It’s a scene familiar from any childhood disco. The pretty girls and popular boys whirl around the middle of the dancefloor under the bright lights, whilst the rest of the crowd linger in the shadows around the edge. Every so often one or other of these wallflowers may be asked to join the dance for a song or two, but inevitably they are then forgotten about and they creep back to the dark recesses where they must wait again, hoping to be chosen once more.
As a child it is all too easy to overlook the shy beauty of a wallflower for the popularity of the cool kids.
And yet now as adults we do exactly the same thing – but now the dancefloor is our wine collection and the dancers are grape varieties. There in the middle are the still the popular kids, a mix of just 7 or 8 varieties that manage to attract all of the attention, swirling under the spotlight.
Of course, Chardonnay is front and centre; blonde and buxom and eager to please. Around her twirls Sauvignon Blanc, just slightly jealous of her rival’s popularity and quietly fearing her own star is beginning to fade. There is besuited Cabernet Sauvignon and his twin brother Merlot who love to show off their superb duet, each one complimenting the other. Syrah occasionally tries to muscle in on this duet but for the most part realises he looks better and dances better as a soloist. Pinot Noir dances to his own tune, lost in his own music. He has no need for praise or attention, but his detached, aloof style attracts much envy. Around and through them all little Pinot Grigio winds, her easy charm and girlish giggle not quite covering up her less-than-sparkling personality.
Spare a thought then for the wallflowers surrounding this dancefloor. Rows and rows of them reaching into the darkness. Some of them get picked to join the dance quite regularly, others have forgotten what it feels like to be under those spotlights.
A gaggle of girls first. Near the front is Pinot Gris, Grigio’s elder sister. She can’t quite understand why her rather dull little sister gets all of the attention but as she gets twirled around the dancefloor every now and then she doesn’t want to kick up a fuss. Nearby is Riesling whose bipolar personality means she sees the spotlight much less than she should. Viognier and Gewurztraminer also vie for attention from those who like their overt, perfumed style.
The male contingent looks on. Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Grenache – all trying to act cool but all still hoping for that turn around the dancefloor.
And yet these are the lucky ones. The ones that do get the chance to dance quite regularly, to show off and receive some praise. Look behind them, into the shadows – for that’s where you’ll find the true wallflowers.
Some have got unpronounceable names – like Hondarrabi Zuri, Nerello Mascalese or Assyrtiko. Others could easily be mistaken for something else. Surely Touriga Nacional is the latest brand of 4 wheel drive? And isn’t Treixadura a horrible infectious disease? Not to mention Madeleine Angevine, a queen of England in historical times. And then there are others sounding more like cheese than wine – Romorantin, Jacquere, Pecorino (ok that one is also a cheese). Easy to see then why any of these would get passed over and why they wait in the shadows.
And yet pick any of these and you won’t be disappointed. You won’t get the well known, well-worn dance of the popular kids – but you might just get something a bit more exciting. Something to liven the tastebuds, quicken the heartrate and get those feet tapping.
So next time you’re out scouring the shelves for a wine to buy, why not pass over the easy, popular choices and pick a wallflower. Sure, it might look a little dusty when you bring it into the light of day, but open that bottle and try something different, give someone else a turn in your wine glass. You may just be rewarded with one of the best wines you’ve had in a while.
I hope you enjoy the dance.