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New Year columns run the gamut from Top 10 lists to personal highlights from a wino’s adventures.

But let’s look forward to 2017 and how you can enhance and, arguably improve, your wine drinking experience in the new year. Here are some tips for expanding your palate.

grape-sense-logoTake your favorite varietal and explore the options. Exploration might be the best education tip anyone can offer. We all know wine drinkers who will only drink Cabernet, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay. That’s okay but that’s not as limiting as it first might seem.

Cabernet Sauvignon is planted around the world and sipping your way around the world is anything but boring. Most everyone starts with California Cabernet and there is nothing wrong with that. California Cabernet, and particularly Napa Cabs, are the benchmark for wine in the U.S. Most of those Cabs are big, bold, and tannic. But if you love the flavor and would like a more rounded red wine with your steak try Washington State cabernet. Washington Cabs often have more approachable rich and rounded fruit with less of the back-end bite. Washington wines are also great bargains. You’ll even find more and more Washington Cabernet on grocery store shelves.

There are great Cabernets coming out of South America. Chile, in particular, is producing better Cab every year. Italy is featuring more Cabernet in many of its wines even a few 100 percent Cab bottlings. If you’ve never had a true “Super Tuscan,” make 2017 the year you explore the style. A Super Tuscan is most often a blend dominated by the native Sangiovese Grape and Cabernet.

Finally, the trickiest test is the grand left bank Bordeaux wines. It’s hard to find quality Bordeaux under $50 or so but they’re out there. First, remember Bordeaux wines are blends. They’re going to be softer on the palate and often need some age in the bottle. If you want to try Bordeaux, go to a fine wine story and ask for some advice on the labels available.

The other way to explore is at price point. Now some people have a dollar limit, say $15-$20, they’re just never going to surpass. That’s okay but press your budget a time to two upward and the quality and drinkability difference is surprising.

You can expand your palate with any of the major grapes. If you like Chardonnay start again in California with the big buttery chards, find an unoaked Chard, then explore up the coast to the almost Chablis-like Chardonnay wines of Oregon.

Many real wine geeks reach their geekiness peak with Pinot Noir. Try California’s rich Central Coast Pinots, Sonoma and its Russian River Valley Pinot, then move to Oregon for the lighter style Pinot Noirs. But much like Cabernet and Bordeaux, you might want to venture up in price point and sample some of the world’s best Pinot with a Burgundy purchase. There are good examples of Burgundy around $40-$60 a bottle. Look for Joseph Drouhin, Albert Morot, or Louis Jadot. Those are three names available in Indiana and they’re large reputable producers.

Thanks for reading Grape Sense and have a Happy New Year!

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