Wine lovers have a habit of taking the same old variety. It is easy to fall in love with the commonest varietals such as Argentinean Malbec, German Riesling, California Cabernet Sauvignon, and Burgundy’s Pinot Noir. If you have been taking the same version, perhaps it’s time you switch to one of the following rare wine varieties you didn’t know existed.
The most obscure rare wine types
Did you know that there are more than 1300 commercially produced varietals most of which are fantastic wines? You probably have your favorite bunch of drinks but there are less common types of wines from various corners of the world you haven’t heard of. For example, have you ever tasted Picpoul Noir that hails from France, the wine capital of the universe? These rare wines come from Spain, France, Greece, and America. It doesn’t mean that they are of lower quality than the popular varietals. But for some reasons, they are yet to gain an equal amount of traction like the rest. Most of them are only known in their place of origin and are worth exploring due to their peculiar features. Others are on the verge of a popularity boom. If you want to extend your winery knowledge and settle for the ideal wine for food pairing, here are some uncommon varietals in the wine industry you should give a chance. There are many different types of wine and knowing more doesn’t only make you a better wine consumer, but it is also very fun to explore.
Bornada is also known as Charbono, a type of French grape which is also grown in Argentina. You can also find this variety in Napa Valley. Though not a well-known grape, it is usually mistaken for Dolcetto, which is very popular. But the two types are not related in any way. As far as the widely grown varietals in Argentina go, Bonarda seconds Malbec. Its wine is highly acidic and features fruity and spicy notes.
Hailing from the Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Picpoul is a highly acidic type of wine. It is also found in Spain and one of the reasons for its unpopularity is that has a high probability of developing a particular fungus and so it’s harder to cultivate. The three common versions of Picpoul wine include Picpoul Blanc, Picpoul Gris, and Picpoul Noir. Blanc is more famous but it is about to go extinct!
This is a crisp white wine variety and a great starter. Its flavor is extremely refreshing, particularly during summer. The grapes are produced in Greece mainly in the Santorini and Aegean islands. Santorini, in particular, holds grape plantations which have been there for more than 70 years. These areas are characterized by volcanic soils which give the Assyrtiko grapes the unique mineral notes.
- Petit Manseng
The origin of this varietal wine from the US can be traced back to France. It is commonly grown in Basque county and produces sweet and white wines. It also found in the well-established Monticello Appellation of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Richmond. In Charlottesville, it produces aromatic wine with a lot of deeper white floral notes that compare to Viognier, although with the more citrusy acidity of the vibrant tropical fruit and spicy aftertaste. The rich soils in Virginia are ideal for cultivating the late-harvesting Petit Manseng grape and the fact that is found in this region is a remarkable thing.
These grapes are grown in the northwestern region of Spain from about 22,000 acres of land. They produce mild red wines featuring heady scents which should be consumed while still young. Mencia wine is reminiscent of Cabernet Franc but they two are not related. Even though Mencia is a rare kind, its popularity has been increasing since the 90s. But the finicky quality of the vine makes this wine less popular due to low yields. However, there have been some recent upgrades in the production if Mencia grapes that facilitate more full-bodied wines in the region.
This is an old wine from the western region of Greece. It had disappeared for centuries but came back recently. Malagouzia grapes produce sophisticated white wines with citrusy and herbal notes of exotic fruits. It is another great wine for summertime, particularly when blended with Assyrtiko. The combination gives a better balance.
- White Zinfandel
If you live in the US, you have probably come across white Zin. But Zinfandel comes in the red version in other parts of the world. While the white version is less common in most places, it doesn’t mean that its quality is lower than the red Zin. White Zinfandel is an old varietal that goes out of fashion sometimes. Regardless of its name, it is blush wine with a translucent pink hue and a sweet savor. The difference between red and white Zin is not the type of grapes used in production but the pressing method.
Mavrodaphne is a dark grape that gives one of the leading red wines in Greece though it is yet to reach the rest of the world. Notably, its aromas vary from raisin, coffee, and caramel and might be confused with the port. It should be your ideal choice if you prefer stronger and robust wine varieties. You can even choose a rarer clone known as Thiniatiko.
This wine is unheard of in the US but it is one of the most widely grown red grapes in Greece. It produces a low-acidity wine which is both fruity and spicy as well. It is a versatile grape that yields bolder red wines and soft roses. For food pairing, try baked vegetables and lamb.
Coming from Languedoc-Roussillon southern region of France, Valdiguie is a unique wine if properly grown. It produces distinctive fruity notes with a sweet-sour flavor. Its alcohol content is low, making it perfect for desserts. Even though poor cultivation and disease attacks rendered this wine unpopular when it was revitalized back in the 80s in Napa Valley, some enthusiastic winemakers in the US are trying to save the variety.
This grape is found in Argentina in approximately 21,000 acres of vineyard. It is a white grape variety that produces a smooth wine of relatively high acidity plus a remarkable apricot flavor. Torrontes is both spicy and floral, often comparable to Gewürtztraminer. Normally, it should be ready for consumption within 2 years of harvesting the grapes. It doesn’t taste well when overripe. You may not have heard of it but Torrentes wine is very popular in Argentina.
Choosing your wine
Perhaps you are not sure what type of wine you should give a chance. For starters, examine your perfect food pairing drink. Most meals have famous wines for pairing but there is no harm in experimenting with different varietals. If you feel stuck, don’t hesitate to consult a sommelier or a reputable food pairing expert. It is time to switch from the ordinary and enjoy unique tastes of the lesser known grapes. A less popular version might surprise you big time.