Scared of being labelled as an old-timer has-been with yesterday’s palate? Want to stay relevant in the modern world of wine? Want to be able to hang with the cool kids?
You have come to the right place. I’m here to help.
By following my essential guide to cool wine, you will be able to recalibrate your tired, and – let’s face it – out-of-date palate. Welcome to today, folks, because this is where it’s at in the world of wine.
So what’s in and what’s out?
First, let’s start with Bordeaux. Nothing gives away your age like a cellar full of Bordeaux. I’m afraid you are going to have to stop going to Primeurs, too. All those pictures of fancy Châteaux and people in sharp suits you post on your social media feed identify you as a definite has been. Bordeaux is only cool if it’s very old, or it’s obscure, or it is white. Left bank only allowed; there’s just too much spoof on the right.
Burgundy. Not a problem. You are allowed to like Burgundy, because it’s happening and small scale. But what might be even cooler is Cru Beaujolais. Gamay is tomorrow’s grape, especially if it is made quite naturally. Something to consider?
Jura and the Loire are both in, as is Alsace. Look for smaller producers, people doing biodynamics, that sort of thing. In the Loire, Chenin is seriously cool, as is Cabernet Franc, but even cooler still are Pineau d’Aunis and Cot. In Alsace, Riesling is super cool, and Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc gain points for surprise value. In the Jura, everything is cool.
Italy? Avoid the Brunello bandwagon. This could hit your reputation. It’s one of Suckling’s favourite regions. Piedmont is as cool as ever. Mount Etna is probably cooler still. Friuli can be pretty smart, especially if clay is involved.
That brings me round to clay. Anything that is fermented in any type of clay vessel, be they Tinajas or Qvevri or just plain old amphorae, is super-cool and you should probably be drinking it conspicuously or at the very least professing love for it on instagram.
Australia? Australia is full of some really cool wines these days, but beware, because there is a serious amount of uncool stuff there and you could confirm people’s worst suspicions that you are washed up and irrelevant if you get it wrong. Now nothing screams ‘has been’ louder than Grange, or anything from Penfolds, for that matter. It’s not that they are bad wines – and you need to realize that this is a theme running through all my advice – it’s just that the image is wrong. Besides, they’ve set their sights on rich dudes in Asia. Look at the ampoule wine: $100K and you have to have Peter Gago at your party to open it for you. Totally uncool. If you are going to get involved with Australia, then let it be with the cool guys: Mac Forbes, Ochota Barrels, Wendouree, Yarra Yering, Mount Mary, Ngeringa, Luke Lambert and so on. Be very careful.
Chile. You might be surprised, but you can drink Chilean wine and still be cool. Most Chilean stuff is a total no-no, especially if the word icon has been used in association with a wine. But there are now some cool guys. Check out De Martino for starters, or the crazy Tara stuff that Ventisquero are doing in the desert. But, as with Australia, exercise extreme caution.
California. It’s kind of easy in California, because although the spoof is everywhere, it is super-obvious. If you for a moment think that the big, high-points, spoofulated international-style reds that are so successful in Califonia are even vaguely drinkable, then there is little hope for you. Look for the In Pursuit of Balance crowd, or anything that Roberson Wine sell, and you’ll be OK. The uncool stuff in California is very uncool, but the cool stuff is super-cool. It’s a polarizing sort of state.
Time to talk natural wine. Natural wine is a sort of fast pass to hipsterdom, and so it’s something that you need to get into, and quickly. Natural wine transcends boundaries, so even uncool regions or grape varieties are suddenly cool when a natural approach is taken. The really smart take on natural wine is to be a little selective though, rather than just accepting all of them. But if you start mentioning the term ‘fault’ then you’ve gone too far and you have exposed yourself as a fraud.
Colour. If you like your reds dark and inky and your whites pale and translucent, then you’re pretty much a washed-up wreck, and you need to take action fast. Same is true if you insist on wines being bright and clear. Dude, pale reds are in. As are deeper coloured whites. And cloudy is good, not bad.
Grape varieties? Riesling is in, obviously, as is Chenin. Anything obscure is good: think Rufete, Bastardo, Counoise, Godello. For reds, Cinsault is super cool. Grenache can be both good and evil, depending on who makes it. Cabernet Franc is cool while Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t. Merlot remains uncool. Syrah is in while Shiraz is out. Nerello Mascalese rocks, and Mencia is brilliant. You get the idea. But remember: any variety is cool if it is made naturally by the right person.
I think that’s enough for now. I hope that this has helped start you on your journey from obscurity and failure to relevance and hipsterdom. I’m happy to have been some help.