Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Obscure Wine

The best habit a wine lover can pick up is experimentation. I won’t tell you that venturing into the obscure always procures a winner, but you’ll be surprised how quickly your palate develops and the nuances you start to notice when you take a few walks on the wild side. And who doesn’t want to show up to the party with a brand new bottle no one’s ever heard of?

The appeal of esoteric wines is not always in their taste; sometimes they generate desire by the mere fact they play hard to get, while their taste is middling or even disorienting.


Disclaimer aside, novel grapes and regions that actually make delicious wine can be dazzlingly revelatory and economical. If you agree with Ernest Hemingway’s recommendation of “life intoxicated by the romance of the unusual,” then the following wine types will send you off buzzed with the thrill of discovery (in alphabetical order):


Dark Greek red redolent of spicy blackberry and plum, sometimes with a smoky dimension; medium-bodied, but occasionally plumper; you’ll earn a vinous black belt by pronouncing it correctly.


Vaguely militaristic sounding white primarily from Italy’s Alto-Adige region; fresh and floral, like a grapefruit-y Riesling; possible notes of peach or orange peel; mineral-laced finish; high quality, complex, and priced like it.


A rediscovered district of northwestern Spain making svelte, intriguing, juicy reds; from the Mencía grape, which also appears in the better-known wines of Bierzo; so far in short supply but could expand on its presence.

See if you can find these unusual delights from a specialist merchant or online. For more obscure wine types, check out my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire, and check out the video to watch me try a bizarre white wine from Scholium Project, located just east of Napa.

Even Pros Have Trouble Popping Their Champagne…

Sabering a bottle of champagne is a triumphant and crowd-pleasing way to open bubbly – but it doesn’t always work. (watch me struggle on the video)

If you dare to try it (at your own risk), I recommend following these steps:

    1. MAKE SURE THE BOTTLE IS VERY COLD. Give your bubbly a twenty minute ice bath or stick it in the freezer to ensure the bottle is more brittle and thus easier to saber
    2. REMOVE FOIL AND CAGE, POINT THE CORK AWAY FROM YOU…and away from all eyes around you, as you never know when the cork may spontaneously erupt
    3. THERE ARE TWO FAINT SEAMS RUNNING UP THE LENGTH OF EACH BOTTLE. Find one and take any heavy knife (a chef’s knife works just as well, even if it bestows less drama). Don your safety gear and hold the bottle at a FORTY-FIVE DEGREE ANGLE, trace the blade along the seam in a practice motion.
    4. SLIDE BLADE ALONG THE SEAM – do this up and down a few times to create a vibration
    5. STRIKE THE THE LIP OF THE BOTTLE with the blade at a slight angle
    6.  IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, THE TOP PART OF THE BOTTLENECK, WITH CORK INSIDE, will fly off. The outward force of the eruption causes any shards to blow away from the bottle, ensuring that pieces of glass do not end up in the bottle

video: don't try this at home

Now check out my video where I forgo my trusty saber in favor of a more Aspen-apt tool: an ice scraper for skis. Consider this both entertainment and practical research: now we all know that, should we get cold feet at the top of that black diamond, we can always ski-saber a bottle of bubbly for some liquid courage.

For more on sabering and other wine tricks, advice, alternatives, and more, grab a copy of my new book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire.


Truffle hunting in Piedmont, Italy, for the world’s most expensive culinary treasure – the white truffle

Ever wonder where that elusive, $300 truffle being shaved onto pasta comes from? I took a trip to Piedmont, in north-west Italy to forage for one of these buried treasures. Giani, a veteran trifulau – who found his first truffle at age 5 – took me to one of his secret spots with his trusty dog, Lady, and a puppy in training, Lila. (watch the video where you will see how crucial these dogs really are to the whole endeavor.)

Our guide distracts the dogs with a few pieces of bread to keep them from eating the truffles
Our guide distracts the dogs with a few pieces of bread to keep them from eating the truffles

Hailed as the “diamond of the kitchen”, the white truffle from Alba is among the most expensive in the world, commanding up to $700 per 3.5 ounces depending on the quality of the supply. While the black truffle, the more common variety, is used in cooking, the rare white one should be served raw–never cooked. At most restaurants, I had it shaved over a simple bowl of pasta in butter.

The Italians enjoy white truffle raw--never cooked.
The Italians enjoy white truffle raw–never cooked.

As for what to pair with white truffles, Barolo and Barbaresco are the most prestigious wines of Piedmont (and mighty delicious). For a less expensive alternative, Barbera is a fine choice and it doesn’t require aging. These wines are medium-to-full bodied with aromas of strawberries, violets and sometimes minerals or tar.

Like a lot of Italian reds, they can have prominent acidity and/or tannins, so be sure to have your bowl of tagliatelle pasta with butter and shaved truffles at the ready.

For more on Italian wine and food pairings, grab a copy of my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire, and check out the video to see what I dug up!

Drizzle Wine on Your Dessert

Drizzle Wine on Your Dessert

The Italians love drowning their gelato in espresso, but why not indulge in my improved and much more intoxicating version of “affogato” at your next dinner party? Sweet wine drizzled on ice cream synergistically creates its own swoon-worthy third flavor.

A killer option is Pedro Ximenez Sherry, which is the sweetest, most syrupy form of sherry (Pedro Ximenez is a grape, not the sherry’s producer).

Because Pedro Ximenez is so dark and sweet, chocolate ice cream is my first choice, but you are free to experiment with other strong flavors such as rum raisin, rocky road, and coffee.

Better yet–there’s no reason why you cannot get drizzly with golden, medium-rich styles of dessert wine, including lighter late-harvest styles, the fortified Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from France.

And it’s not just dessert that deserves some wine–there’s also brunch (hair of the dog, anyone?).

In an experiment I tried last year (and which is sure to drive a stake into the heart of every vintage-chart memorizing snob) some friends and I convinced a collector to pour his leftover 1986 Chateau d’Yquem over our pancakes at breakfast one morning. It was a smash hit, and a delightful way to start the day. Try it at your next brunch with friends with whatever dessert wine you have on hand.

For more ways to use wine as a dessert enhancements, order my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire, and remember to drink bravely, drink richly, and #DrinkLikeABillionaire.

Are You Drinking A Safety Blanket?

pinot grigio is a safety blanket

Let me guess: your favorite white wine is Pinot Grigio, or what I like to call “the safety blanket” of wines. It’s loved by millions of Americans because it’s easy to drink, easy to say, and, with its light, clean taste, it serves as a welcome counterpoint to the plethora of leaden, oaky Chardonnays crowding store shelves.

But is it really worth $12 to $30 per bottle—not to mention the calories—to drink a wine with so little personality? Break out of your comfort zone this weekend and consider my favorite alternatives listed in my new book.

  1. Assyrtiko: The Palate-whetting Assyrtiko from the isle of Santorini is particularly lemony and minerally, wines like this and others from Greece are light- to medium-weight rejuvenators with an enduring crush on white, flaky fish
  2. Friulano: A pride of northwestern Italy, this wine is the mellifluous secret password for middleweight revivification.
  3. Sauvignon Blanc from Chile: Sold for a song, bought for flavorful meln-y zingers and the softer, Californian style.

For more alternatives to Pinot Grigio, check out my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire (Regan Arts), and remember to drink bravely, drink richly, and #DrinkLikeABillionaire.