Can a grape “trend?” Hell yeah it can!
Sometimes its a region that pushes a grape to new heights, and sometimes the collective wine consciousness of the globe seems to come together in support. It could be the revitalization of a near-extinct varietal, or just the re-thinking of traditional winemaking techniques. Sometimes it only takes one winemaker to take a grape to a different place and capture the world’s attention. Here are some grapes that have got ours…
It’s a grape with a history of garnering very little respect, but Barbera has risen like a phoenix onto the scene. With competitive price points, extreme drinkability and happy-go-lucky growing tendencies, Barbera is a fox. Relatively low in tannin, it is inherently young, fun, bright and fruity. Add some well thought-out oak to its natural high acidity and you have a well-constructed wine of character, not just table-filling swill. Look to California’s Amador County/Sierra Foothills to be on the national Barbera radar, fo sho.
2) Pinot Blanc
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio have always enjoyed immense popularity in the Pinot category. While Gris and Grigio are in fact the same grape, Pinot Blanc has its own identity and distinguishing characteristics. If Gris and Grigio are the crowd-pleasers, Blanc is the intriguer. Virtuous and distinguished, it dances on the tongue with frequent notes of almonds, pears, and whispers of spice and smoke. This wine is genius with shellfish, especially raw oysters. While their yields are often not as high as a Gris (making the price point a tad higher) they’re worth every penny.
Okay, okay- so Chardonnay is not exactly a “secret” grape. Everyone has heard of it, everyone has probably had it. But here’s the thing: Chardonnay has been in the process of a revolution for some time now. Winemakers continue to push the envelope towards balanced, sleek, defined styles of Chardonnay to compensate for the years Chardonnay spent as a buxom, buttery, oaky working girl. Then it experienced an incarnation of the opposite extreme: completely unoaked and almost tropical. Now we’ve settled in the middle; precise, focused Chardonnay that sits cheerily in the middle of the oak spectrum. Look out especially for Oregon; Chardonnay has wings there and is poised for takeoff.
For the last few years, Syrah and Shiraz have been seen as “dead categories” for many retailers. Australia too hard and too big on their Shiraz game. After the bankruptcy of a few large importers and general American malaise over the high alcohol, fruit bomb tendency that Shiraz/Syrah had embraced, Syrah kind of flopped. Now, once again, we see a revitalization of a more restrained, daresay French style of Syrah-making in the US. Still with an emphasis on the grapes natural power and heartiness, but without all the dead weight. The “brick wall” of dead sales that plagued Syrah for so long is being dismantled, and you should be stoked to see what’s on the other side.