When looking back on this year, I can easily recall many great vinous moments that were perhaps highlighted by the Mediterranean wine tasting adventure we hosted in Avignon and the Southern Rhone, followed by seven awesome days on the Crystal Serenity and concluding in Catalonia with visits to Barcelona, Cava and Priorat.
Other memorable times spent with good friends were enhanced by amazing experiences, great meals and many new discoveries.
As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to look forward to the new year with hopes and aspirations of even more to come. Long ago, I gave up dwelling on the more usual slate of resolutions as they seemed to vanish quickly.
This year, I’m embarking on a different “resolution philosophy” centered on expanding my knowledge and enjoyment of wine that will set the stage for even more delights in future years.
So, here we go:
#1—Drink more white wine. This resolution is not focused on volume, rather it’s on searching out new discoveries. I’ve often heard disparaging remarks by so-called wine lovers that white wines are something to drink before the reds are served. Or, that while whites may be OK, real wines are red.
Nothing could be further from the truth. White wines coming from countless growing areas of the New and Old Worlds pose some of the most interesting tasting and pairing opportunities you can imagine. There’s a diversity of aromas, flavors, structure and appeal with many of these wines that just are not as easily recognized in the more entrenched style of reds.
Many great and affordable whites are being produced throughout the Old World and the same varietals are also being grown here at home with excellent results.
Albariño from Spain and Alvarhino from neighboring Portugal, Vermintino from several areas of Italy, Chenin Blanc from South Africa and Vouvray along with Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer from Alsace are but a few examples. And others such as Torrontés from Argentina and Arnais from Piedmont are terrific choices but have not necessarily made the move to domestic vineyards.
#2—Uncover new sparklers from more diverse areas. Like many others, I’ve long recognized Champagne as the bastion of sparkling wine even though engaging examples from many other areas (including at home in our North Coast) began to appear over recent decades. But this is changing!
The Prosecco revolution sparked the interests of many and dramatically increased the sparkling market by attracting new fans, and quality is also now being elevated through the relatively new DOCG classification.
Rising prices in Champagne spurred the Récoltant Manipulant (RM or grower Champagne) movement where growers in the appellation elected to produce their own wines rather than just selling grapes to the large houses. The growth of Cava and it’s multi-tiered quality-based classification system has brought many great new wines to market at various price points. The many Crémants of France that are made in the Méthode Champenoise (now referred to as Méthode Traditionelle for wines produced by this process outside Champagne) hail from Burgundy, Loire, Alsace and other growing areas. And let’s not forget the highly acclaimed sparklers from England. Lots of bubbles from lots of places to enjoy.
#3—Continue exploring Beaujolais. Is the image of Beaujolais experiencing a rebound? Or will these noble wines always be negatively linked to Beaujolais Nouveau in the consumer’s perception and held in lesser regard? Both relevant questions when considering Beaujolais’ place in the market with the promotion of Nouveau and where it is headed with increased emphasis on the more traditional categories of Beaujolais-Village and Cru Beaujolais.
Beaujolais is one of France’s smallest appellations located just south of Burgundy where the only officially recognized grape is Gamay Noir. Beaujolais-Village lies to the north surrounding the hilly ten Cru appellations of Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliéanas, Morgon, Moulin-á-Vent, Réginé, and St. Armour. While the wines are best served slightly chilled their depth, appeal and finesse will challenge many other fine wines at considerably higher prices and offer a versatile range of menu pairings.
#4—Seek out more wines from emerging areas and varietals. The self-imposed shackles of the more traditional older generation wine drinkers have given way to the curiosity of millennials and a growing international market. The availability of wines from previously obscure areas and varietals is making the search for something different and enjoyable far easier. Many of these wines are well known in their home countries but are now being discovered in U.S. markets through the valiant efforts of courageous importers,
Tannat from Uruguay, Vermentino from Sardinia, Fiano de Avellino from Campania, Arinto from Portugal, Nerello Mascalese (and blends with Nerello Cappucio) from Mt. Etna and Sagrantino from Umbria are but a few examples that fit these little-known categories. The styles and flavor profiles may be considerably different from some similar and better recognized examples but certainly worth the search.
#5—Sharing more older wines from our cellar. When I started collecting wines almost 40 years ago, I naturally purchased some for aging and others for current or mid-term consumption. As I peruse the cellar from time to time, I think of when I would like to enjoy certain wines that have been lingering in their bins for a long time. Some may be past their prime while others are at the peak of their enjoyability curve.
This year and last, I’ve made an effort to open more of these wines with friends and family, and overall, the experiences were at the highest level of my expectations. The 1985 Champagne Salon, 1982 Chateaux Mouton and Lafite along with 1967 Chateau d’Yquem we enjoyed for our anniversary dinner last year, with all of our family, were real eye-openers and a reward for the wait.
This past Thanksgiving, we enjoyed 1982 Chateau Bechevelle, 1983 Chateau Latour and 1989 Chateau Pichon Baron along with several great Napa Cabernets and blends from the 1980s and 1990s. The wines exhibited far different aromatic/flavor profiles than their younger counterparts but certainly wowed us all. More to come in 2019!
There are infinite choices available and my resolution for 2019 is to explore as many as possible while leaving others for 2020 and beyond.