In 2017, Wine Folly came out with a list of 11 red summer wines you’ve never heard of. Here I am, somebody who is supposed to know something about wine, and I hadn’t heard of six of them: Blaufrakisch, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Poulsard, Schiava and Zweigelt. Wow! It didn’t take a lot of googling for me to realize that there are hundreds of wines I’ve never heard of. Today’s blog is dedicated to unusual wines. It will probably be the first of several such articles, since I see that there is a lot written about unusual wines. Thank you to CrushMag and the New York Times for their help with this article.
An Intro to Unusual Wines
When somebody asks you to think about wine, if you’re like most people, on the white side, you think of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Muscat, and on the red side, you think of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. Wouldn’t it be cool if instead you though of Albariño, Rousanne and Verdelho for whites and Tempranillo, Tannat and Carignan come for reds?
Some Interesting Factoids About Uncommon Wines
Believe it or not, there are more than 10,000 different grapes in the world. Approximately 1,400 of those 10,000 are used to make wine. But of those 1,400, a very small number makes up the bulk of wine production. Back in 1950, they did a study in France and found that the 20 most popular grapes accounted for 50 percent of vineyard production. Sadly, in France today, the 20 most popular grapes account for 93 percent of total wine produced. So, it’s no wonder that there are so many uncommon wines that we’ve never heard of.
According to the New York Times, “For years, the global wine industry had been devolving toward a monoculture, with local grape varieties ripped out in favor of more immediately profitable, mass-market types.” It’s much easier to keep your roof over your head if you’re producing Chardonnay than if you’re producing Rousanne. And for retailers, populating your shelves with well-known wines is the surest way to make a profit.
The Good News
While money will always speak, I get the sense that the tides are turning. I believe wine enthusiasts are excited to try unusual wines. And given how competitive the wine world is, winemakers and retailers are eager to distinguish themselves.
A few months ago, I got to try a Teroldego from Wolff Vineyards in San Luis Obispo. This is an Italian grape from the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige that is relatively obscure in California.
On the retailer side, my favorite local wine bar, City Place Wine Bar in Sunnyvale, has their normal wine list, which includes all of the usual wines plus a few less-well-known ones. But when you talk to the sommelier about what you’re looking for, he will happily go in the back and pull out some wines that aren’t on their list.
Seeking out unusual wines keeps wine tasting interesting. It helps you learn more about what you like. It adds some adventure to your life. It’s a great way to let retailers and winemakers know that you’re interested in trying new wines. You might even discover a hidden gem.
I would love to hear about your experiences with trying unusual wines. Cheers!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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