Monday, 27 July 2015

Starting the #WineGrapeChallenge

1386 different grape varieties. In a possibly ill-advised moment of insouciance I agreed to a challenge as something of a now very belated New year's resolution. To find and drink wines made from each and every one of the grapes featured in Jancis Robinson's bible of oenology; "Wine Grapes". A fit of bravado committed me to the project when the lady herself confirmed via Twitter that she didn't think anyone else had done it before. 

I've since given quite a lot of thought to how to broach the endeavour (some might call it procrastination).  Someone suggested that I start with the easy ones but who wants to read about a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Grigio?  The obvious route would be alphabetically.  First in the book is ABBUOTO. Never heard of it. Typed it into Google, narrowed to the UK and came up with...... nothing. Hmmm this may be harder than I thought. Also, I don't want the whole project to stall whilst I'm searching for a particularly random grape.

Then I thought about doing it geographically; the book is indexed by country as well as alphabetically, if needs be this could be the impetus for lots of fabulous travel. Still, that's not happening any time soon so we've got to stick with whatever London can offer (which is- let's face it- a huge amount)

It became apparent that some rules need to be established..


1. Due to the above, drink 'em in any old order
2) The wine should ideally be single varietal but if we get desperate then at least 70% dominant.  As you would expect a lot of these grapes are also predominantly used in blends as perhaps only a max 5% of the total mix. How am I going to objectively taste the product of the grape from 5%? (NB this may need to be revisited if things get sticky further down the line)
3) The grape must be in the book as a standalone varietal. My first entry was going to be Melon a Queue Rouge from the Jura only to discover its not listed as a variety (apparently it's really Chardonnay but there are plenty of arguments over that too). Yes, there are regional debates lasting generations over whether something is truly a different variety or just a mutation of an existing classic but we're taking Jancis's word for this as gospel so no arguments. 
4) One a week (or I'll still be looking for that Abbuoto on my deathbed)

Watch this space......

1 comment

  1. Good luck with that herculean task, Sarah! We once wondered with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding how many grape varieties we had already tasted so far, as varietals or in blends. My personal rough count amounted to ca. 500...
    Best wishes, and please let us know when you spot really obscure varietal wines like Hondarrabi Beltza from Spanish Basque Country or Obeidy from Lebanon (yes I do have some bottles at home :) )
    Dr José Vouillamoz, co-author of Wine Grapes


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