Every day millions of consumers head to wine stores, grocery stores and generally wherever wine is sold and order the same types of wines. Day after day, month after month and year after year the choices barely seem to change: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have dominated the wine markets since the 1800’s, barely seeing any real competition until Pinot Noir burst onto the international wine scene a few years ago. Of course, there are plenty of other incredible wines that you should be drinking, but you aren’t because they just are not marketed very well.
For years, vintners (yes, especially those in France where the grape was developed) thought that Grenache Blanc was only fit to blend with other white wine grapes. As it turns out, Grenache Blanc is only a blending grape when you grow the grapes in large yields. A few Maverick vintners in southern France as well as California tried to grow Grenache Blanc using the same rules and regulations which have governed Chardonnay production over the years. The results have been dramatic and the quality of Grenache Blanc has increased many times over the past few decades. Part of the increase in quality is seen through modern winemaking techniques like cold fermentation, which is a relatively recent innovation and one which Grenache Blanc seems to respond better to than most grapes. If you find a high quality Grenache Blanc, you’ll notice that it has a higher level of acidity than you might be accustomed to, which in these warm summer days is a welcome respite from Chardonnay for many wine drinkers.
It’s one of the more talked about grapes in California because the quality to price ratio is better than that of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Syrah has an added advantage of growing well in a wide variety of growing environments, creating vastly different wines depending on the conditions in each vineyard. It does well in warm weather vineyards in Paso Robles as well as cooler (even cold according to some growers) Sonoma vineyards next to the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, these are wines which tend to have an element of spice, which seems perfect as we continue through the summer bbq season and so many people enjoy being outside, cooking over hot coals.
A lot of wine drinkers know the basic story of Malbec: it is one of the five original varietals in Bordeaux, except that it was going extinct there before Argentina vintners picked it up and eventually made it into their national grape, all the while crafting a version of the wine much better than the French original. The best Malbec’s still come from South America and although the Argentine’s typically drink the best of what they produce, there are still plenty of opportunities for wine lover’s in America and Europe to get a nice introduction to the Malbec grape.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short intro to three wines, which I think are under appreciated by consumers. Part of finding interesting wines is that they are typically much cheaper, considering the quality than more well known grapes.
Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, a wine club based just outside of San Francisco focused on delivering the highest quality of wine in the industry.