With the kids back in school, parents now have time to take a course of their own. Call it “Expanding Your Wine Palate 101.” It’s more fun than algebra.
Here’s what you do: Assemble a few friends, go to a good wine shop, and buy a 12-bottle case of varied wines. Demand the customary 10 percent full-case discount.
Don’t buy merlot or chardonnay. You’ve tried them. Make each wine one you’ve never had before. Read up on them via Google and winery websites, paying attention to the foods they go well with. As a final exam, throw a party to taste them with some of those foods. Take notes.
Wow. In a week you know a dozen new wines. And you’ve experienced what I believe is the greatest joy of wine — tasting something new, even if it turns out you don’t like it.
Here’s a course syllabus. Feel free to add to and subtract from it.
▪ 2011 Coltibuono Chianti Classico “Selezione RS” DOCG, Italy (sangiovese): The Italian wine for everything from pizza to pasta to steaks, with flavors of tart cherries and black coffee; $15.
▪ 2011 Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud DO, Spain: In Spain’s hot, dry Aragon region garnacha matures into deeply colored wine redolent of oak, black raspberries and licorice, good with roasted meat; $14.
▪ 2011 “Ghiaia Nera” by Tascanate Estate, Sicilia I.G.T. (nerello mascalese): Grown on the slopes of the Etna volcano, these traditional red grapes make a hearty, dark-red wine with flavors of black cherries and licorice, pairing well with rich lasagna and roasted vegetables; $20.
▪ 2008 Santa Rita Medalla Real Carménère, Colchagua Valley, Chile: One hundred years ago this grape was imported from France to Chile, interplanted with merlot, and forgotten. About 20 years ago, growers rediscovered it and decided it was even better than merlot. Serve with steak or wild game; $20.
▪ 2013 Abellio Albariño, by Rectoral do Umia, DO Rias Baixas, Spain: Called Spain’s finest white wine, it’s crisp and lively, with aromas and flavors of peaches and lime. Drink it with North Atlantic seafood; $12.
▪ 2011 Quinta de Roriz Prazo de Roriz Douro DOC, Portugal: Made of tinta barroca, touriga nacional and other grapes typically used to make port, this is a hearty, complex wine tasting of black plums, mint and spice, good with big red meats; $16.
▪ 2013 McManis Family Viognier (pictured), River Junction, California: Born in France’s Rhône Valley, this white wine is rich and full-bodied and so fruity it almost seems sweet; great with spicy Asian fare; $11.
▪ 2009 Antaño Rioja Reserva (tempranillo, graciano, mazuelo and garnacha): Spain’s most-famous red wine, it has aromas and flavors of black plums and vanilla, maturing into leather with age; drink it with lamb and other light red meats; $14.
▪ 2012 Scaia Garganega/Chardonnay, by Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Veneto I.G.T., Italy: Made by a famous Italian valpolicella producer, it has aromas of white flowers and citrus blossoms and flavors of apples and pears — good with pasta with white sauce, vegetable risottos and such; $11.
▪ 2012 “Macrina” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy (verdicchio): This dry white wine from the Marche region on Italy’s Adriatic coast is ripe and fruity, with aromas and flavors of peaches and mangos — a good seafood wine; $14.
▪ 2012 Hugel Gentil, Alsace, France (pinot gris, pinot blanc, riesling, sylvaner and gewürztraminer): This blends five popular Alsatian grapes into a white wine that is dry, intensely fruity and light-bodied, great for sipping by itself or with seafood; $15.
▪ 2011 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (sangiovese grape): The world’s most elegantly named wine, it translates as “noble wine of Montepulciano,” the Tuscan city — aromas of violets, flavors of black plums, minerals and herbs, a great wine for the herb-scented Italian steak called Bistecca Fiorentina; $30.