Five Summer-Ready Varietals You've (Probably) Never Heard Of
It wasn’t long ago that rosés were synonymous with tacky suburban pool parties, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything besides sauvignon blanc to satisfy a craving for something crisp when the temperature crept up. Lucky for us, we live in a place where wine lists and refrigerator cases citywide embrace diversity when it comes to white varietals, rosés, and even sparkling reds. Next time you’re stocking up for a Dolores Park picnic, look out for these addictive oddities on the summer wine spectrum.
From Italy’s Piemonte region, this red grape makes a sweet, fizzy, plum-colored dessert wine, with flavors like maraschino cherry, stone fruit, and apple pie, that doubles as a great picnic accompaniment.
Taste it: Try Gagliardo’s 2012 Villa M with cherry soda sweetness ($8.50 glass) at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (Embarcadero) and the equally fruity 2011 Birbet from Cas-cina Ca’ Rossa ($10 glass) at Perbacco (FiDi).
Named for the Friuli region of northern Italy, this varietal was, until recently, commonly known as Tocai Friulano (it proved too similar-sounding to Hungary’s sweet Tokaji wines). Friulanos tend to be bright, floral, and food-friendly with lemony acid.
Taste it: Try Healdsburg’s Folk Machine Friulano (pictured, $12 bottle), with crisp lime and pineapple notes, at Arlequin Wine Merchant (Hayes Valley).
Native to Central and Eastern Europe, this grape makes crisp, sometimes mineral-y whites with floral notes and tons of personality.
Taste it: Epic Roasthouse (Embarcadero) has the easy-drinking, apple-tart 2011 Verus from Slovenia by the glass ($13). Or pick up Hungary’s terrific Kiralyudvar Tkaji Furmint Sec ($25 bottle), with balanced acidity and honey-jasmine complexity, from Bi-Rite (Mission).
A distinct, lightly herbal, highly aromatic grape from Greece, malagousia was almost extinct until a single Greek winemaker revived it a few decades ago.
Another dry but floral easy drinker, this rare French grape has been gaining a cult following among local sommeliers through experimental batches by small California producers.
Taste it: RN74 (SoMa) serves Wind Gap’s Fanucchi Trousseau Gris ($12 glass) with peach, bright citrus, and mineral layers. And winemaker Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope (Napa) came out with a micro-batch in June as well (price not available at press time).
This article was published in 7x7's July/August issue. Click here to subscribe.