There are probably many reasons why people who drink wine regularly (and I certainly include myself in that category) tend to select the same type of wine over and over. Habit, fear of making a mistake, and laziness probably lead the list of explanations as to why so many wine consumers don’t branch out more often and try something new. So if you’re one of these people, I’ve got a couple of suggestions to help you get out of this rut: Tonight, skip the Chardonnay, say “no thanks” to Cabernet Sauvignon, and pick up a bottle of wine made from lesser known grapes instead. To get you started on your adventure away from the tried-and-true here’s a trio of unusual wine grapes--a red, a white and a pinkish wine—to try.
MENCÍA, pronounced “Men-thee-a,” is a red wine grape whose home is the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and Portugal, notably in Galicia. Mencía wines are generally medium-bodied, richly aromatic and dry. With earthy, dark berry flavors lightly spiked sometimes by pepper, mint, and perhaps a dash of minerality, Mencía stands out also for its ability to age well. Mencía wines a generation or so ago tended to be somewhat lackluster and astringent, but today’s winegrowers are focusing on older vines planted on hillsides yielding more concentrated grapes with richer, more complex flavors. Serve Mencía with pork, dark meat chicken, or winter squash and mushroom dishes. Prices generally range from $15 to $25, though some high-end renditions made from very old vines and aged in new oak can run higher.
MALAGOUSIA is grown primarily in Central Greece and Greek Macedonia, and this aromatic white variety has a rich mouthfeel and offers notes of citrus, peach, and other stone fruit characteristics. It is often used as a blending agent, most notably with Assyrtiko (another fine Greek white to try). My Wine Review Online colleague Wayne Belding recommends Malagousia as a good companion to food in his review of Domaine Gerovassiliou, Epanomi on June 9, 2015: “Its rich texture makes it a versatile food companion as well. Enjoy it with full-flavored Mediterranean recipes, grilled fish or your favorite seafood stew.” Prices can range from $12 to $35.
GROLLEAU GRIS, a pink-skinned mutation of Grolleau Noir (itself a relatively obscure grape) was new to me when I reviewed a wine made from the Gris version for Wine Review Online (December 10, 2019): “[Domaine des Herbauges] has a very distinctive appearance (lightly grayish pink) and unique and appealing flavors that include grapefruit, a little peach, perhaps, and a touch of wet-pebble minerality. The wine is typically fairly low in alcohol (11.5% per volume in this case), and while not notably complex it is refreshingly tart and fruity.” Prices for wines made from Grolleau Gris run from $12 to $39.