By Alison Bailin Batz | March 4, 2021

Chances are that you’ve tried a cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio or chardonnay in your day. You’ve perhaps even enjoyed a Champagne, merlot or pinot noir. Beyond the most common wine varietals on the market today, however, there are several dozen other options, with something that will please every palate. Here is a look at some of our favorite less common kinds of wine, each worth a sample and sip when you feel like something new.

 

2018 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc

Developed in northern Spain and now a showstopper in Yountville, California, this is a full-bodied white wine made from the red grenache grape known for its alluring aroma and higher alcohol percentage than most other white wines. This one delights with white peach, melons and honeysuckle on the nose, then explodes with flavors of stone fruit and citrus to the taste. $22

 

Hill Family Estates 2019 Albariño

Like Grenache Blanc, the albariño grape made its way into wine bottles first in Spain, but in the Southern Iberian Peninsula growing regions. Refreshing and zippy with a tart acidity and flowery notes, this gorgeous bottle is the perfect introduction to the varietal. But be careful, its mouthwatering green apple notes and hint of lemon-lime go down very easy on a patio with friends. $65

 

Chandon Pinot Meunier, Carneros 2017

You’ve likely had pinot meunier before — you just didn’t know it. Dating back to the 16th century, it is one of three grapes grown widely in Champagne, France, and it is a key varietal in true Champagne. It stuns on its own here, in all of its dark-berried glory. Expect a tremendous smoothness and fruit-forwardness here, especially plum, black cherry and tons of berry notes. $40

 

Clif Lede 2018 Claret

This is a tricky one, as there is no claret grape. Historically, it is actually the term — originally from Great Britain — used for heavy Bordeaux wines out of France. Today, it is used stateside to describe red wines made in the Bordeaux style as it is with this award winner. Jammy with hints of blueberry at first, there are also more earthy elements, including cinnamon and cumin and a long finish with a touch of red apple. $48

 

2018 Gemstone Cabernet Franc

Though similarly named, cabernet franc has slightly thinner skin than cabernet sauvignon. It also has less tannins and more of a perfume and herbaceousness to the nose. This is a perfect expression for someone new to this type of wine, as it is medium bodied and explodes with strawberries and plums on the nose before giving way to layers of red fruit in each sip. $125

 

Handwritten Tawny, 10-Year

The happiest way to end any meal, tawny is a type of port wine and made from red grapes. Extremely sweet with nuanced nuttiness, Handwritten really does this varietal right. The roasted and toasted caramel notes with darker hints of cocoa and coffee in each sip are heavenly, juxtaposed with the overall sweetness in the bottle. Insider tip: Pour it over ice cream. $75

 

2016 Goosecross Petit Petite

So, is this type of wine petit syrah? Petite verdot? The answer: it is both. Petit Petite is a blend of both big wines, resulting in anything but a petit wine. Dark and seductive, Goosecross’ version — nicknamed the inky-black monster — is a triumph of bold black fruit, cassis and leather that will leave even the pickiest of palates pleased. $95

 

Shafer Vineyards Relentless Syrah

This wine is aptly named — and even copyrighted — given it is how you will feel about scoring case after case of this syrah, which has a bit of petite sirah as well. While grown all around the world and beloved for its dark skin and full-bodied richness, syrah is still less common in everyday wine drinkers’ vocabularies than cabernet, merlot or pinot noir. But it shouldn’t be, because syrahs — especially this one — are deep, powerful wines bursting with everything from black plum, herbs and vanilla to leather, herbs and stone, all in the same sip. $95

 

Mira Jimmy D’s Red Blend 2016

Ever wanted to design your own custom wine? Those who make red and white blends are essentially doing just that: taking what they think will work and dreaming up wholly new flavor profiles. This particular blend is a beautiful beast made from 47% syrah, 33% cabernet sauvignon and 20% petit verdot. Nutty and spicy, yet with raspberry, black cherry and plum, it’s a truly unique blend of the best of the best. $75

 

Silver Trident 2018 Playing with Fire Proprietary Red Blend

This small winery takes pride in breaking the rules by experimenting (aka playing with fire) with different fermentations, blends and barrels. This showstopper is the result of playing with a blend of malbec and cabernet franc. Given its parent grapes, the blend has a smooth and creamy start with concentrated flavors upon sipping and a spicy finish as well as notes of dark berries and even chocolate. $48

 

Stewart Cellars 2018 Tartan

Question: When is a cabernet sauvignon not just the standard sip we’ve all tried dozens of times? Answer: When Stewart blends the cabernet with a little merlot, malbec and petit verdot as it does in this supple, earthy take. The chocolate, cherry and pepper aromas here will dance through your nose, and the lush finish will have your mouth watering while waiting for the next sip. $25

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