kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Wines to Have on Hand

Wine lovers will want to keep some bottles on hand in your home for weeknight meals as well as for entertaining. If you find yourself in the mood for wines that go beyond the typical Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, here are some appealing alternatives, which are interesting, yet readily available:

Alsatian Riesling:
If you hear “Riesling” and automatically think “sweet wine,” it’s time to rethink that view. Rieslings from the Alsace region of France are fruity, yet bone dry. With hints of green apple (and sometimes honey), as well as great acidity, they are fantastic wines to enjoy any night of the week. Producers to look for: Domaine Lucien; Hugel; Trimbach. Food pairings: Fruit and cheese tray; Asian food; grilled pork chops.

Italian Valpolicella:
Light, red, and fruity, Valpolicella is made in the Veneto region of Italy from the Corvina grape. It’s light in tannins and full of sour cherry flavors, and would be perfect for a Sunday dinner (if the meal is al fresco, all the better). Seek out wines that say “Classico” on the label for the light, fruity style. “Ripasso” means that the grapes have been dried, giving a more intense, heavier wine. Producers to look for: Villa Maffei; Sartori; Allegrini. Food pairings: Bruschetta; beef stew; tomato-based pasta dishes.

New Zealand Pinot Noir:
Although the country has typically been famous for their Sauvignon Blancs, wine lovers are starting to sit up and take notice of New Zealand Pinots, which are being compared to French Burgundies. The areas of Marlborough, Martinborough, and Central Otago have climates that are well suited to this fickle grape. Cherry aromas abound, along with silky tannins, good acidity and a bit of earthiness to keep things interesting. (Keep in mind that most New Zealand wineries have gone to screw caps to seal their wines, but they are far from “jug wines.”). Producers to look for: Spy Valley; Rockburn; Te Kairanga. Food pairings: Roast chicken with mushrooms; seared duck breast with sour cherry sauce; grilled salmon.

California Zinfandel:
Repeat the following: “Zin is red, Zin is red, Zin is red.” Not for the faint of heart, the Zinfandel grape produces wines that are big and bold, with intense raspberry and cherry flavors, and an alcohol content that can be upwards of 16%. If you are ready to do some serious cooking with red meat, this is the wine to choose. Producers to look for: Ravenswood; Ridge; Kunde Estate. Food pairings: Grilled rib eye steaks with peppercorn rub; sautéed lamb chops with rosemary; smoked sausages and cheeses.