If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll note that I introduced some wine varieties you've probably never heard of. As a matter of fact, they were new to me at the time as well, but I have to admit that I enjoy trying unknown varieties because they extend my wine experience beyond the known and familiar.
How pleasant it was then recently to discover two articles by Wine Awesomeness that tackle the topic of "weird wine." Weird to some, intoxicatingly adventurous to others. Here is some of their edited comments on the subject.
"Why drink weird wines? If you’re even entertaining the question, we have a ways to go. But one step at a time. Let us start here."
Unique wines provide endless lessons. At their core, they tell us about lands we’ve likely never visited, people we’ve never met and flavors we never suspected to show up in a glass of fermented juice. Foreign wine almost always come with a story, a tale of history, passion and culture. How can a curious mind overlook these stories, turn a head to this human experience?
More selfishly, weird wine tells us about ourselves. Tasting something new gives you a glimpse into your ever-evolving palate. Whether the wine can be counted among a new favorite or one you’d prefer not to revisit, you learned a thing or two about nuance. You discovered traits that turn you off and those that turn you on. You can applaud yourself for taking a chance and craving a new experience.
For people who dedicate their life to wine — be it as a collector, a winemaker, a devotee to the service industry — few evenings are more thrilling than those during which they uncork a bottle of the not yet tasted. Not a vintner I know doesn’t regularly sit down with new bottles to seek out a note they’ve never encountered. Similarly, no honest wine writer will stake a claim to knowing every flavor, deciphering every bouquet.
Indeed, even wine pros who devote 50 or 60 hours every week to the craft are perpetually exploring and discovering new bottles and unknown varietals.
Do we all have our favorite bottles and preferred regions? Of course. But shame on the sipper who returns — week after week, year after year — to the same bottle or bottles from an established region. Knowing what you like is one thing, and certainly there are times when it’s a strength. But closing off possibilities in the world of wine is damn near sinister. It’s a yawn-worthy approach to life.
Weird wine sparks conversation. And so long as tasters are entering the dialogue with an open mind and quest for revelation, the discussion will lead to ponderings, musings and, on great days, answers.
There are literally thousands and thousands of grapes grown around the world that can be used to make wine. Yet, most wine drinkers only know and care about the biggest names: Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, etc. How is it that out of thousands of choices, most of us can count the number of different varieties we’ve tasted on two hands (and maybe some toes)?
Well, wine marketeers have come up with a plan to build our tastes around a few major grapes. Why? So we don’t get scared, overwhelmed or turned off by the seemingly endless spread of grapes and regions that are available these days
Wine Awesomeness goes on to say that some grape varieties are so rare that even the most astute wine folks will be like "wuh?" Bobal, Bonarda, Airen, Primitivo, Tocai Friuliano, Altesse.
Like Chardonnay? Try Airen. Drink Pinot Grigio? In Friuli-Venezia where most of the made-for-the-US Pinot Grigio is grown, you’d order Tocai Friuliano. Malbec is the red grape of Argentina right? Think again, all the locals drink Bonarda and for good reason.
The key take away is to look beyond what you know, think you know, or don’t know at all.
I couldn’t agree more and am looking forward to exploring esoteric grape varieties even more and, at the same time, enjoying Chard, Cab and their ever-popular cousins.