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Aug 31, 2018 1:18 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Drink Wine Outside Your Comfort Zone

Sep 3, 2018 11:13 AM

I like to think of autumn as the season of new adventures. Book a trip to a country unknown! Shed that old wardrobe in favor of some new fancy threads! Read that book you’ve been putting off for three years! If the end of summer points to a new beginning of sorts, why can’t that apply to our wine and wine sensibilities?I say this with love: Most wine drinkers I know—and I include myself here—are too comfortable drinking what they know. Where wine can be complex and erudite, there is a sense of security in drinking that which is familiar. I’m more likely to gravitate toward a producer I know on a wine list than branch out into uncharted territory. It’s not that I’m scared of anything in particular, per se; I just want the guarantee of an experience I will appreciate.

But it’s September, indeed the change of the season, the time to stick one’s neck out if there ever were such a time.

Read on for a fall challenge: Step out of your wine-drinking comfort zone and enter a brave, new world. You may fall in love with something unexpected in the process.

So, You’re A Fan 
Of Champagne?

Yes, yes, I know—Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends. But a rose by any other name, right?

If you’re fond of Champagne, you’re sure to be equally fond of Franciacorta, its Italian cousin, also made in the traditional way, and from some of the same grapes. (Champagne is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, while Franciacorta is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanc.) At its best, it is a yeasty, full-bodied sparkler that can hold up to a substantive feast.

And, on the South Fork, you can find a fine example—the blanc de blancs Arcari e Danesi Saten Brut 2012—at Wainscott Main Wine & Spirits. This is no cheap alternative to the real thing, to be clear. But it’s well worth the bottle price.

Sancerre Is So 2017

You like bracing acidity, comprehensive minerality and no more than a moderate dose of alcohol, which is why you keep coming back to Sancerre (made from sauvignon blanc grapes) again and again. But the price of Sancerre has ticked upward, with no sign of a plateau, meaning that you may not be getting your money’s worth these days.

Travel, then, to Austria, for a taste of Grüner Veltliner, a practically yellow grape that produces bright, clean wines with no residual sugar. I’m particularly fond of the 2016 Weinberghof Fritsch Steinberg Grüner Veltliner, which is available at East Hampton’s Domaine Franey.

Back Upright 
From ‘Sideways’

If you took Paul Giamatti at his word in 2004 and agreed to empty your eurocave of all merlot in favor of pinot noir, well, you’re probably not alone. But pinot noir is a notoriously fickle grape, and finding the best specimens—especially without breaking the bank—can be hard work.

Still, there are great alternatives available for people who love pinot: High acid, juicy red wines that point to a grape’s provenance.

For my money, Gamay’s the ticket. This main grape of Beaujolais—okay, I know … but give it a chance—thrives in granitic soils, and is far more complex than the nouveaux would have you believe.

Step away from the purple, practically sweet wine of the third week of November, and consider the earth-driven, crimson wines of Cru Beaujolais, 10 towns in Burgundy’s north that produce outstanding iterations of Gamay. Of note? The 2015 Boisen-Barbet Chateau de Fleurie “Fleurie,” carried by Westhampton Beach’s Hamptons Wine Shoppe.


Just because you prefer a rich, heady wine doesn’t mean that cabernet sauvignon is your only available option. Let’s leave California and France for a minute (where, arguably, the best cabernet in the world is born) and travel to Spain, where well-made wines are affordable, impressive and substantial enough to sate the craving of a cabernet sauvignon fanatic.

Priorat, a region in the country’s east, not far from the Balearic Sea, uses a warm climate to its advantage, producing full-bodied wines from a blend of merlot, syrah, and, yes, cabernet sauvignon. The soil is Paleozoic bedrock (also called llicorella), offering a distinct earthy component to grapes grown there. And, for under $30 and a trip to East Hampton’s Park Place Wines, you can enjoy a bottle of sumptuous Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat, a far better deal than any cabernet you’ll find from California.

Embrace autumn and try something unexpected. ’Tis the season, after all.

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