800 Grapes and Kraft Dinner

By / Magazine / September 8th, 2010 / 1

I’m starting to see a lot more wines at my local liquor store made with grapes I’ve never heard of before. How many grapes are there in the big wide wine world?

It depends on who’s counting. The Mistress of Wine, Jancis Robinson, wrote a book about our favourite piece of fruit and, though I didn’t actually count them (or read much of it for that matter) she apparently documents around 800. Some who consider themselves experts on that Internet thingy would have you include every hybrid and cross — along with anything round and purple — which would take the count well over 1000. That means you’d better get used to seeing more than just the classic six “noble” grapes (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir) on hip-and-happening wine labels. Start slow. Try Syrah, Grenache or maybe Viognier, then you can work your way up to Tempranillo and maybe even (cue exaggerated gasp of disbelief) Touriga Nacional.

You can start keeping track of all the fruit you drink by surfing over to The Wine Century Club and downloading one of their applications. It’s really only a spreadsheet checklist, but it includes just about every major grape going. All you have to do is swear on your corkscrew that your lips have met a particular berry and when you get to 100 you can send it back to receive a nifty certificate and a lifelong membership into the club. You get an upgrade if you can claim to have tasted 200. Started by Steve De Long — the creator of the so nerdy it’s cool De Long Wine Grape Varietal Table (just Google it) — the club’s a home for those that love to fill their glasses with the excitement of something different. And as my father never said: You can’t call yourself a wine fan if you aren’t willing to experiment grape by grape.  

I’m a college student who loves wine, but isn’t much of a cook. What can you recommend that will go with something I can make, like Kraft Dinner?

Have you tried a shot of Islay single malt whisky before tucking into your bowl of manufactured macaroni and cheese? That might help kill the taste of all that processed goodness. Of course, I kid because I, too, love. Back in my freewheeling single days I balanced my booze budget by eating more than my fair share of KD so I kind of know where you’re coming from (well, kind of). You didn’t specify which of the cheesy wonders is your package of preference. Do you mean “The Original” Kraft Dinner with its packet of powdered cheese flakes that turn the noodles DayGlo orange, or one of the fancy pants Deluxe versions that up the cheesiness by, like, a thousand? I suppose it doesn’t really matter once it’s in the bowl. In the end you’re still looking to match a wine with what will ultimately be an overpowering, palate-coating mouthful of plain, cheese-soaked (and with heartfelt apologies to Italy) pasta.

Keeping things red and fruit-forward is the liquid antidote for KD. Something like a mid-priced Aussie Shiraz or California Zinfandel. Their mix of ripe berry flavours and underlying spiciness has enough muscle to flex its way through the assault au fromage without losing too much in the transition from glass to throat. One of those new millennium Pinotages — the kind that taste like a cross between a Mars bar and a Starbucks double espresso — make a fun alternative, as would a fruity Chilean Merlot.

I struggle with the white side. Too much acid may clash with the subtle nuances of the dish … wait, what am I saying? If you‘re keen on vino blanco pick a bottle with a little weight like a lightly oaked Chardonnay or my all-purpose fallback position — an off dry Riesling. They should help the mediocrity go down.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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