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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

The regions of wine production in the Island of CorsigaLes Vins D’appelation D’origine Controlee – (A.O.C.)

The Soils of Production
Ajaccio, Calvi, Cap Corse, Muscat du Cap Corse, Figari, Patrimonio, Porto Vecchio, Sartene.
Aromas in harmony and voyage into the heart of the island.

AOC of Ajaccio

The slopes of Ajaccio cover a wide area stretching from the Balagne to Sartène. This region is
home to an important number of winemakers who vinify their own grapes in their own cellars.
Here are to be found some of the most long-established and highly reputed domains in
Corsica, as well as small vineyards which are a real archive of wine-making history. The
Sciaccarellu grape is the pride of the Ajaccio vineyards, as it lends its character - a colour
clear but full and bright as a flame, and an exceptional distinction - to reds and rosés alike.
Surface: 242 ha, Production of Red: 5.087 hl, of Rosé: 2.556 hl, of White: 4.852 hl,
Return: 42,07 hl/ha

AOC of Corse Calvi

The Balagne is a region which is one of the gentlest of the island, with its well-ordered fields
and its superb villages perched between sea and mountain peaks. The wines of the Balagne
were known to Seneca, and today their full-bodied, aromatic reds, their fresh, sunny rosés
and their subtlest of whites, enjoy great success.
Surface: 276 ha, Production of Red: 4.157hl, of Rosé: 3.373 hl, of White: 971 hl
Return: 30,18 hl/ha

AOC of Corse Coteaux du Cap

In this region everything, from the potent soil to the hardy and industrious people, recalls the
fact that this land boasts a prosperous past in which the vine played a prime role. Today the
vineyards are limited to small areas. They produce red wines which age well, and, especially,
white wines of rare elegance and pronounced floral bouquet which have long been keenly
sought after.
Surface: 34,49 ha, Production of Red: 146 hl, of Rosé: 316 hl, of White: 507 hl,
Return: 32,81 hl/ha

AOC of Corse Figari

The most southerly vineyards of France, and also the oldest, as the first vines appeared here in
the 6th century BC. On a particularly arid, ancient granite plateau, buffeted by the winds,
grow traditional Corsican grape varieties, such as Carcajolu Neru. These varieties produce
distinctive, well-structured red, rosé and white wines of great subtlety.
Surface: 130 ha, Production of Red: 2.833 hl, of Rosé: 1.495 hl, of White: 605 hl,
Return: 36,55 hl/ha
2007 11

AOC of Muscat du Cap Corse

This wine is subtle and full of sunshine, a worthy rival to the greatest of muscats. However the
degree of pleasure found in this wine is an indication of the effort which goes into producing
it. As the old Tuscan saying goes: ‘A glass of Corsican wine, and I could climb Stromboli’. The
Muscat of Cap Corse is a very special wine. Yields are so low that that each grape fills to the
brim with sunshine. Only a handful of producers pursue, indefatigably, the secret process of
making this unique wine. Track down this wine, and merit it, as it will lead you into the
pantheon of great wines.
Surface: 98 ha, Production: 2.813 hl, Return: 28,7 hl/ha

AOC of Patrimonio

This small, fertile and vibrant region, well sheltered from the wind, and exceptionally well
exposed to the west, produces the best known of all the wines of Corsica, under the oldestestablished
Appellation. The vineyards are divided into small properties, whose owners have
the know-how to create wines of nobility. In Patrimonio the Niellucciu grape is king, producing
warm and powerful reds, and sunny, fruity rosés. The Vermentinu grape also has its role here,
in dry white wines with a lovely bouquet and a remarkable aromatic richness.
Surface: 409 ha, Production of Red: 8.407 hl, of Rosé: 5.695 hl, of White: 2.576 hl
Return: 39 hl/ha

AOC of Corse Porto Vecchio

Founded as Porto Syracusanus in 383 BC, present-day Porto Vecchio boasts medieval walls of
rose-coloured porphyry, and a magnificent natural harbour. The town is in the heart of a
vibrant region, within which one finds little creeks along the coast, groves of umbrella pines,
forests of cork oaks and, above all, some splendid vineyards perched on impressive hillsides.
Here the dominant grapes are Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, an alliance which produces,
along with Grenache grapes, elegant, round reds, and subtle, aromatic rosés. As to the
whites, made from Vermentinu grapes, they are dry and fruity, and make a marvellous
accompaniment to fish and seafood.
Surface: 89,74 ha, Production of Red: 1.403 hl, of Rosé: 1.370 hl, of White: 655 hl,
Return: 38,27 hl/ha

AOC of Corse Sartène

The proud capital of the southwest is an austere and magnificent town which keeps watch,
from its rocky perch, over vineyards where grow the oldest local grape varieties. Sciaccarellu,
Nielluciu, Barbarossa and Vermentinu grapes are all found here, and produce well-rounded,
remarkably velvety wines with lots of personality. The reds are well structured, the rosés have
body, and the whites are full and aromatic. The ancestors of these wines found favour at the
table of Roman emperors.
Surface: 163 ha, Production of Red: 3.665 hl, of Rosé: 1.936 hl, of White: 904 hl,
Return: 43 hl/ha.
2007 12

AOC of Corsica

The cradle of traditional Corsican vine-cultivation is to be found on the slopes of the east
coast and in the valley of the Golo. Tucked under rocky ridges which reach to 1200 metres,
the vineyards are found on the lowest slopes. Here is to be found a range of fertile soils rare in
Corsica, from which are produced wines of very high quality. The Niellucciu grape gives
supple, well-balanced reds, and rosés of spirit and pedigree which often have a clear colour.
As to the whites, which are based on the Vermentinu grape, they are fruity and have a
palate of great finesse.
Surface: 1.456 ha, Production of Red: 22.284 hl, of Rosé: 36.747 hl, of White: 4.852 hl,
Return: 42,07 hl/ha
These predicted numbers from the 2006 Campaign present an approved volume of A.O.C of
about 110 000 hectolitres (all colours mixed).

Source:http://www.vinsdecorse.com/pdf/dossier_presse_CIV_Corse_en.pdf

Carménère | Red Wines

February 27th, 2008


Carménère | Red WinesThe Carménère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot.

A member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name “Carménère” originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) after the hue of the grape in fall. The grape is also known as Grande Vidure, a historic Bordeaux synonym, although current European Union regulations prohibit Chilean imports under this name into the European Union. Along with Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit verdot, Carménère is considered part of the original six noble grapes of Bordeaux, France.

Now rarely found in France, the world’s largest area planted with this variety is in Chile in South America, with more than 4,000 Hectares (2006) cultivated in the Central Valley. As such, Chile produces the vast majority of Carménère wines available today and as the Chilean wine industry grows, more experimentation is being carried out on Carménère’s potential as a blending grape, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Carménère is also grown in Italy’s Eastern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions and in smaller quantities in the California and Walla Walla regions of the United States.

Species: Vitis Vinifera
Also called: Médoc: Grande Vidure, carméneyre, carmenelle, cabernelle, bouton blanc;
Graves: carbouet; carbonet
Origin: Bordeaux (France)
Notable regions: Chile, Italy, Washington, California

Characteristics

A glass of Carménère wine.Carménère wine has a deep red color and aromas found in red fruits, spices and berries. The tannins are gentler and softer than those in Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a medium body wine. Although mostly used as a blending grape, wineries do bottle a pure varietal Carménère which, when produced from grapes at optimal ripeness, imparts a cherry-like, fruity flavor with smokey, spicy and earthy notes and a deep crimson color. Its taste might also be reminiscent of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. The wine is best drunk young.

History

Origin

One of the most ancient European varieties, Carménère is thought to be the antecedent of other better-known varietals; some consider the grape to be “a long-established clone of Cabernet Sauvignon.” It is possible that the variety name is an alias for what is actually the Vidure, a local Bordeaux name for a Cabernet Sauvignon clone once thought to be the grape from which all red Bordeaux varieties originated.

There have also been suggestions that Carménère may be Biturica, a vine praised in ancient Rome and also the name by which the city of Bordeaux was known during that era. This ancient variety originated in Iberia (modern-day Spain and Portugal), according to Pliny the Elder; indeed, it is currently a popular blending variety with Sangiovese in Tuscany called “Predicato di Biturica”.

The Carménère grape has known origins in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France and was also widely planted in the Graves until the vines were struck with oidium. It is almost impossible to find Carménère wines in France today, as a Phylloxera plague in 1867 nearly destroyed all the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular such that for many years the grape was presumed extinct. When the vineyards were replanted, growers could not replant Carménère as it was extremely hard to find and more difficult to grow than other grape varieties common to Bordeaux. The region’s damp, chilly spring weather gave rise to coulure, “a condition endemic to certain vines in climates which have marginal, sometimes cool, wet springs”, which prevented the vine’s buds from flowering. Yields were lower than other varieties and the crops were rarely healthy; consequently wine growers chose more versatile and less coulure-susceptible grapes when re-planting the vines and Carménère planting was progressively abandoned.

Re-discovering the Carménère grape

Chile

Far from being extinct, in recent years the Carménère grape has been discovered to be thriving in several areas outside of France. In Chile, growers almost inadvertently preserved the grape variety during the last 150 years, due largely to its similarity to Merlot.

Los Lingues Vineyard Carmenere Vines Colchagua Valley Chile | Red Wines

Cuttings of Carménère were imported by Chilean growers from Bordeaux during the 19th century, where they were frequently confused with Merlot vines. They modeled their wineries after those in France and in the 1850s cuttings from Bordeaux, which included Carménère grape, were planted in the valleys around Santiago. Thanks to Chile’s minimal rainfall during the growing season and the protection of the country’s natural boundaries, growers produced healthier crops of Carménère and there was no spread of phylloxera. During most of the 20th century Carménère was inadvertently collected and processed together with Merlot grapes (probably reaching up to 50% of the total volume) giving Chilean Merlot markedly different properties to that of Merlot produced elsewhere. Chilean growers believed that this grape was a clone of Merlot and was known as Merlot selection or Merlot Pneumal (after the Pneumo Valley in Chile). In 1994, Professor Jean-Michel Boursiquot from the Montpellier’s school of Oenology confirmed that an earlier-ripening vine was Bordeaux Carménère, not Merlot. The Chilean Department of Agriculture officially recognized Carmenere as a distinct variety in 1998. Today, Carménère grows chiefly in the Rapel Valley and Maipo Province.

Italy

A similar situation occurred in Italy when, in 1990, the Ca’ del Bosco Winery acquired what they thought was Cabernet Franc vines from a French nursery. The growers noticed that the grapes were different from the traditional Cabernet Franc both in color and taste. They also noticed that the vines ripened earlier than Cabernet Franc would have. Other Italian wine regions also started to doubt the origin of these vines and it was finally established to be Carménère. Although, in Italy, the varietal is grown mainly in the northeast part of the country from Brescia to Friuli, it has only recently been entered into Italy’s national catalog of vine varietals and thus “no district has yet requested the authorization to use it”. Therefore, the wine “cannot be cultivated with its original name or specific vintage and the name cannot be used to identify the wine on the label with an IGT, DOC or a DOCG status assignment.” Ca’ del Bosco Winery names the wine it produces Carmenero.

Carménère in other wine regions

In modern-day France only a few hundred acres of Carménère officially exist, although there are rumors of renewed interest among growers in Bordeaux.

Carménère has also been established in Eastern Washington’s Walla Walla Valley and in California, United States. In the 1980s, Karen Mulander-Magoon, the co-proprietor of Guenoc and Langtry Estates Winery, in California’s Lake County, brought the grape to the vineyard. This was a joint effort with Louis Pierre Pradier, “a French research scientist and viticulturalist whose work involved preserving Carménère from extinction in France.” Once the vines were quarantined and checked for diseases they were legalized for admission into California in the 1990s, where they were cloned and planted.

In Australia, three cuttings of Carménère were imported from Chile by renowned viticultural expert Dr Richard Smart in the late 1990s. After two years in quarantine, only one cutting survived the heat treatment to eliminate viruses and was micro-propagated (segments of individual buds grown on nutrient gel) and field grown by Narromine Vine Nursery. The first vines from the nursery were planted in 2002 by Amietta Vineyard and Winery in the Moorabool Valley (Geelong, Victoria) who use Carménère in their Angels’ Share blend.

Carmenère has also been established in small amounts in New Zealand. DNA testing confirmed in 2006 that plantings of Cabernet Franc in the Matakana region were in fact Carménère.

Viticulture

Carménère favors a long growing season in moderate to warm climates. During harvest time and the winter period the vine fares poorly if it is introduced to high levels of rain or irrigation water. This is particularly true in poor-soil plantings where the vine would need more water. Over-watering during this period accentuates the herbaceous and green pepper characteristics of the grape. The grape naturally develops high levels of sugar before the tannins achieve ripeness. If grown in too hot a climate the resulting wine will have a high alcohol level and low balance. Carménère buds and flowers three to seven days later than Merlot and the yield is lower than that of the latter grape. The carménère leaves turn to crimson befoe dropping.

There are several wineries that produce Carménère. These are produced as a single varietal or a blend, usually with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot. Concha y Toro, a Chilean winery, has 100 hectares planted from a Carménère clone and produces a varietal that is aged in both French and American white oak barrels for at least 3 – 4 years before release.

Distinguishing Carménère and Merlot

Casillero Del Diablo | Red WinesGenetic research has shown that Carménère may be distantly related to Merlot and the similarities in appearance have linked the two vines for centuries. Despite the similarities, there are some noticeable differences that aid the ampelographer in identifying the two vines. When young, Carménère leaves have a reddish hue underneath, while the leaves of Merlot are white. There are also slight differences in leaf shape with the central lobe of Merlot leaves being longer. Merlot ripens two to three weeks earlier than Carménère. In cases where the vineyards are interspersed with both varieties, the time of harvest is paramount in determining the character of the resulting blends. If Merlot grapes are picked when Carménère is fully ripe, they will be overripe and impart a “jammy” character. If the grapes are picked earlier when only the Merlot grapes have reached ripeness, the Carménère will have an aggressive green pepper flavor.

Thus, although different, Merlot and Carménère were often confused but never thought to be identical. Its distinctive differences meant the grape was called a “Merlot selection” or “Merlot Peumal,” which was “a geographic reference to a valley south of Santiago where lots of Carménère was grown” before its true identity was established.

Fonte: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmenere

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