Coke Roth

Merlot tasting offered varietal variances

Thank you for reading the first sentence of unquestionably the least engaging part of this literary accumulation; the column I write. Some would argue the editor deserves combat pay for initially enduring my original work as he tests his skills on trying to make sense out of what I write. It’s a clever strategy of mine. If you like this column, it’s my unaltered original content and style. If you find it boring, incorrect or stupid, it’s probably also my original content and style... I just hope you join me in blaming the editor.

People and wines have different styles; some we favor more. For example, a few of us lucky folks unselfishly judged 100 Merlots all for you, of course. The stylistic differences of these wines was dramatic; dressed so differently that one from another became brightly distinguishable. Even though some resembled Cabernet, some Pinot Noir, it was the varietal variances made the tasting intriguing. We all liked “different.”

I suck at golf, I have to buy fish and when I go hunting, my wife refers to me as “an armed hiker” because I’m such a bad shot. So my hobby is the only thing I can be good at: Travel and tasting and drinking everything I’ve never heard of. I don’t remember saying it, but I probably did at one point: “Sushi?...that’s raw fish!” My one-of-a kind father, who contributed most to broaden the enormous variety of foods and beverages that I enjoy, always said: “Yeah, it’s great try it!”. I did, and I liked it.

We all could’ve stuck with oatmeal, baloney and Chef Boyardee, but we didn’t, we tried the sushi. We chose the Merlot and found various flavor profiles and attributes that differed from the norm and they fit within our range of like. And, while one variety of wine may be what you prefer, most people have a prioritized list of what they have tried and in what order they would prefer to consume. As different non-standard varieties of wine have been planted and made into wine in recent years and now occupy a pretty significant part of the market, new favorites have been discovered.

There isn’t really any indigenous Northwest grape variety; everything came from someplace else. In the last decade, people have become “BFFs” with Grenache Blanc, Counoise and Carménère; new kids on the block in the grand scheme of things. Many of these were only intended to blend fill in the holes in the wine that needed supplementation. After all, a fine product is the goal and I’m a big fan of augmentation in a wine. But now these blenders make our cup runneth over with new drinking options.

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So, we have moved from having the same daily drinkone brand of one variety to one variety with different styles, and now different varieties with different styles. Holy Moly, we have created a 3-dimensional game of chess with wine! Holy Cow, we are doing the same thing with wine as we do with food! What a concept!

You are probably wondering where I am going with this train of thought me too and the editor is likely reaching for the pink slip. Alas, my bid to you is to try those varieties you have never had.

One of my overall favorite drinkers is the sparsely planted Pinot Blanc. The Germans and Alsatians call it Weissburgunder or Klevner, the Spanish and Italians call it Pinot Bianco, and I call it one of my favorite whites. Although the style varies (imagine that!), I enjoy the consistent stone fruit and citrus presence, with a charming anise note. Auxerrois is another hard-to-finder that is a delicious food wine, and it has the same mommy and daddy as Chardonnay. Albariño.gorgeous acidity, along with peachy and limey flavors, is delish as a beverage or with a citrusy salad.

Somewhat of a mainstay now, Viognier, with its orangesicle nose and tropical flavors, is on the radar with most white wine drinkers. Grüner Veltliner, the hard-to-find Austrian contribution to the world of wine, makes a light dinner worth eating. Roussanne, a blender from the Rhone to-die-for good, with minerality and a limey-peachy fruit. And it’s nutty, spicy Rhone pal, Marsanne, can be so rich, I prefer it with hard cheeseto heck with the entrée.

Had a Petit Verdot lately.? Don’t cheat yourself out of a good time any longer. As a blender, representing an itsy-bitsy fraction of the Bordeaux acreage, it is used to brighten tannins and add a blackberry depth to Cabernet- and Merlot-based wines. When made as standalone PV, it is a mouthful.

It is said that mongrels sometimes make the best dogs, and that theory also transfers to wines. Plant geneticists have developed some great wine varieties, normally in the quest to breed out disease and pest propensities and breed in winter hardiness and other crop-related advantages. In that noble quest, white wines like Müller-Thurgau and Ehrenfelser, and reds like Zweigelt and a new Minnesota varietal being planted in not enough places up here, Marquette, offer flavor diversity and pleasure to the mundane tuna casserole life you may be leading.

Variety is the spice of life (you may quote me), and it is found by not only trying that new brand of the same varietal, it is found in an even greater dynamic in trying the new variety, with friends and food, in moderation, frequently. Please pass the sushi.

This story was originally published March 14, 2016 12:00 AM.

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