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Fashionable wines

18 May 2005
Fashionable wines

Kerner

You heard it here first. This is the grape variety currently being touted by a top San Francisco restaurant wine buyer. What on earth is it? It's a (recent) cross between Riesling and Trollinger and is planted mostly in the Rheinhessen and the Pfalz. What is it doing on a restaurant wine list? Well, you'd better ask Debbie Zachareas that question.

She has put together one of the city's - and the USA's - top wine lists at Bacar and at her new place, the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. And, boy, does she like to set trends. She practically made obscure Swiss variety Chasselas a household name when many restaurants followed her lead by offering it by the glass.

Awash with Chardonnay

But don't panic, the UK is generally about three years behind the USA on the wine-trend front (or any trend, come to that), so you don't need to stock up on Kerner just yet. Anyway, we're still awash with oaky Chardonnay, with Jacob's Creek hogging the top spot.

When will its reign end? Well, London brewer Young & Co, with its 210 pubs, is looking at listing an Aussie unwooded Chardonnay after the success of its South African unwooded Chardonnay last year - which is a start.

Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

On the red front, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot remain the most popular red grape varieties. "People want younger wines that are easy to drink, with nothing too tannic or acidic - softer wines with a lot of fruit, a little oak and good colour," moaned a top Paris sommelier recently. His list was full of the opposite.

In the USA, though, Pinot Grigio is the grape on everybody's lips. "If I'd known, I would have planted a lot more," admitted Roger Trinchero, president of giant Californian producer Sutter Home. "People love to say Pinot Grigio. Americans love to get hold of a sexy name," he added.

They rather liked the words Pinot Noir, too, said Trinchero. "But it hasn't taken off in quite the way some predicted it would. There's a lot of people here turning to Syrah - and we're planning on expanding our Syrah," he revealed.

There is also a general willingness to experiment. At Lola's in London's Islington, owner and wine buyer Morfudd Richards reports that her wine flights (tasting samplers) are still going strong. And, in general, sales of wines by the glass are growing. One thing's for sure: wine consumption is soaring.

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