If you think Washington wineries are essentially producing only chardonnay and riesling for white wines and cabernet, merlot and syrah for reds, I’m guessing you haven’t been shopping for wines lately.
Washington wineries have been venturing out into several other varietals as of late; some you’re probably familiar with, others may be entirely new to you.
Compared to Europe, which is home to several hundred different types of wine grapes, Washington’s production is just a blip on the radar, with probably only about 20 to 30 varietals we currently produce well. But let’s put things in perspective – they’ve been growing grapes in Europe for hundreds of years, while we’ve really taken winemaking seriously for only the last three to four decades.
One area where I’ve seen noticeable improvement in the market is in the number of red wines Washington wineries are currently offering. Ten years ago you got just the basics, with a few then-considered “exotic” varietals blended in. Now you can easily find stand-alone varietals such as sangiovese, tempranillo, barbera, malbec, petite sirah, and zinfandel, to name just a few.
One of the reasons for this is that wine consumption has increased and consumers have become much more wine savvy. They demand variety and quality and if they can’t find it from Washington wineries they’ll simply look elsewhere.
As a result, growing and winemaking techniques are compelled to improve, and grapes that were once considered by some in the State’s wine industry to be too finicky or invasive to grow are being planted – and flourishing.
During the next few weeks I’ll give you several recommendations on some newer Washington varietals that are becoming increasingly popular, and comparable, to those grown in other parts of the world.