The Shiraz Effect

I’m so fucking sick of Malbec. I’ve been fucking sick of Malbec for a while now; in fact I published the original version of “The Shiraz Effect” on my old blog back in 2010. As it turns out, five years later the Malbec craze is still going strong – and I’m still sick of it.

My last Vue wine column was an updated version of that original sentiment. It’s actually quite remarkable how long-lasting the Malbec wine trend has been; but then again, not really. It scores high in all of the categories that give a wine mass appeal: cheap, easy to drink, easy to pronounce, widely available and consistent.

So far, no single grape variety has approached Malbec’s reign. A friend and fellow wine enthusiast recently suggested that Grenache might step up, but I only partly agree. There are many delicious Grenaches out there, certainly, and this variety does fit most of the criteria for mass appeal. But it simply has a long way to go in establishing a reputation as notoriously pervasive as Malbec’s.

As I mention in the column, I’ve been greedily enjoying the great-value reds from all across the Iberian Peninsula (that’s Spain and Portugal, for the geographically disinclined). These wines easily represent some of the best values available that aren’t from South America. Wine Spectator and the other publications have certainly clued into this, and recently they’ve awarded high points and spots in their Top 100 to increasing numbers of both Spanish and Portuguese wines.

Maybe Malbec has ended the Shiraz Effect. Maybe this one variety has so totally dominated the wine marketplace, that now it’s just always going to be Malbec and Everything Else. I’m joking (mostly), but I do feel that things have shifted fundamentally. The previous wine crazes – Shiraz, Napa Cab, New Zealand Sauv Blanc, Prosecco, Chianti, White Zin, Mateus – didn’t last as long as Malbec has.

So who knows. Maybe we’ve reached peak Malbec. Maybe we haven’t.

Ultimately, the Shiraz Effect and its establishment of single varietal domination is a symptom of an ignorant, juvenile wine culture. When people don’t know where to start, they pick the popular thing and go with it: this is true of wine as much as anything else. I can only hope that as a whole, we Edmontonian, Albertan, Canadian, and North American wine drinkers will eventually grow up enough to realize that we don’t need to keep defaulting to a safe single varietal.

Then we’d just have to convince the restaurateurs.

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