Have I been lazy?
There is some merit in the comment I am a bit of an old boozer and potentially, missed some good bottles of plonk because of my occasional laziness. I am one of those people, who walks into Dan Murphy's and heads straight for Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Riesling or perhaps. Gruner Veltliner if I am feeling rather adventurous. I am a creature of habit.
I expect most of us are, in some way or another. Some buy the brands they know, some buy varietals they are comfortable with, while others don't really care as long as its red or white or has a pretty label. Many have wandered down some aisles of the big warehouse type liquor stores and have been so bloody overwhelmed, they've reverted back to their old faithfuls - a Pinot Grigio for under $15 or a Cabernet Sauvignon only from Coonawarra.
Of late, I have been stepping wildly outside of what I know and forcing myself to buy different things, challenge my palate and experiment with new wines. I thought I might bring a few of you along on the journey with me, so here are some suggestions for those of you who are creatures of habit.
Let's start with Alternative Varietals. For every shiraz, cabernet, savvy B or Chardonnay on the market, there is another wine you can try which might broaden the palate and open up the wine mind a little.
The Blancs - Chenin, Fume, Sauvignon - one of these is not like the other. Fume and Sauvignon are kind of the same thing, although a fume might have had some time on oak, which adds some complexity. Some Sauvignon's are also oak aged so essentially, same grape, just a slightly different way of branding it. Chenin Blanc is a cousin, with a parent-offspring relationship with Savagnin. It can be referred to as Vouvray, if it is made in that AOC region.
What can you drink in place of Sauvignon Blanc then? Try any of the whites which are zippy and acidic, like verdejo/verdelho, albarino, vernaccia or even some Aussie grillo's being made in dry climate regions. Each of these have plenty of acidity and intense fruity palates. You can add in there colombard or gruner veltliner if you can find them. Our choice? By Jingo Gilbert Grillo from McLaren Vale
Riesling is not a bad substitute but some of these can be a little too aromatic and floral for the Sav B drinkers. Speaking of riesling, there are some alternatives there as well. Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio or Viognier all sit more on the aromatic side of the ledger but do still offer the crunchy citrus acidity many of the better known riesling producing areas have. There are countless options but for us, anything from Kath Quealy is great, like the Tussie Mussie from Victoria's Mornington Peninsula
Pinot Noir - that divisive grape producing light, feminine examples or robust boisterous belters is enough of a category all of its own. In its place, try its juicier cousin gamay, or look for mencia, trousseau, grenache or cinsault. Each of them offer smokiness, spice and lots of fruit driven flavour. If you can get your paws on one, grab a Varney Wines Mencia from McLaren Vale. They don't make much so be quick
Shiraz drinkers can test their mettle with a whole swathe of other options. Pinotage from South Africa, monastrell/mourvedre/mataro (Spanish/French/Aussie) are all the same grape but by different names from different countries. Used as a blender in the past (as in a GSM), there are some fine examples now standing on their own and producing beautifully complex wines. Or try the pride of California, a Zinfandel (also called Primitivo), starting to be produced in a number of regions across Australia, including SW WA, NE Victoria and SA. Look for the Mandalay Road 2018 Top Block for a great Aussie Zin from Geographe in WA.
Cabernet connoisseurs can get their lips around number of choices, although it is so well-loved, it just recently became the world’s most planted wine grape variety. Look for touriga, merlot ( we are waiting for merlot to have its time in the sun), lagrein, aglianico or nero d'avola. Each of these alternatives are fairly bold and will appeal if worlds like black fruit, opulent, round, velvet, mocha, plum are in your glossary of must have flavours. Our suggestion - try the 2016 Chalmers Aglianico from Victoria's Heathcote Region.
Trust yourself to find some options and take a little risk - your palate just might thank you.
And make sure you drink responsibly.