In the vast and intriguing world of wine, names like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon often overshadow the rich tapestry of lesser-known varietals. With their iconic tastes and widespread availability, these celebrated wines have undeniably carved out a massive space in the global wine scene. However, this is a small sip of what the wine world offers. 

As wine enthusiasts, there’s an unmatched thrill in venturing off the well-trodden path, exploring unique flavours and introducing our palates to novel experiences. Beyond the familiar terrains of Chardonnay and Cabernet lie wine treasures begging to be uncorked. 

So, if you’re curious and eager to broaden your wine horizons, join us on this exciting journey as we delve into the delightful realm of unusual wine varietals, you absolutely must try. Cheers to discovery!

Wine Varietals

What are Wine Varietals?

When discussing wines, we often hear names like Merlot, Shiraz, or Pinot Noir. These names, often confused with wine brands, are wine varietals. Essentially, a wine varietal refers to the grape variety used to produce the wine. For instance, a Chardonnay bottle is made predominantly from the Chardonnay grape.

The choice of grape plays a pivotal role in determining the wine’s flavour, aroma, and character. Each grape variety, nurtured in specific climates and soils, possesses its unique profile. As a result, wines produced from different varietals can offer a multitude of taste experiences, even if they originate from the same region.

Diversifying your wine palette is akin to a gastronome sampling diverse cuisines from around the world. Just as you wouldn’t limit your culinary adventures to just one type of cuisine, limiting yourself to a handful of popular wine varietals would mean missing out on the multifaceted universe of flavours, aromas, and stories that wines from around the world bring to the table.

Whites Beyond Chardonnay


Origin and Primary Regions: Often associated with the coastal regions of Spain and Portugal, Albariño finds its most famous expressions in Spain’s Rías Baixas. The maritime climate of this region, with its cool breezes and ample sunshine, creates the perfect environment for this grape to flourish.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Albariño wines are known for their refreshing acidity, making them perfect for warm days. They often have a profile reminiscent of ripe citrus fruits, with nuances of peaches or apricots and sometimes even a subtle saline or mineral note reminiscent of the sea. Pairing Albariño with seafood, especially dishes like grilled octopus or steamed mussels, is a match made in heaven.


Origin and Primary Regions: Picpoul, sometimes known as “Piquepoul,” has its roots in the Languedoc region of southern France, specifically in the Picpoul de Pinet appellation.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Picpoul wines are invigorating, with high acidity and crisp notes. They typically carry flavours of green apple, citrus, and sometimes hints of white flowers. Given its zesty nature, it pairs wonderfully with seafood, notably oysters and other shellfish, and even with light salads or goat cheese.

Grüner Veltliner

Origin and Primary Regions: Austria takes pride in Grüner Veltliner, its flagship white grape. This varietal covers a significant part of the country’s vineyards, especially in regions like Wachau, Kamptal, and Kremstal.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Grüner Veltliner wines are versatile, ranging from light and easy-drinking to rich and full-bodied. Common tasting notes include green apple, white pepper, and sometimes hints of herbal qualities. Its characteristic white pepper note is especially distinctive. When it comes to food pairings, think of dishes like wiener schnitzel, spicy Asian cuisine, or even a simple green salad. The wine’s peppery kick complements a variety of flavours.


Origin and Primary Regions: With origins tracing back to the Alto Adige region of Italy and the Alsace region of France, Gewürztraminer is a grape with a distinct personality. Today, it’s cultivated in various parts of the world, including the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, but Alsace remains its most iconic region.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: The very name “Gewürz” means “spice” in German, and rightfully so. This wine varietal is aromatic, with lychee, rose, and sometimes ginger or cinnamon notes. It can range from dry to sweet on the palate, making it incredibly versatile. Pairing this varietal can be a fun experiment. It works wonders with spicy dishes, like Thai or Indian cuisines, and even with strong cheeses or pâtés.

Reds Beyond Cabernet


Origin and Primary Regions: Tannat originated in the Madiran region of Southwest France. Over time, it’s a grape that found a second home in Uruguay, where it now flourishes and is considered the country’s national grape.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: As the name might suggest, Tannat wines are notably tannic. They offer rich, full-bodied experiences with flavours of dark fruits like blackberries and cherries, often complemented by hints of chocolate or coffee. Given its robust nature, Tannat pairs well with hearty dishes. Think grilled meats, rich stews, and strong cheeses.


Origin and Primary Regions: Nebbiolo is the pride of the Piedmont region in Northwestern Italy, especially known for producing the revered Barolo and Barbaresco wines.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Nebbiolo wines are characterised by their firm tannins and high acidity, creating a powerful taste profile. They often exhibit flavours of cherries, roses, and sometimes tar. These wines pair best with equally rich foods, such as truffle-based dishes, braised meats, and aged cheeses.

Petit Verdot

Origin and Primary Regions: This grape has its roots in the Bordeaux region of France, where it is often used as a blending grape to add structure and colour to Bordeaux blends.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Petit Verdot wines are intense, with flavours of dark fruits, violets, and sometimes even leather. Given its strong profile, it pairs beautifully with grilled meats, especially lamb, and dishes with a smoky undertone.


Origin and Primary Regions: Originally from Bordeaux, Carménère found its true calling in the vineyards of Chile, where it’s now a flagship varietal.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Carménère wines are medium-bodied and often have flavours of red fruits, spices, and sometimes a distinctive green bell pepper note. They pair well with various foods, from grilled vegetables to lighter meats and pasta dishes.

Sparkling and Sweet Varietals to Explore

Lambrusco (Sparkling Red)

Origin and Primary Regions: Lambrusco hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It’s one of the few red grapes that are used to produce sparkling wines.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Lambrusco wines are bubbly, fruity, and can range from dry to sweet. They exhibit flavours of berries, cherries, and sometimes hints of violet. The enthusiasm and fruitiness of Lambrusco make it a perfect pairing for a variety of foods, from charcuterie boards to pizza and even some desserts.

Torrontés (Sweet White)

Origin and Primary Regions: Torrontés is synonymous with Argentina, especially regions like Salta, La Rioja, and Mendoza.

Tasting Notes and Pairings: Torrontés wines are aromatic, boasting notes of citrus, peach, and white flowers. While often dry, their aromatic nature gives them a perceived sweetness. These wines are a match made in heaven for spicy Asian dishes, particularly Thai and Indian cuisine, as they beautifully balance and complement the heat.

Wine Varietals

Why Explore Unusual Varietals?

Diversity is the spice of life. This adage holds particularly true in the realm of wines. While the allure of the well-known is comforting, the thrill of discovery lies in venturing beyond the known boundaries.

Broadening the Palate and Wine Experiences: Like an artist exploring different mediums and techniques, wine enthusiasts should diversify their experiences. Tasting unusual varietals introduces our palate to a spectrum of flavours and aromas we might never have encountered before. It challenges our taste buds, making the wine journey ever-evolving and exciting.

Supporting Smaller Vineyards and Unique Wine-Producing Regions: Many lesser-known varietals come from smaller vineyards, often run by families nurturing their vines for generations. We indirectly support these artisans and their rich traditions by exploring these wines. It also brings attention and economic support to unique wine-producing regions that the more prominent ones may otherwise overshadow.

Tips for Exploring New Wine Varietals

Start with Wine Tastings or Flights: One of the best ways to introduce yourself to new wines is by attending tastings. Many wine bars and restaurants offer flights—small servings of several wines—which allow you to compare and contrast different varietals without committing to a full bottle.

Join a Wine Club Focused on Lesser-Known Varietals: Numerous wine clubs today cater to enthusiasts looking to expand their horizons. You can receive a curated selection of unique wines at your doorstep by joining one.

Travel to Lesser-Known Wine Regions: There’s nothing like experiencing wine right at its source. Consider planning your next holiday to an off-the-beaten-path wine region. Not only will you get to taste fantastic wines, but you’ll also immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.

Ask Sommeliers or Local Wine Shops for Recommendations: Sommeliers undergo extensive training and have a vast knowledge of wines, including the hidden gems. Similarly, local wine shop owners often have a pulse on the up-and-coming varietals and can guide you based on your preferences.

Every bottle of wine holds a story—a tale of the land, the climate, the people who nurtured it, and the traditions that shaped it. As you uncork a bottle of an unfamiliar varietal, you’re not just tasting wine but sipping on history, culture, and passion. The thrill of discovering a new favourite, sharing it with loved ones, and the ensuing stories are all integral to the wine-drinking experience. We encourage every wine enthusiast to step outside their comfort zone, challenge their palate, and wholeheartedly embrace the diverse, rich world of wines. After all, in diversity, there’s beauty and strength. Cheers to the road less travelled in the world of wines!

Wine collecting is not just about amassing bottles; it’s a journey of passion, knowledge, and sensory exploration. While for some, it begins with a simple admiration for a particularly captivating vintage, for others, it’s the allure of diving deep into the wine world’s history, craftsmanship, and diversity. Whether you’re taking your first steps into this realm or have already been bitten by the oenophile bug, building a personal wine cellar can be among the most rewarding. 

Imagine having a carefully curated collection at your fingertips, each bottle with its tale, waiting for the right moment to be uncorked. In this guide, we’ll journey through the art and science of collecting wine, sharing insights to help you foster and preserve your growing collection and ensuring that each sip is a testament to your dedication and love for this timeless beverage. So, let’s uncork the details!

Collecting Wine

Understanding the Basics of Wine Storage

Understanding some foundational principles is essential to maintaining wine quality and ageing potential when storing it. Here’s a dive into the basics:

  • The importance of temperature: Arguably the most crucial factor, the ideal temperature for storing wine typically ranges between 55°F to 58°F (13°C to 14°C). Consistency is key. Fluctuations can cause the wine to age prematurely, damaging its composition and flavours. A stable environment ensures that your wines mature gracefully over time.
  • Humidity and its role: Maintaining a 60-70% relative humidity level is advised. Humidity plays a pivotal role in preventing the cork from drying out. A dry cork can allow air into the bottle, leading to oxidation, ruining the wine’s flavours and aromas.
  • Light exposure: Wine and excessive light, especially direct sunlight, are not friends. UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine. That’s why tinted bottles are often used but can only provide limited protection. Thus, ensuring that your wines are stored in darkness or dimly lit conditions is imperative.
  • Significance of limited vibration: Constant movement can disturb the sediments in wine, particularly in reds, affecting its ageing process and overall quality. It’s essential to find a location where vibrations, whether from nearby appliances or external factors, are minimised.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Cellar

Selecting the perfect spot to house your collection can greatly influence its longevity:

  • Basements versus other areas: Basements are often favoured because of their naturally cool and stable environment, making them prime candidates for wine storage. They also tend to have limited light exposure and reduced vibration, enhancing their suitability.
  • Commercial wine storage facilities: These specialised facilities offer climate-controlled environments tailored for wine storage for those without the luxury of space or proper conditions at home. While they come with a cost, they also provide security, expert maintenance, and sometimes even insurance.
  • Transforming unused spaces: Not everyone has a basement or wishes to use commercial facilities. Creative solutions like converting closets, under-stair spaces, or even spare rooms into mini wine cellars can be just as effective with the right modifications.

The Essential Components of a Wine Cellar

Once you’ve chosen a location, it’s time to outfit it with the essentials:

  • Wine racks: Available in wood, metal, or even stone, racks come in various designs, from traditional to contemporary. The choice of material and design can influence aesthetics and functionality, ensuring optimal bottle positioning and air circulation.
  • Cooling systems: Passive systems rely on natural conditions, while active systems, like wine cellar refrigeration units, maintain precise temperatures and humidity levels. The choice between them largely depends on the natural conditions of your chosen location.
  • Insulation and vapour barriers: Proper insulation ensures that your cooling system runs efficiently, while vapour barriers prevent moisture issues, safeguarding both your wines and the structure of your cellar.
  • Monitoring systems: Investing in quality thermometers, hygrometers, and alarms can help you keep a constant check on conditions, alerting you to any discrepancies before they become problematic.

Curating Your Collection

Building your collection is an art in itself:

  • Setting clear goals: Are you collecting for investment, personal consumption, or a blend of both? Defining this can guide your purchasing decisions, ensuring you get the most out of your collection.
  • Diversifying your collection: Exploring wines from various regions, vintages, and varietals adds richness to your cellar. Each region and vintage offers unique characteristics, allowing for an expansive tasting experience.
  • Research and understanding: Familiarise yourself with wine values, ratings, and critics’ reviews. Knowledge can be your best asset, ensuring you make informed decisions whether you’re looking for undervalued gems or iconic classics.
  • Building relationships: Developing rapport with local wineries, distributors, and merchants can give you access to exclusive releases, discounts, and expert recommendations, enhancing the quality and value of your collection.

Record-Keeping and Organisation

A meticulously maintained wine collection deserves equally meticulous records.

  • Importance of tracking your collection: As collections grow, knowing what you have and where it’s located becomes vital. Tracking helps prevent wines from being overlooked and ageing past their prime.
  • Digital tools and apps: In our digital age, numerous apps cater to wine collectors, offering features like barcode scanning, virtual cellar layouts, and wine market values. These tools help manage collections and provide a wealth of information at your fingertips.
  • Labelling systems: Implementing a system, whether colour-coded tags or numbered labels, ensures easy identification, especially if you have a large collection.
  • Tasting notes and personal reflections: Beyond mere inventory, maintaining notes on taste profiles, ageing potential, and personal reflections add depth to your collection, making each bottle a unique experience.
Collecting Wine

Proper Maintenance of Your Collection

To ensure your wine’s longevity and taste:

  • Regularly checking storage conditions: Even with the best setups, periodic checks are crucial to identify and rectify any issues early.
  • Rotation of bottles: Some wines benefit from occasional rotation, ensuring even sediment distribution and ageing.
  • Handling bottles with care: Always hold a wine bottle by its base and ensure it’s not exposed to drastic temperature changes, which could cause spoilage.
  • Periodic updates: As wines are consumed or age, update your collection. This ensures you’re always aware of your stock and can make informed decisions on future purchases.

The Joy of Sharing and Enjoying Your Collection

A personal wine cellar isn’t just for solitary enjoyment:

  • Organising wine tasting sessions: Inviting friends and fellow collectors to share the joy. It’s a great way to exchange notes and discover new favourites.
  • Exploring wine pairing dinners: Craft dinners around your collection, experimenting with food and wine pairings for a gastronomic adventure.
  • Celebrating milestones: Birthdays, anniversaries, or personal achievements become even more special when toasted with a carefully aged bottle from your cellar.
  • Sharing the stories: Every bottle has a history. Sharing its origin, the reason for its purchase, or a special associated memory adds layers to the tasting experience.

Tips for the Aspiring Wine Collector

For those just dipping their toes:

  • Start small: Begin with a few bottles and expand as you learn. Quality always trumps quantity.
  • Attend wine tastings: There’s no better education than tasting widely. Local wineries, wine shops, and festivals often host events.
  • Seek advice and mentorship: Every collector was once a beginner. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek guidance from seasoned enthusiasts.
  • Trust your palate: While ratings and reviews are helpful, personal preference is paramount. Enjoy the discovery process and trust your taste.

Collecting wine is a beautiful blend of science, art, and personal journey. Each bottle, whether an affordable local find or a prized vintage, adds to the tapestry of experiences and stories. It’s a pursuit that rewards patience, curiosity, and a love for the finer things in life. As you delve into this world, remember to savour each moment, each taste, and every memory it evokes. Cheers to the art of collecting wine!