January is for fresh starts. Clean slates. New beginnings. It’s an opportunity to embrace a new routine—and a time to try some new wines. Never have there been so many interesting wine frontiers to explore, from varietals and regions to producers and production methods.
We checked in with Baton Rouge-based Level 2 Certified Sommelier Scott Higgins for a few suggestions on what to drink this month, as cooler temperatures and social distancing call for more cozy eating and drinking at home. Look for these at Calandro’s Supermarket on Perkins Road.
Gen del Alma
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
You may recognize the varietal chenin blanc, but you might not have tried one from Argentina’s Uco Valley, where 3,300-foot elevation creates the right conditions for this Old World grape. Produced by respected winemakers Andrea Mufatto and Gerardo Michelini, Gen del Alma’s whimsically named JiJiJi (he-he-he) series gives you an affordable white wine from a high quality producer. “It maintains bright citrus fruits, orange blossom aromas, a touch of cardamom and a finish that’s salty and bright,” Higgins says. “And at $17, it’s an absolute steal.”
Pair it with: Goat cheese; fish with light cream sauce; and risotto with mushrooms and saffron.
“The Monograph lineup from winemaker GAI’A is an affordable, younger series of wines from an amazing winery that has won every major award for Greek wine,” Higgins says. “These guys make absolutely stunning wines.” About the tricky-to-pronounce grape, Agiorgitiko (ah-your-YEE-tee-koh), think merlot, but with more herbaceousness. Higgins says it’s full-bodied with currants, Asian plum sauce, smooth tannins and subtle herbs. “A great one to keep on hand as we move into winter.”
Pair it with: Aged or triple cream cheeses; roast duck with berries or orange glaze; and grilled steak.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
What’s the new hot place for wines? The Canary Islands, according to Higgins. “Some of the most exciting wines coming out of Spain are produced here,” he says. “This is old-fashioned wine making, everything by hand, no chemicals in the land or the wine.” The grape, Listán Prieto, has been grown in Spain for centuries and was brought to the New World by Spanish explorers and grown on the grounds of Spanish missions. It’s sometimes referred to as the mission grape. “My best description for Benje would be alive,” Higgins says. “It dances and transforms over time in your glass. A beautiful wine from a region you will definitely be hearing a lot about over the next two years.”
Pair it with: An older manchego, or another big nutty Spanish cheese; lamb stew with herbs and crusty bread
This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue of 225 magazine.