Most of us are aware wine trends, likes and dislikes, go in cycles. 25 years ago Merlot was the “new found wine”, then the shift went from Chenin Blanc to Chardonnay. The last seven years has seen a resurgence of Rosé, Shiraz and most recently Pinot Noir. Why? What is the reason different varietals go through these phases and crazes?
Undoubtedly Cabernet Sauvignon is king of the reds, and for good reason. There are a lot of wineries that produce this varietal, providing a nice spectrum of nose, flavor and finish. So, why the big surge in Merlot purchasing in the 1990’s? What is the reason for the upswing in sales for Shiraz in 2008? Rosé, in 2012? I believe there are several common denominators.
It is my firm belief that weather patterns causing a shift in climate are the biggest reason. It just makes sense. A few years of too hot, too dry weather will make for some unfortunate vintages. This leads folks to look to a different grape, a different region, a different taste. The weather shift may also bring a better vintage to a different varietal. For example, if a person liked a fruit forward Cab, and the weather caused the Cabs to be more tannic, then that person will go for the softer, more fruity side of a merlot. That same weather that is causing the Cabs to be more tannic may cause the Merlot to be rounder, juicer, and just plain better.
Another common denominator may be food trends. When food trends swing from American Classic Burgers, Caesar Salad and anything with Bacon to Gourmet Chocolate, Sushi and Lamb, you’re bound to see a swing from Merlot to Shiraz. Wow, especially that Gourmet Chocolate – that is a lovely pairing. Then of course the lighter eating, gluten free everything, grilled fish – bring on the Rosé.
And the final common denominator that I’ve seen is the change in wine making allowing for just plain better wine. Better wine at a better price will bring on a shift in what people like and want to drink. I have to say, three years ago I would not be purchasing a Malbec. Now I do. Why? Because Malbec has gotten better, and the price is still low.
Okay, so what do we have? A change in wine varietal preference, better wines coming from different regions of the world, food trends and pricing. I was lucky to find the manager of the Barnard General Store, Joe Minerva, in the shop and had a chat with him. His belief is the general public that is purchasing the current trend in wine (in this case it’s Pinot Noir) are buying the average price based, style of that trend. Thus said, when a different varietal of wine comes along, at the same or less price with better taste and quality, the public moves on to a new trend. This seems logical to me. And, while it may drive up the price, it also drives up the quality.
What does this mean for us? Well…it means if you’re in the market for a Malbec, you’re in luck! It has a good price point and it is getting better. If you’re in the market for a high quality Pinot Noir – you’re also in luck because there will be more availability on the shelf.
While Malbec was originally grown throughout France (it is one of the six grape varieties allowed in French Red Bourdeaux), its claim to fame for being an Argentine grape grew after the 1956 frost in France that killed off about 75% of the crop. The grape is commonly used in red blends but has started making a name for itself as the predominant grape. We have been enjoying Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec from Tupungato, Argentina. The price will be around $15.00. The tasting notes are cherry and plum with a hit of berry and black cherry flavors, backed by a finish of mild notes of chocolate and coffee. What’s not to love about that?
The timing of this new trend is good. Malbec will typically pair very well with the food of the Spring season; lamb, fresh greens, grilled vegetables, spicy barbeque, and of course dark chocolate.
I’m going to be adding a few bottles of a Malbec blend, most likely from the higher elevation of Argentina. I suggest you try a glass the next time you sit down to enjoy dinner.