Enjoying wine should be a never-ending journey and the Wine Society of East Tennessee has a goal to help members on this journey!
Bill Andrews, WSET Board Member
This post is intended to summarize wine travel experience for the WSET Board that is the basis of wine and travel opinions. It is a work in progress. Feel free to seek out individual board members to get their advice on pre-trip planning (tasting), insights on tasting visits in specific countries and wine regions and to share your experiences with the group – both stories and souvenir bottles! A bottle of wine as a souvenir and properly stored can exactly duplicate the sensation and memories of your trip for years to come. Taking a good bottle with you to share makes you a distinctive visitor. Tasting before you go can support planning and travel excitement. Wine is a global experience – lets start a new journey:
The wine travel experience of the WSET is astonishing. The combined WSET Board Experience of “feet on the ground” and “wine tasted” includes:
- 41 of the top 73 wine producing countries have been visited
- Countries visited represent 96% of global wine production!
- See wine regions visited by WSET Board Members: WSET Board Wine Country and Region Experience 0122
The joy of wine travel is in the experience, the discovery.
Let’s start a new journey! With over 400 approved grapes in Italy alone, the scope and range for possible exploration and experimentation are immense. Italy may be one of our most target rich countries for new varietal discoveries, hence, some recent revelations including the Cesanese grapes, thought to be one of the main wines produced during the heights of the Roman Empire! Most examples come from the Lazio DOC located just south of Rome. Hilly vineyards and late ripening mean extra work to produce quality wines of ripe cherry flavors, subtle pepper notes and an underlying earthiness. The soft tannins and medium body result in a tremendous food wine with broad pairing options.
A cross-pollination is occurring with winemakers in numerous regions of the world planting varietals previously identified with a specific country, continents away. We see Italian grapes being grown in Australia and multiple states in the US, as well as the famous Rhone Rangers in California and their devotion to Rhone Valley style. These days knowing the varietal in a bottle is not a road map to it’s likely origin.
Keep your passport current! An interesting white varietal to explore is from the Piedmont Timorasso. Almost extinct in the 1980s and single handedly revived by Walter Massa. An ardent supporter of this full-bodied grape has helped other producers in the southeastern Piedmont to plant Timorasso, even going so far as to help them understand how to get the best from the grape. This thick-skinned grape can produce so much more body than other better known Italian whites. Good acidity and floral to tropical notes respond well to time in oak to develop surprisingly good tannins and tremendous aging potential. Eighteen to twenty-four months spent in the cellar is not uncommon before release. Good examples can age and evolve for over a decade. All these wonderful qualities have led sommeliers to sing its praises for the last several years.
And we have enological archaeologists like Emilio Bulfon seeking out unidentified field grapes. His efforts to research the history and perform genetic tests to identify and classify these lost grapes are being emulated in other regions.
The examples we have explored are such a small portion of the many scarcely known and underappreciated varietals existing today. Our wine choices are so vast it seems a crime to confine our journey to the well-trodden path.
Get out there and try something new! Talk to other members of our group about what they have been drinking, where they drank it, and seek out knowledgeable professionals to probe their thoughts about exciting new adventures in the wine world. And look forward to some exciting new wines at your WSET dinners!
More wine travel stories are coming. Please send me yours too!
 Thanks to Rodney Perry for contributions to this introduction. Rodney and Melissa are members of your WSET