Episode 436 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Patrick Comiskey, a wine writer for both Wine & Spirits Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. He is also the author of American Rhône: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink.
Winemakers with tons of personality and an anti-establishment vibe. Agit prop writing extolling a pioneer spirit and a new wine revolution. Wines offered with immediate drinking in mind. Fun gatherings that became semi-legendary. Extensive media excitement surrounding wines that aren’t stuffy. An inherent tension between possibly making wines that you can drink right out of the gate, and wines that might be more serious and terroir-driven. These statements might reasonably describe the current Natural Wine scene, which is flourishing right at this moment. But Patrick Comiskey never mentions Natural Wine in his interview. Instead, Patrick applies these descriptions to the Rhône Rangers movement of American winemakers using Rhône grape varieties, and his contention is that the Rhône Rangers of the 1980s pioneered an attitude and a marketing effort that has been recycled by other new entrants into the American wine market many times over. He argues, for instance, that the Anything But Chardonnay! rallying cry that brought Viognier to prominence was subsequently taken up by any number of other the possibilities vying for market share. His point is that the Rhône Rangers were a spearhead for all the market change that then followed, as drinkers moved away from a stasis of Cab/Merlot and Chard/SB. Is it true that we as consumers constantly return to the same tropes, but in new bottles? That is something you’ll have to decide for yourself as Patrick breaks down his case, and as he pulls together historical anecdotes and draws on several interviews with winemakers to add color.
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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine