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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.

This is a video that shows the production of a regular Beaujolais wine. The who speaks shows somethings, which are very important in order to understand how can you call a real Beaujolais wine. He talks about the legislation, about the quantity of Gamay planted in Beaujolais. But, one thing really important that he says is that the real Beaujolais wine is very different from the so caled Beaujolais Nouveau, made to be drunk very young, and which is very fruity. Check it out.

By Giuliano Bortolleto, january 22th of 2009.

Gamay Grape

In the south of Burgundy we will find the last district of this fantastic frenh region: the Beaujolais. This region has a different soil from the rest of burgundy. Actualy, Beaujolais is almost a different region from Burgundy. This region, which is located about 35 miles north to the city of Mâcon, has granite-laden hills, that’s why no other location in France has been able to elaborate Gamay-based wines as Beaujolais. Yes. Apart from the soil, the big difference between Beaujolais and the rest of Burgundy is the grape that is cultivated. The Gamay is the principal grape of the location, with more than 98% of all vines planted.

The Gamay produces light to medium-bodied wine, that is made to be tasted slightly fresh and young. This wine has a light purple color, pleasantly fruity flavors, such cherry, bananas, berries, and peaches and high acidity and low tannins. It can be paired with a lot of french cheeses, such as Reblochon, Pont L’Eveque and Camembert, with duck and goose meat, and other typical food from its region.

Beaujolais Village AC

The Appellation of Beaujolais is divised in three categories: There are the Beaujolais AC wines, which are produced in the southern part of the location. There, the wines red wines must contain 9% of alcohol level. These are the most simple Beaujolais Wines. Than we have the Beaujolais Supérieur AC, that are produced in the same region, but whith 10% of alcohol. The vineyards at this location must have lower yields per acre, what point to a higher quality of the this kind of Beaujolais wine. There are the Beaujolais-Villages Appellation Controlé wines, which correspond to a group of thirty-nine villages with superior vineyards. Finally, we have the highest-quality level of a Beaujolais Appellation. There are only ten villages that can take the name CRU in their wines, plus the name of the Village. They are e Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Réginé, and Saint-Amour.

There are a few other french regions that also produce some gamay wines. In Côte Chalonnaise, there is a famous a blend of Pinot Noir and not more than two-thirds of Gamay, which is known as the “Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grain”. There are some other gamay wines in Loire and Touraine. Outside the french lines there are not so much gamay wines. Nevertheless, there are a few good examples of this grape wines in New Zealand and California.

Graves | Red Wines

January 20th, 2009

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that we should begin with Graves and in particular its northern enclave of Pessac-Léognan, as this was one of the last of the great vineyard regions of Bordeaux that I was to discover. And certainly, when looking solely at the appellations and communes of the left bank, I was intimately familiar with Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux long before I was even aware of these vineyards on the far side of the city of Bordeaux. And yet this should not be the case; here we have a region steeped in history, a landscape of vines dotted with chateaux sometimes of feudal origins, some bearing crenellated battlements as testament to their former roles. Through history their proprietors have including noble seigneurs, admirals and popes, although today during a visit to one of these grand chateaux you are far more likely to find yourself shaking hands with a supermarket magnate or an employee of a huge insurance company than a papal candidate. Nevertheless this is a region with historical precedence over the Médoc to the north, and I see nowhere more fitting to begin my guide than here, on the doorsteps of some of the most illustrious chateaux in all Bordeaux.

As I have already expounded in this guide, this is one of the longest established regions of Bordeaux; there was viticulture here as far back as the Middle Ages, centuries before the marshes of the Médoc were drained and vines were planted in the gravelly soils there. The region’s leading light, Chateau Haut Brion, dates back to the mid-16th Century, but others are even older; there has been a dwelling at the site of Chateau Olivier for at least eight centuries, and although the property has been extensively modified over the years some parts of it are very old indeed. Pape-Clément is another old timer, this having been the seat of Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, during the very first few years of the 14th Century, before he took the papal office and the name Clément V.

Despite the survival of many of the castellations, the inhabitants no longer fear foreign invaders as they once did, for now it is an enemy of a different sort that is advancing on the vineyards. Today this is the frontline of the battle between the vine and the bungalow; these vineyards encircle the city of Bordeaux, its suburbs creeping ever outwards, almost as if they are feeling their way between the vineyards, testing to see where the weaknesses lie. It seems that real estate developers dream of dilapidated vineyards that can be planted with residential properties rather than vines, and indeed many of the noble names of the region are today entirely encircled by suburban streets. The two most notable examples are Chateau Haut-Brion (not forgetting the associated Laville and La Mission) and also Pape-Clément, as shown in this map of a small portion of the Bordeaux suburbs (above), although even those estates further south, away from the sprawling urban mass, are feeling the pressure. At the time of writing my most recent visit to the region had taken in Chateau Brown, at the very southwest extreme of the city of Bordeaux, and we seemed to drive down a dozen suburban streets before reaching the entrance to the estate. It is a curse with a silver lining for the pragmatic though; one proprietor in the region once confessed to me that should it ever be necessary, he could ameliorate any financial difficulties by selling off the small section of woodland that lay at the bottom of one of his vineyards, the value of which he had been watching gradually increase year after year as the houses encroached upon it. Although I wonder whether this act would have made him a very popular man with his contemporaries, it was without doubt a comfort to him that he had this security on which he could fall back should the bank manager ever call in his loans.

Graves - Red Wines

The Graves region, although it is perhaps rather stating the obvious, is named for the gravelly terroir which lies underfoot; the depth of gravel varies, and is as deep as three metres in places, forming well defined outcrops. This well drained and impoverished soil is credited with much of the character and quality of the wines of Graves, although why this particular area of Bordeaux should be so blessed with this name, rather than any of the communes of the Médoc further north which are also characterised by gravel croupes on which so many of the famous Grand Cru Classé properties are sited, is something of a mystery to me. The vineyards are also dotted with clay, chalk, sea shells and sand, the latter elements testament to the nearby waterways, the courses of which have varied over the millennia. Here we are on the left bank of the Garonne, as it flows to its rendezvous with the Dordogne, at which point it becomes the Gironde.

In recent years the most significant change in the Graves landscape occurred in 1987 when, after many years of pressure from the leading producers, the expanse of vineyards that make up Graves were further classified, with the vineyards just to the south of Bordeaux receiving a new appellation, Pessac-Léognan. Here, in this Graves enclave which is largely represented in the map above, can be found all the chateaux of major interest. To the north of the land described in the map lies the city of Bordeaux, including those vineyards that lead the battle against the suburbs, as depicted in the smaller map at the top of the page. The Pessac-Léognan appellation describes wines from ten communes; Cadaujac, Canéjan, Gradignan, Léognan, Martillac, Mérignac, Pessac, Saint-Médard-d’Eyrans, Talence, Villenave-d’Ornon, and it is a rarity (in Bordeaux at least) in that INAO regulations allow for white wines as well as red. Permitted varieties include Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc (which must comprise at least 25% of the blend) as well as Muscadelle, although it is the former two - and perhaps Sauvignon more than Semillon - that will constitute the major part of any blend. Interestingly the red varieties included in the appellation regulations include the full gamut of traditional local varieties, although at least a couple of these are now very unusual. The triumvirate of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon obviously dominate, but there is also provision for Petit Verdot, also Malbec (or Cot as it is sometimes known) and even the vanishingly rare Carménère, which is far more likely to be encountered in Chile than here on the banks of the Gironde. The rendement de base - the maximum level for permitted yields - is set at 48 hl/ha for white grapes and 45 hl/ha for red grapes, admirable figures but ones that should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Add the rendement annuel, the actual permitted yield which is set on a yearly basis, followed by the plafond limité de classement (an increase of the maximum yield granted by the INAO on top of the annual figure), and it should be clear that true maximum yields can be much higher than 48 hl/ha. This is not specific to Graves or even to Bordeaux, and is something I have also covered in my Loire wine guide.

To the south of Pessac-Léognan are the vineyards that have remained designated as Graves following their parting of ways in 1987, spread over 43 communes entitled to the appellation. Here regulations are similar, the grape varieties are obviously broadly the same, although some of the INAO numbers are different, such as the rendement de base which is higher at 50 hl/ha, but otherwise the style is essentially the same as that of Pessac-Léognan. With that in mind there can be good value here, away from the more exalted names to the north, and it is one of many regions in Bordeaux that are crying out to be better exploited. As a final point in this rundown of the relevant appellations, I should make note of one oddity that comes along with Graves. This is the appellation of Graves Supérieures, a little-seen halfway-house between the dry whites of Graves and the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, appellations which are of course completely surrounded by the Graves vineyards. It allows only for white wines, and the INAO regulations, which stipulate a rendement de base of 40 hl/ha, a must weight of 195 g/l, and minimum values of 12% alcohol and 18 g/l residual sugar in the final wine clearly favour the production of sweeter styles. It is not a wine, however, I am very familiar with.

Source: http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/bordeaux3graves.shtml

Pomerol | Red Wines

January 20th, 2009

Of all the more famous regions of Bordeaux I think it is Pomerol that perhaps I know least well. This is perhaps a somewhat strange state of affairs, as after all Pomerol is the smallest of all the well known appellations of Bordeaux, especially when we compare it to neighbouring St Emilion, the vineyards of which cover more than 5000 hectares, dwarfing Pomerol, which boasts less than 800 hectares. My point is that it should not, perhaps, take too long to become accustomed with its wines, especially as I have spent no less time in Pomerol than I have in any other appellation around the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde. I have tasted many of the top wines of the commune, including Petrus, Trotanoy and other wines from the Jean-Pierre Moueix stable; I have visited top estates, such as Jacques Theinpont’s Le Pin in 2008, and perhaps less celebrated names such as Taillefer, home to Catherine Moueix, in late 2006. Vertical tastings that I have attended, such as a mini-vertical of Vieux Chateau Certan a few years ago, show that there are some fabulous wines being produced here, even in lesser vintages. I have no prejudice against the region, that is for sure; the exotic spice and opulent yet fresh fruit that can be found in the wines excites my palate in a way that no other Bordeaux does. I think it is merely that my own vinous education has concentrated so wholeheartedly on the left bank, and perhaps it is also the case that the left bank has, in the past, offered more value wines which offer a true insight into what the vineyards there are capable of, whereas with Pomerol perhaps this simply hasn’t been the case?

Although Pomerol has a long history of viticulture and winemaking it is not one that has much in common with the development of the left bank appellations, or indeed with neighbouring St Emilion. The vine has been cultivated on the right bank, including Pomerol, since the time of Roman occupation, and the names of some estates - notably Figeac and Ausone (both in St Emilion, not Pomerol) date from this era. On the left bank viticulture in Graves and Sauternes has flourished since Medieval times, but in Pomerol it has waxed and waned, and during the Hundred Years’ War the vineyards were abandoned altogether. It was not until the 15th Century that there was any replanting, preceding the draining of the Médoc by more than a hundred years. Despite this the region remained an obscure one in viticultural circles, thought of by many as little more than a satellite of St Emilion. There was no influx of rich landlords as there was around St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux; Pomerol had no Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur to name as the Prince des Vignes, and no Baron Hector de Brane to similarly christen as Napoléon des Vines. There were no wealthy bankers or landed gentry interested in this rural backwater, and thus the landscape remained one dotted with farmhouses, criss-crossed by country lanes, with no grand châteaux, no mansard roofs, and barely a tiled turret to be seen.

The wines of this supposedly ‘minor’ region were not widely appreciated, and the vignerons and merchants that had settled here worked had to develop export markets for their wines. They found buyers in France, Holland and particularly Belgium, and the market they built up in the latter country perhaps goes some way to explaining the Belgian presence in Pomerol that exists today. The wines of the left bank, however, were largely exported to England, and thus British consumers developed no awareness of Pomerol or the quality of its wines. It was not until the 1950s that British merchants woke up to the wines and began to import them into the UK, and even then the prices of many of the wines were extremely favourable, especially compared to the astronomical prices some of them fetch today. And there is one further difference that marks out Pomerol; whereas the Médoc and Sauternes, and subsequently Graves and St Emilion, were all classified - arguably useless classifications today, but also without doubt useful in publicising the best properties at the time - Pomerol never underwent this process, and today it remains the only major appellation of the region to have no classification.

Pomerol - Red Wines

Although small, with just 784 hectares - or thereabouts - of vines, the terroir of Pomerol is certainly not homogenous, and is due some consideration. The vineyards are located to the west of those of St Emilion, and are closely related to the suburbs of Libourne. They are delimited north and south by two rivers, the Barbanne and the Taillas, to the east by the vineyards of St Emilion and the town of Pomerol itself, and to the west by the D910 as it runs down towards and into Libourne, with suburban streets including the boulevard de Beauséjour, avenue Georges-Clemenceau, rue du Docteur-Nard and the avenue de l’Europe - all easily pinpointed on any decent map - forming the boundary. Further out in the appellation there is a subtle plateau which is dominated by gravel with clay, and it is these soil types that play host to the better vineyards. Inspection of the soils themselves reveals a considerable variation in gravel density and size of stone, even when comparing one vineyard to the next, although this isn’t a feature unique to Pomerol by any means. A more significant change comes as you travel west through the appellation, when the soils become more sandy, and the quality of the wines may not be as high with this terroir. In addition, the clay subsoil here - known as crasse de fer - is particularly iron rich, and portions of it extend across the appellation. The Petrus vineyards are marked by it, as are those of Taillefer, the name of which translates literally as to cut iron.

Like St Emilion, the clay soils here favour the Merlot grape which dominates the appellation, accounting for 80% of all the vines planted. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc trail in at the rear, although a few estates are notable for have significant plantings of these two varieties, sometimes accounting for more than half of the individual vineyard. Vieux Chateau Certan is a case in point, although Merlot still dominates slightly here, accounting for 60% of all the vines, with 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The absolute predominance of Merlot in the appellation as a whole, however, may mean in some vintages the majority of the harvest can be lost. Merlot flowers earlier than the two Cabernets and thus it is more vulnerable to spring frosts and reduced or irregular flowering and fruit set.

Although I have been content to criticise those that put too much stock in Bordeaux classifications, which are either outdated or rendered meaningless by internal political wrangling, one function that they do serve is to provide a loose framework for the discussion of the wines. Without one, though, I will resist the vaguely ridiculous notion that I should invent a classification of my own, and simply deal with the properties according to my experience of them. Perhaps one that I know best is Vieux Chateau Certan, as I have tasted a number of maturing vintages and have even been taken to adding a few vintages to the cellar, especially the highly successful 2004. Even weaker vintages, such as the 1993, were impressive. There are many other estates producing wines of similar quality, or indeed higher quality, where I have tasted a few vintages, most notably Petrus, Trotanoy, Le Pin, Gazin, La Conseillante, Clinet and more. The first two of these are wines of the Moueix stable. Petrus moved from the ownership of Mme Lacoste-Loubat to being jointly run with the help of Jean-Pierre Moueix, and today it is under the sole control of Jean-Pierre’s son, Christian; the once relatively inexpensive wines are today some of the most expensive in Bordeaux. And they are also some of the best. This latter characteristic is also true of Trotanoy, which has turned in a stupendous performance in some vintages, and my experience of both mature vintages, namely the fabulous 1961, and a much more recent year such as 2007 shows that the quality of this vineyard can shine through in both excellent and poor vintages. As for Le Pin, this is a much more recent story; the proprietor here is the aforementioned Jacques Thienpont of Belgium, and when entertaining visiting journalists during the primeurs he serves the wines with assistance from his son, the youthful but trilingual Freddy. The story here perhaps encapsulates so much of Pomerol; an unremarkable vineyard which has been moulded into one of worldwide repute, and the prices have risen dramatically as a result; one bottle will cost you more than a case (or indeed several cases) of many comparable wines. And the estate is graced not by any grand chateau, but by a tumbledown farmhouse with cracked and patchy rendering, and a patch of mud for a garden. The wines, however, can be fabulous. Yes, to me it seems that Le Pin is Pomerol - albeit a Pomerol on steroids - in a nutshell.

Source: http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/bordeaux13pomerol.shtml

As with all the most significant appellations in France, the regulations for St Emilion were laid down very soon after Baron Le Roy’s initial work in Châteauneuf du Pape, work which paved the way for the creation of the Appellation Contrôlée system. The St Emilion appellation dates from 1938, when the committee met to draw up the boundaries for the eligible vineyards, which are the town of Libourne and the Pomerol vineyards to the west, route nationale 10 to the north, where the the adjoining communes of St Emilion and Pomerol, such as St-Georges-St-Emilion and Lalande-de-Pomerol, may be found, the Ruisseau la Capelle and the Dordogne to the south, and to the east the vineyards of the Côtes de Castillon.

The permitted varieties match those allowed elsewhere in Bordeaux, namely the Cabernets Franc & Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Malbec. Naturally it is the first three that dominate, but the lead role goes to Merlot, which copes much better with the limestone and clay soils, as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon which is better suited to gravel. One or two estates, with Cheval Blanc being perhaps the prime example, feature Cabernet Franc ahead of all the other varieties.

St Emilion - Appellation

The appellation regulations also allow for a Grand Cru designation, although the term is misleading. In Burgundy it is the highest honour for any plot of land, a designation intrinsically intertwined with the terroir of the region; here in St Emilion, where terroir is also so vital, a wine qualifies for Grand Cru status based on little more than a few details of the harvest - a maximum of 40 hl/ha rather than 45 hl/ha for basic St Emilion - and a minimum alcoholic strength of 11%, hardly a pressing requirement considering what I have already written of the New Bordeaux in my piece on climate change and new technologies. Thus the distinctions between St Emilion and St Emilion Grand Cru are very minor, rather akin to the difference between basic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur. As such, the Grand Cru designation is effectively meaningless to the consumer. The appellation regulations make mention of the more interesting tiers of the St Emilion classification, Grand Cru Classé and Premier Grand Cru Classé, but is clear that these designations are awarded by - or at least on behalf of - the Minister for Agriculture and the Secretary of State. Both rankings are determined by committee, who make their judgements based on visits to the domaines in question and on tasting ten vintages. For the 2006 classification, the decision was made on the strength of the 1993-2002 vintages.

A listing of the most notable estates is given here on the right, but rather than using the regional classification as a framework for the list, as I have done with other communes and appellations, here I have summarised the top properties according to the predominant terroir. It is not an unquestionable or hugely robust method (but then neither are any of the Bordeaux classifications in my opinion), especially as many properties possess vineyards that encompass several (or indeed all) of the St Emilion terroirs. It is not uncommon for properties on the plateau to have some vineyards on the côtes, and for some at the pieds de côtes where the limestone gives way to clay to also have some vineyards on the sandy plains to the west and south of the town. Where one terroir seems more significant for a particular property I have listed it appropriately; hence Cheval-Blanc and Figeac are both listed under gravel, although there is a component of sand in the vineyards. Likewise La Tour-Figeac is listed under sand, although there is a gravel component here. Naturally not all estates are listed, merely those that seem most significant for the St Emilion appellation.

Of these estates, which you favour most will naturally depend on personal preferences. There are some wines which tend towards a dark colour, rich texture, plentiful extract, low acidity and high points. It is easy to be swayed by such a style, especially when tasted among a line up of comparable wines. But taken to an extreme, as seems to be the case in St Emilion more than any other Bordeaux appellation, it is not a style I favour. Without sufficient acidity there is no freshness, and when extraction goes too far the wines must carry a heavy burden of tannin for the rest of their lives, and will never possess a balanced composition on the palate. Over-extraction, something I have already discussed in my osmosis and extraction chapter of this guide, is very much a right bank disease, with St Emilion being the more afflicted of the Libournais communes.

Despite my preferences for fresher, more balanced wines, however, I have no problem with the more opulent style per se; I do not think of it as inherently ‘wrong’. Also I have nothing against the garariste movement - a trend for opulent, low yield, microvinifications - which was born in St Emilion and which is typified by estates such as La Mondotte, Le Dôme and of course, the archetype, Valandraud - as some of these wines can be delicious. Interestingly, however, it seems to me that many of those who do enjoy this style of wine - or at least a vocal minority - do not hold a corresponding view. They view the less opulent, less extracted wines - read fresh and balanced - as underperforming, underachieving, insults to their palate, which they must regard, I suppose, as being the universal palate. They send the wines packing with ‘could do better’ scrawled on their reports, as if they were teachers judging miscreant pupils. Fortunately for me, the influence of these self-appointed teachers has not spread across the whole commune, and there are many wines produced in St Emilion which still suit my palate. To enjoy the wines of this region - which yields more bottles of wine than all four of the Médoc’s most famous communes combined - all that is necessary is a little exploration, and perhaps an open mind, open to the thought that high-scoring, hedonistic, low acid, over-extracted wines might not be the best - to your palate - that the commune has to offer.

Source:http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/bordeaux12stemilion.shtml


Fetească Neagră | Red WinesFetească Neagră (IPA: [fe.’teas.kə ‘nea.grə]) is an old pre-phylloxeric variety of grape, indigenous to Romania. It is grown in several areas in the Romanian regions of Moldavia and Muntenia.

These grapes produce dry, semi-dry or sweet wines, with an alcohol content of 12-12.5%, a deep red colour with ruby shades, and a black currant flavour, which becomes richer and smoother with aging.

In Hungary, it is called Fekete Leányka and it is grown from a variety originating from Transylvania.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feteasc%C4%83_Neagr%C4%83

Grenache | Red Wines

March 3rd, 2008


Grenache Noir | Red WinesGrenache (pronounced gren-ash) (in Spanish, Garnacha, in Catalan, Garnatxa) is probably the most widely planted variety of red wine grape in the world. It ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and in the south of France. It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and colour, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut.

Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of most Australian ‘port’.

Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: Alicante, Cannonau, Garnacha (more)
Origin: Spain
Notable regions: Rhône, Sardinia, Spain

History

Grenache may have originated in Spain, probably in Aragon or Catalonia, but has since spread over the Pyrenees into southern France and the rest of the Mediterranean. It is the same grape variety as Cannonau which is claimed to originate in Sardinia. This might imply that it is really from Sardinia, and was imported to Spain when Sardinia was under Aragón rule.

Clones, mutants and crosses

Like the Pinot family, Grenache comes in ‘black’, ‘grey’ and ‘white’ versions, plus a mutant with an altered epidermis.

The standard “black Grenache” is known as “Garnatxa Fina” in Catalan, and is the most common version.

The “hairy Grenache” is also known by names such as Lladoner Pelud (see below). The leaves look similar to Macabeo, but with fine little hairs. Recent research in Spain into this bizarre clone indicates that is produces smaller berries with a thicker skin, which suggests a greater potential than the original for making fine wine. This is an active area of investigation.

Grenache Gris is widely planted in France in particular, but is declining under the current vine pull schemes.

Grenache blanc is a major variety in its own right, particularly in France, where it is an important component of many white wines from the Rhône. It is often blended with Roussanne.

Grenache Noir was crossed with Petit Bouschet to give Alicante Bouschet, sometimes called Garnacha Tintorera. It was an important grape during Prohibition, as its thick skins survived being transported from Californian vineyards to consumers, who were allowed to make small amounts of wine at home.

In 1961, a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon produced the French wine grape Marselan.

Distribution and wines

Australia

A clone from Perpignan arrived in Australia with James Busby in 1832 collection. More significant was the introduction into South Australia of new cuttings from the South of France, by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold in 1844. Plantings in South Australia boomed, particularly in McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley. Traditionally much of the production went into a fortified wine sold as ‘port’, but recently interest has turned to unfortified wines either as a single varietal or in “GSM” blends with Shiraz (Syrah) and Mataro (Mourvèdre). These wines are often the product of old vines grown in excellent conditions, and can be very successful.

France

Grenache can make three very different styles of wine in France, where it is planted on nearly 100,000 hectares in the Rhône valley and across the huge vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon, where it may be known as Alicante or Carignane Rousse. As a single varietal it makes rosé wines throughout the region, although the most famous are from the Tavel district of the Côtes du Rhône. Grenache is best known for making dry red wines, sometimes as a single varietal but more commonly blended with more chewy grapes such as Cinsault and Mourvèdre. It forms the basis of the red wines of Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where 12 other grapes can be included in the blend. Emmanuel Reynaud of Château Rayas in Chateauneuf du Pape, and Philippe Laurent of Domaine du Gramenon are notable proponents of Grenache as a single varietal.

Grenache is also used in vins doux naturels, sweet fortified wines from French Catalonia. Banyuls is the best known of the red vins doux naturels, but they are also made in Maury and Rivesaltes.

Italy

Grenache is known as Cannonau in Sardinia, where it may have originated and is still common.

Spain

Garnacha (Garnatxa in Catalan) used to be the most widely planted variety in its homeland of Spain, but has now been surpassed by the fast-expanding Tempranillo. It is still the dominant variety in southern Aragón, particularly in the Cariñena, Calatayud and Campo de Borja appellations. In the famous Catalan wine producing region of Priorat it is traditionally blended with the dominant Carignan. In Terra Alta, just southwest of the Priorat, the blend is often the same but many wineries have been begun to blend it with Cabernet and Syrah.

USA

Grenache is grown in California’s Central Valley.

Vine and viticulture

The vine is upright, with good wind tolerance. Its natural vigour must be controlled for best results. The three-lobed leaves are yellowy-green, with no hairs on the undersurface unless it’s the ‘hairy’ clone mentioned above. The medium-sized bunches are conical and winged, with blue-black berries.

In commercial production, the vine tends to alternate, with one ‘good’ year of production, followed by a ‘lighter’ year whilst it recuperates.

Synonyms

Abundante, Aleante, Aleantedi Rivalto, Aleante Poggiarelli, Alicant Blau, Alicante, Alicante Grenache, Aragones, Bois Jaune, Cannonaddu, Cannonadu Nieddu, Cannonau, Cannonau Selvaggio, Canonazo, Carignane Rosso, Elegante, Francese, Garnaccho Negro, Garnacha Comun, Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Roja, Garnacha Tinta, Garnatxa Negra, Garnatxa Pais, Gironet, Granaccia, Granaxa, Grenache Noir, Grenache Rouge, Kek Grenache, Lladoner, Mencida, Navaro, Navarra, Navarre de la Dordogne, Navarro, Negru Calvese, Ranconnat, Red Grenache, Redondal, Retagliadu Nieddu, Rivesaltes, Rousillon Tinto, Roussillon, Rouvaillard, Sans Pareil, Santa Maria de Alcantara, Tentillo, Tintella, Tintilla, Tinto Aragones, Tinto Menudo, Tinto Navalcarnero, Tocai Rosso, Toledana and Uva di Spagna.

Synonyms for the hairy Grenache include Garnatca Peluda, Garnatxa Pelud, Lladoner Gris, Lladoner Pelud and Lledoner Pelut.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannonau


Montalcino | Red WinesBrunello di Montalcino is a red Italian wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 70 miles southwest of Florence. Brunello is a clone of Sangiovese, a grape used in Chianti. Brunello is one of the best-known (and expensive) wines of Italy. Well-made Brunellos are capable of aging for long periods of time, given their high tannin content.
Contents

Climate

Montalcino has one of the warmest climates in Tuscany and the grapes in the area ripen up to a week earlier than in nearby Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. There are distinct micro-climates among the northern and southern slopes of Montalcino. The northern slopes receive fewer hours of sunlight and are generally cooler than the southern slopes. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes tend to produce wines that are racier and more aromatic, while the southern slopes tend to produce wines with more power and complexity. The top producers in the area have vineyards on both slopes, and make use of a blend of both styles.

History

Although the modern rules for making Brunello were first laid down by the Biondi Santi family in the late 1880s, the current industry has its roots in the 1960s when there were only a handful of producers. Even as recently as 1975, the total number of producers was approximately 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases of Brunello total. According to the Consorzio di Vini di Brunello di Montalcino, in 1995 120 producers made 300,000 cases. Today there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio. The production has risen to over 6,000,000 bottles, or 500,000 cases.

Regulations

Brunello di Montalcino | Red WinesBrunello di Montalcino must be made 100% from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese. Most producers will separate their production between a normale and riserva bottling. The normale bottles are released on the market 50 months after harvest and the riserva are released a year afterward. The current aging requirements were established in 1998 and dictate that Brunellos are to be aged in wood for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release.

Traditionally, the wines are aged 3 years or so “in botte,” large oak casks that impart little oak flavor but allow for the controlled softening of the wine. Modernists use small barrique which impart a more pronounced oak flavor. There is a middle ground where the wine is aged in small barrique for a short time and then spends a longer sojourn in the traditional botte.

While there are wineries that follow traditional processes and still make dark and rich wines, the reason for this is the conditions of the soils and the micro-climates of the vineyards. This contrasts to winemaking processes that reduce the time in botte or eliminate it entirely, and follow fermentation methods designed to extract more color and tannin from the grapes.

Wines

Brunello is often compared with the Pinot noir wines of Burgundy with its smooth tannins and ripe, fruit driven character. The wines are available to be consumed soon after release but generally hit their prime six to eight years after harvest. The wines have good aging ability with some producers regularly making wines that still improve within the bottle for more than 20 years. The high acidity of the wine allows it to pair well with food, especially grilled meat and game. A large portion of Brunello sold in the United States is purchased in restaurants.

Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova 2001 Brunello di Montalcino was named Wine Spectator’s 2006 “Wine of the Year”.

Other DOCs

Rosso di Montalcino, is the other main DOC from Montalcino. This wine has few restrictions on aging other than it may not be released prior to September 1 of the year following the vintage. It is required to be 100% Brunello grape grown in a strictly delimited zone within the area of Montalcino. It can range from a soft, easy-to-drink-when-young style to a wine capable of long aging when made by a fine wine estate in a great vintage.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunello_di_Montalcino

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

Producers

1,163

Amount produced

5,000,000 litres

Maximum yield

8000 kg/ha

Maximum yield of wine from grapes

65%

Minimum alcohol level

12.50°

Minimum total acidity

5‰

Minimum net dry extract

23‰

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.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barolo

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