Southern Wine & Spirits territory manager Tony Goitia has seen 27 UNLVinos in his time with the company, so he has a pretty good vantage point from which to identify trends in wine, wine culture and winemaking. Goitia also taught International Wines at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV for six years, so he knows firsthand just how important the scholarship money raised by UNLVino is to the school. Over the years, Goitia’s seen some fads (Champagne splits with a straw, wine in a can) and some strokes of genius (screw caps). So we’re willing to believe him when he tells us the 37th annual UNLVino is going to be epic.
With more than 115 booths and six to seven wines at each booth, UNLVino (see Page 46) can be intimidating even to a seasoned pro. “Walk in, get the program, spend five minutes perusing it,” Goitia advises. “Look at the wines that you’re familiar with but taste the ones you don’t know.” Below, Goitia lays out seven trends you can experience at UNLVino. Start with the bubbles, then move on to whites, reds and finish with the dessert wines. But above all, he cautions: “Eat first.”
Trend 1: The Rise of Malbec
The hottest wine by far is malbec, especially malbec from Argentina. This wine is perfect for those looking for something a bit more full-bodied than pinot noir, but not as big as cabernet sauvignon. The grape is originally from the Bordeaux region of France, but grows especially well in Argentina and is experiencing tremendous growth. Fairly full-bodied, it is perfect for drinking by itself, but has enough substance to make it an ideal wine for many foods, especially red-meat dishes, but also works well with veal, pasta and cheese courses.
Explore: At UNLVino, there are some great examples of malbec: the Colores del Sol (Booth 13) and the Graffigna (Booth 36). All of these are exactly what we look for in a classic malbec—rich, well-balanced, concentrated fruit and great with or without food.
Trend 2: Sparkling Wines for Any Occasion
Americans are finally realizing that you don’t need a special occasion to drink wine with bubbles in it! True, Champagne—and I’m talking about the labor-intensive stuff from the Champagne district of France—can be quite expensive. Because of that, it is often served only for special occasions. However, there are some terrific alternatives, including sparkling wines from the Loire Valley of France, cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, and there are some great selections from California and Washington. Sparkling wines are the perfect aperitif, and, believe it or not, they work with many different types of food. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.
Explore: Try the Zonin Prosecco (Booth 75) and the Spanish sparklers from Segura Viudas (Booth 61), which are simply outstanding and great values. For something a bit sweeter, the Rosa Regale Brachetto (Booth 4) surprises many. Red and sweet is an unusual combination.
Trend 3: Discovering Southern Italian Whites
Italy has always been more famous for its reds than whites, and rightfully so. However, the Italians have made great strides in their white wine production in recent years, especially from the south of Italy in a region called Campania. Some may recall that the area is home to the famous volcano, Vesuvius, which pretty much destroyed the entire area in A.D. 79. Because of this, the soil is extremely iron-rich and drains well, which are important factors in wine-grape growing. Wines such as Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina are wonderful food wines—try them with fettuccini alfredo or penne alla vodka. Americans should discover that Italy produces white wines other than pinot grigio, which, incidentally, still reigns as the most popular Italian white wine. But give these a try; you won’t be disappointed.
Explore: The Guardia Falanghina and Greco di Tufo at Booth 29 are terrific examples.
Trend 4: Thinking Pink With Rosé
Yes, they’re pink, but don’t judge a wine by its color. This isn’t white zinfandel, folks. Go to any café in France and the locals are drinking rosé, which, by the way, isn’t sweet at all, but quite dry. It’s perfect for quaffing on a hot day, works well with most foods, and can be found for very reasonable prices. Generally, you can produce a rosé from any red grape, but in France they are most commonly produced from grenache and syrah, which make for a wine that is medium-bodied, easy-to-drink and doesn’t need a rare steak to accompany it. Remember, the key to food and wine pairings is balance, balance, balance. A light-bodied riesling with a rare steak? Not going to work very well. The richer the food, the bigger the wine needs to be.
Explore: Delicious rosés include those by Château de Campuget (Booth 84)—which is poured by the glass in a number of local restaurants. Torres Sangre de Toro (Booth 84) from Spain is a winner, and the Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel (Booth 85) will surprise you.
Trend 5: Increased U.S. Port Consumption
Port consumption in Europe has always been much higher than in the United States, but Americans seem to be discovering the fascinating flavors that port offers. Nearly every country that produces wine also produces port, but real port (or Porto), from its original home in Portugal, is wonderful stuff. Generally consumed after a meal or with a cheese course, port ranges from relatively inexpensive to pretty high-priced stuff. There are several types, most notably ruby, tawny and vintage. Instead of dessert, try offering a cheese course with an aged tawny. Once opened, ports stay drinkable for about a month, so there’s no great hurry to finish the bottle, as there is with regular, unfortified wines.
Explore: Some great examples of Porto are Graham’s (Booth 9) and the Sandeman Founder’s Reserve (Booth 36), which is stellar. Both make a great alternative to dessert!
Trend 6: Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Winemaking
This trend benefits everyone: It’s good for the Earth, the soil and the consumer, and is a practice that is truly growing at a terrific pace. There is a bit of confusion, though, as some wines are listed as “sustainable,” some as “organic,” some as “biodynamic” and some as a combination of two or more. Wineries that list their wines under any of these categories are proud of it (as they should be), and many other wineries are working to be certified. They can’t list it on the label until they are certified, and that can take a number of years, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Explore: Some stellar examples are the Coppola wines (sustainable, Booth 2), Grgich Hills (biodynamic and organic, Booth 5), Kamen (biodynamic and organic, Booth 14), Cline Cellars (sustainable, Booth 19), and the wines from Oyster Bay, New Zealand (sustainable, Booth 64).
Trend 7: Red Blends Are Hot!
The wine industry has known for ages that some wines are better when several grape types are blended together to make a wine that showcases the best of each grape. One of the best examples of that is Opus One, which started as a joint venture between the Robert Mondavi Winery and Château Mouton Rothschild from Bordeaux in 1979. At the time of its release, it was by far the most expensive California wine produced and, to this day, still garners very high praise and scores in the 90s with each release. Not all red blends are expensive, and some are actually great values.
Explore: Everyone loves a wine that has style, balance, good acidity and flavor, so here are some examples that will be available to taste at UNLVino: Coppola Claret (Booth 2); Rodney Strong Symmetry (Booth 39), a personal favorite; Treana Red (Booth 60); and the Trinchero Ménage à Trois (Booth 68).