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 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…that up until last night, all of the wine regions of New Zealand were “unofficial”? Winemakers certainly used them, and serious students of wine studied 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 changed 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 now 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

The Wine Region Shuffle: Summer 2016 Updates

Here are a few recent updates to the ever-changing landscape of wine region rules and regulations!

Rosazzo Abbey (Abbazia di Rosazzo) in Friuli

Rosazzo Abbey (Abbazia di Rosazzo) in Friuli

The 334th DOC: In July of 2016, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture officially approved Italy’s 334th DOC: The Friuli DOC. This region has not yet been approved by the EU, but it is not believed that this should be merely a formality, and Italy has approved use of the term beginning with those wines released from the 2016 vintage. As we previously reported, the new DOC will cover the entire southern half of the Friuli–Venezia Giulia region (the northern half being rather mountainous and alpine and not generally suitable for viticulture).

The new Friuli DOC encompasses all of the area of the six previous DOCs of the region. The DOC will produce red, white, and sparkling wines from a range of grape varieties. Still while wines may be produced as a blend (Bianco) or labeled as one of the following varieties: Chardonnay, Friulano, Malvasia, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling (which may include Welschriesling), Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Gewürztraminer (Traminer Aromatico) or Verduzzo Friulano.

Still red wines may also be produced as a blend (Rosso) or varietally-labeled as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), or Refosco dal Peduncolo. A red wine labeled as “Cabernet” will contain a minimum of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and/or Carmenère.

Sparkling (Spumante) wines may be produced using the Charmat or Metodo Classico production methods, and may be produced using any combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and/or Pinot Noir grapes. Unique to the Friuli DOC is the production of varietally-labeled sparkling wines (either Charmat of Metodo Classico) wines made using the Ribolla Gialla grape variety; this particular wine is not approved for production in any of the other DOCs of the region.

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Expansion of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA: On August 22, 2016, the TTB approved the expansion of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA by 2,296 acres (930 ha). The ruling becomes effective on September 21. The newly-approved area expands the original boundaries of the AVA on its eastern side. The move is summarized in the petition as follows: “the proposed expansion would move a portion of the AVA’s existing boundary further to the east, to a road within a north-to-south canyon, named “Cañada de los Palos Blancos,” located west of Buellton.”

The Sta. Rita Hills sits in the western portion of, and mostly within, the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA (which is in turn part of California’s Central Coast AVA).  The Sta. Rita Hills AVA was originally approved in 2001 and, as many California wine lovers know, the name was shorted to “Sta. Rita Hills” from the original “Santa Rita Hills” in order to avoid a conflict with Viñas Santa Rita, an established producer of Chilean wines.

The expansion has been in the works since March of 2013 when the original petition was filed on behalf of the owners of Pence Ranch and John Sebastiano Vineyard, both of which are located within the new boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The main grapes grown in the area covered by the new AVA boundaries are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There is a small amount of Grenache and there are plans to plant Syrah in the near future.

The petition for the expansion was not without controversy, as evidenced by the large number of comments filed on the TTB’s docket; two comment periods were allowed which generated over a total of 118 comments. The controversy mainly centered on the climate of the expansion area. As Sta. Rita Hills is known as a cool climate region, it was argued that the areas to the east—and therefore further inland—did not share the same cooling influences. However, the TTB determined that the climatic differences were minimal. There were also arguments about differences in soil–you can read the very interesting comments for yourself on the TTB Docket.

Read the press release here: TTB expands the Sta. Rita Hills AVA

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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

Welcome to the World, Tip of the Mitt AVA!

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In August of 2015, the TTB received a petition from the Straits Area Grape Growers Association proposing the establishment of the “Tip of the Mitt” AVA on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. As announced on July 21, 2106, the new Tip of the Mitt AVA has been approved and will be effective as of August 22, 2016.

The 2,760 square mile AVA (American Viticultural Area) is bordered by Grand Traverse Bay, Little Traverse Bay, and Lake Michigan to the west; the Straits of Mackinac to the north; and Lake Huron to the east.  The AVA includes the counties of Charlevoix, Emmet, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Alpena, and Antrim Counties (or portions thereof).  There are currently 41 commercial vineyards and 8 wineries in the area. There are now just 94 acres of commercial vineyards, although there are plans for an additional 48 acres to be planted in the next few years.  The AVA is not contained within any existing AVAs.

According to the petition, the unique features of the AVA include its climate and soils. The surrounding lakes, straits, and bays provide a moderating effect on the climate, making the area slightly warmer, less prone to freezing temperatures, and with a slightly longer growing season than the areas to the south.

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The soils in the area are comprised mainly of coarse-textured glacial till (a mixture of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders). The soils within the Tip of the Mitt AVA have much higher levels of organic matter and water-retention capacity than those to the south, so one challenge of wine growing in the area is to control moisture accumulation and the vigor of the vine canopy. A positive aspect of the soils within the AVA is that they heat slowly in the spring, which effectively delays bud break until the greatest risk of spring frost has passed

The term “Tip of the Mitt” refers to a common nickname used for the area, referring to the mitten-shaped landmass of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. (For reference, the mid-eastern region is often identified as “The Thumb.”)

The Tip of the Mitt is the fifth AVA in Michigan. The others include the Lake Shore Michigan AVA, the Leelanau Peninsula AVA, the Old Mission Peninsula AVA, and the Fennville AVA.

Click here to read the TTB documents concerning the establishment of the Tip of the Mitt AVA

Click here for more information on Michigan Wines from the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council

The Wine Law Shuffle – Changes in Austria

Lake Halsstatt

Lake Halsstatt

Good things are happening in Austria–and they mean changes in the wine law! As of June 14, 2016, a series of updates and revisions to the existing Wine Law of 2009 were passed. The resulting changes are a bit far-reaching, but I’ll do my best to simplify them, and present them one concept at a time.

#1: Changes in the appellations of the Burgenland Quality Wine Region: The subregions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland have been eliminated. In the future, Qualitätswein produced in these areas will be labeled with the regional appellation of Burgenland.

The only remaining subregions of Burgenland are the four DACs: Neusiedlersee DAC, Leithaberg DAC, Mittelburgenland DAC or Eisenberg DAC.

#2: Change in the name of the Süd-Oststeiermark subregion of Steiermark:  The Süd-Oststeiermark subregion of the Steiermark Quality Wine Region will now be known as Vulkanland Steiermark, in homage to its volcanic past.

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#3: Planned recognition of outstanding single vineyard sites: Plans are in place to legally designate certain high-quality single vineyards. Once designated as such, a wine may pronounce this designation on the label by the use of the term “Ried” before the name of the vineyard. Ried (plural: Rieden) is a term unique to Austria and is not used in Germany.

#4: Further designations for the Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental DACs: The wines of Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental DACs will be further classified according to a three-tier quality ladder, beginning with Regional, and moving up to Village and Single Vineyard wines. Each step “up the ladder” will specify minimum alcohol content as well as other quality indicators.

#5: Changes in the use of the term Ausbruch: The term “Ausbruch” will now be considered synonymous with the term Trockenbeerenauslese, defined as a level of the Prädikat requiring a minimum 30° KMW with the majority of the grapes affected by botrytis. Even more newsworthy is the fact that the term will only be allowed to be used in connection with the wines of the city of Rust, making the term a protected indication for Ruster Ausbruch. No other wines may use the term.

The Vienna State Opera House

The Vienna State Opera

#6: Changes in the laws concerning Austrian Sekt (Sparkling Wine): The new laws set out quality designations and strict regulations for Austrian sparkling with a designation of origin. These wines may be labeled as Austrian Sekt or Österreichischer Qualitätsschaumwein, and must specify one of the following quality terms: Klassik, Reserve, or Grosse Reserve. In the case of Klassik and Reserve wines, the region of origin many not be more specific than “Austria” (Österreich). In the case of Grosse Reserve wines, the region of origin may be a federal state and municipality or part of it and the term geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung (Protected Designation of Origin) or g.U. Grosse Reserve wines will be allowed to be labeled as a single vineyard (Ried) wine. Each of the quality designations– Klassik, Reserve, and Grosse Reserve–will have an accompanying set of standards as to methods of production, lees aging, alcohol minimums and styles.

For much more information, see the Wines of Austria website.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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

Announcing Cava de Paraje Calificado!

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via http://www.crcava.es)

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via http://www.crcava.es)

On Monday, June 13th, the consejo regulador of the Cava DO held a press conference at a Barcelona landmark– el Palau de la Música Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music)–to announce to the world their new category of Cava DO wines, Cava de Paraje Calificado (Qualified Single Estate Cava).

This new category of sparkling wines (within the existing Cava DO) is reserved for single-vineyard, estate-produced wines. The intention of the category is to bring prestige to meticulously produced Cava, crafted from grapes from a “smaller area approved especially as extraordinary and unique for its soil and climate conditions.”

Wines bearing the seal of Single Estate Cava will need to abide by all of the basic rules of the Cava DO in regards to grape varieties, production methods, sweetness levels and the like, and will have the following more specific qualifications as well:

  • Vines must be at least 10 years old
  • Grapes must come from a vineyard whose entire production is dedicated to Single Estate Cava
  • Grapes must be hand-harvested and must be transported to the winery intact
  • Maximum production of 8,000 kg per hectare (equivalent to 8.8 tons per hectare [as opposed to 12 tons per hectare for other categories of Cava])
  • Musts may not be chaptalized or acidified
  • Minimum acidity 5.5 grams per liter (per cuvée)
  • Minimum of 36 months of sur lie (in-bottle) aging
  • Brut-level sweetness or drier
  • Complete traceability from vine to shelf
Photo via http://www.crcava.es

Photo via http://www.crcava.es

According to Pedro Bonet, chairman of the Cava Regulatory Board, Single Estate Cava “has been created in order to place cavas at the top of the quality wines pyramid and to do justice to its quality of this sparkling wine.” It not yet clear when we may expect to see Cava de Paraje Calificado on the shelf, but when we do, it will certainly be a reason to celebrate. Salud!

References/For more information:

Post authored Jane Nickles, your blog administrator: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org