Varietal or terroir? Or just “different”? | New Brief out, #176 | The Wine Newsletter

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Per Karlsson portrait Britt Karlsson portraitVarietal or terroir? Or just “different”?

The grape variety was not really important before the New World wines appeared on a larger scale in the 1990s.

Well, of course it was important. But consumers did not care about which grapes the wines were made of. They bought a Bordeaux, a Burgundy, a Moselle or Rhine wine, a port wine, a champagne. They bought a wine style or an origin. Not a grape. Then the New World wines appeared and, all of a sudden, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon took the centre stage.

Wine enthusiasts today are often obsessed with the grape variety. Yes, it is interesting to know the varieties in the wine. As long as you don’t always expect the producer to tell you the exact percentages. Maybe he doesn’t remember or maybe he doesn’t feel it is that important to be too precise. And sometimes you have to realize that it is not the grape character you feel in the wine, but rather where it comes from and in what style it is made.

You can (fairly) often recognize a Bordeaux but it is really not easy to say if it is Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon based. You can recognize the warm tones of a Languedoc but guessing the grape mix is a challenge. A sauvignon blanc from Sancerre or New Zealand is completely different from a white Bordeaux, even when it is made from 100% sauvignon.

Today grape varieties cross the borders like never before. To some extent, this is because of the climate change. Bordeaux, for example, experiments with Syrah and Grenache. Perhaps a producer is looking for freshness in Languedoc and decides to plant Sauvignon Blanc.

But another reason is that today many consumers want something different, something unexpected. Portuguese grapes are successful in California. A Bordeaux with 100% Carmenère? With the right label and right sales channels, it should be a blockbuster. (In fact, there already is such a wine on the market!)

Don’t forget to take a look at our wine tours and book one that you think looks exciting.

Britt & Per

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