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Posts tagged ‘Red Grapes’

By Giuliano Bortolleto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norton - Malbec Lujan de Cuyo DOC 2007

Price: about US$ 10,50

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

Catena Wines - Alamos Malbec 2007

Price: about US$ 8,30

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

Terrazas de los Andes - Linea Verietal Malbec 2007

Price: about US$ 8,30

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

By Giuliano Bortolleto

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

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

Seghesio - Alexander Valley Home Ranch Zinfandel 2007, Red Wines

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

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

By Giuliano Bortolleto

Zinfandel grape | Red Wines

The Zinfandel is presently the Californian wines face around the world. When you think about California, you will certainly remember the name of the red grape Zinfandel. This grape was discovered in Californian soil by the mid-nineteen century, and from that time it is beign planted in that. The origin of the name “Zinfandel” is uncertain. What is quite right is that the Zinfandel grape is genetically equivalent to the italian red variety named Primitivo, and also to a Croatian grape, named Crljenak Kaštelanski.

However, it does not mean that they are just the same grape with different names depending on the country. There are some clonal differences between Zinfandel from California and Primitivo from Italy, and, according to studies, the Zinfandel has not originated on italian soil. It is more likely that the grape came from europe and has its origins linked to croatian varieties.

Zinfandel is now responsable for 10 percent of the planted areas in California, and is the third leading winegrape variety in California, with nearly 52,000 acres planted, according to the 2007 California Grape Acreage Report.

But talking about the taste and flavours of a Zinfandel wine, it will depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is planted. The wines from cooler areas bring some aromas of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. The ones from waremer regions tastes blackberry, anise and pepper notes.

On my next post I will talk about a the tasting notes of some very special Zinfandel wines from California.

By Giuliano Bortolleto, january 26th of 2009

You have already noticed that I have talked about the Malbec from Argentina a couple of times this month. I am writing an academic work about this matter and I thought that woulb be interesting to share this knowledge with you. Here I am going to show some very nice Malbecs that I have already tasted.

The argentinean Malbec use to be a very good option in terms of price and quality. That’s because the Argentina have recieved a lot of european investments. Many wine producers from the old world had their attention called to new opportunities of cultivating the vines in other parts of the globe. Many researches were made in order to detect the best terroirs in very different contries. Undoubtedly, Argentina is one of the contries that have received a really great number of external investments in its viniculture, at the 70s, and mostly at the 80s and 90s.

The foreign wine producers helped a lot the argentinean vitiviniculre. They have brought aknowledge, new technics, enologists internationally known who came to work there, and more important, by the begining of the 90s, as the aregntinean economy was passing throught a very good moment, they have also brought high technology in temrs of vitiviniculture, which have put Argentina in a very high degree among the wine producers countries.

Today, Argentina has several foreign producers, disseminating their old culture of producing wines in this new territory, with a fantastic capacity of produce great wines. Mendoza, specially, the principal wine producer region of the country, has the perfect terroir to take care of the Malbec grapes in the best possible way. A great themical amplitude during the day, which garanties a great amount of sugar to the fruit and helps the sap changes, a very dry climate, what is simply amazing to the healthiness of the grape, besides the great high where the fruit is cultivated.

The most wonderfull thing is that the european producers firs wanted just to elaborate wines with some cliché blends, like the Bordeaux’s ones, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot. Other tried to do some experiences with the spanish Tempranillo. In fact, the first internationally rewarded argentinean wines were made from this well-known grapes. However, after the Malbec clonal selection conduced by the INTA (National Institute of Agronomic Technology), many producers stared to believe in the quality of the grape from Cahors. In the latest years, the Malbec potential has sturdily increased, adn the highest level of excelence that this grape can reach is still unknown.

Malbec Grape
By Giuliano Bortolleto, january 22nd of 2009

The viticulture was brought to the argentinean soil, as weel as many other countries colonized by the Spain, by the oficials of the Catholic Church in order to use the wine on the Christian celebrations. The priest Juan Cidrón came from Santiago Del Estero, Chile, was the one who has planted the first grapevine by the year 1554. Since then, the viticulture in Argentina growed rapdly, due to the great number of european imigrants who arrived in the country, bringing whit them the culture of to produce and drink wines.

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2005

However, only in the nineteen century that the Malbec grape “officialy” came to Argentina, when the french agronomist Miguel Aimé Pouget came from Chile to work in the Mendoza province, bringing whith him some seeds of Malbec grape. “Officialy” because it is now known that, by the number of malbec vines that were found along the country in the twenty century, ti is not possible to admit that the first Malbec vine was bought by Pouget. Certainly there was a lot of Mabec vines in other areas of the country.

During the middle of the last century the wine internal consumption reached the impressive number of more than 90 liters of wine wine in a year per person. The Malbec was already known by the majority of the wine consumers in Argentina, in spite of the low quality of wines that were produced by the 60 and 70 decades. Only in the 80s, with the extinction of one third of the vineyards in Argentina, conduced by the INV (National Institute of Vitiviniculture) in order to finish with the poor quality vineyards the quality started to be aimed by a great amount of producers.

Than, in the 90s, the INTA (National Institute of Agrarian Technology) started a clonal selection of the Malbec grapes so that the best species of that grape would be cultivated in the argentinean soil. And the results of these initiatives were tremendously good. Many high-quality wine producers started to believe in the great potencial of Malbec to produce fine wines.

Nowadays the Malbec is so respected in Argentina that it have became the National grape of the country, being the grapes most planted in all the national soil, and its wines take the name of the south american country all over the globe. It’s is very rare now to find some wine reviewer that do not recognize the great quality of the Malbec wines made in Argentina.

Although Malbec is not an autochthon grape, it is rare to find in the New World of wine, in which you can find a so strong identification between the grape and the national culture. The Malbec has paired so perfectly with the argentinean typical food (red meat and barbecue), and is so nationaly appreciated that is dificult even to imagine that this grape came from another country apart from Argentina.

Mourvèdre | Red Wines

June 24th, 2008

Red Grape Mourvèdre
Mourvèdre, with its meaty richness and wonderful longevity, forms the backbone of our Esprit de Beaucastel. The seventeen acres of our vineyard devoted to Mourvèdre represent over a third of the acres currently planted in red Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties. The intense animal quality of Mourvèdre is often improved by the rich fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice, and power of Syrah.

Early History

Mourvèdre is native to Spain, where it is known as Monastrell and is second only to Grenache (Garnacha) in importance. From the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia, Mourvèdre was brought to Provence in the late Middle Ages where, prior to the phylloxera invasion at the end of the 19th century, it was the dominant varietal.

The phylloxera invasion was particularly devastating to Mourvèdre. Whereas most of the other Rhône varietals were easily matched with compatible rootstocks, Mourvèdre proved difficult to graft with the existing phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Thus, when the vineyards were replanted, most producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape chose to replant with varieties that were easier to graft, such as Grenache. For decades, Mourvèdre was found almost exclusively in the sandy (and phylloxera-free) soil of Bandol, on the French Mediterranean coast, where it is bottled both as a red wine (blended with Grenache and Cinsault) and as a dry rosé. Compatible rootstocks for Mourvèdre were developed only after World War II. Shortly thereafter, Jacques Perrin of Château de Beaucastel led regeneration efforts in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and made Mourvèdre a primary grape in the red Beaucastel wines. Since the late 1960s, total plantings in Southern France have increased dramatically.

Mourvèdre came to the New World as Mataro (a name taken from a town near Barcelona where the varietal was grown) in the mid to late 1800s. In Australia, it found a home in the Barossa Valley and in California it was first established in Contra Costa County. Until recently, the grape was rarely bottled by itself, and was instead generally used as a component of field blends. The increasing popularity and prestige of Rhône varietals and a return to the French Mourvèdre name has given the varietal a new life. Currently about 400 acres are planted in California.

Mourvèdre at Tablas Creek

Mourvèdre is a late-ripening varietal that flourishes with hot summer temperatures. As such, it is beautifully suited to our southern Rhône-like climate at Tablas Creek, where its lateness in ripening makes it less vulnerable to late spring frosts. In the vineyard, Mourvèdre is a moderately vigorous varietal that does not require a great deal of extra care. The vines tend to grow vertically, making Mourvèdre an ideal candidate for head-pruning (the method traditional to Châteauneuf-du-Pape), although vines can also be successfully trellised. When head-pruned, the weight of the ripening grapes pulls the vines down like the spokes of an umbrella, providing the ripening bunches with ideal sun exposure.

Our Mourvèdre vines (like all of the vines at Tablas Creek) are cuttings from Château de Beaucastel’s French vines. Although Mourvèdre was available in California when we began our project, we felt that the American source material was less intense in both color and flavor than the French clones. The berries from the Beaucastel clones are small and sweet, with thick skins and intense flavors.
Rótulo de vinho rosé de Mourvèdre

Flavors and Aromas

Wines made from Mourvèdre are intensely colored, rich and velvety with aromas of leather, game, and truffles. They tend to be high in alcohol and tannin when young, and are well-suited to aging. The animal, game-like flavors present in young Mourvèdres can be so strong that they are occasionally mistaken for the bacteria Brettanomyces. In a well-made Mourvèdre, these flavors should resolve into aromas of forest floor and leather with aging. Although it is occasionally bottled as a single varietal, the intense animal quality of Mourvèdre is often improved by the warmth and fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice and tannin of Syrah. Mourvèdre-based wines, like our Esprit de Beaucastel, pair well with grilled and roasted meats, root vegetables, mushrooms and dark fowl such as duck: flavors that harmonize with the earthiness of the wine.


Counoise | Red Wines

June 23rd, 2008

Red Grape CounoisePerhaps the question we hear most frequently at wine events and in our tasting room is “Counoise? What the heck is Counoise?” Even the Wall Street Journal joked about Counoise’s obscurity in a recent article about blends. Yet the grape is a key component of many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and comprises 10% of the Beaucastel Rouge. Its moderate alcohol and tannins, combined with good fruit and aromatics, balances the characteristic intense spice, strong tannins, and high alcohol of Syrah.

Early History

The precise origin of Counoise (pronounced “Coon-wahz”) is unknown. According to the great Provençal poet Frederic Mistral, it was introduced into Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Spain by a papal officer, who offered it to Pope Urban V when the papacy was based in Avignon in the mid-14th century. Counoise was planted in the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and was given a prominent place in the wines of the celebrated Château la Nerthe estate of Commandant Ducos in the late 19th century. Ducos was a student of the characteristics of various grape varietals, and played a key role in the development of the Châteauneuf-du- Pape region. When the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée laws regulating (among other things) the permitted grape varietals were passed in the 1930s, the varietals planted by Ducos (including Counoise) comprised 11 of the 13 allowed Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties. The varietal saw a similar rebirth at Château de Beaucastel when Jacques Perrin increased the planting of Counoise as a complement for Syrah.

Counoise at Tablas Creek

We brought Counoise cuttings from Château de Beaucastel in 1990 and they spent three years in USDA inspection. Once the vines cleared quarantine, we began the process of multiplying and grafting, and we currently have 5 acres planted. The grape is particularly suited to the geography of Tablas Creek, as it produces most reliably in stony hillside soils and reliable sun. It is easy to graft, is moderately vigorous, and ripens fairly late in the cycle. We knew that we wanted to list the individual varietals on the front label of our bottles beginning with the 1999 Reserve Cuvée. Before we could do that, though, we had to get past the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms — the federal agency which, until the reorganization mandated by the Homeland Security Act, oversaw label approval for wine. Since no one else in the States had used Counoise on their label, it fell to us to demonstrate it was a legitimate grape. The process, which included submitting a full dossier of materials (in French and English), took two years. Now Counoise is a fully registered (if not widely recognized!) grape varietal.

Flavors and Aromas

Counoise is a deep purple-red, and has a rich, spicy character, with flavors of anise, strawberries, and blueberries. In our Esprit de Beaucastel, Counoise comprises 5-10% of the blend, and helps open up the more closed varieties of Mourvèdre and Syrah. Its soft tannins and forward fruit rounds out the blend and provides an element of finesse to the final product. At slightly higher percentages (10-20%) in our Cotes de Tablas, its soft fruitiness and pronounced spice give the wine an earlier-drinking friendliness that compliments the fruit and acidity of Grenache and the structure of Syrah

Gamay | Red Wines

February 27th, 2008

Gamay Noir Grapes | Red WinesGamay is a purple-colored grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley around Tours. Its full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. It is a very old cultivar, mentioned already in the 1400s. It has been often cultivated because it makes for abundant production rather than due to the quality of the wine made from it, but makes wines of distinction when planted on acidic soils which help to soften the grape’s naturally high acidity.


The Gamay grape is thought to have appeared first in the village of the 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 the grape referring to it as the “disloyal Gaamez” that in spite of its ability to grow in abundance was full of “very great and horrible harshness”, due in part to the variety’s occupation of 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”.


Gamay Wine | Red WinesGamay is a very vigorous vine which tends not to root very deep on alkaline soils resulting in pronounced hydrological stress on the vines over the growing season with a correspondingly high level of acidity in the grapes. The resulting acidity requires carbonic maceration to soften the wine sufficiently for pleasant drinking.

Gamay-based wines are typically light bodied and fruity. Wines meant for immediate consumption are typically made using carbonic maceration which gives the wines tropical flavors and aromas - reminiscent of bananas. Wines meant to be drunk after some modest aging tend to have more body and are produced by whole-berry maceration. The latter are produced mostly in the designated Crus areas of northern Beaujolais where the wines typically have the flavor of sour cherries, black pepper, dried berry and raisined blackcurrant.

Regional production

In addition to being well suited to the terroir of Beaujolais, Gamay is also grown extensively in the Loire Valley around Tours where it is typically blended with Cabernet Franc and Côt a local clone of the Malbec. These wines are similar to those of Crus Beaujolais but with raspberry notes and the signature fresh-peppery nose of the Cabernet Franc.

Gamay is also the grape of the Beaujolais Nouveau, produced exclusively from the more alkaline soils of Southern Beaujolais where the grape is incapable of making drinkable wines without aggressive carbonic maceration. The acid levels of the grape grown in the limestone Pierres Doreés of the South are too high for making wines with any appeal beyond the early release Nouveaus.

Confusingly, the Gamay name has become attached to other varieties grown in California, which at one time were thought to be the true Gamay. The grape ‘Napa Gamay’ is now known to be Valdeguié, and the name Napa Gamay will no longer appear on labels after 2007. Gamay Beaujolais is considered to be an early ripening Californian clone of Pinot Noir. Despite similar names the grapes Gamay du Rhône and Gamay St-Laurent are not the Beaujolais grape either but rather the southwestern France grape Abouriou.

Gamay Noir is a permitted synonym for Gamay in the U.S.

Gamay is commonly grown in the Niagara Peninsula in Canada, some producers being in the Short Hills Bench, Beamsville Bench and St. David’s Bench to mention a few. One producer and even has a regional clone which they discovered, Gamay Droit, which is a recognized mutation. It is also grown successfully by a small number of wineries in Australia to make a range of wines including light bodied red wines suitable for early drinking.

Gamay has also been introduced recently into Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine region, known for it’s wines made from Pinot Noir another Burgundian grape. It was introduced by Amity Vineyards in 1988. Tasting notes published by the vineyards at Amity, WillaKenzie and Brickhouse describe wines that match the basic profiles of Crus Beaujolais.


Zinfandel | Red Wines

February 27th, 2008

Zinfandel Grapes | Red WinesZinfandel is a variety of red grape planted in over 10 percent of California wine vineyards. DNA fingerprinting revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski, and also the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in the ‘heel’ of Italy (Puglia).

It is typically made into a robust red wine, but in the USA a semi-sweet rosé (blush-style) wine called White Zinfandel has six times the sales of the red wine. Zinfandel has such high sugar levels that it was originally grown for table grapes in the USA, and this sugar can be fermented into high levels of alcohol, sometimes 15% or more.

The taste of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruits like raspberry predominate in wines from cooler areas such as the Napa Valley, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas such as Sonoma County, and in wines made from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone.

Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: Crljenak Kaštelanski, Zin, ZPC (more)
Origin: Croatia
Notable regions: California, Puglia, Dalmatia
Hazards: Bunch rot, uneven ripening



Archaeological evidence points to the domestication of Vitis vinifera somewhere in the Caucasus around 6000 BCE, and to the discovery of winemaking shortly after. From there it spread to the Mediterranean, and then along the coast to Greece, the Balkans and Italy. It is now known that Croatia has many indigenous varieties that are quite closely related to Crljenak Kaštelanski, which formed the basis of a considerable wine industry in the 1800s. This diversity suggests that these grapes have been in Croatia for a long time. However, these varieties were almost entirely wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, and Crljenak Kaštelanski was reduced to just a few vines on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.

Italians claim Primitivo as the descendant of the grape that made “merum”, a wine brought to Puglia by Illyrian colonists before the Greeks arrived in the 7th century BC. Horace and other Roman writers mention “mera tarantina” from Taranto, and Pliny the Elder describes Manduria as viticulosa (full of vineyards). But after the fall of the Roman Empire winemaking declined until it was only kept alive in the monasteries — Benedictine in Murgia and Greek Orthodox in Salento. New grape varieties could have been brought across the Adriatic at any time during the Middle Ages; the first official mention of Primitivo is not until Italian governmental publications of the 1870s. The fact that such records come 40 years after Zinfandel is first documented in the USA led some to suggest that Primitivo was introduced from across the Atlantic; this became unlikely after the discovery of its origin across the Adriatic in Dalmatia.

The most common story dates the origin of Primitivo as a distinct clone to the late 1700s. Don Francesco Filippo Indellicati, the priest of the church at Gioia del Colle near Bari, selected an early (”primo”) ripening plant of the Zagarese (”from Zagreb”) variety and planted it in Liponti. This clone ripened at the end of August and became widespread throughout northern Puglia Cuttings came to the other great Primitivo DOC as part of the dowry of the Countess Sabini of Altamura when she married Don Tommaso Schiavoni-Tafuri of Manduria in the late 1800s.

USA’s East Coast

Parts of Croatia had been ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy since 1527, although Dalmatia was not absorbed until the fall of the Venetian Empire in 1797. This suggests how Crljenak Kaštelanski found its way to the Imperial Nursery in Vienna. George Gibbs, a horticulturist on Long Island received shipments of grapes from Schönbrunn and elsewhere in Europe between 1820 and 1829. Sullivan suggests that the “Black Zinfardel of Hungary” mentioned by William Robert Prince in A Treatise on the Vine (1830) may have referred to one of Gibbs 1829 acquisitions. Webster suggests that the name is a corruption of tzinifándli (czirifandli), a Hungarian word derived from the German Zierfandler. Since Zierfandler (Spätrot) is a white grape from Austria’s Thermenregion, someone must have mixed up labels along the way.

Gibbs visited Boston in 1830 and soon afterwards, Samuel Perkins of that city started selling “Zenfendal”. The same year, he supplied Prince with a similar variety called “Black St. Peters” which appears to have come from England. Little is known about this second grape, but the name suggests an origin in a religious house, so it may represent a clone of Primitivo that had come to England via Gibraltar.

Bottles of Californian Zinfandel and Primitivo di Manduria.By 1835 Charles M. Hovey, Boston’s leading nurseryman, was recommending “Zinfindal” as a table grape, and soon it was widely grown in heated greenhouses for the production of table grapes as early as June. By that time New Englanders had given up trying to make wine from vinifera vines; the first reference to making wine from “Zinfindal” comes in John Fisk Allen’s Practical Treatise in the Culture and Treatment of the Grape Vine (1847). Meanwhile the fad of hothouse cultivation faded in the 1850s as attention turned to the Concord variety and others that could be grown outdoors in Boston.


Prince and other nurserymen such as Frederick W. Macondray joined the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, and took Zinfandel with them. Prince’s notebook records that it dried “perfectly to Raisin” and also his belief that his Zinfandel was the same as the “Black Sonora” he found in California. Black St. Peters also came to California; it was regarded as a distinct variety but by the 1870s was recognized as the same grape as Zinfandel.

Joseph W. Osborne may have made the first wine from Zinfandel in California. He planted Zinfandel from Macondray at his Oak Knoll vineyard just north of Napa, and his wine was much praised in 1857. After that, planting of Zinfandel boomed, and by the end of the 19th century it was the most widespread variety in California.

These Zinfandel old vines are now treasured for the production of premium red wine, but many were ripped up in the 1920s, during Prohibition, but not for the obvious reason. Section 29 of the National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act) allowed 200 gallons (757 l) of “non-intoxicating…fruit juice” to be made each year at home. Initially “intoxicating” was defined as anything over 0.5%, but the Internal Revenue Bureau soon struck that down and this effectively legalised home winemaking. Some vineyards embraced the sale of grapes for making wine at home; Zinfandel grapes were popular among home winemakers living near the vineyards, but its tight bunches left its thin skins vulnerable to rot on the long journey to East Coast markets. The thick skins of Alicante Bouschet were less susceptible to rot, so this and similar varieties were widely planted for the home winemaking market. 3000 cars (about 38000 t) of Zinfandel grapes were shipped in 1931, compared to 6000 cars of Alicante Bouschet.

After Prohibition

By 1930 the vineyards were suffering from the Great Depression as well as Prohibition. Many of the vineyards that survived by supplying the home market were in the Central Valley, not the best place for quality Zinfandel. So the end of Prohibition left a shortage of quality wine grapes, and Zinfandel sank into obscurity as most was blended into undistinguished fortified wines. However there were still producers interested in making single varietal red wines. In 1972, Bob Trinchero of the Sutter Home winery decided to try “bleeding” juice from the vats in order to impart more tannins and color to his Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel. He vinified this juice as a dry wine, and tried to sell it under the name of Oeil de Perdrix, a French wine made by this “saignée” method.

However in 1975 Trinchero’s wine experienced a stuck fermentation, a problem in which the yeast dies off before all the sugar is turned to alcohol. He put it aside for two weeks, then tasted it and decided to sell this pinker, sugary wine regardless. In the same way that Mateus Rosé had become a huge success in Europe after World War II, this medium sweet White Zinfandel became immensely popular. Its popularity is now in decline, but it still accounts for 9.9% of US wine sales by volume (only 6.3% by value). Most such wine is made from Zinfandel grown for the purpose in California’s Central Valley, as White Zinfandel outsells the reds by 6:1 in the US market.

Most serious wine critics in the 1970s-1980s considered White Zinfandel to be insipid and uninteresting, although modern wines have more fruit and less cloying sweetness. Nevertheless, the success of this “blush” wine saved many old vines in premium areas, which came into their own at the end of the 20th century as red Zinfandel wines came back into fashion. The two wines are so different that some consumers think that “white zinfandel” is a distinct grape variety, and not a different way of processing the same (red) grapes.

The red wines have also been criticized for being too “hot” (too alcoholic), although modern winemaking has helped make them more approachable. On the other hand, Zinfandel producers such as Joel Peterson of Ravenswood believe that technologies such as reverse osmosis and spinning cones to remove alcohol, also remove a sense of terroir from the wine; if the wine has the tannins and other components to balance 15% alcohol, Peterson argues that it should be accepted on its own terms.

Relationship to Primitivo and Crljenak Kaštelanski

A vine of Crljenak Kaštelanski, in the vineyard where it was discovered. The metal tag from the University of Zagreb indicates that this vine is reserved for genetic research.Zinfandel was long considered “America’s vine and wine”. But when Austin Goheen, a professor at UC Davis visited Italy in 1967, he noticed how wine made from Primitivo reminded him of Zinfandel. Others also made the connection about that time. Primitivo was brought to California in 1968, ampelographers declared it identical to Zinfandel in 1972, and the first wine was made from the vines in 1975 which also suggested that they were identical. The same year PhD student Wade Wolfe showed that the two varieties had identical isozyme fingerprints.

In 1993, UCD colleague Carole Meredith used a DNA fingerprinting technique that gave the same result, indicating that Primitivo and Zinfandel should be regarded as different clones of the same variety. Comparative field trials have found that “Primitivo selections were generally superior to those of Zinfandel, having earlier fruit maturity, similar or higher yield, and similar or lower bunch rot susceptibility.”This fits the suggestion that Primitivo was selected as an early-ripening clone of a Croatian grape.

The search was now on for the original Primitivo/Zinfandel. Dr. Lamberti of Bari had suggested to Goheen in 1976 that Primitivo might be the Croatian variety Plavac Mali. By 1982 Goheen had confirmed that they were similar but not identical, probably by isozyme analysis. However some Croatians became convinced that Plavac Mali was Zinfandel, among them Croatian-born winemaker Mike Grgich. In 1991 Grgich and other producers came together as the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) with the objectives of promoting the varietal and wine, and supporting scientific research on Zinfandel. With this support, Meredith went to Croatia and collected over 150 samples of Plavac Mali throughout Dalmatia, in collaboration with Ivan Pejić, Edi Maletić, Jasminka Karoglan Kontić and Nikola Mirošević of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb.

By 1998, Meredith’s team realized that Plavac Mali was not Zinfandel but related, with one being the parent of the other. In 2000 they discovered that Primitivo/Zinfandel was one parent of Plavac Mali. The other parent of Plavac Mali was found by Maletić and Pejić to be Dobričić, an ancient variety from the Adriatic island of Šolta.

This discovery narrowed down the search to the central Dalmatian coastal strip and its offshore islands. Eventually a matching DNA fingerprint was found among the samples. The match came from a vine sampled in 2001 in the vineyard of Ivica Radunić in Kaštel Novi. This Crljenak Kaštelanski (”Kaštela Red”) appears to represent Primitivo/Zinfandel in its original home, although some genetic divergence may have occurred since their separation. Meredith now refers to the variety as “ZPC” - Zinfandel / Primitivo / Crljenak Kaštelanski.

This one Croatian vineyard contained just 9 Crljenak Kaštelanski vines mixed with thousands of other vines. In 2002, additional vines known locally as Pribidrag were found in the Dalmatian coastal town of Omiš. Both clones are being propagated in California under the aegis of Ridge Vineyards, although virus infections have delayed their release. Grgich has set up a winery in Croatia, Grgić Vina, to grow Plavac Mali and other indigenous varieties. The first Croatian ZPC wine was made by Edi Maletić in 2005 Meanwhile plantings of Primitivo have been increasing in California, where it seems to grow a little less vigorously than its sibling. In turn its wines have more of the blackberry and spice flavors.

Local regulations are slowly catching up with the DNA evidence, but have become bogged down in trade disputes. The European Union recognised Zinfandel as a synonym for Primitivo in January 1999, which means that Italian Primitivos can be labelled as Zinfandel in the USA and any other country that recognises EU labelling laws. The Italians have taken advantage of these rules and shipped Primitivo wines to the US labelled as Zinfandels, with the approval of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

However as of December 2007, the TTB lists both Zinfandel and Primitivo in 27 CFR § 4.91 as approved grape varieties for American wines, but they are not listed as synonyms. This means that US producers can produce Primitivo wine, but not label it as Zinfandel, and vice versa. The ATF proposed that they be recognised as synonyms in Notice of Proposed Rulemaking No. 941, published in the Federal Register on 10 April 2002 but a decision on RIN 1513–AA32 (formerly RIN 1512-AC65) appears to be postponed indefinitely.

Distribution and wines

There are small plantings in South Africa, Western Australia and the Mclaren Southern Vales area of South Australia. The Croatian form Crljenak Kaštelanski was not bottled as a varietal in its own right in Croatia before the link to Zinfandel was revealed. Now UCD has sent clones of both Zinfandel and Primitivo to Prof Maletić in Croatia, which he has planted on the island of Hvar. He made his first ZPC wines in Croatia in 2005; there is high demand for red grapes in the country and the government are supportive.


Most Primitivo is grown in Puglia (Apulia), the ‘heel’ of Italy. The main 3 DOC areas are Primitivo di Manduria, Gioia del Colle Primitivo (Riserva) and Falerno del Massico Primitivo (Riserva o Vecchio). The Manduria DOC covers still red wine as well as sweet (Dolce Naturale) and fortified (Liquoroso Dolce Naturale, Liquoroso Secco) wine. Falerno requires a minimum of 85% Primitivo, the others are 100% Primitivo. You can also get Gioia del Colle Rosso and Rosato, which promise 50-60% Primitivo, and Cilento Rosso/Rosato which contains around 15%.

Historically, the grape was fermented and shipped north to Tuscany and Piedmont where it was used as a blending grape to “beef up” thin red wines produced in those areas. When the link between Primitivo and Zinfandel began to emerge, plantings in the region and production of non-blended varietal increased. Today most Italian Primitivo is made as a rustic, highly alcoholic red wine with up to 16% ABV. Some Italian winemakers will age the wines in new American oak in order to better imitate the American style of Zinfandel.


US producers make wine in styles that range from late harvest dessert wines, rosé (White Zinfandel) and Beaujolais-style light reds to big hearty reds and fortified wine in the style of port. Its quality and character largely depend on the climate, place of cultivation, the age of the vineyard, and the winemaking technology. Historically, California Zinfandels vines were planted in fields as a field blend interspersed with Durif (Petite Sirah), Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Mission and Muscat. While most vineyards are now fully segregated, California winemakers continue to use other grapes (particularly Petite Sirah) in their Zinfandel wines.

Zinfandel | Red Wines

While it is most widely known in the California wine industry, Zinfandel is also grown in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. In 2005 there were 51,425 acres (20,811 ha) of Zinfandel in California, representing 10.9% of the wine vineyards. Around 400,000 short tons (350,000 tonnes) are crushed each year, depending on how good the harvest is. This puts it in 3rd place behind Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and just ahead of Merlot.

The following California wine-growing counties are known for producing Zinfandel:

- Alameda
- Amador produces big, full-bodied Zinfandel; Amador grapes are often used in Napa Zinfandels.
- Contra Costa - Produces dusty and earthy wines.
- El Dorado
- Lake County
- Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. Often used for White Zinfandel production but in the red style can produce juicy, approachable wines.
- Mendocino
- Napa - Known for the plummy and intense Zinfandels tasting of red berry fruits with cedar and vanilla.
 - Russian River Valley - Generally produces well during very warm vintages, otherwise the grapes tend not fully ripen and the wines are left with excessive levels of acidity.
- San Joaquin
- San Luis Obispo - Particularly the Paso Robles AVA which is known for its soft, round wines with less acidity than in the Sonoma regions.
- Santa Clara - Particularly the Santa Cruz Mountains which are known for the complexity and depth of the Zinfandels.
- Sonoma - Particularly Dry Creek Valley AVA which produces juicy Zinfandel bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper.

Viticulture and winemaking

The vines are quite vigorous and like a climate that is warm but not too hot, otherwise the grapes may shrivel in the heat. They produce large, tight bunches of thin-skinned fruit, which means that bunch rot can be a problem. The fruit ripen fairly early, and produce juice with high levels of sugar; if the conditions are right they may be late-harvested for dessert wine. Zinfandel is often praised for its ability to not only reflect its terroir but to also reflect the skill and style of its winemaker.

The grapes are known for their uneven pattern of ripening with a single bunch having the potential to include overripe raisin like, perfectly ripen and green, unripe grapes in the same clusters. Some winemakers choose to vinify the bunches with these varying levels of ripeness adding their own unique component to the wine while others will hand harvest the bunches, even by single berries through multiple passes through the vineyards over several weeks. This extensively laborious practice is one component in the high cost of some Zinfandels.

Decisions on when to harvest, how cool to ferment the wine, how long of a maceration period with skin contact and the level of oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine. The degrees Brix that the grapes are harvested at can have a dramatic effect on the resulting flavors in the wine. White Zinfandel is normally harvested early at 20°Bx when the grapes have yet to develop much varietal character, though some examples can develop hints of tobacco and apple skin. At 23°Bx (the degree that most red wine is considered “ripe”) strawberry flavors develop. With 24°Bx, the cherry flavors appear followed by the blackberry notes at 25°Bx.


Zinfandel Conserve | Red WinesCrljenak Kaštelanski, Gioia Del Colle, Locale, Morellone, Plavac Veliki, Primaticcio, Primativo, Primitivo, Primitivo Di Gioia, Primitivo Nero, Uva Della Pergola, Uva Di Corato, Zin (informal), ZPC, Black St. Peters, Zenfendal, Zinfardel, Zinfindal, Taranto, Zeinfandall, Zinfardell, Zinfindel, Zinfandal.


Mourvèdre | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

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

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

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


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

Distribution and wines


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


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


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


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

Vine and viticulture

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


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


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