When most of us think of wine, we think of the international varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet. But there are over 6000 varieties of vitis vinifera grapes in the world. Native to the Mediterranean region, approximately 1500 of these grapes are used to make wine, with about 1000 of them being indigenous varietals. The other 500 are comprised of crossbred hybrids. Most wine drinkers will only be exposed to about 20 or 30 of these different varietals in their wine drinking lifetime. In fact, these 30 key varieties account for approximately 70% of the world wide wine production.
For those wine nerds out there among us there is Wine Mosaic. Founded in 2012, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving Vinodiversity. Currently run entirely on a volunteer basis Wine Mosaic works with academic organizations and winemakers around the world to protect rare plantings and encourage new ones. They also work to promote the wines offered by these winemakers and encourage local people to support their local winemakers. And yes for the wine nerds they advocate exploration and adventures.
Many people are skeptical and believe that the key 30 varieties have become dominant for a reason. But encouraging vinodiversity has long term consequences. We have already seen the extinction of unique flora and fauna and we face the ever greater reality of global warming. By protecting and preserving that which we already have we can protect unique species and unique DNA sequencing. In turn we then have a greater ability to fight against disease and adapt to climate change. Simultaneously we can adapt to consumer demand and create new business opportunities. And as we learn more about these rare varietals we can also learn how to adapt our winemaking and improve quality.
I personally am sitting somewhere around the 80 different varietal mark and am looking forward to hitting the 100 mark and joining the Century Club (and yes I am aware that I am a total wine nerd).
I first heard about Wine Mosaic at the 2014 Digital Wine Communication Conference in November in Montreaux, Switzerland where they hosted a seminar and a tasting. Unfortunately, this session was so highly sought after I was unable to attend. But thankfully they graciously hosted a seminar and a tasting at INSEEC this year. The tasting included:
- A Chasselas from the Loire Valley: I had previously enjoyed this grape varietal in Switzerland. It produces crisp, clean and lively white wines.
- Pansa Blanca: This grape was available both as a dry white and a sparkling Cava from Catalunya. I personally preferred the dry version, as it was crisp with a good fruit character.
- Romorantin from the Loire Valley: Another white varietal, this is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. Reserved on the nose and subtle this wine was very soft and approachable.
- Altesse from Savoie: Soft and crisp with a nose of exotic fruit aromas, this wine was noticeable for its acidity.
- A Loin de l’Oeil from Gaillac: this was sadly my least favorite wine from the evening. It was a little flabby and a bit lacking in acidity.
- Prunelart and B. from the Southwest France: Ok, I’ll confess I don’t actually have the proper spelling of the second grape. But this red blend was approachable.
- Persan from Savoie: Well structured this red wine was firm and needed a bit of age but was a bit simple in its aromatic profile.
Sadly, I am also lacking in photos and producer information from this event. But it looks like I might have an additional opportunity for another Wine Mosaic tasting in June during VinExpo. In the meantime, stay curious and seek out some of the more interesting varietal wines you can find. I promise it will be worth the effort.