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Exotic Wine Varietals: Exploring Unfamiliar Terroirs

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Good wine and delicious meals are a perfect match! Whether you serve unique seafood dishes, focus on different types of pasta, or your specialty is a high-quality steak - you need to have a well-curated wine list

From wine by the glass to bottled wine from all over the world to frozen wine options, you have a lot of planning to do when creating your beverage program and building your restaurant beverage inventory. Previously, we’ve talked about cheap wines, canned wines, private label wines, low-alcoholic wines, non-alcoholic wines, vegan wines, and so many more. We also have articles on CBD wine and wine cocktails. But now is the time to talk about exotic wine varietals. 

What do exotic wine varietals mean? The details provided below will help you build an even better wine list for your restaurant.

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What Are Wine Varietals?

When we are talking about wine, varietal is a term that’s used to refer to a type of grape. Wine is either a blend of many different grape types or its a single-varietal wine. The word variety is used when talking about the fruit (grapes) and the word varietal refers to the type of wine. 

A single-varietal wine has the characteristics of the grape it's made of and the terroir. However, wines that were made from a blend of different grapes can have various flavors and taste characteristics.

Key Takeaway: There’s a large variety of exotic wines that would be a great addition to your restaurant wine list. They pair well with various foods and will make your restaurant stand out from the crowd.

What Are the Most Common Wine Varietals?

Although there’s a large number of grape varieties that are made into blends, there are plenty of single-varietal wines. Some grape types are most commonly used on their own, while other kids are put into blends. 

The most popular single-varietal wines are pinot noir, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot gris. 

How to Know If a Wine is Single-Varietal?

Labels on wine can be confusing, especially if you don’t know how to read between the lines. Wines can be put into two main categories - Old World and New World wines. The Old World wines typically list a region on their label or an appellation. These could be Bourgogne or Châteauneuf-du Pape. 

Wine from Bourgogne is most likely single-varietal wine of pinot noir. Red wine from Châteauneuf-du Pape is a blend of syrah, mourvèdre, cinsault, grenache, and possibly a few other varieties. It’s possible for the grapes to not be listed on the label of the bottle. 

New World wine, on the other hand, will most likely have the varietal listed on the front of the label - chenin blanc, chardonnay, or zinfandel. In case it’s a blend of different varieties, the name of the wine will probably be given by the winemaker. 

The labeling system is not as straightforward as consumers would want but when you have some knowledge of how wineries do it. If you are a business owner and you want to have a deeper knowledge of what wine you are buying - speak with the winery.

Read about the best wineries and see what they have to offer!

Exotic Wine Varietals: What Are These?

Now that we have talked about wine varietals and blends, it’s time to discuss some exotic wines. These wines are made of grape varieties that are not that popular. They have unique aromas, flavors, and characteristics. Here are some exotic wine varietals that wine enthusiasts will appreciate seeing at your restaurant: 

1. Tannat

Tannat originated in the Basque region and it’s known for its robust tannins (see: what are tannins in wine) and dark fruit flavors. It’s used to make full-bodied red wine types that have a lot of aging potential. Tannat wines pair well with hearty dishes. 

2. Albariño

Albariño is a type of white grape from the Galicia region in Spain. It’s known for its high acidity, citrus notes, and slight hint of salinity. It’s perfect for seafood pairings and has an aromatic and crisp profile. 

3. Vermentino

Vermentino is found mostly in France and Italy, where it's actually known as Rolle. It's a white grape variety, used to produce wines with floral aromas, bright acidity, and flavors ranging from citrus to stone fruit. 

4. Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner produces wines with a unique combination of peppery spice, green apples, and white pepper notes. It’s a variety of white grapes from Australia. It can be used to produce light and crisp wines, as well as more complex and age-worthy kinds. 

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5. Aglianico

Coming from southern Italy, Aglianico is a red grape variety that is used to make bold wines. It brings flavors like earth, dark berries, and even a touch of smoke. The Aglianico wines are well-known for their aging potential. They match perfectly with hearty dishes. 

6. Carménère

This grape variety was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in Chile. It’s known for its deep color, as well as the flavor of black and red fruit and spicy undertones. Many people compare it to Merlot but it has its own unique character. 

7. Xinomavro

It’s a Greek grape variety that’s used to produce wines with tannins and high acidity. It’s often described as having a flavor of tomato and dark fruit, as well as Mediterranean herbs. This type of grape is used to make different varieties of wine, including red and rosé wines.

8. Saperavi

Native to the country of Georgia, Saperavi is a dark red grape that’s used to produce full-bodied wines. It’s commonly used in traditional Georgian winemaking. There, the method that’s been used is fermentation with the grape skin and stems. 

9. Nero d'Avola

Local to Sicily, Nero d’Avola is a red grape used to make exotic wines with ripe red fruit flavors and herbal undertones. Over the years, it has become a symbol of the Sicilian wine production. 

10. Mencía

This grape grows in the northwestern parts of Spain, mostly in Bierzo. Mencía is a type of red grape. It’s used to make wines with floral aromas, red fruit flavors, and a distinct mineral character. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Exotic Wine 

If you are interested to learn more about exotic wins, don’t miss this section of frequently asked questions and their answers!

Where Can I Find Exotic Wine? 

You can find exotic wine in specialty wine shops and restaurants with extensive wine lists. If you are a restaurant owner, however, you should look for wineries that produce such types and can supply you with enough bottles.  

Is Exotic Wine More Expensive?

The price of exotic wine can vary greatly. Some exotic wines are more expensive, while others can be on the most affordable side. Pricing depends on the type of grapes, where the wine is produced, and the winemakers. You can explore different options to find wines that are within your budget. 

Can Exotic Wine be Aged?

Some exotic wines can be aged, especially if you are storing wine the right way. It depends on the grapes that were being used and the winemaking techniques. 

What Qualifies as an Exotic Wine?

Exotic wines are typically those produced in lesser-known or non-traditional wine regions, using grape varieties or winemaking techniques that are uncommon or unique. These wines often offer distinctive flavors, aromas, and characteristics that set them apart from more mainstream wines.

Are There Any Emerging Trends in the World of Exotic Wines?

The trends include the rise of natural and minimal-intervention winemaking practices, increased focus on sustainability and organic viticulture, and the exploration of new grape varieties and wine styles. Additionally, wine producers from emerging regions are gaining recognition for their innovative approaches and quality-driven wines, contributing to the diversification of the global wine market.

How Can I Learn More about Exotic Wines and Discover New Favorites?

To learn more about exotic wines, consider joining a wine club or subscription service that specializes in unique and boutique wines from around the world. Attend wine tastings, events, and workshops focused on exotic wines, where you can sample a variety of styles and learn from knowledgeable experts. Exploring wine regions off the beaten path through travel and wine tourism can also provide valuable insights and firsthand experiences with exotic wines.

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