Finding Great New Wines While Traveling
You probably have a set list of favorite wines which you enjoy at home. They are familiar and readily available, but now it’s spring, and travel season is upon us. You don’t want to simply reorder the same old wines in a new place, it’s fun to try new things – that’s why we travel! No one likes getting stuck with something they don’t enjoy, so here are some strategies to be adventurous and find new favorites.
Let’s start by putting words to what wines you know and love. This exercise will help you build a wine vocabulary, so when you ask for a local recommendation from the local server or wine merchant, you’ll speak the same language. You needn’t get complicated with “aromas of white flowers” or “silky tannins,” in fact, if you’re going to a different country, it’s best to keep words you might have to translate simple. Maybe you like wines which are sparkling and crisp, or sparkling and sweet. Perhaps after your morning exploring, you might like to relax with a crisp white wine at lunch before enjoying a full rich red with evening dinner. Keep in mind that these same terms will help you find wines you’ll enjoy at a new restaurant in your city as well as an exotic locale in another country.
Without getting too far afield, here are some popular general and specific matchups to get you started. If you have time, stop in at a local wine store before your trip and chat with the staff. Generally, a store has a wider selection than a restaurant, and also more time to chat with you than a restaurant in the middle of dinner rush. It will at least get your conversation started.
Sparkling wines are generally crisp and can be either sweet or dry (much less sugar) and have categories like Champagne, Cava or Cremant, which refer to the region of origin.
Light crisp whites include grapes named Pinot Grigio from Italy, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Bordeaux, Albariño from Spain or Portugal, and unoaked Chablis from Burgundy.
Sweet whites, classic examples include Rieslings (usually) and Moscato.
Rich, Buttery, or Creamy whites include oaked Chardonnay, and other regional white blends. (A white Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a great example. These are rich, decadent whites)
Rosés can be lighter or richer, drier or sweeter (they come in a wide variety of styles.) These wines were originally made in Provence in France, but are now so popular, they are made in many other wine regions.
Light reds include Pinot Noir from such regions as Burgundy in France and Russian River in California, Tempanillos from the Riojas in Spain, Gamay from Beaujolais in France, and Cabernet Franc from Chinon in the Loire Valley in France. H
There are a host of medium-weight or pleasant reds with names like Merlot, Malbec from Cahors in France and Argentina, Sangiovese from Tuscany, Tempranillo from the Riojas, Shiraz and Grenache from the Rhone Valley and Australia, and Zinfandel from California.
Full, rich red wines come in many styles, Cabernet Sauvignon from so many regions including California and Bordeaux, Nebbiolo from Barolo, Sangiovese from Brunello, Tempanillo from Ribera del Duero, and Amarone from the Veneto in northern Italy.
Trying new wines in a new place can be fun and rewarding. Here are a few other tips if you’d like to bring that favorite back. Use your phone to look online and see if that wine is already available in your town, why bring back something already here? If you’re at a winery, see if they can ship it home for you, that’s easier and often the same price as checking it on a plane without worrying about how the baggage handler is treating it. And if that bottle is special enough to bring home yourself, you’ll still have to check it, so make sure it’s packed in bubble wrap and in plastic so it doesn’t leak on your clothes if you put it in a suitcase.
Save travels everyone, and enjoy a new favorite wine this summer!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.