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Wine A to Z: Unusual, but not unheard of, varietals

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In this on-going Wine A to Z series, the focus has been largely on varietals. This carries on in that spirit, but with some varietals you may not be as familiar with. There are thought to be around five thousand different grapes for wine making, but only about 150 of them are planted significantly. The classics are familiar to many: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel (you are aware that there is no White Zinfandel grape, right?), and Pinot Noir. That's six. What about the remaining 4994? Here are a few. See how many you recognize!

Airen: the world's most planted white wine grape.

Albarino: a Spanish white.

Barbera: an Italian red. Find this on many tasting room menus in Amador County.

Chenin Blanc: a popular white in California, until it became over-shadowed by Chardonnay. A native of France, the Loire Valley's specialty!

Dornfelder: a German red, not quite as well-known as Riesling and Gewurztraminer, both white wines from Germany.

French Colombard: Check it out at Weibel Vineyards and Winery, in downtown Lodi.

Grenache Blanc: as the name says, a white, from France's Southern Rhone and Languedoc-Rousillon regions. Locally, try it at Acquiesce Winery in Lodi.

Gruner-Veltliner: an Austrian white, that recently enjoyed a resurgence in the wine world.

Kerner: another one from Germany, if you've been to Borra Vineyards in Lodi lately, you may have tried it!

Muller-Thurgau: Germany's most widely planted (least known?) grape, thought to be a cross of two Riesling clones.

Nebbiolo: Italian by birth, found in bottles labeled Barolo and Barbaresco.

Picpoul Blanc: another reason to visit Acquiesce Winery, for this white is not easily found.

Rousanne: often blended with Marsanne, this Rhone white is worth looking for.

Scuppernong: a native American grape, rarely grown elsewhere besides the Eastern seaboard of the US.

Torrontes: an Argentinian grape that can be found in small quantities in Lodi, namely the Silvaspoons Vineyard.

Viognier: another French Rhone white, found in many of California's wine regions. Typically accompanied by a pronunciation guide (Vee-own-yay)!

Verdejo: not be confused with Verdelho! Both white. One Spanish (Verdejo), one Portuguese (Verdelho).

How many of those did you recognize? There are still more! See how many of these you can find in your local wine stores and tasting rooms. Sometimes it's good to try something new - you might be surprised!

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