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For the Love of Obscure Grapes

Why Drink the Same Ole Same Ole?

Why I love obscure grapes

I have a hard time having or doing  the same thing over and over. I’m not one for leftovers. When traveling, I like to go somewhere new rather than somewhere I have been. I watch most movies and tv shows just one time. And when it comes to wine, I would rather try something new than something I have had before.

As a customer, you notice it every week when I bring in new wines for the shelves. But when I go to a restaurant or another wine store it is always the same grapes: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot grigio, malbec, etc. There are over 1,400 grapes used for wine in the world so why should we always focus on these same few grapes over and over? Isn’t life way too short to be boring? Shouldn’t we be explorers and adventurous in what we imbibe in?

I SAY YES! And with that in mind, let’s take a look at two obscure grapes I think you can easily fall in love with.

Menat Ji Jian wine and glasses on table

Gorgeous Gaglioppo

First on my list of obscure grapes is gaglioppo. A red grape variety grown mostly in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Gaglioppo produces soft red wines with red berry, and cherry notes, accented by spicy undertones. An ancient variety gaglioppo was probably first brought over by the ancient Greeks. DNA testing suggests that this obscure grape is a natural crossing of sangiovese and an ancient Greek variety.

In Calabria, the grapes grow at higher altitude to mitigate the heat of the climate in the region. Gaglioppo is usually picked early in the season to keep the acidity bright, and to keep the fruit flavors from becoming too jammy. Many producers try long macerations at low temperatures to coax out the little tannins the grape skins provide. There are other regions of Italy that also make wines from gaglioppo, such as Marche, Umbria, and Abruzzo. However, the grape is mostly used as a blending partner in these regions.

Ready to Try Gaglioppo?

Try the MENAT Ji Jian. This is technically a rosé wine but with the tannic structure and aging in Georgian qvevri this wine is more of a light red. MENAT sources these obscure grapes from 50 year old biodynamic vineyards. The gaglioppo grapes are half de-stemmed and half whole cluster pressed off into the qvevri. Once in the qvevri the juice ferments with native yeasts and ages for nine lunar cycles.

The folks at MENAT are hardcore about being biodynamic y’all.

The resulting wine is a beautiful brick red and shows off a balsamic nose, with flavors of blood orange, anise, and mint. The wine has  a silky layer of tannins and bright, crunchy acidity. The Ji Jian is a spectacular wine with a savory, long persistence.

Try this beauty with spaghetti coated in garlic, olive oil, and chilies or paired with Calabria’s caciocavallo cheese, and soppressata. 

Wine additions may cause wine reactions

Crisp, Clean, Colombard

Next on my list of obscure grapes is a white variety making a comeback thanks to natural wine producers who embrace colombard’s crisp, refreshing nature. Despite its relative anonymity, the variety is one of the most-planted white grapes in France. These obscure grapes occupy much of the land along France’s west coast. However, colombard’s presence has diminished considerably over the years. Many vines were pulled up in the 1970s to make way for more-fashionable varieties. In the 70s, colombard was also the most planted white variety in California. It was only overtaken by chardonnay and other white grapes in the mid-80s.

Colombard took up all this precious vineyard space because it is one of the world’s best blending grapes. Often paired with ugni blanc, vermentino, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc due its reputed neutral flavor profile. However, when allowed to ripen fully, colombard is a fresh, bright wine with orchard fruit and distinctive floral notes.

For your first foray into the colombard I suggest, Domaine Rimbert’s Sur la Plage Colombard. Sur la Plage translates to “on the beach” and this is a perfect name for the wine. Sourced from older vines near Saint Chinian in southern France. The grapes are hand-harvested late in the season then pressed and fermented with native yeast. The wine stays in stainless steel before being bottled in the spring. It is only lightly filtered.

The resulting wine is bright and delicious. There is a layer of salinity throughout that reminds me of the beach. Melon and citrus fruits are reflected on the palate. The finish here is crisp, clean, and rejuvenating.

Pair this colombard with fresh seafood, Thai cuisine, and vegan fare.

Obscure Grapes: The Wines!

MENAT Ji Jian Gaglioppo

Vintage: 2019
Region: Calabria, Italy
Viticulture: Biodynamic
Grape varieties: Gaglioppo

MENAT Ji Jian Gaglioppo has a beautiful brick red color and shows off a balsamic nose, with flavors of blood orange, anise, mint. Gorgeous.

Song: I’ll Pick You Up by The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band


Out of stock

Domaine Rimbert Sur La Plage

Vintage: 2020
Region: Saint Chinian, France
Viticulture: Organic
Grape varieties: 100% Colombard

Domaine Rimbert Sur La Plage is a bright and delicious white made from Colombard. Citrus and melon fruit, salinity, and tight acidity.

Movie: Knife in the Water


1 in stock