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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cab -> Merlot -> Pinot Noir -> Grenache?

  There are always "in" wines such as Pinot Grigio seems to be now. This changes every few years. At one time in California it was Chardonnay or Cabernet and that was about it. Sure, there were other things planted like Chenin Blanc and French Colombard, and some Zinfandel mostly for the locals, but the big guys in the market were Chard and Cab.

  Along came The French Paradox on 60 Minutes and all of a sudden it was Merlot as everyone needed a red wine that was drinkable on the day they bought it (not like the Cabs of the time). Merlot rode that wave for about 15 years. Then it was Pinot Noir. Some say because of the movie Sideways that praised Pinot and derided Merlot.

  Pinot has been riding that popularity wave right into the $50 a bottle range. There's a lot of Pinot being produced now. Is its price sustainable? My guess is no. Not that I'm even close to being an expert on it, but I've been a CA wine drinker for a long time and seen the trends come and go. 

  I've noticed interest moving towards Rhone varietals and specifically Grenache. It can be a good food wine, Grenache is a wine you can just sip on or have with a meal, and most importantly it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The Next Big Thing in red wines was going to be Syrah, but that was a bit of a bust. Why? Well, it's usually a good food wine, but not so good for sipping (it's tannic) and not necessarily cheap--except for the Australian Shiraz style. 

  Grenache seems to grow well in a lot of different locations in California from coastal to the interior Sierra foothills. Yeah, you can find a $40 one if you look hard, but most are around $20. The best ones are often blends of Grenache with Syrah and a lesser known grape Mourvedre--and maybe even Petite Sirah and Carignane. The blends are interesting and very drinkable and if the prices stay low they may even become popular!