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JEAN-SÉBASTIEN MORIN: Leave 'go-to' wines occasionally and go on a tasting adventure

The start of a new year abounds with fresh possibilities. It is a promising time to choose new horizons to explore. Wine, with its hundreds of grape varieties and regions, thousands of producers and ever-changing vintages, is an odyssey like no other. There is always something fascinating to discover in the land of Dionysus.

Many of us are quite happy with our favourite “go-to” wines, but every now and then, we feel like a change. Steadfast New World Chardonnay drinkers, for example, may want to try something new, but likely want wines that are stylistically similar – that is to say, fruit-forward, medium to full-bodied wines with medium-acidity. Many options exist to branch out without venturing too far from this taste profile.

Chenin Blanc, grown in many countries around the world, will charm many with its mineral and honeyed notes. Viognier, a more aromatic variety, will appeal to those who enjoy exotic nuances of peaches, apricot and spice in their wine. Falanghina, a wonderful indigenous Italian variety, with Chardonnay-esque citrus and apple flavours is definitely worth discovering. This is far from being an exhaustive list, but it may provide Chardonnay fans with a starting point for their explorations.

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Alternatives to New World Chardonnay

  • Chenin Blanc (Bogle Chenin Blanc BIN: 09560Z)
  • Falanghina (Vesevo Falanghina BIN#: B0041Z )
  • Grenache Blanc (Les Vignes De Bila Haut Blanc BIN#: 09628Z)
  • Verdejo (Torres Sangre de Toro Verdejo BIN#: 09649Z)
  • Viognier (McManis Family Vineyards Viognier BIN#: 09501Z)

Alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc

  • Loureiro (Sogrape Gazela Vinho Verde BIN: 09521Z)
  • Melon Blanc/Melon de Bourgogne (Famille Bougrier Muscadet Sevres et Maine BIN#: 09632Z)
  • Vernacchia (Rocca delle Macie Vernaccia di San Gimignano BIN#: B0117Z)

Alternatives to Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Mourvèdre (Les Jamelles Mourvèdre BIN#: 08352Z)
  • Carmenère (Perez Cruz Carmenere BIN#: 07444Z)
  • Pinotage, (Cathedral Cellars Pinotage BIN#: R0077Z)
  • Aglianico (Piano del Cerro Aglianico del Vulture BIN#: R0265Z )

Alternatives to Branded Red Blends

  • Côtes du Rhône (Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Rouge BIN#: 07537Z )
  • Chateaunuef-du-Pape (Pere Anselme Chateaunuef-du-Pape Lafiole BIN: 07930Z)
  • Douro (Delaforce Douro Colheita Tinto BIN#: 07576Z)

Sauvignon Blanc lovers, for their part, have access to many possibilities when it comes to finding lighter-bodied, crisp, white wines. Loureiro, grown in Northern Portugal in the Vinho Verde appellation, is fresh and citrussy and displays nuances of bay leaves. Melon de Bourgogne from the Loire Valley (a little confusing, I know) is used to make Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, a light and crisp white wines with flavours of lemon, green apples and a hint of grassiness not to be confused with Muscat/Moscato. Vernacchia is another appealing indigenous grape variety from Italy. It is vibrant with floral, grassy and nutty aromas shimmering on a backdrop of citrus fruit. These are just a few examples of where Sauvignon Blanc enthusiasts can cast their line to find a catch that is likely to be to their taste.

Similarly, Cabernet Sauvignon aficionados can diversify their repertoire by tapping into big, intense reds produced from an impressive line up of lesser-known grape varieties. A first round of alternatives might include Mourvèdre with herbal and peppery notes of blackberries and truffles, or Carmenère, Chile’s pride, bursting with black currant.  Pinotage from South Africa, brooding with dark fruit and smoky/leathery nuances, is another interesting option as well as Aglianico, an elegant and powerful Southern Italian variety displaying complex flavours of chocolate, cherry, plum and spice.

Fans of branded red blends that have become popular in recent years, might find it intriguing to discover the blended wines that emerged decades ago from Old World regions. They may be particularly interested in the wines from warmer climates that yield wines overflowing with dark ripe fruit, velvety tannins and moderate acidity. The Rhone Valley in France, for example, offers assemblages dominated by Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre at all price points; from entry-level Côtes du Rhône to luxurious Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Douro region in Portugal leverages a host of indigenous grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca to achieve similarly appealing and approachable red blends.

Trying different wines doesn’t mean foregoing our tried and true selections, but it may allow us to widen our horizons and come back to our favourites with an enlightened view and renewed appreciation. It’s a bit like travelling. Most people are excited about leaving to explore new shores, but are generally happy to be returning home. Yet, their new experiences and discoveries will likely have changed their world view.

This week's wine selection descriptions are shown in the image gallery above. 


Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator, and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach, Morin email

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