Food & Wine Photo Credit: Western Living

Our Wine Pro Recommends 5 Unusual Wines to Try

Sorry, chardonnay. We’re exploring our options.

We’ve all got our go-to bottles—the $10 Wednesday-night white, the dinner party crowd-pleaser. But when you’re feeling like trying something new, where do you turn?

We’re lucky enough to have an in-house expert, our Food and Travel Editor and wine guru Neal McLennan, who’s always got a hidden gem or obscure vintage to recommend. We’ve collected a few of his most unusual picks from the last year, so read up and drink up—consider it research.

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1. Try a wine fermented in a pot

Okanagan Crush Pad has been pushing the envelope since day one, and their Haywire Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris Wild Ferment takes this normally staid grape in wild (literally) new directions. It’s cloudy (and not exactly ‘white’), it’s bracing, and you’ll definitely have a strong opinion one way or the other on this natural wonder.”

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2. Give a grape with a bad rep a chance

“In the hands of someone thoughtful, the garganegna (gar-gah-neh-gah) grape can produce wines that have levels of interest. Serve this bottle ice cold and its notes of lemon and citrus stand out. As it warms up, a floral bouquet kicks and and the finish develops a pleasing softness. It’s unfussy but sophisticated in a way that has me always thinking it’s got to be more expensive than it is.”

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3. Pick up a great-value wine from an obscure place

“Grenache can be a tricky grape. With the right conditions it can grow like a weed if left unchecked and bring high yields full of ripeness that can translate into boozy, flabby wine. That evidently is not how it works in Sardinia. This is a wine that’s laser-focussed—very aromatic, with quite fine tannins but a nice salty/acid profile. It’s great with a richer pasta dish or even something heartier, but its chocolate notes also work well when just having a glass by itself.”

 

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4. Look beyond the wine critics’ top picks 

“Though a respected wine critic called this Moon Curser Petit Verdot 2012 ‘astringent,’ I found it anything but. It was that ideal marriage of new world winemaking and old world varietals—some rusticity with some supple red fruit to balance it out.”

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5. Embrace a grape you’ve never heard of

“This wine is sooooo good—the colour of pale straw, with the softness of ripe melon braced with the bite of lime rind that trails on and on. And although $27 is not inexpensive, when compared to what else you could buy for that price, it’s a no brainer. It has enough acidity to pair with a bowl of Carbonara, but it actually is beautiful on its own and would make a great, elegant pour for a holiday cocktail party.”

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