The Real Girl’s Guide to Wine: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot Oh My! How to Branch Out and Try Something New

Jess Bell

Jess Bell takes us on a journey towards some of the lesser-known wine varietals. Branch out and try something different!

Capsule x Villa Maria

In a world full of turbulence and unknowns, having your reliable creature comforts waiting at home is always a cosy reassurance. Your comfy slippers, your favourite snacks – and your go-to variety of wine.

We love what we love, and us Kiwis truly do love wine. But, when was the last time you branched out from your favourite drop and tried something new?

We LOVE trying new TV shows and new movies, and trying new experiences and activities, but for some reason we get stuck on wine.

I think it’s because of course you’ll always go back to your favourites, but also it stems from not knowing about some of the other varietals out there and a fear of looking silly when you’re buying them. There can be a lot of stigma in the wine world – let’s be honest, it can definitely seem intense and pretentious – but wine is supposed to be fun and enjoyed,

So if you’re keen to shake up your usual wine choice (or you just want to impress your mates with some jazzy wine knowledge) here are four lesser-known varietals that are sure to become your new favourites:

If you like Pinot Gris, try… Gewürztraminer

Ah, Gewürztraminer (guh-vertz-trah-meener) – the one NO ONE can ever pronounce and therefore often gets left languishing at the bottom of the menu. (Call it Gewurz like everyone else and you’re golden.)

No one wants to look stupid – so you’re not going to try and say it in a restaurant if you’re not sure!

But it really is an amazing wine. It’s a spicy aromatic white, and it’s often produced with a little bit of sweetness and has some gorgeous flavours that work particularly well with Asian and spicy foods – so great for a BYO!

It’s an unusual wine, but people who love it will die by it. It’s got a lot of character and it’s a wine Kiwis will really like because it’s got some richness to it.

Try: Villa Maria Private Bin Gewurztraminer

If you want a ‘fuller red’ try… Merlot

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, ‘I want a really full-bodied, luscious Pinot Noir’. But that’s really an oxymoron – Pinot Noir is divine, don’t get me wrong but it likely won’t provide the goods you are after. 

So, if you’re looking for a rich and juicy red, turn your attention to a Merlot. It’s mellow, it’s soft, it’s velvety – it’s like a hug! It’s often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon which kind of acts like a backbone, but the Merlot comes in and smooths everything out, and makes it soft and silky.

Merlot isn’t the most complex thing in the world, but do we really need more complications in the world right now? And you can get your hands on an epic Merlot in New Zealand for quite a good price, especially in Hawke’s Bay. It’s just delicious and yummy and great for this time of year.

Try: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot

Love a Sauvignon Blanc? Try… Albarino

I honestly think this wine is God’s gift to humans, and it’s a crime we don’t drink as much of it as we should. The grapes originate in Spain in a region that’s near the ocean, so it has that cooler-climate influence, which means New Zealand can also grow exceptional Albarino.

It’s a wine with quite a high acidity – which is the reason why we adore our Sauvignon because we like the way that feels when we taste it! Albariño has a slightly more subdued flavour profile with notes of stone fruit, which means it really is your wine for everything.

It’s perfect with seafood, or for an aperitif, or to have with a charcuterie board in the afternoon. Actually, that’s what I’d call it – a perfect afternoon wine!

Try: Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Albarino

Feeling something sweet? Try… Riesling

Ah, Riesling, the little daredevil of wine. It’s such an underrated varietal because there are SO many kinds of Riesling. But that means that if you think you don’t like Riesling, you just haven’t found your Riesling which means it’s time to explore!

From super-dry styles to sticky, sweet dessert wines, there’s a Riesling for everyone – and as a bonus, they’re often slightly lower in alcohol. Rieslings in New Zealand can range from super dry styles through to those late-harvest Rieslings that have more sugar.

It’s also an interesting white wine to age – we don’t really do a lot of white wine cellaring in New Zealand, maybe Chardonnay if we’re feeling jazzy, but Riesling truly can transform when aged a little.

Try: Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Riesling and the Villa Maria Marlborough Noble Riesling Botrytis Selection