Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lambrusco, the next big thing, bored wine folks and the circle of life

It's not their fault. There is a low ceiling of subject matter for wine writers. I've grumbled about this in the past, finding myself bored with tastings and my own tasting notes to the point despair. Wine exists in cyclical form, the growing season to the harvest to the winter and pruning and back to the growing season. The trade and press exist also in a cyclical form. The year starts with Burgundy en Primeur, followed by Bordeaux en Primeur. By the time Bordeaux en Primeur is finished you have, in alternative order, rosé, zingy summer whites and BBQ reds to cover, before slipping in maybe a light reds that go great with salads and seafoods. Dotted throughout will be Champagne releases. If it's a really fun year, some Vintage Port releases (with the standard explanations of declared vintages, the three a decade rule guideline, the difference between ruby and tawny etc) may be available.

And then autumn comes. Hark the Nebbiolo sings, with the sneak previews of Burgundy en Primeur peeking around November. After that we have the top billion Christmas wines list, endless nonsense about detox and we're back at the Burgundy en primeurs. Like high-priced, limited quantity, endlessly appellation'd phoenixes from the ashes the prices soar and reactions range from delirious excitement to calloused cynicism and everything in between.

It gets repetitive, it gets boring and even the most enthusiastic of wine writers/tasters/buyers/merchants grow weary. We need something new to write about, read about and taste. The Next Big Thing becomes the next big thing and so here, there and everywhere, throughout the press and blogosphere Lambrusco emerges, not for the first time, as the world's most criminally neglected wine suffering from consumer misconception and if-you-don't-get-in-on-it-quick-then-my-goodness-the-price-will-double-once-the-masses-rush-out-and-demand-high-quality-sparkling-Italian-red. Ancient sales ledgers are inevitably produced, showing how top Lambrusco once matched Champagne in price as it was held in similar regard. To be fair, ancient sales ledgers are used all over the place for such things, be it in Beaujolais to prove top Crus once cost as much as top village Côte d'Or or in the Rhône to show people bought new oak before Parker, but there you go.

I should say now that Lambrusco is today's example - others include the Lagrein grape, all the wines in Alsace (which have suffered from the 'how do we get consumers to understand how awesome these are' problem forever), Sherry (mmmmmm…), Hunter Valley Semillon, Savennières and pretty much every other once-lauded-now-less-so region or varietal.

And so we all talk about Lambrusco for awhile - not the bulk rubbish, but the real thing. We taste (But possibly don't drink) a bunch and find it fairly remarkable. Tactile, grippy red fizz that would go brilliantly with this, that or the other. Independent merchants get a few in and push it for a month or two before the dust settles on the last 2 or 3 bottles on the shelf that sit there until it gets put on bin-end before the big Bordeaux promotion kicks off.

Too soon and it's forgotten. Something else comes along, and that's ok because Romorantin and Cour-Cheverny have been overlooked for too long.

Not anymore, though. It's the next big thing.

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