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5 Alternative Wine Varieties

IN ADDITION to being a boon to the wine industry, the movie Sideways introduced the virtues of pinot noir to the beer drinking, white zinfandel­swilling masses. But why stop there? Part of what's fun about drinking wine is discovering new kinds of wine. Here are five off-the-beaten-track wines worth exploring that also happen to be great values as well. Drink 'em before they become trendy and the prices rise.

Malbec: Unlike neighboring Chile, Argentina makes most of its wine for a thirsty domestic market, and malbec is what you find on the tables of most Buenos Aires cafes and restaurants. The red wine is mildly tannic, lush and juicy and pairs well with red meat and hearty stews.

Pinotage: A supple, velvety blend of pinot noir and cinsault, pinotage is a South African wine that can be thought of as a poor man's pinot noir.

Riesling: Many people see Germany or Austria on a wine label and immediately assume it's sweet white wine. Not true. Many rieslings, especially those made in an Alsatian style, are floral and fruity yet retain great acidity, making them a great food wine.

Torrontes: Another lesser-known variety from Argentina, torrontes is an often intensely floral, tropical fruity wine with the acidity to keep it in balance. A great wine for shellfish and Asian food.

Vihno Verde: Wine from Portugal's largest winegrowing region, vinho verde translates as "green wine" because of its fresh, youthful flavor. The vinho verde region produces red and white wines, but it's the clean and crisp whites that stand out. Low in alcohol and food-friendly, this makes for a great picnic wine.

Stett Holbrook

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From the March 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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