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Uncommon Red Wines

Five Intriguing Varieties
You'll Want to Know

Uncommon Red Wine Varieties

They say variety is the spice of life, and it's definitely a great thing when it comes to wine varieties as well. Drinking the same Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir day in day out gets to be pretty dull. While these three red wine types are far and away the most prevalent you'll find, why not broaden your horizons to include some of the less 'common' varieties?

Here's our five picks for uncommon red wines you'll want to get to know:

#1 - Nero d'Avola

Nero d'Avola is Italian for "The Black Grape of Avola", a reference to the Sicilian town of Avola. While some regions of Italy are gaining renown for their ability to grow non-Italian varieties (such as the rise of the 'Super-Tuscan' wines), this is a wonderful indigenous variety that offers mouth-filling texture in an easy-drinking style. Also offers excellent value.

Our Nero d'Avola Pick:
 2008 Colosi Nero d'Avola, Sicily ($18)

#2 - Carmenère

One of the traditional red grape varieties of France, Carmenère is today grown rarely in France but has flourished in Chile. In France, this grape was decimated by phylloxera in the 1800s but Chile's isolation protected its plantings. Velvety but with more backbone than Merlot, I find Carmenère to be the wine I often wish Merlot was, and is one of my favorites from Chile.

Our Carmenère Pick:
2008 Terra Andina Carmenère, Valle Central ($10)

#3 - Mourvèdre /Monastrell

Traditionally grown in both France and Spain, this variety is known as 'Mourvedre' in the former and 'Monastrell' in the latter. A sun-loving variety, it is widely grown in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the Bandol appellations of Southern France, and in the Jumillla region of Spain. This grape produces dark, intensely tannic wines, some of which may benefit from aging.

Our Mourvèdre / Monastrell Pick:
2007 Casa Castillo Monastrell, Spain ($10)

#4 - Dolcetto

While the Italian region of Piedmont is most celebrated for its long-lived and pricey Barolos and Barbarescos, it also produces Dolcetto - very much on the other end of the wine spectrum: light-bodied, with low acidity, and meant to drink now. This charming wine shows exuberant fruit character in a mild style. Also called 'Charbono' when made in California.

Our Dolcetto Pick:
2008 Giacosa Fratelli Dolcetto d'Alba "San Rocco", Piedmont ($20)

#5 - Pinotage

If you don't know Pinotage, the first time you see it you might think the name's a typo. Do they mean Pinot Noir? In fact, Pinotage was created in South Africa as a blend between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known as Hermitage in that country). Less refined than Pinot Noir alone, this often shows slightly more sauvage, brambly character and is quite a bit darker.

Our Pinotage Pick:
2005 J Wine Pinotage, Russian River Valley ($38)

Next Article:  Uncommon White Wine Varieties




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