Up-and-Coming Wines: Trendy Blends and Rebounding Regions

School's in session, on your terms: We're asking the Valley's top wine gurus to answer all your wine-related queries, tackling them one at a time each Wednesday, so we can all stress less and pour more. Today's teachers: Arcadia Wine Goddesses Katherine Conrad and Erin Giarda of Arcadia Fine Wine.

UNCORK THE ISSUE: Trend-spotting wines is a talent that eludes us, so we instead pick the brains of the most in-the-know wine gurus (see last week's mention of The Scholium Project Wines). This week, we ask Wine Goddesses Katherine Conrad and Erin Giarda of Arcadia Fine Wine for the answers in broad strokes: What wine should we be buying and what regions should we be eyeing to stay ahead of the wine popularity curve?

SPILL THE JUICE: "In the whites, the French blends are coming to surface, and we're seeing blends of the weightier reds," says Conrad, citing an increase in interesting white Bordeaux blends and the rising popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blends as opposed to the already prevalent Grenache and Syrah mixes.

"The imported blends are really intriguing, but with the domestics, its been more difficult to pinpoint the exact balance between quality control and price control," Conrad explains, underscoring that both value and quality are vital. "The key to finding your gem is not being afraid to ask questions of your local purveyors. Whether it be flavor profile, price point or region, your local wine purveyor will be your best tour guide and...at the end of the day, no matter the score, drink (more of) what you like."

"A lot of well known Spanish, French and Italian producers are getting into entry-level blends that are intriguing, high quality and offer a lot of bang for their buck," she adds.

NOTE THE COMPLEXITIES: While the whites are coming from France, the reds are coming predominantly from South America and California, Conrad says.

Argentinean Malbec blends are standouts for Giarda who explains, "Malbec on its own can be very acidic due to a lot of high-altitude growing regions, so some boutique vitners are starting to include more traditional French varietals in their red blends to create something that's more user-friendly for us here in the U.S. and the European clientele."

Stateside, "[Paso Robles winemakers] really understand their terroir, and they're using the varietals that lend themselves best to the land and staying really true to form in that regard, which I think has a lot of integrity," Conrad says

Other regions to watch? "Look out for Washington [state]," Conrad advises. "There's been an increased interest in Washington and there are some really killer winemakers that are coming out of the state that just haven't had the proper placement or PR to get into the right peoples' hands."

South Africa is also starting to resurface, says Conrad, after declining in popularity for a few years.

GET THE GOODS: Any standouts specifically that we should be buying up in bulk right now?

"It all depends on the day and your mood and the weather - if you're eating, if you're not eating: Wine is one of those great experiences because its highly personalized," Conrad says. "It's about finding what you like and what your style for the day that's important, because sometimes - even though it's incredibly hot - you might want a great red. Weight, structure and balance is key."

If you're in one of those moods, Conrad did give props to the Eberle's Full Boar Red out of Paso Robles, saying "It's the kitchen sink of all your grape varietals; however, it comes out in an extremely balanced, elegant style that has great layers for less than $20 a bottle."

As for the whites, Giarda says, "The only blend from Bordeaux is Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, but Loire has delightful wines utilizing a wider range of varietals including Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscadet. And of course Southern France's blendings of Roussane, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc are rich and unique. The main idea is to explore French regions that you've never heard of, for a great value and perfect summertime sipper."

SWALLOW THIS: Because you wine stores are often intimidating, we put together this three-step cheat sheet. Go ahead, print it out and take it with you.

Vino-buying tips to impress your friends this memorial day:
  1. Keep one eye on white French blends and another on heavy reds.
  2. Look for Washington and South African wines as they repopulate store shelves.
  3. Don't be afraid to try anything this year.

But really, just experiment. It's the prime time to do so, thanks to fantastic growing seasons worldwide, Conrad says.

"As for a world portfolio, the options are endless," Conrad claims. "The vintages coming out of most of these regions - the 2010s and 2009s, depending on which area of the globe you're situated in - are all killer vintages."

Come back for class next Wednesday and leave your questions for our wine gurus in the comments below, no hand-raising necessary.

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Hannah E Williams