I’m sitting on my 6-year-old’s bed playing with his Magic 8-Ball.
“Will we go back to normal in 2021?” Don’t count on it.
“Will I be able to finally get a pedicure?” Cannot predict now.
“Travelling?? Will we be able to, like, go somewhere??” Better not tell you now.
“Ugh. Well, F -you, Magic 8-Ball.” Now I remember why I never liked this toy when I was young.
Here we are, approaching a new year, a time when we’re supposed to be full of hope and dreams and resolutions for the future. And yet we’re in a time when hope feels like a luxury.
I’ve spent the past 10 months escorting everyone on a virtual wine journey. We can’t actually go anywhere, so it was a nice sentiment that we could explore the world through wine and food. Without the ability to travel, this was quite literally as good as it gets.
So, because I don’t have an actual crystal ball, and I can’t predict what the next 12 months will look like, I decided to share with you my 2021 wine-passport itinerary. Buckle up; hold on; and take a look at the places we’ll (sort of) go!
Oh, Sicily! How you have enchanted me. I have tasted so many wines from your sun-soaked island that I’m officially hooked. You are so much more than just Nero d’Avola. The Passopisciaro Rosso is an untamed, wild beast in your glass. Made from 100 percent Nerello Mascalese, this brooding red is strong and powerful with a subtle grace and elegance. Juicy and smooth, this wine is full of pomegranates, blood oranges and crushed raspberries. You might even pick up notes of dark chocolate and tobacco. The point is: This is one layered wine that will continue to delight and surprise you. We’re not talking about the COVID kind of surprises, but the good kind that make you smile. Remember smiling? Yeah … you got this.
Tasca d’Almerita Grillo is a silky, stone-fruit-laden white from the sunny shores of San Pietro Sicily. This brilliant wine offers aromas of white peaches, tangy apricots and tropical pineapple. Get out the sunscreen, because this wine will make you feel like you’re on a vacation, no matter where you are.
Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria, you are the golden hammer. Everyone loves you! A blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, you so beautifully encompass what makes this region so divine. Fresh and summery fruits are married with dark and savory notes of herbs and spices. Chilled down just a touch, you are the perfect wine to go from patio to pot roast. Le sigh …
From one side of Europe to the other, our travels now take us to France.
I’ve got my eye on the wines of the Loire Valley like never before. I’ve always loved the crisp and vibrant Chenin Blancs from the well-known region of Vouvray, but I’ve discovered a tiny area that produces Chenin Blancs that taste like lightning in a bottle! The electric wines of the Jasnieres region are so alive with energy that you’ll forget about those long, dark days of 2020. Pascal Janvier makes a Chenin Blanc from this tiny region that is laced with beautiful notes of wet stone, tart lemon zest and fragrant jasmine. It’s the ideal partner for that lobster feast that is long overdue.
Another region in the Loire Valley that is worth exploring is Chinon. This has always been a place of wonderous wines, but the Cabernet Franc made by Beatrice and Pascal Lambert will have you rethinking what you know about Cabernet Sauvignon’s daddy. Crunchy black fruit melds with fresh-picked blackberries, crisp blueberries and tart raspberries, along with a subtle yet lingering flavor of fresh fennel. This wine will make you want another glass … just to make sure your senses aren’t fooling you.
Canary Islands … who knew you even existed? Yet here we are, drinking your delicious wine. The Tajinaste Tinto is a revelation. One sip, and I knew I was tasting something special. Bright red fruits with a spicy and savory nose combine with hints of licorice and nutmeg, all tied up with a warm scent of worn leather. So heavenly.
Vinatigo Blanco comes from a grape called Listan Blanco and is cultivated and vinified by a professor of viticulture, fourth-generation grape-grower and all around wine smarty-pants named Juan Jesus. These white grapes are hand-harvested, sustainably farmed and minimally processed. The result? A wine that tastes as pure as the land that created it, full of pithy citrus, rich almond and vibrant florals. This is a must-stop on your wine-exploration list!
And finally, on to the Southern Hemisphere. Australia, we haven’t forgotten about you! The bone dry and vibrant Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier is a must for the white-wine lover who thinks they don’t like the rich styles of Viognier from France. The zippy and fresh flavors of key limes, kumquats and nectarines are just heavenly. All this from one of the benchmark estates in Australia; throw a skewer of shrimp on the barbie, and it’s just like you’re there … OK, not really, but just work with me.
Finally, the Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Shiraz from Heathcote is just the thing to wrap up your wine travels. It’s a focused and complex Shiraz that isn’t jammy or syrupy that you can easily pair with a steak or ribs. Loads of flavors and a long, long finish mean this is a wine that will not go quietly into the night—but rather a wine that will accompany memories and laughter and stories shared by the glasses that clink to them.
Here’s to 2021. Here’s to adventures and travels and stories. I lift my glass to love and family and togetherness. I pray for normalcy and happiness and prosperity. Cheers to you and yours.
Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with two decades in the wine industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.