5 Varietals You Need to Try NowChardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot… these wines may be some of the most widely recognized in America, but are they the best? That’s up for you to decide, but before you cast your vote, consider trying one of these five under-the-radar, sommelier-approved varietals:


The Wine: Trousseau Gris

Chosen by: Certified sommelier Julie Berger of East Hampton’s Nick and Toni’s

Why you need to the try it now: Originally from Eastern France, Trousseau Gris (a rare mutation of red Trousseau) produces complex, crisp wines with beautiful aromatics of tropical fruits and floral notes, says Berger. Not many producers have been working with Trousseau Gris, but after an original 10-acre block was discovered in Russian River Valley, it began its comeback in California, where it’s commonly called Gray Riesling.

Pair it with: Grilled fish, roasted chicken or pork loin


The Wine: Liatiko

Chosen by: Brent Kroll, wine director for Washington D.C.’s Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Why you need to the try it now: Crete is just becoming known for quality wine, as Greece has only been making wines of note on a large scale for a couple decades, explains Kroll. But Liatiko is some of Greece’s best wine, despite the fact that it’s not even their best-known grape—in fact, “Liatiko is probably what will put wines from Crete on the world scale in the next five to 10 years,” predicts Kroll. “Liatiko can be bright with fresh red fruit for a Pinot drinker, or it can be powerful and woodsy, depending on producer and which part of the island.”

Pair it with: Spit-roasted meats


The Wine: Parallada and Garnacha Blanca

Chosen by: Lou Vargo, sommelier for 1808 Grille located inside Nashville’s Hutton Hotel

Why you need to the try it now: One of Vargo’s favorite under-the-radar wines is Torres’ “Viña Sol”, which is made from Garnacha Blanca, grown primarily in northeast Spain and southern France (it’s known there as Grenache Blanc and is one of six grapes allowed in the blends of both Chateauneuf du Pape blanc and Cotes du Rhone blanc wines), and Parallada, grown primarily in northeastern Spain for the production of Cava, still whites and apertifs like absinthe. “A wine’s recognition has more to do with the degree to which it has been successfully marketed as a grape and as a brand,” explains Vargo. “Grenache Blanc as a pure varietal.”

Pair it with: Raw oysters, light pasta dishes and grilled octopus


The Wine: Lemberger

Chosen by: Michaela Baltasar, communications director for Washington State Wine

Why you need to the try it now: If you like Pinot Noir, you’ll love Lemberger, “the German name for the grape variety commonly referred to as Blaufrankisch in Austria, where it’s one of the country's most widely planted red varieties,” explains Baltasar, who notes that the grape shares characteristics with the Gamay grape and wines from the Beaujolais. “It's a medium-bodied red that can also have some tannin and a bit of a racy quality, depending on acidity and how and where it's grown.” It’s also planted in Italy (called Franconia and grown in Friuli), Slovenia, Australia’s Adelaide Hills, the Czech Republic and the U.S. Kiona in Washington was the first winery to plant it here, but today it’s also grown in the Finger Lakes.

Pair it with: Lamb, grilled meats, mushrooms, dishes with an earthy undertone


The Wine: Aglianico
Chosen by: Mark Sayre, Advanced Sommelier and Service Director for Elm Restaurant Group
Why you need to the try it now: “Aglianico, a red grape that thrives in poor, volcanic soil and as such is grown in the southern regions of Italy, mostly in Campania and Basilicata, is a variety that provides dark, intense fruit, rich mouthfeel and powerful structure; all things many people love about red wine,” says Sayre, who adds that it’s now also planted in California, Australia and Texas, where high mineral, stony soils and warm weather help Aglianico succeed. “Texas’ Duchman Family Winery’s Aglianico took Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition—further proof that Texas is beginning to not just make good wines for Texas, but that we can really be proud on a much bigger stage.”
Pair it with: Perfect for anything off a grill or smoker, or with hard cheese