Broaden your wine horizons and stay ahead of the curve in 2012. The Amateur Gastronomer predicts what wine trends will be big in the new year.
The Return of Merlot
The much-maligned Merlot will be making its comeback in 2012! The grape and wine took a hit after the 2004 release of the movie “Sideways,” in which the main character Miles refuses to drink Merlot. In the years since the movie came out California winemakers have gone back to the drawing board, working with Merlot grapes to bring out their best qualities and flavors. The latest Merlots are better than ever so it is time you gave them another taste.
This isn’t your parents’ boxed wine (or that sweet stuff you drank in college). The new crop of cubed vino is offering some tough competition to bargain-priced bottles in terms of taste, convenience and cost. Brands like Santiago Station from Chile and Bota Box from California make easy to drink crowd-pleasing wines that are on par with other wines in the $7 – $9 bottle price range. A 3-liter box generally costs between $15 and $20 – pretty good when you take into account that the box contains the equivalent of four bottles.
Boxed wines are great for tailgating, parties and picnics, or for people who don’t want much more than a glass of wine a night. Because of the packaging the wine is not exposed to air – that means the wine can last for a month or so after you pour your first glass.
Wines from Patagonia
Argentina’s newest wine producing region is coming into its own with bold wines that are earning rave reviews. Vineyards are located in the province of Neuquén, about 680 miles southwest of Buenos Aires and just south of the province of Mendoza. The grapes grown are mainly Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), as well as the lesser-known Tannat. For a taste of the high quality wines being produced in Patagonia try one from Bodega del Fin del Mundo or Bodega NQN.
In 2012 it’s time to give Mourvèdre the recognition it deserves. The “M” in “GSM” blends (along with Grenache and Syrah), Mourvèdre can be outstanding when it is on its own. This red wine grape adds structure, tannins and dark berry flavors when blended, and produces a bold and intense wine as a single variety.
You’ll find Mourvèdre blended with other red wine grapes in southern France (like the Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape), and in central California (like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County). Look to these regions for wines made entirely from Mourvèdre. Bandol, on France’s Mediterranean Coast, is the go-to place for exceptional Mourvèdre. You’ll also see it as a single variety in Spain, where it is called Monastrell. Additionally, Mourvèdre produces a red wine drinker’s rosé wine – aromatic and full-flavored, perfect for warm and sunny days.
Give Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio a break this spring and summer. As the temperatures rise the white wine to drink will be the lesser known Albariño. This grape and wine come from the Rías Baixas region in northwest Spain. You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho. Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol. It is the ideal summer white, pairing with anything from seafood and salads to picnics and afternoons at the beach.
Now that the debate between natural corks and screw tops has effectively been settled, there’s less of a stigma on alternative wine bottle closures. This year look for the newest ways wineries are sealing their bottles, from glass corks to the plastic ZORK.