Sunday 17 November 2019
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The Quest: Tasting 100 Varietals

It started eight years ago. Everyone who knew of it encouraged my pursuit and I would routinely receive comments like, “What a wonderful idea!” When I started, I had no idea it would take eight years to finish or how people would get involved and want to help.

It all began when I read an article about the Century Club in London, which gave recognition to those who drank over 100 different varietals of wine. My thoughts went along the lines of, “How cool is that and when can I start?” After a bit of research I discovered the 100 could include blended wines—this dampened my enthusiasm. Part of my initial excitement was gaining an idea of what different varietals tasted like; something you can’t do with a blended wine.

SONY DSCWith that, I decided I would make my quest the pursuit of 100 single varietals, so I could have an idea of what each varietal should taste like. It was easy for about the first 20, before I had to dive into new varietals. This is when the fun and discovery really began.

Amsterdam presented a Pinotage before it became widely available in the United States. In Luxembourg, I found a wine from the Elbling grape, one of the rarest grapes in the world with less than 300 acres under cultivation.

Quite a few people became involved and brought me bottles to share. Restaurant owners got into the act. A Bulgarian friend gave me a few Greek wines. Even winemakers became involved and let me know when new and unusual wines became available. People around me became more adventuresome with the wines they drank, and most of all, we had fun.

If you want to liven up a conversation, pull out an obscure varietal and let the guests talk. Can you imagine the conversation a wine from the Marechal Foch grape elicited? Pigato sounds like it should be an opera, not a wine. And shouldn’t Pedro Ximenez be a person working in the vineyards instead of in the bottle?

Along the way, I learned why some varietals used in blending are probably best not bottled on their own. Others were so obscure even sommeliers didn’t recognize them. Picpoul de Pinet, Aghiorgitiko and Bobal are rarely recognized—even my spellchecker doesn’t recognize them!

I found new favorites and “go to” varietals. A good Bonarda is great with grilled hamburgers. Italians love their food and wine, so even an obscure Pelaverga pairs well with a wide range of meals.

Every trip to a wine store became a treasure hunt. I would love to have a bottle of wine for every time I asked a clerk for the most obscure varietal, only to have to say, “I’ve already had that one.” But it’s still fun to ask, because there’s always the chance of adding a new one to the list.

What wine did I drink for number 100? Of course, it had to have bubbles and be obscure—a Mas Cava Brut Rosé from Spain made with the Trepat grape fit the bill.

What’s next? Maybe another 100, or possibly visiting all the great wine regions of the world.

By Kent Nancollas
Guest contributor Kent Nancollas has been an adventurous wine lover for 40 years and is always ready to try something new.

Originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of AZ Wine Lifestyle.

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