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Monday, March 28, 2016

What's Next After the Pinot Noir Fad?

The first question would be, "Is Pinot Noir a fad?" Most pinotphiles will argue that it's here to stay. History doesn't necessarily agree as people seem to come back to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Remember Merlot in the 1990s? But it's probably safe to say Pinot Noir sales will at least level off as wine drinkers start to look for The Next Big Thing. Wine is a trendy business.

A couple decades ago many banked on Syrah to be The Next Big Thing. Some are still feeling effects of that mistake.

We'll go with something that drinks nicely when young and grows well in the Pacific coastal area. I would narrow it down to two grape varieties: Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Both are Bordeaux varietals along with the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Both are currently grown in small quantities in the U.S.

Malbec is planted mostly in California plus there's some in Washington, Oregon, and in several eastern states. Cab Franc is grown mostly in California, Washington, and New York. Climate-wise it may be better-suited to WA and NY. There isn't much planted in California as each of these two varieties represents about one percent of the total red wine grapes in the state.

A well-respected Sonoma County
Cab Franc. This vintage blended
with Merlot and Cab Sauv

Malbec is a bit heavier; Cab Franc a bit perfumey and spicy. If not done correctly Cab Franc can be green and vegetal. The first California Cab Franc I had was years ago from a Sonoma Valley wine maker. It was green and it was a long time before I tried another. When it's done well Cab Franc can be pretty spectacular.

If drinkers are moving from Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot it seems like Malbec is the logical choice. Those moving from Pinot Noir might gravitate to Cabernet Franc. Of course, Merlot might make a comeback. At one time there were quite a few high quality Merlots out there, many blended with Cab. Today much of the Merlot is kind of thin and syrupy.

There's already quite a bit of Malbec available from South America so it might seem that Cab Franc could be The Next Big Thing in American wine. A nice thing about Cab Franc is that it pairs with lots of foods from beef to pork to salmon so it covers what you might pair with a Pinot Noir plus some food you'd pair with Cab Sauv.

Glad I'm not a grape grower and have to figure these things out because it gets very expensive if you guess wrong.