FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO LOVE WINE, BUT DON'T KNOW HOW
Cheers! Wine Consultants
By Dan & Krista Stockman
There has never been a better time to be a wine lover. And it's only going to get better.
We say that because the varieties of wine that are available now – even at stores that don't have a selection to brag about – is unprecedented.
Here's proof: A survey last fall by research firm YouGov U.S. listed the top 10 wines in America, and the results are astounding. Yes, there are some of the usual suspects: White Zinfandel, Merlot and Chardonnay (we'll get to those in a minute), but there was also Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Red Blends.
If you look at those last four wines and shrug – “What? I see and buy those all the time…” – you need to remember that it wasn't that long ago when people would respond to Krista saying her favorite wine is “Zinfandel – the red kind” with, “It comes in red?”
Now, Zinfandel – big, bold and very, very red – is tied at No. 7 with Pinot Noir among the most popular wines in America. Sauvignon Blanc, popularized by a flood of in-your-face, green-pepper and grapefruit dominated bottles from New Zealand is at No. 9, right behind Pinot Grigio – a wine many people thought was a light white (often watered-down or, God forbid, sweetened) 10 years ago. When we first started writing about wine in 2004, Sauvignon Blanc was so unpopular that the Robert Mondavi Winery, followed by several others, didn't even call it that – they labeled it “Fume Blanc,” a made-up name to emphasize its aromatics.
And No. 10 in YouGov's list? Red Blends. When we first started writing about wine, we had to explain over and over that blended wines were not inferior to single-variety wines and that some of the best wines in the world – Bordeaux, for example – are blends. Most stores didn't even know where to put the few blends that were available, and now they merit their own section.
As for the usual suspects, coming in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, were White Zinfandel and Moscato. While wine critics may cringe, we know that most wine drinkers start out preferring sweet wines, but eventually move on to drier, more complex varieties. And Moscato? Again, when we started writing about wine, Moscato was obscure and hard to find. Now, millions of people are enjoying wine who otherwise would not be. That's always a good thing.
And No. 1, White Zinfandel, was actually referred to in the survey as Zinfandel Rosé (a much more accurate name), which brings us to a wine that didn't make the list, but probably will soon: Dry rosé. We remember walking into one of the better wine stores in town and asking for a dry rosé, only to be led to the White Zinfandel section. Now, if you're looking for a dry rosé – even at the grocery store – you'll have at least a half dozen to choose from and probably more, and they'll come from a variety of areas, including France, Spain and California. At Binny's, a chain of stores in the Chicago region, there are enough rosés that they have their own aisle.
We recently overheard two clerks at a liquor store picking out rosés, and one said “I don't know anything about wine, but I know if it's rosé and it's from France, it's good.” She wasn't wrong.
The variety of wines available to us on a daily basis now is truly astounding, and the depth of variety has grown, too: More than once we've seen Sassicaia on the shelf here. That is a rare Super Tuscan from Italy that would have been unheard of locally a few years ago and normally would have required a trip to Chicago to find.
We have always believed that wine should be an adventure, and that it's much more fun to try something new than to drink the same thing over and over again. And now, thanks to the plethora of new choices out there, it's easier than ever before.
Decisions, decisions: More choices than ever