Thursday, 21 November 2013

Let's go indigenous

The subject of international vs indigenous vine varieties has always deeply interested me. In a world that is being affected every day more by a detrimental uniformity (side effect in a way of modern globalization) the wine industry makes no bigger difference.

For many years there has been in wine production a tendency to choosing 'comfortable and safe' vine varieties at the expenses of the less known local ones, this causing, in some cases, the disappearance of some the latter. Winemakers shouldn't take all the blame as a big part of this trend is definitely connected to the evolution of wine distribution. It is renown that the biggest wine retailers are nowadays supermarkets and this is not only in UK. So if the wine buying experience is as impersonal as it is in a supermarket, what do you think the casual consumer will go for? Correct: he/she will go for the names they have heard, for something they know. He will go for Cabernet Sauvignon rather than Aglianico. She will go for Chardonnay rather than Albariño.  So this partly then justifies producers trying to make wines that need to be sold! 

More recently this is slightly changing. Countries like, for example, Portugal have made a point of sticking to their local varieties, facing the adverse comments of those buyers and sommeliers that were considering these wines too difficult to sell.  And their stubbornness proved them right: now those wines are regarded as some of the most interesting in the industry in terms of good value for money and local expression.

I want to stress that, even to a (wine)hippie like me, globalization is not the Bogeyman and we should definitely make the most of it in terms of cultural free interchange but we also need to preserve the local cultures and traditions and in the specific case we should preserve the indigenous vine varieties. And this is up to the various wine professionals that have the power to educate consumers and direct them in their buys through supermarket wine selections, through articles and events especially considering that wine consumers are gaining more knowledge and consciousness every day and their curiosity is increasing.

Indigenous varieties are a great richness for a country's viticulture as they will distinguish it from the rest of the world so it is essential to preserve this diversity in order to maintain every wine countries' identity. And it is also a great opportunity.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wine carousel

What I like most about having friends for dinner (other of course than the actual `friends`) is that everyone will normally bring a different bottle of wine, meaning that we will have a lot of different things to taste.

Often not all of them will be memorable, but at least the variety can satisfy my almost pathological curiosity for wine diversity.

Last Friday a friend was coming over but, as it was only 3 of us, we tried to keep the number of bottles under control (not sure we actually managed!). We started with a quite simple Pinot Grigio from Oddbins that was showing a very delicate nose of pear and citrus fruit but was really watery in the mouth and disappeared quite quickly. Although I was not having great expectations, it still was quite disappointing.

This was followed by a much better Gruner Veltliner from Austria that had a quite distinct citrusy character of lime, lemon and Ducan grapefruit. In the mouth the acidity was surprising and the citrusy flavours intense and persistent. 

Before moving to red, we decided to have a pink interlude with a Sancerre (some of you may have only heard about white Sancerre but, for your interest, this wine comes also in rose') that was very fresh but a bit monotone with its predominant aromas of pink grapefruit. Very pleasant as a light aperitif but a bit too weak to match food in my opinion. 

And finally we got to red. We tried something local (for me!) and fairly priced:  a red from Umbria, a region that has a lot to offer in terms of wine and so much yet to be discovered. The specific wine is a delicious example of Sangiovese, blended with international varieties, that shows a good complexity (especially for a wine of this price) of dark berries, earthy and spicy delicate notes. It has body enough to pair a rich lasagna and a good backbone of acidity to cleanse your palate after it!

I should have friends over more often!