Do you always buy the same wine each time you go into your local wine shop? Is your idea of mixing it up just changing the producer of the wine, but not the varietal? Perhaps it is time to make a resolution to get out of your comfort zone and try some out of the ordinary wines.
Put down that Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio and pick up a delicious glass of Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc is a very neglected varietal that is a stunner. If you enjoy soft, fruity, un-oaked whites with a touch a minerality, you will love this varietal. Most of the full-bodied Pinot Blanc's come from Alsace, but you can find some from Austria, Hungary and even limited quantities from California.
When you first experience a Pinot Blanc, you will notice wonderful fruity and floral aromas. The first sip will flood you with flavors of apple, peach and citrus. Most Pinot Blancs are quite dry and have a lovely acidity. The more expensive versions often spend a bit of time in oak barrels. Those will often have a honeyed flavor too. Pinot blanc wines are usually made for immediate consumption and seldom meant for cellaring.
This varietal is decadent and pairs nicely with a variety of foods. However, the Pinot Blanc shines when paired with shellfish as it brings out their subtle sweetness. Seared scallops or lobster risotto would be a perfect accompaniment for this varietal.
If you are ready to try a new red wine, why not look to grab a bottle of Cabernet Franc? While you may be familiar with Cabernet Franc as the famous third varietal in most Bordeaux-blend wines, you may have not tasted a wine that showcases this varietal first. Cabernet Franc is one of the "genetic parents" of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the grape Sauvignon Blanc.
The varietal has much in common with Cabernet, but tends to be both fruitier and sometimes more herbal or vegetative than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also lighter in both color and softer in tannins. Cabernet Franc is usually more aromatic than most Cabernet Sauvignon. You will find plenty of spicy flavors like pepper or black licorice. They can be very fruit forward with flavors of black currant, raspberry or plums. They have a beautiful floral violet perfume. Most Cabernet Franc is grown in the Bordeaux region of France, but you can find it in Spain, Long Island, California and Washington state. The flavor profile of this varietal is very dependent on the soil and growing conditions.
Cabernet Franc is a wine that cries out for food. Pair it with roasted game or fowl, grilled vegetables, and blue cheese with walnuts and pears.
Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Franc are available at most wine shops, although the selection will not be as broad as more typical varietals. Your local wine shop should be able to help you pick out the best wine to match up with your next meal.