Towering walls of winemaking are coming down

By Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr

The other day we had a wine epiphany. We were reading a story about the invention of blue wines and laughed at the notion of wine being anything but red, white or pink. As crazy as this trend sounds to most of us, it isn’t crazy to new generations of wine drinkers who know no bounds. Should color really matter? Were we just hung up on tradition?

The towering walls of winemaking we once thought were sacrosanct are coming down. Younger generations of winemakers are challenging practices established by their parents and grandparents. Frustrated winemakers obligated to use certain grapes are contesting government restrictions and labeling. The focus today is not to make the best wine within a region’s carefully prescribed formulas, but to make the best wine period. Maybe we’re uncomfortable that the rules are changing, but do they really matter if in the end the wine tastes delicious?

Here’s just a smattering of changes in the last decade or so:

·         Blends. Italian winemaker Angelo Gaja broke Piemonte restrictions on grape varieties in the late 1990s and created some of the first blends that incorporated French grape varieties with the local barbera and barbaresco grapes. Dave Phinney, the wine genius behind The Prisoner, took blending a quantum leap further. He is blending grapes across an entire country or state — for instance, Piedmonte barbera is blended with sangiovese to make “I” for Italian. In California, syrah is being blended with cabernet sauvingon. Anything goes today.

To read more, pick up a copy of the May/June issue of LiveIt.