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.
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 Barao de Vilar Touriga Nacional 2015 from the Douro region of Portugal. At only $17 per bottle, it's a 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 its 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. Catarratto, a grape essentially native to the island, packs that stunning mineral profile in with earthy and floral aromas alongside tart tropical fruit and balancing citrus.
Catarratto is the most common white grape in Sicily. In fact, they produce so much, that it’s the second most common light-skinned grape in all of Italy. Look out for ones grown at altitude, such as on the slopes of Mount Etna or near the town of Castelleammare.
For a delicious example, check out Iniceri “Abbiso” Catarratto 2017, which we‘re currently featuring in our August Wine Club.
Like Catarratto, Malvasia Bianca is not uncommon in Italy itself. However, like much of the grapes commonly grown throughout Europe, we don’t see that much of it her in the US.
Malvasia bianca generally produces a richer textured wine. Lovers of chardonnay will like its silky texture and tropical notes. For an awesome example actually made in California, you have to check out "Birichino" Malvasia Blanco 2014 from Monterey, California. This wine has a distinct, pleasant aroma and flavor of lychee, joined by notes of delicate powdered herbs, coconut, almonds, guava, and banana.
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!