Six under-appreciated grape varieties

At a masterclass in Hong Kong this week, Jancis Robinson MW talked to a packed room about the still under-appreciated delights of the world’s indigenous grape varieties.

Jancis Robinson MW in Hong Kong this week attending ProWine Asia

Highlighting six indigenous grape varieties – including Assyrtiko, Petite Arvine and Timorasso – the Master of Wine argued that there is currently a big swing away from international grape varieties towards indigenous grapes.

“I am all for this because it widens our choice, and it’s not the case that Cabernet Sauvignon is suitable for every wine region in the world, and it certainly isn’t the case that Pinot Noir is suitable for every part either. I think it’s sort of in line with the trend for authenticity and traceability,” she stated, speaking to an over-subscribed audience in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

There are about 1,368 grape varieties identified in Robinson’s sweeping encyclopedia on global grapes titled Wine Grapes, but the number could go as high as 1,500. As Robinson noted during her talk, interest in indigenous grape varieties has rocketed now that more winemakers, such as Miguel Torres in Spain, are showing a greater interest in preserving local varieties.

Italy is by far the country with most indigenous grapes, with around 377 recognised varieties, followed by other European countries such as France, Greece and Portugal.

dbHK asked if there were any promising indigenous grape varieties in Asia, Robinson gave a nod to Japan’s Koshu and Muscat Bailey A, but the two varieties still did not match up to today’s high standards.

“I think Koshu is an interesting white wine that is extremely Japanese, very pure, terrific with Sashimi. Really they are not like water but they really challenge you to get the flavour out of it,” she explained.

Muscat Bailey A, meanwhile, is one of the better known indigenous grape varieties in Japan, but “its quality isn’t good enough,” Robinson added, noting the grape is getting some traction among international trade.

In terms of Chinese varieties, wineries such as Changyu have been championing Cabernet Gernischt for some years now but it has been established that the variety is actually Carmenère, ruling out the possibility of it being an indigenous Chinese grape.

“And there’s Long Yan grape [meaning dragon eye] but I can’t think of anything wonderful in China, but perhaps we haven’t found it yet,” she continued.

India and Thailand are yet to discover quality wine grapes either, she added.

Here we’ve rounded up six indigenous grape varieties that are highlighted by the wine expert as being under-appreciated. Click through the slides to discover these obscure varieties.

3 Responses to “Six under-appreciated grape varieties”

  1. EXCELLENT ARTICLE…..WILL SEARCH A COUPLE OF THESE WINES OUT.

  2. Linden Wilkie says:

    Who organised the masterclass?

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