Stumped on New Wines to Try? Here’s How to Get Out of a Wine Rut

how to get out of a wine rut

When you’re in a wine rut, every bottle starts to taste the same, and you quickly grow bored of your collection. Photo Credit: Pixabay CC user Idearriba

It happens to me all the time: I get obsessed with a new varietal, and I buy so much of it that I dig myself into a wine rut. That succulent Australian Syrah I tried last year might put me down the path of Mollydooker, then Torbreck, then Penfolds, and before I realize what’s happening, my cellar is fit to burst with Syrah. I’ll drink the same rich, deep purple wines over and over, even as my palate begs for something new, and I start to grow bored with my own collection. Getting into a wine rut is easy, but getting out requires willpower, patience, and a flight of new wines to try. Here’s the fastest way to get out of a wine rut and save your cellar from mediocrity.

Preventing the Wine Rut in the First Place

If you simply love California Cabernet, there’s nothing wrong with buying dozens of bottles for your cellar, however, you risk getting bored with your collection later. A diverse wine cellar will offer you more investment options, which will lead to better returns, and it’s also a safer investment style. For instance, in California, jammy, fruit-forward wines are falling out of style; if your entire cellar consists of this style of wine, you might find it difficult to resell the bottles to collectors later. You may also find yourself less interested in drinking these kinds of wines as time goes on.

The best way out of a wine rut is to avoid getting yourself into one. I recommend buying only enough wine that you know you can easily drink or resell, and limiting yourself to a bottle budget for each vintage, varietal, producer, or region. For instance, if you discover that you love New World Pinot Noir, limit yourself to just one case from two different kinds of producers. That leaves you with 24 bottles to drink or sell, and plenty of extra room to invest in new wine varietals that you discover later. When you force yourself to buy a little less wine than you might otherwise buy, you’ll always be thirsty for more.

Use Your Obsession As a Springboard

While taking steps to prevent a wine rut can be effective, it won’t help you if you’re already in the midst of one. Your first step to getting out is to identify which wine (or wines) you’re currently stuck on, and list out the qualities that you like (or don’t like) about each one. Sometimes, wine boredom stems from collectors being spoiled for choice. When you walk into a wine shop, it’s easy to go for your usual tried-and-true vintages because you know what you’re getting. By identifying why you find these bottles comforting, you can find new bottles that share some of those characteristics while being different enough to jog you out of your rut.  

I witnessed this phenomenon first-hand with my sister-in-law. She was in love with Argentinian Malbec, and for almost a year, that’s the only style of wine she would drink. Over the past few months, she confessed to me that she just didn’t feel passionate about wine anymore. I suspected that she had simply grown tired of Malbec, not wine as a whole, so I introduced her to a few new Tempranillo and Port vintages. I thought that the spice of the Tempranillo might match the spice she loved in Malbec, while the sweetness of the Port might mimic some of the sweetness she enjoyed in Argentina’s late harvest wines. My suspicions were correct, and my sister-in-law seems to have rediscovered her love of wine.

New Wine Vintages to Try Based on Your Current Loves

After you list out what you enjoy about your go-to wines, locate those qualities on the list below and try a few versions of the wine listed across from it. Alternatively, if you can only think of qualities you dislike, choose the opposite wine in parentheses.

New World Cabernet Sauvignon

Flavor/Aroma Quality
Fruity

Alcoholic

What to Try Instead
Zinfandel (opposite: savory Burgundy Pinot Noir)

Shiraz (opposite: light Bordeaux)

 

White Burgundy

Flavor/Aroma Quality

Toasted new oak

Fresh apple

What to Try Instead

Australian Chardonnay (opposite: crisp Sauvignon Blanc)

Chenin Blanc (opposite: savory Rioja Blanco)

 

Red Bordeaux

Flavor/Aroma Quality
Dark fruit

Firm tannins

What to Try Instead
Petite Syrah (opposite: cranberry-like St. Laurent)

Barolo (opposite: low-tannin Sangiovese)

 

Syrah

Flavor/Aroma Quality
Full-bodied

Sweet, dark fruit

What to Try Instead
Merlot (opposite: light Gamay)

Malbec (opposite: tart, strawberry-like Zweigelt)

 

Brut Champagne

Flavor/Aroma Quality
Toasted almonds

Light stone fruits

What to Try Instead
High-end Cremant de Bourgogne (opposite: crisp Prosecco)

Cava (opposite: darker Lambrusco)

The list above offers alternatives for the wines that collectors buy frequently, and are the most likely causes of wine ruts. If you don’t see your wine on the list, make your own detailed tasting notes about which flavors or aromas you enjoy (or hate) and research the wines that share those characteristics (or their opposites).

The goal is to drive yourself out of your comfort zone without going too far in the opposite direction of your favorite wines. You want to pique your palate’s interest, remembering how it felt to try a brand new wine for the first time. No matter how long you’ve been in a rut, doing these exercises will revitalize your collection and your palate and remind you why you spend so much of your time in your cellar.

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