Beverage Break: A Grape by Any Other Name
Something exciting has happened in our New York wine market in the new millennium, and it’s gaining more traction each month. In fact, you could almost define this phenomenon as directly coinciding with the emergence of countless new, small wine importers, and the “stepping up” of the more progressive importers who set up shop in the 1980s and 90s. Their efforts and selections, combined with those of the more passionate retailers and restaurants with “open-minded palates” have transformed the urban and suburban wine consumer into a connoisseur of sorts, who regularly looks beyond the familiar when deciding which wines to drink.
I had the well-timed honor of watching this vital moment in New York beverage consumption unfold during the 12+ years I spent putting wine into people’s shopping carts at a Westchester County retail store. In my rookie year, I was still on the Cabernet train, and it took quite a bit of slurping and spitting before I could begin to wrap my mind around grape varieties as commonplace as Sangiovese, Pinot Noir or Riesling. Little did I realize, my customers and I were about to blaze a trail together, never to look back. Today I call it “The Road to Zweigelt”! But to translate it into more civilized terms, I saw a tremendous market that used to be weighed down by tired brands and familiar “safe bets” just beginning to reinvent itself for a new kind of consumer.
Between 1998 and the present, the availability of, and demand for both esoteric wines from the new world and European obscurities from the old has skyrocketed, leading NY consumers in hundreds of categorical directions that they could have only dreamed of a generation ago. Before this era broke, a word like Blaufrankisch could be mistaken as a sneeze, and Gewurztraminer the reply. Today, I hear these grape names thrown around in conversation like yesterday’s news, and there’s no snobbery attached. If this all seems familiar to you, you are one of the many wine lovers who have caught on; however, if this makes you feel intimidated or left behind, there’s no better time to jump in. Take it from me— the water’s fine!
The next time you’re at your favorite wine store, or ordering wine by the glass, consider one made from an “offbeat” or less-than-mainstream grape variety, and discover what the Europeans have always known, and what the US of A is finally embracing. Insider’s Scoop: If you find yourself in Westchester on Saturday October 26th, stop by Suburban Wines in Yorktown Heights and you can taste dozens of samples for free!
Regardless of where you shop or dine, here are a number of (dry) examples and their respective regions recommended by Deb and me. Those in the know would certainly agree that resistance is futile!:
Aromatically Speaking: Gewurztraminer, Torrontes, Muscat, Verdejo, Riesling.
For Acid-Cravers: Gruner Veltliner, Melon, Albariño, Ugni Blanc, Assyrtiko, Sylvaner, Muller Thurgau, Vermentino, Friulano , Verdicchio, Falanghina.
Like ‘em Rich?: Chenin, Aliogté, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Viura, Godello, Pinot Gris, Semillon, Fiano, Greco, Petite Arvine.
Getting Your Geek On: Coda di Volpe, Timorasso, Listan Blanco, Hondarrabi Zuri, Palomino, Zierfandler, Scheurebe, Vidal, Grenache Gris, Gros Manseng, Fernao Pires, Xarel-lo.
Aromatically Speaking: Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Valdiguie, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, Negroamaro, Zweigelt, St Laurent, Carmenere, Pinotage.
For Acid-Cravers: Gamay, Nebbiolo, Blaufrankisch, Mencía, Dolcetto, Lagrein, Cannonau, Spatburgunder, Agiorgitiko.
Like ‘em Rich?: Corvina, Aglianico, Garnacha, Monastrell, Bonarda, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Tannat.
Getting Your Geek On: Fer Servadou, Schiava, Montenegro, Baga, Fumin, Torrette, Bobal, Nerello Mascalese, Cesanese, Gaglioppo, Poulsard.
What is your favorite grape varietal?