15 Vibrant Wines to Try When You're Ready to Branch Out 

There are a lot of grapes out there. If you're in a wine rut and are looking to mix it up, these alternatives will more than satisfy.

Published January 12, 2023
Woman looking at wine in a shop

In a wine rut and looking to get out? If you find yourself reaching for chardonnay or cab sauv at the store over and over again, it might be time to expand your horizons and give your taste buds something new to mull over. I know. It can be scary to try new things. These wines will open you up to something new while giving a nod to your go-to's.

If You Like This Wine, Try That Wine

If you're looking to branch out in the world of wine, look at what you like and think of it as a gateway to something slightly similar but different. These alternatives are in the same vein when it comes to body and characteristics, yet they'll expand your horizons.

If You Like Try
Chardonnay Viognier
Pinot grigio Picpoul
Sauvignon blanc Albariño
Riesling Muscat blanc
Merlot Malbec
Pinot noir Schiava
Cabernet sauvignon Monastrell
Zinfandel Grenache

If You Like Chardonnay, Try Viognier

People who love chardonnay really love chardonnay. While it can vary drastically based on climate and aging vessel, overall, it's a medium to full-bodied dry white wine with moderate acidity. Viognier is a similarly bodied wine with low to medium acidity. It has perfumed aromas of stone fruit, citrus, mango, and honeysuckle. These showy aromatics play into rich and ripe fruit that sometimes finishes with a hint of vanilla, nutmeg, and clove. Viognier has a similar weight to chardonnay but with a bit more texture. It tends to have a bit of an oily sensation on the palate. It's richly flavored, beautifully aromatic, and a great alternative to chardonnay that will have you reaching for more.

If You Like Pinot Grigio, Try Picpoul

Pronounced pik-pool - this old southern French varietal is bright, light, and refreshing. With mouthwatering acidity and notes of green apple, lemon zest, orange blossom, thyme, and salinity, picpoul is the wine you'll want to be drinking all summer long. This underdog mimics the freshness and easy drinking of pinot grigio. Try picpoul and be ready for it to become your new favorite.

If You Like Sauvignon Blanc, Try Albariño

Love a zippy, zesty white that will wake you right up? That's sauvignon blanc. It's also albariño. The two are both bright with acidity and similar in body. Albariño is most commonly grown in northwestern Spain, where the coastal breeze full of salt water leaves its mark on the grapes. Full of grapefruit, lemon zest, lime, orchard stone fruit, and pleasant acidity, albariño is a lovely light wine that subs in seamlessly for a die-hard sauvignon blanc drinker. It's your wine to pair with summery salads, fish tacos with slaw, and grilled chicken and vegetables.

Grilled Chicken with white wine

If You Like Riesling, Try Muscat Blanc

Riesling can be dry, sweet, and everything in between. It's aromatic with juicy peach, green apple, lime, and jasmine blossom. Muscat blanc is also made in both dry and sweeter styles and is widely aromatic with bursting honeysuckle and orange blossom. The profile leans more Meyer lemon and mandarin orange. Both have brilliant acidity, which helps to balance all the juicy fruit flavors and any residual sugar. If you prefer an off-dry riesling, look for an off-dry muscat blanc. You'll find comfort in the similarities in body and weight and interest in the new combination of fruit flavors in your glass.

If You Like Merlot, Try Malbec

Are you a merlot fan despite its knock in Sideways? That's good. Because it really didn't deserve that. The fuller-bodied red is rich with dark red fruits like Italian plum and cherry, with its complexity coming from the hints of bay leaf and chocolate that hang in the background. Malbec has a similarly rich profile of red plum, blackberry, cocoa, and tobacco. The two wines fall about even on the scale of acidity and tannins, more or less in the middle, making them bold, lush, soft, and brambly wines perfect for grilled meats paired with roasted vegetables.

Roasted vegetables and red wine

If You Like Pinot Noir, Try Schiava

Pinot noir is a bit of a golden child grape. And for good reason. It's expressive and complex while remaining delicate and light. Bright cherry and raspberry are laced with earthy mushroom, spicy clove, and an aromatic hibiscus. Schiava is a hidden gem from northern Italy that offers a very similar vibe of strawberry, raspberry, Lemon Head hard candy, and rose bush. Similar bright acidity, a delicate profile, and a light to medium body might make you think these two grapes are related. Schiava may be less popular and take little more effort to track down than pinot noir, but I promise it's worth your while.

If You Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Try Monastrell

Big and bold is the vibe here. Full-bodied and sometimes heady with strong tannins, cabernet sauvignon is one of the most popular red grape varietals in the world. But monastrell can play a similar role. Equally full-bodied and rich with blackberry, juicy black cherry, nutmeg, black pepper, and cocoa, monastrell can step into a similar role without missing a beat. If you are a cab sauv drinker and you've been wondering what other heavy hitter to lean into, monastrell is it.

If You Like Zinfandel, Try Grenache

With both red and black fruit, zin can be jammy with a hint of mocha, pepper, and sometimes an essence of smoke. Grenache is a medium to full-bodied wine with both medium tannins and acidity. It's a grape saturated with more red fruit notes than black - think stewed strawberry laced with baking spice, tobacco, orange rind, and licorice. They are both strong personality wines with higher alcohol. Each is a brilliant pairing for grilled meats.

Grilled ribeye beef steak with red wine

More to Good Wines to Try

Looking for more wines to try? These quick picks can expand your horizons.

If You Like Try
Shiraz Pinotage (South Africa)
Champagne Pét-nat (France)
Port Tokaji (Hungary)
Gewürztraminer Torrontés (Argentina)
Beaujolais St. Laurent (Europe)

Xinomavro (Greece)


Gattinara (Italy)

Wine Recommendations Based on What You Like

Diversity is a good thing, both in the vineyard and in your glass. So the next time you hit up the wine shop for your favorite pinot or chardonnay, look around to see what else is on the shelf. You may find that some of these alternates take front and center.

15 Vibrant Wines to Try When You're Ready to Branch Out