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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

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

Cahors | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008


Cahors Bridge, France | Red WinesCahors is a red wine from grapes grown in or around the town of Cahors, France.

History

Planted by the Romans around 50 BC, Cahors is one of the oldest wines in Europe. Since that time, the vines have remained in the land of Quercy and their history has been combined that of the region.

During the Middle Ages it was called the “black wine”. Clément Marot sung the virtues of this “liquor of fire”. It was on the tables at the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with Henry II of England. The pope John XXII, born at Cahors, made it his table and sacramental wine. Francis I of France appreciated it to the point of delegated to the Cahorsin vintners the task of creating the vineyard of Fontainebleau. Jean-Baptiste Colbert did not hesitate to call it superior to Bordeaux.

Cahors Wine | Red WinesThe Russian Emperor Peter I of Russia drank Cahors (Russian: кагор), and the Russian Orthodox Church adopted it as the sacramental wine.

The history of the wine is also tied to that of the Lot River. Since its introduction by the Romans, its trade passes by this navigable, but dangerous route.

In the 18th century, around 10,000 barrels of wine passed through Bordeaux to leave thence for the north of Europe, the Antilles, and the Americas. Since its introduction to the court of England, Cahors wine became a formidable competitor to claret, or Bordeaux. The Bordelais vintners attempted to prevent the commerce before All Saints Day to stop their production. Louis XVI resolved the conflict by providing mediation between the vintners.

The Cahors fell little by little into disuse. Before the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera of 1876 almost made it completely disappear. The frosts of 1956 were fatal.

The resurrection of the wine was slow and difficult. But after about 20 years, a new generation of producers began to rebuild the industry.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kagor_%28wine%29

Beaujolais Wine | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008


Beaujolais Wine | Red WinesBeaujolais (Biôjolês in Arpitan) is a historical province and French wine producing region. It is located north of Lyon, and covers parts of the north of the Rhône département (Rhône-Alpes) and parts of the south of the Saône-et-Loire département (Burgundy). While administratively considered part of the Burgundy wine region, the climate is closer to the Rhône and the wine is unique enough to be considered separately from Burgundy and Rhône. The region is known internationally for its long tradition of winemaking, uniquely emphasized the use of carbonic maceration, and more recently for the popular Beaujolais nouveau. Beaujolais is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and few tannins. Like most AOC wines they are not labeled varietally. Whites from the region, which make up only 1% of its production, are made mostly with Chardonnay grapes though Aligoté is also permitted. Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity. In some vintages, Beaujolais produces more wine than the Burgundy wine regions of Chablis, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais put together.

Appellation type: Appellation d’origine contrôlée
Year established: 1936
Country: France
Part of: Burgundy
Soil conditions: Granite, Schist, Clay and Sandstone
Total area: 10,500ha
Grapes produced: Gamay with a little Pinot Noir (and the local variation of Pinot Liébault), Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot gris (known locally as Pinot Beurot), Pinot blanc and Melon de Bourgogne
Wine produced: Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, cru Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau

History

The region of Beaujolais was first cultivated by the Romans who planted the areas along its trading route up the Saône valley. The most notable Roman vineyard was Brulliacus located on the hillside of Mont Brouilly. The Romans also planted vineyards in the area Morgon. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu, Rhône and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century when it was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy. The wines from Beaujolais were mostly confined to the markets along the Saône and Rhône rivers, particularly in the town of Lyon. The expansion of the French railroad system in the 19th century opened up the lucrative Paris market. The first mention of Beaujolais wines in English followed soon after when Cyrus Redding described the wines of Moulin-à-Vent and Saint-Amour as being low priced and best consumed young.

In the 1980s, Beaujolais hit a peak of popularity in the world’s wine market with its Beaujolais nouveau wine. Spurred on by the creative marketing from négociants like Georges Duboeuf, demand outpaced supply for the easy drinking, fruity wines. As more Beaujolais producers tried to capitalize on the “Nouveau craze”, production of regular Beaujolais dropped and a eventual backlash occurred in the late the 1990s and early 21st century. By this point, the whole of Beaujolais wine had developed a negative reputation among consumers who associated Gamay based wines with the slightly sweet, simple light bodied wines that characterized Beaujolais Nouveau. Producers were left with a wine lake surplus that French authorities compelled them to reduce through mandatory distillation. In response, there has been renewed emphasis on the production of more complex wines that are aged longer in oak barrels prior to release. Recent years have seen a rise in the number of terroir driven estate-bottled wines made from single vineyards or in one of the Grand cru communes.

The Gamay grape

When Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of Gamay in Burgundy, it pushed the grape south to the Beaujolais region.The Gamay grape is thought to be a mutant of the Pinot Noir, which first appeared in the village of Gamay, south of Beaune, in the 1360s. The grape brought relief to the village growers following the decline of the Black Death. In contrast to the Pinot Noir variety, Gamay ripened two weeks earlier and was less difficult to cultivate. It also produced a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance. In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of Gamay as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”-due in part to the variety occupying land that could be used for the more “elegant” Pinot Noir. 60 years later, Philippe the Good, issued another edict against Gamay in which he stated the reasoning for the ban is that “The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation”. The edicts had the affect of pushing Gamay plantings southward, out of the main region of Burgundy and into the granite based soils of Beaujolais where the grape thrived.

Climate and geography

Beaujolais is a large wine producing region, about twice the size of the US state of Rhode Island and larger than any single district of Burgundy. There is over 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares) of vines planted in a 34 mile (55 kilometer) stretch of land that between 7 to 9 miles wide (11 to 14 km). The historical capital of the province is Beaujeu (Bôjor /Biôjœr in Arpitan) and the economic capital of the area is Villefranche-sur-Saône (Velafranche). Many of Beaujolais vineyards are found in the hillside on the outskirt of Lyons in the eastern portion of the region along the Saône valley. The Massif Central is located to the west and has a tempering influence on Beaujolais’ climate. The region is located south of the Burgundy wine region Mâconnais with nearly 100 communes in the northern region of Beaujolais overlapping between the AOC boundaries Beaujolais and the Maconnais region of Saint-Véran.

The climate of Beaujolais is semi-continental with some temperate influences. The close proximately of the Mediterranean Sea does impart some Mediterranean influence on the climate. The region is overall, warmer than Burgundy with vintages more consistently ripening the grapes fully. By the time that the Beaujolais Nouveau is released in late November, the foothills in the western regions will have normally seen snow. A common viticultural hazard is spring time frost.

The soils of Beaujolais divide the region into a northern and southern half, with the town of Villefranche serving as a near dividing point. The northern half of Beaujolais, where most of the Grand cru communes are located, includes rolling hills of schist and granite based soils with some limestone. On hillsides, most of the granite and schist is found in the upper slopes with the lower slopes having more stone and clay composition. The southern half of the region, also known as the Bas Beaujolais, has more flatter terrain with richer, sandstone and clay based soils with some limestone patches. The Gamay grape fares differently in both regions-producing more structured, complex wines in the north and more lighter, fruity wines in the south. The angle of the hillside vineyards in the north exposes the grapes to more sunshine which leads to harvest at an early time than the vineyards in the south.

Appellations

Beaujolais Wine Glass | Red WinesThere are twelve main appellations of Beaujolais wines covering the production of more than 96 villages in the Beaujolais region. They were originally established in 1936, with additional crus being promoted in 1938 and 1946, plus Régnié in 1988. About half of all Beaujolais wine is sold under the basic Beaujolais AOC designation. The majority of this wine is produced in the southern Bas Beaujolais region located around the town of Belleville. The minimum alcohol level for these wines is 10%. If the grapes are harvested a little later, or the wine is subjected to chaptalization, to get the alcohol up to 10.5% the wine maybe labeled as Beaujolais Supérieur. The only difference between basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Supérieur is this slight increase in alcohol.

Beaujolais AOC is the most extended appellation covering 60 villages, and refers to all basic Beaujolais wines. It implies a minimum alcohol of just 9%; Beaujolais Supérieur implies wine with more than 10% alcohol. A large portion of the wine produced under this appellation is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. The maximum yield for this AOC is 55 hl/ha (3.1 tons/acre). Annually, this appellation averages around 75 millions bottles a year in production.

Beaujolais-Villages AOC covers 39 communes/villages in the Haut Beaujolais, the northern part of the region accounting for a quarter of production. Some is sold as Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, but it is not common. Most of the wines are released in the following March after the harvest. The terrain of this region is hillier with more schist and granite soil composition than what is found in the regions of the Beaujolais AOC and the wine has the potential to be of higher quality. If the grapes come from the area of a single vineyard or commune, producers can affix the name of their particular village to the Beaujolais-Villages designation. Since most of the villages of Beaujolais, outside of the Grand cru, villages have little international name recognitions most producers choose to maintain the Beaujolais-Villages designation. The maximum permitted yields for this AOC is 50 hl/ha. These wines are meant to be consumed young, within two years of their harvest. Several of the communes in the Beaujolais-Villages AOC also qualify to produce their wines under the Mâconnais and Saint-Véran AOCs. The Beaujolais producers that producer a red wine under the Beaujolais-Villages appellation will often producer their white wine under the more internationally recognized names of Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.

Cru Beaujolais region of RégniéCru Beaujolais account for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Unlike Burgundy and Alsace, the phrase cru in Beaujolais refers to entire wine producing area rather than an individual vineyard. Seven of the Crus relate to actual villages while Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly refer to the vineyards areas around Mont Brouilly and Moulin-à-Vent is named for a local windmill. These wines do not usually show the word “Beaujolais” on the label, in an attempt to separate themselves from mass-produced Nouveau; in fact vineyards in the cru villages are not allowed to produce Nouveau. The maximum yields for Grand Cru wine is 48 hl/ha. Their wines can be more full-bodied, darker in color, and significantly longer-lived. From north to south the Beaujolais crus are- Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.

Beaujolais Blanc & Beaujolais Rosé - A small amount of white wine made from Chardonnay or Aligote is grown in the region and used to produce Beaujolais Blanc or Beaujolais-Villages Blanc. The vineyards to produces these wines are normally found in the limestone soils of the far northern extremities of the region. Part of the reason for the small production of these wines is that many of the vineyards overlap into the Mâconnais regions and producers will usually choose to label their wines under the more marketable and well known Mâcon Blanc designation. There is also regulations in several Beaujolais communes restricting growers to dedicating no more than 10% of their vineyard space to white wine grape varieties. Beaujolais Rosé made from Gamay is permitted in the Beaujolais AOC but is rarely produced.

Beaujolais Crus

Bottle of Côte de Brouilly wine.The following three crus produce the lightest bodied Cru Beaujolais and are typically meant to be consumed within three years of the vintage.

Brouilly-The largest Cru in Beaujolais, situated around Mont Brouilly and contains within its boundaries the sub-district of Côte de Brouilly. The wines are noted for their aromas of blueberries, cherries, raspberries and currants. Along with Côte de Brouilly, this is the only Cru Beaujolais region that permits grapes other than Gamay to be produced in the area with vineyards growing Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne as well. The Brouilly cru also contains the famous Pisse Vieille vineyard (roughly translated as “piss old woman!”) which received it name from a local legend of a devout Catholic woman who misheard the local priest’s absolution to “Allez! Et ne péchex plus.” (Go! And sin no more.) as “Allez! Et ne piché plus.” (Go! And piss no more). The vineyard name is the admonishment that her husband gave to her upon learning of the priest’s words.

Régnié-The most recently recognized Cru, graduating from a Beaujolais-Villages area to Cru Beaujolais in 1988. One of the more fuller bodied crus in this categories. It is noted for its red currant and raspberry flavors. Local lore in the region states that this Cru was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans.

Chiroubles-This cru has vineyards at some of the highest altitudes among the Cru Beaujolais. Chiroubles cru are noted for their delicate perfume that often includes aromas of violets.

The next three crus produce more medium bodied Cru Beaujolais that Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan recommend needs at least a year aging in the bottle and to be consumed within fours years of the vintage.

Côte de Brouilly-Located on the higher slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly within the Brouilly Cru Beaujolais. The wines from this region are more deeply concentrated with less earthiness than Brouilly wine.

Fleurie-One of the most widely exported Cru Beaujolais into the United States. These wines often have a velvet texture with fruity and floral bouquet. In ideal vintages, a vin de garde (wine for aging) is produced that is meat to age at least four years before consuming and can last up to 16 years.

Saint-Amour-Local lore suggest that this region was named after a Roman soldier (St. Amateur) who converted to Christianity after escaping death and established a mission near the area. The wines from Saint-Amour are noted for their spicy flavors with aromas of peaches. The vin de garde wines require at least four year aging and can last up to twelve years.
The last four crus produce the fullest bodied examples of Cru Beaujolais that need the most time aging in the bottle and are usually meant to be consumed between four to ten years after harvest.

Chénas-Once contained many of the vineyards that are now sold under the Moulin-à-Vent designation. It is now the smallest Cru Beaujolais with wines that are noted for their aroma of wild roses. In ideal vintages, a vin de garde is produced that is meant to age at least five years before consuming and last up to 15. The area named is derived from the forest of French oak trees (chêne) that use to dot the hillside.

Juliénas-This cru is based around the village named after Julius Caesar. The wines made from this area are noted for their richness and spicy with aromas reminiscent of peonies. In contrast to the claims of Régnié, Juliénas growers believe that this area was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during this conquest of Gaul.

Morgon-Produces earthy wines that can take on a Burgundian character of silky texture after five years aging. These wines are generally the deepest color and most rich Cru Beaujolais with aromas of apricots and peaches. Within this Cru there is a particular hillside, known as Mont du Py, in the center of Morgon that produces the most powerful examples of Morgon wines.

Moulin-à-Vent-Wines are very similar to the nearby Chénas Cru Beaujolais. This region produces some of the longest lasting examples of Beaujolais wine, with some wines lasting up to ten years. Some producers will age their Moulin-à-Vent in oak which gives these wines more tannin and structure than other Beaujolais wines. The phrase fûts de chêne (oak casks) will sometimes appear on the wine label of these oak aged wines. The region is noted for the high level of manganese that is in the soil, which can be toxic to grape vines in high levels. The level of toxicity in Moulin-à-Vent does not kill the vine but is enough to cause chlorosis and alter the vine’s metabolism to severely reduce yields. The resulting wine from Moulin-à-Vent are the most full bodied and powerful examples in Beaujolais. The vin de garde styles require at least 6 years aging and can last up to 20 years.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Spa, Tokyo - Fox NewsBeaujolais Nouveau is often packaged in colorful bottles that play into the festival marketing of the wine.The early history of Beaujolais Nouveau can trace its roots to 19th century when the first wines of the vintage were sent down the Saône to the early bistros of Lyon. Upon their arrival signs would be put out proclaiming “Le Beaujolais Est Arrivé!” and its consumption was seen as a celebration of another successful harvest. In the 1960s, this style of simple Beaujolais became increasingly popular worldwide with more than half a million cases of being sold. In 1985 the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) established the 3rd Thursday of November to allow for a uniform released date for the wine. Wines are typically a shipped a few days earlier to locations around the world where they must be held in a bonded warehouse till 12:01 AM when they wines can be first opened and consumed.

Today, about a third of the region’s production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, a marketing name created by George Duboeuf for the local vin de l’année. It is the lightest, fruitiest style of Beaujolais and meant for simple quaffing. Any Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages AOC vineyard can produce Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes are harvested between late August and early September. It is fermented for just a few days and released to the public on the 3rd Thursday of November - “Beaujolais Nouveau Day”. It is the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. At its peak in 1992, more than half the wine of all Beaujolais wine was sold as “Beaujolais Nouveau”. The wines are meant to be drunk as young as possible, when they are at their freshest and fruitiest. They can last up to one or two years but will have lost its most of it characteristic flavors by that point.
Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Spa, Tokyo - Fox News
Viticulture and grape varieties

Beaujolais Wine RegionThe Beaujolais region has one of the highest vine density ratio of any major, worldwide wine region with anywhere from 9000 to 13,000 vines per hectare. Most vines are trained in the traditional goblet style where the spurs of the vines are pushed upwards and arranged in a circle, resembling a chalice. This method has its roots in the Roman style of vine training and has only recently begun to fall out of favor for the guyot method which involves taking a single or double spur and training it out horizontally. Harvest usual occurs in late September and is almost universally done by hand rather than with the use of mechanical harvesters. This is because the Beaujolais wine making style of carbonic maceration utilizes whole bunches of grapes clusters that normally get broken and separated by a mechanical harvester.

The Gamay grape, more accurately known as Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc to distinguish it from the Gamay teinturier grapes with red juice and different from the Napa Gamay and the Gamay Beaujolais grapes of California, is the most widely planted grape in Beaujolais accounting for nearly 98% of all plantings. The remaining plantings are mostly Chardonnay. Aligote vines that were planted prior to 2004 are permitted in wine production but the entire grape variety is being phased out of the region by 2024. According to AOC regulation, up to 15% of white wine grape varieties can be included in all Beaujolais red wines from the basic Beaujolais AOC to the Grand cru wines but in practice the wines are almost always 100% Gamay. Pinot noir, which has very small plantings, is also permitted but that grape is being phased out by 2015 as Beaujolais winemakers continued to focus their winemaking identity on the Gamay grape. The characteristics that the Gamay grapes adds to Beaujolais is bluish-red deep color with low acidity, moderate tannins and light to medium body. The aromas associated with the grape itself is typically red berries.

Since the 1960s, more focus has been placed on the choice of rootstocks and clonal selection with six approved clones of Gamay for the wine region. In recent years the rootstock Vialla has gained popularity due to its propensity to produce well in granite soils. The SO4 and 3309 rootstocks also account for significant plantings. Clonal selections of the Gamay grape has shifted towards an emphasis on smaller, thicker skinned berries.

Winemaking and style

Beaujolais wines are produced by the winemaking technique of semi-carbonic maceration. Whole grape clusters are put in cement or stainless steel tanks with capacities between 40-300 hectoliters (1,056 to 7,920 gallons). The bottom third of the grapes gets crushed under the weight of gravity and resulting must begins normal yeast fermentation with ambient yeasts found naturally on the skins of the grapes. Carbon dioxide is released as a by product of this fermentation and begins the saturate the individual, intact grape berries that remain in the barrel. The carbon dioxide seeps into the skin of the grape and begin to stimulate fermentation at an intracellular level. This is caused, in part, because of the absence of oxygen in the winemaking environment. This results in a fruity wine without much tannin. In the case of Beaujolais nouveau, this process is completed in as little as four days with the other AOCs being allowed longer time to ferment. As the grapes ferment longer, they develop more tannins and a fuller body.

After fermentation, the must is normally high in malic acid and producers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation to soften the wine. The process of chaptalization, adding sugar to the grape must to boost alcohol levels, has been a controversial issue for Beaujolais winemakers. Historically, Beaujolais producers would pick grapes at ripeness that were at minimum potential alcohol levels of 10-10.5% and then add sugar in order to artificially boost the alcohol levels to the near the maximum of 13-13.5%. This created wines that lack structure and balance to go with the high alcohol body and mouthfeel. The recent trend towards higher quality wine production has limited the use of chaptalization in the premium levels of Beaujolais wine. Filtering the wine, in order to stabilize it, is practiced to varying degrees by Beaujolais winemakers. Some producers who make Beaujolais on a large commercial scale will filter the wine aggressively, to avoid any impurity or future chemical reactions. This can have the negative side effect of diminishing some of the wines unique fruit character and leave a flavor that critics have described as Jell-O-like.

Basic Beaujolais is the classic “bistro” wine of Paris, fruity easy-drinking red traditionally served in 1 pint glass bottles known as pot. This is epitomized in Beaujolais Nouveau, which is fermented for just a few days and can be dominated by estery flavors such as bananas and pear drops. Basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais nouveau are meant to be drunk within a year of their harvest. Beaujolais village are generally consumed within 2-3 years and Grand cru Beaujolais has the potential to age longer, some not even fully developing till at least 3 years after harvest. Premium examples from Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent can spend up to 10 years continuing to develop in the bottle and in very good vintages can take on Burgundian qualities of structure and complexity.

Wine industry

The Beaujolais wine industry is dominated by the more than 30 négociants who produce nearly 90% of the wine sold outside the Beaujolais region. Many of these négociants are based in Burgundy-such as Louis Jadot and Bouchard Père et Fils. One of the most well known Beaujolais producers is the négociants Georges Duboeuf. There are more than 4000 vineyard owners in Beaujolais and the fractional amount that is not sold to négociants are bottled by the nearly 20 village co-operatives with a growing amount being estated bottled. Very little of the estate bottled Beaujolais wines are exported into the United States or United Kingdom though a few exporters specialize in this small niche-the most notable being Kermit Lynch and Alain Jugenet.

Serving and with food

Light bodied Beaujolais wine, such as Beaujolais Village pair well with lighter fare like salads.Wine expert Karen MacNeil has described Beaujolais as “the only white wine that happens to be red. Similarly, Beaujolais is often treated like a white wine and served slightly chilled with the lighter the style, the lower temperature it is served at. Beaujolais Nouveau, being the lightest style, is served at about 52°F (11°C. Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais-Villages are generally served between 56-57°F (13°C). Cru Beaujolais, especially the fuller bodied examples, can be treated like red Burgundy wine and served at 60-62°F (15-16°C). The wines rarely need to be decanted. In Beaujolais, it is traditional to soak the bottles in buckets of ice water and bring them out to the center villages for picnics and games of boules.

Beaujolais wine can be paired with a variety of food according to the lightness and body of the wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is typically used as an apéritif with basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages doing well with light fare, like picnics and salads. The lighter Cru Beaujolais pair well with poultry and the heavier Crus pairing better with red meats and hearty dishes like stews.According to Lyon chef Paul Bocuse, Beaujolais wine is used to make a traditional regional dessert involving a glass of sliced peaches, topped with black currants and drenched in chilled Beaujolais wine.

Scandals

Following the 2001 vintage, over 1.1 million cases of Beaujolais wine (most of it Beaujolais Nouveau) had to be destroyed or distilled due to lackluster sale as part of a consumer blacklash against the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau. French wine critic François Mauss claimed, in an interview giving to a local newspaper Lyon Mag, that the reason for the blacklash was the poor quality of Beaujolais Nouveau that had flooded the market in recent decades. He claimed that Beaujolais producers had long ignored the warning signs that such a backlash was coming and continued to produce what Mauss termed as vin de merde (shit wine). This triggered an outcry among Beaujolais producers followed by an association of 56 cooperative producers filing a lawsuit against the Lyon Mag for publishing Mauss comments. Rather than sue for libel, the producers sued under an obscured French law that prevented the denigration of French products. A court in Villefranche-sur-Saône found in the Beaujolais producers favor and awarded USD$350,000 which would put the small, employee owned publication out of business. The bad publicity garnered from the “Shit wine case” and its fall out prompted the producers to settled for reduce damages and legal expenses of $2,800.
Beaujolais Day - NY Times
The Vins Georges Duboeuf company was charged in 2005 with mixing low-grade wine with better vintages after a patchy 2004 harvest. Georges Duboeuf denied wrongdoing, blaming human error and pointing out that none of the affected wine was released to consumers. The production manager directly responsible admitted his actions and resigned, and a court found that both “fraud and attempted fraud concerning the origin and quality of wines” had been committed. Fewer than 200,000 liters of the company’s annual 270 million liter production were implicated, but L’Affaire Duboeuf, as it was called, was considered a serious scandal. In December 2007, five people were arrested after reportedly selling nearly 600 tonnes of sugar to growers in Beaujolais. Up to 100 growers were accused of using the sugar for illegal chaptalization and also of exceeding volume quotas between 2004 and 2006.

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

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