Rosé for the Sun King

Rose de RiceysBefore Louis XIV, known as “The Sun King,” sipped Champagne at Versailles, he became a fan of a rare wine – a still rosé of Pinot Noir known as Rosé de Riceys– produced in the Champagne region.

Louis XIV is said to have discovered this aromatic and lightly tannic rosé when a group of workers from the village of Riceys-Haut arrived at the construction site of the Palace of Versailles, bringing a supply of their local rosé along with them.  The King was a big fan of Provence rosé, so he asked to try a bottle. (Well, he probably demanded it, but we’ll pretend he asked.) The King liked the wine so much that he soon dispatched the workers back to Les Riceys to bring back more Rosé de Riceys for the royal court.

This unusual, non-sparkling pink wine, produced within just a few miles of Burgundy, is officially part of the Champagne region.  The wine comes from a tiny spot called Les Riceys.  Les Riceys is made up of three close-knit villages named Riceys-Haut, Riceys Haute-Rive, and Riceys-Bas. Wine has been produced in this region since the 1100′s, made by the Cistercian Monks living at the nearby Abbey of Molesme.  The monks  selected the particular south-facing slopes where the grapes are grown as one of the few spots in the whole of the chilly Champagne region with enough sun and heat to ripen Pinot Noir to the point where it can be turned into this aromatic, brightly colored rosé. 

Making rose de riceysThe AOC regulations for Rosé de Riceys are among the strictest in France for a rosé wine, with the goal of keeping the tradition started by the monks at the Abbey of Molesme alive.  The wine is produced using the saignée method of vinification, and the grapes must be picked at a minimum ripeness of 10° Baumé from vines that are at least 12 years old.  The minimum ripeness standard is not always possible to reach, particularly in cooler years.  If the ripeness standard cannot be met, Rosé de Riceys will not be produced that year and the grapes will be used in the production of the region’s other wine, Champagne.  

This tiny appellation has only about 70 acres planted to Pinot Noir designated for Rosé de Riceys. No more than 20 producers make the wine, with an annual total output usually about 70,000 bottles a year. The wine is hard to find, even in Paris (perhaps even at Versailles), so aficionados of the wine drive to the edge of the Champagne region every spring to buy their year’s supply.

Mr HoriotThe Rosé de Riceys AOC was approved in 1947.  However, there was a time not too long ago when the wine was almost lost for good.  It was the 1970’s, and Champagne production was running high.  Champagne was more popular than ever, and growers were making a good living selling their grapes to the large Champagne houses.  In addition, for a few years in a row, the weather wasn’t cooperating enough to sufficiently ripen the grapes to make Rosé de Riceys.  For a few years in a row,  nobody wanted to produce Rosé de Riceys.  However, according to INAO regulations, if a certain type of wine is not produced for five consecutive years, the AOC will cease to exist. 

Pierre and Jules Horiot, 12th-generation proprietors of Horiot Père & Fils, were not about to let that happen! Despite being producers of Champagne as well as rosé,  they strived to keep their part of French wine history alive and continued to produce Rosé de Riceys, even when it would have been much more profitable to  turn their Pinot Noir into Champagne. In time, the other vignerons of the region joined in the fight to save the historical Rosé from ruin, and today this tiny region tucked into the far southern corner of Champagne still makes a rosé fit for a king – if he can find it!

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Elderflowers, Moodiness, and Saint Germain

16567356_s[1]In Victorian England, ladies complaining of night sweats, headaches, or “moodiness” would often be given a glass of Elderflower Cordial.  Elderflowers were readily available, growing wild all over Europe, where they prefer sunny and dry locations, such as the foothills of the French Alps. The flowers are 100% edible, and have been appreciated for both their medicinal and culinary properties since Roman times!

The tradition of creating an Elderflower Cordial by steeping bunches of the freshly picked elderflowers with sugar and water goes back a long way, and is alive and well in modern day Paris.

St. Germain, produced since 1884, is an Elderflower liqueur produced in France.  As the story goes, the delicate elderflowers bloom for just a few short weeks every spring.  At the first sign of the blossoms, a small army of gatherers take to their bicycles and harvest the delicate flowers, transporting them via bicycle down from the hills to the St. Germain facility.

st-germain-liqueur-lgThe fresh flowers are immediately set to macerate, as they can lose their freshness in just a few short days. Knowing what we know about liqueurs, we can assume that the delicate flowers are infused in water before being mixed with sugar and spirits; however the producers of St. Germain choose to keep their exact production process a family secret.

In the spirit of journalistic integrity, the home office staff of SWE recently held a tasting of St. Germain. Here is our collective tasting note:

“Aromas of ripe pears, warm honey, luscious lychee, and a faint shadow of floral perfume and dried herbs.  Semi-sweet in taste with no rough edges, save for a playful bite of alcohol. Rich, luscious, and delicious.  Tropical fruit flavors followed by citrus, vanilla, and anise. Vaguely floral, with a lingering lemon peel finish.  Feels like sitting in a lemon grove as the sun sets, while rummaging through a box of old love letters, antique photos, and dried bouquets.”

elderflower_cordial-4959While St. Germain is delicious on its own, it has broad appeal as a flavoring for cocktails as well. Here’s a recipe for a “White Cosmopolitan” cocktail, featuring St. Germain. Try it for yourself and see….

White Cosmopolitan

  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • ½ oz. St. Germain
  • 3 Tablespoons White Cranberry Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Lime Juice

Shake well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

 

In case you are wondering about the namesake of the liqueur, the historical character known as St. Germain is quite interesting.  There are many versions of his story, but one thing that appears to be a fact is that The Comte de Saint Germain, who was born in 1712 and died in 1784, was StGermain1784the son of Francis II Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania.  The wild stories surrounding St. Germain begin with the fact that Prince Francis openly claimed that his only son had passed away at the age of four; it was later learned that this was done in order to protect his son against persecution from the Hapsburg Dynasty. On his deathbed, the Prince revealed the true identity of his son. 

The Comte de Saint Germain, despite keeping his true royal identity a secret for much of his life, was fabulously wealthy, well educated, and enjoyed a good deal of prominence in the European high society of his time.  He was also, however, known for making up wild stories about himself, most likely to keep people guessing as to his true identity.  At times, he would claim to be 500 years old, to be the re-incarnation of William Shakespeare, to be a prophet, and to own a casket full of jewels. The story about the casket full of jewels may have well been true, as he was known to lavish a bevy of courtly ladies, include Madame Pompadour, with jewels and pearls. 

To this day, stories are told of the legendary abilities of St. Germain as an alchemist, a prophet, an enlightened master, and a sorcerer.

Who knows how much of the stories are true?  History does tell us that he was a close friend of King Louis XV, who kept him so close by his side at the palace in Versailles as to arose the jealously of other members of the royal court.  Let’s drink to that!

 

For more information and lots more recipes…. http://www.stgermain.fr/index2.php

 

 

The Forgotten Grapes of Champagne

Forgotten Grapes of champagneEvery good wine student knows the three main grapes of Champagne – repeat after me, “Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.” And yet, there are more!  While the three well-known varieties are far and away the most planted in the region, the Champagne AOC actually has seven grapes approved for the use in the famous bubbly.  The other approved grapes include Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.

The Champagne House of Aubry is an interesting part of this story, and their story is how I first came upon this information.  It seems that back in 1986, the owners, Philippe and Pierre Aubry, started to think about how they could create a special wine to celebrate the producer’s 200 year anniversary, to be celebrated in 1991.  They got the idea to create a wine that would reflect the wines that were being made in the region in the 1770’s, when the business began. 

After extensive research, they discovered that many of the grapes that were grown in the Champagne region at the time were almost  forgotten, and in some cases, verging on extinction.  They located the grapes, and planted Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. While the grapevines were not mature enough to harvest for their bicentennial champagne pupitresvintage, they did begin harvesting their “forgotten” grapes in 1993 and by 1994 were able to harvest all 7 grape varieties.  The cuvee they created in 1994 is named “Le Nombre d’Or,” meaning “The Golden Number, ” representing the 7 grapes of the Champagne Region.

Arbane is a white wine grape variety that was historically planted in the Aube region of Champagne.  It is now very rare; its plantings in the entirety of France add up to less than one hectare (2.5 acres).  The Champagne House Moutard-Diligent makes a 100% Arbane Champagne called Vieilles-Vignes as well as a Cuvée 6 Cépages that includes Arbanne as well as Pinot Blanc and Petit Meslier.   

pinot blancPetit Meslier, a white variety, is a close relative of Chardonnay, being the result of a cross between Gouais Blanc (one of the ”parents” of Chardonnay) and Savagnin. While the grape is extremely rare, it used to be widely planted in Champagne due to its ability to retain a good deal of acidity even in the region’s warmer areas.  There does seem to be some growing interest in the grape, as plantings have recently increased from 4 to 20 hectares in France.  Irvine Wines, in Australia’s Eden Valley, has planted a small amount as well.

Pinot Blanc, another mutation of Pinot Noir, was historically widely grown in both Burgundy and Champagne. It is grown in tiny amounts in the Champagne region, where it is likely to be referred to as “Blanc Vrai.”  In principle, it may still be grown in small amounts in Burgundy, but we won’t say that too loud, and no one is stepping up to confirm the suspicion!  I did find several Champagnes that use Pinot Blanc in the mix, including Champagne Tassin’s Brut Cuvée Elegance, which states that it is made from 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, 50% Pinot Noir.  

Pinot Gris is most likely native to Burgundy, and is thought to be a clone, mutation, or at least a close relative of Pinot Noir.  Along with Pinot Noir it spread from Burgundy, and was widely grown in the Champagne region back in the 18th century Drappier_Quatuor_bottle_shotunder the name “Fromenteau.” Eventually, plantings in Champagne dwindled as the grape was found to be very low yield and unreliable. I found just a few references to Pinot Gris vineyards on the dozens of Champagne Producers’ websites I researched, and only three  wines that claimed Pinot Gris in the makeup, all of the them claiming to be made from the “7 grapes.”  At least from this vantage point, it seems like Pinot Gris might be the most obscure Champagne grape of all.   

The House of Drappier produces a Champagne called “Quattuor.” Quattuor features Petit Meslier, along with Arbanne, Pinot Blanc (here called Blanc Vrai) and Chardonnay in equal amounts.  The wine is described as fruity, floral, and delicate, and is dedicated “To The Forgotten Grapes of Champagne.”

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

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German Wine Laws: Revised, Reviewed, and Re-learned

Germany RiverHave you ever felt that German wine terminology, with its Geisenheimer Rothenberg and its Amtliche Prüfungsnummer is a bit confusing?

If so, hang on, because it just got a bit more interesting. In keeping with the EU wine blueprint, German wine law was recently reformed for the first time since the last set of major revisions in 1971.  These latest changes occurred in 2009, and now wines are divided into three broad categories, with all kinds of loops and squiggles betwixt and between.

Many of these terms will look and sound familiar to serious students of wine.  But if you happen to be studying for a certification (or any other reason) look closely…there are some significant changes, particularly in the names of the categories.

The new levels of the classification hierarchy for all wines, in ascending order of quality are: 

  • Wein:  This category, previously referred to as tafelwein or table wine, is used for basic wine. There are very few guarantees of quality at this level and most wein is made for the domestic market. These wines may be enriched or chaptalized to increase the final alcohol level of the wine. Some of the wine available at this level is imported bulk wine, mostly from Italy. In order to use the term “Deutscher Wein” the wine must be 100 percent German in origin.
  • ggA – Geschützte Geographische Angabe:  This category contains what used to be referred to as “landwein” or “country wine.” These wines correspond to the PDI category in the overall EU scheme and are not considered “quality” wines, but are a step up from the basic wein category.  At this level, the grapes must be slightly riper than those for wein (half a percent more potential alcohol); Germanyhowever, chaptalization is still permitted. A minimum of 85% of the grapes must be grown in Germany in one of the designated landwein regions, with the particular region specified on the label.
  • gU – Geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung:  This new designation has two sub-categories, and  includes those wines previously covered by the  Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) and  Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) categories. All of these wines are PDO wines. They must carry a place name on the label, with 100% of the grapes from the named region.  The terms Qualitätswein (QbA) and Prädikatswein (QmP) will continue to be used.

The subcategories of gU (Geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung) are as follows:  

  •  Qualitätswein (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete or “QbA”) is the lower level of the two gU categories. These wines are defined as “quality wine from a designated region.”  These wines represent the largest proportion of German wine output. Qualitätswein wine must come from one of thirteen Anbaugebiete (specified winegrowing regions), be made with one of the approved grape varieties, and reach sufficient ripeness for recognition as a quality wine. Chaptalization is, however, permitted for this category.
  • Germany Steep VineyardsPrädikatswein is the highest quality level designation.  These wines may be defined as “quality wine with attributes.”  Prädikatswein must be produced from grapes grown within the same thirteen Anbaugebiete as the Qualitätswein. These wines may NOT be chaptalized.

To make matters just a bit more complicated, wines at the Prädikatswein level, have another element in their name which indicates the level of the ripeness of the grapes at harvest.  Luckily, these terms have not changed, but just as a refresher, here they are:

  • Kabinett: light- to medium-bodied wines made from grapes with the lowest ripeness level of the prädikate. These wines average 7 to 10 percent alcohol.
  • Spätlese (“late harvest”): wines of additional ripeness made from grapes harvested after a designated picking date. With the extra ripening time, the grapes develop more intense flavors and aromas than Kabinett.
  • Auslese (“selected harvest”): wines made from grapes that have stayed on the vine long enough to have a required level of sugar. The wines can be intense in bouquet and taste, and they have a potential alcohol level in excess of 14 percent.
  • Beerenauslese (BA; “selected berries”): rich, sweet dessert wines made from individually harvested berries, which are sweeter than Auslese and which may also be affected by the honeyed influence of botrytis, known in German as Edelfäule.
  • Eiswein (“ice wine”): wines made from frozen grapes harvested at a BA level of ripeness or higher. Having already become overripe from staying on the vine as late as January, these grapes are harvested after they freeze in the vineyard. They are crushed immediately, and much of the water in the berries is discarded as ice, leaving grape must with a very high sugar level (see chapter 5).
  • Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA; “selected dried berries”): wines from individually picked berries that are overripe to the point of being raisins and are often further shriveled by botrytis. TBAs are considered to be among the world’s greatest dessert wines.

It’s all about the sugar:  In the post-1971 wine regulations, historically renowned vineyards and other aspects of terroir have been largely ignored in favor of classifying wines by grape ripeness.  This priority makes a good deal of sense in the cool-climate vineyards of Germany, where ripeness is never guaranteed, and when it is achieved, it is given the honor it is due.

But terroir is not to be forgotten: Some top-notch wine producers in Germany draw attention to their unique and diverse terroir through the efforts of the VDP.  The VDP, “Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingűter” was founded in 1910 as the Association of German “Naturweinversteigerer” (natural, meaning non-chaptalized) wines.  Today, the VDP has member estates from all 13 Anbaugebiete with the goals of preserving Germany’s traditional viticultural heritage, encouraging excellent wine production, and designating top vineyards sites in each region. The VDP classification system of top vineyard sites was revised in 2012 and now has four levels of classification. These are listed below, in order from listed from highest to lowest:

  • VDPVDP Grosse Lage: The highest level vineyards of the estate, translated as “great site.” (The term Erstes Gewächs (“first growth”) is used in the Rheingau, and there are other regional variations as well.)
  • VDP Erste Lage: The second highest level vineyards of the estate, translated as “first site.”
  • VDP Ortswein: Translates as “classified site wine.”
  • VDP Gutswein:  Represents good, entry-level wines, translated as “estate wine.” The wines originate from an estate’s holdings within a region, and meet the stringent standards prescribed by the VDP.

Whew! I know that was pretty tough to read, but wasn’t it worth it to consider yourself up to date – at least for now – on the German wine classifications?

Let’s hope so!

 

 

 

Very Cool Quiz: Rosé Refresher Course!

rose refresherIt’s springtime up here in the northern hemisphere…time to break out the Bandol Rosé, the Rioja Rosado and the Provencal Pink.  So perhaps its time to refresh your knowledge of the wine of spring as well!

Sit back, relax with a glass, and try a round or two of our latest quiz, named “Rosé Refresher Course.”  We promise you’ll have fun, and are pretty sure you will be craving more rosé by the end of the quiz as well.

Click here to launch our “Rosé Refresher Course”:

Launch Presentation
Custom designed online quizzes created for SWE by by Jane Nickles, CWE, Your SWE Blog Adminsitrator

The Story of Barolo

Guest Author Nick Poletto tells us the story of Barolo…

BaroloBefore Italy, there was the House of Savoy.  The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region, which included the modern day region of Piedmont.  The House of Savoy was a monarchy made up of Dukes, Princes, Kings and Emperors.  Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in the region of Piedmont to the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II. 

It was the leadership, strength and intellect of the House of Savoy that led them to unite all of Italy and rule for 85 years.  These same attributes led this nobility to desire and drink only one wine, which was anointed as “The Wine of Kings, the King of Wines – Barolo.”

The Place: Barolo

Located in the southeastern part of the region of Piedmont, the Barolo zone extends over an area of often sharply inclined hills all facing south.  Piedmont, as the name suggests (at the foot of the mountain) is surrounded by the Alps to the west and north, the Apennines to the east linking to the Maritime Alps in the south.  The region is 43% mountains, 30% hills and 27% plains.

Even though Barolo is almost three times larger than Barbaresco, it is only 5 miles wide at its widest point.  The original five communes consisting of La Morra, Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba make up 87% of total Barolo zone production.  The two communes of Barolo and Castiglione Falletto are considered the ‘heart’ and unofficial ‘classico’ areas of the zone.

Piedmont CroppedBarolo’s soil can be broken down into two types: Helvetian and Tortonian.  Tortonian soils are located mostly west of the steep slopes of the amphitheater of hills between Barolo and La Morra.  Tortonian soil has a bluish tint, is rich in magnesium and manganese, and is composed of 30% sand, 55% clay and 15% limestone.  Helvetian soils dominate in the area to the east on the rising hills of Monforte and Castiglione Falletto and across the valley at Serralung.  Helvetian soil is made up of many different types of sandstone, has a chalky beige color, and is rich in iron.   Both types of soil contain calcareous marls of marine origin.

Tortonian soils produce a more fragrant, elegant and early maturing Barolo requiring less aging, while the Helvetian soils produce stronger wines with more color, body, and tannins; requiring at least 12-15 years of aging to be at their best.

The Grape:  Nebbiolo

The Nebbiolo grape is one of Italy’s most revered varieties.  It is a very old variety with the first documented use of the name dating back to 1266.  It was of such high stature, that there was a 5 lire fine for anyone who cut down a Nebbiolo vine.  Repeat offenders had their hands cut off and in some cases were even put to death!

Nebbiolo is revered for its aromatic complexity, tannic power and exceptional aging potential.  It is a very vigorous vine which needs to be thinned with strict canopy management.  The vine is also unique in that is first 2 – 3 buds are infertile; this vine needs its space!

NebbioloThe name Nebbiolo is derived from ‘nebbia,’ the Italian word for fog.  This refers to the thick, natural bloom covering the ripe berries that look as if they are covered in a layer of fog.

The four distinct Nebbiolo clones are:

  • Nebbiolo Lampia: larger, longer bunches and reliable, balanced profile.  Most widespread.
  • Nebbiolo Michet: named after Michetta, or “bread roll” due to its shape.  Low yield, high concentration of phenolics.
  • Nebbiolo Rose: rarely found.
  • Nebbiolo Bolla: once widespread, today rarely as yields are quite high.

Nebbiolo is very unforgiving as it flowers in early April and ripens very late.  The key to success is a dry, warm September that allows the extremely late ripening Nebbiolo to develop for the late October harvest. In a normal decade growers expect to have two or three top vintages.

The Wine

While the Nebbiolo grape dates back to 1266, it is not until the 18th century that we find the first use of the word ‘Barol.’  Later, in the 1830’s, with the insistence of Giulietta Vitturnia Colbert di Maulevrier (the Marchesa), the wine of the region was named after its town of origin, “Barolo.”

The Marchesa was close friends with King Carlo Alberto and the wine Barolo was held in very high regard by all the wealthy and royalty of Piedmont.  The Marchesa owned massive Barolo Townamounts of land that encompassed Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga.  She grew her prized Nebbiolo in these towns and later hired the famous oenologist Louis Oudart from Burgundy, France.  Louis Oudart is credited with bringing a modern style of winemaking that was combined with the grape Nebbiolo to form Barolo as we know it.

With the passage of time, Barolo increased in popularity and was again reinvigorated in the early 1900’s with a new line of successful and famed Barolo winemakers, including Emilio Pietro Abbona, Cesare Borgogno, Giulio Mascarello and Battista Rinaldi.

The Barolo and Barbaresco Consortium was founded in 1908, but was not recognized by the Italian Government until 1934.  Today, the Consortium includes  Barolo,  Barbaresco, Alba Langhe and Roero.  There are 500 members, made up of small and large producers.  Traditions and traditional methods of production retain their place of importance, but with a keen eye on keeping up with modern techniques and styles.

As summer wanes and the chill of autumn air takes its place, the smell of wood fire and fermenting wine dances along the small villages of Barolo.  White truffles begin to arrive, shaved over pasta emitting the most captivating smells fit for a King and matched only by the wine of Kings, the King of wines, Barolo.

Click here for the study aid:  Fast Facts About Barolo

Nick PolettoNick Poletto, CSS, CSW, DWS has an extensive wine background that includes studying abroad in both Italy and Argentina, working a harvest season at a winery in Martinborough, New Zealand, and teaching the WSET at Johnson and Wales University. Nick started his career at Kobrand as the company’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island Area Sales Manager and was promoted to Kobrand’s Director of Wine and Spirit Education in January 2012.

At this year’s SWE Conference in Orlando, Nick will be representing Barolo as he goes up against Don Kinnan in their session “Barolo vs Brunello – A Clash of the Titans.” If you’d like to hear Don’s side, click here for the Story of Brunello.  The Clash of the Titans is scheduled for Friday, August 2nd, at 4:45 pm.  See you there!

 

Protection for Prošek?

Diocletian Palace in SplitProšek is a traditional wine made in the region of Dalmatia on the eastern coast of  Croatia.  The history of the wine in this region has been traced back as far as 305 AD, when the area was still part of the Roman Empire.  In that year the Emperor Diocletian, weary and ill, became the only Roman Emperor to ever voluntary leave the position.  He abdicated his throne and went to live in Dalmatia in the city of Split, where his ancient palace still stands.  Written records tell us that Emperor Diocletian was a big fan of the sweet local wine, Prošek.

Prošek is still made throughout Dalmatia, both in the coastal areas and on many of the hundreds of islands that make up the region. The wine holds a traditional place in the family life of many Croatians, who make a batch of the wine when a child is born, and put the bottles away to be opened on the child’s wedding day.

Primosten Vineyards in CroatiaProšek is a sweet wine made in the passito method.  After harvest, the ripe grapes are spread out on straw mats and allowed to dry for several days to a few weeks, concentrating their sugar and flavors.  The wine generally has 12% sugar and 15% alcohol.  While there is no set formula for the wine, which is loosely regulated as a “specijalno vino” or specialty wine, typical grapes include the varieties Bogdanuša, Maraština, Grk, and Vugava, which are all native Croatian white grapes. Some versions, especially those considered to be the highest quality, use Plavac Mali in the blend. Due to its high sugar content and long aging tradition, the wine is often loosely compared to Vin Santo or Sherry.

Croatia, after some tumultuous times in recent history, gained its independence in 1991 and is scheduled to become the 28th member of the European Union on July 1, 2013.  While this certainly is considered progress in the positive sense, EU membership brings with it a host of regulations.  Croatia currently has a system of regulating its wines, and classifies its wines as Vrhunsko Vino (premium quality wine), Kvalitetno Vino (quality wine), and Stolno Vino (table wine).  These categories surely will undergo changes soon, as have the wine regulations of most EU members.

prosekOne facet of entry into the EU that might be a bit harder to love is the current EU quibble with the term “Prošek.”  Being a wine enthusiast, one of the first things that most likely came to your mind upon reading this article was the similarity between the name “Prošek” and that of Italy’s popular bubbly, Prosecco.

The name “Prosecco” has protected designation of origin (PDO) status and can only be used for wines from the desginated Prosecco region, so much so that the name of the main grape recently had to be changed from “Prosecco” to “Glera.”

While Prošek and Prosecco-the wines themselves-have little in common, one being a light, dry bubbly from Italy and the other being a sweet, passito, still wine from Croatia; the two words sound too close for comfort for the EU authorities, who have ruled that after July 1, the Croatian wine cannot be labeled using the term Prošek.

Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture filed an application to protect the term Prošek, but the European Commission requested that it be withdrawn.  For the time being, it is up to Croatia to get the ban lifted. Perhaps they can find a way to protect Prošek before it is too late. Best wishes to all involved…

 Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

The Winds of Wine: The Zonda

TArgentina Vineyard Malbechey call it Huayrapuca, “the witches wind.”  It sends birds flying, makes the sun appear brown, and knocks down trees. When they feel it approaching, people complain of sleeplessness, anxiety, a suffocating feeling, and depression. It usually starts up between noon and six pm, can last anywhere from one to 12 hours, and sounds eerily like a human whistling sound.

They also call it the Zonda wind, “viento Zonda.”  Technically, the Zonda wind is a type of foehn wind, that is, a dry, down-slope wind that occurs on the lee (downwind) side of a mountain range. The Zonda is a regional term used for this type of wind as it occurs over those parts of western Argentina tucked into the slopes of the Andes, including the wine regions of Mendoza, La Rioja, and San Juan.  The wind is especially brutal in these areas due to the high altitude of the mountain range it must climb over (and swoosh down.)

The Zonda forms as a result of humid air rising off the Pacific Ocean, where it travels up and over the Chilean side of the Andes.  In the winter it helps the snow build-up in the high elevations of the Andes, which provides the much-needed melt-off  to the vineyards of South America each year.

Argentina Andes ValleyIn the spring and summer, however, the Zonda can create havoc as it descends down the Argentine side of the mountains.  It loses its moisture, becomes warmer and warmer, and gathers up large clouds of dust.  The Zonda generally rushes off the mountains at 25 miles per hour (40km/h) but can reach speeds of 120 miles per hour (~200 km/h). The Zonda can raise temperatures by as much as 54°F (30°C) in just a couple of hours; and the wind event is often followed by a freezing cold front.  No wonder people go crazy!

While this unique weather phenomenon is a necessary part of the terroir of the region, it can also be disastrous to the vineyards.  A Zonda in the spring can wind-burn a vine’s leaves and shoots or shake them right off the vine. The cold front that often follows the hot, dry wind can bring with it the risk of severe frost damage.  For an interesting, short interview with a winemaker in his vineyard after a Zonda, click here.

The Legend of the Zonda

Legend holds that a Calchaqui Indian named Huampi was an arrogant hunter who spared no creature on his frequent hunting trips.  He killed every creature in his path, from the tiniest wood birds to the majestic llama.  His hunting prowess earned him great respect and he enjoyed being revered and even feared.  However, his hunting was out of control to point that all of the region’s animals were on the brink of extinction.

dust stormOne day, as he was returning from the hunt, Pachamama, the earth goddess, appeared before him in a blinding light and said, “Humapi, villainous child of the earth! Do you intend to kill all the animals? Who will feed you when there is no meat, and who will clothe you when there is no wool?”  And then, in a flash, she was gone.

As Huampi slumped against a tree and tried to calm himself, he heard a strange whistling sound.  He felt his face lashed and burnt by the wind.  All around him, trees crashed to the ground, flowers and fruit swirled over his head, and he was blinded by the stinging dust in his eyes.  Pachamama’s revenge was upon him, and since that day, as the Zonda screeches through the Andean valleys, it cries out with a human voice, causing all in its path to stop and pay respect to the power of mother earth.

For more information on “the winds of wine,” see our posts on The Mistral and The Roaring 40′s.

 

 Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org