Introducing Erbamat!

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It’s quite possible you have never heard of the Erbamat grape variety. Before last month, I’d never heard of it either. However…starting with the 2017 vintage, Erbamat (a white variety) will be allowed for use in the wines of the Franciacorta DOCG.

Franciacorta, as all serious wine students know, is a super-serious (read: Traditional Method) sparkling wine produced in Lombardy. The normale version requires a minimum of 18 months of lees aging; this goes up to 60 months minimum for the riserva. And the grapes are totally no-nonsense: up until now, the only grapes allowed for use in Franciacorta DOCG are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Pinot Bianco (but only up to 50%).

This will change soon, as the Italian ministry of Agriculture and the Franciacorta DOCG consortium have announced a change to the Disciplinare di Produzione that will allow the use of the Erbamat grape variety. This change should become effective with the wines of the 2017 vintage, assuming the amendment’s publication in the Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Journal).

When the new regulation goes into effect, the Erbamat grape variety will be allowed to comprise up to 10% of a Franciacorta DOCG wine produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and up to 50% of the blend if used alongside Pinot Bianco. The grape is appreciated for its late ripening characteristic and neutral flavors, but primarily for its ability to retain high levels of malic acid, even in warm temperatures and despite its tendency to ripen late.

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The Erbamat grape has been grown in the areas in and around Lombardy since at least the sixteenth century, however, it seems it has always been a minor grape variety and was in danger of becoming extinct about a generation ago. Before its recognition in the wines of Franciscorta, it was not allowed for use in any of the DOC or DOCG wines of Italy. However, it been used in some interesting blends bottled at the “vin” (table wine) level of categorization, such as the Erbamat/Trebbiano blend known as Perlì produced by the Comincioli Winery in Brescia.

Following a 1982 study in which the grape was described by Professor Attilio Scienza as”capable of producing wines of extraordinary acidity and freshness,” several producers in Franciacorta began some experimental plantings of Erbamat. The experiment, it seems, turned out well.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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One more for the Languedoc: the Pic-Saint-Loup AOC

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As of February 17 of this year, Pic-Saint-Loup is France’s newest official appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wine region! If the name sounds familiar, the area (found within the Hérault and Gard departments in Southwest France) has been an approved subzone of the Languedoc AOC and somewhat known for its blended-variety red and rosé wines.

According to the website of the INAO, Pic-Saint-Loup (sometimes written as Pic-St-Loup or Pic St-Loup) is now a stand-alone AOC, approved for both red and rosé wines. The first Pic-Saint-Loup AOC designations will show up on wines from the 2017 vintage.

The red wines of the Pic-Saint-Loup must be at least 12% alcohol by volume and be comprised of a minimum of 50% Syrah. A measure of either Grenache Noir or Mourvèdre is required, and small amounts of Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise, and Morrastel (known elsewhere as Graciano) are also permitted.

The requirements of the Pic-Saint-Loup rosé AOC are similar, but the required amount of Syrah is set at a minimum of 30%. A proportion of Grenache Noir or Mourvèdre is still required (as many of the wines of the Languedoc are traditionally blends); Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise, and Morrastel are allowed in the mix as well.

So, what is next for the Languedoc? No one can say for sure…place your bets! But for now, welcome to the world Pic-Saint-Loup AOC!

References/for further information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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Guest Post: A Trip to the Jura – part deux!

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Today we have the second and final installment of our of a two-part series from guest blogger Paul Poux. Paul tells us about his recent visit the Jura to reunite with family and drink some local wines. Click here to read part one!

“The next day looked like rain, but it was winery day and we were going to be inside tasting rooms so I didn’t care. My Dad, my husband, and I squeezed into Jean-Marie’s small Audi and drove to our first stop, Arbois. On a road overlooking the town, Jean-Marie kept trying to point out the view but the rain was slapping against the windows. I thought we were going to visit a winery first, but we passed the imposing cathedral and Jean-Marie decided a quick stop was in order. The Romanesque church of St Just was built in the 12th century yet has a warm, comfortable feeling, with stone vaulted arcades letting in lots of light through stained glass windows, one of which depicts vignérons harvesting grapes.

Our next visit was not a winery either, but a café and famous chocolatier, Hirsinger. The rain had stopped and we sat in the center of beautiful Arbois, surrounded by Medieval buildings. There is a lot of wine history too, including Louis Pasteur who lived there and pasteurized wine. Tasting rooms and wine shops were visible on every corner. As we walked back to the car we passed a few of them. “That one, Stéphane Tissot, is good,” Jean-Marie says, but we didn’t stop. He had somewhere else in mind.

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In the car, Jean Marie said, “You know Paul, there is a saying: Arbois le nom, Pupillin le bon.” (perhaps, “Arbois has the name, but Pupillin’s got game.”) The village of Pupillin sits on a hill just two miles from Arbois, with south-facing slopes, and the exposure and limestone soils make for superior wines. We drove up the hill, to the large Domaine Désiré Petit. The parking lot was empty and the front door locked. It was Noon, and they had just closed for lunch. “Eh, oui,” Jean-Marie says, with a shrug.

Dejected, we got back in the car and drove through vineyards and pastures to the village of Chateau-Chalon. Driving through its beautiful and tidy streets, Jean-Marie said, “These towns are all rich from making wine.” Chateau-Chalon sits on the top of a bluff, protecting the vineyards stretched out far below from cold winds and storms. I was hungry but we marveled at the gorgeous view. “These are all the Savagnin grape,” said Jean-Marie. Savagnin is the most famous grape of the Jura, the only grape allowed in the oxidative Vin Jaune, and the best examples of Vin Jaune often come from Chateau-Chalone.

Veal with fresh morel mushrooms and a vin jaune cream sauce.

Veal with fresh morel mushrooms and a vin jaune cream sauce.

Members of my family arrived in another car and we walked to a restaurant for lunch where we tried Savagnin, in a blend with Chardonnay. In her book Jura Wine, author Wink Lorch says that most Savagnin is initially aged as if it is to become Vin Jaune, left in the barrel without topping up, to develop the veil of yeast on its surface similar to flor. Some does not age as long as the six years and three months required for Vin Jaune, however, and is bottled simply as Savagnin even though it has gone through some oxidation. These days, some Savagnin is also produced as a non-oxidative wine, referred to on label as Savagnin Ouillé (WEE-lay).

But that is not this wine. My nose told me right away it was oxidative, and it had a sharp taste, like that of a stinky cheese without the cheese smell, and a finish of salty almonds. The taste surprised my family and they tried to be good sports, but they didn’t really drink much more of it until our lunch arrived. Each of our dishes, from chicken to veal to a pot pie, had fresh morel mushrooms in a creamy Vin Jaune sauce and my family ate it all, wiping up the last drops of sauce with their French bread.

Later that afternoon, we knocked on the door of tasting room. Philippe Butin is a small producer and opened the door himself. Jean-Marie called out, “Do you remember me? I bought your wine and shipped it to Luxembourg?” Phillipe looked at Jean-Marie, paused, then said, “Maybe,” and stood aside for us to enter. The small room was warm and welcoming. Boxes lined one of the walls, awards another. About a dozen bottles beckoned from the bar.

restaurant list of Jura winesFinally!

Philippe asked us whether we’d like to try his Crémant, and before I could answer, Jean-Marie said, “They didn’t come here to taste that.”

“What’s wrong with my Crémant?”

“Let’s not waste their time!”

Philippe grunted and started to pour out a very light looking red wine.

“I would like to taste the whites,” I said, and Philippe told me I would, but that in the Jura, the reds are always poured before the whites. This was news to me, and interesting. It’s because of the power of Vin Jaune that the whites are tasted last. The red he had poured, such a light red that Philippe Butin called it “rose” (not rosé), was a Poulsard – the one we had in the rosé earlier that week. Poulsard is hard to vinify without getting funky flavors, but this wine tasted clean and refreshing, all delicate red fruits and spices.

We tried a Trousseau, with a similar taste profile but slightly meatier, and ruby in color. My family, a little stung by the Savagnin at lunch, was enjoying these wines. Trousseau grapes need warmer weather that seems elusive in the Jura, where summer is short and early July and late August can bring rain and high temperatures in the 50s. But this Trousseau had good balance.

Photo of Vin Jaune by Agne 27, via Wikimedia

Photo of Vin Jaune by Agne 27, via Wikimedia

At last, the winemaker poured golden glasses of Vin Jaune out of its traditional clavelin bottle. The bottle, shaped a little like an old schoolteacher’s bell, holds only 620ml because that is about how much of one liter of juice remains after its long aging and oxidation. All the reading I had done on Vin Jaune included one interesting piece of advice: when you first try it, you should ignore what your senses are concluding, that the wine, with its oxidative nature and savory, nutty flavor, is bad. Instead, imagine that you are not familiar with what any wine should taste like, and sip it with an open mind.

I tell this to my family. They look dubious as they raise their glasses and sniff. I see more than one wrinkled nose. I look at the winemaker. He has seen this before: Vin Jaune is not for everyone.

We leave the tasting room. We have spent the entire day on the road and only visited one winery. As we head home, I confess that I do not yet appreciate Vin Jaune, the Jura’s most famous wine. Perhaps I just need to keep an open mind.

Paul -headshotOur guest blogger, Paul Poux, CSW, finds joy in combining food, wine and travel. Paul provides wine education ‘experiences’  to Millennials for wine brands and regions; and does marketing and sponsor management for food and wine festivals around the country. Paul’s favorite wines are Amarone and Muscadet. Tell him yours at paul@pouxcompany.com

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Guest Post: A Trip to the Jura

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Today we have the first of a two-part series from guest blogger Paul Poux. Paul tells us about his recent visit the Jura to reunite with family and drink some local wines. But will he ever make it to a winery?

“We arrived at our cousins’ home in the Jura during a sparkling afternoon in July. There was a heat wave in the rest of France but in these low mountains near the Swiss border, it was cooler. I could hear rushing water from a nearby creek; other than that, there was a lovely stillness. The large old house from 1830 sat in the center of a village of 200 people, on the old road between Geneva and Dijon. Across the street was the village church with its small cemetery, containing many headstones with the name POUX. I had returned home.

Our cousins celebrated our arrival with an aperitif—foamy Crémant du Jura, a Classic Method sparkling wine that is one of eight Crémant designations in France. It is usually 100% Chardonnay, which should not surprise in a region that sits just east of Burgundy. Its yeasty apple flavors rinsed away the long car and train journeys that had brought us here.

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At dinner that night we ate fondue made with Comté, the famous local cheese. The correct fondue recipe according to my cousins (and to French people there is always a “correct” way) also contains white wine from the Jura, and the cherry brandy Kirsch. Our cousins warned us not to drink water while eating fondue or we’d get sick—something about a ball of cheese in the stomach not settling right. We were advised to stick to wine, and sips of Kirsch. Non-drinkers were prescribed hot tea.

We would eat a lot of cheese that week, including at breakfast, when large pieces of Comté and Morbier were featured along with the traditional bread, butter, jams, and yogurts.

A highlight of my vacation was to be a day trip to Jura wineries later in the week. My cousin Jean-Marie sat down to talk to me about it. Jean-Marie just turned 70 but is still in the business of “running companies.” As you might expect, he is direct and businesslike. I told him I was open to almost anything, but there was one winemaker I definitely wanted to visit: cult producer Jean-Francois Ganevat. My cousin’s reaction was immediate.

“We can’t go there. It’s not correct.”

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Jean-Marie made up for his brusque demeanor with his hosting, and the next day he took us on a long hike into the mountains. The Jura has an extensive network of well-marked hiking trails showcasing gorgeous scenery, and this walk took us up through forest and across fields that sparkled with wildflowers. I noticed a particularly large yellow flower and Jean-Marie told me that it is called gentiane (“jahn-si-AHNN”), growing only above a certain altitude. Residents dig up the roots and distill them into a bitter spirit.

We also saw the cliffs where France ends and Switzerland begins. A trail up the cliffs was an escape route during World War II, used by Jews and many others when the Nazis occupied the Jura, including my cousin’s house.  

That evening Jean-Marie held an aperitif (the French shorten it to “Apero”) on his terrace. I was surprised to see an elaborate Absinthe dispenser. A steady drip-drip of the green spirit on sugar cubes into glasses punctuated the small talk as we learned that Absinthe was created nearby in Switzerland and is still made there and in the Jura, and that all the hysteria surrounding its ingredients and supposed effects is overblown. Jean-Marie added water to each glass, turning the drink cloudy. It tasted of anise, and herbs. 

Photo of Arbois Wine by Agne 27, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Arbois Wine by Agne 27, via Wikimedia Commons

The next morning Jean-Marie came to see me about our trip to the wineries. He had a map of the Jura wine region and all its producers. I opened the map and looked longingly at the winery I was ‘forbidden’ from visiting. It was some distance away from the areas that Jean-Marie felt were most important. I told him I understood and that I was glad to leave all visits up to him. He smiled. This seemed to be the ‘correct’ answer. 

That night we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant. The entire group, 20 of us French and American, sat around an immense table. Jean-Marie came to me with the wine list, and it was nice of him to consult with me before ordering the wine he wanted. He recommended a rosé from the town of Arbois to pair with the various appetizers. Arbois is the spiritual capital of Jura wine country. This rosé was a blend of Pinot Noir and Poulsard – a thin-skinned red grape with very little color, perfect for rosés.  Dad and Jean-Marie made toasts, and we chatted excitedly with our cousins. The main course, local trout, arrived, and I told Jean-Marie I wanted to change the wine. He objected: “The rosé is perfect, let’s continue!” But I was in the area for only a week and had to sample as many wines as I could. My choice: a local Chardonnay called “Arrogance.” 

Paul -headshotOur guest blogger, Paul Poux, CSW, finds joy in combining food, wine and travel. Paul provides wine education ‘experiences’  to Millennials for wine brands and regions; and does marketing and sponsor management for food and wine festivals around the country. Paul’s favorite wines are Amarone and Muscadet. Tell him yours at paul@pouxcompany.com

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Corsica: Isle of Beauty

Ajaccio Cathedral

Ajaccio Cathedral

The French island of Corsica is located in the Mediterranean Sea about 110 miles (170 km) from the coastline of southeast Provence. Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, and Cyprus. The island was originally named Kalliste by the ancient Greeks, which translates to “the most beautiful of all.”

Ajaccio, located on the west coast, is the largest city on the island as well as the capital city of Corsica. The city is home to two marinas, a wealth of beaches for swimming and scuba diving, a casino, and the Ajaccio Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio). A wealth of restaurants, bars, cinemas, and other such nightlife may be found along the “main drag,” the Route des Sanguinaires. Napoléon Bonaparte, perhaps the most famous Corsican of all time, was born to a wine-making family in Ajaccio in 1769. His ancestral home, the Maison Bonaparte, is now a museum.

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

Corsica is often described as resembling a “miniature continent” complete with white sand beaches, seaside resorts, rugged mountain peaks, dense forests, and red granite cliffs.  The island experiences three separate climate zones, delineated primarily by altitude. The coastal region (defined as below 2,000 feet/600 m) features a Mediterranean climate and a good deal of the island’s vineyards. The area between 2,000 to 5,900 feet (600 to 1,800 m) is considered a temperate mountain zone and also contains large plantings of vines, as well as most of the island’s forests. Forming a “ridge” down the center of the island, the area above 5,900 feet (1,800 m) is considered an alpine area and is sparse in vegetation and uninhabited–aside from mountain climbers and shepherds.

Corsica has been part of France since 1769. However, geographically speaking, it is closer to Tuscany than France. This Italian influence is evident in the wines of Corsica, which are just as likely to be produced from Vermentino (here known as Rolle) and Sangiovese (locally referred to as Nielluccio) as they are from grapes more typical to southern France, such as Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Muscat.

Corsica has a long history of wine production and, like many other similar regions, has been experiencing a renewed focus on quality. At present, approximately 25% of the island’s production is AOC-level wine, with another 50% bottled under the elegantly titled departmental Il de Beauté (Isle of Beauty) IGP.

The town of Ajaccio

The town of Ajaccio

The main AOC of Corsica is the Vin de Corse AOC, which allows for white, red, and rosé wines vinified in dry, off-dry, or semi-sweet styles. White Vin de Corse AOC requires a minimum of 75% Rolle (Vermentino), while red and rosé versions are made with at least 50% (combined) Grenache, Sangiovese, and Sciaccarello (an aromatic, historically significant Tuscan variety also known as Mammolo).

Cap Corse—the mountainous peninsula extending from the northern part of the island—is home to some of Corsica’s highest-quality wines, including dry white, red, and rosé wines bottled under the title Coteaux du Cap Corse (a subregion of the Vin de Corse AOC). Muscat du Cap Corse AOC—a vin doux naturel traditionally produced at least partially from sun-dried grapes—is produced using 100% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grapes.

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html]), via Wikimedia Commons

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html]), via Wikimedia Commons

New material covering the wines of Corsica is included in the 2017 Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide, which is now available and being shipped from SWE’s home office! Other topics new to the 2017 guide include the wines of Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Asia—as well as updated materials on all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

References/for further information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Now on the Wine Travel Bucket List: Slovenia

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Slovenia (officially the Republic of Slovenia) is a small European country with a long history of wine production. Its location on the Mediterranean coast and sharing a border with four established wineproducing countries (Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast, and Hungary to the northeast), places it at the crossroads of Europe’s wine culture.

Slovenia has been an independent nation since 1991 and a member of the European Union since 2004. PDO wines are categorized as zaščiteno označbo porekla (ZOP). There are currently 14 defined ZOP designations, as well as several variations within the ZOPs, such as those for Traditional Method sparkling wines, botrytis-affected wines, and wines with a certain degree of aging.

Bled Lake, Slovenia

Bled Lake, Slovenia

The 14 ZOPs are contained within the country’s three designated PGI wine regions, known in the Slovenian language as zaščiteno geografsko označbo (ZGO). These three regions are:

  • Podravje: The Podravje ZGO is located in the inland east of the country, surrounding the valleys of the Pesnica, Drava, and Mura Rivers. This is the largest of the three regions, producing roughly half of the country’s wine.
  • Primorska: The Primorska ZGO is located on the coast, across the Adriatic Sea from Venice and sharing a border with Italy’s Friuli region. Several of the wine areas located within Primorska straddle the Italian-Slovenian border, divided only by politics; Slovenia’s Goriška Brda ZOP becomes Italy’s Collio Goriziano DOC across the Italian border, and Slovenia’s Kras ZOP becomes Italy’s Carso DOC.
  • Posavje: The Posavje ZGO is located in the southeast of Slovenia, along the border with Croatia. The name Posavje (Lower Sava) refers to its proximity to the end of the Sava River valley. This is the country’s smallest–and perhaps most old-fashioned–wine-producing region.
Wine map of Slovenia via: http://www.slovenianpremiumwines.com/wine-regions/

Wine map of Slovenia via: http://www.slovenianpremiumwines.com/wine-regions/

Grape varieties grown in Slovenia reflect the influence of Italy, Germany, and Austria, and include French (international) varieties as well. White wines are the leading product here; widely planted white grapes include Riesling, Gewürztraminer (Traminec), Müller-Thurgau (Rizvanec), Pinot Gris (Sivi Pinot), Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. White grapes popular in Friuli such as Tai (Friuliano) and Ribolla Gialla are grown primarily in Primorska, near the Italian border. Leading red grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir (known as Modri Pinot), and Refosco.

New material covering the wines of Slovenia is included in the 2017 Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide, which is now available and being shipped from SWE’s home office! Other topics new to the 2017 guide include the wines of Bulgaria, Corsica, and Asia—as well as updated materials on all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

References/for more information:

 

Guest Post/Book Review: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews a new book about a very old wine region!

Book Review: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, by Bill Nesto, MW and Frances Di Savino.

Here is a well-researched history book that reads like a novel, telling the story of the ancient land named Chianti and the modern wine appellation known as Chianti Classico. In 1716, Tuscany’s next-to-last Medici ruler, Cosimo III, granted the region of Chianti as one of the world’s first legal appellations of origin for wine. However, as these things often go, by the late nineteenth century, the name Chianti—rather than signifying this historic region and its celebrated wine—identified a simple Italian red table wine in a straw-covered flask.

This telling of the story of the Chianti Classico region confirms many ideas of Chianti and the Classico region, and overturns many others. Nesto and Di Savino have translated original documents and studied old master paintings of the region, even noting how older vineyards were planted by training on trees.

Stories of notable producers famous to this day, including Baron Ricasoli and the Antinori family, tell us much about history, regulations, and commerce relating to Chianti Classico. The Ricasoli original formula for the grapes used in Chianti has been unearthed, with Malvasia being the main white grape—not the currently assumed Trebbiano. Further, Canaiolo Nero was the main grape of Chianti for years, not necessarily the Sangiovese that is so well-known and loved today.

The authors also claim that new research has revealed that there are no regional differences between Sangiovese Piccolo and Sangiovese Grosso, whose different sizes are more the result of climate and vintage conditions, rather than their use in specific regional wines.

The publication of this book coincides with the three hundredth anniversary of the Medici decree delimiting the region of Chianti on September 24, 1716. The authors conclude, happily, that the Black Rooster still reigns supreme.

As for the authors of this book, Bill Nesto is a Master of Wine and a founder of the Wine Studies Program at Boston University, where he is also a Senior Lecturer. Frances Di Savino is an attorney with a background in medieval and Renaissance studies and is Bill’s partner in life and on the wine road. Bill and Frances coauthored The World of Sicilian Wine, which won the André Simon Book Award in 2013.

Bibliographical information: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine. Bill Nesto, MW and Frances Di Savino. Oakland, University of California Press, 2016.

340 pages, hard cover, $39.95. This encyclopedic book has a 26 page Index, a selected bibliography, and works cited listed. Click here to find this book on Amazon.

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

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Zakynthos, Verdea, and Skiadopoulo

Map of the Ionian Islands (via Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain

Map of the Ionian Islands (via Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain)

Zakynthos, Verdea, and Skiadopoulo…if it all sounds like gibberish to you, it you are not alone. However, as convoluted as these words may sound (to the unaccustomed ear), they are meaningful to aficionados and students of wine. Read on to find out the meaning of these terms!

For starters—Zakynthos: If you know your Greek geography, perhaps you recognized Zakynthos (also known as Zante) as one of the Ionian Islands. Located in the eastern part of the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is about 12 miles (20 km) west of the Greek mainland. The island is said to have the shape of an arrowhead, and is about 25 miles (40 km) long and 12 miles (20 km) wide. The island is a popular tourist destination, with over 76 miles (123 km) of coastline and a mild, Mediterranean climate.

The island’s climate and topography (a mountainous plateau to the west and flat, fertile plains interrupted by isolated hills in the east) also provide for an abundance of lush agriculture. Olive oil, citrus fruit, wine grapes (more on this later), and the eponymous Zante currant are among the island’s leading agricultural products. Zante currants are the dried berries of the small and seedless Black Corinth (vinifera) grape variety. Greece produces over 80% of the world’s currants and Zante currants (Stafida Zakynthou) are a PDO product of Greece.

FYI: The Ionian Islands are traditionally called “the Seven Islands” (although the group includes several smaller islands in addition to the seven main islands). Zakynthos is the third largest of the Ionian islands; the others include Kerkyra (Corfu in English), Paxi (Paxos), Lefkada (Lefkas), Ithaki (Ithaca), Kefalonia (Cephalonia), and Kythira (Cythera).

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Next up—Verdea: Wine lovers surely recognized the name of several of the Ionain Islands, as wine production is a main part of the islands’ history, traditions, and economy. Kefalonia (Cephalonia), the home of the Robola OPAP (PDO) region, is perhaps the most well-known of the seven islands in terms of wine production.

However, Zakynthos has its own claim to fame as the birthplace of Verdea, a Traditional Designation (onomasía kata oínos [OKP]) white wine produced on the island since the nineteenth century. The name “Verdea” is thought to be derived from verde, the Italian word for green (Zakynthos was once a part of the Venetian Empire). Verde is both a description of the color of the grapes, as well as an indication that under-ripe grapes were often used in order to produce a high-acid wine.

Traditionally, Verdea was a very acidic, dry white wine that was extensively aged in oak barrels—to the point where the wine was amber in color and oxidized. In modern times, the wines are produced in a more moderate style while still (in most cases) maintaining the oxidized “edge.” Verdea must be made from grapes grown on the island of Zakynthos and must be produced on the island; however, it may be bottled off the island. Verdea received its OKP designation in 1992.

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There are only two Greek wines entitled to the PGI category of onomasía kata oínos [OKP]: Verdea and Retsina (the traditional pine-scented wine of ancient Greece). The OKP designation protects both the name and the production method of these wines.

While Verdea is by far most important wine made on the island of Zakynthos, a small amount of red wines (primarily made with Avgoustiatis and Xynomavro grapes) are also produced. Lianoroidi, a sweet white wine made from a range of grapes, is another specialty of the island.

Finally—Skiadopoulo: Verdea is based on a blend of grapes. An ancient list contains up to 34 varieties that are (or were) planted on the island of Zakynthos. While all of the white grapes planted on the island are permitted to be used in Verdea, the majority (minimum 50%) must be of the Skiadopoulo variety. Skiadopoulo is a vigorous, high-yield vine that is capable of producing very sweet, ripe grapes. It is grown throughout the Ionian Islands and used in a range of white wine styles. Other grapes that are most often a part of the Verdea blend include Pavlos, Robola, and Goustolidi.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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And then there were Twenty (Côtes du Rhône-Villages subzones)

..As of just a few days ago (November 25, 2016) the National Institute for Appellations of Origin (INAO) of France announced the promotion of three communes (villages) within the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC area to the status of “Côtes du Rhône-Villages with a specific subzone indication” (or, to put it more simply, as new official subzones of the AOC). The new subzones are: Sainte-Cecile, Suze-la-Rousse, and Vaison-la-Romaine. With this change, there are twenty approved subzones of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC. Most of the twenty subzones produce red, white, and rosé wines, although a few are only approved for red and rosé.

The newly designation subzones will be able to market their qualifying wines with the term “Côtes du Rhône-Villages” followed by the name of their commune and the “AOC” designation beginning with the release of the wines of the 2016 vintage.

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The last such change in the specific geographical designations allowed for use with the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation occurred in 2015, when the former subzone of Cairanne was promoted to a separate AOC designation (announced by the INAO in March of 2015 and approved by the EU in June of 2016 for the 2015 vintage onward). This change lowered the number of Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC subzones from 18 to 17.

For the record, the twenty subzones of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC (as of December 2016) are as follows:

  1. Chusclan
  2. Gadagne
  3. Laudun
  4. Massif d’Uchaux
  5. Plan de Dieu
  6. Puyméras
  7. Roaix
  8. Rochegude
  9. Rousset-les-Vignes
  10. Sablet
  11. Saint-Gervais
  12. Saint-Maurice
  13. Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes
  14. Sainte-Cécile
  15. Séguret
  16. Signargues
  17. Suze-la-Rousse
  18. Vaison-la-Romaine
  19. Valréas
  20. Visan

References/for more information:

  • http://www.syndicat-cotesdurhone.com/static/upload/5/img_58413fcd625db.pdf
  • http://www.vitisphere.com/actualite-84055-Trois-nouveaux-Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages-avec-noms-de-communes.htm

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

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Guest Post: Cruising from Barcelona to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

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Today we have a guest post from SWE’s president, Barry Wiss. Barry writes to us from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, during a stop on a wine-themed river cruise!

Like most professional wine educators, I love to travel to all of the world’s amazing wine regions. Luckily, my wife and I have found a way to combine our love of wine with our love of travel, and for the past six years; we have served as wine hosts for AMA Waterways’ wine-themed river cruises.

In prior years, Kim and I have cruised some of the world’s greatest wine regions via some of the world’s greatest rivers, including the Rhine, the Mosel, the Danube, the Seine, the Douro, and this year, the Rhône.

We started our wine adventure in Barcelona where we enjoyed some amazing vintage Cavas. We rented an Airbnb; it was amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed the tapas and the rest of the Barcelona dining scene,  and had a local chef teach us how to make real paella. (Hint: it’s all about the saffron.)

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A few days later, we arrived in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Kim and I have been to many (too many to count) wineries over many years; the best are the small no-frills family operations. We just visited one—Domaine le Pointu.

This is a small (27-hectare) estate owned by Patrick Coste and his wife Karine. The estate is located in the commune of Courthézon (one of the five communes that make up the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC).

The estate produces several different versions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, including a blanc (white) version, but do yourself a favor and do not try to find this one outside of the local area!

After a warm welcome at the estate, we began our tasting. The first wine we tasted was their rich and perfectly balanced Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, made from a majority of Grenache Blanc and a bit of Clairette; both from 90-year-old vines. This delicious wine was aged for one year in used Château d’Yquem barrels. What a beautiful wine, full of memorizing aromas of ripe red apple, pear, and honeysuckle. I could drink this wine all day…no joking.

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This was followed by a vertical of the Domaine le Pointu 2007, 2009, and 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds…2008 was sold out, of course. These red wines are all produced using Grenache Noir grapes, with a bit of Cinsault. The wines are between 90 and 105 years old. All the reds were spectacular, but the 2009 is coming home with me.

Domaine le Pointu also produces a range of Côtes du Rhône AOC wines in red, white, and rosé. These are based on the younger vines of the estate—some as “young” as 50 years old!

Wine-themed river cruises by AMA Waterways scheduled for 2017 include Provence & Spain, Melodies of the Danube, the Enticing Douro, Paris & Normandy, a Taste of Bordeaux, Port Wine & Flamenco, and the Enchanting Rhine. For more information, visit the website of AMA Waterways.

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