Leap Year Wines

5 ways to make the most of your extra day!


You have an extra day, what will you celebrate with?

I've given his some thought. My first idea was to recommend all Extra Dry and Extra Brut sparkling wines. Somewhat confusingly, Extra Brut is really dry Champagne while Extra Dry is less dry Champagne. Sweet Louis! We only have a single day to talk about this, and it comes every four years, so let’s scrap that idea!

Instead, consider this: when you're shopping for wine from a certain country, is there one specific wine you're missing? One extra wine that can round out your impression of that country? You bet your sweet bippy there is. So check this out, the extra wines you shouldn't miss when exploring!

Photo courtesy lowjumpingfrog via Flickr/CC


We all know about Bordeaux, Burgundy and even the Rhône Valley, so what's left in France to discover? A lot actually, from Poulsard to Pineau d'Aunis. One of my favorite obscure wines from France is Fer Servadou. You are not going to find bottles labeled Fer, but if you explore Marcillac and Gaillac you will come across this red variety. When you do, expect to be seduced!

Fer makes somewhat rustic wines, and lovely rosé, which show off the grapes’ dark berry fruit, supported by rather refreshing acidity and moderate if rustic tannins. It is a great country table wine and one that loves food, so don't be shy and say hello to Fer Servadou!

Photo courtesy degenouillac.com


Italy is an even easier country to find that one extra wine, or is it? With so many varieties of grapes, it can seem safer to stick to the ones you know: Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto for example. But you'll be missing some of the greatest wines and values that Italy has to offer. I could make this easy on myself and suggest some of the wines that I frequently talk about, but there is one grape that struggles for traction and always makes me want to take a closer look.

That grape is Nero di Troia, a little ditty from down Puglia way that can express wonderful wild berry tones over savory herb and vivid floral tones. It's another wine that may not wow you at a tasting, but really excels at the dinner table.


We've been all over Spain recently talking about Rioja and Ribera, but what about other regions? It's a big country, don't you think other wines are produced there? Indeed they are and some are real stunners. While one of the wine underground's favorites is making moves at becoming mainstream, it continues to be delicious.

Mencia, from Bierzo, is a lovely wine. It is lean yet full of flavor, with crunchy berries, bright acids and mineral notes all combining with a touch of herb on the palate. Yes, this wine works wonders with food, but it also has a decidedly gluggable side as well. Simply put, it's a fun and delicious wine that really deserves some extra attention.


Australia is the first country to have fallen victim to the one country - one grape association. If I say Australia, you say Shiraz. If I say Shiraz, you say Australia. Is that really all there is? You know it's not since you've probably stumbled across several other Australian options like Cabernet, Chardonnay and the Grenache-based blends. You might have even passed all these by thinking that they must be like all other Australian wines, big and oaky, though not saying that all other Australian wines are big and oaky, of course!

Do you want a superb surprise from Australia? You'll have to look past the prejudices and check out Australia's extraordinary Riesling. Yes, you read that right. One more assumption you need to discard is that Riesling is a sweet wine, because while Australian Rieslings are sweet, they are also super dry. These are clean, refreshing, snappy sapid wines that seem almost designed to destroy stereotype ideas about wine. Enjoy them with seafood, salads, or even on their own as the weather warms!

Photo courtesy Mike the Mountain via Flickr/CC


California is not really full of surprises and if I were really going to try to be tricky, I would make you search for the one Abouriou that always seems to make an appearance at wine geek feasts, but I'm going to play nice and let you in on a little secret. There is a fair amount of one grape grown in California, perhaps less than in the past, that seems ideally suited not only to the climate, but to California's style of wine making.

One grape that I almost always say I should be drinking more of. What is it? Well you might not be surprised to find out it's Barbera! Yes, that Piedmontese stalwart is a child all grown up on the West Coast, and it can be beautiful. Because of the West Coast's climate, Barbera tends to be significantly fruitier here than in Italy, with softer acidity, though Barbera's acidity can never really be tamed. All the richness of fruit and soft tannins mean that California Barbera can better handle the new oak that producers tend to want to robe it in. Here it tends to work more often than not, producing some sumptuous results.

Photo courtesy star5112 via Flickr/CC

Want to Learn More?

Check out reviews of another great wine region's hidden gem in Top 20 New Zealand Chardonnays!

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  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    Nice to hear that you recommend exploring Marcillac and Gaillac wines. I'd even go so far as to say that if you're not an expert, stay away from Bordeaux, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône. You find better values and better wines for the American palate in Bergerac, Madiran, Faugères, St-Chinian, Fitou, Corbières, or VdP from Côtes de Thongue or the new Pézenas appellation.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    An interesting observation. Thanks for sharing. I love Fer, and do see the wines as being very easy to like, but I think people will continue to gravitate towards Chateauneuf and the like!

    Mar 04, 2012 at 10:31 AM

  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    Gregory, I'm sure you're right ... most people will keep knowing only the already famous names. But I'm glad every time influential guys like you write about lesser known appellations or regions that are worth discovering. I'm sure a few people will get intrigued and want to learn more.
    The problem with Languedoc and the South-West is of course the immense diversity, which makes these regions difficult to get a grip on, even when living here. Different soils, different grape varieties, different micro-climates, old family wineries and young, hungry, creative winemakers. But that also makes the wine scene very exciting here.

    Mar 04, 2012 at 5:09 PM

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