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By Giuliano Bortolleto

Undoubtedly, Malbec is the emblematic grape of Argentina. Since the end of the nineteen century, when the first Malbec vines came to the south american country, until the 70 decade of the last century, Malbec vineyards has just grown so rapidly along the country in the same way that the internal demand deeply rised as well (by this time the national consumption reached the unbelieveble number of almost 95 liters per person by year). However, the wine production in Argentina was mostly based on table wines.

As I have already explained on the Red Wines Blog, the argentinean producers, together with the national organisms of vitiviniculture control (notedly the INV and the INTA) has drastically changed its way of producing wines, which incredibly improved the vitiviniculture in there (see th post A Summary of the Malbec History in Argentina). So, by the end of the 90s, the argentinean vitiviniculture started to strongly believe in the potential of the french grape from Cahors and many producers were begining to see the amazing results that they were getting with the combination of the Mendoza’s terroir (the dry climate, the irrigation water from the Andes thawing, the thermical wideness), with the Malbec.

Malbec has became the national grape in Argentina and these wines represent their country in the world wine with full-bodied an great personality, plus the latest years elegancy aquired.

It is important to say about the this red grape capacity of producing many styles of wines. There are some wineries doing sparkling wines, with both varietals or blends of Malbec; there are exemples of fortified wines made with this grape, there are Malbec varietals to be drunk young, other to be kept for a couple of years and there are always good results when it is tried to give the wine a touch of oak resting. But for now, let’s talk about the young Malbecs produced in Mendoza.

The most simple Malbec wines produced in Argentina usually are a little rustic and usually are a bit “savage” in the mouth. That’s because qe are talking about a wine with too much tannins. But, as usually even these young and simple wines get som oak time before got the market, with one or two years resting in the bottle, they got just some simple pasta with red sauce or some condimented red meat. This is one of the favorite styles for the argentinean people. They are very used to drink this kind of wine.

But, be carefull. when it comes to the oak presence in the wine you should pay attention to what you are buying. It is not true that all the young wines receive too much oak into their composition, although there are a lot of bad wines being produced just based on the oak stage, which tunrs the wine into a real oak mess! Normally, the chances of making a mistake buying a bad wine decrease radically when you choose a good and respectfull producer. Actually this is not a rule just for buying argentinean wines, but in every country in the world, even in France or Italy.

So, now, I am going to show a few good examples of simple Malbec wines from Mendoza an tell somethings about the producers so you can now them better. For now, I will just talk about wines with cost less than 15 dollars.

Finca Flichman - Malbec Roble 2007 Price: about US$ 7,90

This is a centenary winery, located in the east of Mendoza. Its wines are very well produced. Their simple wines express the good aromas of red fruits, such as raspberry and cherries. It has spent three months inside the oak barrel, which helps to smooth the wine little. Although it is a rustic wine, it conserves very nice fruit flavours, besides those ones that were brought by the oak contact. Despite it is a little dry in the end, it is one of the best choices in terms of price and quality’s relation.

Trapiche - Varietales Malbec 2007 Price: about US$ 8,30

The Trapiche winery is a very big one also, and has a very long history in the argentinean vitiviniculture. As many wineries in Argentina, used to produce only comun wines, with no quality to attend the national big demand. Now they have very nice facilities and high technology to produce very good wines. This varietal wine, is full-bodied and rustic. Lots of oak notes, like chocolate and some tobaco. Dry end. But very nice price and quality too.

Norton - Malbec Lujan de Cuyo DOC 2007

Price: about US$ 10,50

That’s one of the biggest in Argentina and, despite the others which exports a lot, there is a bottle of a Norton wine in almost every restaurant of the country. This a very nice exmple of an oaky Malbec wine. The presence of the oak can be feeled as soon as you put the wine into the glass. But there is a good fruit also and som pepper notes. It can get better if you wait for some two or three years to open the bottle.

Catena Wines - Alamos Malbec 2007

Price: about US$ 8,30

Now we are talking about one of the best wineries in Mendoza certainly. Mr Nicolás Catena, the company owner, made a great job by selecting the clons of the Malbec grape, in order to obtain the best that the fruit could give and the results were the best you can imagine. Lots of high notes on specialized magazines, like Wine Spectator, were given to the special wines made with Malbec. This one, as I said before, it is not one of this special wines. But it is made by the same winery that is wordly known by the excelence on producing the best Malbec wines from Argentina, so I think you can figure out that this varietal one is not just a comun and simple wine, although is made just for daily consumption. The Alamos Malbec it’s much more complex than the others. A lot of red fruits appear on the bouquet, raspberry, strawberry. Some mint and red pepper can also be noticed. It has a good sweetness, not nauseating, that combined with the tannic potency, creates a great body to the wine. Very easy to drink. And it can be better if you wait one hour with the bottle opened to get the wine a little softer.

Terrazas de los Andes - Linea Verietal Malbec 2007

Price: about US$ 8,30

That’s also a very special winery. It is owned by the french multinational company LVMH. The Moët & Chandon winery came to the country in the 50s and discovered the great climate and soil that Mendoza had. Now their producton is made in order to export the majority. There are really high technology and a really good enologists of staff. This wine is from their varietal line, but when you drink it you might think you are drinking like a “Reserva” wine. Very well structured, complex, very strong fruit aroma and you can barely feel the oak flavours. It is much more soft and mature than the others. It’s really ready to drink.

By Giuliano Bortolleto

On my last post I said that would write a few words about the tasting of some Zinfandel red wines from California. So, lets go. I am going to talk about three Zinfandel wines from three different producers, so we can check the differences out.

Wente Vineyards - Zinfandel 2005 This is a great producer, located next to the city of San Francisco, on the Livemore Valley, north of the California State. At the Valley there is a warm climate, with high temperature during the day and low temperature during the night, thanks to the marine breeze that comes from the Pacifico. This is one of the best places to plant Zinfandel in Califronia. The result is a fresh wine, not very tannic. A lots of mulberry and raspberry notes. The oak also brings some chocolate notes.

Seghesio - Alexander Valley Home Ranch Zinfandel 2007, Red Wines

Seghesio - Alexander Valley Home Ranch Zinfandel 2007: That’s one of the most important producers of the California’s State. This wine was awarded with unbelieveble 93 on the Wine Spectator Magazine, and it was chosen as the 10th best wine of 2008. The Seghesio is a centenarian family that has been making their wines in northern Sonoma County and farms with more than 400 acres of Zinfandel vines in Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. This very special wine bring some strong notes of black fruits such as plum and mulberry. With some time resting at the glass it will widely open the wine bouquet and some very nice dry fruit aroma will emerge. The oak presence is noted, but it is never over the fruit flavours. Very complex wine, with good acidity.

J. Lohr - Painter Bridge Zinfandel 2005 This wine is a litte bit different from the other two. There are only 8 acres of Zinfandel vineyards at the Paso Robles Vineyards, in San Luis Obispo County. That’s also a hot region, which brings a grat amount of sugar to the fruit. The wine transmits this sweetness, as well as great red and black fruit flavours. The Syrah brings some spice and also black tea notes to the aroma. Velvety texture in the mouth.

Finca Bella Vista | Red Wines

January 19th, 2009

By Giuliano Bortolleto, january 19th, 2009

The Finca Bella Vista Wine is a very especial product of the Achaval Ferrer. The production is so careful that the winery had to cancel the harvests of two consecutive years, 2005 and 2006. Despite the great loss, they not regret that “because it shows the huge care that Achaval Ferrer has with its wines” as the winery manager Julián said. However, they are now expecting to have the best harvest ever to the 2007 Finca Bella Vista, which can become the best wine ever produced by the Achaval Ferrer.

This is a “Terroir” wine, one exemple of the three single wineyards wines of the Achaval Ferrer Winery, made with Malbec grapes from the Bella Vista farm in Pedriel, in the Mendoza province in Argentina. This farm has only 5 hectars of planted area with only 12 hl/hect and is 980(3200 feets) meter above the sea level. The Mendoza dry climate garantees a thermic wideness, which provides healthiness and a good amount of sugar ti the fruit. Besides, due to the rainless of the region, the wine maker can use correctly the water in the irrigation in order to extract the most wonderful that the grape can give to the final product.

The color of this wine is absolutely fantastic. A real bright ruby color. The aroma is also superb. A combination of red fruits, like strawberry, and black chilli. The wine has a robust body. Nevertheles it mantains a good acidy level and a great elegancy and delicacy.

It really worths to wait for the new harvest of this surprizing Malbec from Achaval Ferrer.

Barolo | Red Wines

March 3rd, 2008

Barolo city | Red Wines
Barolo is an Italian wine, one of many to claim the title “Wine of kings, and king of wines”. It is produced in Cuneo’s province, south-west of Alba, within the region of Piemonte.

It is produced in the communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi, Verduno, all in the province of Cuneo. Only vineyards in the hills with suitable slopes and orientations are considered adapted to production, and the terrains must be primarily clayey-calcareous in character.

The wine is produced from the Nebbiolo grape variety. The Lampia, Michet and Rosé types are authorized. It matures at the end of September. The clusters are dark blue and greyish with the abundant wax that dresses the grapes. Their form is lengthened, pyramidal, with small, spherical grapes with substantial peel. The leaves are of average size with three or five lobes.

Barolo typically smells of tar and roses, and can take on an unusual orange tinge with age. When subjected to aging of at least five years, the wine can be labeled a Riserva. The initial nose of a barolo is often that of the pine tree.

For connoisseurs it is Italy’s most collected wine; for beginners it is a difficult one to understand.

Barolo data



Amount produced

5,000,000 litres

Maximum yield

8000 kg/ha

Maximum yield of wine from grapes


Minimum alcohol level


Minimum total acidity


Minimum net dry extract


Required aging

three years

The “Barolo wars”

In the past all Barolos used to be very tannic and they took more than 10 years to soften up. Fermenting wine sat on the grape skins for at least three weeks, extracting huge amounts of tannins; then it was aged in large, wooden casks for years.

In order to meet the international taste, which preferred fruitier, more accessible styles, the “modernists” cut fermentation times to a maximum of ten days and put the wine in new French barriques (small oak barrels). The results, said traditionalists, were wines that weren’t even recognizable as Barolo and tasted more of new oak than of wine.

The controversies between traditionalists and modernists have been called the Barolo wars.

The war has now subsided. Though outspoken modernists are still committed to new oak, many producers are now choosing the middle ground, often using a combination of barriques and large casks. The more prestigious houses, however, still reject barriques and insist on patience only for their exceptional wines. These are auction staples, sought after by aficionados in Italy, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

Traditionalist producers include: Giuseppe Rinaldi, Marcarini, Bartolo Mascarello, Brovia, Giuseppe Mascarello, Giovanni Conterno, Paolo Conterno, Comm. Burlotto, Oddero, Barale, Cavallotto, Massolino, Bruno “the Maestro” Giacosa, Luigi Pira, Vietti (especially the Riserva Villero), Vajra.

Modernist producers include: Scavino, Gigi Rosso, Rivetti, Ceretto, Aldo Conterno (from 1996 onwards), Boglietti, Mauro Veglio, Altare, Sandrone, Domenico Clerico, E. Pira, Einaudi, Icardi, Parusso, Prunotto, Ceretto, Corino, Alessandria, Silvio Grasso, Seghesio (Aldo e Ricardo).

In January 2007, Filippo Bartolotta indicated how a vertical tasting of Barolo, from 1985 to the present “showcased Barolo’s longevity, intense aromatics, freshness, silk-and-cashmere tannins and also highlighted the considerable contrast between production zones”.

Barolo Chinato

The origins of Barolo Chinato date back to the nineteenth century and they are a precious elixir according to the popular culture.

They are aromatic wines that are prepared using Barolo with infusion of China Calissaja bark, rhubarb root, and about ten other aromatic herbs.

Grappa di Barolo

By distilling the residue of wine press of Nebbiolo, it’s possible to obtain grappa, a spirit smooth and mild like the grapes destinated to make Barolo. The distillation makes use of a traditional process with alembic in a bain-marie. This spirit, only just condensed in a refrigerating coil, is a white drink. After ageing in oaks for three years at least, the colour becomes light yellow, slightly amber-coloured, and the taste grows smooth. The right spirituousness is around 45%, because it intensifies the fragrances, the alcohol and the ethers.


Mourvèdre | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

Mourvèdre | Red WinesMourvèdre, is a variety of red wine grape grown around the world. In Portugal and the New World it is known as Mataró, whilst in some parts of France it is known as Estrangle-Chien (”dog strangler”). In Spain it is known as Monastrell.

It produces tannic wines that can be high in alcohol, and is most successful in Rhone-style blends. It has a particular affinity for Grenache, softening it and giving it structure. Its taste varies greatly according to area, but often has a wild, gamey or earthy flavour, with soft red fruit flavours.

Considerable confusion has resulted for internet reports that DNA fingerprinting had confirmed that Monastrell was not the same grape as Mourvedre. These reports were the result of the mis-reading of a UC Davis analysis that a particular sample they had had been misidentified.


The names Mataró and Mourvèdre probably come from the towns of Mataró in Cataluña and Murviedro near Valencia, suggesting an origin on that coast. Though the origin of the grape may be Catalonian or Spanish, its current name is apparently of French derivation, and hence pronounced “MOO-vahd” or “MOOr-vahd”. In the US, it is sometimes referred to with the pronunciation “moor-VEY-druh”, reflecting neither its possible Catalonian, Spanish, nor French origins. The grape was recognised in the 16th century, and spread eastwards towards the Rhone. It was hit hard by the phylloxera epidemic, but has been increasing in popularity of late.

Distribution and wines


There are around 12 square kilometres in Australia, with the most significant plantings in South Australia and in New South Wales. It is usually found in Rhone-style blends, notably the GSM mixture - Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre. It has also found its way into Australian ‘port’ fortified wines.


Mourvèdre (sometimes known as Balzac) is widespread across the Mediterranean coast of southern France, where it is a notable component of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was once the most popular grape in Provence, but is now much less common there. One exception is Bandol on the Mediterranean coast of Provence, where Mourvèdre has found a natural home, producing powerful red wines in the style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is sometimes used to produce a fortified red wine in Languedoc-Roussillon.


Until recently it was assumed that Spain’s Monastrell grape was identical to Mourvèdre, so data on Mourvèdre as opposed to Monastrell is patchy. But it is likely that it is mostly on the Mediterranean coast in regions such as Jumilla.


There are 8 square kilometres of Mourvèdre in California. The variety was one of the first to be used in Southern California, the original wine center of the state. Some vineyards near Ontario, California, date back to the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, and one winery (Fillipi) in the Cucamonga Valley, still produces a Mourvèdre-labeled offering.

Vine and viticulture

Mourvèdre is very late to ripen, ripening is helped by proximity to a large body of water such as the Mediterranean Sea. The leaves have 3–5 lobes, the bunches are long, conical and winged. The berries are medium-sized and blue-black in colour, with thick skins.


Alcallata, Alcayata, Alicante, Arach Sap, Balzac, Balzar, Benadu, Beneda, Beni Carlo, Berardi, Bod, Bon Avis, Buona Vise, Casca, Catalan, Cayata, Caymilari Sarda, Charnet, Churret, Damas Noir, Drug, English Colossal, Espagnen, Espar, Esparte, Estrangle-chien, Flouron, Flouroux, Garrut, Gayata Tinta, Karis, Maneschaou, Marseillais, Mataro, Maurostel, Mechin, Monastre, Monastrell Menudo, Monastrell Verdadero, Mourvedre, Mourvegue, Mourves, Murvedr Espar, Negralejo, Negria, Neyron, Pinot Fleri, Plant De Ledenon, Plant De Saint Gilles, Reina, Ros, Rossola Nera, Spar, Tintilla, Tire Droit, Torrentes, Trinchiera, Valcarcelia, Verema, Veremeta, Vereneta.


Mavrud | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

Mavrud | Red WinesMavrud (Bulgarian: мавруд, from Greek μαύρος, mavros, “black”) is a unique red wine common only to the region of Thrace in Bulgaria.

It is a crystal clear wine with the typical ruby color of the sort, brisk and with beautiful sparkle. The aroma is clear and enduring. The taste combines that of grapes with a nuance of forest fruits.

Mavrud Bottle | Red WinesLegend says that during the reign of Khan Krum of Bulgaria all vineyards were ordered destroyed. Later, a lion escaped from its cage and terrorized the city. However, a fearless young man named Mavrud (now the name of a wine grape) confronted and slew the beast. The king summoned Mavrud’s mother to learn the source of such courage. She said she had secretly saved a vine, made wine, and that this was the source of Mavrud’s bravery. Khan Krum ordered the vineyards replanted.

Regarded as one of the most highly esteemed and top-quality local wines, Mavrud vineyards can mainly be found around Asenovgrad and Perushtitsa, as well as more rarely near Pazardzhik, Stara Zagora and Chirpan.


Burgundy Wine | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

Burgundy Wine | Red WinesBurgundy wine (French: Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy AOC region of France. Most wine produced here is either red wine made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, although red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rose and sparkling wine are also produced.

Geography and climate

The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis)The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include the Irancy AOC, which produces red wines.
Bourgnone, France | Red Wines
Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d’Or, where Burgundy’s most famous and most expensive wines are found. The Côte d’Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40km long, and in most places less than 2km wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards. The best wines - “Grand Cru” - from this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the “Premier Cru” come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary “Village” wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region’s white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune.

Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d’Or.

Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay.

Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.


Harvest time in the Chablis Premier Cru of Fourchaume.From about the year 900 up to the French Revolution, the vineyards of Burgundy were owned by the Church. After the revolution, the vineyards were broken up and sold to the workers who had tended them. The Napoleonic inheritance laws resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious vineyard holdings, so that some growers hold only a row or two of vines. This led to the emergence of négociants who aggregate the produce of many growers to produce a single wine. It has also led to a profusion of increasingly small family-owned wineries, exemplified by the dozen plus “Gros” family domaines.

Burgundy wine has experienced much change over the past seventy-five years. Economic depression during the 1930s was followed by the devastation caused by World War II. After the War, the vignerons returned home to their unkempt vineyards. The soils and vines had suffered and were sorely in need of nurturing. The growers began to fertilize, bringing their vineyards back to health. Those who could afford it added potassium, a silver-white metallic chemical element that contributes to vigorous growth. By the mid-1950s, the soils were balanced, yields were reasonably low and the vineyards produced some of the most stunning wines in the 20th century.

Understandably, the farmers had no inclination to fix what wasn’t broken. So for the next 30 years, they followed the advice of renowned viticultural experts, who advised them to keep spraying their vineyards with chemical fertilizers, including potassium. While a certain amount of potassium is natural in the soil and good for healthy growth, too much is bad because it leads to low acidity levels, which adversely affect the quality of the wine.

As the concentration of chemicals in the soil increased, so did the yields. In the past 30 years, yields have risen by two-thirds in the appellations contrôlées vineyards of the Côte d’Or, from 29 hectoliters per hectare (yearly average from 1951 to 1960) to almost 48 hectoliters per hectare (1982-91), according to a study by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. With higher yields came wines of less flavor and concentration.

The Burgundians pushed their vineyards. They fertilized them, sprayed them and replanted them with high-yield clones to increase crop levels. Like overfishing that can leave a lake practically sterile, overworking the soil sapped it of its natural balance. Soils that had contributed to Burgundy’s reputation for a millennium became depleted by overdependence on chemicals and other modern techniques in just 30 years.

The period between 1985 and 1995 was a turning point in Burgundy. During this time many Burgundian domaines renewed efforts in the vineyards and gradually set a new course in winemaking. All this led to deeper, more complex wines. Today, the Burgundy wine industry is reaping the rewards of those impressive efforts.

Wine characteristics and classification

2 bottles of Red Burgundy from Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits.Burgundy is in some ways the most terroir-oriented region in France; immense attention is paid to the area of origin, and in which of the region’s 400 types of soil a wine’s grapes are grown. As opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux, Burgundy classifications are geographically-focused. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine’s producer. This focus is reflected on the wine’s labels where appellations are most prominent and producer’s names often appear at the bottom in much smaller text.

The main Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are: Grand crus, Premier crus, Commune or Village, and finally generic Bourgogne.

Grand Cru refers to wines produced from the small number of the best vineyard sites in the Cote d’Or. Grand Cru wines make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters/hectare. These wines need to be aged a minimum of 5-7 years and the best examples can be kept for more than 15 years. Very few Chardonnays or Pinot Noirs in the world can be aged and continue to improve as well as these wines. Grand Cru wines will only list the name of the vineyard as the appellation - such as Corton or Montrachet - on the wine label.

Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru sites. Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare. These wines need to be aged 3-5 years, and again the best wines can keep for much longer. Premier Cru wines will usually list both the name of the village of origin - together with the status of the vineyard - eg “Volnay 1er Cru” as the appellation, and then the name of the individual vineyard (eg “Les Caillerets”) on the wine label.

Village wines can be a blend of wines from supposedly lesser vineyard sites within the boundaries of an individual village, or from one individual but non-classified vineyard. Wines from each different village are considered to have their own specific qualities and characteristics. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare. These wines can be consumed 2-4 years after the release date, although again some examples will keep for longer. Village wines will show the village name on the wine label, eg “Pommard”, and sometimes - if applicable - the name of the single vineyard where it was sourced. Several villages in Burgundy have appended the names of their Grand Cru vineyards to the original village name - hence “Puligny-Montrachet” and “Aloxe-Corton”.

The AOC Bourgogne classification refers to wines that can be sourced or blended from anywhere in the Burgundy region. These wines make up the rest of production at 55 hectoliters/hectare. These wines can be consumed up to 3 years after the vintage date. Appellations between generic “Bourgogne” and individual Village wines are also found, such as “Macon-Villages” or “Cote de Beaune-Villages”, where the wines can come from a wide but defined area which will include several individual villages.

Other Burgundy AOCs that are not as often seen are Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains AOC (which can contain up to two thirds Gamay (the grape of Beaujolais) in addition to Pinot noir), Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the Aligoté grape), and Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. The latter is the lowest AOC, and Grand is intended to refer to the size of the area eligible to produce it, not its quality. There are certain regions that are allowed to put other grapes in miscellaneous AOCs, but for the most part these rules hold. These regulations are even confusing to the majority of French adults, according to research (Franson). Sparkling wine is also produced, as Crémant de Bourgogne. Chablis wines are labeled using a similar hierarchy of Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Village wines, whereas wines from Beaujolais are treated differently again.

In total, there are around 150 separate AOCs in Burgundy, including those of Chablis and Beaujolais. While an impressive number, it does not include the several hundred named vineyards at the Village and Premier Cru level which may be displayed on the label, since at the Village and Premier Cru level, there is only one set of appellation rules per village. The total number of vineyard-differentiated AOCs that may be displayed is well in excess of 500.


One of the main wineries that produces Crémant de BourgogneBurgundy vineyards make up some 60,000 acres (240 km²) of production. Generally, the small wine growers sell their grapes to larger producers called negociants who blend and bottle the wine. The roughly 115 negociants who produce the majority of the wine only control around 8% of the area. Individual growers have around 67% of the area, but produce only around 25% of the wine. Some small wineries produce only 100-200 cases/year while many producers make a few thousand cases/year. Grower/producer made wines can be identified by the terms Mis en bouteille au domaine, Mis au domaine, or Mis en bouteille à la propriété. The largest producer is Maison Louis Latour in Beaune with 350,000 cases/year. The negociants may use the term Mis en bouteille dans nos caves (bottled in our cellars), but are not entitled to use the estate bottled designation of the grower/producers.

Grape Varieties

For the white grapes, Chardonnay is the most common. Another grape found in the region is Aligoté, which mostly produces cheaper wines which are higher in acidity. Aligoté from Burgundy is the wine traditionally used for the Kir drink, where it is mixed with blackcurrant liqueur. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in the Saint Brix apellation. Chablis, Macon wines and the Cote d’Or whites are all produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes.

For the red grapes, all production in the Cote d’Or is focused on the Pinot noir grape while the Gamay grape is grown in Beaujolais. In the Cote de Nuits region, 90% of the production is red grapes.

Expensive reputation

Burgundy is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world, including those of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leroy, Henri Jayer, Emmanuel Rouget, Domaine Dugat-Py, Domaine Leflaive and Domaine Armand Rousseau. However, some top vintage first growth Bordeaux wines and a few iconic wines from the New World are more expensive than some grand cru class Burgundy.

The British wine critic Jancis Robinson emphasizes that “price is an extremely unreliable guide” and that “what a wine sells for often has more to do with advertising hype and marketing decisions than the quality contained in the bottle.” While Grand Crus often command steep prices, village level wines from top producers can be found at quite reasonable prices.

Pinot Meunier | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

Pinot Meunier | Red WinesPinot meunier, also known as Meunier, Schwarzriesling, Müllerrebe, and Miller’s Burgundy, is a variety of black wine grape most frequently used in the production of Champagne. It was first mentioned in the 1500s, and gets its name and synonyms (French meunier and German Müller - both meaning miller) from flour-like dusty white down on the underside of its leaves.

Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: Meunier, Schwarzriesling, Müllerrebe, Miller’s Burgundy
Notable regions: Champagne (France), Württemberg (Germany), Oregon (USA)
Notable wines: Champagne


Pinot meunier is a mutation of Pinot noir. Paul K. Boss and Mark R. Thomas of the CSIRO Plant Industry and Cooperative Research Centre for Viticulture in Glen Osmond, Australia, found that the meunier strain has a mutation (VvGAI1) that stops it from responding to gibberellic acid, a plant growth hormone. This leads to different leaf growth, and also to a slight stunting in growth, explaining why Pinot meunier plants tend to be a bit smaller than Pinot noirs. The mutation exist only in one cell layer of the cultivar, the L1 layer of the epidermis. This makes it possible, through tissue culture, to separate out plants containing both the mutant and non-mutant genotypes, yielding a normal Pinot noir type and an unusual looking mutant vine with compressed internodes and thickly clustered leaves. The mutants could not produce full-grown tendrils, it seems that gibberellic acid converts grapevine flower buds into tendrils.

Ferdinand Regner has proposed that Pinot meunier (Schwarzriesling) is a parent of Pinot Noir but this work has not been replicated and would appear to be superseded by the Australian work.

The Wrotham (pronounced “rootum”) Pinot is an English variety of Pinot Noir that is sometimes regarded as a synonym of Pinot meunier. The Wrotham Pinot does look somewhat similar to meunier, with white hairs on the upper surface of the leaves. But it is particularly resistant to disease, has a higher natural sugar content and ripens two weeks earlier than meunier.

Distribution and wines

Pinot meunier is one of the three main grapes used in the production of Champagne (the other two are the black Pinot noir and the white Chardonnay). Until recently Champagne makers did not acknowledge Pinot meunier, preferring to emphasise the use of the other noble varieties but now Pinot meunier is gaining recognition for the body and richness it contributes to Champagne. It is ineligible to receive grand cru status, and all-meunier Champagnes are far rarer than those made from all-Pinot noir.

Sparkling wine makers in other areas have planted Pinot meunier in an attempt to duplicate the taste of Champagne, but Pinot meunier is not often found as a varietal.

It can make an enjoyable dry red wine, like a more fruity and rustic Pinot noir. Places it can be found as a varietal include wineries in Oregon and British Columbia. Germany also makes red wines from it, under its synonym Schwarzriesling, which are often inexpensive and made in an off-dry (halbtrocken) style. Most German plantings of the variety (1,795 hectares out of 2,424, or 74%, in the year 2006) are found in Württemberg. Despite the variety’s connection with Champagne, it is not common to use it in German Sekt.

Vine and Viticulture

It has the great advantage in Champagne of budding late and ripening early, thus avoiding frost in spring and rain in autumn.


Australian Red Wines

February 21st, 2008

Australian Red WinesAustralia is a country which produces many different wine varieties. These wines are known throughout the world and each type of wine has its own unique taste and style. As for red wines, Australia easily rivals many other popular wine producing countries in the red wine category. There are a few red wines which Australia is known for and others which other countries produce quite often as well.


Shiraz is one of the more popular red wines of Australia. This type of wine was one of the first red wines ever produced in Australia and due to its worldwide popularity continues to be produced in most of the vineyards around Australia. Depending on the age of the wine, Shiraz will take on various flavors such as essences of spice and fruit. This dark red wine is one which goes nicely with a wide array of dishes such as beef, barbecue, lamb and pork items. The bold taste of Shiraz is one which is favored greatly by many red wine lovers and is a great accompaniment to one’s meal.

Pinot Noir

Another wonderful red wine which is produced in Australia is Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir has a full body despite the lighter red color of the wine. It has tantalizing yet modest fruit tastes to it and consists of soft tannins. One of the beautiful aspects of Pinot Noir is that the finish is quite long and the taste lingers in one’s mouth after taking a sip. This is a good thing as the aftertaste is a nice one and not strong or displeasing in nature. When interested in pairing Pinot Noir with a meal, the best food items to pair this type of wine with include ham, duck, fish and a variety of cheeses.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is an additional type of red wine which has seen much popularity throughout Australian vineyards. This wine is produced quite frequently in Australia as it is widely favored by the general public and is a type of wine that goes perfectly with a wide array of entrees and other food items. Cabernet Sauvignon appears to be dark purple to deep red in color and has a bold yet smooth taste. Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine which will vary with regard to dryness factors depending on the vineyard which produces it and the age of the wine. Those who wish to serve Cabernet Sauvignon with a meal can choose a number of entrees to pair alongside of it such as beef, veal or pasta.


These are just three of the multitude of red wines which are produced throughout Australia. One who enjoys red wine will surely appreciate the different red wines which come from the wine regions of Australia.


French Red Wines

February 21st, 2008

French Red WinesRed wine is a wonderful addition to almost any meal and is just as perfect alone. There are many countries which currently produce red wine yet some are more well known than others as they have been doing so for centuries. One such country which is known for its abundant wine production is France. If one is looking to select a wonderful French red wine then the following red wine varieties might just peak one’s interest.

Pinot Noir

A wonderful variety of French red wine is Pinot Noir. Produced from the grape with the same name, Pinot Noir wine is a dry, red wine that is robust in flavor. Much of this French wine comes from the Burgundy region of France and is quite a popular variety within the country and around the world. When looking to pair Pinot Noir with one’s meal selection, it is best to choose full flavor entrees such as meat, fish and pasta specialties.


Another great red wine which is produced in France is Merlot. Merlot production flourishes the most in the Bordeaux region of France as much of the French Merlot wines come from this area. Merlot is a wonderful type of French red wine as one can pair a glass of this variety with many different entrees although dark meats, pasta and fish tend to work the best alongside of Merlot.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a French red wine which also sees a large production in the Bordeaux region of France. This red wine is robust and bold in flavor and can have a number of wonderful undertones to it. Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonderful addition to a meal of red meats, pastas with red sauce and lamb entrees. It also goes nicely with a variety of cheese hors devours and chocolate-laden desserts.


Syrah is another type of red wine which is produced in France. This type of wine is produced mainly in the Rhone region of France. Syrah is similar to the Shiraz variety which is produced in Australia vineyards and wineries. The characteristics of Syrah include dark purple tones, strong fruit tastes such as blackberry and currants, black pepper essence and a wonderful shelf life. Although Syrahs will vary from winery to winery, these are some of the general characteristics of Syrah wine. Syrah is a great wine to pair with strong foods such as Indian meals or grilled entrees.


France is a large producer of a variety of red wines. From dark, flavorful types to smoother, less intense varieties, French red wines are quite diversified in nature. With a little independent research and a few wine tastings, one is sure to find a French red wine that is perfect for them.


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