Is anyone as amused as I am that National Drink Wine Day coincides with Ash Wednesday this year? I suppose it’s a non-event unless you’re one of the self-mortifying few who gave up wine for Lent. All I can say is you’ll have a higher place in heaven than Señorita Vino.
But enough about me. In honor of National Drink Wine Day, and with a nod to all the good former Catholic schoolgirls out there (and former schoolboys!), I challenge you not to give up wine, but to give up everyday wine. So no Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot’s out too.
Here are five alternatives you may want to go out and taste today, or anytime during the next 40 days. And with thousands of varietals to choose from, who knows, you may find a new favorite.
1. Ribolla Gialla [ree-BOWL-uh JA-la] – This white wine grape hails from Italy’s Friuli region in the northeast. It’s light-bodied with delicate white floral aromas and hints of Gravenstein apples on the palate. It’s nicely tart, so enjoy it with a seafood risotto or on its own as an aperitif.
2. Xinomavro [sheen-o-MAHV-ro] – The Greeks are among the earliest civilizations to have produced wine, and today you can enjoy some unique but flavorful wines made from local grapes. If you like Nebbiolo, you may enjoy Xinomavro. This red wine is pretty tannic and packs a nice acidity. It does well with aging, developing exotic spice aromas over time, along with a touch of earthiness. This pairs beautifully with roasted lamb.
3. Blaufrankisch [blau-FRANK-ish] – Considered the finest red wine varietal in Austria, Blaufrankisch will remind you of sour cherries and white pepper. The tannins are fairly tame and you’ll get a crisp acidity on the palate. Pair it with pork, chicken or game. Vegetarians can enjoy it with a lentil and root vegetable stew.
4. Bonarda [bo-NAR-da] – You may have heard me rave about this red wine from Argentina in a past post. If you like violets, ripe blueberries and plum, give it a try. The tannins are firm but not overpowering, and a good Bonarda will also have some crispness to it. I love it with cheese and charcuterie, and it’s a fabulous wine to serve with carne asada.
5. Furmint [FUR-mint] – Yep, this one’s pronounced just like it’s spelled. I always think of a Thin Mint cookie wearing a tiny mink coat when I hear the name of this Hungarian white wine grape. And now you will, too! This highly acidic white wine has lovely apple aromas and flavors when it’s young. As it ages, you’ll taste honey, apricot and hazelnuts. Yum! It’s no wonder it’s one of the principal grapes used in Tokaji, Hungary’s famously sweet and decadently delicious dessert wine.
So go forth and celebrate National Drink Wine Day. While you’re at it, be sure to chine in with your favorite unusual wines.