As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.
These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).
In my latest column, I contend that Americans are growing increasingly comfortable with Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
Embracing the Rhone Rangers
“Raise your hand if customers regularly come in and ask for a good Cabernet.”
I recently issued this directive to a group of 40 sommeliers, retailers, and other wine industry insiders from across Washington, D.C. Unsurprisingly, just about every hand shot up.
I quickly spoke again. “Raise your hand again if customers frequently come in and ask for a good Chardonnay.” Again, just about every hand went up.
“Now,” I continued, “raise your hand if a single customer has asked for Grenache or Mourvedre in the past month.” Not a single hand went up.
“What about Carignan? Piquepoul?” While several attendees chuckled, no hands were raised.
The 40 industry insiders had gathered to explore the market’s support for the 22 grape varieties that hail from France’s Rhone Valley. Several dozen wine producers from across the United States who embrace these varieties were in town, so I moderated a panel discussion among eight of them.
I opened with this thought experiment to illustrate how gutsy it is to focus on unusual varieties. Sure, oenophiles recognize that one can only drink so much Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. But the average consumer is unfamiliar with — and intimidated by — Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
I left with the distinct feeling that things are changing, fast.
Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!