When one thinks of rare varieties there might be an automatic assumption:
“They are rare for a reason”
Or rare varieties are assigned to the un-alluring “Esoteric” category.
But the history of wine grapes is complex and a story we do not fully know.
We know some relationships of the non-hybrid grapes but don’t have a full map of the relationship to one another. If we had more knowledge and tagging where grapes descend from we might be understanding trade routes in Europe and even a greater historical perspective.
Wine grapes have been cultivated in spite of kingdom or government type or war–they moved on. The reason is apparent. Food and wine are needed even in spite of government type or political current or current affairs–somehow just somehow they survive–some more successful than others.
Some succeeded because of scent and flavour profiles and some just because they could withstand harsh or short growing cycles. Pinot Noir succeeds in spite of the difficulty of cultivation and it’s very finickieness. But if it wasn’t for it’s stellar and identifiable scent and flavour profile it might not have survived.
But I would also says some varieties became rarer because of geography or even that some wine grape varieties were not identified as such. The Italian variety of Timorasso saved by Walter Massa in the 1980s from extinction. For me it is an outstanding, distinct and superbly apt for food. This is an elegant white wine from Piemonte specifically Colli Tortonesi. This wine variety comes from a land known for it’s reds before it’s white wines–thicker skin with a longer time spent in maceration. A thick skin wine bold and yet fulfilling palate with elegance, nuance and beauty.
Malagouzia is a rare Greek white wine variety that too was saved from extinction in the 1970s. Vassilis Logothetis, a professor of enology identified this grape and one of his students Vangelis Gerovassiliou and his eponymous winery Ktima Gerovassiliou has brought this to the world stage. Malagouzia for me is an experience of spice, heirloom apple–a dance of the palate in the aromatic plane.
Embracing rare varieties ultimately means preserving them by finding engagement with people to find a new favourite red or white wine. In doing so represents and opportunity to not just preserve but increase hectarage for wine grape cultivation of the rarer set.
I would like the variety to speak for itself versus a narrow set of varieties available to consumers. I believe that all varieties have a place as there is a palate that has a desire to enjoy them.
I certainly recommend tasting a new or rarer variety; live outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
As much as I advocate for them–the power is in you tasting them. Taste them–you’ll be excited to try something new.
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
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