Thursday, November 1, 2012

5 Grapes / regions that more people need to start trying.

I'm always happy to see people shopping for wine, don't get me wrong, but it seems like there are grapes or places people get pigeonholed into and settle in comfortably never to extricate themselves for something new. What I find most striking is the avoidance to branching out because, as one perplexing customer put to me, "I've never had it before, how do I know if I'll like it?"

That makes me wonder about their existence as a whole. No travel? No new food? No new movies? The hermit lifestyle must be difficult if not comforting.

1.) Beaujolais - The wines labeled Beaujolais Villages are often easy, fruit forward, and possessing a tell tale aromatic of some carbonic maceration (they only ferment by the whole bunch, baby!) The real magic comes in the 'crus' of Beaujolais: Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon, Chenas, Cote du Brouilly, etc. What really fascinates me about these wines are not the initial fruit aromas but the sneaky aromas and flavors on the side. The saline savoriness of Cote du Brouilly, the hint of something animal in Moulin-a-Vent, the flowers in Fleurie, and the stones in Chenas.

Pricing is pretty fair too, the top of the top-hard-to-get-geek-out-over and go crazy Beaujolais are in the low $40's. Not cheap, but when compared to Burgundy proper, practically anything from California, or top flight Bordeaux these wines downright cheap.

2.) Riesling - Yes Paul Grieco has been doing Summer of Riesling since 2008 and yes practically every interview I've ever read with a sommelier in any food and wine magazine has them raving about riesling, but there is a reason for that. There's focus, age-ability, and a complete range of dry with mouth searing acidity to dessert wine sweet that coats the entire mouth like the finest grape-y juice from the peaks of Mount Olympus.

The problem for riesling is when it's maligned by its out of balance incarnations that have either too much or too little sugar or acid. The power of many a Rheingau, the pleasant hint of sweetness underlying so many Mosel bottles, and the crazy minerality of Wachau in Austria. Come on, these wines show so much of where they're from and frankly, they are just cool.

3. Greece - The desire to have more people interested in Greek wines, honestly, is a quasi selfish desire. Just like my desire to have more people interested in Corsican wine (the more people interested, the more that sell, the more that sell the more I can taste!) The wines I've had from Greece to date have as versatile a range as many other parts of the world; reds that are anywhere from plush and soft to peppery and downright animal, and whites with flowers, fruit, and minerals to keep any one interested.

And for the problem, as there always is one: what do people know about Greece? Ouzo and retsina. Not a good start. Reds from Naoussa or Nemea are not huge leaps for people who drink some more classic incarnations of tempranillo or perhaps drier lighter weight Loire cab francs. The most interesting whites I've tasted so far have been from the island of Santorini. Assyrtiko is the primary varietal used in primarily volcanic soil. They have a persistent minerality that should be appreciable by higher end albarino drinkers or fans of Chablis.

4. Savoie & Jura - When I started at the 'ol State Line we had 3 or 4 wines from Jura and maybe 3 from Savoie. Now we have closer to 8 from Jura and about a dozen from Savoie (and I'll include Bugey since it's just across the river.) The regions themselves are in the east of France, Jura is about an hour east of Burgundy, and Savoie is right up against the Swiss border on the south side of Lake Geneva.

These wines have a little bit easier of a time getting their foot in the door than the ones I've mentioned so far. They have basically no reputation among non-serious wine drinkers, which means it's tough to bring a prejudice to the table, pricing starts at $10 a bottle and goes up to $80 plus for some tougher to get dessert wines, and there is a good range including delicious bubblies. The only aspect jarring to some people is the oxidative and high toned style exhibited in wines from Jura (often Sherry like.) With a little introduction though, some people take very strongly to these wines, myself included.

5. Burgundy - This may seem a bit confusing since Burgundy is probably the most famous wine region in the world, with some of the most expensive bottles, and some of the best known domaines. Burgundy does fine amongst serious collectors and has some great fans, but getting everyday wine drinkers into it sure is tough.

Whenever I happen upon some one in the shop looking for pinot noir once they know where we keep the Oregon and California pinot noir I would probably have to physically drag them to the red Burgundy section, because for some reason there is major aversion to even looking at the Burgundies. Even though, balk if you will, that's where the best pinot value is in my opinion.

White Burgundy is tougher too. Either most of our customers come looking for white Burgundy, or they come looking for a chardonnay they recognize. Almost always Californian. For all the $10 to $15 Cali wine you can buy, there are rivers of Macon Villages at the same price. For all the over oaked, over alcoholic, over malo-lactic, and over priced Cali wines you can buy there stellar ranges of flavor under $40 in Burgundy. When I think of the wild yeast fermented Guillemot-Michel in the mid $20's or the intensely rich, but balanced, Vire-Clesse from Thevenet at about $34, I can't believe some of the things people charge on the west coast.

I would be concerned I was getting too geeky, but I didn't mention Ribolla Gialla or orange wines made by Sistercian Nuns once, so I think I'm still safe.

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