"Like that? Try this!" 6 alternatives to familiar wines


We serve thousands of thirsty diners every week at Chambar. Would you believe that many of the wine requests we receive are pretty much the same? Hey, that’s absolutely fine. The classic grapes are classic grapes for a reason. And definitely drink what you love. But there’s an exciting diversity of styles available in Vancouver. You never know what you could love next.

Here are the top six requests for familiar wines I get all the time and two similar, but different, alternatives. It’s a little something I call “Like that? Try this!”



Pinot Grigio for its feature of orchard fruit with a hint of floral and spice?


Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s most incredible contributions to the wine world. Expect lively textures, fresh fruit, and a hallmark crack of fragrant spice. It is a sensation alongside sushi, seafood, and salads.

  • Laurenz und Sophie ‘Singing’ Grüner Veltliner – Kremstal, Austria, $19.99 BCLDB)
  • Domaine Wachau ‘Terrassen Federspeil’ Grüner Veltliner – Wachau, Austria, $22 at private stores


Sauvignon Blanc for its expression of fragrant citrus and herbaceousness?


Riesling is best known for its sweet expression, but did you know that Riesling can produce some sensational dry styles as well? These teeth-chatteringly delicious Rieslings deliver Sauvignon Blanc’s piquant and zesty flavours of lime and lemongrass.

  • Pewsey Vale Riesling – Eden Valley, Australia, $22.49 BCLDB
  • Bassermann Jordan Riesling Trocken – Pfalz, Germany, $25.49 BCLDB


Chardonnay that delivers a full and buttery texture with toasty nuances and tropical fruit?


Here richer and fuller expressions are presented in a new, exciting way. It’s a flavour that I sometimes describe as nutty and almost waxy. These alternatives will take you on a bit of an adventure with different grapes like Grenache Blanc, Macabeo, Pansal and Marsanne. The intensity and texture here share much with a toasty Chardonnay and will absolutely thrill with their uncommon profiles.

  • Celler Acústic Blanco – Montsant, Spain, $30 private stores
  • Tahbilk ‘Museum Release’ Marsanne – Victoria, Australia, $24.49 BCLDB



Pinot Noir for its red fruit, silky texture, and earthiness?


Grenache is thin-skinned, just like Pinot Noir. At its best, it showcases ripe red fruit on a texture nearly as silken. I once heard that, “Grenache delivers what Pinot Noir promises.” You will be astounded as to how flexible this grape is alongside food as well. Its spiciness and crunchy freshness makes it an ideal companion for a diversity of cuisines.

  • DSG ‘Lagrimas di Garnacha – Old Vines’ Garnacha – Navarra, Spain, $25 private stores
  • Yangarra Estate ‘Old Vine’ Grenache – McLaren Vale, Australia, $31.99 BCLDB


Merlot for its dark fruit, plush texture, and chocolately mouthfeel?


You are now entering undiscovered country for incredible quality red wine: Portugal. Portugal, like Italy, has a multitude of grapes that grow and thrive only within the country. Typically, Portuguese reds will be a blend of a number of different indigenous varieties. The result is a darker wine with notes of juicy plum, black olive, and warm stones.

  • Niepoort ‘Dialogo’ – Douro, Portugal, $18.99 BCLDB
  • Quinta do Vale Meão ‘Meandro’ – Douro Portugal, $30.99 BCLDB


Cabernet Sauvignon for its powerful presence, grippy tannins, and substantial structure?


Central Italy is the region to explore past Cabernet Sauvignon. Straight Sangiovese, and Sangiovese blends with other varietals (Sagrantino in this case) mean generous flavours. Look forward to a lot of full-throttle flavour. It’s about juicy purity, food-loving tannins, and wines that are beautifully authentic.

  • Fontodi Chianti Classico – Tuscany, Italy, $31.99 BCLDB
  • Antonelli Montefalco Rosso – Umbria, Italy, $35 private stores

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About the author

Chambar - Jason Yamasaki
Jason Yamasaki Jason Yamasaki is the Wine Director at Chambar and was awarded the title of Best Sommelier in BC by both the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) and the 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival.

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