07/02/08 – wines that nobody likes (Pinot Grigio and Merlot)

By Jesse on June 30, 2008


I’ve begun to realize that we spend way too much time tasting wine that people are excited about, wine that gets good reviews or is currently really popular.  What about all the wine that the pundits don’t favor?  We have to stop letting all these bottles get picked last at recess.  It’s time to explore a pair of unpopular wines and find out whether they’re actually really awesome, like that awkward kid in your math class who goes home and secretly produces mind-blowing electronic music on his computer, then cements his sweetness by wearing an authentic ’70s leisure suit to your junior prom… or whether they’re actually more like that other awkward kid in your math class who does none of these things.

First up is Pinot Grigio, that staple of “family restaurant” wine lists, which has grown to inhabit an unfortunate spot as the go-to alternative for non-serious wine drinkers who want something lighter than Chardonnay.  The Chicago Tribune recently ran this article (compliments of Erik Nye) in which several wine merchants offered their opinions on the reasons for Pinot Grigio’s unpopularity among those-who-know-their-shit.  Long story short, there are some good ones out there — and we’re going to discover them.  If you’re bringing a Grigio, read the article and make an informed purchase.  (The article also mentions Pinot Gris, and even though this is the same grape, lets stick to wines labeled “Pinot Grigio,” as this name — which can be based either on region of origin or stylistic intention — is the one with the taboo these days, a taboo which “Pinot Gris” doesn’t seem to suffer quite as much.)

Your other option is Merlot.  In this article in the NY Times (compliments of Daniella), Eric Asimov explains how the steaming deuce that Sideways dropped all over the legacy of Merlot has actually resulted in a decline in the amount of cheap, mass-market Merlot being produced, as impressionistic and non-conscientious drinkers move away from the stuff to focus on their trendy Pinot Noir.  The benefit of this is that now it’s easier to find the good Merlot which was actually there all along.  The article recommends Merlots from Washington State — if you choose to go red, therefore, please bring either one of these, or some other Merlot that comes highly recommended to you.  Tasting notes are always a beneficial accessory, so find some of those as well.

We’ll be meeting on Wednesday in Sherman Oaks.  The RSVP situation is as follows: new members have eight spots reserved for them at each and every meeting, with preference within those spots given to newbies who were denied admittance due to space constraints in recent weeks.  Please do not RSVP in the positive if you’re not sure you can make it, as this will deny someone else the opportunity of attending the meeting.  If you do RSVP and then need to cancel, please inform me as soon as possible.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, it’s time to make that crucial choice: do you go out and acquire yourself a bottle of Pinot Grigio or Merlot, guided in either case by the insight in the articles above, or do you arrive at the doorstep with one of those tasty $10 donations for the Wino find?  It’s decision time ’08!  We’ll see you crazy kids on Wednesday night.