Every time a new year rolls around, there is a lot of buzz around Dry January. Now that social media has become such an integral piece of society, for better or for worse, there seems to be even more to-do about abstaining from alcohol for the month. Personally, I feel that Dry January encourages an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If you feel that you’re drinking SO much that you need a month of abstinence to set you straight, then perhaps you need more balance in your regular drinking habits through the year. Though who am I to tell you how to live your life? If you feel Dry January is right for you, then by all means, have at it. I, however, prefer to mix it up with something a little more interesting…TRY JANUARY.
What is Try January? Well, I’m glad you asked! Try January is all about discovering new wines, ideally from grape varieties you’ve never tried before. You don’t have to go all out crazy. Simply buy one bottle to pop each week and share it with your friends so everyone can try something new!
Starting the year off with this tradition will likely encourage you to continue discovering new wines throughout the year. In turn, supporting what are typically smaller, family-owned wineries working to keep their region’s indigenous varieties alive and thriving.
Below you’ll find two white wine recommendations and two red wine recommendations to help you start branching out. For those ready to discover more, download my free guide which provides recommendations for rare varieties based on what wines you typically drink and love.
Chardonnay Lovers Should Try Timorasso
If Chardonnay is your go-to wine, then you’re sure to enjoy Timorasso. This Italian white variety is native to Piemonte, specifically from Tortona nestled between the end of the Po Valley and the foothills of the Apennines. Cultivated since the Middle Ages, Timorasso was once amongst the most important Piedmontese white varieties in terms of production and plantings.
The grape underwent a revival after going nearly extinct when phylloxera hit the region. It was revived in large part thanks to Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa, and has since achieved cult status among wine lovers.
Like Chardonnay, Timorasso is a classic, full-bodied wine with no rough edges. Yet this Piedmontese variety delivers even more complexity. From younger examples you can expect high alcohol and high acidity with stone fruit aromas of peach and nectarine, along with pear, acacia, and honeysuckle, and an expressive honey note. As Timorasso ages, its beautiful structure remains and mineral notes become more pronounced.
Fans of Sauvignon Blanc Should Try Malagousia
Another rare variety that bounced back from near extinction, Malagousia hails from Greece and was virtually unknown until the 1970s. With a sophisticated structure, incredible balance, and an enticing bouquet of aromas, Malgousia is one of those wines you can’t stop smelling. It’s a great option for Try January because it’s also pretty widely available in the United States. If there’s a Total Wine near you, then you’ll definitely be able to get your hands on a bottle.
This ancient white variety is capable of expressing an expansive array of aromas depending on the mesoclimate of the vineyard. Possible aromas include stone fruit, tropical fruit, herbal, spice, vegetal, and floral notes. For instance, a cooler mesoclimate will often express more floral, herbal, and citrus aromas.
With moderate alcohol and body, Malagousia is a great option for those leaning towards a damp January and is an ideal replacement for Sauvignon Blanc during the hot summer months, too.
Nebbiolo or Barbera Enthusiasts Should Try Dolcetto
Dolcetto is another Piedmontese variety with which I’m absolutely obsessed. If you’re a Barolo drinker or love a savory Barbera alongside your pizza or pasta, then this is an Italian wine you absolutely must try.
Dolcetto grows widely in Piemonte in the northwestern corner of Italy just below the Alps. This Italian variety ripens earlier than the more famous Nebbiolo and Barbera of the region. Therefore, Dolcetto ripens well even in the coolest sites of Piemonte.
Though the name means “little sweet one,” Dolcetto wines can be somewhat tart. Yet they are loaded with sweet blackberry flavors, along with notes of plum, black pepper, cocoa, and violet. Expect medium tannin, alcohol, body, and acidity from Dolcetto. It’s certainly a wine to entice even the most dedicated Dry January participants.
My wine pick: G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto D’Alba DOC
A Super Off-The-Beaten-Path Red Wine for Pinot Noir Lovers
While I love Pinot Noir as much as the next girl and believe it’s truly one of the wine world’s greatest grapes, there are other fantastic, intriguing wines out there waiting to be discovered. Enter: Kadarka, a rare Hungarian variety that will tantalize the palate of Pinot Noir aficionados.
Kadarka is truly a rare variety with only 700 hectares planted in the world. The Balkans introduced Kadarka to Hungary when they fled Serbia in the late 16th century. Though cultivated throughout Hungary, Kadarka’s most significant plantings are located in the Great Hungarian Plain. This variety is a key grape in Hungary’s famed Bikavér blend, a traditional red wine from Szekszárd and Eger.
This is not an easy variety to grow. Kadarka is a late ripening variety with thin skins, meaning it’s very susceptible to noble rot. Yields of this grape require proper restriction in order to produce quality, concentrated fruit. Expect well integrated aromas of clove spice aromas entice the senses, along with a touch of graphite, cedar, and forest floor with bright, crunchy red fruits on the palate. Kadarka wines are typically medium bodied with medium acidity and fine-grained, supple tannins.
Not Ready to Go All in on Buying Full Bottles? Try In Good Taste!
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