If you live in DC, there is a good chance you are a wine drinker. According to Business Insider, the nation’s capital ranks first in wine consumption in the U.S. – and the results aren’t even close. Washingtonians reportedly consume almost 26 liters per capita annually – six whole liters more than second-place New Hampshire.
Well, America’s thirstiest wine market is soon in for a treat. Grand Cata, A Latino Wine Co. is abriendo fronteras expanding the city’s selection of vinos latinos. But why are Latino wines specifically such a big deal? If you need a reason before visiting our new Shaw location to stock your pantry with the next wave of great wines, here are five:
5. Quality for the Price Point
Washingtonians love quality but that often comes at a steep price. Not so with Latino wines. The many years of pomp and price inflation associated with, shall we say, “autres regions” just hasn’t happened to Latino wines on the same scale. And if you are looking to refine your tastes but keep your budget under control, there are many polished options to be found in the $10-20 range. That’s a big plus for those of us in the DMV drinking lots of wine on the regular.
4. Best of Both Worlds
Just because Latino wines are affordable doesn’t mean they aren’t fine wines.
Of course, like Latin heritage itself, Latino wines have a connection to the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian old guard traditions. Many grape varietals most consumers recognize were transported to the New World from Europe as part of the cross-Atlantic legacy. But just as Latino heritage is not merely European heritage transplanted, Latino wines are not European vines transplanted, either. Through local interpretation and ongoing fusion with and homage to other cultural influences – Indigenous, African, and Asian – the region is characterized by world-class gastronomic experiences that must be recognized, respected, and celebrated with a full glass of Latino wine.
3. Freedom of Expression
Otherwise forgotten French origin grapes have taken on new life in the Southern Hemisphere as signature Latin American varietals: Malbec in Argentina, Carménère in Chile, and Tannat in Uruguay. The climate and soil of South America also lend to the production of high quality Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Viognier, and Riesling to name a few. The creative potential for new varietals and blends has lead to competitive advantages over other wine-producing regions in the world.
Also, while many Latino winemakers have trained classically abroad to learn the craft from the European establishment, once they return home, they are not obligated to the strict regulations, both formal and unsaid, that bind so many European winemakers. This freedom leaves room for innovation that can yield surprising, spectacular results, catching the interest of experienced wine professionals like Craig Mauro, founder of Raya Imports.
“What I love about Latin American wines is that everything is wide open and relatively new,” Mauro said. “There's so much left that winemakers can explore and experiment with.”
2. Something New
Have you ever tasted a wine from Mexico? What about Brazil? Ever let grapes like Cinsault, Carignan, or País dance on your taste buds? Even if you’ve tried lots of wines before, their flavors might surprise you. Throughout the Latin American world, the complexity and diversity of grape expression – from fresh vibrant fruits to rich, earthy minerals – is unparalleled.
Thanks to Grand Cata, unique wines from small producers in distinct places like Chile's Elqui Valley, Uruguay's Canelones, and Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe will soon be in reach. And not only will we show you our picks from the New World, we’ll also show you our Old World favorites such as Albariño, Baga, Cannonau, and Falanghina (and teach you how to pronounce them).
1. Point of Entry for Cultural Appreciation
If you think Latino drinking traditions have anything in common with college Cinco de Mayo parties, you’re probably doing it wrong. Aside from beer and liquor, wines are an important part of ritual and daily life across Latin America from north to south. We continue this heritage by enjoying wine with our meals in a slow and healthy way, pairing with our favorite traditional dishes, and sharing with our family and friends around the table. We look forward to helping you do the same. Craft beers and spirits are still options, too. ¡Salud!