Listen up professional wine geeks, there’s a new app out there called Tasteavore. You scan a special UPC code of a wine you are tasting at a trade show and it catalogs your notes along with facts about the winery, its personalities and the winemaking process. You receive a tidy, little e-mail a couple days later with the info. I love it! It beats the heck out of juggling a show guide, notebook and a tasting glass.
I just got my notes back from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, which rolled through Atlantic Station in March. I tasted 11 pinot noirs, 10 cabernet sauvignons, one cabernet franc, one malbec and one viognier. The pinot noirs make sense, as I’m in the market for a few pinot noirs for my wine list. But I found myself asking: Where have all the varieties gone?
By some estimates, there are 1,300 different wine grapes. But if you go to a retail shop, look at most wine lists (including mine) or walk around a trade tasting for a couple hours, you’d think we were down to about four.
While I’m not the type to recklessly toss around baseless accusations, this is clearly your fault. Yes, you, Joe and Jane Consumer. (Turns out I am a reckless accusation tosser.)
I offer guests to my dining room wonderful interpretations of rieslings, chenin blancs, tempranillos, grenaches and syrahs. Alas, they rest comfortably yet interminably in the cellar. What regularly gets turned over in the inventory? Cabernet sauvignons, pinot noirs, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and pinot grigios.
There are a few intrepid explorers out there. In fact, I have one regular guest who insists that I put a true viognier on the list. (The two viognier blends I currently offer do not cut it for him.)
If the selection—or lack of selection—at the High Museum Trade Tasting illustrates anything, it is this: if consumers are not drinking it, restaurants and retailers aren’t stocking it and winemakers aren’t making it. It’s a hard truth for lovers of all types of grapes, but that’s the reality of a free market.
Could I be doing a better job as a writer and sommelier to promote less-common wines? Maybe. But I regularly write about rieslings and other lonely varieties and I do list wines like greco, gewürztraminer and pinot meunier. At some point, however, I have to cater to the interests of the majority of readers and guests. That’s not pandering. That’s just sensible because to do otherwise would marginalize what I do into insignificance.
So, from time to time and for no other reason than to keep a measure of balance, I write about (and place on my wine list) wines that pretty much nobody is interested in. This week, I’ve got viognier on my mind.
This sassy, spicy, medium-bodied white grape hails from the rocky slopes of the upper Rhône Valley in France, but great versions of it can be found the world over. I particularly like Zolo from Argentina and, right in our backyard, Georgia’s own Tiger Mountain Vineyards makes a delicious viognier.
If a couple of you out there are spurred to give viognier a try tonight over what would have otherwise been just another chardonnay, my work here is done. And if that’s not the case, we’ll always have pinot.
Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.
— Gil Kulers, AJC Drink blog