Godforsaken Grapes
July 13, 2019 9:45 PM - by Jason Wilson - Subscribe

There are nearly 1,400 known varieties of wine grapes in the world—from altesse to zierfandler—but 80 percent of the wine we drink is made from only 20 grapes. In Godforsaken Grapes, Jason Wilson looks at how that came to be and embarks on a journey to discover what we miss. Stemming from his own growing obsession, Wilson moves far beyond the “noble grapes,” hunting down obscure and underappreciated wines from Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, France, Italy, the United States, and beyond. In the process, he looks at why these wines fell out of favor (or never gained it in the first place), what it means to be obscure, and how geopolitics, economics, and fashion have changed what we drink. A combination of travel memoir and epicurean adventure, Godforsaken Grapes is an entertaining love letter to wine.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The title of this book is based on an unhinged rant by the Enfant terrible of the wine world, Robert Parker, who basically went on a tear against wine that wasn't expensive and French, calling lesser known grapes "godforsaken". Luckily, for once it seems as if the wine world is ignoring Parker's latest bullshit, and more and more rare and indigenous grapes and their wines are being re-discovered and enjoyed. Jason Wilson has written a wonderful book about his journey beyond Cabernet and Chardonnay, and gives a perspective that wine being "drinkable" is no fault. The stories and people behind these grapes are wonderfully entertaining, and will have you reaching for an affordable and interesting bottle, that would no doubt horrify Parker's particular palate.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:49 PM on July 13, 2019

Another great non fiction book to check out, much appreciated.
posted by gryftir at 2:54 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this. This is one of two wine books I grabbed from the library thanks to these Fanfare threads!

I just finished the chapter on Alpine Wines. I'm really enjoying it. Will return to this once I've finished it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:10 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

It confirmed some things about wine that I've felt for a long time. That there are some under-appreciated wines out there that, for reasons of capitalism and marketing, have been neglected.

I was glad he spent some time discussing wines from Portugal's Douro region. Even the very relatively cheap DOC Douro wines I can find here in Canada for $13 to $15 a bottle are reliably decent, and some are even fantastic. It just confirmed a bit of advice I give people who are unsure or a little bit intimidated about picking up a wine to bring to a dinner party - grab a Douro! It's probably good, and you won't have to spend that much.

Like, find something affordable that you like and enjoy! It can be that simple, and some of the "godforsaken grapes" are going to be your best bets.

The other day, I found this Georgian Saperavi. It was fine - a little on the "tartly acidic" side of things, but it was just under $13, so I was willing to gamble on it.

TIL from the book - Saperavi is one of the red wine grapes that has both red flesh and red skin! Wilson points out in the book that winemakers in the Finger Lakes region of NY state have been experimenting with hardy, cold-resistant Georgian varieties that suit their particular microclimate.

Another interesting tidbit I was unaware of was that Zweigelt was created from a cross in the 1920s. I found myself thinking "Gee, I wonder if Dr. Zweigelt was Nazi..."

Narrator's voice: Dr. Zweigelt was a Nazi.


In any case, there are plenty of good Austrian wines, and it was interesting to read a bit more about the Austrian winemaking industry. I got turned on to Austrian wines (as Wilson points out, lots of people find it hard to think of them outside of the glycol contamination scandal, and I was one of those people) just over a year ago. My other association was with sickly-sweet whites. But the Austrian wines I've been exposed to through a progressive and unpretentious sommelier who holds a very informal wine tasting class have been wines from modern Austrian winemakers, some of whom are younger, and many of whom are women, like Heidi Schrock. Her wines are fantastic.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:21 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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