Rut – a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull or unproductive but is hard to change.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in a rut? As humans we are creatures of habit. Habits such as teeth brushing, bed making, and exercise aid in discipline and self-care. But sometimes habits can become ruts, leaving us feeling unfulfilled. For example, drinking the same wine over and over can become a rut. Thankfully, the world of wine is vast, making it easy to get out of a rut.
I have been guilty of wine ruts. It is easy to pick up a bottle of wine at the super market while shopping for groceries. I find the bottle I like that goes with most everything and it is value priced. It becomes my “go-to” wine and all other opportunities slowly drift away. I may try another wine from time to time but inevitably I return to my “go-to” wine, I don’t even have to think about it. Does any of this sound familiar?
The good news is wine ruts can be easily overcome. Nielson reports online wine sales are rising. This means more wine consumers are moving out of wine ruts and into exploring wines from around the globe. This makes me very happy. However, too many of you still buy the same wine again and again from your local super market – home of the wine rut because their wine inventory is limited and rarely rotates.
Getting out of a wine rut is easy. I have already suggested one way – engage in online wine shopping. There are many online wine retailers with excellent inventories, many offer discounted or free shipping. Wineries also ship direct to consumers at discounted rates. If the price of shipping is an issue, gather some of your fellow wine rut friends and place an order together. This allows fun exploration with shared shipping costs.
Another way to get out of a wine rut is to purchase wine from a local wine retailer (preferably not a box store). Local retailers can guide you to new wines to try based on your “go-to” wine likes. Furthermore, they tend to rotate their inventory frequently, often times selling smaller or boutique wineries that super markets do not carry.
A final way to get out of a wine rut is to read quality blogs and wine publications. Look for recommendations of wines that fit your tastes and budget then head to your local wine retailer and request the wine, or Google it to locate and purchase.
This is part one, of a three part series with recommendations to get you out of your wine rut. Sometimes getting out of a wine rut means trying new varietals, other times in means trying new regions or even new producers. We will begin breaking the wine rut with some delicious red wines.
When looking for high quality value wines to break a wine rut, look to the South of France. Wines from this region are blends that are most often delicious and rarely expensive.
2016 Domaine De Bila-Haut ‘L Esquerda’ Red Blend Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde France ($28): Bila Haut is produced by Rhône Valley winemaker Michel Chapoutier. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. It offers dark fruit, baking spice, savory herbs, graphite, and mocha. It is round on the palate, balanced between juicy fruit and earth notes; medium tannins, medium+ acidity, long finish. Tastes more like a $60 wine. Visit wine-searcher to locate. Visit wine-searcher to locate.
2016 Domaines Paul Mas Côté Mas Rouge Intense Sud de France ($8): 45% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 15% Cinsault, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah; another great representation of value wines from the South of France; medium-bodied, highly approachable, fresh summer berries mingle with spice, flowers, and herbs such as thyme and lavender; give a slight chill for maximum summer enjoyment. Visit wine-searcher to locate.
Spain is another country that produces quality wines at value prices. The grapes or regions may be unfamiliar, but I guarantee you will enjoy what is in the glass.
2012 Bodegas Godelia Mencia Bierzo Spain ($19): Crafted of 100% Mencia; likely an unfamiliar grape, but don’t shy away; it offers concentrated baked fruit, baking spice, red flowers, minerality, cedar; full –bodied, rich and round, high tannins and acidity, long spicy finish. Visit wine-searcher to locate.
2014 Grandes Vinos y Vinedos 3C Cariñena Spain ($8): Crafted of 100% Cariñena; a juicy and approachable wine; ripe red fruit, floral, spice; medium bodied with balanced medium tannins and acidity; easy to drink, serve slightly chilled. Visit wine-searcher to locate.
Like the South of France and Spain, Portugal is a gold mine of great wine at value prices. Esporao is a well-distributed producer, I think you will enjoy all of their wines.
2015 Herdade Esporao Trincadeira Alentejo DOC Portugal ($16): 100% Trincadeira, a local grape that is important to Alentejo; baked dark and red fruit, baking spice, red floral notes, red peppercorn, dried herbs; full-bodied, rustic yet authentic, no oak, pure fruit drives this wine to a long, juicy finish. Well distributed. Visit wine-searcher to locate.
Finally, we head to California, a vast wine region with many appellations, producers, and varieties yet to be fully explored.
2014 Scheid Vineyards Stoke’s Ghost Petite Sirah Monterey County USA ($34.99): Petite Sirah is often used as a blending grape; here it takes center stage; a wine with a haunting history shows to be mysterious and brooding on the palate; inky in the glass; notes of dark baked berries, cassis, baking spice, violets, dark chocolate, black pepper, and licorice envelope the senses; ripe and round on the palate, full-bodied, high tannins that are silky with high acidity, long, penetrating finish. Visit Scheid Vineyards to purchase.
2015 Ferrari-Carano Siena Red Wine Sonoma County USA ($21): A blend of Sangiovese, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah; rich and bold with layers of flavors; notes include baked red and black fruit, baking spice, cured meat, leather bound cedar cigar box, dusty cocoa, dried herbs; full-bodied, high tannins that are supple on the palate, high acidity, long finish of dark fruit and spice. Visit Ferrari-Carano to purchase.
There is an ironic kinship to these last two wines to help you move out of your wine rut. First, they are both well-known producers that you have likely enjoyed in the past. Second, they are forever linked through the Judgement of Paris in 1976. Mike Grgich was the winemaker for Chateau Montelena at the time, he crafted the 1973 Chardonnay that won the competition, beating four top quality white Burgundies. Today, I bring you unexpected wines from both Montelena and Grgich. Did you know they make Zinfandel?
2015 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Calistoga Napa Valley USA ($39): 100% Zinfandel; I first tried this wine many years ago and have loved it ever since; however, it appears many wine lovers do not know Montelena makes a Zin; well you are in for a treat; notes of ripe black fruits, baking spice, dried violets, dusty cocoa, tobacco, black pepper, dried figs, and sandalwood envelope the senses; on the palate it is full-bodied, rich and bold with dusty tannins, high acidity; great structure, and a long, spice-driven finish. Yes, it is a grape and a winery you know, but do you know them together? Well distributed. Visit Chateau Montelena to purchase this wine.
2013 Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel Napa Valley USA ($36): 97% Zinfandel, 3% Petite Sirah; ripe black fruit, baking spice, dried violets, black pepper, dried herbs, trailing vanilla; this wine shows restraint, it has a savory quality that is enticing; full-bodied, bold yet elegant, high tannins, slightly dusty yet integrated, high acidity, long black pepper finish. Well distributed. Visit Grgich Hills to purchase.
These wines will show you the way out of a wine rut, but there are many others. Please read my next two articles where I offer white wines (in two parts) to get you out of your wine rut. Please share with me your thoughts on your wine rut and what wines can pull you out of it. Cheers!