Decisions Decisions. Some days, I feel like my life is nothing more than a choose your own adventure book that I didn't write! As adults, we have an unending road of compromise to navigate. Wear this, clean that. Eat this, binge that. As parents, multiply that by 10! Our choices affect our kiddos' choices (which are actually OUR choices we've already made for them.) It's exhausting. I am on autopilot by the end of most days, and the last thing I want to do is make yet another decision, even if it is about what to wine to drink to unwind.
As the owner of a wine store, I literally have a two-storied wine fridge. Most oenophiles would say I'd won the lottery, one that pays only in booze; however, in my tired, indecisive moments, I'd rather play eeny, meeny, miny, moe to choose a bottle of wine, than turn my brain back on. White, red, bubbles, rosé? If I was my daughter, I'd stomp my foot and say "NO! NO more decisions," while angrily throwing my arms across my chest. Maybe that's what we should do. Throw a full-fledge wine tantrum. Why should I choose between white and red? Can't we have it all? We deserve it, right? At least my daughter thinks so.
Luckily, many types of wines actually use both white and red grapes within one bottling. Certain bubbles combine white and red grapes for complexity. Some winemakers prefer a little extra skin contact to produce orange and rosé wines. Other wines appear and taste rich like a traditional red but hidden within are white varietals adding complexity, acidity, and character. Are you ready for a wine tantrum? We can stomp our foot and have it all.
Once again, CHAMPAGNE to the rescue-
If you read my blogs, you've noticed a pattern. Champagne can solve many of your wine (and life) dilemmas. Unsure what to bring for a birthday gift? Meeting a new love interest for the first time? Champagne is universally loved by most wine drinkers. I know I've never refused a glass! It's effervescent, bright in flavor, and downright fun to drink. It is also your first "non-selection" in a wine tantrum. Both red and white varietals are used to make most Champagnes- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Each varietal adds something special to the formula.
More Champagne was sold in 2021 than EVER BEFORE. A record 180 million bottles were exported from France, up 38% from the previous year. Needless to say, the pandemic created so many new decisions to make- masks, travel, school, vaccines. Should I even leave the house? We had enough! Our homes became our safe space, literally, and who doesn't want to feel fancy in their pjs on the couch while sheltering in place? A virus may close down my fine dining establishments, but it can't take the fancy out of me. Long live Champagne!
Orange wines are the opposite of rosé wines-
For your non-committal, tantrum having moments, extended skin-contact wines, or Orange wines, become a serious contender. Many of you have heard the saying "rosé all day!" The recent rise in popularity for the pink drink came from its flexibility and drinkability. Similarly, to the enchantment of Champagne, rosé pleases most wine drinkers. They are floral, fruity, and fantastic, but what about Orange wines? How do they differ, and can this get me out of a wine jam? Definitely. It's just the other side of the coin.
Orange wines use WHITE grapes in the inverse of how rosé wines use RED. Rather than pressing red varietals and removing the skins within hours for a slight pink hue, Orange wines press white grapes, usually whole cluster, and leave the skins in contact with the juice for days, sometimes weeks, adding texture, color, and tannins. This transforms a traditional varietal, like Pinot Gris, from off-white and citrus to salmon-colored, floral, and richly layered. Orange wines are more suitable for finicky food pairings like fish, pork, or a complex salad. Countries like Italy, Slovenia, and Georgia have produced these wines for hundreds of years. Their native, thicker-skinned varietals like Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla have the ability to impress more tannins and structure.
How does this combine white and red grapes? Only in expansion of flavor profile. You get the aromatics and acidity of a white wine with the depth and age ability of a red wine. Only one varietal, but all of the benefits of two. I consider that win win. Not only are you experiencing a different kind of wine making style, but you are also tasting a varietal in a completely different way.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, HISTORY ALERT!
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CDP) translates to "the Pope's new castle," and for a very good reason. In 1303, King Phillip IV of France was furious from years of bickering with the Papal States over monies, authority, and threat of excommunication. So what is a King to do? Apparently, kidnap Pope Boniface VIII and beat him severely for three days, which led to his death one month later. I literally cannot make this up. After the next Pope dies suddenly and quickly in office, yet another Pope must be announced. Why not hand-select a loyal supporter of the French crown and station him in Avignon not Rome? Sounds like a plan...which backfired tremendously. Over the next 67 years, called the Avignon Papacy, 7 different French Popes reigned, with disastrous consequences. Imagine 2 men, simultaneously claiming to be POPE. One in Avignon, one in Rome. Not only did it confuse the cardinals and loyal followers, but it also disparaged the office and its authority world-wide. Woops. Once the Papacy returned to Rome in the early 1400's, the French Popes were considered heretic or "antipopes," and the Roman Popes were written into history as righteous.
How does this story relate to our wine tantrum? First, I imagine plenty of tantrums were thrown during this time. Second, the CDP region didn't begin to really cultivate grapes UNTIL the Avignon Papacy. This massive tantrum brought world-wide focus and travelers to the region. Wine was considered a necessity to both the Papacy and French Royalty. Rhone would finally be developed and join Burgundy as a prestigious wine region. Originally, the CDP AOC allowed 10 varietals to be planted. Later 13 and now 18 white and red grapes can be used in the production of CDP. It is the benchmark of using both white and red grapes in a single wine. Rather than competing flavors (or POPES) the CDP wines integrate both colors beautifully. If left to only red grapes, the hot temperatures would skyrocket the wine's alcohol content and gamey, dark fruits. Blending the more feminine white grapes like Viognier and Grenache Blanc opens up the flavors to include more round, floral aromatics and acidity.
Thank you for reading another installment of the SOMM Wines Journal.
The three bottles shown above are all representative of the styles discussed.
They are available for purchase.
Drink up buttercup and see you soon!