It is said that eating the rainbow, a variety of foods in different colors, is healthy, so what about drinking the rainbow in grape varietals?
Are you an adventurous wine drinker? I am not talking about a wine snob but someone that is interested in learning about wine and isn’t prejudice about regions of the world, then drinking the rainbow might be just the challenge for you.
In the plant kingdom, the most important grape species for wine production began with the single European (Eurasian) species Vitis vinifera, often written V. vinifera. As production of wine and vineyards moved out of Europe, other species were tried, usually without success. With cold-hardiness in mind, American species like V. labrusca and V. aestivalis were crossed with V. vinifera to make American hybrids. The Asian species V. amurensis was likewise used for Asian hybrids. But when phylloxera, a root parasite, decimated grapes in France, American root stock and French species were combined to create disease-resistant French hybrids.
All of these hybrids and the original species have created a great number of wine grapes from which to produce wine. One of the advantages of living in the United States with winemakers and regulations that rarely limit the imagination we are able to experience many of these species in either single varietals or blended wines.
So how can you begin your own rainbow adventure? Start with a list of wine grape varietals like the one on the Wine Century Club application. This group encourages membership (for free) of individuals that have tried 100, 200, 300 or more wine grape varietals either in single varietal wines or blended wines.
Armed with a list, begin in your own region. Drinking local is always a good start. I live in Sonoma County where the diversity of our wine grapes comes from many sources. Our diverse history from Russian fur traders to Spanish Franciscan Fathers to the Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy blended with micro-climates and more than 30 soil types have blessed this region with 66 varietals that today call Sonoma County home.
If your region is less diverse try visiting a local wine festival like the Hospice du Rhône coming to Paso Robles in April. The Rhône region of France is home to more than 20 unique varietals and is an excellent location to beginning your personal rainbow. The Hospice du Rhône festival hosts over 100 Rhône wine producers and importers from throughout the world including France, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Chile and the United States. The grapes featured are just as diverse – whites like viognier, marsanne, and rousanne to reds like grenache, syrah and mourvedre. For tickets to Hospice du Rhône see their website and start your rainbow or century wine experiment.
Tell me about your most interesting wine, the varietals it is made with and the producer. I am always adding to my own rainbow.