Don't judge a wine by its label
During a recent seminar about publishing books I discovered that writers usually don't have control over what the book cover will look like. Frustrating, if you consider a dreary cover can doom your sales and kill any chance of being interviewed by Oprah.
Wine is a perfect example of something that should never be judged by its artwork also. Did you know that many of those commonplace, unmemorable drawings of Châteaus are not a rendering of the actual winery, but a stock drawing chosen from a catalog? Of course there are some producers that commission an actual artist to illustrate their property, but for many producers this is just another unnecessary expense. Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time remembering these line drawings.
It is a well known fact that many consumers choose a bottle of wine because of the artwork on the label. I can tell you more than one story about a bottle of wine that was sent to the close out bin, never to return as a regular item, because its label was lackluster, yet the wine inside was exceptional. I also know of many wine portfolios that have one uninteresting label after another, while each bottle of wine is extraordinary for its price. An indication that a wine is starting to gain market share is when it sports a new flashy label. Many producers are hip to the label ploy and swap their design out every few years in an attempt to stimulate sales.
I challenge the wine consumers in Denver to seek out the drabbest labels you can find. You'll be surprised how many undiscovered gems are clad with unassuming labels. Just like a book, you cannot judge a wine by the artwork on the label.
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The Portuguese call alvarinho the 'Queen' of all Portuguese white grapes. A title well deserved for this elegant wine. It is lush with creamy flavors of apricots and peaches and complimented by a marriage of white flowers and minerals. This exotic and perfume-like grape grows in a few obscure areas of Spain and Portugal exclusively. The Spanish call it albariņo. The northern area of Portugal is known for old vines that are 50, 60, and 70+ years old.
Alvarinho (ahl-vah-ree-nho) is a small berried, low yielding grape with a thick skin that is difficult to vinify. When pressed, alvarinho offers small amounts of juice compared to other varieties. For these producers, showcasing alvarinho's luscious quality is more important than following market trends. They are not swayed by the popularity of other varietals and resist the urge to pull up their sluggish old vines for high yield mainstream grapes. Their steadfast devotion to this frustrating, yet superior varietal, is paying off; alvarinho has a small but growing following here in the U.S.
It is believed that alvarinho was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by monks on a religious pilgrimage from France in the twelfth century. Others believe that it evolved from Riesling and was brought to the area by German monks. A third camp believes that alvarinho is an indigenous grape. Regardless of where it came from, its elegant presence has been cherished for hundreds of years.
Its acidity offers a wonderful balance to its freshly sliced peach and apricot flavors. If it has undergone malolactic fermentation, the wine can be drunk while young. If it has not undergone malolactic fermentation the wine can age for a few years developing a floral canvas of flavors. Alvarinho is a wonderful example of the extraordinary and exotic wines that wait for us if we just choose to look for them.