Yesterday, I was caught a little off guard by a seemingly easy question.
"What are the current trends in wine?"
I thought about it, and realized my answer is not just a country and a grape varietal. My answer mirrors many categories outside of the wine biz. My answer fits into our difficult current economic times, and how our drinking patterns are tied to an economy. So, during times of good fortune, drinking trends would veer toward the exotic and rare. Today the trend is of little gems of discovery that seems in place since the 2008 banking crises led to wine consumers' own economic conditions. The truth is, these little gems of discovery are often what most wine directors and sommeliers have always valued the most, and when they speak about their own drinking habits, these are the wines they share with one another.
"Value" is what I would tell anyone is the current trend, and certainly this would be true of many fields, but in the wine industry there are incredible choices all over the world. Here are a two French regions where people would expect to spend a lot of money, yet there are deals to be found.
Burgundy would hardly be a place that I would describe as a value region, yet finding a great producer like Jean Yves Devevey and tasting his quite affordable Bourgogne Blanc, is a treat. These normally entry level Chardonnays taste like a whole different price level wine in the hands of a great producer. This is elegant and sexy wine that might pass for a Puligny Montrachet in another producer's hands.
For a red, the very earthy and funky Passetoutgrains from Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard is a find. This wonderful producer, who makes very expensive and sought after reds; makes this field blend, where the rows of Gamay and Pinot Noir are interspersed and picked and crushed without being separated. The resulting wine has some earthy flavors with the light and bright Gamay characteristics, along with some complexity and depth from the Pinot Noir.
Chateau La Gatte, a small Bordeaux property near the Dordogne River in an area where Merlot is the dominant red grape, makes superb wines at great prices. Bordeaux's classified Chateaux may overshadow the rest of the region's notoriety, but there is such a thing as very affordable and delicious Bordeaux wine. This Petit Chateaux owned and managed by Helene Fenouille produces affordable and delicious whites (the rare Sauvignon Gris is the primary grape), rose from Merlot (darker and richer than most roses), the single vineyard "La Butte," which is made from 100% old vine Merlot, and tastes of the classic velvety and complex flavors that once popularized Merlot enough to imitate its virtues in newer production regions. Lastly, is their Montalon bottling, which is comprised of about 80% Merlot and another 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This one needs some aging time, as the characteristics are closer to what you would find in the Medoc. In all, it is refreshing to find these wines of great quality, and of very approachable prices.
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