When chasing down the so-called oddball varietals that are often the gems of authentic winemaking, and great value, one wonders which grape will be the next big thing. Sizzling-hot Malbec, for example, is one of the grapes of storied Bordeaux. But, not long ago, if it were listed the way sports teams are in the standings, it would have been in fifth place (no disrespect to fans of the Royals or Pirates).
Now, of course, Malbec flourishes in Argentina, and its robust yields have been rewarded by conspicuous consumption in by-the-glass offerings. Sommeliers and wine directors all over Chicago acknowledge this. Some think it’s the new Australian Shiraz (not necessarily a tipping of the hat to winemaking expertise): A big, round mouthful of wine that goes with grilled or braised meat, pizza and pungent cheese.
But Millennials are driving wine consumption, and being experimental types, it’s a mystery how long Malbec will shine. It might get over-marketed, leaving Gen-X geezers to possibly remain loyal to the varietal, if only to keep it semi-mainstream.
Some have argued that neglected Old World regions might be where the next wine trend emerges. Others point to the terroir-oriented wines of South America. And still others think a hybrid of region and varietal will rise triumphantly. Primitivo from Italy? Oh, yeah! Chinese Carignan? Hmmmmmm…
All have their good points. But Spanish Garnacha has caught Value Wine Chicago’s attention. It’s an interesting varietal, popular in the celebrated Rhône Valley of France – and known there as Grenache. But the vines have flourished on the Iberian peninsula for decades, and other varietals aren’t usually mixed in during vinification. Since tapas and paella are so popular, these cuisines might drive the grape into stardom.
What follows are some value-priced options (what else?), which might not necessarily align with Malbec’s flavor profile, but might one day match Big M’s rapid ascent:
Evohe Viñas Viejas: An old-vine Garnacha, its origins are from the fruit of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Shameless name-dropping of hallowed French terroir notwithstanding, this approachable Spaniard is intense, with chewy tannins and earthy minerality. The finish is long and indulgent. Good Saturday night wine right here, whether the entrée is a braised Carne Guisada or well-seasoned, grilled beef kabobs. $11.
D’Aragon Old Vine Cariñena: The vines for this one might not predate the blustering Francisco Franco, but they’re gnarly things that produce low-yields of grapes and a real charmer here. “There’s lots of deep color and blackberry flavors; it’s a really nice, hand-crafted wine,” says Donald Hupp of Que Syrah in Lakeview. $11.
Tapeña 2008: Lots of spice, both in the nose and on the palate. But it’s not off-putting; its subtlety makes this wine alluring and complex. The flavor features succulent red fruit – mostly raspberry and cherry – and the finish is smooth. Charbroiled pork chops with a tangy barbecue sauce would work well with the Tapeña, as would something completely different, like spaghetti with a slow-cooked meat sauce with a little piquancy. Right, it’s that versatile, and it’s a deal: $7 at Binny’s.