Being creatures of habit, we always tend to go for the same styles of wines. There’s definitely nothing wrong with a big, full-bodied Barossa Shiraz or a spicy Margaret River Cabernet! But sometimes it’s nice to have something a little bit different in your glass.
If you’re not sure about some of the other red grape varieties that are on offer, why not get a group of friends together and buy a bottle to share? Worst case scenario is that you only have a small glass each. The best case, though is that you might have found your new favourite wine!
Six Alternative Red Wines to Try:
This Spanish red grape is most famously used to make the wines from Rioja. It’s a nice medium to full bodied wine with beautiful plum, strawberry and vanilla. Often the wines can be quite masculine, with leather and tobacco too.
Tempranillo is lovely on it’s own, but is also perfect matched with food. Cook up a storm with slow cooked lamb, paella or some patatas bravas and see how well the wine matches.
Most versions of Tempranillo available in Australia will come from Spain, but there are some great wines made in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley.
Grenache is grown predominantly in McLaren Vale, Clare and the Barossa in South Australia, where hot and dry conditions are perfect for it. Generally it goes into GSM blends, but it is a fantastic grape variety on its own. Some of the old bush vine Grenache are gnarly and amazing!
With raspberry, strawberry and white pepper flavours, Grenache is wonderfully fruity and easy drinking. On a cold Sunday afternoon, a glass of Grenache with some cheese, cured meats and crackers is just perfect!
Yes, we’re cheating and fitting three varieties into one here! But we’ve grouped them together as they’re all Italian and are becoming more and more common in Australia. There are great imported versions, which you can pick up quite cheaply at a bottle shop. The King Valley in Victoria is the home to Italian varietals, so there are some fantastic wines being produced locally. These wines tend to be lighter in body with a good savoury kick. They’re also great food wines, so get your pizza, pasta or antipasto and enjoy good food, good wine and great company!
For summer drinking, these grapes also make fantastic Rosés. Make sure you look out for them. Dry and savoury, they are perfect on a hot summer’s day.
Malbec is the red wine from Argentina, particularly Mendoza. It originated in Cahors in France, where it is still grown, but with declining popularity. It isn’t really grown in Australia, although there are small plantings in the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Heathcote.
Malbec is a delicious full bodied, inky wine with beautiful plum, blackberry and some rustic tannins.
Argentinians love their meat, so match Malbec with your next BBQ. All that slightly charred lamb and beef will be a perfect combination with the bold fruit and strong tannins.
Durif is a big, bold red wine grown predominantly in Rutherglen in Victoria. There are small amounts in other hot, dry regions, but Central Victoria is the home of this variety.
The dark coloured wines have good acidity and tannins and lovely plum, blueberry and spice flavours. Like many other red wines grown in hot climates, they match perfectly with red meats. A big, bold wine certainly needs big food flavours.
Zinfandel, or Primitivo, is one of the main grape varieties from California. Typically, it makes big, alcoholic wines with strong blackberry and pepper flavours.
Australia makes very small amount of Zinfandel in Western Australia, Mudgee and McLaren Vale. Our wines tend not to be quite as big as the American sort, but are still flavour bombs. As a good alternative to Barossa Shiraz, give Zinfandel a go with roast beef or a nice big steak.
Be adventurous with your wine drinking and seek out new styles and varieties. There is a whole world of food and wine matches just waiting to be discovered.