I’m always one to ignore the known grapes (Chardonnay, Cabernet, etc.) as there are over a million grapes in the world. Not until recently, though, has Iowa had its fair share of exotic varietals showing up on shelves and restaurant menus. Sure, we’ve seen the likes of Spanish Mencia, Italian Vermentino and Chilean Carmenere, to name a few of the past exotics that many of us have become accustomed to in Iowa (10 years after the coasts were drinking them). But I recently discovered a grape even I’ve never heard of (and I’m a major grape snob —just ask my friends). This happened during a tasting with an aggressive new boutique distributor, Worldwide Cellars. And credit to Carl Hagstrand for knowing I wanted to taste the crazy stuff—and that he knew all about each and every bottle we tasted.
Listan Negro. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. It’s from the Canary Islands and qualifies, therefore, as a Spanish wine. Hagstrand had photos of the volcanic soil these beauties grow in. Never mind the fact that this grape is a delicious, medium-bodied red with hints of earth, blackberry and cola. Ignore that it will pair extremely well with hearty fish dishes, making it extremely versatile. And let’s just forget altogether that it fits into my favorite category of unknown grapes that drink like $30 but cost only $15. Let’s put the focus on the fact that it is here, in Iowa. That’s a major accomplishment.
Who do we have to thank for this blessing? Well, pat yourselves on the back, folks. The wine business here in Iowa has increased, and that’s the only reason why crazy varietals like Listan are showing up. They are in limited supply, understandably, but they are here, inexpensive and delicious. So go out and buy some, and enjoy the adventure they bring—that alone will keep these obscure grapes coming into Iowa with ease.
Zachary Mannheimer, dsm’s wine writer, is a restaurant sommelier who runs a wine course business called Flight School (FlightSchoolWine.com). He holds the wine-pairing course at homes, businesses or anywhere else the client prefers. Mannheimer, who also founded and currently serves as the executive director of The Des Moines Social Club (DesMoinesSocialClub.org), has worked for more than 17 years in the food service industry in New York City, London and Des Moines. He can be reached at email@example.com.