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John JuergensAlternatives


It has been said that American wines, and the wines of California in particular, tend to reflect our national personality, that is, bold, somewhat flamboyant, assertive, and sometimes downright aggressive. What this means is that our wines tend to have big fruit flavors that leap out of the glass and pounce on the palate. Although most wine drinkers like to say they only like dry wines, these fruit flavors add a slight perception of sweetness that can make American wines very seductive and easy to drink.

We have a fairly good selection of Californian wines here in Oxford and several of our shop owners are very accommodating in trying to keep up with our changing preferences. However, there are some significant gaps in the lineup -- red Zinfandel, for example and if you drink wine on a regular basis you can quickly run through the options available to you. So what alternatives do we have here if you want to dust off your wine passport and do a little international exploring?

Before venturing into any unfamiliar territory it is always good to have some basic understanding of the cultural context. It is the same for wine. Here's the basic rule of thumb: In general, European wines are much more subtle, less fruity, a good bit leaner, and maybe even austere, than American wines. Because they are not as "fruit-forward," wines from France, Italy, Spain, etc. tend to be much drier. Wines from Australia and New Zealand can be very much like Californian wines, and wines from South American, principally Chile, seem to be somewhere in between the European and American styles.

When we talk about American wine we generally think of California because most of our national brands are from there; although, there are some excellent wines made in other parts of the country.

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