The Wine Century Club and the 100 grape challenge

All around the world tonight, members of the Wine Century Club will meet, give their secret handshakes, then raise glasses of Lacrima di Morro, Pedro Ximenez, Assyrtiko or other esoteric grapes in an annual, in-person tasting.

Formed five years ago by friend-of-the-blog Steve De Long and his wife Deborah, the club now counts 721 members who have made the quest. I qualified a few years ago. And I give out the sheet in my classes as a fun challenge to participants.

What exactly is the challenge? To drink wines made from the grapes of 100 grape varieties. It may sound easy at first but I have seen many people hit a wall around 70 varieties and then start scouring their cities for tastings of Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines (since all those countries have abundant grape varieties). Some members have gotten so into it that there are now doppel-centurions, a treble- and even a quadruple-centurion!

It’s a fun quest to get out of your wine rut, celebrate diversity, or just to learn more about wine. Check out the application materials here to get cracking tonight. There’s no cost to join and you even get a free certificate on qualification. I raise a glass of poulsard to those who give it a shot!

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17 Responses to “The Wine Century Club and the 100 grape challenge”

  1. just went through the excel sheet at 62! not to shabby. now to go to a greek tasting and boom!

  2. I was surprised to find I’d done 54. I thought my number would be around 40. I’m pretty proud of the Dornfelder and Welschriesling. Lot of territory to cover, though!

  3. Hi Tyler – thanks for the shout out! Does friend of blog mean that Mark Squires won’t become a member!?

    Hi Weston and Cassandra – getting above 50 on first glance is very good – you’ll be at 100 in no time!

  4. I have a rule. If I go to a wine bar that offers, by the glass, a varietal that I don’t know, I must try it.

    A quick glance at the Adobe Reader form indicates I’ve conquered at least 92 of the listed varietals, (assuming it is permissible to count several blended grapes such as Macabeo, Xarello, and Parallada in a Cava.) yea me! The list is far from complete, so I may have already succeeded. In the meantime, I have a new goal. Thanks.

  5. Cusumano Insolia with dinner tonight gets me to at least 93.

  6. Oh no, I have a long way to go! LOL – Thanks for the sheet.

  7. I checked through the form and got 142 that I could remember, and I know there’s another dozen and a half that will come to me, on a plane, in the grocery store, turning over in the night. But 200? 300? THAT’S impressive!

  8. Weston, Laurie, Cassandra, and Kristi — glad you are getting into it! Let us know when you reach the century.

    Steve DL – dunno but he has a leg up reviewing Portugal and Greece!

    Steve E – excellent! I hope you will send it in to join the exclusive club, perhaps as a doppel-centurion! (Steve DL–are there a lot of winemaker members?)

  9. After reviewing past purchases and tasting room visits, I discovered another 18 grapes I’ve tried, which brought my list to more than 70. I was surprised, even though I make it a point to try new grapes when possible. I would encourage anyone embarking on this enterprise to consider grapes they’ve had that may not be on the list: Grenache Gris is one example. I’ve also had several Michigan/Canada grapes, including Chambourcin, Frontenac, Cayuga, Chardonel and Traminette. These may be grown in other places, but, if not, there may be other regional grapes. These don’t always make brilliant wine, but not every Cab I’ve had is a winner either!

  10. Phew, 106! Helps very much that I first got interested in wine in western PA and we would go to Arnie Esterer’s Markko Vineyards in Erie; that I used to work for an Italian wine company and that I spent a lot of time in Portugal. Any one of those 3 things will give you a bunch of weird varieties. Thanks for this; will send in my app.

  11. Woohoo! 101 for me — I’ll be emailing my form off today!

  12. I started my trip to the Wine Century Club in late 2008. I also stopped my trip, but not because I stopped drinking wine. When I started my journey, i vowed I’d only count wines that I recorded via video or photos. I probably had 10-20 different grapes that I forgot to catalog, and another 10-20 that I forgot to video and take photos of. So, I’m sitting at about 60 for the past two or three months. However, After chatting with my friend Greg from Total Wine, and being laughed at for not hitting it in two years, I’m back on the push!

  13. This is so silly, so of course I had to look! I was surprised to see that I have tasted 116.
    I had the good fortune to be in the wholesale biz for 10+ years but even though I’ve been removed from it since 2004 I still taste quite a bit.
    I think having an unquenchable desire for knowledge and fearless appetite for trying new foods/wines has served me well

  14. I sent my application off today! Number 100 last night was Pineau d’Aunis courtesy of Cave du Vendomois Rose 2009.
    I checked off about 70 when you posted this. It has been great fun scanning wine lists and shelves for varietals I have not had, and I am sure I will continue to do so.

  15. Has anyone successfully heard back from the Wine Century Club? My wife and I emailed our 2 completed applications over 2 months ago but have yet to hear an acknowledgement or response. What is an appropriate amount of time to wait before trying again?

  16. I received my Wine Century Club certificate in the mail today.

  17. We received ours this week also. I guess they do them in batches – maybe only a few times a year? Still great fun and worth the wait.


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