I fall into them all the time. I have a comfort zone and “go to” bottles from wineries I like and then one night I go down to my wine rack and nothing looks interesting. Or everything I have that looks interesting doesn’t really go with what I’m eating that night.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to get out of the rut:
1. Work Backwards Starting with the Wine. Pick a wine that you want to drink and make the meal that will go great with it.
2. Choose Two Wines by Location. Pick a white and red from a particular growing area — or even a particular vineyard — and connect to how they came from the same region. It stimulates the thought process about how similar soils or climate work their magic on both red and white varietals.
3. Find A Good Wine Shop and Ask Questions. If you’re lucky enough to have a great wine shop in your area, they will know their inventory. They also sample a lot of wine each week from various sources. I just tried a wine from Lebanon that was out of this world interesting (and relatively low alcohol for a red blend). I’d never heard of Txakolina until this summer. Suddenly, I’ve got a new type of wine from Basque country to add to my racks.
4. Join an Online Wine Group. Get insights from people who can pop with new ideas.
5. Take a Wines of the World or Tasting Class. Your local wine shops may offer evenings where they cover a particular region or wine varietal. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the history, geology, and climate of a particular area. And you get a nice sampling of the wines as well as a sense of what you might like. This is how I found out about Alsace Riesling, German Rieslings, and Vouvray. Wines that have now made it into my repertoire and are all great food wines.
6. Pick a Varietal and Try It Across Regions. Try a Cabernet from Walla Walla and compare it to one from Napa. See what happens to the varietal in Temecula. Compare it to Bordeaux. Look at alcohol levels. Maybe pick the same vintage. Play around.
7. Create a Vertical Tasting. This is a fancy way of saying you’re going to sample a single wine made by one winemaker from different vintage years. Be sure to try at least three–five or six, if possible. It’s the best way I can think of to see the nuances created by climactic conditions from year to year and to understand the true meaning of vintage.
So start learning, start experimenting, and most important if you’re not already doing it, start having fun!