Being a Wine Contrarian

Article and photos courtesy of SW contributing writer: Daniel Braun, Certified Sommelier and Owner, of Princeville Wine Market

How does one achieve value in the purchase of wine? For sommeliers like me, we are often searching for obscure and hard to pronounce wines before they become discovered by the masses. There is another way that everyday folks can discover amazing wines with excellent price to quality ratios. Many wines go through a particular arc of popularity. They start becoming popular for their quality and approachability. Big money enters stage left pumping up quantity and yields to sell as much product as possible. Next, the wine predictably falls out of favor because it is only the shadow of its former self. New growers and winemakers later emerge from the ashes (often the next generation). These regions and wine styles then face an uphill battle to convince consumers that they are now top notch once again.

One prime example of this is Beaujolais. Beaujolais has had such a quality renaissance in all ranges from the fresh young Nouveau to the best of the Cru wines.  There are ten Crus in Beaujolais with my favorite at the moment being Morgon. The best wines of Morgon taste like they could be Burgundies from the Cote de Nuits at a fraction of the price. The wines of Morgon can attribute their complexity to an earthiness not usually found in regular Beaujolais. The fruit character is often of strawberry and kiwi and after a few years of age can take on the aroma of apricots and peaches. For an earthier style I highly recommend Foillard and for a lighter, fruitier style Lapierre is a great example.

Another such wine would be the Italian Lambrusco, a red bubbly, perfect with pizza and other casual Italian fair, lost popularity in much the same way as Beaujolais. Now, it is making a comeback thanks to producers such as Cleto Chiarli which produces a both dry and sweeter style of Lambrusco. It is a refreshing bubbly that incorporates red berry flavors. Like in Beaujolais, much of the increase in quality can be attributed to lowers yields.

Domestic blush wines have also had an uphill battle. Those who prefer a dry rose often think they must choose French due to the success of the much celebrated and often maligned White Zinfandel California became well known for producing. Although those sweeter side wines still exist, there are increasingly more options for those wanting a dry refreshing rose.  Toad Hollow makes a great dry rose of Pinot Noir that is very versatile to pair with many foods. There are many others making convincing blush wines with a New World twist. If you haven’t tried a quality New World rose in a while I recommend you give it a try.

These are just a few examples of wines that are deals due to the old popular opinion on their decline. With wine it often pays to be a contrarian.

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