Believe it or not, there are over 10,000 wine grapes in the world! Most casual wine drinkers can name about 8, and even world class Sommeliers have working knowledge of hundreds, not many thousands. For those of us that consider ourselves “wine geeks,” if we’re being honest, we’re talking in the 40-60 range.
So, it’s safe to assume plenty of grapes you’ve never heard of produce delicious wines that you have also never heard of. In light of this, we chose 5 grapes we believe there's a good chance you haven't heard of. And if you already know them all, amazing!
Common to Chile and Argentina (where it is called “Criolla Chica”), Pais only recently lost its seat as the #1 most planted grape in Chile to Cabernet Sauvignon. Of all the grapes on this list, you need to be the most careful about where you get it, and what style you get. You can trust our selection of them, though. Julio's from Chile, so it's important for us to showcase his homeland’s best offerings (which explains why the Chilean wine section is juuust a bit bigger than the others!).
Wines produced with Pias are light, funky, and refreshing, with vibrant fruit flavors and earthy notes in the background. A nearly ubiquitous top 5 favorite wines among the Catadores at Grand Cata is the Cacique Maravilla Pipeño. This wine isn’t just good with Barbecue food, it literally tastes like a barbecue, with hints of charcoal and smoke swirling among prickly tannins and wild berries.
Of all the potential new flavors our selection offers, the blood orange core of wines centered on Touriga Nacional really stands out to anyone trying it for the first time. Port drinkers will most likely recognize this grape, and it should be noted that while we do have offerings of 100% Touriga Nacional, generally wines made with it also utilize Touriga Franca (it’s brother) and Tinta Roriz (which is actually a clone of Tempranillo), as well as several other grapes native to Portugal.
If you want to understand this Varietal on its own, try Pessoa da Vinha - Reserva - Touriga Nacional 2013 from the Douro region of Portugal. At only $16 per bottle, it's an complete steal. Many customers have mentioned they'd spend significantly more for it. Please, please, please give it a half an hour to open up before drinking!
Don’t let the name fool you. Unless you’ve dug fairly deeply into Chilean wines, you have not heard of this grape. As its name suggests, Sauvignon Blanc is related to it. As such, it shares foundational characteristics - such as an herbal quality to the nose and an interplay of citrus and riper, more tropical fruit - with its more famous sibling, but it has plenty to distinguish itself.
The main way that Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris differ is in texture. Even in the relatively cool regions that it comes from in Chile, Sauvignon Gris maintains a rounder, creamier texture. It’s also even more focused than Sauvignon Blanc. Good Sauvignon Gris will have no more than 5 to 7 distinct flavors that complement each other beautifully. The allure of Sauvignon Gris is that it doesn’t ask much from you other than to be enjoyed. Just serve it with some fruit and cheese and have a conversation.
Sicily is having a moment. And for good reason. Because of it’s unique soil, and the fact that you literally can’t plant a vineyard that won’t be affected by the sea, Sicilian wines, red or white, carry a level of minerality that borders on salinity. Grillo, a grape essentially native to the island, packs that stunning mineral profile in with decadent ripe fruit and balancing citrus (mostly lime) and acidity. You can thank the Mediterranean for all that! For a delicious example, check out Paolo Cali’s “Blues” from 2015. Try to get some seafood, too. Shrimp scampi is a sure bet.
Cinsault deserves a seat at the adult table of the wine world. At least, when it’s made in South America, particularly Chile (you may have noticed a theme by now - Chile is an exceptional place to find esoteric wines).
Imagine if Pinot Noir had a little brother that grew up scrawny and in the shadow of his super successful and popular sibling. But then he starts hanging out with the right people, improves his diet and seriously hits the gym. Throw in a late growth spurt, and suddenly, everyone just has to take notice. And throughout it all, he remains humble.
That’s Cinsault. Bigger than most Pinot Noir, Cinsault moves with a deliberateness, almost shyness, that reflects but doesn’t emulate the perfect grace of good Pinot Noir. The extra structure imparted by its tannins allows it to fare more favorably against heavy, protein rich dishes, such as beef stew. And while it does boast an impressive floral touch, said flowers do not define Cinsault. Finally, take the fruit notes and dial them from “Red” to “Purple,” and you have Cinsault. Like Pinot Noir, producers can push the fruit profile forward and tone down the muscle a bit, leading to a vivid and delicious summer style red, though its tannins generally stick around.
So there you have it! 5 grape varieties that you may not have heard of, but can find in abundance at Grand Cata. Look out for these grapes during our #DailyCata, or take one of these home next time you stop in!