4 Wines to Help You Break Out of Your Rut

October  8, 2015

Why default to a wine you like when, somewhere out there, is a wine you will truly love?

I was completely unaware it was happening until I reached for the bottle of my old faithful wine and it was not there. Sold out.

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I felt uneasy. It was always there. I did not have to think about it. I knew what it would smell like and how it would taste. It was comfortable and easy—like a recipe I had made a hundred times and committed to memory.  

Turns out I had allowed myself to fall into a wine rut, a stale relationship that I had not realized I committed to. 

Now, that’s not to say there's anything wrong with having a “go-to” bottle of wine that you know you will like. But when that impedes you from finding a new wine that you’ll love, well, then we have a problem. As with food, there’s a whole delicious world to explore out there, and life is too short to settle for wines you just "like."  

So, how to break out of that rut? 

Start with what you like and what you know. Then, ever so slowly, veer just outside of your comfort zone. We like to think of it as "if you like this, you'll love that."

To help, I’ve put together a quick guide for 4 of the most popular default wines:

If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you will love Rueda


  • Why: This white wine from Spain (made from the Verdejo grape) is crisp and refreshing, just like Sauvignon Blanc, and it's easy to pair with food.
  • Flavor profile: Mouth-watering notes of lemon, lime, and minerality.
  • Food pairing: Seafood paella

  • Try: Marqués de Riscal Rueda

If you like Pinot Grigio, you will love Gavi


  • Why: We like to think of Gavi as a Pinot Grigio that went to finishing school—this Italian white (made from the Cortese grape) is also light and bone-dry, but it has additional flavors to keep you interested from the first sip to the last.
  • Flavor profile: Floral notes are complemented with hints of lemon, green apple, and minerality
  • Food pairing: Shrimp scampi

  • Try: Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi

If you like Malbec, you will love Nero d’Avola.

Why: The big fruity flavors of Malbec, with the ever-so-subtle notes of spice, make it truly delicious.
  • Flavor profile: Ripe, juicy notes of plums and red fruit, with a bit of spice to keep it rounded.
  • Food pairing: Baby back ribs

  • Try: Colosi Nero d'Avola 

If you like Pinot Noir, you will love Beaujolais Cru.

Why: It has everything you like about Pinot Noir without the hefty price tag, and not so secretly, it's what sommeliers pour for themselves.
Flavor profile: Light and complex with bright red fruit notes.
  • Food Pairing: Cedar Plank Salmon

  • Try: Château de la Chaize Brouilly

Now the best part of breaking the habit is the possibility of discovering a new wine that you'll love. It doesn't mean you have to turn your back on old faithful, but you never know when that new discovery will become your next go-to. And that right there is the thrill of the hunt.  

How do you stop yourself from defaulting to the go-to bottle? Share with us in the comments.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Samantha Weiss Hills
    Samantha Weiss Hills
  • Kim Krett
    Kim Krett
  • Natalie
  • Janice Wacha
    Janice Wacha
  • 702551
Tamara Lover, an accredited sommelier, is Co-Founder of a start-up called Bottle Rush, a company democratizing wine by giving everyone their personal wine expert to help them find wines they’ll love, not like, but love. Tamara’s passion for wine began like most wine love affairs – with one delicious bottle of wine. While dining at a restaurant in New York City, the sommelier recommended a wine that would forever change her life. One sip of the Pinot Noir blew her away. By the end of the glass, Tamara knew how she wanted to spend every moment of her spare time - finding that next great bottle of wine. In 2008, Tamara graduated with her WSET Diploma of Wine and Spirits (DWS) from the International Wine Center (IWC). She was also a weekly wine columnist for the Gothamist for five years and inducted as an honorary member of the Compagnons du Beaujolais, a historic Burgundian wine society. Tamara resides in NJ with her husband and two children. Feel free to ask her any wine related questions – especially about her favorite wine hacks.


Samantha W. March 7, 2016
I am a Cabernet Franc obsessive -- anything you'd recommend as an alternative?
Kim K. October 12, 2015
What is a good substitute for sagrantino di montefalco?
Tamara L. October 12, 2015
Hi Kim, wow the last time I heard somebody mention Sagrantino was in wine school so thanks for making me think back a bit. Sagrantino di Montefalco come in two versions - dry and sweet. Now if you are referring to the dry version than we are looking for a red that is quite tannic (dry), big, bold and a little bit rustic. If you want to stay with Italy then I think you can't go wrong with Aglianico as it has similar characteristics. Also, try wines made from Mouvedre (know as Monastrell in Spain) grown in the south of France and often blended into Rhone wines. If it's the sweet version you like than I would suggest a Recioto della Valpolicella.
Natalie October 11, 2015
I am a beginner wine enthusiast, and would love some recommendations for some decent wine for $25 and under . Any suggestions? I tried a few wine tastings and have come across a few I like. Thanks for your help!
Tamara L. October 11, 2015
Hi Natalie, happy to help. You mentioned you had come across a few that you liked, can you share what those are as a starting point and we can branch out a bit? There are so many delicious wines under $25, so we will have a lot to explore...
Janice W. October 9, 2015
Years ago while having dinner at the Slanted Door in San Francisco I had a glass of Greuner Veltliner. It was an ah ha moment and it inspired me to break out of the familiar wine rut. My favorite wine shops are also K & L Wine (with a great website) and Kermit Lynch (and their enlightening newsletter). Get together with friends and have wine and appetizer paring parties.
702551 October 8, 2015
Grower champagne.
Tamara L. October 9, 2015
Cremant de bourgogne or Crémant du Jura.
Tamara L. October 9, 2015
Also if you like grower champagne it's likely you will like more wines from Michael Skurnik. Next time you are at the wine store, turn the bottle around and look for the name "Michael Skurnik" on the back (he's an importer and distributor) - and then buy that bottle.
702551 October 9, 2015
Thanks for the tip, I will look for his name. I buy all my bubbly at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City. The champagne buyer there is pretty good.

My favorite was Leclerc Briant, but the owner passed away a few years ago and US distribution evaporated. I understand it is under new ownership; hopefully some cases will make it to our side of the pond.
702551 October 9, 2015
Oh yes, and then there's Kermit Lynch in Berkeley. Great selections, always a discovery when shopping there. Very knowledgable staff.
702551 October 10, 2015
Not a lot of wine drinkers on this site, apparently. I thought this post would have more than two responders.

Clearly better to go elsewhere for a conversation about wine. Oh well.
Tamara L. October 10, 2015
We can fix that, we just need great wine content. Food and wine go hand in hand, don't give up just yet.
Verónica L. October 8, 2015
What wine would be recommended to try if the one I really like is a petit sirah?
Tamara L. October 8, 2015
Great choice - the black pepper, plum and herbal notes in petit sirrah are truly delicious. I would recommend a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, specifically a Chinon. These wines have similar characteristics and are very food friendly.
Verónica L. October 12, 2015
Thank you for recommendation!
Tamara L. October 12, 2015
My pleasure. If there is anything else I can help with just let me know.