Last weekend, winos of all stripes made their way to New York's Javits Center at the New York Wine Expo & Tasting.
Each attendee was handed an empty glass and let loose in a room with hundreds of freely flowing bottles. The spit buckets were promptly ignored by the thirsty crowds. "If Jesus made water into wine, to pour it out would be a sin. I wouldn't want to do that, even though I am Jewish," said a red-lipped Rory Trifon.
While all small sips added up to a tipsy time for many, emerging trends in wine on display could not be ignored. For those who didn't brave the world of samples on a Saturday afternoon, here are some things to watch out for in your local liquor store:
Unoaked Chardonnay - If "Sideways" was released today, Miles's screed against Merlot might sound more like, "I am not drinking oaked Chardonnay!" Wine makers are doing away with the oak in order to let the grape speak for itself. As it turns out, the bold oak overwhelms the light and zesty citrus notes of the varietal.
Tempranillo, The Hot Red - Tempranillo proved to be the grape of the day, with numerous Spanish and South American vineyards showcasing its drinkability. It's commonly compared to Pinot Noir, and produces a light-bodied wine that still offers some spice. If you are looking for value, Nora Favelukes of QW Wine Experts recommends Tempranillo from South America, which is easy to find for $10-15 a bottle. "The New World offers a great value, because the cost of the land, the cost of the labor and the dollar is much more valuable there."
New Countries in the Mix - A few less-expected regions turned out, posing threat to more traditional wine-producing countries with their more unusual flavors. Greece, for one, is pushing the mineral flavors imparted by its volcanic terroir. A series of Brazilian wines hint at a shift away from the country's traditionally sweet palate. And Hungary, a former European wine mainstay, proved ready to reclaim its former glory. "Hungry used to be the fourth-largest European wine-growing country, before World War I," claimed Hungarian winemaker Isabella Zwack. After two world wars and decades of communism, the country has taken the last ten years to hit it's liquid stride once more, with a particular focus on Hungarian Tokaj.
Hyperlocal Wine - The market for locally produced wine is growing alongside the local food movement. Until recently, farmers like Steve Shaw, of Seneca Lake's Shaw Vineyards, lacked the tenacity necessary to compete with larger makers. A new generation brought change for Shaw, when his son tapped some Manhattan connections to drum up interest for the vino in city liquor stores and farmers markets, allowing Steve Sr. to continue tending to his grapes upstate. Arrangements like this have made it easier to grab a bottle of Riesling while shopping for local grub.
Sassy Labels, Here to Stay - With limited shelf space and an expanding audience, wine makers have turned to provocative labels in an attempt to stand out. It's turned into a "Can you top this?" sort of game. The newly launched Sassy Bitch collection took the prize for Naughtiest at the Expo, leaving us to wonder: What will be next, and will it have to be bleeped out?