Recently, I was giving an exam to some of my first-year wine students. Just before the exam I overheard a group discussing wines they had been enjoying lately. It got my attention because these were obscure grapes rarely discussed.
I was curious as to how they even knew some of these grapes and were they really exploring them for their everyday bottles?
It turns out, these students are part of a growing trend among younger wine drinkers seeking exotic and lesser known grapes. Their buying habits are quite different from the generations before them who sought out the comfort and familiarity of the noble grapes. These young wine drinkers (aka Millennials and iGeneration/Generation Z) are seeking wines that their parents and grandparents likely avoided because they were unpronounceable or from unheard esoteric regions of origin.
Contributing to the emergence of more diverse grapes may be that millennials (ages 23-38) are drinking more wine than other age brackets and more than half have active social media accounts making getting the “word out” much faster and efficient.
In the past most of these “obscure” grapes only came to the consumer’s attention on restaurant wine lists where the sommelier had to steer the diner away from the comfort of the chardonnay and merlot to explore something different. Many restaurants were reluctant to include such so-called exotic, unusual or oddball wines on the list because of consumer confusion, but today more consumers are searching for wines unique and different.
The following lesser-known grapes are good starting points for those wishing to explore beyond the usual. Spain’s mencia tastes much like a cross between pinot noir and syrah. Sicily is home to carricant, similar to the taste of cool-climate chardonnays. Hungary’s Furmint has the aromas of sauvignon blanc and the refreshing acidity of a Riesling. Mourvedre, also known as mataro and monastrell, is known for its earthy rich full-bodied flavors.
- 2017 Triton Mencia, Spain (about $17 retail)
- 2017 Cline Ancient Vine Mourvedre, California (about $20 retail)