Remember Merlot? Why grapes go in and out of fashion | wine

Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France 2022 (£13.33, or £12 as part of a 6-bottle combo box, wickhamwine.co.uk) Trends in wine are as cyclical as any other product, though the single spin of the wine world’s fashion wheel seems to take longer rather than the fraction of seconds it takes Mark Cavendish-at-the-full-belt clothing and music to transition from new to post-pale to retro cutting edge. It took a while, for example, for wine setters to salvage the reputation of the fruity, juicy, fresh Beaujolais wines of the 1970s and 1980s. But thanks in large part to the natural wine scene—which championed the drinkability (or glou-glou as the French do) of wines made using the same carbon inlay winemaking technique that gave (and gives) Beaujolais nouveau its effortless fruitiness—nouveau became trendy again within the decade. Past. And Domaine Belle Avenir’s contribution from this year’s harvest brings a bright burst of berries to remind us skeptics of why it was so popular in the first place.

Errazuriz Estate Reserva Merlot, Curico Valley, Chile 2021 (£9.99, or £8.99 as part of a six-bottle mixed box, majestic.co.uk) Grape varieties are particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in fashion. Chardonnay is the obvious example: A huge hit when the first buttery, tropical-fruited Australian and California versions appeared in the 1980s, it experienced severe backlash in the 1990s and 2000s, despite being responsible for some of the greatest white wines (the white Burgundy). champagne) in the world. The red equivalent may be marlotte, which for a period of the ’90s and early ’00s was a soft, fruity red, but it hasn’t really recovered from the savage reputation it received (or was seen to receive) in the 2004 wine-themed film, Side. It all sounds a little silly when you taste a plump, luscious example like Errazuriz, which shares many of the qualities of wines made from a grape variety that has replaced Merlot in many Malbec drinkers, but with more depth and a satisfyingly grainy texture than you’d find. Usually at this kind of price.

Faustino I Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2010 (£17, Tesco) One aspect of wine fashion that we may all feel we should be able to rise above is packaging. We know, deep down, that there is no causal relationship between bad winemaking and ugly labels. We might argue, as more than a few importers over the years have told me, that in some cases a bad appellation indicates good winemaking, because it indicates that the winemaker has been too busy in the vineyard or in the cellar to concern himself with something as trivial as packaging. However, that first impression is hard to shake, and bottle shape plays a more important role in what we ultimately drink than we’d like to admit. Sure, in my case, the frosted glass, gold grille, and Rembrandt detailing of Rioja’s trademark Faustino’s Gran Reserva always felt grubby, a slightly tired old tapas restaurant, slightly duty-free shop circa 1983. But I’ve recently discovered that the wine inside is really, really good: Classic rioja, deeply flavored, infused with coconut, and delicious. Is it fashionable? who cares? It’s absolutely delicious.

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