Last week, I traveled to my day job’s corporate headquarters in Chicago for a conference. As part of the event, there was a cocktail hour, and I was pleased to see modern wine options: Sauvignon Blanc for the white and Pinot Noir for the red. Corporations typically choose Chardonnay and some Bordeaux varietal (like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon) to pass out, which lends a safe and stodgy feel to the event. So more modern offerings added a blast of fresh air to the party. So I want to applaud my employer for bucking the cocktail party trend and choosing some modern wines. However, when I thought further about the implications of that offering, I wondered – is this the peak for those varietals? And what wines will we want to drink more than the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir that we are being served at cocktail parties in the future?
After considering these factors, I checked on when Sideways was released, and it was the fall of 2004. Yes, Paul Giamatti’s character ranted against Merlot and raved about Pinot Noir nearly a decade ago! So maybe Pinot Noir has a decade or more of cocktail party fame in its future, but I’m wondering – is the Pinot Noir trend waning? And since Sauvignon Blanc has been such a ‘go to’ white in recent years, too, perhaps its popularity is peaking as well. I still like those varietals, and if you want to impress your guests with my favorite Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc of the past year, check out the following Russian River Valley offerings - Arista’s 2009 La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir for $52 per bottle and Merry Edward’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc for $30 per bottle. They are delicious!
But as a forward-thinker, I’ve got to wonder, what’s next? For me, the most obvious choices stem from the Rhone Valley of France. For whites, Viognier is a crowd pleaser that is gaining popularity due to its approachability (floral nose and slight sweetness). For more on Rhone whites, check out this post, and please note that sweetness is not always a bad thing, especially when considering the upward trend associated with Moscato d’Asti in recent years. For reds, the traditional Rhone GSM blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre is often balanced with spice and fruit. Yum, yum, yum! For New World options in the Rhone varietals, check out Oz and Paso Robles. I’m a big fan of fruit-forwardness, so wines from those origins often trick my trigger more than wines from their ancestral French home.
The Wandering Wine Girl