This month’s wine writing challenge was picked by…well, me! As last month’s winner for my glass-shattering tales in my Winestory, I got the honor of picking this month’s theme: OBSCURE.
For full disclosure, Jeff helped me pick OBSCURE–and he was right, it was the word I was looking for in my quest to hear about the often-forgotten grapes. What I sent to Jeff was a long rambling email about how I was enjoying Lori and Mike of Draceana Wines posts about Cabernet Franc and their push for #CabFrancDay. I love Cabernet Franc, from the moment that I tasted it! But a lot of people have not heard of this delicious grape and even fewer know of other Cabernet grapes, like Ruby Cabernet.
Side note: Grape Creek makes a delicious blend of these three Cabernet grapes, Cabernet Trois, which I highly recommend if you’re in Texas and/or can get your hands on some!
This got me thinking: I wanted to hear from everyone that one varietal that they love that perhaps few outside the world of wine have experienced. Everyone (wine drinker or not) has heard of Chardonnay, Shiraz, the main Pinots (note: any snarky comments about me lumping Noir and Grigio into one will be ignored!), Rieslings, Cabernet, Merlot, and even (shudder) White Zin, but there are thousands and thousands of varietals out there–what about them?
Btw, this was all pretty much in my nebulous (his word, not mine–ha!) email to him. Thankfully, he recently moved to Texas and was able to decipher my ramblings and come up with a–in my humble opinion–great word.
So it is in that spirit that I wanted to tell you about my favorite OBSCURE wine, actually wines. There are four in fact, because well, go big or go home.
Gewürztraminer, Viognier, French Colomabard, and Dry Riesling
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I know Rieslings are not obscure and were in my list above, but DRY Rieslings are a bit harder to find…that is my story and I’m sticking to it.
At the time I introduced to each of these wine I was working at the wineshop. I was very leery of white wine because I lumped them all (I know, bad Shezza!) into two categories: Chardonnay (gag!) and exceptionally sweet Rieslings (not so much gag as too sweet to drink more than a ½ glass!).
But as I worked my way down the tasting bar, my tastebuds discovered there was actually a wide variety in flavors and sweetness levels of white wines–far more than I ever imagined! Along the way I found four wines that not only stood out, but that I would actually consider drinking–a HUGE feat at the time because, honestly, if it wasn’t red or bubbles, I did not drink it!
ONE MORE SIDE NOTE: I pulled the first three pictures from each winery’s website, as 20 years ago I never dreamed I needed pictures!
Wait? There is such a thing as Dry Riesling? Growing up in a German town, I was exposed to Riesling very early in life. Not that I was drinking it, but it was the very first wine varietal that I knew existed (not that I even knew what “wine varietal” meant at that time!). My first tastes of Riesling were Spätlese and Auslese, so I was delightful surprised when I tried the local Dry Rieling from Bell Mountain (exceptionally local, as the vineyard butts up to the part of the ranch!). What surprised me was the fruitiness of the wine without the sweetness. This wine, like many grown in the area, has very peachy overtones–both in the bouquet and the finish, which is dry and crisp. It pairs well with lighter foods and soft cheeses, but can be enjoyed all by itself.
For the trivia files: Being the star of German wines, there are many different ways to classify Rieslings based on region and sweetness at the time of harvest. Wine Folly does a great job of explaining it, if one was interested in jumping into the deep end of the Riesling pool!
As you may or may not know, gewurz means spice in German and this wine is perfect for spicy foods or heavy cheeses. It has a very floral bouquet, with a medium mouthfeel, and tastes of honeysuckle with a bit of warm spice on the finish (allspice, perhaps?). Personally speaking, I think it is delicious but is on the sweeter side, even for a Gewürztraminer, and best paired with food.
For the trivia files: Gewürztraminer grapes are actually pink to red in color not white!
I think it took me three glasses of Viognier to be able to properly and without hesitation say Viognier (as opposed to my German heritage which allowed me to say Gewürztraminer without any issues the very first time!). What I found in this Viognier was a dry wine that I could truly enjoy without all the oaky/buttery flavors that are synonymous with Chardonnay. While you would expect to find peach, this Viognier smells of apricot and honeydew. It is full bodied, with a honeysuckle and apricot finish. I think this a perfect wine for red wine drinkers who hate Chardonnay but are looking for an occasional white wine to enjoy. Honestly, I can’t say what food this pairs well with because I usually just pair it with a glass 😉
For the trivia files: Viognier is genetically related to Nebbiolo and was nearing extinction in 1965 when only 8 acres were planted in the Rhône.
Like Viognier, French Colombard was a wine I had never even heard of prior to tasting it. I was actually introduced to Dry Comal Creek’s French Colombard several years after I started working at the wine shop, but given its obscurity in the wine world except as a blending grape, I thought it worth a mention. Dry Comal Creek make two versions of this, although I believe the Bone-Dry isn’t always available. What I enjoy about the French Colombard is the long lingering flavors of tropical fruit. It is medium-to-full bodied and has a touch of sweetness while drinking. However, the sweetness does not linger–just the fruitiness (which probably doesn’t make any sense until you try this wine). The Bone-Dry version is just that: less sweetness while drinking and a much drier finish with less fruity lingering. Both versions are very mild and easy to drink. I think they both pair well with light snacks, appetizers, fish/seafood (especially the Bone Dry) and just drinking on the back porch.
For the trivia files: It was traditionally grown in France to distill into Cognac and Armagnac and because of its natural sweetness is used to sweeten baby food (presumably before it’s distilled…)
So that’s my tale of venturing into the world of the more obscure grapes, and in so doing, I even learned how to enjoy white wine.