Everything I am about to share was gleaned during my recent trip to ProWein, the world’s leading international wine and spirits gathering. I’m sure that each one of the sixty-thousand visitors came away with their own impressions – but one thing is certain: if it’s happening in the wine world, it’s happening at ProWein. This gathering continues to help inform the way we drink wine around the world.
ProWein has shown us the rise of natural wines, the “return” of orange wine, and of course the slow but steady growth of wines from China. Wine in a can and on tap also have arrived. But what I keep coming back to is the millennial-driven push for experiential wines. The adventurous millennial palate wants local varieties, preferably consumed in the grape’s native land. And many of them come at great values.
Here are my top five grapes to watch based on my trip to ProWein. There were over 6,000 exhibitors at ProWein this year, so please understand that this list is not exhaustive. I selected them based on their potential attractiveness to the up-and-coming generation of wine drinkers — millennials. Their sway is having real-time impact on the wine world.
Vermentino from Sardinia (or South Africa)
Cannonau, also known as Garnacha, is a Sardinian staple. But what I’m most excited about is the increasing interest in Vermentino. Vermentino from Sardinia’s Gallura is the one and only DOCG on the island. It’s a highly aromatic varietal that flourishes by the sea. These days you can find it everywhere from Virginia to California (and even South Africa). I think we will be seeing even more of it in the coming years.
(Pictured on top is the Ayama Vermentino from Voor-Paardeberg. – Ed)
Harriague from Uruguay (or tanat from South Africa)
While the country has no native varieties to offer, it has adopted Harriague – also known as Tannat – as its own. The name comes from Pascual Harriague, a Basque native credited with bringing wine to Uruguay in the late 1800s. While Tannat is renowned for its overpowering tannins, Harriague presents in a soft, fruity way that is unique to the region.
Xarello from Spain
One of the three grapes used to make Cava (along with Macabeo and Parellada), some producers are experimenting with the Xarello grape as a varietal wine. It contributes body, structure and freshness to Cava and so it stands strong on its own. The millennial palate is already primed for Cava and is sure to be intrigued by its components in isolation. Varietal Xarello delivers heavy-hitting citrus, pear, and herbal notes.
Zweigelt from Austria
Zweigelt plantings grew 48% between 1999 and 2015. It is the most widely planted red grape variety in Austria. Named in honor of viticulturist Fritz Zweigelt, these wines are fresh and crisp in a way that most red wines aren’t. It is known as the white wine lover’s red for a reason.
Grolleau from Loire
This is another example of a grape that is usually associated with a blend, often a rosé. Its high acid content can cut through the meatiest dishes with precision and finesse. Light red fruits complement the strong acidity quite well. It is the third most cultivated dark-skinned grape in the Loire Valley, after Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir. Suffice it to say, this grape is prime for a varietal revival.