Trends and Style
I’ve rubbed my crystal ball and, believe it or not, when it comes to red fruit it predicts that Shiraz/Syrah (a grape so nice they named it twice) will shine in 2010. I know what you’re thinking — what’s so hip about a grape that’s been used and abused by Down Under winemakers for the last twenty years? Well, here’s the deal: The wines from the southern (which blend with Syrah) and northern (where Syrah is king) Rhône Valley have been the only things close to cool coming out of France in recent memory and consumers should finally take notice early in the New Year.
Also, great price-fighting versions of S/S from Chile, Argentina and South Africa will be invading your local liquor stores in the coming months and that will set the stage for the grape’s second act.
The juice of the Iberian Peninsula has potential as well. While Spain’s Tempranillo and Portugal’s Touriga Nacional are as old as dirt, they are just now being discovered by the masses.
On the whiter side, my money is on Riesling to make its long overdue comeback official by next spring. Thankfully today’s generation of wine drinkers — too young to remember the days when a sappy sweet German Riesling was the tipple of the day — taste the versatility they find in their glasses. Sure, the Germans are sharing in Riesling’s return but what’s really turning everyone’s corkscrew are drier versions from the likes of New Zealand, Australia and Canada, which are super food-friendly while also offering more than enough personality to stand alone.
My second runner-up is Viognier. A fragrant, spicy berry that has transcended its French homeland to become a major player across the New World — both on its own and in unique blends with both white and red grapes.
Why do some wines cost so much more than others?
An honest enough question, but come on, it’s the same reason a Lamborghini Murciélago costs more than a Ford Focus: They’ll both get you to the corner and back, but the sophistication of the ride depends on when, where and how it was produced.
Let’s start with when. While vintage may not be that big a deal when it comes to under twenty buck weekday drinking wines, it’s a major selling point for the pricier big guns — especially if they’ve been around for awhile. Great years typically translate their pedigree to the price tag and the older and rarer they get, the more expensive they become.
And all that’s linked to where. Every wine producing country has its share of the high end — some more than others. Regions like France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy, Italy’s Piedmont and California’s Napa Valley are just some that have more than their fair share of posh wine real estate. After decades (if not centuries) of growing grapes in these areas, winemakers know their way around their soil and that history has made their output highly sought after and therefore worth mucho dinero.
But you can’t ask a fortune for a bottle if it doesn’t taste good; so how a wine is made can be the deal breaker. Back to that everyday drop: Odds are it’s reasonably priced because it’s made with ripe grapes grown in any number of regions within its country that are blended together to create a uniform flavour year after year. Though there’s nothing wrong with that (I drink that sort of thing all the time), the über premium juice is squeezed from handpicked fruit grown on single vineyards and tended to by winemaking royalty.
The kicker is that pricey wines (especially recent vintages) are usually so complex that they’re nowhere near ready for drinking; with that cheaper bottle giving you way more joy for your buck if you’re looking for a drink tonight.