Whether you’re a novice wine drinker, drink it just for fun or are very serious about your selections, there is something to be said for sipping on something unique. With so many craft wineries with limited distribution, new varietals hitting the market seemingly all the time and then more funky,
And you may be missing some of these wines at your local wine or liquor store (no offense!) due to distribution or allotment. That’s when wine clubs, like Wine Insiders, come in handy. Wine Insiders curates by season, price and so many other filters so that you can find something new and different every single time.
While it’s not every day you get a sommelier to pick out some of the most interesting offerings they can find, you’re in luck today. We spoke to Ferdy Mucerino, CMS certified sommelier and resident wine expert for Wine Insiders, about his favorite sips currently available and how to pair them up perfectly.
L’Arca Grillo (Italy)
About the wine: L’ Arca translates to “the arc of wine.” This group of Italian winemakers are on a mission to rescue and preserve Italian grapes to make tasty natural wines while practicing sustainable farming.
To that, Grillo is a true Siciliano. It is born and raised in Sicily and we even know who its parents are. Grillo is the offspring of a cross between two ancient Sicilian grapes: Catarratto and Zibibbo. But this is no baby grape. In fact, the usage of Grillo is deeply-rooted in the history of winemaking. In the first century BC, it was used to make one of Julius Caesar’s favorite wines the sweet Mamertino of Messina.
This grape is grown almost uniquely in Sicily. It is planted throughout the island, but its main home is near the city of Trapani in the Northwest. This location faces the Mediterranean Sea and receives warm winds from the deserts of Tunisia.
Tasting notes: When you smell this wine, the first thing you taste is lemon-lime and tangerine with some honeydew flavors. The secondary elements are white flowers and wheatgrass. It tastes wonderful. It’s dry, light, refreshing, with sharp acidity, and some mineral qualities. If you like your white wine to be crisp and fresh, Grillo is the wine for you.
Ideal food pairing: Mediterranean food is a perfect match. Falafels, hummus, tabouli, and Greek salads are all more enjoyable with this Grillo. This will also pair very well with light seafood dishes and salad courses. Buy Now.
Monastrell Merlot by Ethic Drinks (Spain)
About the wine: Ethic Drinks is a remarkable winery for many reasons. At Ethic Drinks, the planet comes first. All of their wines are environmentally friendly, from the soil to your doorstep. This means no pesticides are used, they are carbon neutral, and the grapes are organic. Additives or preservatives are never used and this is a certified vegan wine and only uses eco-friendly packaging with zero plastic. Even their beautiful labels are glued to the bottles with a potato based glue.
Merveille De Vignes means “Wonder Of Vines.” The name captures the vine’s capacity to adapt to the environment and to people. This wine is a blend of 60% Monstrell, also known as Murvedra, and 40% Merlot. These two grapes share a similar and delicious fruit flavor profile of blue and red fruits.
Tasting notes: The Monastrell grape has aromas of black pepper and smoke, while the Merlot has aromas of violets and rose petals. On the nose, you’ll experience beautiful notes of plums and cherries, followed by lovely floral notes of potpourri and black tea leaves. The palate is dry with very smooth tannins and medium acid. When tasting this wine, plums, cherries and dried flowers will be the very welcome predominant flavors.
Ideal food pairing: This wine could be served at room temperature or with a slight chill. With enviable versatility, this wine pairs well with anything that is grilled or spicy. In the spirit of Ethic Drinks, I pair it with a well seasoned veggie burger. Buy Now.
Granite Ridge Pinotage (South Africa)
About the wine: The world of wine is divided into two major categories: Old and new world wines. Old world wine countries are in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, which all have thousands of years of winemaking history. Wines from the other parts of the world are considered new world wines.
Although South Africa belongs to the new world, it is not the new kid on the block. South Africa’s wine making history dates back to 1652 with the arrival of the Dutch. In the early 1600s the Dutch created a refreshment station in South Africa for ships stopping by on their voyage toward the Indies.
A commander named Jon Van Riebeeck, planted the first South African grapes in 1652. Fast forward to February 2, 1659 and the first South African wine was made. The commander was a tedious note taker and his journal entry reveals that the harvest was bountiful that year and he also specifies that he had created a white blend. There are several hundred grapes planted in South Africa but only one is native to this country; the Pinotage. That is what the Granite Ridge is made from.
In the early 1900s, an enologist named Perold set out to find a grape that would adapt to the soil and climate of South Africa. He experimented by crossing red grapes and finally settled on a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, which was incorrectly named Hermitage at that time. Perold also crossed the grape’s names and the new grape took the name Pinotage.
This Pinotage is made by Alex Dale, a natural winemaker that is a pioneer in biodynamic practices and a strong supporter of sustainable agriculture. His wines intend to convey a sense of place and identity.
Tasting notes: The aromas are so inviting and offer a great combination of fruity and savory notes such as macerated strawberry and soy sauce. On the palate, the savory elements are more dominant. The wine is light to medium bodied with a good amount of acid. The tannins are fine grained and barely perceivable. The finish has a touch of bitterness that promotes salivation making this a great food wine.
Ideal food pairing: When pairing this Pinotage, try matching the light body structure and the savoriness of the wine with foods of similar weight and flavor. A pizza with garlic and oregano is an excellent idea. You can also pair it by contrasting the savoriness of the wine with dishes that are marinated in sweet sauces like Barbecue or Teriyaki. Buy now.
Tuzku Kekfrancos (Hungary)
Hungary is a small and landlocked country, about seven times smaller than Texas. Despite its size, it has an impressive number of wine regions in which 13 different grapes are planted.
Hungary’s 22 wine regions produce amazing whites, reds, and some of the most iconic sweet wines in the world. Hungary is known as the land of fire and salt and it’s climate and soil contribute heavily to the abundance of its wines.
Millions of years ago Hungary was partially submerged by the ancient Pannonian sea and It was also surrounded by a chain of active volcanoes. Although there are no active volcanoes in Hungary today, the soil remains volcanic with pockets of limestone and, because it emerged from the sea, it also has sedimentary soils. The climate is generally continental offering chilly winters and mild sunny summers.
The Kekfrancos grape originated in ancient Germany, or Franconia. This wine used to be called Blauer because of its bluish hue. In the middle ages, quality grapes were given the suffix Frankish, and it was well known that Franconia produced higher quality wines.
The people of Eastern Europe valued these wines so much that they used them as currency and bartered with them. The Hungarians and the Austrians adopted this grape and began cultivating it. These grapes became known as Kekfrankos and Blaufrankish which both translate to “the blue from Franconia”.
Tasting notes: “Tuzko” means flint in Hungarian. True to its name, the first aromas you will experience are reminiscent of flint and gunpowder. Also present are beautiful fruit aromas of raspberries and black cherries. Besides flint, the secondary aromas are allspice and forest floor. The palate has a wonderful mixture of tart fruit and dusty hearty elements. The tannins are soft and the acid is medium-plus.
Ideal food pairing: Because this wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins and tart fruit, vegetable dishes cooked in highly acidic sauces will make the perfect match. Pair this wine with orange-glazed, fried cauliflower bites. The combination works well because the acidity in both the food and the wine is similar. The tangy flavor of the orange perfectly pairs with the tart fruit of the wine, while the soft tannins help with the crunchy texture of the fried cauliflower. Buy Now.
Tuzku Traminer (Hungary)
This wine is made with the Traminer grape. This grape has many names and variations. It’s DNA shows it belongs to the world of ancient grapes and it’s origins are disputed between Germany, France, and Alto Adige in Italy. What we can say with certainty, is that Traminer is the same grape as Savagnin. Savagnin can be blanc or rose depending on the color of the berry which can be pale green or pinkish.
This Traminer is made with Savagin rose which is also commonly called Gewürztraminer.
Tasting notes: Traminer is a highly aromatic white grape. The first thing you will notice is how floral and tropical the aromas are. You will smell lychee, guava, pineapple for the fruit aromas, and orange blossom, jasmine, and lavender for the floral aromas. Despite being a low alcohol wine the palate is round and full bodied and its fruitiness is nicely pronounced. These grapes are lower in acid and the flavor lingers beautifully on the palate.
Ideal food pairing: Low acid whites can be enjoyed with or without food. If you’d like to pair it with a meal, try contrasting the wine’s flavors. A dish that is spicy and high in acid like a tomato gazpacho would be delicious. Buy now.
Follow follow along with Ferdy’s tastings on Instagram, @wine_time_with_ferdy.