For many wine drinkers, it’s easy to stick to a familiar favourite once you know what you like; the fear of spending money on a bottle that isn’t to your tastes is all too real. But are you missing out on great new wines that could broaden your (drinking) horizons?
If you enjoy a good bottle of wine with dinner, or simply to unwind with in the evenings, don’t be afraid to branch out from that failsafe option you always choose. Swap Sauvignon Blanc for Albariño, or Pinot Noir for Gamay, and you could find a brand new favourite to add into rotation.
Avoid getting stuck in a rut by trying these perfect alternatives to some popular wines – expanding your wine knowledge, as well as increasing the number of confident choices you can make when shopping in future.
New World Sauvignon Blanc – Albariño
A great New World Sauvignon Blanc will typically have a dry, light-bodied style, with notes of crisp green apple and white peach. Herby aromas to the wine mean that Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with dishes that feature rosemary or basil, as well as goats cheese, and all manner of seafood.
If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or California, try Albariño out for size, which is easy to find through affordable retailers like Virgin Wines. Albariño is another light-bodied white wine, with high acidity levels to match those of a classic Sauvignon. This wine pairs just as well with fish dishes and green herbs, and has the same herbaceous aromas that you’ll find in your usual pick.
Because Albariño is only grown in northwest Spain and northwest Portugal, you can also avoid the risk that you grab a bottle from the wrong region and end up with a whole different flavour profile.
While Old World Sauvignon Blanc (generally from France) can be very different in flavour and aroma to a Sauvignon from New Zealand or California, the regions where Albariño is grown are close in climate as well as geography. Because of this, a Spanish Albariño and a Portuguese Albarinho are both light, fresh and crisp white wines with similar, subtle fruit flavours.
Pinot Noir – Gamay
Pinot Noir is a particularly light-bodied red wine, made with thin-skinned grapes and a fruit-forward flavour profile. The thin skins of Pinot Noir grapes mean that it’s light in tannins as well as light in overall body; if that doesn’t mean a lot to you, all you need to know is that it means Gamay could be an ideal alternative.
Gamays are often more affordable than Pinot Noirs, but offer the same light-body and come primarily from a neighbouring region to Pinot’s heartland in Burgundy; Beaujolais. Where Pinot Noirs are known for their earthy layers, dry character and berry notes, Gamays also boast flavours of dry but juicy blackcurrant and raspberry, alongside subtle earthy notes.
As well as Beaujolais Gamay, you can find bottles from Canada and New Zealand. These tend to be a little less earthy than French varieties, but are still a good alternative to Pinot Noir for the casual wine drinker.
Chardonnay – Viognier
One of the most celebrated options for those branching out from Chardonnay is a good bottle of Viognier. If you like your white wines rich and complex, there are both Old World and New World Viogniers that easily match the quality of a classic Chardonnay.
Both Chardonnay and Viognier can be oaked or unoaked, so whichever is your usual preference, that’s the one you should opt for when trying the alternative. Oak ageing gives both wines a creaminess and hint of toasted nuts that their unoaked counterparts don’t have. If you consider yourself a Chardonnay fan but have previously had a glass or two that didn’t hit the spot, it might be because you’ve inadvertently picked oaked instead of unoaked, or vice-versa.
Where Chardonnay has notes of yellow apple and sometimes citrus zest, Viognier offers perfume aromas and hints of stone fruits. Both wines pair well with pork dishes, though when it comes to seafood, note that Chardonnay tends to work best with more delicate flavour profiles while Viognier works best with fattier dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Touriga Nacional
If you love a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the evening, your wine preference involves plenty of tannins and blackcurrant aromas. There are a few alternatives you could go for, including the ever-popular Tempranillo, but look for a Touriga Nacional to really show off your new wine knowledge.
Touriga Nacionals are rich, full-bodied reds with plenty of tannins. While you can get them from other parts of the world, the vast majority of Touriga Nacional wines are produced in their home country of Portugal, where they were originally used to blend sweet, fortified wines like Port. Now a popular grape in their own right, you’ll get blackcurrant, violet and blueberry flavours which pair perfectly with roasted meats and blue cheeses.
If you want to branch out from the same old thing but you’re not sure where to look, online wine retailers are often the simplest option. You can search by grape and see at a glance whether a wine is dry or sweet, light-bodied or full-bodied, in order to find your perfect match!