We look into the flagship wines of the world’s leading wine countries.
What’s the wine or grape that first springs to mind when someone mentions France, Spain, Argentina or New Zealand? Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc? These are considered the “flagship wines” of those specific countries – their ambassadors as such. But do they really bring value to their motherland’s wine industry, or do they shine so bright that they stultify it?
You can argue it either way.
Start with Italy. It has over 350 indigenous grapes, but the one variety that is its claim to fame is Sangiovese, used in so many great wines from Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino to the Super Tuscans. Sangiovese brought the world’s drinkers to Italy and introduced them to its many siblings – Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Pinot Grigio and more. Today, consumers everywhere appreciate the diversity of Italian wines, but they still pay respect to Sangiovese.
Like Italy, Portugal has over 300 native grapes, but it does not promote any particular variety in the international arena. The fact that one grape often has different names depending on where it is grown (north, centre or south) doesn’t help. As a result perhaps, Portuguese wine has little recognition outside Portugal even today (except Port and Mateus Rosé.) A few years ago, ViniPortugal decided to start marketing Touriga Nacional as the national grape, hoping it would achieve similar status to Sangiovese and bring the world to its many other wines. We are still waiting to see the results.
Most will agree that Tempranillo is Spain’s flagship grape. But what about Grenache (Garnacha)? It is an important variety in Rioja where Tempranillo gained its fame, and produces the expressive and concentrated wines of Priorat and the south. In fact, Grenache has more characters than Tempranillo as a varietal, yet it always seems a few steps behind.
Sauvignon Blanc, specifically from Marlborough, put New Zealand on the world wine map. Now every wine region outside New Zealand wants to produce a similar style of Sauvignon Blanc. However, this flagship grape has been so successful that all other great New Zealand wines are living under its shadow. The average consumer (and I am referring to the average, not those in the wine circle) is not even aware of Otago Pinot Noir, let alone the wines of other regions.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this – get in touch!
By Tersina Shieh, marketer turned winemaker.
To read more, visit Tersina’s blog at Tersinawinejournal