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“It” wines have always come in and out of fashion. Until the late 1800s your bottle of red Bordeaux was primarily Malbec . It took until the 1980s for Chardonnay to overtake Chenin Blanc as California’s top white. And in our most recent wine-trend-pivot in the early 2000s Pinot Noir did a Murphy/ Akyroyd “Trading Places” with Merlot.

There have been a myriad of factors influencing these trends, the current major one being climate change with heat making specific grapes in even major quality wine regions less and less viable.  But no matter the cause, change in wine preferences and the grapes that make them has always been the rule.

This begs the question of what climate change will bring as far as what bit-player- grapes will become matinee idols. Well here is this pundit’s touts for grapes with a bright future. This will be a two-part feature with Part 1 setting much of the backstory, history and context.

Because of their more protective skins, reds are most likely to thrive as climate warms. So, it makes sense to look at red grapes that love the heat and also do well with limited water. Additionally, we want to consider their potential to make exceptional wine.                                                                                                                                               A dark-horse in every sense of the word, the Tannat grape, which has stout tannins, color, high alcohol, and the darkest of fruit flavors, has been used for centuries to bolster some of the world’s most famous wines. Tannat is a star on its own in the Madiran region not far from Bordeaux, where it is blended with Merlot in what seems to be an excellent marriage of the ripe-plum and blueberry soft rich Merlot, which can lack structure and acid, and Mr. T, which has all the stuffing any blend partner could ask for. Madiran wines are already gaining notoriety, and Tannat has also become the signature varietal of Uraguay. Tannat is finding a home in California as well, with a dandy coming from famed Tables Creek in Paso Robles.

Mourvedré which is a blending grape from the Southern Rhone, is another squid-ink-black wine with strong tannins and a beautiful feral quality the French call Garrigue. It France it only stars solo in the commune of Bandol where it has been cultivated for centuries. The Sierra Foothills producers are making some rocking versions that rival their French counterparts, and Cline Cellars makes an incredible value “Ancient Vines” Mourvedré  from 100+ year old vines that is widely available.

BTW both Tannat and Mourvedré wines last decades and dance spectacularly with roast beast and vegetables, so go search some out and I’ll meet you here next week for Part 2.

0000   2018   THE WEEKLY WINE COLUMN          GRAPES FOR A HOT NEW WORLD    Part 2

In Part 1 of “Grapes for a Hot New World” we began an exploration of which grapes and wines will rise to greater quality, fame and fortune with the spike in Mercury. This was prompted by a series of record heat years in the past few decades and the predictions of changes in what will benefit moving forward.                    Part 2 will introduce a couple more reds and in addition we will take on a more difficult task of identifying white wine grapes that will likely move up the wine-ladder with temperatures rising

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. This is a more difficult task as the calling card of white wines is the retention of freshness and delicate molecules that can disappear with too much heat.

For the reds let’s trip to Southern Italy where we find Primitivo in Apuglia and other regions. BTW the same prediction goes for Primitivo’s clonal-cousin Zinfandel. The second heat-lover is Nero d’Avola which typically hails from Sicily.  Primitivo is usually an earthier and dryer style of Zinfandel, and offers a more bramble style of dark fruits. Nero d’Avola is a chocolate-covered-cherry delight of a wine that retains its acids better than most reds. This creates a delightful combination of deliciousness and freshness even grown in hot arid climates. These, and the examples in Part 1, are exactly the types of reds that other parts of the world will be looking to grow when the coals heat up. They are also screaming bargains as you’d be hard pressed to spend a double-sawbuck on a bottle. Since these tend to be unfamiliar to most of the world, I highly recommend asking your local wine-shop Guru for suggestions.

On the white side, look to the south of France to Languedoc, Roussillon, and the southern Rhone where Rousanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, Clairette and Bourblanc thrive. The key to these grapes expanding their realm is that they retain their acid and aromatic molecules even in extremely hot growing conditions. They are also often blended together in various combinations and create complex symphonies of aromas and flavors that harmonize like a Barber Shop Quartet.  For value-priced current examples of these solo or as a tribe look to the aforementioned Languedoc / Roussillon where there are hundreds of producers with offerings around $10. Since many of the producers have had their fruit sources for decades or more, and their Mediterranean climate is quite consistent, once you find favorite you will have  new “go to” house whites that will impress all. Another hot-bed – pardon the pun – for these wines is Paso Robles where producers have similar conditions and commitment to these beauties. Like I recommended for the above reds ask your local Wine Guru for their suggestions.

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