensive too. These links offer excellent recommendations:
Three Regions to Hit in 2018 by Lauren Mowery
Stunning Vineyards in Argentina and Chile by Brad Japhe
Videos on Sicily at Monique Soltani’s WineOh TV
Happy New Year and best wishes on your resolutions!
JJ Buckley guest blogger Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator, and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing has appeared in The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal. Online, he writes for his own site, FredSwan.Wine (formerly NorCalWine), PlanetGrape, and GuildSomm. He teaches at the San Francisco Wine School. Fred’s certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator and Level 3 WSET Educator. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. In that same year, he was inducted into the Eschansonnerie des Papes, the honorary society of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.