Italy Approves its 335th DOC: Delle Venezie DOC

Photo via: http://www.veronafiere.it/en/press/photo-gallery/

Photo via: http://www.veronafiere.it/en/press/photo-gallery/

Earlier this month, during a “talk show” on center stage at Vinitaly, a new DOC was announced. The new denominación de origen (DOC), Italy’s 335th, will be known as the Delle Venezie DOC and is approved for Pinot Grigio (still as well as sparkling) and white blends (bianco). The delineated region includes the entirety of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, as well as the province of Trentino.

The super-star wine of the DOC will undoubtedly be its Pinot Grigio. A large majority of the varietal Pinot Grigio produced in Italy comes from this area, and much of it will now qualify for DOC status. While the new DOC is still awaiting approval from the EU, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture has stated that we may expect to see the Delle Venezie DOC used on wines beginning with the release of the 2017 vintage.

In line with EU standards, Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC will be required to be at least 85% Pinot Grigio. The remainder may be any white grape allowed to be grown in the region, which includes Chardonnay, Friulano (aka Tai), Garganega, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, and Verduzzo, among others.  Sparkling Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC must be tank-fermented, and must contain less than 32 g/L of residual sugar.

Blended white wines (bianco) of the DOC will be allowed to be made with any aromatic white grape that is permitted to be cultivated in the area, as long as at least 50% is comprised of one or more of the following:  Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Müller-Thurgau, Garganega, Verduzzo, or Friulano (aka Tai).

The protected geographical indication formerly known as the IGP delle Venezie will now be known as the IGP Trevenezie.

References/for more information:

New Standards for Vermouth di Torino!

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Turin has long been recognized as the birthplace of vermouth, and has remained a center of vermouth production since Benedetto Carpano first added an infusion of herbs and spices to the local wines of the region, back in 1786.

Vermouth di Torino is still a popular style of vermouth, and has had protected status since 1991. As of March 22, 2017, the protected status for Vermouth di Torino has been further defined by a new set of technical standards, presented by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Under these new standards, Vermouth di Torino is defined as an aromatized (flavored) wine produced within the province of Piedmont, using a base of Italian wine, and fortified with the addition of spirits.

Other standards include the following:

  • The main flavoring must be artemisia (an herb also known as wormwood), with additional herbs and spices allowed
  • Alcohol by volume must be between 16% and 22%
  • The color may range from light yellow to amber yellow and red; the color of the final product should reflect the color of the base wines and the flavorings, although the use of caramel coloring is permitted
  • Allowed sweeteners include sugar, grape must, caramel, and honey
  • The type and origin of the base wines may be specified on the label if they represent at least 20% by volume of the finished product

The new standards also allow for a Vermouth di Torino Superiore, with a minimum of 17% alcohol by volume. At least 50% of the base wine and the flavorings used for Vermouth di Torino Superiore (aside from the artemisia) must be grown in Piedmont.

It seems like tonight would be an excellent time to enjoy a Vermouth di Torino straight up or on the rocks—or perhaps a Negroni or a Boulevardier.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Vermouth di Torino?

References/for more information (in Italian):

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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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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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Bucket List Travel: The d’Arenberg Cube

Photo of Chester Osborne and the Cube via: http://www.theleadsouthaustralia.com.au/

Photo of Chester Osborne and the Cube via: http://www.theleadsouthaustralia.com.au/

Just when you think you’ve been everywhere and seen everything, someone comes up with something new! In case you are looking to travel to the newest (and some might say weirdest, or to use a kinder term, most unique) tasting room in the wine world, book your tickets to South Australia and stop by the d’Arenberg Winery in McLaren Vale.

At the winery, you’ll find a plethora of creative wines, ranging from “Lucky Lizard Chardonnay,” the “Feral Fox Pinot Noir” and their range of “Stump Jump” wines, named after a plow that can plow through tree stumps.

If your visit is timed right (sometime in early part of 2017), you’ll also be able to visit their new tasting room—or, as they might prefer we call it, their new tasting cube. What’s a tasting cube, you ask? Well, at d’Arenberg it is a five-story, glass-encased steel and concrete structure inspired by the Rubik’s Cube.

Rendition of the completed Cube via: http://www.theleadsouthaustralia.com.au/

Rendition of the completed Cube via: http://www.theleadsouthaustralia.com.au/

The d’Arenberg Cube is the brainchild of Chester Osborn, the chief winemaker for d’Arenberg and the great-great grandson of founder Joseph Osborn. Chester describes the new cube/tasting room as “an architectural puzzle four modules wide, four high and four deep, is already soaring above the Mourvèdre vineyards in the heart of McLaren Vale.”  In addition of offering wines sales and tasting, the cube will host curated art exhibits as a permanent art installation room designed to give the impression of being inside a wine fermenter and featuring the work of Australian artist Jane Skeer to include hundreds of dangling VHS video tapes combined with projections of people treading grapes.

The cube will also feature a restaurant and a rooftop balcony. However, the most interesting feature just might the glass-surrounded “wine fog room,” set to feature a series of large aroma-filled containers attached to bicycle horns designed to “beep” the aromas of wine out to the room.

Some people are referring to the new construction as “Chester’s folly,” and Osborne himself admits that he has given d’Arry, his father, more than a few sleepless nights. But in my humble opinion, he’s going to have folks lining up for a look, a sniff, and a taste of the new d’Arenberg tasting room.

References/for more information:

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New Zealand Wine Regions: It’s (almost) Official!

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If you are a fan of crisp, clean, cool-climate wines, you no doubt adore New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. You might even be able to tell the story of Cloudy Bay Vineyards, founded as recently as 1985, as one of a small group of wineries to venture into Marlborough and quickly establish one of the leading wine-producing areas in the New World while practically “inventing”  a new style of Sauvignon Blanc along the way.

As a true New Zealand wine aficionado, you can probably tell the story of the establishment of vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay, where the combination of the soil, the geography, and the climate create one of the few areas in this small, maritime nation where thick-skinned, heat-loving red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah can ripen consistently.

If you are really into New Zealand wine, you can probably tell the story of “sunny” Nelson (located on the western side of the Southern Alps), Gisborne (the “Chardonnay capitol of New Zealand”), and Central Otago Pinot Noir, produced in the southernmost commercial wine-producing region in the world.

But did you know…all of the wine regions of New Zealand are “unofficial”? Winemakers certainly use them, and serious students of wine study them, and in 2006 the New Zealand Parliament, via the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act of 2006, created a registration system and scheme for wine and spirit geographical indications. However, the act was never brought into force and the geographical indications remained “unofficial.”

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That began to change last night—November 16, 2016—when the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Act was passed by the New Zealand Parliament. This new law will enter into force during 2017, allowing for the registration of a set of internationally recognized and protected geographical indications in New Zealand.

According to Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, “the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act will be a significant advance for the New Zealand wine industry. Our Geographical Indications—the names and places where our wines come from— are at the very heart of the New Zealand wine story and this new law provides an additional level of protection for them.”

New Zealand wine regions—it’s almost official!

For more information, see the website of the New Zealand Winegrowers

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

Welcome to the World, Appalachian High Country AVA!

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On October 27, 2016, the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) of the United States government approved the country’s 239th American Viticultural Area (AVA): The Appalachian High Country AVA. The new AVA, which encompasses some segments of the famed Appalachian Trail, includes portions of northeastern Tennessee, northwestern North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia; encompassing eight counties across the corners of the three states. The AVA will be effective as of November 28, 2016.

The new AVA covers a 2,400-square-mile area and currently contains 71 acres of planted and producing vines, 21 commercial vineyards, and 10 wineries, including the New River Winery, Spencer Mountain Winery, and Watauga Lake Winery. The new AVA is not located within any established viticultural area, but it shares a portion of its eastern border with the Yadkin Valley AVA of North Carolina.

According to the petition, the Appalachian High Country AVA is a unique wine growing area based on the following characteristics:

map via: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=TTB-2016-0003-0003

map via: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=TTB-2016-0003-0003

Elevation: Elevation in the new area falls between 1,338 and 6,260 feet above sea level, with the majority of the planted areas in the 3,000–6,000 foot range, with an with an average vineyard elevation of 3,206 feet.

Climate and weather:  The area within the new AVA is significantly cooler; the average annual temperature of the proposed Appalachian High Country AVA is, on average, between 2 degrees and 8 degrees (F) cooler than the surrounding areas.  The proposed AVA is classified as a Winkler Climate Region I/II; the Yadkin Valley AVA to the west is classified as a Winkler Region III/IV.

Soil: There are 26 different soil types found within the new AVA; of these, two (Watauga-Clifton-Chandler and Clifton-Chester) are found only within the proposed viticultural area. In layman’s terms, these soils feature a deep, loamy, well-drained sub-soil over granite and gneiss bedrock.

Over 24 different grape varieties are currently grown in the area which include vinifera varieties (led by Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Viognier); and hybrids (led by Marquette, Marechal Foch, and Seyval Blanc).

Welcome to the World, Appalachian High Country AVA!

To read the original petition, as well as all amendments and comments regarding the establishment of the Appalachian High Country AVA, click here.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

Welcome to the World, Willcox AVA!

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Welcome to the World, Willcox AVA!

On September 12, 2016, the TTB announced the establishment of the Willcox American Viticultural Area (AVA). This 526,000-acre area is located in southeastern Arizona within Graham and Cochise Counties. The Willcox AVA is not located within or adjacent to any other viticultural areas.

A range of grapes are grown in the area, with a major nod to Bordeaux and Mediterranean varieties. Some of the stars of the region seem to be Viognier, Tempranillo, and Mourvèdre. There are currently approximately 21 commercial vineyards, 18 wineries, and a total of 454 acres planted to vine (with 650 additional acres planned for the near future) within the Willcox AVA area. The newly-established AVA status will be effective as of October 12, 2016.

Willcox is Arizona’s second AVA.  The first, the Sonoita AVA, was established in 1984. Sonoita, located south of Tucson, is just one county over and about a one-hour drive from the Willcox AVA.  The Sonoita AVA is unique in that it includes vineyards at elevations of up to 5,000 feet above sea level; these are some of the highest-elevation vineyards in North America.

The new Willcox AVA is a relatively flat area located within a broad, shallow basin surrounded by higher mountains and mountain ranges. These include the Chiricahua Mountains, Dos Cabezas, Pinalenos, Dragoon, Little Dragoon, and Winchester Mountains. Over time, the geologic activity of the region has moved or disrupted many of the streams, creeks, and rivers of the area, creating a “closed basin.” This closed basin is reliant upon rainfall to re-charge its underlying aquifer, as opposed to the area surrounding it which has year-round (or seasonal) creeks and streams.

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The soils of the Willcox AVA are mainly alluvial and colluvial and composed of loam made up of nearly equal parts sand, silt, and clay. These loamy soils retain enough water to hydrate the vines while allowing sufficient drainage through to the aquifer. The soils are referred to as the Tubac, Sonoita, Forrest, and Frye soil types, and are not found to a great extent in the area surrounding the AVA.

This area of southeast Arizona is known to have a dry (arid) climate, with the most significant amounts of rainfall typically occurring in July and August. This aridity places stress on the vines during much of the growing season, slowing vegetative growth and adding complexity to the grapes.

Consumers should begin to see wines labeled with the Willcox AVA available within the next two years. Also of note: wine growers in Arizona have a third AVA in the works—the Chiricahua Foothills. This petition has not yet been “accepted as perfected” by the TTB, but it should be interesting to see what develops in the future!

Welcome to the world, Willcox AVA!

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

Welcome to the World, Champlain Valley of New York AVA!

Welcome to the World, Champlain Valley of New York AVA!

New York SWE Map 2016On Monday, August 22, 2016, the TTB published a final ruling establishing the Champlain Valley of New York AVA (American Viticultural Area). The new AVA will be effective as of September 21, 2016. The new AVA does not lie within or contain any previously established viticultural area.

In the original petition for the AVA, submitted in May of 2013 on behalf of the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association, the area was described as “a long, narrow, relatively flat valley on the western shore of Lake Champlain.” The AVA is located in in Clinton and Essex Counties in New York State, near the Adirondack Mountains and the border with Vermont. The area within the AVA is approximately 82 miles long, and 20 miles wide at its northernmost and widest point (along the New York-Canadian border). The region narrows to approximately 5 miles wide at its southern edge. 

There are currently six bonded wineries (including Amazing Grace Vineyard & Winery, Elfs Farm Winery & Cider Mill, Stonehouse Vineyard, and Vesco Ridge Vineyards), 11 commercial vineyards, and just over 15 acres of commercial vines within the boundaries of the AVA. There are plans to establish 63 additional acres of vineyards in the near future.

The original proposal was noteworthy due to the fact that one of the arguments in support of the “distinguishing features” of the Champlain Valley of New York AVA is its short growing season and cold climate, both of which are conducive to growing cold-hardy North American hybrid grape varieties (such as Frontenac, La Crescent, and Marquette) but not necessarily grapes of the vinifera species.

With this new arrival, the total number of AVAs in the United States is now 237. For an updated copy of the SWE wine map of New York State, click here.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator