© Wikipedia 2017
A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours is a reference book about varieties of wine grapes. The book covers all grape varieties that were known to produce commercial quantities of wine at the time of writing, which meant 1,368 of the known 10,000 varieties.
This list of grape varieties includes cultivated grapes, whether used for wine, or eating as a table grape, fresh or dried (raisin, currant, sultana).
The term grape variety refers to cultivars rather than actual botanical varieties according to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, because they are propagated by cuttings and may have unstable reproductive properties. However, the term variety has become so entrenched in viticulture that any change of usage to the term cultivar is unlikely.
Single species grapes
While some of the grapes in this list are hybrids, they are hybridized within between different species within the same genus also known as interspecific hybrids. For those grapes hybridized across species, see the section on multispecies hybrid grapes below.
Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most famous red wine grape variety on Earth. It is rivalled in this regard only by its Bordeaux stablemate Merlot, and its opposite number in Burgundy, Pinot Noir. From its origins in Bordeaux, Cabernet has successfully spread to almost every winegrowing country in the world. It is now the key grape variety in many first-rate New World wine regions, most notably Napa Valley, Coonawarra and Maipo Valley. Wherever they come from, Cabernet Sauvignon wines always seem to demonstrate a handful of common character traits: deep colour, good tannin structure, moderate acidity and aromas of blackcurrant, tomato leaf, dark spices and cedar wood.
Used as frequently in blends as in varietal wines, Cabernet Sauvignon has a large number of common blending partners. Apart from the obvious Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the most prevalent of these are Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere (the ingredients of a classic Bordeaux Blend), Shiraz (in Australia’s favourite blend) and in Spain and South America, a Cabernet – Tempranillo blend is now commonplace. Even the bold Tannat-based wines of Madiran are now generally softened with Cabernet Sauvignon.
French: [kabɛʁnɛ soviˈɲɔ̃]) is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada’s Okanagan Valley to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay, Australia’s Margaret River and Coonawarra regions, and Chile’s Maipo Valley and Colchagua. For most of the 20th century, it was the world’s most widely planted premium red wine grape until it was surpassed by Merlot in the 1990’s.
Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Its popularity is often attributed to its ease of cultivation—the grapes have thick skins and the vines are hardy and naturally low yielding, budding late to avoid frost and resistant to viticultural hazards such as rot and insects—and to its consistent presentation of structure and flavours which express the typical character (“typicity”) of the variety. Familiarity and ease of pronunciation have helped to sell Cabernet Sauvignon wines to consumers, even when from unfamiliar wine regions. Its widespread popularity has also contributed to criticism of the grape as a “colonizer” that takes over wine regions at the expense of native grape varieties.
The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be full-bodied wines with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can be accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages. In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olive notes while in very hot climates the currant flavours can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side. In parts of Australia, particularly the Coonawarra wine region of South Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to have a characteristic eucalyptus or menthol notes.
DNA profiling carried out in California in 1997 confirmed that Cabernet Sauvignon is the product of a natural genetic crossing between key Bordeaux grape varieties Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
There are two key reasons for Cabernet Sauvignon’s rise to dominance. The most simple and primordial of these is that its vines are highly adaptable to different soil types and climates; it is grown at latitudes as disparate as 50°N (Okanagan in Canada) and 20°S (northern Argentina), and in soils as different as the Pessac-Leognan gravels and the iron-rich terra rossa of Coonawarra. Secondary to this, but just as important, is that despite the diversity of terroirs in which the vine is grown, Cabernet Sauvignon wines retain an inimitable “Cab” character, nuanced with hints of provenance in the best-made examples. There is just a single reason, however, for the durability of the variety’s fame and that is simple economics; the familiarity and marketability of the Cabernet Sauvignon name has an irresistible lure to wine companies looking for a reliable return on their investment.
A vigorous variety (another characteristic in its favour), Cabernet Sauvignon produces a dense leaf canopy and relatively high grape yields, giving wine producers a fairly open choice between quantity and quality. Careful vineyard management is essential, however, to coax the best out of the fruit.
As a late-flowering and late-ripening variety, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes mature slowly. This can also work for or against wine quality; in a cold season or climate there is a risk of the grapes failing to ripen fully, while in most other conditions the steady rate of progress offers producers a wider choice of harvest dates.
Few would argue that the finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon wine are found in Bordeaux and California, a standpoint supported by the 1976 Judgment of Paris. The past two decades have seen a raft of quality Cabernets emerging from New World regions such as Maipo in Chile and Coonawarra in Australia. These are gaining popularity with an increasingly broad consumer base as the world’s most prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon wines become prohibitively expensive. The variety has now made its way even into such established and traditional Italian names as Chianti and Carmignano (albeit restricted to 15 percent of the permitted blend), evidence that even the oldest and most traditional wine institutions now recognize the value of this most famous of grapes.
Synonyms include: Bidure, Bouche, Bordo, Bouchet, Burdeos Tinto, Lafite, Vidure.
Food matches for Cabernet Sauvignon include:
Fillet steak with foie gras and truffles
Beef wellington with honey roasted carrots
Korean-style beef stir fried in garlic, soy and sesame
PINOT GRAPE VARIETIES
Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape. It is a point genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is genetically unstable and will occasionally experience a point mutation in which a vine bears all black fruit except for one cane which produces white fruit.
In Alsace, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, the wine produced from this grape is a full-bodied white. In 2000, there were 1,300 hectares (3,200 acres) of Pinot Blanc in France, with most of the plantations found in Alsace, where it is used for both still white wines and is the most common variety used for sparkling wine, Crémant d’Alsace. Somewhat confusingly, the designation “Pinot Blanc” for Alsace AOC wine does not necessarily mean that the wine is varietally pure Pinot Blanc. (This is in difference to Pinot Gris, which is a “true” varietal designation in Alsace.) Rather, the designation means that it is a white wine made from Pinot varieties. Under Alsace appellation rules, the varieties Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white, without skin contact) may all be used, but a blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois Blanc is the most common. The most full-bodied “Pinot Blanc” wines from Alsace, with a spicy and smokey character and moderate acidity, are probably dominated by Auxerrois grapes.
Historically, Pinot Blanc was used both in Burgundy and Champagne. It is still allowed in Bourgogne Blanc blend and small amounts of Pinot Blanc may in principle be blended into some Burgundy wines, but very small amounts are cultivated in either region. In the Champagne region, Pinot Blanc is often called Blanc vrai.
In Germany, where it is known as Weißer Burgunder or Weißburgunder, there were 3,491 hectares (8,630 acres) of Pinot Blanc in 2006. The most powerful versions are usually made in Baden and Palatinate. In the United States it is mainly produced in California. In the United States, many of the vines called Pinot Blanc are actually a different variety, Melon de Bourgogne/Muscadet that resembles Chardonnay when on the vine. This mistake was discovered around the mid-1980s by a French oenologist who was examining rootstock while visiting University of California, Davis, and now Pinot Blanc purchased from a nursery will be the genuine article. The grape is also grown in Austria and Hungary as well as in Burgundy, France. In Canada, Pinot Blanc is often used to make ice wine. Canada’s Okanagan Valley has developed a reputation for Pinot Blanc as its signature wine.
Pinot Blanc has also been confused with Chardonnay, and wineries often vinify it in a similar style, using barrel fermentation, new oak and malolactic fermentation. It can also be treated more lightly and made into a crisper wine that still has some ability to age.
During a series of trials between 1930 and 1935, Pinot Blanc was crossed with Riesling to create the white Italian wine grape variety Manzoni Bianco.
In Alsace, Italy and Hungary, the wine produced from this grape is a full-bodied dry white wine while in Germany and Austria they can be either dry or sweet. One of the components of the wine Vin Santo can be Pinot Blanc.
In France the grape is often blended with Klevner, sometimes referred to by locals as “true Pinot,” and Auxerrois grapes, in order to give it a more Alsatian flavour.
Bottles labelled Pinot Blanc offer fruity aromas, often of apple, citrus fruit, and floral characteristics. Bottles that are varietally pure, although more difficult to find, provide h4er floral characteristics, stone fruits and a headier mineralogy. Regardless of their exact composition, most wines under the label ‘Pinot Blanc’ are rather high in acidity and are vinified in tank, though more prestigious examples are fermented in large, 100% used oak barrels. Pinot Blanc wines are usually made for immediate consumption.
Names in other regions
Pinot Blanc’s name varies by region. In Austria it may be bottled as Weissburgunder or Klevner. Weissburgunder is also used in the Südtirol/Alto Adige region of north east Italy (also occasionally named so in Alsace) and in Germany. Hungary calls it Fehér Burgundi. Spain and Italy refer to it as Pinot bianco. In the Czech Republic it is known as Rulandské Bilé, in Slovakia Rulandské Biele and in Croatia Pinot bijeli or Burgundac bijeli. In Serbia it is called Бели пино, Бели бургундац, Пино блан
Pinot Gris, Pinot grigio or Grauburgunder is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. Thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir variety, it normally has a greyish-blue fruit, accounting for its name but the grapes can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance. The word pinot supposedly could have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pine cone-shaped clusters. The wines produced from this grape also vary in colour from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink, and it is one of the more popular grapes for skin-contact wine.
Pinot Gris is grown around the globe with the “spicy” full-bodied Alsatian and lighter-bodied, more acidic Italian styles being most widely recognized. The Alsatian style, often duplicated in New World wine regions such as Marlborough, Tasmania, South Australia, Washington, and Oregon, tend to have moderate to low acidity, higher alcohol levels and an almost “oily” texture that contributes to the full-bodied nature of the wine. The flavours can range from ripe tropical fruit notes of melon and mango to some botrytis-influenced flavours. In Italy, Pinot grigio grapes are often harvested early to retain the refreshing acidity and minimize some of the overt-fruitiness of the variety, creating a more neutral flavour profile. This style is often imitated in other Old World wine regions, such as Germany where the grape is known as Ruländ
Pinot Gris has been known since the Middle Ages in the Burgundy region, where it was probably called Fromenteau. It spread from Burgundy, along with Pinot Noir, arriving in Switzerland by 1300. The grape was reportedly a favourite of the Emperor Charles IV, who had cuttings imported to Hungary by Cistercian monks: the brothers planted the vines on the slopes of Badacsony bordering Lake Balaton in 1375. The vine soon after developed the name Szürkebarát meaning “grey monk.” In 1711, a German merchant, named Johann Seger Ruland (re)discovered a grape growing wild in the fields of the Palatinate. The subsequent wine he produced became known as Ruländer and the vine was later discovered to be Pinot Gris
Until the 18th and 19th century, the grape was a popular planting in Burgundy and Champagne but poor yields and unreliable crops caused the grape to fall out of favour in those areas. The same fate nearly occurred in Germany, but vine breeders in the early 20th century were able to develop clonal varieties that would produce a more consistent and reliable crop.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have determined that Pinot Gris has a remarkably similar DNA profile to Pinot Noir and that the colour difference is derived from a genetic mutation that occurred centuries ago. The leaves and the vines of both grapes are so similar that the colouration is the only aspect that differentiates the two.
Around 2005, Pinot Gris was enjoying increasing popularity in the marketplace, especially in its Pinot grigio incarnation and similar New World varietal wines.
An Italian Pinot grigio from the Alto Adige region.
The total area cultivated by this vine worldwide is about 15,000 hectares.
Austria – 300 hectares or 0.6% of the total wine growing area.
Chile – CasaBlanca, Chile
New Zealand (including Waiheke Island). 1,383 hectares (as at 2008).
In 2007 the area was only 1,146 hectares.
Romania – Constanța County, Jidvei
Turkey- Thrace Region, Kırklareli, Arcadia Vineyards
Slovenia – Primorska, Podravje
Switzerland – Valais. About 214 hectares (as at 2007)
Ukraine – Crimea
A Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive from Alsace, i.e., a sweet late harvest wine.
A major grape in Alsace, grown on 13.9% of the region’s vineyard surface in 2006, the varietal Pinot-Gris d’Alsace (fr) is markedly different from Pinot Gris found elsewhere. The cool climate of Alsace and warm volcanic soils are particularly well suited for Pinot Gris, with its dry autumns allowing plenty of time for the grapes to hang on the vines, often resulting in wines of very powerful flavours
Pinot Gris is one of the so-called noble grapes of Alsace, along with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat, which may be used for varietal Alsace Grand Cru AOC and the late harvest wines Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
Previously, the Pinot Gris wines produced in Alsace were originally labelled Tokay d’Alsace. In the Middle Ages, the grape was popularized in the region by Hungarian traders who were introduced to the grape from Burgundy. During this time, Tokaji was one of the most popular and sought after wines on the market and the name was probably used to gain more prestige for the Alsatian wine. Pinot Gris was believed to have been brought back to Alsace by General Lazarus von Schwendi after his campaign against the Turks in the 16th century. It was planted in Kientzheim under the name “Tokay”. However, the Pinot Gris grape has no known genetic relations to the Furmint, Hárslevelű, Yellow Muscat and Orémus grapes that are traditionally used in Tokaji wine. In 1980, the European Economic Community passed regulations related to Protected designations of origin (PDOs), and when Hungary started negotiations for European Union membership, it became clear that the Tokay name would have to become a PDO for the Tokaj-Hegyalja region. Therefore, in 1993, an agreement was reached between the Hungary and the European Union to phase out the name Tokay from non-Hungarian wine. In the case of Alsace, Tokay Pinot Gris was adopted as an intermediate step, with the “Tokay” part to be eliminated in 2007. Many producers had implemented the change to plain Pinot Gris on their labels by the early 2000s, several years before the deadline.
Pinot Gris was first introduced into Australia in 1832 in the collection of grapes brought by James Busby. In Victoria, wines from the grape are labelled both Pinot Gris and Pinot grigio, depending on the sweetness of wine with the drier wines being labelled Pinot grigio.
Grauburgunder cultivation in Germany is divided by wine-growing area as follows:
|Wine region||Vineyards (hectares)|
|Total for Germany in 2007||4,413|
Pinot Grigio is a popular planting in north-eastern Italy in regions such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia
In Italy, where the grape is known as Pinot grigio, plantings can be found in the Lombardy region around Oltrepo Pavese and in Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost wine region. The grape is also prominent in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
Pinot Gris is grown in both the North, Waiheke Island, (Hawkes Bay, Gisborne) and South Islands (Central Otago, Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara), with 1,501 Ha producing as of 2009. This is over a 100% increase since 2006. In 2007 Pinot Gris overtook Riesling as the third most planted white variety after Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Half of all plantings are in Canterbury and Marlborough, with the wine developing a “rich, flinty, fruit-laden character”.
Oregon, California and smaller regions
David Lett, from Eyrie Vineyards, planted the first American Pinot Gris vines in Oregon in 1965. Hoping to increase sales, Lett started to graft Riesling vines to Pinot Gris in 1979. The grape originally had difficulties finding a sustainable market until Lett began marketing the wine to salmon traders as a good match to the fish. The wine’s popularity still only increased slightly until the mid-1990s when well capitalized larger producers entered the picture with enough volume to warrant expensive marketing campaigns. In 1991, King Estate Winery was founded with a mission to produce enough high quality Oregon Pinot Gris to develop a sustainable national market for the wine; they are credited with bringing the Pinot Gris grape varietal into national consciousness in the U.S. Today they are the world’s leading producer of premium Pinot Gris and farm the world’s largest contiguous organic vineyard which contains over 300 acres (1.2 km2) of Pinot Gris grapes.
There are about 1,620 acres (660 ha) planted in the Central and South coastal areas of California. The Pinot Gris from California is often called Pinot grigio because of its similarity in style to the wine of Italy.
Pinot Gris can be found in the northern regions of Ohio which is considered part of the pinot trail.
The grape grows best in cool climates, and matures relatively early with high sugar levels. This can lead to either a sweeter wine, or, if fermented to dryness, a wine high in alcohol. Clusters of Pinot Gris may have a variety of colours in the vine. These clusters can range from bluish grey to light pinkish brown. The grapes grow in small clusters (hence the pinecone name), and upon ripening, often display a pinkish-grey hue, although the colours can vary from blue-grey to pinkish-brown. Pinot Gris is often blended with Pinot Noir to enrich and lighten the Pinot Noir’s flavour.
Colour variations among different styles of Pinot Gris. Italian Pinot Grigio has a straw yellow colour, Alsatian Pinot Gris has a lemon colour, Oregon Pinot Gris has a copper-pink colour
Wines made from the Pinot Gris vary greatly and are dependent on the region and wine making style they are from. Alsatian Pinot Gris are medium to full bodied wines with a rich, somewhat floral bouquet. They tend to be spicy in comparisons with other Pinot Gris. While most Pinot Gris are meant to be consumed early, Alsatian Pinot Gris can age well. German Pinot Gris are more full-bodied with a balance of acidity and slight sweetness. In Oregon the wines are medium bodied with a yellow to copper-pink colour and aromas of pear, apple, and/or melon. In California, the Pinot Gris are lighter bodied with a crisp, refreshing taste with some pepper and arugula notes. The Pinot grigio style of Italy is a light-bodied, often lean wine that is light in colour with sometimes spritzy flavours that can be crisp and acidic.
Pinot Gris is considered an “early to market wine” that can be bottled and out on the market within 4–12 weeks after fermentation.
Pinot Gris is called by many names in different parts of the world:
|Synonym of Pinot Gris||Country / Region|
|Fromentau / Fromentot||Languedoc|
|Grauburgunder / Grauer Burgunder||Austria Germany (dry)|
|Malvoisie||Loire Valley Switzerland|
|Pinot beurot||Loire Valley, Burgundy|
|Ruländer||Austria Germany Romania (sweet)|
|Rulandské šedé||Czech Republic Slovakia|
|Sivi pinot||Croatia Slovenia|
|Tokay d’Alsace||Alsace (renamed to Pinot Gris due to EU regulations)|
|Піно ґрі, Піно сірий||Ukraine|
Pinot Noir (French: [pino nwaʁ]) is a red wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot Noir grapes. The name is derived from the French words for pine and black. The pine alluding to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot Noir is also used in some Italian wines like Franciacorta (in North of Italy) for example. Other regions that have gained a reputation for Pinot Noir include: the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River AVAs (American Viticultural Area) of California, the Elgin and Walker Bay wine regions of South Africa, South Australia, Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Yarra Valley in Australia and the Central Otago, Martinborough and Marlborough wine regions of New Zealand. Pinot Noir is the primary varietal used in sparkling wine production in Champagne and other wine regions.
Pinot Noir is a difficult varietal to cultivate and transform into wine. The grape’s tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural hazards involving rot that require diligent canopy management. The thin-skins and low levels of phenolic compounds lends Pinot to producing mostly lightly coloured, medium bodied and low tannin wines that can often go through phases of uneven and unpredictable aging. When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, Pinot has the potential to develop more vegetal and “barnyard” aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine
Pinot Noir’s home is France’s Burgundy region, particularly in Côte-d’Or. It is also planted in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, northern parts of Croatia, Czech Republic, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Hungary, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States and Uruguay.
The United States has increasingly become a major Pinot Noir producer, with some of the best regarded coming from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and California’s Sonoma County with its Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Lesser known appellations can be found in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, as well as the Central Coast’s Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, the Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills American Viticulture Area in Santa Barbara County. In New Zealand, it is principally grown in Martinborough, Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago.
The leaves of Pinot Noir are generally smaller than those of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. The Pinot vine is typically less vigorous than either of these varieties. The grape cluster is small and conico-cylindrical; shaped like a pine cone. Some viticultural historians believe this shape similarity may have given rise to the name. In the vineyard Pinot Noir is sensitive to wind and frost, cropping levels (it must be low yielding for production of quality wines), soil types and pruning techniques. In the winery it is sensitive to fermentation methods, yeast strains and is highly reflective of its terroir with different regions sometimes producing very different wines. Its thin skin makes it susceptible to bunch rot and similar fungal diseases. The vines themselves are susceptible to powdery mildew, especially in Burgundy infection by leaf roll and fanleaf viruses causes significant vine health problems. These complications have given the grape a reputation for being difficult to grow: Jancis Robinson calls Pinot a “minx of a vine” and André Tchelistcheff declared that “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir.” It is much less tolerant of harsh vineyard conditions than the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot or Grenache.
However, Pinot Noir wines are among the most popular in the world. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes pinot Noir as “the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.” Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon calls Pinot “sex in a glass”.
The tremendously broad range of bouquets, flavours, textures and impressions that Pinot Noir can produce sometimes confuses tasters. In the broadest terms, the wine tends to be of light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of black and / or red cherry, raspberry and to a lesser extent currant and many other fine small red and black berry fruits. Traditional red Burgundy is famous for its savoury fleshiness and ‘farmyard’ aromas (these latter sometimes associated with thiol and other reductive characters), but changing fashions, modern winemaking techniques, and new easier-to-grow clones have favoured a lighter, more fruit-prominent, cleaner style.
The wine’s colour when young is often compared to that of garnet, frequently being much lighter than that of other red wines. This is entirely natural and not a winemaking fault as Pinot Noir has a lower skin anthocyanin (colouring matter) content than most other classical red / black varieties. Callistephin, the 3-O-glucoside of pelargonidin, an orange coloured anthocyanidin, is also found in the berry skins of Pinot Noir grapes.
However, an emerging, increasingly evident, style from California and New Zealand highlights a more powerful, fruit forward and darker wine that can tend toward Syrah (or even new world Malbec) in depth, extract, and alcoholic content.
Pinot Noir is also used in the production of Champagne (usually along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier) and is planted in most of the world’s wine growing regions for use in both still and sparkling wines. Pinot Noir grown for dry table wines is generally low-yielding and of lesser vigour than many other varieties, whereas when grown for use in sparkling wines (e.g. Champagne) it is generally cropped at significantly higher yields.
In addition to being used for the production of sparkling and still red wine, Pinot Noir is also sometimes used for rosé still wines, Beaujolais Nouveau-styled wines, and even vin Gris white wines. Its juice is uncoloured.
History, mutants and clones
Pinot Noir is almost certainly a very ancient variety that may be only one or two generations removed from wild, Vitis sylvestris, vines. Its origins are nevertheless unclear: In De re rustica, Columella describes a grape variety similar to pinot Noir in Burgundy during the 1st century CE, however, vines have grown wild as far north as Belgium in the days before phylloxera, and it is possible that Pinot represents a direct domestication of (hermaphrodite-flowered) Vitis sylvestris.
Ferdinand Regner has argued that pinot Noir is a cross between Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling) and Traminer, but this claim has since been refuted. In fact Pinot Meunier has been shown to be a chimerical mutation (in the epidermal cells) which makes the shoot tips and leaves prominently hairy-white and the vine a little smaller and early ripening. Thus Pinot Meunier is a chimera with two tissue layers of different genetic makeup, both of which contain a mutation making them non-identical to, and mutations of, Pinot Noir (as well as of any of the other colour forms of Pinot). As such, Pinot Meunier cannot be a parent of Pinot Noir, and, indeed, it seems likely that chimerical mutations which can generate Pinot Gris from other Pinots (principally Blanc or Noir) may in turn be the genetic pathway for the emergence of Pinot Meunier.
Pinot Gris is a Pinot colour sport (and can arise by mutation of Pinot Noir or Pinot Blanc), presumably representing a somatic mutation in either the VvMYBA1 or VvMYBA2 genes that control grape berry colour. Pinot Blanc is a further mutation and can either naturally arise from or give rise to Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir; the mutation–reversion path is multi-directional therefore. The general DNA profiles of both Pinot Gris and Blanc are identical to Pinot Noir; and other Pinots, Pinot moure and Pinot teinturier, are also genetically similarly close. It should be noted therefore that almost any given Pinot (of whatever berry colour) can occur as a complete mutation or as a chimera of almost any other Pinot. As such, suggestions that Pinot Noir is the fundamental and original form of the Pinots are both misleading and highly tendentious. Indeed, if anything, Pinot Blanc may be the original human-selected form of Pinot, although given the genetic variability of this longstanding genetic line, thinking of Pinot as a familial cluster of grapes sharing a fundamental and common genetic core is almost certainly nearest the truth. It is this ‘core’ around which the sub-varietally identifying colour variations (Blanc, rouge, Noir, Gris, rose, violet, tenteurier, moure, etc.) occur, along with the more striking chimeric morphological mutation that is Pinot Meunier, and the interesting further mutations of this variety as Pinot Meunier Gris and as the non-hairy mutation which the Germans classify as ‘Samtrot’ (effectively ‘Pinot red velvet’).
Pinot Noir vines at Clos de Bèze, Gevrey-Chambertin, on Burgundy’s Côte d’Or
A white berried sport of Pinot Noir was propagated in 1936 by Henri Gouges of Burgundy, and there is now 2.5ha planted of this grape which Clive Coates calls Pinot Gouges, and others call Pinot Musigny. There is however no published evidence, nor any obvious reason, to believe that this is other than a (possibly quite fine) form of Pinot Blanc, having simply arisen as a selected natural mutation of the original Pinot Noir in the Gouges’ vineyard.
In the UK, the name ‘Wrotham Pinot’ is a permitted synonym for Pinot Meunier and stems from a vine that one of the pioneers of UK viticulture, Edward Hyams, discovered in Wrotham (pronounced ‘root-am’ or ‘root-em’) in Kent in the late 1940s. It was in all probability the variety known as ‘Miller’s Burgundy’ which had been widely grown on walls and in gardens in Great Britain for many years. Archibald Barron writing in his book, Vines and Vine Culture, the standard Victorian work on grape growing in the UK, states that the ‘Millers Burgundy’ also was: found by the famous horticulturalist Sir Joseph Banks in the remains of an ancient vineyard at Tortworth, Gloucestershire – a county well known for its medieval vineyards. Hyams took the vine to Raymond Barrington Brock, who ran what was to become the Oxted Viticultural Research Station, and he trialled it alongside the many other varieties he grew. Brock said that when compared to supplies of Meunier from France, Wrotham Pinot: had a higher natural sugar content and ripened two weeks earlier. Hyams, ever the journalist in search of a good story, claimed that this vine had been left behind by the Romans although he provided absolutely no evidence for this. Brock sold cuttings of ‘Wrotham Pinot’ and the variety became quite popular in early English ‘revival’ vineyards in the late twentieth century, although it is unlikely that many vines from the cuttings supplied by Brock survive in any present UK vineyards. Indeed, despite the fact that today virtually all plantings of Meunier in the UK stem from French and German nurseries, the name Wrotham Pinot is still a legally acceptable synonym for this variety, although little, if ever, used by UK growers.
Pinot Noir can be particularly prone to mutation (suggesting it has active transposable elements), and thanks to its long history in cultivation there are hundreds of different clones in vineyards and vine collections worldwide. More than 50 are officially recognized in France compared to only 25 of the much more widely planted Cabernet Sauvignon. The French Etablissement National Technique pour l’Amelioration de la Viticulture (ENTAV) has set up a program to select the best clones of Pinot. This program has succeeded in increasing the number of quality clones available to growers. In the new world, particularly in Oregon, wines of extraordinary quality continue to be made from the (ex-University of California at Davis) Pommard (principally UCD4) and Wadensvil (UCD 1A and / or 2A) clones.
Gamay Beaujolais is a Californian misnomer for a UCD clone series of upright-growing (‘Pinot droit’) Pinot Noir. Planted mostly in California it also became established in New Zealand. In this latter country, its disposition to poor fruit set in cool flowering conditions can be problematic. Claims that the ‘Gamay Beaujolais’ Pinot Noir was brought to California by Paul Masson are not correct. It was collected in France by Harold Olmo for UCD in the 1950s and was one of the first Pinot Noir vines this institution offered as a high health clonal line from about 1962 onward. However, it was misleadingly identified at UCD as a ‘Gamay Beaujolais’ type (of Pinot Noir). In general, these upright growing ‘Pinot droit’ clones are highly productive (in suitable, hot-to-warm, flowering conditions) and in California and New Zealand they give robust, burly, wines favoured by those who like muscle rather than charm and velvety finesse in their Pinot Noir wines. In Burgundy, the use of (highly productive) Pinot droit clones is reportedly still widespread in inferior, Village appellation, or even non-appellation, vineyards and Pinot droit is consequently regarded, arguably with very good reason, as a (genetic) sub-form significantly inferior to classical, decumbent, ‘Pinot fine’ or ‘Pinot tordu’, clonal lines of Pinot.
Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce) is an early-ripening form of Pinot Noir. Across the Pinot family, ripening in typical climates can be dispersed by as much as four, and even six, weeks between the very earliest (including Précoce) clones and the very latest ripening. Virus infection and excessive cropping significantly add to the delaying of Pinot Noir ripening.
Gouget Noir is sometimes confused as being a clone of Pinot Noir but DNA analysis has confirmed that it is a distinct variety. In August 2007, French researchers announced the sequencing of the genome of Pinot Noir. It is the first fruit crop to be sequenced, and only the fourth flowering plant.
A sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs (white of blacks) made from Pinot Noir and Gamay
In the Middle Ages, the nobility and church of northeast France grew some form of Pinot in favoured plots, while peasants grew a large amount of the much more productive, but otherwise distinctly inferior, Gouais Blanc. Cross-pollination may have resulted from such close proximity, with the genetic distance between the two parents imparting hybrid vigour leading to the viticultural selection of a diverse range of offspring from this cross (which may, nevertheless, have also resulted from deliberate human intervention). In any case, however it occurred, offspring of the Pinot – Gouais cross include: Chardonnay, Aligoté, Auxerrois, Gamay, Melon and eleven others. Pinot Noir was not necessarily the Pinot involved here; any member of the Pinot family appears genetically capable of being the Pinot parent to these ex-Gouais crosses.
In 1925, Pinot Noir was crossed in South Africa with the Cinsaut grape (known locally by the misnomer ‘Hermitage’) to create a unique variety called Pinotage.
Pinot Noir is produced in several wine growing areas of Australia, notably in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, Yarra Valley, Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula, Beechworth, South Gippsland, Sunbury, Macedon Ranges and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Adelaide Hills in South Australia, Great Southern Wine Region in Western Australia, all Tasmania, and the Canberra District in the Australian Capital Territory.
In Austria, Pinot Noir is usually called Blauburgunder (litreally Blue Burgundy) and produced in Burgenland and Lower Austria. Austrian Pinot Noir wines are dry red wines similar in character to the red wines of Burgundy, mostly aged in French barriques. Some of the best Austrian Pinots come from Neusiedlersee and Blaufraenkischland (Burgenland), and Thermenregion (Lower Austria).
Pinot Noir has been grown in Ontario for some time in the Niagara Peninsula and especially the Niagara-on-the-Lake and Short Hills Bench wine regions, as well as in Prince Edward County and on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It has also been grown recently in the Okanagan, here it is grown predominantly on the Naramata bench and in the northern Okanagan, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island wine regions of British Columbia, the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia and the Lanaudière and Brome-Missisquoi regions of Quebec.
Pinot Noir is increasingly being planted in the U.K. and is now the second most widely planted variety, (305-ha in 2012) almost all of it for sparkling wine.
Pinot Noir has made France’s Burgundy appellation famous, and vice versa. Wine historians, including John Winthrop Haeger and Roger Dion, believe that the association between Pinot and Burgundy was the explicit strategy of Burgundy’s Valois dukes. Roger Dion, in his thesis regarding Philip the Bold’s role in promoting the spread of Pinot Noir, holds that the reputation of Beaune wines as “the finest in the world” was a propaganda triumph of Burgundy’s Valois dukes. In any event, the worldwide archetype for pinot Noir is that grown in Burgundy, where it has been cultivated since AD 100.
Burgundy’s Pinot Noir produces wines which can age well in good years, developing complex fruit and forest floor flavours as they age, often reaching peak 15 or 20 years after the vintage. Many of the wines are produced in small quantities. Today, the Côte d’Or escarpment of Burgundy has about 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) of Pinot Noir. Most of the region’s finest wines are produced from this area. The Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais regions in southern Burgundy have another 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres).
In Jura département, across the river valley from Burgundy, the wines made from pinot Noir are lighter.
In Champagne it is used in blending with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It can also appear unblended, in which case it may be labelled Blanc de Noirs. The Champagne appellation has more Pinot planted than any other area of France.
In Sancerre it is used to make red and rosé wines, much lighter in style that those of Burgundy, refreshing served chilled, especially in warmer years when they are less thin.
In Alsace it is generally used to make Pinot-Noir d’Alsace, a varietal rosé wine. However, it is also used to make genuine red wines usually called Pinot Noir rouge, which are similar in character to red Burgundy and Beaujolais wines but are consumed chilled. Prominent examples are Rouge de Barr and Rouge d’Ottrott. Pinot Noir rouge is the only red wine produced in Alsace.
A German Blanc de Noir from the Baden region made from Pinot Noir grapes pressed quickly after harvest in order to produce a white wine from the red grapes
In Germany it is called Spätburgunder (lit. “Late Burgundian”), and is now the most widely planted red grape. Historically much German wine produced from Pinot Noir was pale, often rosé like the red wines of Alsace; over-cropping and bunch-rot were major contributing factors to this. However, recently, despite the northerly climate, darker, richer reds have been produced, often barrel (barrique) aged, in regions such as Baden, Palatinate (Pfalz) and Ahr. These are rarely exported and are often expensive in Germany for the better examples. As “Rhenish”, German Pinot Noir is mentioned several times in Shakespearean plays as a highly prized wine.
There is also a smaller-berried, early ripening, lower yield variety called Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce, lit. “Early Burgundian”) which is grown in Rheinhessen and Ahr area and can produce good wines. In the last 20 years, efforts have been made to develop and husband good quality high health clones of Frühburgunder selected from Württemberg vineyards.
In Italy, where Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero, it has traditionally been cultivated in South Tyrol, the Collio Goriziano, Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese, Veneto, Friuli and Trentino. It is also planted in Tuscany.
In South Tyrol the variety is first noted 1838 as “Bourgoigne Noir” in a grape wine buy list of the “k.u.k. Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft von Tirol und Vorarlberg, Niederlassung Bozen” and later called “Blauburgunder” like in Austria. The first analytical descriptions are from Edmund Mach (founder of Ist. Agr. San Michele a.A.) in the year 1894: Friedrich Boscarolli – Rametz/Meran – Rametzer Burgunder 1890, Chorherrenstift Neustift – Blauburgunder 1890, R.v.Bressendorf – Vernaun/Meran – Burgunder 1890, C. Frank – Rebhof Gries Bozen – Burgunder 1889, Fr. Tschurtschenthaler – Bozen – Burgunder 1890 & 1891, Fr. Tschurtschenthaler – Bozen – Kreuzbichler 1889 & 1891 & 1887.
Large amounts of Pinot were planted in central Moldova during the 19th century, but much was lost to the ravages of phylloxera; Soviet control of Moldova from 1940 to 1991 also reduced the productivity of vineyards.
Pinot Noir is New Zealand’s largest red wine variety, and second largest variety overall behind sauvignon Blanc. In 2014, pinot Noir vines covered 5,569 hectares (13,760 acres) and produced 36,500 tonnes of grapes.
Pinot Noir is a grape variety whose “importance” in New Zealand is extremely high. However, initial results were not promising for several reasons, including high levels of leaf roll virus in older plantings, and, during the 1960s and 1970s, the limited number and indifferent quality of Pinot Noir clones available for planting. However, since this time importation of high quality clones and much-improved viticulture and winemaking has seen pinot Noir, from Martinborough in the north to Central Otago in the south, win international awards and accolades. As the industry has matured, many of the country’s top producers have made the decision no longer to submit their wines to reviews or shows.
In Slovenia, the pinot Noir is produced especially in the Slovenian Littoral, particularly in the Goriška Brda sub-region. In smaller amounts, the Pinot Noir is also produced in Slovenian Styria. The wine is usually called Modri Pinot (Blue Pinot) or also Modri Burgundec (Blue Burgundy).
With the growth of the South African wine industry into newer areas, Pinot Noir is now also to be found in cool climate Walker Bay and Elgin, the two oldest Pinot regions in the country.
Not often found, Pinot Noir has been produced in small amounts in Lleida province, Catalonia, under the appellation “Costers del Segre” DO. There is also a small vineyard of Pinot Noir within DO Montsant which has the wine produced in Celler de Capçanes although as Pinot Noir is not a permitted grape varietal within the DO, it is released under the broader DO Catalunya.
Pinot Noir is a popular grape variety all over Switzerland. In German-speaking regions of Switzerland it is often called Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir wines are produced in Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen and Bündner Herrschaft. In Valais, Pinot Noir is also blended with Gamay to produce the well-known Dôle.
By volume most Pinot Noir in America is grown in California, with Oregon second in production. Other growing regions are the states of Washington, Michigan, and New York.
California wine regions known for producing Pinot Noir are:
Sonoma Coast AVA
Russian River Valley AVA
Central Coast AVA
Sta. Rita Hills
Monterey County / Santa Lucia Highlands
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
Carneros District of Napa and Sonoma
San Luis Obispo County / Arroyo Grande Valley, Edna Valley
Oregon wine regions known for producing Pinot Noir:
Willamette Valley AVA
Dundee Hills AVA
Eola-Amity Hills AVA
Yamhill-Carlton District AVA
Chehalem Mountains AVA
Ribbon Ridge AVA
Richard Sommers of HillCrest Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon is the father of Oregon Pinot Noir. An early graduate of UC Davis, Sommers moved north after graduation with the idea of planting Pinot Noir in the Coastal valleys of Oregon. He brought cuttings to the state in 1959 and made his first commercial planting at HillCrest Vineyard in Roseburg Oregon in 1961. For this he was honoured by the Oregon State House of Representatives (HR 4A). In 2011 the State of Oregon honoured him for this achievement and also for producing the first commercial bottling in the state in 1967. It was announced by the state of Oregon in the summer of 2012 that an historical marker would be placed at the winery in the summer of 2013.
Sommers, who graduated from UC Davis in the early 1950s, brought Pinot Noir cuttings to Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1959 and planted them at HillCrest Vineyard in 1961. These first Pinot Noir cuttings came from Louis Martinis Sr.’s Stanley Ranch located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. The first commercial vintage from these grapes was the noted 1967 Pinot Noir although test bottlings were made as early as 1963. In the 1970s several other growers followed suit. In 1979, David Lett took his wines to a competition in Paris, known in English as the Wine Olympics, and they placed third among Pinots. In a 1980 rematch arranged by French wine magnate Robert Drouhin, the Eyrie vintage improved to second place. The competition established Oregon as a world-class Pinot Noir producing region.
The Willamette Valley of Oregon is at the same latitude as the Burgundy region of France, and has a similar climate in which the finicky Pinot Noir grapes thrive. In 1987, Drouhin purchased land in the Willamette Valley, and in 1989 built Domaine Drouhin Oregon, a state-of-the-art, gravity-fed winery. Throughout the 1980s, the Oregon wine industry blossomed.
During 2004 and the beginning of 2005, Pinot Noir became considerably more popular among consumers in the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia possibly because of the movie Sideways. Being lighter in style, it has benefited from a trend toward more restrained, less alcoholic wines being
Colour of berry skin Black
Also called Picard, Langon
Notable regions Bordeaux, Long Island, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Chilean Central Valley, Australia and Hungary
Notable wines Saint-Émilion, Pomerol
Ideal soil Clay
General Medium tannins
Cool climate Strawberry, red berry, plum, cedar, tobacco
Medium climate Blackberry, black plum, black cherry
Hot climate Fruitcake, chocolate
Merlot is a dark blue-coloured wine grape variety that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the colour of the grape. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally, with an increasing trend. This puts Merlot just behind Cabernet Sauvignon’s 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres).
While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favoured by many New World wine regions tends to emphasize late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.
History and name
Merlot grapes have a characteristic dark-blue colour.
The earliest recorded mention of Merlot (under the synonym of Merlau) was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labelled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area’s best. In 1824, the word Merlot itself appeared in an article on Médoc wine where it was described that the grape was named after the local black bird (called merlau in the local variant of Occitan language, mèrle in standard) who liked eating the ripe grapes on the vine. Other descriptions of the grape from the 19th century called the variety lou seme doù flube (meaning “the seedling from the river”) with the grape thought to have originated on one of the islands found along the Garonne river.
By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde. After a series of setbacks that includes a severe frost in 1956 and several vintages in the 1960s lost to rot, French authorities in Bordeaux banned new plantings of Merlot vines between 1970 and 1975.
It was first recorded in Italy around Venice under the synonym Bordò in 1855. The grape was introduced to the Swiss, from Bordeaux, sometime in the 19th century and was recorded in the Swiss canton of Ticino between 1905 and 1910. In the 1990s, Merlot saw an upswing of popularity in the United States. Red wine consumption, in general, increased in the US following the airing of the 60 Minutes report on the French Paradox and the potential health benefits of wine and, possibly, the chemical resveratrol. The popularity of Merlot stemmed in part from the relative ease in pronouncing the name of the wine as well as its softer, fruity profile that made it more approachable to some wine drinkers.
Parentage and relationship to other grapes
Cabernet Franc, one of the parent varieties of Merlot.
In the late 1990s, researchers at University of California, Davis showed that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a half-sibling of Carménère, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The identity of the second parent of Merlot wouldn’t be discovered till the late 2000s when an obscure and unnamed variety, first sampled in 1996 from vines growing in an abandoned vineyard in Saint-Suliac in Brittany, was shown by DNA analysis to be the mother of Merlot.
This grape, later discovered in front of houses as a decorative vine in the villages of Figers, Mainxe, Saint-Savinien and Tanzac in the Poitou-Charentes was colloquially known as Madeleina or Raisin de La Madeleine due to its propensity to be fully ripe and ready for harvest around the July 22nd feast day of Mary Magdalene. As the connection to Merlot became known, the grape was formally registered under the name Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. Through its relationship with Magdeleine Noire des Charentes Merlot is related to the Southwest France wine grape Abouriou, though the exact nature of that relationship (with Abouriou potentially being either a parent of Magdeleine Noire or an offspring) is not yet known.
Grape breeders have used Merlot crossed with other grapes to create several new varieties including Carmine (an Olmo grape made by crossing a Carignan x Cabernet Sauvignon cross with Merlot), Ederena (with Abouriou), Evmolpia (with Mavrud), Fertilia (with Raboso Veronese), Mamaia (a Romanian wine grape made by crossing a Muscat Ottonel x Babeasca negra cross with Merlot), Nigra (with Barbera), Prodest (with Barbera) and Rebo (with Teroldego).
Over the years, Merlot has spawned a colour mutation that is used commercially, a pink-skinned variety known as Merlot Gris. However, unlike the relationship between Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc or Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, the variety known as Merlot Blanc is not a colour mutation but rather an offspring variety of Merlot crossing with Folle Blanche.
Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The colour has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins per unit volume. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar content and lower malic acid.
Ampelographer J.M. Boursiquot has noted that Merlot has seemed to inherit some of the best characteristics from its parent varieties—its fertility and easy ripening ability from Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and its colour, tannin and flavour phenolic potential from Cabernet Franc.
Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous clay. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thinner skin increases its susceptibility to the viticultural hazard of Botrytis bunch rot. If bad weather occurs during flowering, the Merlot vine is prone to develop coulure. The vine can also be susceptible to downy mildew (though it has better resistance to powdery mildew than other Bordeaux varieties) and to infection by leafhopper insect varieties.
Water stress is important to the vine with it thriving in well-drained soil more so than at base of a slope. Pruning is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced with some producing believing it is best to prune the vine “short” (cutting back to only a few buds). Wine consultant Michel Rolland is a major proponent of reducing the yields of Merlot grapes to improve quality. The age of the vine is also important, with older vines contributing character to the resulting wine.
A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly over ripen once it hits its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot. The wine makers of Château Petrus favour early picking to best maintain the wine’s acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging. Others, such as Rolland, favour late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness.
Merlot is one of the world’s most widely planted grape variety with plantings of the vine outpacing even the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon in many regions, including the grape’s homeland of France. Here, France is home to nearly two thirds of the world’s total plantings of Merlot. Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country’s 5th most planted grape), Algeria, California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, Mexico and other parts of the United States such as Washington, Virginia and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.
In places like Israel, Merlot is the second most widely planted grape variety after Cabernet Sauvignon with 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) in cultivation, making very “New World-style” wines. The grape can also be found in Turkey with 429 hectares (1,060 acres) in 2010 as well as Malta and Cyprus.
Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. In 2004, total French plantations stood at 115,000 hectares (280,000 acres). By 2009, that number had risen slightly to 115,746 hectares (286,010 acres). It is most prominent in Southwest France in regions like Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors where it is often blended with Malbec.
The largest recent increase in Merlot plantations has occurred in the south of France, such as Languedoc-Roussillon, where it is often made under the designation of Vin de pays wine. Here, Merlot accounted for 29,914 hectares (73,920 acres), more than doubling the 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the Languedoc.
In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot’s role is to add body and softness. Despite accounting for 50-60% of overall plantings in Bordeaux, the grape tends to account for an average of 25% of the blends — especially in the Bordeaux wine regions of Graves and Médoc. Of these Left Bank regions, the commune of St-Estephe uses the highest percentage of Merlot in the blends. However, Merlot is much more prominent on the Right Bank of the Gironde in the regions of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, where it will commonly comprise the majority of the blend. One of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus, is almost all Merlot. In Pomerol, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron-clay soils of the region give Merlot more of a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions. It was in Pomerol that the garagistes movement began with small-scale production of highly sought after Merlot-based wines. In the sandy, clay-limestone-based soils of Saint-Émilion, Merlot accounts for around 60% of the blend and is usually blended with Cabernet Franc. In limestone, Merlot tends to develop more perfume notes while in sandy soils the wines are generally softer than Merlot grown in clay dominant soils.
Merlot can also be found in significant quantities in Provence, Loire Valley, Savoie, Ardèche, Charente, Corrèze, Drôme, Isère and Vienne.
In Italy, there were 25,614 hectares (63,290 acres) of the grape planted in 2000 with more than two-thirds of Italian Merlot being used in Indicazione geografica tipica (IGT) blends (such as the so-called “Super Tuscans”) versus being used in classified Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines. A large portion of Merlot is planted in the Friuli wine region where it is made as a varietal or sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. In other parts of Italy, such as the Maremma coast in Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends
Italian Merlots are often characterized by their light bodies and herbal notes. Merlot’s low acidity serves as a balance for the higher acidity in many Italian wine grapes with the grape often being used in blends in the Veneto, Alto Adige and Umbria. Global warming is potentially having an influence on Italian Merlot as more cooler-climate regions in northern Italy are being able to ripen the grape successfully while other regions already planted are encountering issues with over-ripeness.
According to Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, some of the higher quality Italian Merlots are often from vineyards planted with cuttings sourced from France. Robinson describes the style of Fruili Merlots from regarded estates as having potentially a “Pomerol-quality” to them while Merlots from the warm plains of the Veneto can often be over-ripe with high yields giving them a “sweet and sour” quality. Robinson notes that the Merlots from Trentino-Alto-Adige can fall somewhere between those of Friuli and the Veneto.
Spain and Portugal
In the hot continental climate of many of Spain’s major wine region, Merlot is less valued than it is in the damp maritime climate of Bordeaux or the warm Mediterranean climate of the Tuscan coast. But as the popularity of international varieties continue to grow on the world wine market, Spanish wine producers have been experimenting with the variety with even winemakers in Rioja petitioning authorities to allow Merlot to be a permitted grape to be blended with Tempranillo in the red wines of the region.
In 2008, there were 13,325 hectares (32,930 acres) of Merlot, a significant increase from the 8,700 hectares (21,000 acres) that were being cultivated in the country only 4 years earlier. The largest concentration of the grape is in the Mediterranean climate of Catalunya with 3,360 hectares (8,300 acres) in 2008 with the grape also showing some potential in the cooler-climate wine region of Conca de Barberà in Tarragona.
In Costers del Segre, the grape is often used in Bordeaux-style blend while in Aragon (with 2,218 hectares (5,480 acres) in 2008), Navarra (2,450 hectares (6,100 acres) in 2008) and Castilla-La Mancha (2,894 hectares (7,150 acres)) sometimes blending with Tempranillo and other local Spanish wine grape varieties. Spain’s neighbour on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal, has only a very limited amount of Merlot compared to the abundance of native Portuguese grape varieties with 556 hectares (1,370 acres) planted in 2010, mostly in the Portuguese wine regions along the Tagus river.
There were 450 hectares (1,100 acres) of Merlot growing in 2008 with the grape mostly planted in the warmer German wine regions of the Palatinate and Rheinhessen.
Merlot accounts for nearly 85% of the wine production in Ticino where it is often made in a pale “white Merlot” style. In 2009, there were 1,028 hectares (2,540 acres) plantings of Swiss Merlot.
Plantings of Merlot have increased in recent years in the Austrian wine region of Burgenland where vineyards previously growing Welschriesling are being uprooted to make room for more plantings. The grape still lags behind its parent variety, Cabernet Franc, with 112 hectares (280 acres) in cultivation in 2008. Outside of Burgenland, nearly half of all Austrian Merlot plantings are found in Lower Austria.
Rest of Europe
In the Eastern European countries of Bulgaria, Moldova, Croatia and Romania
Merlot is often produced as a full bodied wine that can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. In Bulgaria, plantings of Merlot lag slightly behind Cabernet Sauvignon with 15,202 hectares (37,560 acres) in 2009 while Croatia had 1,105 hectares (2,730 acres). In the Czech Republic, most of the country’s 87 hectares (210 acres) were found in Moravia while Moldova had 8,123 hectares (20,070 acres) in 2009.
Merlot was the most widely planted grape variety of any colour in the Vipava Valley in the Slovene Littoral and the second most widely planted variety in the Gorizia Hills located across the Italian border from Friuli. In the Slovene Littoral, collectively, Merlot accounts for around 15% of total vineyard plantings with 1,019 hectares (2,520 acres) of Merlot in cultivation across Slovenia in 2009.
Merlot complements Kékfrankos, Kékoportó and Kadarka as a component in Bull’s Blood. It is also made into varietal wine known as Egri Médoc Noir which is noted for its balanced acid levels and sweet taste. In 2009, there were 1,791 hectares (4,430 acres) of Merlot planted across Hungary. Most of these hectares can be found in the wine regions of Szekszárd and Villány on the warm Pannonian Basin with significant plantings also found in Kunság, Eger and Balaton.
Merlot is the most widely exported red wine grape variety with 10,782 hectares (26,640 acres) in cultivation in 2008. Most of these plantings are found along the Black Sea in Dobruja, further inland in the Muntenia region of Dealu Mare and in the western Romanian wine region of Drăgășani. Here the grape is often made a varietal but is sometimes blended with other international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and with local grape varieties such as Fetească neagră.
had 2,820 hectares (7,000 acres) of Merlot in cultivation.
had 1,588 hectares (3,920 acres).
Merlot is one of the top six grape varieties planted in the eastern wine regions of Macedonia (86 hectares (210 acres)) and Western Thrace (243 hectares (600 acres)). In central Greece, there were 74 hectares (180 acres) of Merlot in cultivation as of 2012.
Merlot is grown across the United States with California and Washington growing the most. Other regions producing significant quantities of Merlot include New York State with 365 hectares (900 acres) in 2006 with most of it in the maritime climate of the Long Island AVA and multiple regions in Ohio. In Texas, Merlot is the second most widely planted red wine grape after Cabernet Sauvignon with 117 hectares (290 acres). In Virginia, the grape was the widely most widely planted red variety with 136 hectares (340 acres) in 2010, most of it in the Monticello AVA and Shenandoah Valley AVA, while Oregon had 206 hectares (510 acres) in 2008 with most planted in the Rogue Valley AVA.
The style of Merlot in California can vary with the grape being found all across the state in both warmer and cooler climate regions. While regional examples of California Merlot exist from places like Napa Valley and Sonoma, many bottles are labelled simply as California Merlot.
In the early history of California wine, Merlot was used primarily as a 100% varietal wine until winemaker Warren Winiarski encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends. Following the “Merlot wine craze” of the 1990s sparked by 60 Minutes French Paradox report, sales of Merlot spiked with the grape hitting its peak plantings of over 20,640 hectares (51,000 acres) in 2004. The 2004 movie Sideways, where the lead character is a Pinot Noir fan who expresses his disdain of Merlot, has been connected with declining Merlot sales in the US after its release (and an even larger spike of interest in Pinot Noir).By 2010, plantings of California Merlot had dropped slightly to 18,924 hectares (46,760 acres).
In California, Merlot can range from very fruity simple wines (sometimes referred to by critics as a “red Chardonnay”) to more serious, barrel aged examples. It can also be used as a primary component in Meritage blends.
While Merlot is grown throughout the state, it is particularly prominent in Napa, Monterey and Sonoma County. In Napa, examples from Los Carneros, Mount Veeder, Oakville and Rutherford tend to show ripe blackberry and black raspberry notes. Sonoma Merlots from Alexander Valley, Carneros and Dry Creek Valley tend to show plum, tea leaf and black cherry notes.
In the 1980s, Merlot helped put the Washington wine industry on the world’s wine map. Prior to this period there was a general perception that the climate of Washington State was too cold to produce red wine varietals. Merlots from Leonetti Cellar, Andrew Will, Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle demonstrated that areas of the Eastern Washington were warm enough for red wine production. Today it is the second most widely grown red wine grape in the state (after Cabernet Sauvignon), following many years of being the most widely planted variety, and accounts for nearly one fifth of the state’s entire production. In 2011, there were 3,334 hectares (8,240 acres) of Washington Merlot in cultivation.
It is widely planted throughout the Columbia Valley AVA but has earned particular notice from plantings grown in Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills. Washington Merlots are noted for their deep colour and balanced acidity. The state’s climate lends itself towards long days and hours of sunshine with cool nights that contributes to a significant diurnal temperature variation and produces wines with New World fruitiness and Old World structure.
In Canada, Merlot can be found across the country from Ontario, where there were 498 hectares (1,230 acres) of the grape in 2008, to British Columbia, where the grape is the most widely planted wine grape variety of either colour at 641 hectares (1,580 acres). Here Merlot accounts for almost a third of all red wine grape plantings and is used for both varietal and Bordeaux-style blends.
In Mexico, Merlot is cultivated primarily in the Valle de Guadalupe of Baja California, the country’s main wine-producing area. Plantings have increased substantially since the 1980s, and cultivation has spread into the nearby areas of Ojos Negros and Santo Tomás. The grape can also be found in the north eastern Mexican wine region of Coahuila, across the border from Texas.
In Chile, Merlot thrives in the Apalta region of Colchagua Province. It is also grown in significant quantities in Curicó, CasaBlanca and the Maipo Valley. Until the early 1990s, the Chilean wine industry mistakenly sold a large quantity of wine made from the Carménère grape as Merlot. Following the discovery that many Chilean vineyards thought to be planted with Sauvignon Blanc was actually Sauvignonasse, the owners of the Chilean winery Domaine Paul Bruno (who previously worked with Château Margaux and Château Cos d’Estournel) invited ampelographers to comb through their vineyards to make sure that their wines were properly identified. Genetic studies discovered that much of what had been grown as Merlot was actually Carménère, an old French variety that had gone largely extinct in France due to its poor resistance to phylloxera. While the vines, leaves and grapes look very similar, both grapes produce wines with distinct characteristics — Carménère being more h4ly flavoured with green pepper notes and Merlot having softer fruit with chocolate notes.
Today, “true” Merlot is the third most widely planted grape variety in Chile after Cabernet Sauvignon and Listán Prieto with 13,280 hectares (32,800 acres) in 2009. Most of these planting are in the Central Valley with Colchagua leading the way with 3,359 hectares (8,300 acres) followed by Maule Valley with 3,019 hectares (7,460 acres) and Curicó with 2,911 hectares (7,190 acres).
Merlot plantings have been increasing in the Mendoza region with the grape showing an affinity to the Tupungato region of the Uco Valley. Argentine Merlots grown in the higher elevations of Tunpungato have shown a balance of ripe fruit, tannic structure and acidity. The grape is not as widely planted here due to the natural fruity and fleshiness of the popular Malbec and Douce Noir/Bonarda grapes that often don’t need to be “mellowed” by Merlot as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc may benefit from. In 2008, there were 7,142 hectares (17,650 acres) of Merlot growing in Argentina, most of it in the Mendoza region and in the San Juan Province.
Merlot is often blended with Tannat and is the 2nd most widely planted red grape variety, representing around 10% of total vineyard plantings. More widely planted than Cabernet Sauvignon, there were 853 hectares (2,110 acres) of the grape in cultivation in 2009. Brazil is home to 1,089 hectares (2,690 acres) of Merlot (as of 2007) with most of them in the Rio Grande do Sul region that is across the border with Uruguay. Other South American wine regions growing Merlot include Bolivia with 30 hectares (74 acres) as of 2012 and Peru.
Oceania, South Africa and Asia
Plantings of Merlot have increased in the Hawke’s Bay region, particularly in Gimblett Gravels where the grape has shown the ability to produce Bordeaux-style wine. The grape has been growing in favour among New Zealand producers due to its ability to ripen better, with less green flavours, than Cabernet Sauvignon. Other regions with significant plantings include Auckland, Marlborough and Martinborough. In 2008, Merlot was the second most widely red grape variety (after Pinot Noir) in New Zealand and accounted for nearly 5% of all the country’s plantings with 1,363 hectares (3,370 acres) in cultivation.
Some vineyards labelled as “Merlot” were discovered to actually be Cabernet Franc. Merlot vines can also be found growing in the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Wrattonbully in South Australia. In 2008, it was the third most widely planted red grape variety after Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon with 10,537 hectares (26,040 acres). As in California, the global “Merlot craze” spurred an increase of plantings, most of it in the warm, irrigated regions of Murray Darling, Riverina and Riverland where the grape variety could be mass-produced. Recent plantings, such as those in the Margaret River area of Western Australia have been focusing on making more Bordeaux-style blends.
Plantings of Merlot have focused on cooler sites within the Paarl and Stellenbosch regions. Here the grape is the third most widely planted red grape variety, accounting for nearly 15% of all red wine grape plantings, with 6,614 hectares (16,340 acres) of Merlot in cultivation in 2008. The majority of these plantings are found in the Stellenbosch region with 2,105 hectares (5,200 acres) and Paarl with 1,289 hectares (3,190 acres). According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, South African Merlot tend to be made as a varietal in a “chocolately, glossy California style”.
In Asia, Merlot is planted in emerging wine regions in
It can also be found in Japan with 816 hectares (2,020 acres) in 2009 and in China with 3,204 hectares (7,920 acres).
As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, velvety wines with plum flavours. While Merlot wines tend to mature faster than Cabernet Sauvignon, some examples can continue to develop in the bottle for decades. There are three main styles of Merlot — a soft, fruity, smooth wine with very little tannins, a fruity wine with more tannic structure and, finally, a brawny, highly tannic style made in the profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the fruit notes commonly associated with Merlot include cassis, black and red cherries, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry, ollalieberry and plum. Vegetable and earthy notes include black and green olives, cola nut, bell pepper, fennel, humus, leather, mushrooms, rhubarb and tobacco. Floral and herbal notes commonly associated with Merlot include green and black tea, eucalyptus, laurel, mint, oregano, pine, rosemary, sage, sarsaparilla and thyme. When Merlot has spent significant time in oak, the wine may show notes of caramel, chocolate, coconut, coffee bean, dill weed, mocha, molasses, smoke, vanilla and walnut.
White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must and is then fermented. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s. In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made in the Ticino region but has been considered more as a rosé.
White Merlot should not be confused with the grape variety Merlot Blanc, which is a cross between Merlot and Folle Blanche that was discovered in 1891, nor should it be confused with the white mutant variety of the Merlot grape.
In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with, such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and North-eastern Italy) share many of the same food-pairing affinities with Pinot Noir and go well with dishes like salmon, mushroom-based dishes and greens like chard and radicchio. Light-bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon or prosciutto. Merlot tends not to go well with h4 and blue-veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavours of the wine. The capsaicins of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter.
Over the years, Merlot has been known under many synonyms across the globe including: Alicante, Alicante Noir, Bégney, Bidal, Bidalhe, Bigney, Bigney rouge, Bini, Bini Ruzh, Bioney, Black Alicante, Bordeleza belcha, Crabutet, Crabutet Noir, Crabutet Noir merlau, Hebigney, Higney, Higney rouge, Langon, Lecchumskij, Médoc Noir, Merlau, Merlaut, Merlaut Noir, Merle, Merle Petite, Merleau, Merlô, Merlot Noir, Merlot black, Merlot blauer, Merlot crni, Merlot nero, Merlott, Merlou, Odzalesi, Odzhaleshi, Odzhaleshi Legkhumskii, Petit Merle, Picard, Pikard, Plan medre, Planet Medok, Plant du Médoc, Plant Médoc, Saint-Macaire, Same de la Canan, Same dou Flaube, Sème de la Canau, Sème Dou Flube, Semilhon rouge, Semilhoum rouge, Semilhoun rouge, Sémillon rouge, Sud des Graves, Vidal, Vini Ticinesi, Vitrai and Vitraille.
Malbec (pronounced [mal.bɛk]) is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark colour and robust tannins, and are known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine and is being grown around the world.
Called Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, called Malbec in Bordeaux, and Pressac in other places, the grape became less popular in Bordeaux after 1956 when frost killed off 75% of the crop. Despite Cahors being hit by the same frost, which devastated the vineyards, Malbec was replanted and continued to be popular in that area where it was mixed with Merlot and Tannat to make dark, full-bodied wines, and more recently has been made into 100% Malbec varietal wines.
A popular but unconfirmed theory claims that Malbec is named after a Hungarian peasant who first spread the grape variety throughout France. However the French ampelographer and viticulturalist Pierre Galet notes that most evidence suggest that Côt was the variety’s original name and that it probably originated in northern Burgundy. Despite a similar name, the grape Malbec argenté is not Malbec, but rather a variety of the southwestern French grape Abouriou. Due to the similarities in synonyms, Malbec has also been confused with Auxerrois Blanc, which is an entirely different variety.
The Malbec grape is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It ripens mid-season and can bring very deep colour, ample tannin, and a particular plum-like flavour component to add complexity to claret blends. Sometimes, especially in its traditional growing regions, it is not trellised and cultivated as bush vines (the goblet system). Here it is sometimes kept to a relatively low yield of about 6 tons per hectare. The wines are rich, dark and juicy.
As a varietal, Malbec creates a rather inky red (or violet), intense wine, so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux claret blend. The grape is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay in some regions such as the Loire Valley. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends. The varietal is sensitive to frost and has a proclivity to shatter or coulure.
Malbec is very susceptible to various grape diseases and viticultural hazards—most notably frost, coulure, downey mildew and rot but the development of new clones and vineyard management techniques have helped control some of these potential problems. When it is not afflicted with these various ailments, particularly coulure, it does have the potential to produce high yields. Too high a yield, as was the circumstance in Argentina until recently with their heavy use of flood irrigation, the wines become more simplistic and lacking in flavour. Malbec seems to be able to produce well in a variety of soil types but in the limestone based soils of Cahors it seems to produce its most dark and tannic manifestation. There are distinct ampelographical differences in the clones of Malbec found in France and in Argentina, with Argentine Malbec tending to have smaller berries.
A comparative research study conducted by the Catena Institute of Wine and University of California, Davis, examined the difference between the phenolic composition of Malbec wines from California, USA, and Mendoza, Argentina. Sixteen vineyards in California and twenty-six blocks in Mendoza were selected based on their uniformity and regional representativeness. The study concluded that there are distinct flavour and compositional differences in Malbec wines produced in Mendoza and California.
Malbec is the dominant red varietal in Cahors where the Appellation Controlée regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of 70%. Introduced to Argentina by French agricultural engineer Michel Pouget in 1868, Malbec is widely planted in Argentina producing a softer, less tannic-driven variety than the wines of Cahors. There were once 50,000 hectares planted with Malbec in Argentina; now there are 25,000 hectares in Mendoza in addition to production in La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires. Chile has about 6,000 hectares planted, France 5,300 hectares and in the cooler regions of California just 45 hectares. In California the grape is used to make Meritage. Malbec is also grown in Washington State, the Rogue and Umpqua regions of Oregon, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, British Columbia, the Long Island AVA of New York, Oregon, southern Bolivia, north-eastern Italy and recently in Texas and southern Ontario, Virginia, and in the Baja California region of Mexico.
At one point Malbec was grown in 30 different departments of France, a legacy that is still present in the abundance of local synonyms for the variety which easily surpass 1000 names. However, in recent times, the popularity of the variety has been steadily declining with a 2000 census reporting only 15,000 acres (6,100 hectares) of the vine mostly consigned to the southwestern part of the country. Its h4hold remains Cahors where Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) regulations stipulates that Malbec must compose at least 70% of the blend, with Merlot and Tannat rounding out the remaining percentage. Outside of Cahors, Malbec is still found in small amounts as a permitted variety in the AOCs of Bergerac, Buzet, Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais, Fronton and Pécharmant. It is also permitted in the Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) of Côtes du Brulhois. In the MIDI region of the Languedoc, it is permitted (but rarely grown) in the AOC regions of Cabardès and Côtes de Malepère. There is a small amount of Malbec grown in the middle Loire Valley and permitted in the AOCs of Anjou, Coteaux du Loir, Touraine and the sparkling wine AOC of Saumur where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. But as elsewhere in France, Malbec is losing acreage other varieties—most notably Cabernet Franc in the Loire.
The grape was historically a major planting in Bordeaux, providing colour and fruit to the blend, but in the 20th century started to lose ground to Merlot and Cabernet Franc due, in part, to its sensitivities to so many different vine ailments (coulure, downy mildew, frost). The severe 1956 frost wiped out a significant portion of Malbec vines in Bordeaux, allowing many growers a chance to start anew with different varieties. By 1968 plantings in the Libournais was down to 12,100 acres (4,900 hectares) and fell further to 3,460 acres (1,400 hectares) by 2000. While Malbec has since become a popular component of New World meritages or Bordeaux blends, and it is still a permitted variety in all major wine regions of Bordeaux, its presence in Bordeaux is as a distinctly minor variety. Only the regions of the Côtes-de-Bourg, Blaye and Entre-Deux-Mers have any significant plantings in Bordeaux.
While acreage of the Malbec is declining in France, in Argentina the grape is surging and has become a “national variety” of a sort that is uniquely identified with Argentine wine. The grape was first introduced to the region in the mid-19th century when provincial governor Domingo Faustino Sarmiento instructed the French agronomist Miguel Pouget to bring grapevine cuttings from France to Argentina. Among the vines that Pouget brought were the very first Malbec vines to be planted in the country. During the economic turmoil of the 20th century, some plantings of Malbec were pulled out to make way for the jug wine producing varieties of Criolla Grande and Cereza. But the grape was rediscovered in the late 20th century as the Argentine wine industry shifted its focus to premium wine production for export. As the Argentine wine industry discovered the unique quality of wine that could be made from the grape, Malbec arose to greater prominence and is today the most widely planted red grape variety in the country. As of 2003 there were over 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of Malbec in Argentina.
The grape clusters of Argentine Malbec are different from its French relatives, having smaller berries in tighter, smaller clusters. This suggests that the cuttings brought over by Pouget and later French immigrants were a unique clone that may have gone extinct in France due to frost and the phylloxera epidemic. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep colour and intense fruity flavours with a velvety texture. While it doesn’t have the tannic structure of a French Malbec, being more plush in texture, Argentine Malbecs have shown aging potential similar to their French counterparts. The Mendoza region is the leading producer of Malbec in Argentina with plantings found throughout the country in places such as La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires.
High Altitude Mendoza Malbec
s most highly rated Malbec wines originate from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. These districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between 800 m and 1500 m elevation (2,800 to 5,000 feet).
Argentine vintner Nicolás Catena Zapata has been widely credited for elevating the status of Argentine Malbec and the Mendoza region through serious experimentation into the effects of high altitude.
In 1994, he was the first to plant a Malbec vineyard at almost 1500 m (5,000 feet) elevation in the Gualtallary sub-district of Tupungato, the Adrianna Vineyard, and to develop a clonal selection of Argentine Malbec
High-altitude Mendoza has attracted many notable foreign winemakers, such as Paul Hobbs, Michel Rolland, Herve Joyaux-Fabre, Roberto Cipresso and Alberto Antonini, and today, there are several Malbecs from the region scoring over 95 points in the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.
Prior to Prohibition in the United States, Malbec was a significant variety in California used mainly for blended bulk wine production. After Prohibition, the grape was a minor variety until it experienced a surge of interest as a component of “Meritage” Bordeaux-style blends in the mid-1990s. Between 1995 and 2003, plantings of Malbec in California increased from 1000 acres (404 hectares) to more than 7000 acres (2,830 hectares). While the appearance of Californian varietal Malbec is increasing, the grape is still most widely used for blending in Cqlifornia, the American Viticultural Areas (AVA) with the most plantings of
Malbec vineyards include Napa Valley, Alexander Valley, Paso Robles and Sonoma Valley.
Other regions in California with some plantings of Malbec include Livermore Valley, Atlas Peak, Carmel Valley, Los Carneros, Ramona Valley, Central Coast, Red Hills Lake County, Chalk Hill, Clear Lake, Diamond Mountain District, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Rutherford, El Dorado, San Lucas, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Howell Mountain, Sierra Foothills, Knights Valley, Spring Mountain District, St. Helena, Lodi, Stags Leap District, Madera, Suisun Valley, Temecula Valley, Monterey, Mount Veeder, North Coast, Oak Knoll District, Yorkville Highlands, Oakville, Paicines, Clements Hills, Fair Play, Willow Creek, North Yuba, and Yountville.
Seven Hills Winery planted the first vines of Malbec planted in Oregon State in the late 1990s in their Windrow vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Since the turn of the 21st century, several wineries have been experimenting with 100% varietal Malbec as well as using the variety in Meritage blends. In Washington State it is grown predominately in the Columbia Valley and the sub-AVAs of Walla Walla Valley, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley.
Other AVAs in the United States producing Malbec include the New York appellations of North Fork of Long Island and Finger Lakes; the Oregon appellations of Applegate Valley, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley and Willamette Valley; the Idaho appellation of the Snake River Valley; the Texas appellations of Texas High Plains and Texas Hill Country; the Virginia appellations of Monticello and North Fork of Roanoke; the North Carolina appellation of the Yadkin Valley; the Michigan appellations of the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula; the New Jersey appellation of the Outer Coastal Plain and the Colourado appellation of the Grand Valley. Additionally there are some plantings in Missouri and Georgia outside of federally delineated appellations.
Malbec is characterized by its dark colouring
The success of Malbec in Argentina led some producers in neighbouring Chile to try their hand at the varietal. Grown throughout the Central Valley, Chilean Malbec tends to be more tannic than its Argentine counterpart and is used primarily in Bordeaux-style blends. In 2016 a budget-priced La Moneda Reserve Malbec from the UK supermarket chain Asda won the Platinum Best in Show prize in a blind tasting at the Decanter World Wine awards.
The grapevine was introduced to Australia in the 19th century and was mostly a bulk wine producing grape. The particular clones planted in Australia were of poor quality and highly susceptible to coulure, frost and downy mildew. By the mid to late 20th century, many acres of Malbec were uprooted and planted with different varieties. By 2000, there were slightly over 1,235 acres (500 hectares), with the Clare Valley having the most significant amount. As newer clones become available, plantings of Malbec in Australia have increased slightly.
Other regions with some plantings of Malbec include north Italy, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa, the Canadian regions of British Columbia and Ontario, Bolivia and Mexico, and Southern Indiana.
Wine expert Jancis Robinson describes the French style of Malbec common in the Libournais (Bordeaux region) as a “rustic” version of Merlot, softer in tannins and lower in acidity with blackberry fruit in its youth. The Malbec of the Cahors region is much more tannic with more phenolic compounds that contribute to its dark colour.
Oz Clarke describes Cahors’ Malbec as dark purple in colour with aromas of damsons, tobacco, garlic, and raisin. In Argentina, Malbec becomes softer with a plusher texture and riper tannins. The wines tend to have juicy fruit notes with violet aromas. In very warm regions of Argentina, Chile, and Australia, the acidity of the wine may be too low which can cause a wine to taste flabby and weak. Malbec grown in Washington State tends to be characterized by dark fruit notes and herbal aromas.
The French ampelographer Pierre Galet has documented over a thousand different synonyms for Malbec, stemming in part from its peak period when it was growing in 30 different departments of France. While Malbec is the name most commonly known to wine drinkers, Galet suggest that Côt was most likely the grape variety’s original name and the frequent appearance of Auxerrois as a synonym suggests the northern reaches of Burgundy as being the possible home of the varietal. In Bordeaux, where the variety first gained attention, it was known under the synonym Pressac.
Other common synonyms for Malbec include Agreste, Auxerrois, Auxerrois De Laquenexy, Auxerrois Des Moines De Picpus, Auxerrois Du Mans, Balouzat, Beran, Blanc De Kienzheim, Cahors, Calarin, Cauli, Costa Rosa, Cot A Queue Verte, Cotes Rouges, Doux Noir, Estrangey, Gourdaux, Grelot De Tours, Grifforin, Guillan, Hourcat, Jacobain, Luckens, Magret, Malbek, Medoc Noir, Mouranne, Navarien, Negre De Prechac, Negrera, Noir De Chartres, Noir De Pressac, Noir Doux, Nyar De Presak, Parde, Périgord, Pied De Perdrix, Pied Noir, Pied Rouge, Pied Rouget, Piperdy, Plant D’Arles, Plant De Meraou, Plant Du Roi, Prechat, Pressac, Prunieral, Quercy, Queue Rouge, Quille De Coy, Romieu, Teinturin, Terranis, Vesparo, Côt, Plant du Lot.
Tempranillo (also known as Ull de Llebre, Cencibel, and Tinta del Pais in Spain, Aragonez or Tinta Roriz in Portugal, and several other synonyms elsewhere) is a black grape variety widely grown to make full-bodied red wines in its native Spain. Its name is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo has been grown on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of Phoenician settlements. It is the main grape used in Rioja, and is often referred to as Spain’s noble grape. The grape has been planted throughout the globe in places such as Mexico, New Zealand, California, Washington State, Oregon, South Africa, Texas, Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, Turkey, Canada, Israel, and Arizona.
Unlike more aromatic red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, Tempranillo has a relatively neutral profile so it is often blended with other varieties, such as Grenache and Carignan (known in Rioja as Mazuelo), or aged for extended periods in oak where the wine easily takes on the flavour of the barrel. Varietal examples of Tempranillo usually exhibit flavours of plum and strawberries.
Tempranillo is an early ripening variety that tends to thrive in chalky vineyard soils such as those of the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. In Portugal, where the grape is known as Tinto Roriz and Aragonez, it is blended with others to produce Port wine.
History and mutation
For some time, Tempranillo was thought to be related to the Pinot Noir grape. According to legend, Cistercian monks left Pinot Noir cuttings at monasteries along their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. However, ampelographic studies have shown no genetic connection between the cultivars.
Spanish cultivation of Vitis vinifera, the common ancestor of almost all vines in existence today, began in earnest with Phoenician settlement in the southern provinces. Later, according to the Roman writer Columella, wines were grown all over Spain; yet there are only scattered references to the name “Tempranillo”. Ribera del Duero wine making extends back over 2,000 years, as evidenced by the 66-metre mosaic of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, which was unearthed in 1972, at Baños de Valdearados.
It is possible that this grape was introduced to America by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 17th century, as certain Criolla varieties in Argentina have a closer genetic relationship to Tempranillo than to a small handful of other European varieties against which the Criolla varieties were tested. Despite its apparent fragility, Tempranillo travelled widely during the 20th century and, following much trial and error, has become established throughout the world. In 1905, Frederic Bioletti brought Tempranillo to California where it received a cool reception not only due to the encroaching era of Prohibition, but also because of the grape’s dislike of hot, dry climates. It was much later, during the 1980s, which Californian Tempranillo wine production began to flourish, following the establishment of suitably mountainous sites. Production in this area has more than doubled since 1993.
During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production worldwide. This surge began partly as a result of the efforts of a ‘new wave’ of Spanish growers who showed that it was possible to produce wines of great character and quality in areas outside of the Rioja region. One result of this has been that Tempranillo varietal wines have become more common, especially in the better-suited, cooler Spanish regions like Ribera del Duero, Navarra, and Penedès. During the 1990s, growers in Australia and South Africa started significant Tempranillo plantations.
Tempranillo is a black grape with a thick skin. It grows best at relatively high altitudes, but it also can tolerate a much warmer climate. With regard to Tempranillo’s production in various climates, wine expert Oz Clarke notes,
To get elegance and acidity out of Tempranillo, you need a cool climate. But to get high sugar levels and the thick skins that give deep colour you need heat. In Spain these two opposites are best reconciled in the continental climate but high altitude of the Ribera del Duero.
In the Ribera del Duero the average July temperature is around 21.4° Celsius (70.5° Fahrenheit), though temperatures in the middle of the day in the lower valley can jump as high as 40 °C (104 °F). At night the region experiences a dramatic diurnal temperature variation, with temperatures dropping by as much as 16 °C (30 °F) from the daytime high. The Tempranillo grape is one of the few grapes that can adapt and thrive in continental Mediterranean climates like this.
Pests and diseases are a serious problem for this grape variety, since it has little resistance to either. The grape forms compact, cylindrical bunches of spherical, deep blue-black fruit with a colourless pulp. The leaves are large with five overlapping lobes.
The Tempranillo root absorbs potassium easily, which facilitates pH levels of 3.6 in the pulp and 4.3 in the skin when it reaches maturity. If it absorbs too much potassium, the must becomes salified (increased levels of salt), which slows the disappearance of malic acid, resulting in a higher pH. The skin does not present any herbaceous characters. The grape is very susceptible to inclement weather, contracting when there is a drought and swelling when there is too much humidity. The swelling has a negative effect on quality since it affects the colour of the wine. The effects of the weather are attenuated in places with limestone because of the effect of the clay and humidity in the roots; the effects are worse in sandy areas, as well as for vines that are less than twelve years old, as the roots are generally too superficial.
A Tempranillo varietal wine in a glass, showing typically intense purple colouring
Tempranillo wines are ruby red in colour, while aromas and flavours can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb Often making up as much as 90% of a blend, Tempranillo is less frequently bottled as a single varietal. Being low in both acidity and sugar content, it is most commonly blended with Grenache (known as Garnacha in Spain), Carignan (known as Mazuela in Spain), Graciano, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Blending the grape with Carignan makes a brighter and more acidic wine. Tempranillo is the major component of the typical Rioja blends and constitutes 90-100% of Ribera del Duero wines. In Australia, Tempranillo is blended with Grenache and Shiraz, also known as Syrah. In Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz, it is a major grape in the production of some Port wines.
Tempranillo is native to northern Spain and widely cultivated as far south as La Mancha. The two major regions that grow Tempranillo are Rioja, in north central Spain, and Ribera del Duero, which lies a little farther to the south. Substantial quantities are also grown in the Penedès, Navarra and Valdepeñas regions.
Tempranillo is known under a number of local synonyms in different regions of Spain: Cencibel and Tinto Fino are used in several regions, and it is known as Tinta del País in Ribera del Duero and the surrounding area, Tinta de Toro in Toro, Ull de llebre in Catalonia and Morisca in Extremadura.
The grape plays a role in the production of wines in two regions of Portugal, central Alentejo and Douro. In Alentejo Central it is known as Aragonez and used in red table wine blends of variable quality, while in the Douro it is known as Tinta Roriz and mainly used in blends to make port wine.
New World production
Tempranillo arrived in California bearing the name Valdepeñas, and it was grown in the Central Valley at the turn of the 20th century. Since the climate of the Central Valley was not ideal for the grape, it was used as a blending grape for jug wine. California has since started to use it for fine wines. In Texas, the soils of the High Plains and Hill Country have been compared to those of northern Spain. Tempranillo has been well received in Texas and has grown to be considered the state’s signature grape.
In Oregon, the grape was introduced by Earl Jones of Abacela Vineyards and Winery, in the Umpqua Valley AVA. Their climate (hot during the summer day, and cool overnight) seems to be perfect for the Tempranillo grape. In Australia Tempranillo is grown in the McLaren Vale region, and also North East Victoria. Tempranillo has also been introduced by some wine producers in Thailand. The varietal is extensively grown in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
In Washington State, Tempranillo was one of the varieties pioneered in the state by Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA with its first commercial planting of the variety in 1993.
Shiraz refers to two types of wine, sometimes incorrectly considered the same. In the modern world, it is a style of Syrah. Historically the name refers to the wine produced around the city of Shiraz in Iran, known by the 9th century for producing the finest wine from the Near East. Modern-world Shiraz wine is best known as produced in Australia and South Africa, but it also refers to a style of Syrah produced in some other countries. The modern Shiraz grape has been shown as identical to Syrah and originating in southeast France, with no connection to Iran.
South African and Australian Shiraz typically have blackberry, plum and pepper flavours and there are often additional notes of liquorice, bitter chocolate and mocha. But after bottle ageing secondary flavours such as leather and truffle can also appear.
Shiraz is described as having a unique exuberant character and therefore one would naturally pair it with equally boisterous types of food ranging from BBQ and fried meat to sweets, chocolates and jellies
By the ninth century, the city of Shiraz had already established a reputation for producing the finest wine in the world, and was Iran’s wine capital. The export of Shiraz wine by European merchants in the 17th century has been documented. As described by enthusiastic English and French travellers to the region in the 17th to 19th centuries, the wine grown close to the city was of a more dilute character due to irrigation, while the best Shiraz wines were actually grown in terraced vineyards around the village of Khollar. These wines were white and existed in two different styles: dry wines for drinking young, and sweet wines meant for aging. The latter wines were compared to “an old sherry” (one of the most prized European wines of the day), and at five years of age were said to have a fine bouquet and nutty flavour. The dry white Shiraz wines (but not the sweet ones) were fermented with significant stem contact, which should have made these wines rather phenolic, i.e., rich in tannins.
The wine called “Shiraz”, come from French-rooted grapes of the Rhone Valley, with no known genetic connection to the grape varieties from modern Shiraz, Iran/Persia. It just borrows the name and style. Malaga wine (or sherry), on the other hand, is a direct descendant of the Shiraz
It is likely that Shiraz wines of older times were dried grape wines.
While travellers have described the wines as white, there seem to be no ampelographic descriptions of the vines or grapes. Marco Polo made mention of the wine, and other classical accounts describe vines trained by pulleys and weights to grow up one side of a house and down another.
The British poet Edward FitzGerald later translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, in which praise is heaped on the Shiraz wines.
In modern Iran, no Shiraz wine is officially produced today. Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were up to 300 wineries in Iran; now there are none. As a whole, Iran is not a wine producing country, but rumour has it that villagers that live nearby Shiraz produce small quantities in secret.
Australian Shiraz is exported mainly to the United States and Asian countries
The modern Shiraz grape, now known to be identical to the Syrah grape, was brought to Australia by James Busby (recognised as the father of Australian wine). Busby travelled through Spain and France collecting vine cuttings that were the foundation of the Australian wine industry. Despite being genetically identical, the Shiraz grape tastes and looks different compared to its European siblings especially when grown in warm climates.
Except the name, there is no proven connection between the city of Shiraz and the modern-day red grape variety “Shiraz”, planted in Australia, South Africa, Canada, the United States, and some other countries.
Rioja is a wine region in Spain, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca., “Qualified Designation of Origin”). Rioja wine is made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja and Navarre, and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions, though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.
The harvesting of wine in La Rioja has an ancient lineage with origins dating back to the Phoenicians and the Celtiberians. The earliest written evidence of the existence of the grape in La Rioja dates to 873, in the form of a document from the Public Notary of San Millán dealing with a donation to the San Andrés de Trepeana (Treviana) Monastery. As was the case in many Mediterranean lands in mediaeval times, monks were the main practitioners of winemaking in La Rioja and great advocates of its virtues. In the thirteenth century, Gonzalo de Berceo, clergyman of the Suso Monastery in San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja) and Spain’s earliest known poet, mentions the wine in some of his works.
In the year 1063, the first testimony of viticulture in La Rioja appears in the “Carta de población de Longares” (Letter to the Settlers of Longares). The King of Navarra and Aragon gave the first legal recognition of Rioja wine in 1102. Vineyards occupied the usual part of rural landscapes in medieval Rioja during the High Middle Ages (10th-13th century). There are proofs of Rioja wine export towards other regions as early as the late 13th century, which testifies the beginnings of a commercial production. From the 15th century on, the Rioja Alta specialized in wine growing. In 1560, harvesters from Longares chose a symbol to represent the quality of the wines. In 1635, the mayor of Logroño prohibited the passing of carts through streets near wine cellars, in case the vibrations caused a deterioration of the quality of the wine. Several years later, in 1650, the first document to protect the quality of Rioja wines was drawn up. In 1790, at the inaugural meeting of the Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de La Rioja (Royal Economic Society of Rioja Winegrowers), many initiatives as to how to construct, fix, and maintain the roads and other forms of access for transportation of wine were discussed. The Society was established to promote the cultivation and commercialisation of Rioja wines and 52 Rioja localities participated.
In 1852, Luciano Murrieta created the first fine wine of the Duque de la Victoria area, having learned the process in Bordeaux. In 1892, the Viticulture and Enology Station of Haro was founded for quality-control purposes. In 1902, a Royal Decree determining the origin of Rioja wines is promulgated. The Consejo Regulador (Regulating Council) was created in 1926 with the objective of limiting the zones of production, expanding the warranty of the wine and controlling the use of the name “Rioja”. This Council became legally structured in 1945 and was finally inaugurated in 1953. In 1970 the Regulations for Denominación de Origen were approved as well as Regulations for the Regulating Council. In 1991, the prestigious “Calificada” (Qualified) nomination was awarded to La Rioja, making it Spain’s first Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa).
In 2008, the Regulatory Council for the La Rioja Denomination of Origin created a new logo to go on all bottles of wine produced under this designation. From now on bottles of wine from the La Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin will no longer bear the familiar logo. In an attempt to appeal to younger wine-lovers, the long-standing logo will now be replaced with a brighter, more modern logo with cleaner lines. The aim is to reflect the new, modern aspects of wine-growing in La Rioja without detracting from the traditional wines. In theory, the new logo represents a Tempranillo vine symbolising “heritage, creativity and dynamism”. Consumers should start seeing the labels in October 2008. The Joven from 2008, Crianza from 2006, Reserva from 2005, and Gran Reserva from 2003 being released this year should bear the new label, in theory.
Geography and climate
Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro river, La Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region which has a moderating effect on the climate. They also protect the vineyards from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. The region is also home to the Oja river (Rio Oja), believed to have given the region its name. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level. The area is subdivided into three regions – Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. La Rioja Alavesa and la Rioja Alta, located closer to the mountains, are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. La Rioja Baja to the southeast is drier and warmer. Annual rainfall in the region ranges from 12 inches (300 mm) in parts of Baja to more than 20 inches (510 mm) in La Rioja Alta and Alavesa. Many of Rioja’s vineyards are found along the Ebro valley between the towns of Haro and Alfaro.
The three principal regions of La Rioja are Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja with each area producing its own unique expression of Rioja wine. Most of the territory subjected to the Rioja Protected designation of origin is in the La Rioja region, even though their limits do not coincide exactly. There is a narrow strip in the left bank of the Ebro river lying in the southernmost part of Álava included in the La Rioja wine region, whereas the south-southwestern part of the La Rioja region is not a part of this Protected designation of origin.
Rioja Alta and Ebro
Located on the western edge of the region and at higher elevations than the other areas, the Rioja Alta is known more for its “old world” style of wine. A higher elevation equates to a shorter growing season, which in turn produces brighter fruit flavours and a wine that is lighter on the palate.
Despite sharing a similar climate as the Alta region, the Rioja Alavesa produces wines with a fuller body and higher acidity. Vineyards in the area have a low vine density with large spacing between rows. This is due to the relatively poor conditions of the soil with the vines needing more distance from each other and less competition for the nutrients in the surrounding soil.
Unlike the more continental climate of the Alta and Alavesa, the Rioja Baja is h4ly influenced by a Mediterranean climate which makes this area the warmest and driest of the Rioja. In the summer months, drought can be a significant viticultural hazard, though since the late 1990s irrigation has been permitted. Temperatures in the summer typically reach 35 °C (95 °F).
A number of the vineyards are actually located in nearby Navarra but the wine produced from those grapes belongs to the Rioja appellation. Unlike the typically pale Rioja wine, Baja wines are very deeply coloured and can be highly alcoholic with some wines at 18% alcohol by volume. They typically do not have much acidity or aroma and are generally used as blending components with wines from other parts of the Rioja.
Viticulture and grapes
Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (Blanco) or rosé (rosado). La Rioja has a total of 57,000 hectares cultivated, yielding 250 million litres of wine annually, of which 85% is red. The harvest time for most Rioja vineyards is September–October with the northern Rioja Alta having the latest harvest in late October. The soil here is clay based with a high concentration of chalk and iron. There is also significant concentration of limestone, sandstone and alluvial silt.
The “old vines” of the Alavesa regions can produce very concentrated grapes but in low yields.
Among the tintos, the best-known and most widely used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine with Tempranillo contributing the main flavours and aging potential to the wine; Garnacha adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavours and Graciano adding additional aromas. Some estates have received special dispensation to include Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend due to historical inclusion of that grape in their wine that predates the formation of the Consejo Regulador.
With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (also known as Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. In the white wines the Viura contributes mild fruitness, acidity and some aroma to the blend with Garnacha Blanca adding body and Malvasía adding aroma. Rosados are mostly derived from Garnacha grapes. The “international varieties” of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have gained some attention and use through experimental plantings by some bodegas but their use has created wines distinctly different from the typical Rioja.
Some of the most sought after grapes come from the limestone/sandstone based “old vine” vineyards in the Alavesa and Alta regions. The 40 year plus old vines are prized due to their low yields and more concentrated flavours. A unique DO regulation stipulates that the cost of the grapes used to make Rioja must exceed by at least 200% the national average of wine grapes used in all Spanish wines.
Winemaking and styles
A Reserva designated Rioja wine.
A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. First introduced in the early 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers, the use of oak and the pronounced vanilla flavours in the wines has been a virtual trademark of the region though some modern winemakers are experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak. Originally French oak was used but as the cost of the barrels increased many bodegas began to buy American oak planks and fashion them into barrels at Spanish cooperages in a style more closely resembling the French method. This included hand splitting the wood, rather than sawing, and allowing the planks time to dry and “season” in the outdoors versus drying in the kilns in recent times, more bodegas have begun using French oak and many will age wines in both American and French oak for blending purposes.
In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15–20 years or even more before their release. One notable example of this the Marqués de Murrieta which released its 1942 vintage gran reserva in 1983 after 41 years of aging. Today most bodegas have shifted their winemaking focus to wines that are ready to drink sooner with the top wines typically aging for 4–8 years prior to release though some traditionalists still age longer. The typical bodega owns anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 oak barrels.
The use of oak in white wine has declined significantly in recent times when before the norm was traditionally 2–5 years in oak. This created slightly oxidized wines with flavours of caramel, coffee, and roasted nuts that did not appeal to a large market of consumers with some of the more negative examples showing characteristics of rubber and petrol flavours. Today the focus of white wine makers has been to enhance the vibrancy and fruit flavours of the wine.
Some winemakers utilize a derivative of carbonic maceration in which whole clusters are placed in large open vats allowed to ferment inside the individual grape berries, without the addition of yeast, for a few days before they are crushed.
In the 1960s, Bodegas Rioja Santiago developed the first bottled version of the wine punch Sangría, based on Rioja wine, and exhibited it at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. An import subsidiary of Pepsi Cola purchased the rights to the wine and began marketing it worldwide.
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labelled Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year. Also produced are wines in a semi-crianza style, those that have had a couple of months oak influence but not enough to be called a full crianza. The designation of crianza, Reserva etc. might not always appear on the front label but may appear on a neck or back label in the form of a stamp designation known as Consejo.
In Spain, wineries are commonly referred to as bodegas though this term may also refer to a wine cellar or warehouse. For quite some time, the Rioja wine industry has been dominated by local family vineyards and co-operatives that have bought the grapes and make the wine. Some bodegas would buy fermented wine from the co-ops and age the wine to sell under their own label. In recent times there has been more emphasis on securing vineyard land and making estate bottled wines.Bordeaux wine
Map of the Bordeaux regions with most of its appellations shown. The rivers Garonne and Dordogne, and the Gironde estuary are important in defining the various parts of the region.
A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France, centred on the city of Bordeaux and covering the whole area of the Gironde department, with a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, making it the largest wine growing area in France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. The vast majority of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called “claret” in Britain), with sweet white wines (most notably Sauternes), dry whites, and (in much smaller quantities) rosé and sparkling wines (Crémant de Bordeaux) collectively making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by more than 8,500 producers or châteaux. There are 54 appellations of Bordeaux wine.
The wine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-1st century, to provide wine for local consumption, and wine production has been continuous in the region since then.
In the 12th century, the popularity of Bordeaux wines in England increased dramatically following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The marriage made the province of Aquitaine part of the Angevin Empire, and thenceforth the wine of Bordeaux was exported to England. At this time, Graves was the principal wine region of Bordeaux, and the principal style was clairet. This accounts for the ubiquity of claret in England, though this is now used to refer to all red wine rather than the clairet style specifically. The export of Bordeaux was interrupted by the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War between France and England in 1337. By the end of the conflict in 1453 France had repossessed the province, thus taking control of wine production in the region. As part of the Auld Alliance, Scots merchants were granted by the French a privileged position in the trade of claret, a position which continued largely unchanged with the cession of the military alliance between France and Scotland with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh. Even when the by then Protestant kingdoms of England and Scotland, both ruled by the same Stuart king by this point, were trying to militarily aid the Huguenot rebels in their fight against Catholic France in La Rochelle, Scots trading vessels were not only permitted to enter the Gironde, but they were escorted safely to the port of Bordeaux by the French navy for their own protection from Huguenot privateers.
In the seventeenth century, Dutch traders drained the swampy ground of the Médoc in order that it could be planted with vines, and this gradually surpassed Graves as the most prestigious region of Bordeaux. Malbec was the dominant grape here, until the early 19th century, when it was replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 1855, the châteaux of Bordeaux were classified; this classification remains widely used today. From 1875–1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were ruined by Phylloxera infestations. The region’s wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock.
Climate and geography
The major reason for the success of winemaking in the Bordeaux region is an excellent environment for growing vines. The geological foundation of the region is limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium. The Gironde estuary dominates the regions along with its tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, and together irrigate the land and provide an Atlantic Climate, also known as an oceanic climate, for the region.
These rivers define the main geographical subdivisions of the region:
“The right bank”, situated on the right bank of Dordogne, in the northern parts of the region, around the city of Libourne.
Entre-Deux-Mers, French for “between two seas”, the area between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, both of which are tidal, in the centre of the region.
“The left bank”, situated on the left bank of Garonne, in the west and south of the region, around the city of Bordeaux itself. The left bank is further subdivided into:
Graves, the area upstream of the city Bordeaux.
Médoc, the area downstream of the city Bordeaux, situated on a peninsula between Gironde and the Atlantic.
In Bordeaux the concept of terroir plays a pivotal role in wine production with the top estates aiming to make terroir driven wines that reflect the place they are from, often from grapes collected from a single vineyard. The soil of Bordeaux is composed of gravel, sandy stone, and clay. The region’s best vineyards are located on the well-drained gravel soils that are frequently found near the Gironde river. An old adage in Bordeaux is the best estates can “see the river” from their vineyards. The majority of land facing riverward is occupied by classified estates.
Wine-growing areas on the left bank of Bordeaux
Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of grapes. Permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and rarely Carménère. Today Carménère is rarely used, with Château Clerc Milon, a fifth growth Bordeaux, being one of the few to still retain Carménère vines.
As a very broad generalization, Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux’s second-most planted grape variety) dominates the blend in red wines produced in the Médoc and the rest of the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Typical top-quality Châteaux blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. This is typically referred to as the “Bordeaux Blend.” Merlot tends to predominate in Saint-Émilion, Pomerol and the other right bank appellations. These Right Bank blends from top-quality Châteaux are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
White Bordeaux is predominantly, and exclusively in the case of the sweet Sauternes, made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Typical blends are usually 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. As with the reds, white Bordeaux wines are usually blends, most commonly of Sémillon and a smaller proportion of Sauvignon Blanc. Other permitted grape varieties are Sauvignon Gris, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac.
In the late 1960s Sémillon was the most planted grape in Bordeaux. Since then it has been in constant decline although it still is the most common of Bordeaux’s white grapes. Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity on the other hand has been rising, overtaking Ugni Blanc as the second most planted white Bordeaux grape in the late 1980s and now being grown in an area more than half the size of that of the lower yielding Sémillon.
Wineries all over the world aspire to making wines in a Bordeaux style. In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association to identify wines made in this way. Although most Meritage wines come from California, there are members of the Meritage Association in 18 states and five other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Mexico.
Viticulture and winemaking in Bordeaux
The red grapes in the Bordeaux vineyard are Merlot (62% by area), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc (12%) and a small amount of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère (1% in total). The white grapes are Sémillon (54% by area), Sauvignon Blanc (36%), Muscadelle (7%) and a small amount of Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche (3% in total). Because of the generally humid Bordeaux climate, a variety of pests can cause a problem for the vigneron. In the past, this was counteracted by the widespread use of pesticides, although the use of natural methods has recently been gaining in popularity. The vines are generally trained in either single or double guyot. Hand-picking is preferred by most of the prestigious châteaux, but machine-harvesting is popular in other places.
Following harvest, the grapes are usually sorted and destemmed before crushing. Crushing was traditionally done by foot, but mechanical crushing is now almost universally used. Chaptalization is permitted, and is fairly common-place. Fermentation then takes place, usually in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Next the must is pressed and transferred to barriques (in most cases) for a period of ageing (commonly a year). The traditional Bordeaux barrique is an oak barrel with a capacity of 225 litres. At some point between pressing and bottling the wine will be blended. This is an integral part of the Bordeaux winemaking process, as scarcely any Bordeaux wines are varietals; wine from different grape varieties is mixed together, depending on the vintage conditions, so as to produce a wine in the château’s preferred style. In addition to mixing wine from different grape varieties, wine from different parts of the vineyard is often aged separately, and then blended into either the main or the second wine (or sold off wholesale) according to the judgment of the winemaker. The wine is then bottled and usually undergoes a further period of ageing before it is released for sale.
The Bordeaux wine region is divided into sub regions including Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Médoc, and Graves. The 60 Bordeaux appellations and the wine styles they represent are usually categorized into six main families, four red based on the sub regions and two white based on sweetness.
Red Bordeaux and Red Bordeaux Supérieur. Bordeaux winemakers may use the two regional appellations throughout the entire wine region, however approximately half of the Bordeaux vineyard is specifically designated under Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs. With the majority of châteaux located on the Right Bank in the Entre-Deux-Mers area, wines are typically Merlot-dominant, often blended with the other classic Bordeaux varieties. There are many small, family-run châteaux, as well as wines blended and sold by wine merchants under commercial brand names. The Bordeaux AOC wines tend to be fruity, with minimal influence of oak, and are produced in a style meant to be drunk young. Bordeaux Superieur AOC wines are produced in the same area, but must follow stricter controls, such as lower yields, and are often aged in oak. For the past 10 years, there has been h4, ongoing investment by the winemakers in both the vineyards and in the cellar, resulting in ever increasing quality. New reforms for the regional appellations were instituted in 2008 by the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur Winemakers’ Association. In 2010, 55% of all Bordeaux wines sold in the world were from Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs, with 67% sold in France and 33% exported (+9%), representing 14 bottles consumed per second.
Red Côtes de Bordeaux
. Eight appellations are in the hilly outskirts of the region, and produce wines where the blend usually is dominated by Merlot. These wines tend to be intermediate between basic red Bordeaux and the more famous appellations of the left and right bank in both style and quality. However, since none of Bordeaux’s stellar names are situated in Côtes de Bordeaux, prices tend to be moderate. There is no official classification in Côtes de Bordeaux. In 2007, 14.7% of the region’s vineyard surface was used for wines in this family.
Red Libourne, or “Right Bank” wines. Around the city of Libourne, 10 appellations produce wines dominated by Merlot with very little Cabernet Sauvignon, the two most famous being Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. These wines often have great fruit concentration, softer tannins and are long-lived. Saint-Émilion has an official classification. In 2007, 10.5% of the region’s vineyard surface was used for wines in this family.
Red Graves and Médoc or “Left Bank” wines. North and south of the city of Bordeaux, which are the classic areas, produce wines dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, but often with a significant portion of Merlot. These wines are concentrated, tannic, long-lived and most of them meant to be cellared before drinking. The five First Growths are situated here. There are official classifications for both Médoc and Graves. In 2007, 17.1% of the region’s vineyard surface was used for wines in this family.
Dry white Bordeaux
are made throughout the region, using the regional appellation Bordeaux Blanc, often from 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend dominated by Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The Bordeaux Blanc AOC is used for wines made in appellations that only allow red wines. Dry whites from Graves are the most well-known and it is the only sub region with a classification for dry white wines. The better versions tend to have a significant oak influence. In 2007, 7.8% of the region’s vineyard surface was used for wines in this family.
Sweet white wines
. In several locations and appellations throughout the region, sweet white wine is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot. The best-known of these appellations is Sauternes, which also has an official classification, and where some of the world’s most famous sweet wines are produced. There are also appellations neighbouring Sauternes, on both sides of the Garonne river, where similar wines are made. These include Loupiac, Cadillac, and Sainte Croix du Mont. The regional appellation for sweet white wines is Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc. In 2007, 3.2% of the region’s vineyard surface was used for wines in this family.
The vast majority of Bordeaux wine is red, with red wine production outnumbering white wine production six to one.
There are four different classifications of Bordeaux, covering different parts of the region.
The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, covering (with one exception) red wines of Médoc, and sweet wines of Sauternes-Barsac.
The 1955 Official Classification of St.-Émilion, which is updated approximately once every ten years, and last in 2006.
The 1959 Official Classification of Graves, initially classified in 1953 and revised in 1959.
The Cru Bourgeois Classification, which began as an unofficial classification, but came to enjoy official status and was last updated in 2003. However, after various legal turns, the classification was annulled in 2007. As of 2007, plans exist to revive it as an unofficial classification. 78 producers took legal action against the 2003 classification. In September 2010 a new list of Crus Bourgeois was unveiled as a recognition of quality, with a yearly reappraisal. It is no longer a recognized classification.
The Cru artisan Classification was recognized by the European Union in June 1994 and published on January 11, 2006. The classification is to be revised every 10 years. The initial list of 44 Cru Artisans was extended to 50 in 2012.
The 1855 classification system was made at the request of Emperor Napoleon III for the Exposition Universelle de Paris. This came to be known as the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, which ranked the wines into five categories according to price. The first growth red wines (four from Médoc and one, Château Haut-Brion, from Graves), are among the most expensive wines in the world.
The first growths are:
Château Lafite-Rothschild, in the appellation Pauillac
Château Margaux, in the appellation Margaux
Château Latour, in the appellation Pauillac
Château Haut-Brion, in the appellation Péssac-Leognan
Château Mouton Rothschild, in the appellation Pauillac, promoted from second to first growth in 1973.
At the same time, the sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac were classified into three categories, with only Château d’Yquem being classified as a superior first growth.
In 1955, St. Émilion AOC were classified into three categories, the highest being Premier Grand Cru Classé A with two members:
In the 2012 classification, two more Châteaux became members:
There is no official classification applied to Pomerol. However some Pomerol wines, notably Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin, are often considered as being equivalent to the first growths of the 1855 classification, and often sell for even higher prices.
The name of the estate (Image example: Château L’Angelus)
The estate’s classification (Image example: Grand Cru Classé) can be in reference to the 1855 Bordeaux classification or one of the Cru Bourgeois.
The appellation (Saint-Émilion) Appellation d’origine contrôlée laws dictate that all grapes must be harvested from a particular appellation in order for that appellation to appear on the label. The appellation is a key indicator of the type of wine in the bottle. With the image example, Pauillac wines are always red, and usually Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety.
Whether or not the wine is bottled at the château (Image example: Mis en Bouteille au Château) or assembled by a Négociant.
Claret, English silver bottle ticket, by Sandylands Drinkwater, circa 1740 or 1750
Claret (/ˈklærɪt/ KLARR-it) is a name primarily used in British English for red Bordeaux wine.
Claret derives from the French clairet, a now uncommon dark rosé, which was the most common wine exported from Bordeaux until the 18th century. The name was anglicised to “claret” as a result of its widespread consumption in England during the period in the 12th–15th centuries that Aquitaine was part of the Angevin Empire and continued to be controlled by Kings of England for some time after the Angevins (please compare the History section). It is a protected name within the European Union, describing a red Bordeaux wine, accepted after the British wine trade demonstrated over 300 years’ usage of the term.
Claret is occasionally used in the United States as a semi-generic label for red wine in the style of the Bordeaux, ideally from the same grapes as are permitted in Bordeaux. The French themselves do not use the term, except for export purposes.
The meaning of “claret” has changed over time to refer to a dry, dark red Bordeaux. It has remained a term associated with the English upper class, and consequently appears on bottles of generic red Bordeaux in an effort to raise their status in the market.
In November 2011, the president of the Union des Maisons de Négoce de Bordeaux, announced an intention to use the term Claret de Bordeaux for wines that are “light and fruity, easy to drink, in the same style as the original claret when it was prized by the English in former centuries”.
Many of the top Bordeaux wines are primarily sold as futures contracts, called selling en primeur. Because of the combination of longevity, fairly large production, and an established reputation, Bordeaux wines tend to be the most common wines at wine auctions. The latest market reports released in February 2009 shows that the market has increased in buying power by 128% while the prices have lowered for the very best Bordeaux wines.
Syndicate des Vins de Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur is an organization representing the economic interests of 6,700 wine producers in Bordeaux, France. The wine lake and other economic problems have increased the salience of the winemakers’ association, whose members are facing increasing costs and decreasing demand for their product.
As the largest appellation producing fine wines, and the h4 foundation of the pyramid of Bordeaux wines, Bordeaux AOC & Bordeaux Supérieur AOC today account for 55% of all Bordeaux wines consumed in the world.
Plan Bordeaux is an initiative introduced in 2005 by ONIVINS, the French vintners association, designed to reduce France’s wine glut and improve sales. Part of the plan is to uproot 17,000 hectares of the 124,000 hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux. The wine industry in Bordeaux has been experiencing economic problems in the face of h4 international competition from New World wines and declining wine consumption in France.
In 2004, exports to the U.S. plummeted 59% in value over the previous year. Sales in Britain dropped 33% in value during the same period. The UK, a major market, now imports more wine from Australia than from France. Amongst the possible causes for this economic crisis are that many consumers tend to prefer wine labels that state the variety of grape from which the wine is made, and often find the required French AOC labels difficult to understand.
Christian Delpeuch, president emeritus of Plan Bordeaux hoped to reduce production, improve quality, and sell more wine in the United States. However, two years after the beginning of the program, Mr Delpeuch resigned, “citing the failure of the French government to address properly the wine crisis in Bordeaux.” Delpeuch told journalists assembled at the Bordeaux Press Club “I refuse to countenance this continual putting off of decisions which can only end in failure.” “Delpeuch said he was shocked and disappointed by the failure of his efforts—and by the lack of co-operation from winemakers and négociants themselves—to achieve anything concrete in terms of reforms to the Bordeaux wine industry over the last 24 months.” The future of Plan Bordeaux is uncertain.
Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne or vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines produced here—those commonly referred to as “Burgundies”—are dry red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes and white wines made from Chardonnay grapes.
Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté, respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wines are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of the Burgundy wine region, but wines from those sub regions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as “Burgundy wines”.
Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d’origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy goes back to medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry.
Chardonnay (pronounced [ʃaʁ.dɔ.nɛ]) is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. The variety originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand. It is also used in Italy to produce sparkling wines like Franciacorta for example. For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a “rite of passage” and an easy entry into the international wine market.
The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavours commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France, to New World wines with oak, and tropical fruit flavours. In cool climates (such as Chablis and the Carneros AVA of California), Chardonnay tends to be medium to light body with noticeable acidity and flavours of green plum, apple, and pear. In warmer locations (such as the Adelaide Hills and Mornington Peninsula in Australia and Gisborne and Marlborough region of New Zealand), the flavours become more citrus, peach, and melon, while in very warm locations (such as the Central Coast AVA of California), more fig and tropical fruit notes such as banana and mango come out. Wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation tend to have softer acidity and fruit flavours with buttery mouthfeel and hazelnut notes
Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine connoisseurs who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely planted grape varieties, with over 160,000 hectares (400,000 acres) worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than any other grape, including Cabernet Sauvignon.
For much of its history, a connection was assumed between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or Pinot Blanc. In addition to being found in the same region of France for centuries, ampelographers noted that the leaves of each plant have near-identical shape and structure. Pierre Galet disagreed with this assessment, believing that Chardonnay was not related to any other major grape variety. Viticulturalists Maynard Amerine and Harold Olmo proposed a descendency from a wild Vitis vinifera vine that was a step removed from white Muscat. Chardonnay’s true origins were further obscured by vineyard owners in Lebanon and Syria, who claimed that the grape’s ancestry could be traced to the Middle East, from where it was introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders, though little external evidence supports that theory. Another theory stated that it originated from an ancient indigenous vine found in Cyprus.
Modern DNA fingerprinting research at University of California, Davis, now suggests that Chardonnay is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc (Heunisch) grape varieties. The Romans are thought to have brought Gouais Blanc from Croatia, and it was widely cultivated by peasants in eastern France. The Pinot of the French aristocracy grew in close proximity to the Gouais Blanc, giving both grapes ample opportunity to interbreed. Since the two parents were genetically distant, many of the crosses showed hybrid vigour and were selected for further propagation. These “successful” crosses included Chardonnay and siblings such as Aligoté, Aubin vert, Auxerrois, Bachet Noir, BeauNoir, Franc Noir de la-Haute-Saône, Gamay Blanc Gloriod, Gamay Noir, Melon, Knipperlé, Peurion, Roublot, Sacy, and Damern.
For much of its history, a connection was assumed between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or Pinot Blanc. In addition to being found in the same region of France for centuries, ampelographers noted that the leaves of each plant have near-identical shape and structure. Pierre Galet disagreed with this assessment, believing that Chardonnay was not related to any other major grape variety. Viticulturalists Maynard Amerine and Harold Olmo proposed a descendency from a wild Vitis vinifera vine that was a step removed from white Muscat. Chardonnay’s true origins were further obscured by vineyard owners in Lebanon and Syria, who claimed that the grape’s ancestry could be traced to the Middle East, from where it was introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders, though little external evidence supports that theory. Another theory stated that it originated from an ancient indigenous vine found in Cyprus.
Modern DNA fingerprinting research at University of California, Davis, now suggests that Chardonnay is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc (Heunisch) grape varieties. The Romans are thought to have brought Gouais Blanc from Croatia, and it was widely cultivated by peasants in eastern France. The Pinot of the French aristocracy grew in close proximity to the Gouais Blanc, giving both grapes ample opportunity to interbreed. Since the two parents were genetically distant, many of the crosses showed hybrid vigour and were selected for further propagation. These “successful” crosses included Chardonnay and siblings such as Aligoté, Aubin vert, Auxerrois, Bachet Noir, BeauNoir, Franc Noir de la-Haute-Saône, Gamay Blanc Gloriod, Gamay Noir, Melon, Knipperlé, Peurion, Roublot, Sacy, and Dameron.
Clones, crossing, and mutations
As of 2006, 34 clonal varieties of Chardonnay could be found in vineyards throughout France, most of which were developed at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. The so-called “Dijon clones” are bred for their adaptive attributes, with vineyard owners planting the clonal variety best suited to their terroir and which will produce the characteristics that they are seeking in the wine. Examples include the lower-yielding clones ‘Dijon-76′, ’95’ and ’96’ that produce more flavour-concentrated clusters. ‘Dijon-77’ and ‘809’ produce more aromatic wines with a “grapey” perfume, while ‘Dijon-75′, ’78’, ‘121’, ‘124’, ‘125’ and ‘277’ are more vigorous and higher-yielding clones. New World varieties include the ‘Mendoza’ clone, which produced some of the early California Chardonnays. The ‘Mendoza’ clone is prone to develop millerandage, also known as “hens and chicks”, where the berries develop unevenly. In places such as Oregon, the use of newer Dijon clones has had some success in those regions of the Willamette Valley with climates similar to that of Burgundy.
Chardonnay has served as parent to several French-American hybrid grapes, as well as crossings with other V. vinifera varieties. Examples include the hybrid Chardonel, which was a Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc cross produced in 1953 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Mutations of the Chardonnay grape include the rare pink-berried ‘Chardonnay Rose’; also ‘Chardonnay Blanc Musqué’, which produces an intensely aromatic wine. Chardonnay Blanc Musqué is mostly found around the Mâconnais village of Clessé and sometimes confused with the ‘Dijon-166’ clone planted in South Africa, which yields Muscat-like aromas.
In the 1930s, Chardonnay was crossed with a Seibel grape to create the hybrid grape Ravat Blanc.
Chardonnay has a wide-ranging reputation for relative ease of cultivation and ability to adapt to different conditions. The grape is very “malleable”, in that it reflects and takes on the impression of its terroir and winemaker. It is a highly vigorous vine, with extensive leaf cover which can inhibit the energy and nutrient uptake of its grape clusters. Vineyard managers counteract this with aggressive pruning and canopy management. When Chardonnay vines are planted densely, they are forced to compete for resources and funnel energy into their grape clusters. In certain conditions, the vines can be very high-yielding, but the wine produced from such vines suffers a drop in quality if yields go much beyond 4.5 tons per acre (80 hl/ha). Producers of premium Chardonnay limit yields to less than half this amount. Sparkling wine producers tend not to focus as much on limiting yields, since concentrated flavours are not as important as the wine’s finesse.
Harvesting time is crucial to winemaking, with the grape rapidly losing acidity as soon as it ripens. Some viticultural hazards include the risk of damage from springtime frost, as Chardonnay is an early-budding vine – usually a week after Pinot Noir. To combat the threat of frost, a method developed in Burgundy involves aggressive pruning just prior to budburst. This “shocks” the vine and delays budburst up to two weeks, which is often long enough for warmer weather to arrive. Millerandage and coulure can also pose problems, along with powdery mildew attacking the thin skin of the grapes. Because of Chardonnay’s early ripening, it can thrive in wine regions with short growing seasons, and in regions such as Burgundy, can be harvested before autumn rain sets in and brings the threat of rot.
While Chardonnay can adapt to almost all vineyard soils, the three it seems to like most are chalk, clay, and limestone, all very prevalent throughout Chardonnay’s traditional “homeland”. The Grand crus of Chablis are planted on hillsides composed of Kimmeridgian marl, limestone, and chalk. The outlying regions, falling under the more basic “Petit Chablis” appellation, are planted on portlandian limestone which produces wines with less finesse. Chalk beds are found throughout the Champagne region, and the Côte-d’Or has many areas composed of limestone and clay. In Burgundy, the amount of limestone to which the Chardonnay vines are exposed also seems to have some effect on the resulting wine. In the Meursault region, the premier cru vineyards planted at Meursault-Charmes have topsoil almost 78 in (2.0 m) above limestone and the resulting wines are very rich and rounded. In the nearby Les Perrieres vineyard, the topsoil is only around 12 in (30 cm) above the limestone and the wine from that region is much more powerful, minerally, and tight, needing longer in the bottle to develop fully. In other areas, soil type can compensate for lack of ideal climate conditions. In South Africa, for example, regions with stonier, shaley soils and high clay levels tend to produce lower-yielding and more Burgundian-style wine, despite having a discernibly warmer climate than France. In contrast, South African Chardonnay produced from more sandstone-based vineyards tend to be richer and more weighty.
Confusion with Pinot Blanc
Due to some ampelographical similarities, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay were often mistaken for each other and even today share many of the same synonyms. The grape vines, leaves, and clusters look identical at first glance, but some subtle differences are seen. The most visible of these can be observed as the grapes are ripening, with Chardonnay grapes taking on a more golden-green colour than Pinot Blanc grapes. On closer inspection, the grapevine shows slight differences in the texture and length of the hairs on the vine’s shoot, and the veins of a Chardonnay leaf are “naked” near the petiole sinus – the open area where the leaf connects to the stem is delineated by veins at the edge. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the few other Vitis vinifera grape vines to share this characteristic. This confusion between Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay was very pervasive throughout northern Italy, where the two vines grew interspersed in the vineyard and were blended in winemaking. The Italian government did not dispatch researchers to try to distinguish the two vines until 1978. A similar situation occurred in France, with the two vines being commonly confused until the mid-19th century, when ampelographers began combing through the vineyards of Chablis and Burgundy, identifying the true Chardonnay and weeding out the Pinot Blanc.
In France, Chardonnay is the second-most widely planted white grape variety just behind Ugni Blanc and ahead of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The grape first rose to prominence in the Chablis and Burgundy regions. In Champagne, it is most often blended with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but is also used to produce single varietal Blanc de Blanc styles of sparkling wine. Chardonnay can be found in Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wines of the Loire Valley and Jura wine region, as well as the vin de pays wines of the Languedoc.
Chardonnay is one of the dominant grapes in Burgundy, though Pinot Noir vines outnumber it by nearly a three-to-one ratio. In addition to Chablis, Chardonnay is found in the Côte d’Or (largely in the Côte de Beaune), as well as the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. It is grown in eight grand cru vineyards; The “Montrachets”-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, as well as Charlemagne, Corton-Charlemagne, and Le Musigny. In addition to being the most expensive, the Burgundy examples of Chardonnay were long considered the benchmark standard of expressing terroir through Chardonnay. The Montrachets are noted for their high alcohol levels, often above 13%, as well as deep concentration of flavours. The vineyards around Chassagne-Montrachet tend to have a characteristic hazelnut aroma to them, while those of Puligny-Montrachet have more steely flavours. Both grand cru and premier cru examples from Corton-Charlemagne have been known to demonstrate marzipan, while Meursault wines tend to be the most round and buttery examples. South of the Côte d’Or are the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais wine regions. The villages of Mercurey, Montagny-lès-Buxy, and Rully are the largest producers of Chardonnay in the Côte Chalonnaise, with the best-made examples rivalling those of the Côte de Beaune. In the Mâconnais, white wine production is centred on the town of Mâcon and the Pouilly-Fuissé region. The full-bodied wines of the Pouilly-Fuissé have long held cult wine status with prices that can rival the grand cru white burgundies. Further south, in the region of Beaujolais, Chardonnay has started to replace Aligoté as the main white wine grape and is even replacing Gamay in some areas around Saint-Véran. With the exception of Pouilly-Fuissé, the wines of the Mâconnais are the closest Burgundy example to “New World” Chardonnay, though it is not identical. Typically, Mâcon Blanc, basic Bourgogne, Beaujolais Blanc, and Saint-Véran are meant to be consumed within two to three years of release. However, many of the well-made examples of white Burgundy from the Côte d’Or need at least three years in the bottle to develop enough to express the aromas and character of the wine. Hazelnut, liquorice, and spice are some of the flavours that can develop as these wines age.
The Serein River runs through the town of Chablis, with many of the region’s most prestigious vineyards planted on hillsides along the river.
Chardonnay is the only permitted AOC grape variety in the Chablis region, with the wines there developing such worldwide recognition that the name “Chablis” has taken on somewhat generic connotations to mean any dry white wine, even those not made from Chardonnay. The name is protected in the European Union and for wine sold in the EU, “Chablis” refers only to the Chardonnay wine produced in this region of the Yonne département. The region sits on the outer edges of the Paris Basin. On the other side of the basin is the village of Kimmeridge in England, which gives its name to the Kimmeridgean soil that is located throughout Chablis. The French describe this soil as argilo-calcaire and is a composition of clay, limestone, and fossilized oyster shells. The most expensive examples of Chardonnay from Chablis come from the seven Grand Cru vineyards that account for around 247 acres (100 ha) on the southwest side of one slope along the Serein River near the towns of Chablis—Blanchots, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. The wines from these crus most often capture the goût de pierre à fusil or “gunflint” quality that is characteristic of Chablis wine.
Chardonnay was believed to be first planted in Chablis by the Cistercians at Pontigny Abbey in the 12th century. Today, the Chardonnay made in the Chablis region is one of the “purest” expression of the varietal character of the grape due to the simplistic style of winemaking favoured in this region. Chablis winemakers want to emphasise the terroir of the calcareous soil and cooler climate that help maintain high acidity. The wines rarely go through malolactic fermentation or are exposed to oak (though its use is increasing). The biting, green apple-like acidity is a trademark of Chablis and can be noticeable in the bouquet. The acidity can mellow with age and Chablis are some of the longest-living examples of Chardonnay. Some examples of Chablis can have an earthy “wet stone” flavour that can get mustier as it ages before mellowing into delicate honeyed notes. The use of oak is controversial in the Chablis community, with some winemakers dismissing it as counter to the “Chablis style” or terroir, while others embrace its use, though not to the length that would characterise a “New World” Chardonnay. The winemakers who use oak tend to favour more neutral oak that does not impart the vanilla characteristic associated with American oak. The amount of “char” in the barrel is often very light, which limits the amount of “toastiness” perceived in the wine. The advocates of oak in Chablis point to the positive benefits of allowing limited oxygenation with the wine through the permeable oak barrels. This can have the effect of softening the wine and making the generally austere and acidic Chablis more approachable at a younger age.
A Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made only from Chardonnay grapes
In the Champagne, Chardonnay is one of three major grape varieties planted in the region. It is most commonly found in the Aube and Marne départments which, combined with Chablis, accounted for more than half of all plantings of Chardonnay in France during the 20th century. In the Côte des Blancs (white slope) district of the Marne, Chardonnay thrives on the chalk soil. The three main villages around the Côte grow Chardonnay that emphasizes certain characteristics that the Champagne producers seek depending on their house style. The village of Avize grows grapes that produce the lightest wines, Cement makes the most aromatic, and Mesnil produces wines with the most acidity. The Côte des Blancs is the only district in the Champagne region predominately planted with Chardonnay. In the four other main districts-Aube, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne-Chardonnay lags behind Pinot Noir in planting. In the outlying region of Aisne, only Pinot Meunier has a significant presence. Despite being less planted, the Blanc de Blancs style of Champagne (made from only Chardonnay grapes) is far more commonly produced than Blanc de Noirs. This is partly because Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier produce very coarse and heavy wines that lack the finesse and balance that Chardonnay brings to the mix. Non-sparkling still wine Chardonnay is produced under the Coteaux Champenois AOC. The wine is much more acidic than that of Chablis and is normally made bone-dry.
Despite receiving the same amount of sunshine as the Chablis region, Chardonnay grapes in Champagne rarely attain full ripeness due to the mean temperature of the region being around 10 °C (50 °F), barely above the minimum average temperature needed to ripen grapes. Therefore, the Chardonnay grapes do not fully develop their fruit flavours and the still version of Champagne can taste very “un-Chardonnay”-like because of this. However, it does lessen the premium on needing to keep yields low that other wine regions battle, since not much flavour is going to develop in the grapes, anyway. Rather, the element in Chardonnay that Champagne wine-makers look for is the finesse and balance of acidity that it brings to the blend. Some flavours that can emerge from, particularly with extended time on its lees, include creamy and nuttiness with some floral notes.
Other French regions
Champagne, Chablis, and Burgundy account for more than three-fifths of all Chardonnay plantings in France. The next-largest concentration is found in the Languedoc, where it was first planted around the town of Limoux and up to 30% can be blended with Mauzac in the sparkling Blanquette de Limoux. Every year since 1991, Chardonnay production is celebrated in Limoux during the Toques et Clochers festival. By 2000, more than 9,000 hectares (22,000 acres) were planted, with many being used for wines under the Vin de Pays d’Oc. These wines were unique in that they were some of the first examples of Chardonnay to be varietally labelled as “Chardonnay”. Other French wine regions with Chardonnay plantings include Alsace, Ardèche, Jura, Savoie, and the Loire Valley. In Jura, it is used to create vin de paille dessert wines. Here, the grape is known as Melon d’Arbois or Gamay Blanc and is sometimes blended with Savagnin. It is most widely found in Arbois, Côtes du Jura, and L’Étoile AOCs. In the Loire, up to 20% of Chardonnay can be included in the Chenin Blanc-based wines of Anjou Blanc and more producers are using the grape to soften some of the edges of Chenin Blanc. It can also be used in the sparkling wines of Saumur and some Muscadet producers have begun experimenting with oak-aged Chardonnay.
In North America, particularly California, Chardonnay found another region where it could thrive and produce a style of wine noticeably different from that of France. It is the dominant white wine variety of the area, overtaking Riesling in 1990. In the United States, it is found most notably in California, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, but also in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colourado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont wine. In Canada, Chardonnay is found in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec. and in Mexico is found in Baja California(Valle de Guadalupe) and in Coahuila(Valle de Parras) states.
The first successful commercial production of California Chardonnay was from plantings in the Livermore Valley AVA. Wente Vineyards developed a Chardonnay clone that was used to introduce the grape variety in several Californian vineyards throughout the 1940s. In the 1950s, James David Zellerbach, one-time US Ambassador to Rome, started Hanzell Vineyards winery and dedicated it to making Burgundian-style Chardonnay.
His success encouraged other Californian winemakers to follow suit and culminated in Chateau Montelena’s victory over Burgundy Chardonnay in the 1976 blind tasting event conducted by French judges known as the Judgment of Paris. In response, the demand for Californian Chardonnay increased and Californian winemakers rushed to increase plantings. In the 1980s, the popularity of Californian Chardonnay increased so much, the number of vines planted in the state eclipsed that of France by 1988. By 2005, nearly 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) accounted for almost 25% of the world’s total Chardonnay plantings. The early trend was to imitate the great Burgundy wines, but this soon gave way to more rich buttery and oaked styles. Starting with the 1970s, the focus was on harvesting the grapes at more advanced degrees of ripeness and higher Brix levels. New oak barrels were used to produce wines that were big in body and mouthfeel. Frank J. Prial of The New York Times was an early critic of this style, particularly because of the lack of “food friendliness” that was common with these massive wines.
Another criticism of California Chardonnays, and one that has been levied against other Californian wines, is the very high alcohol levels which can make a wine seem out of balance. In recent years, California winemakers have been using process such as reverse osmosis and spinning cones to bring the alcohol levels down to 12 to 14%.
Chardonnay is often aged on its lees in barrels with the lees periodically stirred to give it a softer, creamy mouthfeel. The example on the right is a barrel of Chardonnay that has had its lees recently stirred.
The California wine regions that seem to favour producing premium quality Chardonnay are the ones that are most influenced, climatically, by coastal fogs that can slow the ripening of the grape and give it more time to develop its flavours. The regions of Alexander Valley, Los Carneros, Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, and other parts of Sonoma County have shown success in producing wines that reflect more Burgundian styles.
Other regions often associated with Chardonnay include Napa Valley, Monterey County, and Santa Barbara County. The California Central Valley is home to many mass-produced Chardonnay brands, as well as box and jug wine production. While the exact style of the wine varies by producer, some of the terroir characteristics associated with California Chardonnay include “flinty” notes with the Russian River Valley and mango and guava from Monterey. A large portion of the Californian sparkling wine industry uses Chardonnay grapes from Carneros, Alexander, and Russian River valleys, with these areas attracting the attention of Champagne producers such as Bollinger, Louis Roederer, Moët et Chandon, and the Taittinger family, which have opened up wineries in last few decades.
Chardonnay was one of the first European grape varieties to have been grown commercially east of the Rocky Mountains. After three centuries of failure with V. vinifera, this achievement was realized in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Frenchman Charles Fournier and Russian Konstantin Frank experimented with Chardonnay and other varietals in hopes of producing sparkling wines based on Old World grapes for the Gold Seal wine company. In the late 1950s, they succeeded in harvesting the first commercial quantities of European grapes in eastern North America. Frank went on to found Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars which helped demonstrate that a winery in the eastern US can produce European-style wines as a basis for a winery business. Chardonnay became an important part of that strategy.
New York, like Burgundy and Washington, is a cool-climate viticultural region. Being cold tolerant, the Chardonnay grape is well suited for New York. Not only can it endure its cold winters, but also the variety buds late, reducing the risk of spring frosts. New York’s comparatively cooler growing season causes slower ripening, requiring a longer time on the vine, which allows the grapes to develop greater complexity and character at more reasonable sugar levels than warmer Chardonnay-producing regions. New York has subsequently developed significant plantings of the variety since Fournier and Frank’s early experiments.
Washington Chardonnays can be very similar to Californian Chardonnays, but tend to have more emphasis on fruit than creaminess. In 2000, it was the most widely planted premium wine grape in the state. Rather than using Dijon clones, Washington vineyards are planted with clones developed at the University of California-Davis that are designed to take longer to ripen in the warmer weather of the state’s wine regions. This allows winemakers to maintain the acidity levels that balance the fruity and flint earthiness that have characterized Washington Chardonnay. Apple notes are common, and depending on producer and appellation, can range from flavours of ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Fuji’ to ‘Gala’ and ‘Jonathan’. In Oregon, the introduction of Dijon clones from Burgundy has helped to adapt the grape to the Oregon climate and soils.
In Canada, Chardonnay has seen some success with rich, oaky styles produced in Ontario and lighter styles produced in Quebec and British Columbia. In 2009, Le Clos Jordanne winery, of Jordan Village on the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, received critical acclaim for its 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay, which won the top spot for Chardonnay in the “Judgement of Montreal” experts’ tasting. This recognition, which caught the attention of the wine community, resulted from a blind tasting held in Quebec for Cellier magazine. Thirty-three years after the “Judgment of Paris”, Cellier organized a blind tasting in Montreal based on the Judgment of Paris. In the “Judgement of Montreal”, 10 judges at the Cellier tasting assessed 16 red and 14 white wines, primarily from France and California.
The Chardonnay from Le Clos Jordanne placed first out of the 14 white wines, some of which were notable international wines, including: Chateau Montelena, Mer Soleil, Kumeu River, an aged reserve wine from Rosemount Estates, and a number of Burgundian entrants from producers such as Drouhin, Lamy, Boisset, Maison Louis Jadot, and others. Other great examples of Ontario chardonnay include Closson Chase and Norman Hardie from the Prince Edward County region, and Tawse Winery, Hidden Bench Vineyards, and Southbrook Vineyards from the Niagara region.
The Chardonnay vintages of the early 1990s from British Columbia helped generate international attention to the quality of Canadian wines apart from ice wine varietals. In British Columbia, Chardonnay from the Okanagan are characterized by delicate citrus fruits. They are typically light-bodied, but producers who use barrel fermentation and oak aging can produce fuller-bodied wines.
Australia and New Zealand
Freshly harvested Chardonnay grapes being sorted in Tasmania to remove bad clusters and MOG (material other than grapes) such as leaves.
Like many grape varieties, Chardonnay first came to Australia in the collection of James Busby in 1832, but it only really took off in the 1950s. It is most significant in South Australia, New South Wales — especially the Hunter Region – and Victoria. One of the first commercially successful Chardonnays was produced by Murray Tyrrell in the Hunter Valley in 1971. Tyrell’s vineyard was planted with Chardonnay cuttings that he “borrowed” from Penfolds’ experimental plantings by hopping over their barb-wire fence one night and pruning their vines. The export driven Australian wine industry was well situated for the Chardonnay boom of the 1980s and 1990s and Australia responded with a unique style of wine that was characterized by big fruit flavours and easy approachability. To compensate for the very warm climate, richness was enhanced by the use of oak chips and acid was added during fermentation.
During this period the number of Chardonnay plants increased fivefold and by 1990 it was the most widely planted white wine grape in Australia and third most planted overall behind Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Early in the 21st century, demand outpaced supply and there was a shortage of Chardonnay grapes which prompted Australian winemakers to introduce new blending partners like Sémillon (known as “SemChard”) and Colombard.
Being a rather neutral grape, Australian winemakers first approached Chardonnay in the same manner they were making wine from the similarly neutral Sultana grape. Aromatic yeast were added and maceration was extended to get more flavours from skin contact. While the style of Australian Chardonnay is mostly characterized by the mass-produced products of the hot Riverland region, the cooler climates of the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have been creating crisper, less oaked wines with lime notes. In the Cowra region, Chardonnay’s citrus notes are emphasized while Hunter Valley examples have more richness and smoky notes. The Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley produce a more Burgundian style while Mount Barker in the Great Southern wine region of Western Australia produces Chardonnay that more closely resembles those of Chablis. A rare, isolated clone exists in the Mudgee region that locals believe traces its ancestry back to some of the first vines brought to Australia in the 19th century. While the wine made from this clone is not particularly distinguished, it can still be of very good quality. Overall, there has been a shift in style since the 1980s from deep golden, oily wines with melon and butterscotch flavours to lighter, paler Chardonnays with more structure and notes of white peaches and nectarines. Sparkling wines from Chardonnay are produced in the cool regions of Geelong, Adelaide Hills, Macedon Ranges and Tasmania.
Despite being more famous for its Sauvignon Blanc production, Chardonnay was New Zealand’s most widely planted grape variety from 1990 till 2002 when Sauvignon Blanc finally surpassed it. The east coast of the North Island, in places like Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa, have seen the most success with Chardonnay wine that has noticeable acidity and leanness
As better clonal varieties are discovered and planted, the overall quality of New Zealand Chardonnay have increased, particularly from places like Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson. Some producers in the Gisborne region have recently developed a cult following for their Chardonnay among New Zealand wine drinkers. While many New Zealand winemakers are still developing a characteristic style, the Chardonnay produced so far have emphasized the grape’s affinity for oak.
Chardonnay has a long history in Italy but for a large part of it, the grape was commonly confused with Pinot Blanc—often with both varieties interplanted in the same vineyard and blended together. This happened despite the fact that Chardonnay grapes get more golden-yellow in colour close to harvest time and can be visually distinguished from Pinot Blanc. In the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region this confusion appeared in the synonyms for each grape, with Pinot Blanc being known as “Weissburgunder” (White Burgundy) and Chardonnay was known as “Gelber Weissburgunder” (Golden White Burgundy). By the late 20th century, more concentrated efforts were put into identifying Chardonnay and making pure varietal versions of the wine. In 1984, it was granted its first Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in the province of South Tyrol. By 2000, it was Italy’s fourth most widely planted white wine grape.
Though many varietal forms of Chardonnay are produced, and the numbers are increasing, for most of its history in Italian winemaking Chardonnay was a blending grape. Besides Pinot bianco, Chardonnay can be found in blends with Albana, Catarratto, Cortese, Erbaluce, Favourita, Garganega, Grecanico, Incrocio Manzoni, Nuragus, Procanico, Ribolla Gialla, Verdeca, Vermentino and Viognier. It even blended into a dry White Zinfandel-style Nebbiolo wine that is made from the white juice of the red Nebbiolo grape prior to being dyed with skin contact. Most Chardonnay plantings are located in the northern wine regions, though plantings can be found throughout Italy as far south as Sicily and Apulia. In Piedmont and Tuscany, the grape is being planted in sites that are less favourable to Dolcetto and Sangiovese respectively. In Lombardy, the grape is often used for spumante and in the Veneto it is often blended with Garganega to give more weight and structure to the wine. Chardonnay is also found in the Valle d’Aosta DOC and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region.
Due to quarantine restrictions, plant cuttings were often smuggled into South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and many times were misidentified as to what grape variety it really was. A large portion of the Chardonnay plantings from this period turned out to be Auxerrois Blanc. A similar event happened in the German wine region of Baden during the 1980s. By the late 1990s, efforts to promote “authentic” Chardonnay helped to increase plantings and by 2004 it was the third-most widely planted white wine grape behind Chenin Blanc and Colombard. Winemakers in the Western Cape have experimented blending Chardonnay with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Other wine regions
Outside of the regions discussed above, Chardonnay can be found in cooler climate sites in Italy, Greece, Israel and Lebanon as well as Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, England, Georgia, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Serbia and Switzerland. In Austria, the grape varieties known as Feinburgunder in Burgenland & Vienna and Morillon in Styria was not identified as Chardonnay till the late 1980s. Today, Austrian Chardonnays range from the rich, oaked aged varieties to leaner, more aromatic styles based on Austrian Rieslings to sweet late harvest styles. In nearby Germany, this distinctly French wine grape was slow to gain a footing being only officially sanctioned since 1991. Today it is most commonly found in the Baden, Palatinate and Rheinhessen regions.
In Switzerland, Chardonnay is found mostly around Bündner Herrschaft, Geneva and Valais. In Spain, Chardonnay has been increasingly used in the sparkling wine Cava. It is also permitted in the Denominación de Origen (DO) wines of Costers del Segre, Navarra and Somontano. In the wine regions of the former Soviet Union, Chardonnay has lagged behind in white wine grapes plantings in favour Rkatsiteli, Aligote and Riesling. The Portuguese experimentation with Chardonnay has been mostly influenced by flying winemakers from Australia and the examples produced so far are very New World in style.
New World wine regions
In the cool-climate South American wine regions of Argentina’s Uco Valley and Chile’s CasaBlanca, Chardonnay has started to develop a presence. In the 1990s, Chardonnay became the second most widely planted white grape variety in Argentina-second only Torrontés. In Chile, it has surpassed Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon vert to be the most widely planted white wine grape. India and Uruguay have been steadily increasing their plantings.
Chardonnay lends itself to most any style of wine making from dry still wines, to sparkling wines to sweet late harvest and even botrytized wines (though its susceptibility to other less favourable rot makes these wines rarer). The two winemaking decisions that most widely affect the end result of a Chardonnay wine is whether or not to use malolactic fermentation and the degree of oak influence used for the wine. With malolactic fermentation (or MLF), the harder malic acid gets converted into the softer lactic acid, and diacetyl which creates the “buttery-ness” that is associated with some styles of Chardonnay.
The wines that do not go through MLF will have greener (unripe) apple like flavours. Oak can be introduced during fermentation or after in the form of the barrel aging. Depending on the amount of charring that the oak was treated with, this can introduce a “toastiness” and flavours that many wine drinkers mistake as a characteristic of the grape itself. These flavours can include caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.
Other winemaking decisions that can have a significant effect include the temperature of fermentation and what time, if any, that the wine allowed to spend aging on the lees. Burgundian winemaking tends to favour extended contact on the lees and even “stirring up” the lees within the wine while it is aging in the barrel in a process known as bâttonage. Colder fermentation temperatures produces more “tropical” fruit flavours like mango and pineapple.
The “Old World” style of winemaking favours the use of wild, or ambient yeast, though some will also use specially cultivated yeast that can impart aromatic qualities to the wine. A particular style of yeast used in Champagne is the Prise de Mousse that is cultivated for use worldwide in sparkling Chardonnay wines. A potential drawback of using wild yeast is that the fermentation process can go very slow with the results of the yeasts being very unpredictable and producing potentially a very different wine each year. One Burgundian winemaker that favours the use of only wild yeast is Domaine des Comtes Lafon which had the fermentation of its 1963 Chardonnay batch take 5 years to complete when the fermentation process normally only takes a matter of weeks.
The time of harvesting is a crucial decision because the grape quickly begins to lose acidity as it ripens. For sparkling wine production, the grapes will be harvested early and slightly unripe to maintain the acid levels. Sparkling Chardonnay based wines tend to exhibit more floral and steely flavours in their youth. As the wine ages, particularly if it spends significant time on lees, the wines will develop “toasty” notes.
Chardonnay grapes usually have little trouble developing sugar content, even in cooler climates, which translates into high potential alcohol levels and limits the need for chaptalization. On the flip side, low acid levels can be a concern which make the wine taste “flabby” and dull. Winemakers can counteract this by adding tartaric acid in a process known as “acidification”. In cooler climates, the extract and acidity of Chardonnay is magnified which has the potential of producing very concentrated wines that can develop through bottle aging. Chardonnay can blend well with other grapes and still maintain some of its unique character. The grapes most often blended with Chardonnay include Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sémillon.
Due to the “malleability” of Chardonnay in winemaking and its ability to reflect its terroir, there is not one distinct universal “style” or set of constants that could be applied to Chardonnay made across the globe. According to Jancis Robinson, a sense of “smokiness” is one clue that could be picked up in a blind tasting of Chardonnay but there are many styles that do not have any “smokey” notes. Compared to other white wine grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Viognier-Chardonnay has a more subtle and muted nose with no overwhelming aromatics that jump out of the wine glass. The identifying styles of Chardonnay are regionally based. For example, pineapple notes are more commonly associated with Chardonnay from Napa Valley while Chablis will have more notes of green apples. While many examples of Chardonnay can benefit from a few years of bottle aging, especially if they have high acidity, most Chardonnays are meant to be consumed in their youth. A notable exception to this is the most premium examples of Chablis and white Burgundies.
Chardonnay based Champagnes, such as Blanc de Blanc, can be very versatile in food pairings.
Due to the wide range of styles, Chardonnay has the potential to be paired with a diverse spectrum of food types. It is most commonly paired with roast chicken and other white meats such as turkey. Heavily oak influenced Chardonnays do not pair well with more delicate fish and seafood dish. Instead, those wines tend to go better with smoked fish, spicy Southeast Asian cuisine, garlic and guacamole dips. The regional influences of Chardonnay can help it pair with different food styles. Chardonnays from Washington, which is characterized by maintaining more acidity, tend to pair well with tomato-based dishes and items featuring sweet onions. Older, mellower Chardonnays are often paired with more “earthy” dishes like mushroom soup and aged cheese.
Popularity and backlash
Chardonnay has become a popular component in the wine-based cocktail Kir.
Chardonnay long had a reputation as one of France’s great white wines, but due to the dominance of geographical labelling, the fact that Chardonnay was the grape behind white Burgundy was not widely known by the wine-drinking public. The success of California and new world Chardonnays, partly encouraged by the Californian showing at the Judgment of Paris wine tasting, brought varietal wine labelling to more prominence and the easy to pronounce Chardonnay grape was one of the largest beneficiaries. In the late 1980s, a sort of “Chardonnay-mania” developed as wine regions (particularly new and developing ones) dramatically increased their planting of the grape to meet the worldwide demand. Chardonnay became very fashionable in the 1990s, as the stereotypical drink of young urban women of the Bridget Jones generation.
But as more vineyards responded with massive new plantings of the variety, they found that fashions were changing again. The market was drinking more red wine, and there was a backlash against heavy, oaky, New World Chardonnays in favour of lighter wines such as Pinot grigio. There was a new fashion, “ABC” – Anything But Chardonnay, identified by Frank Prial in 1995. Another reason for the backlash was that Chardonnay was seen as a symbol of the globalization of wine, in which local grape varieties were grubbed up in favour of the big names demanded by international markets. Oz Clarke described a view of Chardonnay as “…the ruthless coloniser and destroyer of the world’s vineyards and the world’s palates.” The criticism was centred on the habits of winemakers to pull out or give up on local varieties in order to plant more Chardonnay which offered potentially more income but lack the uniqueness and character of local varieties. Examples of this occurred in south Italy and Spain when ancient Negroamaro, Primitivo, Grenache and Mataro vineyards were ripped up in favour of new Chardonnay plantings. Despite the backlash, Chardonnay remains very popular. In 2004 Chardonnay was estimated to be the world’s 6th most widely grown grape variety, covering 179,300 hectares (443,000 acres).
Currently trials are being run on genetically modified Chardonnay. Trials are underway in the US and South Africa.
Grenache (/ɡrəˈnɑːʃ/) or Garnacha (IPA: [ɡarˈnatʃa]) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. It is also grown in the Italian isle of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California’s San Joaquin Valley.
It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavour profiles on Grenache include red fruit flavours (raspberry and strawberry) with a subtle, white pepper spice note. Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation with even young examples having the potential to show browning (or “bricking”) colouration that can be noticed around the rim when evaluating the wine at an angle in the glass. As Grenache ages the wines tend to take on more leather and tar flavours. Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and colour, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo and Cinsaut.
In Spain, there are monovarietal wines made of Garnacha tinta (red Grenache), notably in the southern Aragon wine regions of Calatayud, Carinena and Campo de Borja, but it is also used in blends, as in some Rioja wines with tempranillo. Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with Syrah (commonly known as Shiraz in that country) and Mourvèdre with old vine examples in McLaren Vale. In Italy, the Sardinian D.O.C. wine Cannonau di Sardegna is by law 99% local Grenache (Cannonau). Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône and those of the Navarra region. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of most Australian fortified wine.
Grenache or Garnacha (as it is known in Spain) most likely originated in the region of Aragon in northern Spain, according to ampelographical evidence. Plantings probably spread from the original birthplace to Catalonia and other lands under the Crown of Aragon such as Sardinia and Roussillon in southern France. An early synonym for the vine was Tinto Aragonés (red of Aragon). The grape is known as Cannonau in Sardinia, where it is claimed that it originated there and spread to other Mediterranean lands under Aragon rule. Grenache, under its Spanish synonym Garnacha, was already well established on both sides of the Pyrenees when the Roussillon region was annexed by France. From there the vine made its way through the Languedoc and to the Southern Rhone region where it was well established by the 19th century. Despite its prevalence in nearby Navarra and Catalonia, Garnacha was not widely planted in the Rioja till the early 20th century as vineyards were replanted following the phylloxera epidemic.
Grenache was one of the first varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and eventually became the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid-1960s. Early Australian Grenache was a main component in the sweet fortified wines that was the lynchpin of the early Australian wine industry. In the 19th century, California wine growers prized the vine’s ability to produce high yields and withstand heat and drought conditions. The grape was extensively planted throughout the hot San Joaquin Valley where it was mainly used as a blending component for pale, sweet jug wines. In the late 20th century, the Rhone Rangers movement brought attention to the production of premium varietal Grenache and Rhone style blends modelled after the Grenache dominate wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the early 20th century, Grenache was one of the first Vitis vinifera grapes to be successfully vinified during the early development of the Washington wine industry with a 1966 Yakima Valley rosé earning mention in wine historian Leon Adams treatise The Wines of America.
The h4 wood canopy of Grenache allows it to thrive in a windy climate but also makes mechanical harvesting and pruning difficult.
The Grenache vine is characterized by its h4 wood canopy and upright growth. It has good wind tolerance (which is useful with the northerly Cierzo and Mistral winds that influence the regions of Aragon and the Rhone) and has shown itself to be very suited for the dry, warm windy climate around the Mediterranean. The vine buds early and requires a long growing season in order to fully ripen. Grenache is often one of the last grapes to be harvested, often ripening weeks after Cabernet Sauvignon. The long ripening process allows the sugars in the grape to reach high levels, making Grenache based wines capable of substantial alcohol levels, often at least 15% ABV.
While the vine is generally vigorous, it is susceptible to various grape diseases that can affect the yield and quality of the grape production such as coulure, bunch rot and downy mildew due to the vine’s tight grape clusters. Marginal and wet climates can increase Grenache’s propensity to develop these viticultural dangers. The vine’s drought resistance is dependent on the type of rootstock it is planted on but on all types of rootstocks, Grenache seems to respond favourably to some degree of water stress.
Grenache prefers hot, dry soils that are well drained but it relatively adaptable to all vineyard soil types. In southern France, Grenache thrives on schist and granite soils and has responded well to the stony soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the area’s galets roulés heat retaining stones. In Priorat, the crumbly schist soil of the region retain enough water to allow producers to avoid irrigation in the dry wine region. Vineyards with an overabundance of irrigation tend to produce pale coloured wines with diluted flavours and excessive alcohol. The skin of Grenache is thin and lightly pigmented, making wines with pale colour and low tannins. Older vines with low yields can increase the concentration of phenolic compounds and produced darker, more tannic wines such as those found in the Priorat region of Spain where yields are often around 5-6 hectolitres/hectare (less than half a ton per acre). Yield control is intimately connected with the resulting quality of wine with yields below 35 hl/ha (2 tons/acre), such as those practiced by many Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates, producing very different wines than those with yields closer to 50 hl/ha (5 tons/acre) which is the base yield for Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wines labelled under the Côtes du Rhône designation. The h4 wood canopy of Grenache makes the vine difficult to harvest with mechanical harvesters and pruning equipment and more labour-intensive to cultivate. In highly mechanized wine regions, such as Australia and California, this has contributed to a decline in the vine’s popularity.
Mutants and crosses
Over centuries, the Grenache vine has produced colour mutation vines with berries of all range of colours. While Grenache Noir or “red” Grenache is the most well-known, Grenache Blanc or “white” Grenache is a very important grape variety in France where it is the fourth most widely planted white variety after Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Like Grenache Noir, it is a permitted variety in the blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In Southern France and Sardinia, the mutants Grenache Rose and Grenache gris are also found making pale rosé and lightly tinted white wines. “Hairy Grenache” (Garnacha Peluda as known in Spain) is a Grenache variant evolved to grow fuzz on the underside of its leaves to protect the vine from transpiration in hot climates, “like the corresponding fuzz on rosemary or other Mediterranean plants.” Compared to its more widely planted cousin, it produces wines lower in alcohol and higher in acidity that show spicy and savoury notes more readily as they age. It was not widely replanted after phylloxera as it was not well-adapted to making the vins doux naturels (that were “all the rage” at the time. The vine known as Garnacha Tintorera is a synonym for the teinturier grape Alicante which is a crossing of Grenache and Petite Bouschet. In 1961, a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon produced the French wine grape Marselan.
The thin skin and lack of colouring phenolic compounds makes Grenache a useful variety for the production of pale rosé.
Grenache is often used as a blending component, adding body and sweet fruitiness to a wine. The grape can be troublesome for the winemaker due to tendency to oxidize easily and lose colour. To compensate for the grape’s naturally low tannins and phenolic compounds, some producers will use excessively harsh pressing and hot fermentation with stems to extract the maximal amount of colour and phenols from the skins.
This can backfire to produce green, herbaceous flavours and coarse, astringent wine lacking the grape’s characteristic vibrant fruitiness. To maintain those character traits, Grenache responds best to a long, slow fermentation at cooler temperatures followed by a maceration period. To curb against oxidation, the wine should be racked as little as possible. The use of new oak barrels can help with retaining colour and preventing oxidation but too much oak influence can cover up the fruitiness of Grenache.
The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines, such as the vin doux naturels (VDN) of the Roussillon region and the “port-style” wines of Australia. In these wines, the must ferments for 3 days before grape spirit is added to the must to halt the fermentation and the conversion of sugar into alcohol. The high alcoholic proof grape spirit brings the finish wine up to 15-16% alcohol. These wines can be made in a rancio style by leaving it outside in glass demi-johns (or carboys) or wooden barrels where the wine bakes in the sun for several years until it develops a maderized character and flavours of sour raisins, nuts and cheese. These fortified VDNs and port-style wines have longevity and can be drinkable well into their third decade.
Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world with France and Spain being its largest principal wine regions. In the late 20th century, total acreage of Grenache in Spain has been on the decline with the vineyards being uprooted in lieu of the more fashionable Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Between the late 1980s and 2004, Spanish plantings dropped from 420,000 acres (170,000 ha) to 203,370 acres (82,300 ha) allowing France with its 236,500 acres (95,700 ha) to assume the mantle as the world’s largest source of Grenache. As of 2000, Grenache was the third most widely planted red wine grape variety in France, behind Merlot and Carignan. From French nurseries, Grenache has become the fourth most widely propagated vine with more than 23 million cuttings sold since 1998 according to French ampelographer Pierre Galet.
While most French Grenaches are blends there are varietal examples produced.
In France, Grenache is most widely associated with the wines of the Rhone and southern France. Its history in the Rhone can be traced to the influence of Burgundian wine merchants in the 17-18th centuries who were seeking a blending variety to add body and alcohol content to their light body wines. Grenache, with its propensity for high alcohol and high yields, fit those desire nicely and was widely planted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas and Vacqueyras regions. Today Grenache is most widely planted in the Languedoc-Roussillon region where it is widely blended with Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The vine also has sizable plantings in the Drôme department. The vine’s h4, hard wood and affinity for bush vine training allows it to thrive in the Mistral influenced southern Rhone regions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.
In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache Noir is the most common variety of the 13 permitted varieties, although some producers in recent years have been using a higher proportion of Mourvèdre. Grenache produces a sweet juice that can have almost a jam-like consistency when very ripe. Syrah is typically blended to provide colour and spice, while Mourvèdre can add elegance and structure to the wine.
The grape’s thin skin and pale colouring makes its well suited for the production of full bodied, fruit rosé wines. Grenache is the principal grape behind the rosés of Tavel and Lirac and its plays an important role in the Provence region as well. In the Roussillon region, Grenache Noir and its gris and Blanc mutations are used in the production of the fortified vin doux naturels of Banyuls and Maury. The characteristic of French Grenache-based wines depends largely on the selection of its blending partners and can range from the spicy richness associated with Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the chewy fruitiness associated with basic Côtes du Rhône Villages. Other regions with sizable plantings of Grenache include the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) regions of Minervois, Fitou and Corbières.
In Spain, Grenache is known as Garnacha and given the likely history of the grape this is most likely the grape’s original name (although the RAE gives Italian vernaccia as the etymology). There are several clonal varieties of Garnacha with the thin-skinned, dark coloured Garnacha Tinta (sometimes spelled Tinto) being the most common. Another variety, known as Garnacha Peluda or “Hairy Grenache” due to the soft hairy texture on the underside of the vine’s leaves is also found in Spain, mostly in Borja and Cariñena (Aragón). Compared to its more widely planted cousin, it produces wines lower in alcohol and higher in acidity that show spicy and savoury notes more readily as they age. Widely planted in north-eastern and central Spain, Garnacha was long considered a “workhorse” grape of low quality suitable for blending. In the late 20th century, the success of the Garnacha-based wines from Priorat in Catalonia (as well as the emerging international attention given to the New World Rhone Rangers) sparked a re-evaluation of this “workhorse” variety. Today it is the third most widely planted red grape variety in Spain (behind Tempranillo and Bobal) with more than 203,300 acres (82,300 ha) and is seen in both varietal wines and blends.
Garnacha plays a major role in the Denominación de Origen (DO) wines in Aragon, Catalonia and Navarra and the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC/DOQ) wines of Rioja and Priorat, plus the mountainous areas just southwest of Madrid: Méntrida and Cebreros. Other Spanish wine regions with sizable Garnacha plantings include Costers del Segre, Empordà, La Mancha, Madrid, Penedès, Somontano, Tarragona and Terra Alta.
Aragon, believed to be the probable origin of the grape, concentrates the largest surface of Grenache (or Garnacha as it is called locally) in Spain, with 40,034 acres (16,201 ha) planted. Garnacha is the dominant variety in the region and is typically used to produce single variety wines. Even though in the mid-20th century Garnacha was considered a “workhorse” variety for large volume wines, in the last 20 years a new generation of winemakers have taken a new approach, by controlling yields, taking advantage of the old vines (from 30 to more than 100 years), and applying modern techniques in combination with old traditions to increase concentration.
The DO of Calatayud (91% of its production is Grenache) holds the highest altitude Garnacha vineyards and is the only DO to legally define “old vines” (35 years minimum). In Campo de Borja (DO), 30+-years-old Garnacha bush trained vines and manual harvest are common; the grapes are typically slightly raisined, jammy fruit that generates alcohol of 14-14.5%. The Cariñena DO has the largest surface of Garnacha vineyards in the region with 11,120 acres (4,500 ha), many of them old vines. Although many of Somontano DO wines are now produced with international grape varieties, some of the oldest high altitude vineyards are still traditional Garnacha.
In Rioja the grape is planted mostly in the warmer Rioja Baja region located in the eastern expanse of the wine region. Usually blended with Tempranillo, Garnacha provides juicy fruitiness and added body. In recent years, modern Rioja producers have been increasing the amount of Garnacha used in the blend in order to produce earlier maturing and more approachable Riojas in their youth. Garnacha is also used in the pale coloured rosados of Rioja. The vine has a long history in the Navarra region where it has been the dominant red grape variety with nearly 54% of the region’s vineyard planted with Garnacha.
Compared to neighbouring Rioja, the Garnacha-based blends of Navarra are lighter and fruitier, meant for earlier consumption.
Ampelographers believe Garnacha has had a presence in the Priorat region of Catalonia for several hundred years (possibly nearly 800 years) but since the 1990s the region’s old Garnacha have garnered much attention. A wave of ambitious young winemakers rediscovered the low-yield, bush-vine trained Garnacha planted throughout the llicorella (brown schist) based soils of Priorat. This unique combination of extremely old vines (the average age in most vineyards is between 35–60 years) planted on steep terraces and soil produces very low yields (around 5-6 per hectare) which makes Priorat a dense, rich concentrated and dark coloured hectolitres wine with noticeable tannins. The traditional Priorat wine would be almost black in colour and require years of aging before it would be approachable to drink. Nearly 40% of all the vineyard land in the Priorat region is planted to Garnacha, and most of the rest is Carignan but the acreage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot increased before 2000 as modernist producers sought to blend those varieties to add complexity. Some of these new modern style Priorats tend to show softer, blackberry fruit in their youth and over time develop notes of figs and tar.
In Italy, Grenache is most commonly found as Cannonau in Sardinia where it is one of the principal grapes in the island’s deeply coloured, full bodied red wines that routinely maintain alcohol levels around 15%. The Sardinian D.O.C. wine Cannonau di Sardegna is by law at least 90% local Grenache (Cannonau). Grenache is also grown in other Italian regions, under names as Alicante, Tocai rosso, Granaccia.
Other Old World regions
Grenache is also found in Sicily, Umbria (in Trasimeno lake area), Marche (called Bordò) and Calabria. Grenache has been grown in Israel since the 19th century and was once an important grape in the Algerian wine industry. Today there are still some producers in Morocco producing Grenache rosés. Sizable plantings of Grenache are also found in Cyprus and scattered among the Greek islands.
Grenache was one of many grape varieties introduced to Australia by James Busby
A clone from Perpignan arrived in Australia with James Busby in his 1832 collection. More significant was the introduction into South Australia of new cuttings from the South of France, by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold in 1844. Plantings in South Australia boomed, particularly in McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley. Until the mid-20th century, Grenache was Australia’s most widely planted red wine grape variety with significant plantings in the vast Riverland region where it was vital component in the fortified “port-style” wines of the early Australian industry. As Australian winemakers started to focus more of premium still wines, Grenache gradually fell out of favour being supplanted by Shiraz and later Cabernet Sauvignon in Australian vineyards. The late 20th and early 21st centuries saw a revival of interest in Grenache with old vine plantings in South Australia being used to produce varietal Grenache as well as a “GSM”-Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre-blends becoming popular. Varietal Grenache from the McLaren Vale is characterized by luscious richness and spicy notes while Barossa Valley Grenache is characterized by jammy, intense fruitiness.
In the early California wine industry, Grenache’s high yields and alcohol level made it an ideal blending component for jug wine production. Early plantings centred in the hot central San Joaquin Valley, where the grape benefitted from its tolerance to heat and drought. It was first used to produce sweet, pale coloured “white Grenache” wines similar in quality and substance to White Zinfandel. The late 20th century saw a revival of interest in the variety spearheaded by the Rhone Rangers movement. These producers imported new cuttings from the Rhone valley for planting in the cooler Central Coast region for use in the production of premium varietal Grenache and Rhone style blends. Some historic old vine plantings of Grenache in Mendocino County has also garnered interest in recent years. In the early 20th century, Grenache was one of the first Vitis vinifera grapes to be successfully vinified during the early development of the Washington wine industry with a 1966 Yakima Valley rosé earning mention in wine historian Leon Adams’s treatise The Wines of America. Despite its long history, Grenache has been a minor grape variety in Washington but has seen an increase in plantings in recent years due to the “Rhone Ranger” movement in the state. Older plantings in the Horse Heaven Hills and Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) have also begun to attract interest.
Grenache Noir came to the Cape in the 19th century but was only confirmed as such until the early 1900’s by a Stellenbosch University professor. While there isn’t a lot of Grenache Noir planted in South Africa at only 305 hectares in 2014, many of the 100+ Grenache based blends are proving to be very fashionable with winemakers due to South Africa’s Mediterranean warm climate, dry land and granitic soils.
Other New World wine regions
Despite being one of the world’s most widely planted red grape varieties, Grenache’s colonization of the New World has been limited apart from h4holds in Australia and California. The rising popularity and success of the Rhone Ranger’s movement has brought greater attention to the variety and more plantings of Grenache are popping up every year in places like Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa.
Though Grenache is most often encountered in blended wines (such as the Rhone wines or GSM blends), varietal examples of Grenache do exist. As a blending component, Grenache is valued for the added body and fruitiness that it brings without added tannins. As a varietal, the grape’s naturally low concentration of phenolics contribute to its pale colour and lack of extract but viticultural practices and low yields can increase the concentrations of phenolic compounds. Grenache-based wines tend to be made for early consumption with its propensity for oxidation make it a poor candidate for long-term aging. However, producers (such as some examples from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat) who use low yields grown on poor soils can produce dense, concentrated wines that can benefit from cellaring. The fortified vin doux naturels of France and Australian “port-style” wines are protected from Grenache’s propensity for oxidation by the fortification process and can usually be drinkable for two or three decades.
The characteristic notes of Grenache are berry fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. When yields are kept in check, Grenache-based wines can develop complex and intense notes of blackcurrants, black cherries, black olives, coffee, gingerbread, honey, leather, black pepper, tar, spices, and roasted nuts. When yields are increased, more overtly earthy and herbal notes emerge that tend to quickly fade on the palate. The very low-yielding old vines of Priorat can impart dark black fruits and notes of figs and tar with many traits similar to the Italian wine Amarone. Rosado or rosé Grenaches are often characterized by their strawberry and cream notes while fortified vin doux nautrels and Australian “port style” wines exhibits coffee and nutty tawny-like notes.
Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world’s 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly “terroir-expressive”, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is greatly influenced by the wine’s place of origin.
In cool climates (such as many German wine regions), Riesling wines tend to exhibit apple and tree fruit notes with noticeable levels of acidity that are sometimes balanced with residual sugar. A late-ripening variety that can develop more citrus and peach notes is grown in warmer climates (such as Alsace and parts of Austria). In Australia, Riesling is often noted for a characteristic lime note that tends to emerge in examples from the Clare and Eden Valley in South Australia. Riesling’s naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavours give wines made from the grape exceptional aging potential, with well-made examples from favourable vintages often developing smokey, honey notes, and aged German Rieslings, in particular, taking on a “petrol” character.
In 2006, Riesling was the most grown variety in Germany with 20.8% and 21,197 hectares (52,380 acres), and in the French region of Alsace with 21.9% and 3,350 hectares (8,300 acres) In Germany, the variety is particularly widely planted in the Mosel, Rheingau, Nahe and Pfalz wine regions. There are also significant plantings of Riesling in Austria, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, China, Ukraine, and the United States (Washington, California, Michigan and New York).
Riesling has a long history, and there are several written references to the variety dating from the 15th century, although with varying orthography. The earliest of these references dates from March 13, 1435, when the storage inventory of the high noble Count John IV. of Katzenelnbogen in Rüsselsheim (a small principality on the Rhine, close to today’s Rheingau) lists “22 ß umb seczreben Rießlingen in die wingarten” (“22 shillings for Riesling vine cuttings for the vineyard”). The spelling Rießlingen is repeated in many other documents of the time. The modern spelling Riesling was first documented in 1552 when it was mentioned in Hieronymus Bock’s Latin herbal
A map of Kintzheim in Alsace from 1348 contains the text zu dem Russelinge, but it is not certain that this reference is to the grape variety. However, in 1477, Riesling was documented in Alsace under the spelling Rissling. In Wachau in Austria, there is a small stream and a small vineyard both called Ritzling, which are claimed locally to have given Riesling its name. However, there seems to be no documentary evidence to back this up, so this claim is not widely believed to be correct.
Earlier, Riesling was sometimes claimed to have originated from wild vines of the Rhine region, without much support to back up that claim. More recently, DNA fingerprinting by Ferdinand Regner indicated that one parent of Riesling is Gouais Blanc, known to the Germans as Weißer Heunisch, a variety that, while rare today, was widely grown by the French and German peasantry of the Middle Ages. The other parent is a cross between a wild vine and Traminer. It is presumed that the Riesling was born somewhere in the valley of the Rhine, since both Heunisch and Traminer have a long documented history in Germany, but with parents from either side of the Adriatic the cross could have happened anywhere on the way.
It has also been suggested, but not proved, that the red-skinned version of Riesling is the forerunner of the common, “white” Riesling. the genetic differences between white and red Riesling are minuscule, as is also the case between Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
A German Riesling from the 1975 vintage, an Erbacher Siegelsberg Kabinett from Schloss Reinhartshausen in Rheingau, uncorked at 32 years of age in 2007. It shows the typical golden to amber colour of aged Riesling, which is shared by many other aged white wines.
Riesling wines are often consumed when young, when they make a fruity and aromatic wine which may have aromas of green or other apples, grapefruit, peach, gooseberry, honey, rose blossom or cut green grass, and usually a crisp taste due to the high acidity. However, Riesling’s naturally high acidity and range of flavours make it suitable for extended aging. International wine expert Michael Broadbent rates aged German Rieslings, some hundreds of years old, highly. Sweet Riesling wines, such as German Trockenbeerenauslese are especially suited for cellaring since the high sugar content provides for additional preservation. However, high quality dry or off-dry Riesling wine is also known to have not just survived but also been enjoyable at an age exceeding 100 years.
More common aging periods for Riesling wines would be 5–15 years for dry, 10–20 years for semi-sweet and 10-30+ for sweet versions.
High sun exposure
Water stress, which is most likely in regions which do not practice irrigation, and there primarily in certain dry vineyard sites in hot and dry years
High acid content
These factors are usually also considered to contribute to high quality Riesling wines, so the petrol note is in fact more likely to develop in top wines than in simpler wines made from high-yielding vineyards, especially those from the New World, where irrigation is common.
A bunch of Riesling grapes after the onset of noble rot. The difference in colour between affected and unaffected grapes is clearly visible.
The most expensive wines made from Riesling are late harvest dessert wines, produced by letting the grapes hang on the vines well past normal picking time. Through evaporation caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea (“noble rot”) or by freezing, as in the case of ice wine (in German, Eiswein), water is removed and the resulting wine is felt to offer richer layers on the palate. These concentrated wines have more sugar (in extreme cases hundreds of grams per litre), more acid (to give balance to the sugar), more flavour, and more complexity. These elements combine to make wines which are amongst the most long lived of all white wines. The beneficial use of “noble rot” in Riesling grapes was discovered in the late 18th century at Schloss Johannisberg. Permission from the Abbey of Fulda (which owned the vineyard) to start picking Riesling grapes arrived too late and the grapes had begun to rot; yet it turned out that the wine made from them was still of excellent quality.
Riesling vines on a steep, south facing slope in the Mosel region.
Riesling is considered one of the grape varieties that best expresses the terroir of the place where it is grown. It is particularly well suited for slate and sandy clay soil.
Originating in German soil today Riesling is Germany’s leading grape variety, known for its characteristic “transparency” in flavour and presentation of terroir, and its balance between fruit and mineral flavours. In Germany, Riesling normally ripens between late September and late November, and late harvest Riesling can be picked as late as January.
Three common characteristics of German Riesling are that they are rarely blended with other varieties and usually never exposed to oak flavour (despite some vintners fermenting in “neutral” oak barrels). To this last item there is an exception with some vinters in the wine regions of Palatinate (Pfalz) and Baden experimenting with new oak aging. The warmer temperatures in those regions produce heavier wines with a higher alcohol content that can better contend with the new oak. While clearer in individual flavours when it is young, a German Riesling will harmonize more as it ages, particularly around ten years of age.
In Germany, sugar levels at time of harvest are an important consideration in the wine’s production with prädikat levels measuring the sweetness of the wine. Equally important to winegrowers is the balance of acidity between the green tasting malic acid and the more citrus tasting tartaric acid. In cool years, some growers will wait until November to harvest in hopes of having a higher level of ripeness and subsequent tartaric acid.
Before technology in wineries could stabilize temperatures, the low temperatures in winter of the northern German regions would halt fermentation and leave the resulting wines with natural sugars and a low alcohol content. According to local tradition, in the Mosel region the wine would then be bottled in tall, tapered, and green hock bottles. Similar bottles, although brown, are used for Riesling produced in the Rhine region.
Riesling is also the preferred grape in production of Deutscher Sekt, German sparkling wine.
Riesling wines from Germany cover a vast array of tastes from sweet to off-dry halbtrocken to dry trocken. Late harvest Rieslings can ripen to become very sweet dessert wines of the beerenauslese (BA) and trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) class.
Riesling is on record as being planted in the Alsace region by 1477 when its quality was praised by the Duke of Lorraine. Today over a fifth of Alsace’s vineyards are covered with Riesling vines, mostly in the Haut-Rhin district, with the varietal Riesling d’Alsace (fr) being very different from neighbouring German Riesling. This is partly from difference in the soil with the clay Alsatian soil being more dominantly calcareous than the slate composition of Rheingau. The other differences come in wine making styles, with the Alsatian preferring more French-oriented methods that produce wines of higher alcohol content (normally around 12%) and more roundness due to longer time spent in neutral oak barrels or steel tanks. In contrast to German wine laws, Alsatian Rieslings can be chaptalized, a process in which the alcoholic content is increased through the addition of sugar to the must.
In contrast to other Alsatian wines, Rieslings d’Alsace are usually not meant to be drunk young, but many are still best in the first years. Rieslings d’Alsace tend to be mostly very dry with a cleansing acidity. They are thick-bodied wines that coat the palate. These wines age exceptionally well with a quality vintage aging up to 20 years. This is beneficial since the flavours in an Alsace wine will often open up after three years, developing softer and fruitier flavours. Riesling is very suitable for the late harvest Vendange Tardive and the botrytized Sélection de Grains Nobles, with good acidity keeping up the sweetness of the wine.
In addition to Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Pinot gris, Riesling is one of the acceptable varieties whose planting is allowed in Alsace grand cru sites.
Australia and New Zealand
In 1838 William Macarthur planted Riesling vines near Penrith in New South Wales. Riesling was the most planted white grape in Australia until the early 1990s when Chardonnay greatly increased in popularity. Riesling still flourishes in The Great Southern (in particular Mt Barker, Frankland River and Porongorup), Clare Valley, in particular the areas of Watervale and around the Polish Hill River, and the cooler Eden Valley and High Eden regions. The warmer Australian climate produces thicker skinned grapes, sometimes seven times the thickness of German grown grape. The grapes ripening in free drain soil composed of red soil over limestone and shale, producing a lean wine that as it matures produces toasty, honeycomb and lime aromas and flavours. It is common for Australian Rieslings to be fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks with no oxidation of the wine and followed by earlier bottling.
Australian Rieslings are noted for their oily texture and citrus fruit flavours in their youth and a smooth balance of freshness and acid as they age. The botrytized Rieslings have immense levels of flavour concentrations that have been favourably compared to lemon marmalade.
Riesling was first planted in New Zealand in the 1970s and has flourished in the relatively cool climate of the Marlborough area and for late harvests in the Nelson region. In comparison to Australian Riesling, New Zealand produces lighter and more delicate wines that range from sweet to dry. Home of cool climate wines, Central Otago, has recently emerged as another area producing terroir driven wines.
Riesling is the second leading white grape varietal after the indigenous Grüner Veltliner. Austrian Riesling is generally thick bodied, coating the palate and producing a h4 clarity of flavour coupled with a mouth-watering aroma. A particular Austrian Riesling trademark is a long finish that includes hints of white pepper. It flourishes in the cool climate and free-draining granite and mica soil of the Wachau region where Austrian wine laws allow for irrigation. With levels normally around 13% it has a relatively high alcohol content for Riesling and is generally at its peak after 5 years. Austrian Riesling is not known for its sweetness and is mostly dry with very few grapes affected by botrytis.
A Riesling from the Columbia Valley AVA of Washington State.
In the late nineteenth century German immigrants brought with them Riesling vines, named Johannisberg Riesling to qualify them as “legitimate” German Riesling. New York, particularly in the Finger Lakes region, was one of the earliest U.S. producers of Riesling. Plantings started to appear in California by 1857 and followed in Washington State in 1871
New York Riesling generally has a characteristic effervescent light body with a similarly light, mellow flavour. The wine can be dynamic though rarely robust, and ranges from dry to sweet. New York is also a notable producer of Riesling-based Ice Wine, although a large majority of New York Ice Wine is made from Vidal Blanc and Vignoles.
In California, Riesling lags far behind Chardonnay in popularity and is not as commonly planted. A notable exception is the growing development of high quality Late Harvest dessert wines. So far, the Late Harvest wines most successfully produced are in the Anderson and Alexander Valleys where the weather is more likely to encourage the needed botrytis to develop. The Riesling that does come out of California tends to be softer, fuller, and having more diverse flavours than a “typical” German Riesling.
In the Pacific Northwest there is a stark contrast in Riesling production. The grape is currently on the rise in Washington State but on the decline in neighbouring Oregon. Riesling from this area ranges from dry to sweet, and has a crisp lightness that bodes well for easy drinking. Often there will be an easily detectable peach and mineral complex. Some Washington State winemakers, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, are adapting German-style Riesling production methods, and even partnering with well-known German vintners like Dr. Ernest Loosen to create specialty wines such as the Eroica Riesling. With annual productions of over 2,000,000 cases a year, Chateau Ste. Michelle is the worldwide leader in the production of Riesling wines by volume. In 2007 Pacific Rim Winemakers, another Pacific Northwest winery and owned by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, has built the first wine facility in Red Mountain AVA dedicated completely to Riesling production.
In Michigan, whose Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula AVAs (near Traverse City) are known for their ice wine, Riesling is a fairly common variety, in part on account of its suitability for that purpose.
Riesling is grown in other regions as well, including colder parts of relatively warm states such as Oklahoma (where it has even been made into an eiswein) and Texas.
Riesling is also grown throughout all the regions in Ohio and is produced and sold at award-winning wineries across the state.
In Ontario, Riesling is commonly used for Icewine, where the wine is noted for its breadth and complexity. Niagara is a major producer of ice wine in general, putting it neck-and-neck with Germany. Late Harvest wines and some sparkling wines are produced with Riesling in Niagara but it is table wines from dry to off-dry that hold the largest share of production. The climate of the region is typically quite warm in the summertime which adds a layer of richness in the wines. It is interesting that the founder of St. Urbanshoff in the Mosel, Herman Weiss, was an early pioneer in Niagara’s modern viticulture, selling his strain of Mosel clone Riesling to many producers in west Niagara (these vines are well over 20 years old now). This clone and Niagara’s summer heat make for uniquely bright wines and often show up in interesting dry styled versions. Many producers and wine critics will argue that Niagara’s best offerings come from the Niagara Escarpment region which encompasses the Short Hills Bench, 20 Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench.
In British Columbia, Riesling is commonly grown for use in Icewine, table wine, and sekt style sparkling wines, a notable example of which is Cipes Brut.
In Nova Scotia, particularly in the Annapolis Valley region, Riesling is showing significant promise, being shaped by the warm summer days with cool nights and the extension of the growing season that is being observed. The Maritime climate combined with glacial soils contribute to the interesting expressions that are showing.
Riesling is also widely grown in Italy, particularly Friuli-Venezia Giulia, South Africa, Chile and Central Europe, particularly Romania and Moldova, Uzbekistan
In wine making, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires special handling during harvesting to avoid crushing or bruising the skin. Without this care, the broken skins could leak tannin into the juice, giving a markedly coarse taste and throwing off balance the Riesling’s range of flavours and aromas.
A wine that is best at its “freshest” states, the grapes and juice may be chilled often throughout the vinification process. Once, right after picking to preserve the grapes’ more delicate flavours. Second, after it has been processed through a bladder press and right before fermentation. During fermentation, the wine is cooled in temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks kept between 10 and 18 °C (50 and 64 °F). This differs from red wines that normally ferment at 24 to 29 °C (75 to 84 °F)
Unlike Chardonnay, most Riesling do not undergo malolactic fermentation. This helps preserve the tart, acidic characteristic of the wine that gives Riesling its “thirst-quenching” quality. (Producers of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot grigio often avoid malolactic fermentation for the same reason.) Riesling is often put through a process of cold stabilization, where the wine is stored just above its freezing point. The wine is kept at this temperature until much of the tartaric acid has crystallized and precipitated out of the wine. This helps prevent crystallization of the acid (often called “wine diamonds”) in the bottle. After this, the wine is normally filtered again to remove any remaining yeast or impurities.
In viticulture, the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to keep it “Long & Low” meaning that the ideal situation for Riesling is a climate that allows for a long, slow ripening and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavour concentrated.
Riesling is a versatile wine for pairing with food, because of its balance of sugar and acidity. It can be paired with white fish or pork, and is one of the few wines that can stand up to the h4er flavours and spices of Thai and Chinese cuisine. A Riesling’s typical aromas are of flowers, tropical fruits, and mineral stone (such as slate or quartz), although, with time, the wine acquires a petrol note as mentioned above.
Riesling is almost never fermented or aged in new oak (although large old oak barrels are often used to store and stabilize Riesling based wines in Germany and Alsace). This means that Riesling tends to be lighter weight and therefore suitable to a wider range of foods. The sharp acidity/sweetness in Rieslings can serve as a good balance to foods that have a high salt content. In Germany, cabbage is sometimes cooked with Riesling to reduce the vegetable’s smell.
As with other white wines, dry Riesling is generally served at a cool 11 °C (52 °F). Sweeter Rieslings are often served warmer.
There exists a large number of commercial clones of Riesling, with slightly different properties. In Germany, approximately 60 clones are allowed, and the most famous of these have been propagated from vines in the vineyards of Schloss Johannisberg. Most other countries have sourced their Riesling clones directly from Germany, but they are sometimes propagated under different designations.
A very rare version of Riesling which has recently received more attention is Red Riesling (Roter Riesling). As the name suggests, this is a red-skinned clone of Riesling (a skin colour commonly found for e.g. Gewürztraminer), but not a dark-skinned clone, i.e., it is still a white wine grape. It is considered a mutation of White Riesling, but some experts have suggested the opposite relationship, i.e., that Red Riesling could be the forerunner of White Riesling. Small amounts of Red Riesling are grown in Germany and Austria. In 2006, the Rheingau winery Fritz Allendorf planted what has been claimed to be the first commercial amounts of Red Riesling. To confuse matters, “Red Riesling” has also been used as a synonym for red-skinned Traminer grapes (such as the Savagnin rose of Klevener de Heiligenstein) and the obscure variety Hanns, which is a seed plant of Roter Veltliner. Roter Riesling has nothing to do with Schwarzriesling.
In the late 19th century German horticulturalists devoted many efforts to develop new Riesling hybrids that would create a more flexible, less temperamental grape that could still retain some of the elegant characteristics of Riesling. The most notable is the Müller-Thurgau developed in the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in 1882, which is a cross of Riesling and Madeleine Royale (although long believed to be Riesling x Silvaner). Other Riesling/Silvaner crosses include the Palatinate regional favourite Scheurebe and Rieslaner. Kerner, a cross between Riesling and the red wine grape Trollinger is a high quality cross that has recently eclipsed Riesling in plantings.
Many grapes that incorporate the name Riesling are not true Riesling. For example:
Welschriesling is an unrelated variety, which is common in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania which may also be labelled as Riesling Italico, Welsch Rizling, Olasz Rizling or Laski Rizling.
Schwarzriesling (Black Riesling) is the German name for Pinot Meunier, a grape used in Champagne, but which is also grown in Southern Germany.
Cape Riesling is the South African name for the French grape Crouchen.
Gray Riesling is actually Trousseau gris, a white mutant of the Bastardo port wine grape.
Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, mostly in France and Australia. Its thin skin and susceptibility to botrytis make it dominate the sweet wine region Sauternes AOC and Barsac AOC in France.
The Sémillon grape is native to the Bordeaux region. It was known as Sémillon de Saint-Émilion in 1736, while Sémillon also resembles the local pronunciation of the town’s name ([semi’ʎuŋ]) It first arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and by the 1820s the grape covered over 90 percent of South Africa’s vineyards, where it was known as Wyndruif, meaning “wine grape” It was once considered to be the most planted grape in the world, although this is no longer the case. In the 1950’s, Chile’s vineyards were made up of over 75% Sémillon. Today, it accounts for just 1% of South African Cape vines.
Sémillon, which is relatively easy to cultivate, consistently produces six to eight tons of grapes per acre from its vigorous vines. It is fairly resistant to disease, except for rot. The grape ripens early, when, in warmer climates, it acquires a pinkish hue. Since the grape has a thin skin, there is also a risk of sunburn in hotter climates; it is best suited to areas with sunny days and cool nights.
The Sémillon grape is rather heavy, with low acidity and an almost oily texture. It has a high yield and wines based on it can age a long time. Along with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, Sémillon is one of only three approved white wine varieties in the Bordeaux region.
The grape is also key to the production of sweet wines such as Sauternes. For the grapes to be used for sweet wine production, they need to have been affected by Botrytis (also known as “Noble Rot”). This fungus dries out the grapes, thus concentrating the sugar and flavours in the grape berry.
Sémillon is an important cultivar in two significant wine producing countries. In France, Sémillon is the preeminent white grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. The grape has also found a home in Australia; whereas today the country’s major white varieties are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, early in the country’s viticultural development it was Sémillon, at that time mislabelled as Riesling, which was the most significant white variety.
In France, the Sémillon grape is grown mostly in Bordeaux where it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. When dry, it is referred to as Bordeaux Blanc and is permitted to be made in the appellations of Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers and other less-renowned regions. In this form, Sémillon is generally a minor constituent in the blend. However, when used to make the sweet white wines of Bordeaux (such as those from Sauternes, Barsac and Cérons) it is often the dominant variety. In such wines the vine is exposed to the “noble rot” of Botrytis cinerea which consumes the water content of the fruit, concentrating the sugar present in its pulp. When attacked by Botrytis cinerea, the grapes shrivel and the acid and sugar levels are intensified.
Due to the declining popularity of the grape variety, fewer clones are cultivated in nurseries causing producers to project a future shortage of quality wine. In 2008, 17 Bordeaux wine producers, including Château d’Yquem, Château Olivier, Château Suduiraut and Château La Tour Blanche, formed an association to grow their own clones
Sémillon is widely grown in Australia, particularly in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, where for a long time it was known as “Hunter River Riesling”. Four styles of Sémillon-based wines are made there:
A commercial style, often blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc;
a sweet style, after that of Sauternes;
a complex, minerally, early picked style which has great longevity;
and an equally high quality dry style, which can be released soon after vintage as a vat- or bottle-aged example.
The latter two styles were pioneered by Lindemans, Tulloch, McWilliam’s Elizabeth, Drayton’s and Tyrrell’s, and are considered unique to Australia.
Most examples of these bottle-aged Hunter Semillons exhibit a buttercup-yellow colour, burnt toast or honey characteristics on the nose and excellent complex flavours on the palate, with a long finish and soft acid.
Young Hunter Valley Semillon is almost always a dry wine, usually exhibiting citrus flavours of lemon, lime or green apple. Cooler-year Hunter Semillons seem to be the most highly sought after, with some of the 1974 and 1977 vintages still drinking well. The newer, fruit-accentuated styles are championed by the likes of Iain Riggs at Brokenwood Wines and The Rothbury Estate.
Sémillon is also finding favour with Australian producers outside the Hunter Valley in the Barossa Valley and Margaret River regions. The Adelaide Hills is becoming a flourishing region for Semillon, with the cooler climate producing some wines of great complexity. Vineyards such as Amadio and Paracombe produce some premium blends of the classical style.
Semillon is one of the Cape’s true heritage white varietals, with origins as early as the 17th century (when it became known as Groendruif which translates as Green grape), the grape variety accounted for more than 90% of plantings in the first half of the 19th century. While South African Semillon has not quite taken off as a serious commercial category in single varietal form in the modern era, there are stunning wines being made from especially older vineyards (some of them centurions). More often, the variety plays a role in beefing up the volume of Sauvignon Blanc.
The best South African Semillons have juicy fruit with often an ethereal-like citrus perfume, fine texture, herbal interest and manage to marry the intensity of flavour with finesse. Top 20 South African Semillons
Outside of these regions, however, Sémillon is unpopular and often criticised for lack of complexity and intensity. As such, plantings have decreased over the last century. As referenced above, the grape can still be found in South Africa and Chile. The latter is reputed to have the largest plantings of this grape, although the number of acres planted with Sémillon fluctuates often. California growers plant Sémillon primarily to blend it with Sauvignon Blanc. There are some wineries in the Washington State that have produced Sémillon as a varietal wine since the early 1980s; others actively produce Sémillon for Ice Wine and Late Harvest wines. At least one winery in Idaho grows and produces a varietal offering and at least four vineyards in Texas are growing Sémillon. The grape is also planted in Argentina, Canada (Niagara and British Columbia) and recently in New Zealand.
Viognier (French pronunciation: [viɔɲje]) is a white wine grape variety. It is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. Outside of the Rhône, Viognier can be found in regions of North and South America as well as Australia, New Zealand, the Cape Winelands in South Africa and Israel. In some wine regions, the variety is co-fermented with the red wine grape Syrah where it can contribute to the colour and bouquet of the wine.
Like Chardonnay, Viognier has the potential to produce full-bodied wines with a lush, soft character. In contrast to Chardonnay, the Viognier varietal has more natural aromatics that include notes of peach, pears, violets and minerality. However, these aromatic notes can be easily destroyed by too much exposure to oxygen which makes barrel fermentation a winemaking technique that requires a high level of skill on the part of any winemaker working with this variety. The potential quality of Viognier is also highly dependent on viticultural practices and climate with the grape requiring a long, warm growing season in order to fully ripen but not a climate that is so hot that the grape develops high levels of sugars and potential alcohol before its aromatic notes can develop. The grape is naturally a low yielding variety which can make it a less economically viable planting for some vineyards.
The origin of the Viognier grape is unknown; it is presumed to be an ancient grape, possibly originating in Dalmatia (present day Croatia) and then brought to Rhône by the Romans. One legend states that the Roman emperor Probus brought the vine to the region in 281 AD; another has the grape packaged with Syrah on a cargo ship navigating the Rhône river, en route to Beaujolais when it was captured, near the site of present-day Condrieu, by a local group of outlaws known as culs de piaux.
The origin of the name Viognier is also obscure. The most common namesake is the French city of Vienne, which was a major Roman outpost. Another legend has it drawing its name from the Roman pronunciation of the via Gehennae, meaning the “Road of the Valley of Hell”. Probably this is an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape.
Viognier was once fairly common. In 1965, the grape was almost extinct when there were only eight acres in Northern Rhône producing just 1,900 litres of wine. The popularity and price of the wine have risen, and the number of plantings has increased. Rhône now has over 740 acres (3.0 km2) planted. (note: this section refs. Acreage figures that conflict with figures for same dates below (30 acres in Regional Production below vs. 8 in Rhône region in 1965).
In 2004, DNA profiling conducted at University of California, Davis showed the grape to be closely related to the Piedmont grape Freisa and to be a genetic cousin of Nebbiolo.
Viognier can be a difficult grape to grow because it is prone to powdery mildew. It has low and unpredictable yields and should be picked only when fully ripe. When picked too early, the grape fails to develop the full extent of its aromas and tastes. When picked too late, the grape produces wine that is oily and lacks perfume. Winemakers in the Condrieu often pick the grapes with a level of sugar that will produce wine with alcohol in the 13% range. When fully ripe the grapes have a deep yellow colour and produce wine with a h4 perfume and high in alcohol. The grape prefers warmer environments and a long growing season, but can grow in cooler areas as well.
In France, the Mistral has a distinct effect on the Viognier vineyards in the Northern Rhône. The wind tempers the Mediterranean climate of the region, and cools the vines down after the severe heat of summer.
Wine expert Remington Norman has identified two distinct strains of Viognier — an “Old World” strain, most common in Condrieu, and a “New World” strain, which is found in the Languedoc and other areas. Although made from the same grape, the two strains produce distinctly different wines.
The age of the vine also has an effect on the quality of the wine produced. Viognier vines start to hit their peak after 15–20 years. In the Rhône, there are vines at least 70 years old.
Viognier has been planted much more extensively around the world since the early 1990s. Both California and Australia now have significant amounts of land devoted to the Viognier grape. There are also notable planting increases in areas of moderate climate such as Virginia’s Monticello AVA region.
The decline of Viognier in France from its historic peak has much to do with the disastrous introduction of phylloxera insects from North America into Europe in the mid- and late-19th century, followed by the abandonment of the vineyards due to the chaos of World War I. By 1965, only about 30 acres (120,000 m2) of Viognier vines remained in France, and the variety was nearly extinct. Even as late as the mid-1980s, Viognier in France was endangered. Paralleling the growth of Viognier in the rest of the world, plantings in France have grown dramatically since then. The grape has been enjoying some success South Africa, New Zealand, Greece and Japan.
In France, Viognier is the single permitted grape variety in the Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Château Grillet, which are located on the west bank of the Rhône River, about 40 km south of Lyon. In the rest of the Rhone wine region whites, the grape is often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Rolle. In the Northern Rhône, the grape is sometimes blended with Chardonnay. In the Côte-Rôtie AOC, red wine blends can include up to 20% of Viognier though most growers add no more than 5%. Since Viognier ripens earlier than Syrah, the grape is normally harvested separately and added to the Syrah during fermentation. One of the benefits of adding Viognier is that the process of co-pigmentation stabilizes the colouring of the red wine.
Vignerons in the rest of France often look to plant Viognier in areas rich in granite soil that have a heat retaining quality that the grape seems to thrive in. Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf helped expand the reach of the grape with plantings in the Ardèche region. The majority of French Viogniers are now grown in the Languedoc and sold as Vin de Pays.
Since the late 1980s, plantings of Viognier in the United States and Canada have increased dramatically. California’s Central Coast is the leading producer with over 2,000 acres (8 km2) of the grape planted. Californian Viogniers are noticeably higher in alcohol compared to other wines made from the grape.
The Rhone Rangers of the mid 1980s helped spark the increased interest in Viognier in California. It has received international attention growing in Virginia, and in 2011 was named Virginia’s signature white grape. The grape can also be found in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colourado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Missouri and Arizona, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California as well as British Columbia and the Niagara and Lake Erie North Shore regions of Ontario.
Both Argentina and Chile have significant plantings of the grape with some producers in Brazil and Uruguay also experimenting with the varietal.
In Australia, Yalumba is the country’s largest producer of the grape making both a white wine varietal and making extensive use of the grape in its Shiraz blends. Yalumba grows the grape in the loam and clay soil of the Eden Valley. Other areas with Viognier plantings include Nangkita Clare Valley, Rutherglen, Murray River, McLaren Vale, Geelong, Nagambie Lakes, Canberra, Mornington Peninsula, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Geographe, South Burnett, Yarra Valley (Pimpernel Vineyards), Pyrenees and Tenterfield.
In New Zealand, small amounts of Viognier are grown on Waiheke Island and Wairarapa. In the Hawkes Bay Region, the grape is used as a single varietal as well as being blended with Syrah to produce a traditional Rhône style red wine.
Viognier wines are well known for their floral aromas, and terpenes, which are also found in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown, the weather conditions and how old the vines were. Although some of these wines, especially those from old vines and the late-harvest wines, are suitable for aging, most are intended to be consumed young. Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose many of the floral aromas that make this wine unique. Aging these wines will often yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose. The colour and the aroma of the wine suggest a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry, although sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made. It is a grape with low acidity; it is sometimes used to soften wines made predominantly with the red Syrah grape. In addition to its softening qualities the grape also adds a stabilizing agent and enhanced perfume to the red wine. In the Rhone region, the grapes normally are not affected by the fungus Botrytis cinerea though botrytized Viognier is not unheard of.
In winemaking, the grapes are often harvested early in the morning to produce the clearest juice possible. Some winemakers will allow contact with the skins. The soft skin of Viognier is high in phenols – compounds that can leave an oily component to the wine if left in contact with the skins for too long. Sometimes the wine is put through malolactic fermentation to give the wine more weight and to decrease acidity. In New World Viognier, the lees may be stirred in a process called batonnage in order to increase the acid levels of the wine. The wine is then left on the lees till bottling in a manner similar to sparkling wine production.
In the creation of the dessert style Viognier, the grapes are often picked in late October or early November. A common harvest technique used in the Condrieu is known as à l’assiette where a plate is held underneath a Viognier vine that is then shaken to allow the overripe grapes to drop onto the plate. Fermentation is then stopped early through the use of sulphur to allow the wine to retain a high level of residual sugar. The wine is then chilled and put through sterile filtering to ensure that the wine is stable and will not start fermenting again in the bottle.
Depending on the winemaking style the grape can often hit its peak at one year of age though some can stay at high levels of quality up to ten years. Typically Condrieu wines are the Viogniers most often meant to be drunk young while Californian and Australian wines can handle age a little bit better.
The highly aromatic and fruit forward nature of the grape allows Viognier to pair well with spicy foods such as Thai cuisine.
Gewürztraminer (pronounced [ɡəˈvʏɐtstʁaˈmiːnɐ]) is an aromatic wine grape variety, used in white wines, and performs best in cooler climates. In English, it is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz (this is never the case in German, because “Gewürz” means “herb” or “spice”), and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a “white wine grape” as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as “red wine grapes”. The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewürztraminer and lychees share the same aroma compounds. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).
Gewürztraminer’s sweetness may offset the spice in Asian cuisine. It goes well with Maroilles, Livarot, or Munster cheese, and fleshy, fatty (oily) wild game.
The history of the Traminer family is complicated, and not helped by its rather unstable genome. The story starts with the ancient Traminer variety, a green-skinned grape that takes its name from the village of Tramin, located in South Tyrol, the German-speaking province in northern Italy. The famous ampelographer Pierre Galet thought that Traminer was identical to the green-skinned Savagnin Blanc (not Sauvignon Blanc) that makes vin jaune in the Jura. More recently it has been suggested that Savagnin Blanc acquired slight differences in its leaf shape and geraniol content as it travelled to the other end of the Alps.
Frankisch in Austria, Gringet in Savoie, Heida in Switzerland, Formentin in Hungary and Grumin from Bohemia are all very similar to Savagnin Blanc and probably represent clones of the Traminer family, if not Traminer itself. The Viognier of the Rhone Valley may be a more distant relative of Savagnin Blanc.
At some point, either Traminer or Savagnin Blanc mutated into a form with pink-skinned berries, called Red Traminer or Savagnin rose. Galet believed that a musqué (‘muscat-like’) mutation in the Red Traminer/Savagnin rose then led to the extra-aromatic Gewürztraminer, although in Germany these names are all regarded as synonymous.
With these convoluted genetics happening in the area that has been the front line for a millennium of wars in Europe, it is maybe not surprising that vines have been misnamed. Given that the wine made from ‘Gewürztraminer’ in Germany can be much less aromatic than that in Alsace, some of the German vines may well be misidentified Savagnin Rose. The Baden vineyard of Durbach claims its own type of Red Traminer called Durbacher Clevner (not to be confused with “Klevner”, an Austrian synonym for Pinot Blanc). The story goes that in 1780 Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden brought vines from Chiavenna in Italy, halfway between Tramin and the Jura, which was known to the Germans as Cleven.
The Klevener de Heiligenstein or Heiligensteiner Klevener found around Heiligenstein in Alsace may represent an outpost of the Durbach vines. They are often described as a less aromatic form of Gewürztraminer.
Traminer is recorded in Tramin from ca. 1000 until the 16th century. It was spread down the Rhine to Alsace, by way of the Palatinate, where Gewürz (spice) was added to its name – presumably this was when one of the mutations happened. The longer name was first used in Alsace in 1870 – without the umlaut. It is not clear what this name change represents, as it seems too great a coincidence that the musqué mutation happened just after the arrival of the great phylloxera epidemic. More likely, an existing mutant was selected for grafting onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks when the vineyards were replanted. In 1973 the name Traminer was discontinued in Alsace except for in the Heiligenstein area.
The Germans have tried hard to breed the flavours of Gewürztraminer into vines that are easier to grow. In 1932, Georg Scheu crossed Gewürztraminer with Müller-Thurgau to produce Würzer, a little of which is grown in Rheinhessen and in England. Similar crosses at Alzey and Würzburg respectively have produced Septimer and the reasonably successful Perle. The early-ripening Siegerrebe is the result of a cross with Madeleine Angevine at Alzey and is notable for producing the highest ever must weight recorded in Germany, 326 °Oechsle. A cross between Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe produced Ortega.
Cserszegi Fűszeres is the result of a Hungarian cross with Irsai Oliver.
In 1938, Harold Olmo crossed Sémillon and Gewürztraminer at U.C. Davis to make Flora, which is grown a little in California and New Zealand – in the latter it was mistaken for a late-ripening clone of Pinot gris. Brown Bros blend it with Orange Muscat in Australia.
In 1965, Gewürztraminer was crossed with Joannes Seyve 23.416 at the University of Illinois to produce a hybrid variety called Traminette. Traminette is more cold-tolerant than the original, while maintaining most of the desirable taste and aroma characteristics.
In the late 20th century, Australian viticulturalist and grape breeder A.J. Antcliff crossed Gewürztraminer with Merbein 29-56 to create the white grape variety Taminga.
During a series of trials between 1924 and 1930, Gewürztraminer was crossed with Trebbiano to create the pink-skinned Italian wine grape variety Manzoni rosa.
In 1970s, Czech winemaker and grape breeder Ing. Jan Veverka crossed in former Czechoslovakia Gewürztraminer with Müller-Thurgau to create the wine grape variety Pálava (the name refers to the Pálava hills located in the south Moravia). The grape variety is pink-skinned, earlier, more productive and of a finer traminer-like aroma. Pálava is grown in Moravia (Czech Republic) and Slovakia.
In Europe, the grape is grown in Spain, Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and in the Republic of Macedonia. In the New World, the grape is perhaps most successful in New Zealand, in Mendoza, the most important wine region of Argentina and in the far south of Chile. In the Middle East, the grape is grown in the Golan Heights.
Australian Gewürztraminer is more notable for its occasional use of old names like Traminer Musqué and Gentil Rose Aromatique than the actual quality of the wines. However recently those from the country’s coolest regions can be fine examples. These include Gewürztraminers from the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley, the island of Tasmania, Clare Valley, Yarra Valley and the vineyards scattered in the Australian Alps. The Macedon Ranges, just North of Melbourne has a cold climate and volcanic soils, much suited to production of Gewürztraminer. (Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association.)
Canadian wine regions where it is grown include Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula, and the north shore of Lake Erie and Prince Edward County wine regions of Ontario.
German Gewürztraminer – may be Red Traminer
Gewürztraminer reaches its finest expression in Alsace where it is the second most planted grape variety and the one most characteristic of the region. It grows better in the south of the region. Styles of Gewurztraminer d’Alsace (fr) range from the very dry Trimbach house style to the very sweet. The variety’s high natural sugar means that it is popular for making dessert wine, both vendange tardive and the noble rot-affected Sélection de Grains Nobles.
As mentioned above, around Heiligenstein there is a grape known as Klevener de Heiligenstein, which is a Red Traminer (Savagnin Rose) and not a true Gewürz; the Heiligenstein wines are certainly more restrained than other Gewurztraminers d’Alsace.
Germany has about 10 square kilometres of the variety, but it is very different from that of their neighbours across the Rhine. As suggested above much of their “Gewürztraminer” is probably Red Traminer. The Germans go for a relatively dry style, that tries to subdue the natural flamboyance of the grape.
The Traminer is native to the cool Alpine slopes of the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in north-eastern Italy. Whether the Gewürz- mutant originated there or not is an open question, but it is certainly grown there today. What is certain is that the name “Traminer” derives from the town of Tramin. Confusingly, both pink and green grapes may be called simply Traminer.
Luxemburg has also been prominent in the production of wines with the Gewürtztraminer grapes.
In the United States, it is concentrated in Monterey, Mendocino and Sonoma in California, the Columbia Valley of Washington and Oregon as well as the Snake River Region of Idaho. It is also grown in Michigan, Rhode Island, Caddo County, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Grand Valley, Colourado and the Finger Lakes and Long Island Regions of New York.
Vine and viticulture
Gewürztraminer is particularly fussy about soil and climate. The vine is vigorous, even unruly, but it hates chalky soils and is very susceptible to disease. It buds early, so is very susceptible to frost, needs dry and warm summers, and ripens erratically and late. Its natural sweetness means that in hot climates it becomes blowsy, with not enough acidity to balance the huge amounts of sugar. On the other hand, picking early to retain the acidity, means that the varietal aromas do not develop, and these aromas may be further diluted by overcropping in an attempt to overcome the low yields.
Genetic instability means that the Traminers should be regarded as a family of related clones, rather than distinct varieties. Thus DNA analysis will probably reveal that the following names are not synonymous. It gets even worse when it comes to Gewürztraminer, as Geilweilerhof, being Germans, see no difference between it and Red Traminer – and some of the names look like they belong to the original green-skinned Traminer/Savagnin Blanc.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. For other uses, see Champagne (disambiguation).
A glass of Champagne exhibiting the characteristic bubbles associated with the wine
Champagne (French: [ʃɑ̃.paɲ]) is a type of sparkling wine and type of an alcoholic drink produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand, among other things, secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation, specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes exclusively from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation and specific pressing regimes unique to the region. Some use the term Champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, but in many countries, it is illegal to label any product Champagne unless it both comes from the Champagne region and is produced under the rules of the appellation.
Vineyards in the Champagne region of France
The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier but also white Chardonnay. Champagne appellation law allows only grapes grown according to appellation rules in specifically designated plots within the appellation to be used in the production of champagne.
Champagne became associated with royalty in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The leading manufacturers made efforts to associate their Champagnes with nobility and royalty through advertising and packaging, which led to popularity among the emerging middle class.
Jean François de Troy’s 1735 painting Le Déjeuner d’Huîtres (The Oyster Luncheon) is the first known depiction of Champagne in painting
Still wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area of north-east France, with the region being cultivated by the 5th century, or possibly even earlier. Later, churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims, and Champagne was served as part of coronation festivities. The Champenois were envious of the reputation of the wines made by their Burgundian neighbours to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. However, the northerly climate of the region gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wine. At the far extremes of sustainable viticulture, the grapes would struggle to ripen fully and often would have bracing levels of acidity and low sugar levels. The wines would be lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundy wines they were seeking to outdo.
Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine, though he did make important contributions to the production and quality of both still and sparkling Champagne wines. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531. They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, six years before Dom Pérignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers. Merret presented a paper at the Royal Society, in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise, in 1662. Merret’s discoveries coincided also with English glass-makers’ technical developments that allowed bottles to be produced that could withstand the required internal pressures during secondary fermentation. French glass-makers at this time could not produce bottles of the required quality or strength. As early as 1663 the poet Samuel Butler referred to “brisk champagne”.
In France the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; the pressure in the bottle led it to be called “the devil’s wine” (le vin du diable), as bottles exploded or corks popped. At the time, bubbles were considered a fault. In 1844 Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet to prevent the corks from blowing out. Initial versions were difficult to apply and inconvenient to remove. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, Champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the initial fermentation had finished. Champagne did not use the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, about 200 years after Merret documented the process. The 19th century saw an exponential growth in Champagne production, going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850. In 2007, Champagne sales hit an all-time record of 338.7 million bottles.
In the 19th century Champagne was noticeably sweeter than the Champagnes of today. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut Champagne was created for the British in 1876.
Right to the name Champagne
The Champagne winemaking community, under the auspices of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for all wine produced in the region to protect its economic interests. They include codification of the most suitable growing places; the most suitable grape types (most Champagne is a blend of up to three grape varieties, though other varieties are allowed); and a lengthy set of requirements specifying most aspects of viticulture. This includes pruning, vineyard yield, the degree of pressing, and the time that wine must remain on its lees before bottling. It can also limit the release of Champagne to market to maintain prices. Only when a wine meets these requirements may it be labelled Champagne. The rules agreed upon by the CIVC are submitted for the final approval of the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (formerly the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, INAO).
In 2007 the INAO, the government organization that controls wine appellations in France, was preparing to make the largest revision of the region’s legal boundaries since 1927, in response to economic pressures. With soaring demand and limited production of grapes, Champagne houses say the rising price could produce a consumer backlash that would harm the industry for years into the future. That, along with political pressure from villages that want to be included in the expanded boundaries, led to the move. Changes are subject to significant scientific review and are said to not impact Champagne produced grapes until 2020.
Use of the word Champagne
1915 English magazine illustration of a lady riding a Champagne cork (Lordprice Collection)
Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but many legal structures reserve the word Champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries the name Champagne is legally protected by the Madrid system under an 1891 treaty, which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an appellation d’origine contrôlée; the protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Similar legal protection has been adopted by over 70 countries. Most recently Australia, Chile, Brazil, Canada and China passed laws or signed agreements with Europe that limit the use of the term “Champagne” to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States bans the use from all new U.S.-produced wines. Only those that had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin (e.g., “California”). The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term Champagne on their labels, and some states, such as Oregon,ban producers in their states from using the term.
In the United States name protection of wine-growing place names is becoming more important. Several key U.S. wine regions, such as those in California (Napa, Sonoma Valley, Paso Robles), Oregon, and Walla Walla, Washington, came to consider the remaining semi-generic labels as harmful to their reputations (cf. Napa Declaration on Place).
Even the terms méthode champenoise and Champagne method were forbidden by an EU court decision in 1994. As of 2005 the description most often used for sparkling wines using the second fermentation in the bottle process, but not from the Champagne region, is méthode traditionnelle. Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, and many producers use special terms to define them: Spain uses Cava, Italy designates it spumante, and South Africa uses cap classique. An Italian sparkling wine made from the Muscat grape uses the DOCG Asti and from the Glera grape the DOCG Prosecco. In Germany, Sekt is a common sparkling wine. Other French wine regions cannot use the name Champagne: e.g., Burgundy and Alsace produce Crémant. In 2008, more than 3,000 bottles of sparkling wine produced in California labelled with the term “Champagne” were destroyed by Belgian government authorities.
Regardless of the legal requirements for labelling, extensive education efforts by the Champagne region, and the use of alternative names by non-Champagne quality sparkling wine producers, some consumers and wine sellers, including “Korbels California Champagne”, use Champagne as a generic term for white sparkling wines, regardless of origin.
The village of Champagne, Switzerland, has traditionally made a still wine labelled as “Champagne”, the earliest records of viticulture dated to 1657. In an accord with the EU, the Swiss government conceded in 1999 that by 2004 the village would phase out use of the name. Sales dropped from 110,000 bottles a year to 32,000 after the change. In April 2008 the villagers resolved to fight against the restriction following a Swiss open-air vote.
In the Soviet Union all sparkling wines were called шампанское (shampanskoe, Russian for “Champagne”). The name is still used today for some brands of sparkling wines produced in former Soviet republics, such as Sovetskoye Shampanskoye and Rossiyskoe Shampanskoe.
Le Remueur: 1889 engraving of the man engaged in the daily task of turning each bottle a fraction
Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and rock sugar to the bottle – although each brand has its own secret recipe. According to the appellation d’origine contrôlée a minimum of 1.5 years is required to completely develop all the flavour. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millésime is declared and some Champagne will be made from and labelled as the products of a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years’ harvests. This means that the Champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least 3 years. During this time the Champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.
After aging, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage (or “riddling” in English), so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Some wine from previous vintages as well as additional sugar (le dosage) is added to maintain the level within the bottle and, importantly, adjust the sweetness of the finished wine.
An initial burst of effervescence occurs when the Champagne contacts the dry glass on pouring. These bubbles form on imperfections in the glass that facilitate nucleation or, to a lesser extent, on cellulose fibres left over from the wiping/drying process as shown with a high-speed video camera. However, after the initial rush, these naturally occurring imperfections are typically too small to consistently act as nucleation points as the surface tension of the liquid smooths out these minute irregularities. The nucleation sites that act as a source for the ongoing effervescence are not natural imperfections in the glass, but actually occur where the glass has been etched by the manufacturer or the customer. This etching is typically done with acid, a laser, or a glass etching tool from a craft shop to provide nucleation sites for continuous bubble formation (note that not all glasses are etched in this way). In 1662 this method was developed in England, as records from the Royal Society show.
Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. As sparkling wine production increased in the early 18th century, cellar workers had to wear a heavy iron mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles. The disturbance caused by one bottle exploding could cause a chain reaction, with it being routine for cellars to lose 20–90% of their bottles this way. The mysterious circumstance surrounding the then unknown process of fermentation and carbonic gas caused some critics to call the sparkling creations “The Devil’s Wine”.
List of Champagne houses
There are more than one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vignerons (vine-growing producers) in Champagne. These companies manage some 32,000 hectares of vineyards in the region. The type of Champagne producer can be identified from the abbreviations followed by the official number on the bottle:
NM: Négociant manipulant. These companies (including the majority of the larger brands) buy grapes and make the wine
CM: Coopérative de manipulation. Cooperatives that make wines from the growers who are members, with all the grapes pooled together
RM: Récoltant manipulant. (Also known as Grower Champagne) A grower that also makes wine from its own grapes (a maximum of 5% of purchased grapes is permitted). Note that co-operative members who take their bottles to be disgorged at the co-op can now label themselves as RM instead of RC
SR: Société de récoltants. An association of growers making a shared Champagne but who are not a co-operative
RC: Récoltant coopérateur. A co-operative member selling Champagne produced by the co-operative under its own name and label
MA: Marque auxiliaire or Marque d’acheteur. A brand name unrelated to the producer or grower; the name is owned by someone else, for example a supermarket
ND: Négociant distributeur. A wine merchant selling under his own name
In the 19th century, Champagne was produced and promoted to mark contemporary political events, for example, the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1893, Columbus’ discovery of America, and Tennis Court Oath to mark the centennial of French Revolution. By selling champagne as a nationalist ideology, négociant manages to associate champagne with leisure activities and sporting events. In addition, négociant successfully appeal champagne to broader consumers by introducing the different qualities of sparkling wine, associating champagne brands with royalty and nobility, and selling off-brands under the name of the importer from France at a lower cost. Though selling off-brands at a lower expense proved to be unsuccessful since “there was an assumption that cheap sparkling wine was not authentic.” From the start to end of Belle Époque period, champagne has gone from a regional product with a niche market audience to a national commodity that distributed globally.
A large popularity of Champagne is attributed to the success of Champagne producers in marketing the wine’s image as a royal and aristocratic drink. Laurent-Perrier’s advertisements in late 1890 boasted their Champagne was the favourite of Leopold II of Belgium, George I of Greece, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Margaret Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge, and John Lambton, 3rd Earl of Durham, among other nobles, knights, and military officers. Despite this royal prestige, Champagne houses also portrayed Champagne as a luxury enjoyable by anyone, for any occasion. This strategy worked, and, by the turn of the 20th century, the majority of Champagne drinkers were middle class.
In the 19th century, Champagne producers made a concentrated effort to market their wine to women. This is done by having the sweeter champagne associates with female, whereas the dry champagne with male and foreign markets. This was in stark contrast to the traditionally “male aura” that the wines of France had—particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux. Laurent-Perrier again took the lead in this area with advertisements touting their wine’s favour with the Countess of Dudley, the wife of the 9th Earl of Stamford, the wife of the Baron Tollemache, and the opera singer Adelina Patti. Champagne labels were designed with images of romantic love and marriage as well as other special occasions that were deemed important to women, such as the baptism of a child.
In some advertisements, the Champagne houses catered to political interest such as the labels that appeared on different brands on bottles commemorating the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution of 1789. On some labels there were flattering images of Marie Antoinette that appealed to the conservative factions of French citizens that viewed the former queen as a martyr. On other labels there were stirring images of Revolutionary scenes that appealed to the liberal left sentiments of French citizens. As World War I loomed, Champagne houses put images of soldiers and countries’ flags on their bottles, customizing the image for each country to which the wine was imported. During the Dreyfus affair, one Champagne house released a champagne antijuif with anti-Semitic advertisements to take advantage of the wave of Antisemitism that hit parts of France.
Champagne is typically drunk during celebrations. For example, British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a Champagne reception to celebrate London winning the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. It is also used to launch ships when a bottle is smashed over the hull during the ship’s launch. If the bottle fails to break this is often thought to be bad luck.
Grape varieties and styles
Champagne is a single appellation d’origine contrôlée. As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned “red wine grapes” Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, which, due to the gentle pressing of the grapes and absence of skin contact during fermentation, usually also yield a white base wine. Most Champagnes, including Rosé wines, are made from a blend of all three grapes, although Blanc de Blanc (“white from white”) Champagnes are made from 100% Chardonnay and Blanc de Noir (“white from black”) Champagnes are made solely from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two.
Four other grape varieties are permitted, mostly for historical reasons, as they are rare in current usage. The 2010 version of the appellation regulations lists seven varieties as allowed, Arbane, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot gris, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. The sparsely cultivated varieties (0.02% of the total vines planted in Champagne) of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc, might still be found in modern cuvées from a few producers. Previous directives of INAO make conditional allowances according to the complex laws of 1927 and 1929, and plantings made prior to 1938. Before the 2010 regulations, the complete list of the actual and theoretical varieties also included Pinot de Juillet and Pinot Rosé. The Gamay vines of the region were scheduled to be uprooted by 1942, but due to World War II, this was postponed until 1962, and this variety is not allowed in Champagne today.
The dark-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier give the wine its length and backbone. They are predominantly grown in two areas – the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne. The Montagne de Reims run east-west to the south of Reims, in northern Champagne. They are notable for north-facing chalky slopes that derive heat from the warm winds rising from the valleys below. The River Marne runs west–east through Champagne, south of the Montagne de Reims. The Vallée de la Marne contains south-facing chalky slopes. Chardonnay gives the wine its acidity and biscuit flavour. Most Chardonnay is grown in a north–south-running strip to the south of Épernay, called the Côte des Blancs, including the villages of Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. These are east-facing vineyards, with terroir similar to the Côte de Beaune. The various terroirs account for the differences in grape characteristics and explain the appropriateness of blending juice from different grape varieties and geographical areas within Champagne, to get the desired style for each Champagne house.
Types of Champagne
Most of the Champagne produced today is “Non-vintage”, meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10–15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. If the conditions of a particular vintage are favourable, some producers will make a vintage wine that must be composed of 100% of the grapes from that vintage year. Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage’s harvest for the production of vintage Champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from each vintage to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. This ensures a consistent style that consumers can expect from non-vintage Champagne that does not alter too radically depending on the quality of the vintage. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as “vintage” since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.
A cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine (usually a Champagne) that is considered to be the top of a producer’s range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, Duval-Leroy’s Cuvée Femme, Armand de Brignac Gold Brut, and Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps the original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, Champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-range wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar. Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle ‘La Cuvée’ in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955) and Perrier Jouët’s La Belle Époque. In the last three decades of the 20th century, most Champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon’s lead with its 18th-century revival design).
Blanc de Noirs
A French term (litreally “white from black” or “white of blacks”) for a white wine produced entirely from black grapes. The flesh of grapes described as black or red is white; grape juice obtained after minimal possible contact with the skins produces essentially white wine, with a slightly yellower colour than wine from white grapes. The colour, due to the small amount of red skin pigments present, is often described as white-yellow, white-grey, or silvery. Blanc de Noirs is often encountered in Champagne, where a number of houses have followed the lead of Bollinger’s prestige cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises in introducing a cuvée made from either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two (these being the only two black grapes permitted within the Champagne AOC appellation).
Blanc de Blancs
A French term that means “white from whites”, and is used to designate Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or in rare occasions from Pinot Blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard). The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties.
“Pink Champagne” was a cheap, sweet version of sparkling wine made in the 1950s and early 1960s because the American public thought Brut Champagne was too dry. Now discontinued.
Brut Rose Champagnes came along in the 1990s, a version as dry as regular Brut Champagne. They are produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time (known as the saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot Noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée. Champagne is typically light in colour even if it is produced with red grapes, because the juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins, which is what gives red wine its colour. Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allow the production of Rosé by the addition of a small amount of red wine during blending. This ensures a predictable and reproducible colour, allowing a constant Rosé colour from year-to-year. Popular in many countries and especially well-welcomed in Estonia where it was first introduced by an Estonian entrepreneur Henry-Jörgen Rautits, pink Champagne is very popular amongst high-end restaurants due to its soft yet sensitive taste, which is highly appreciated by wealthier customers.
The ripeness of the grapes and the amount of sugar added after the second fermentation—dosage—varies and will affect the amount of sugar remaining in the Champagne when bottled for sale, and hence the sweetness of the finished wine. Wines labelled Brut Zero, more common among smaller producers,have no added sugar and will usually be very dry, with less than 3 grams of residual sugar per litre in the finished wine. The following terms are used to describe the sweetness of the bottled wine:
Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per litre)
Brut (less than 12 grams)
Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams)
Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)
Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)
Doux (50 grams)
The most common style today is Brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today, and drunk as dessert wines (after the meal), rather than as table wines (with the meal), except in Britain, where they were drunk with the meal. At this time, Champagne sweetness was instead referred to by destination country, roughly as:
Goût anglais (“English taste”, between 22 and 66 grams); note that today goût anglais refers to aged vintage Champagne
Goût américain (“American taste”, between 110 and 165 grams)
Goût français (“French taste”, between 165 and 200 grams)
Goût russe (“Russian taste”, between 200 and 300 grams)
Of these, only the driest English is close to contemporary tastes.
Side-by-side comparison of Champagne bottles. (L to R) On ladder: Magnum (1.5 litres), full (0.75 litre), half (0.375 litre), quarter (0.1875 litre). On floor: Balthazar (12 litres), Salmanazar (9 litres), Methuselah (6 litres), Jeroboam (3 litres)
Champagne is mostly fermented in two sizes of bottles, standard bottles (750 millilitres) and magnums (1.5 litres). In general, magnums are thought to be higher quality, as there is less oxygen in the bottle, and the volume-to-surface area ratio favours the creation of appropriately-sized bubbles. However, there is no hard evidence for this view. Other bottle sizes, mostly named for Biblical figures, are generally filled with Champagne that has been fermented in standard bottles or magnums. Gosset still bottles its Grande Réserve in jeroboam from the beginning of its second fermentation.
Sizes larger than Jeroboam (3 L) are rare. Primat bottles (27 L)—and, as of 2002, Melchizedek bottles (30 L)—are exclusively offered by the House Drappier. (The same names are used for bottles containing regular wine and port; however, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and Methuselah refer to different bottle volumes.) Unique sizes have been made for special occasions and people, the most notable example perhaps being the 20 fluid ounce / 60 cL. bottle (Imperial pint) made especially for Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger.
In 2009, a bottle of 1825 Perrier-Jouët Champagne was opened at a ceremony attended by 12 of the world’s top wine tasters. This bottle was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottle of Champagne in the world. The contents were found to be drinkable, with notes of truffles and caramel in the taste. There are now only two other bottles from the 1825 vintage extant.
In July 2010, 168 bottles were found on board a shipwreck near the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea by Finnish diver Christian Ekström. Initial analyses indicated there were at least two types of bottle from two different houses: Veuve Clicquot in Reims and the long-defunct Champagne house Juglar (absorbed into Jacquesson in 1829.) The shipwreck is dated between 1800 and 1830, and the bottles discovered may well predate the 1825 Perrier-Jouët referenced above. When experts were replacing the old corks with new ones, they discovered there were also bottles from a third house, Heidsieck. The wreck, then, contained 95 bottles of Juglar, 46 bottles of Veuve Clicquot, and four bottles of Heidsieck, in addition to 23 bottles whose manufacture is still to be identified. Champagne experts Richard Juhlin and Essi Avellan, MW described the bottles’ contents as being in a very good condition. It is planned that the majority of the bottles will be sold at auction, the price of each estimated to be in the region of £40,000–70,000.
In April 2015, nearly five years after the bottles were first found, researchers led by Philippe Jeandet, a professor of food biochemistry, released the findings of their chemical analyses of the Champagne, and particularly noted the fact that, although the chemical composition of the 170-year-old Champagne was very similar to the composition of modern-day Champagne, there was much more sugar in this Champagne than in modern-day Champagne, and it was also less alcoholic than modern-day Champagne. The high sugar level was characteristic of people’s tastes at the time, and Jeandet explained that it was common for people in the 19th century, such as Russians, to add sugar to their wine at dinner. It also contained higher concentrations of minerals such as iron, copper, and table salt than modern-day Champagne does.
A Champagne cork before usage. Only the lower section, made of top-quality pristine cork, will be in contact with the Champagne
Corking a Champagne Bottle: 1855 engraving of the manual method
Champagne corks are mostly built from three sections and are referred to as agglomerated corks. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section’s being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork cemented to the upper portion, which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. The bottom section is in contact with the wine. Prior to insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle. Originally, the cork starts as a cylinder and is compressed prior to insertion into the bottle. Over time, their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive “mushroom” shape becomes more apparent.
The aging of the Champagne post-disgorgement can to some degree be told by the cork, as, the longer it has been in the bottle, the less it returns to its original cylinder shape.
Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. The Victorian coupe – according to legend, was designed using a mould of Marie Antoinette’s left breast as a birthday present to her husband, Louis XVI – tends to disperse the nose and over-oxygenate the wine. Champagne is always served cold; its ideal drinking temperature is 7 to 9 °C (45 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water, half an hour before opening, which also ensures the Champagne is less gassy and can be opened without spillage. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets to accommodate the larger bottle, and more water and ice.
Opening Champagne bottles
To reduce the risk of spilling or spraying any Champagne, open the Champagne bottle by holding the cork and rotating the bottle at an angle in order to ease out the stopper. This method, as opposed to pulling the cork out, prevents the cork from flying out of the bottle at speed. Also, holding the bottle at an angle allows air in and helps prevent the champagne from geysering out of the bottle.
A sabre can be used to open a Champagne bottle with great ceremony. This technique is called sabrage (the term is also used for simply breaking the head of the bottle).
Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down to create a head of “mousse”, according to a study, On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 during Champagne serving, by scientists from the University of Reims. Colder bottle temperatures also result in reduced loss of gas. Additionally, the industry is developing Champagne glasses designed specifically to reduce the amount of gas lost.
Champagne has been an integral part of sports celebration since Moët & Chandon started offering their Champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. At the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, winner Dan Gurney started the tradition of drivers spraying the crowd and each other. The Muslim-majority nation Bahrain banned Champagne celebrations on F1 podiums in 2004, using a non-alcoholic pomegranate and rose water drink instead.
In 2015, some Australian sports competitors began to celebrate by drinking champagne from their shoe, a practice known as shoey.
There are several general factors influencing the price of Champagne: the limited land of the region, the prestige that Champagne has developed worldwide, and the high cost of the production process, among possible others.
A list of major champagne producers and their respective Cuvée de prestige
|A list of major champagne producers and their respective Cuvée de prestige|
|House||Founding Year||Location||Cuvée de prestige||Vintage||Company|
|Henri Abelé||1757||Reims||Sourire de Reims|
|Alfred Gratien||1864||Épernay||Cuvée Paradis||yes||Henkell & Co. Sektkellerei KG|
|Beaumont des Crayères||1953||Mardeuil||Nostalgie||dependent||cooperative with ~240 affiliated producers|
|Besserat de Bellefon||1843||Épernay||Cuvée des Moines||–||Groupe Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Binet||1849||Rilly-la-Montagne||Cuvée Sélection||yes||Groupe Binet, Prin et Collery|
|Château de Bligny||1911||Bligny (Aube)||Cuvée année 2000||yes||Groupe G. H. Martel & Co.|
|Henri Blin et Cie||1947||Vincelles||Cuvée Jahr 2000||yes||cooperative with ~34 affiliated producers|
|Bollinger||1829||Aÿ||Vieilles Vignes Françaises||yes||independent|
|La Grande Année, (R. D. – Récemment Dégorgé, this is the denomination for „Œnothèque“ by Bollinger, meaning the crowning achievement of the Grande Année)||yes|
|Boizel||1834||Épernay||Joyau de France||yes||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Raymond Boulard||1952||La-Neuville-aux-Larris||Vieilles Vignes||–||independent|
|Canard-Duchêne||1868||Ludes||Grande Cuvée Charles VII||–||Alain Thiénot|
|Cattier||1918||Chigny-les-Roses||Clos du Moulin/|
|Armand de Brignac||–||independent|
|Charles de Cazanove||1811||Reims||Stradivarius||–||Groupe Rapeneau|
|Chanoine Frères||1730||Reims||gamme Tsarine|
|vintage dependent||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Deutz||1838||Aÿ||Amour de Deutz, Cuvée William Deutz||yes||Louis Rœderer|
|Drappier||1808||Urville||Grande Sendrée||yes||family owned|
|Duval-Leroy||1859||Vertus||Femme de Champagne||vintage dependent||independent|
|Gauthier||1858||Épernay||Grande Réserve Brut||–||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Paul Goerg||1950||Vertus||Cuvée Lady C.||yes||–|
|Heidsieck & Co. Monopole||1785||Épernay||Diamant Bleu||yes||Vranken-Pommery Monopole|
|Charles Heidsieck||1851||Reims||Blanc des Millénaires||yes||EPI|
|Henriot||1808||Reims||Cuvée des Enchanteleurs||yes||independent|
|Krug||1843||Reims||Name defined annualy||yes||LVMH|
|Clos du Mesnil, Clos d’Ambonnay||vintage dependent|
|Charles Lafitte||1848||Épernay||Orgueil de France||vintage dependent||Vranken-Pommery Monopole|
|Lanson Père & Fils||1760||Reims||Noble Cuvée||yes||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Larmandier-Bernier||1956||Vertus||Vieille Vigne de Cramant||yes||family owned|
|Laurent-Perrier||1812||Tours-sur-Marne||Grand Siècle „La Cuvée“||–||Laurent-Perrier|
|Moët & Chandon||1743||Épernay||Dom Pérignon||yes||LVMH|
|G. H. Mumm||1827||Reims||Mumm de Cramant||–||Pernod-Ricard|
|Bruno Paillard||1981||Reims||N. P. U. (Nec Plus Ultra)||yes||independent|
|Philipponnat||1910||Mareuil-sur-Ay||Clos des Goisses||vintage dependent||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Pommery||1836||Reims||Cuvée Louise||yes||Vranken-Pommery Monopole|
|Robert Moncuit||1889||Le Mesnil-sur-Oger||Cuvée réservée brut, Cuvée réservée extra brut, Grande Cuvée Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs||no||independent|
|Pol Roger||1849||Épernay||Winston Churchill||yes||independent|
|oldest still active|
|Marie Stuart||1867||Reims||Cuvée de la Sommelière||–||Alain Thiénot|
|Taittinger||1734||Reims||Comtes de Champagne||yes||Taittinger|
|Thiénot||1985||Reims||Grande Cuvée||yes||Alain Thiénot|
|de Venoge||1837||Épernay||Grand Vin des Princes||yes||Boizel Chanoine Champagne|
|Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin||1772||Reims||La Grande Dame||yes||LVMH|
|Vranken||1979||Épernay||Demoiselle followed by|
Barolo, like most Nebbiolo based wines, is known for its light colour and lack of opacity.
Barolo is a red Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wine produced in the northern Italian region of Piedmont. It is made from the Nebbiolo grape and is often described as one of Italy’s greatest wines. The zone of production extends into the communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi, Verduno, all in the province of Cuneo, south-west of Alba. Although production codes have always stipulated that vineyards must be located on hillsides, the most recent revision of the production code released in 2010 goes further, categorically excluding valley floors, humid and flat areas, areas without sufficient sunlight, and areas with full-on northern exposures. Barolo is often described as having the aromas of tar and roses, and the wines are noted for their ability to age and usually take on a rust red tinge as they mature. Barolo needs to be aged for at least 38 months after the harvest before release, of which at least 18 months must be in wood. When subjected to aging of at least five years before release, the wine can be labelled a Riserva.
In the past, Barolo wines tended to be rich in tannin. It can take more than 10 years for the wine to soften and become ready for drinking. Fermenting wine sat on the grape skins for at least three weeks, extracting huge amounts of tannins and was then aged in large, wooden casks for years. In order to appeal to more modern international tastes, those that prefer fruitier, earlier drinking wine styles, several producers began to cut fermentation times to a maximum of ten days and age the wine in new French oak barriques (small barrels). “Traditionalists” have argued that the wines produced in this way are not recognizable as Barolo and taste more of new oak than of wine. The controversies between traditionalists and modernists have been called the “Barolo wars”,] as depicted in Barolo Boys. The Story of a Revolution, a documentary film released in 2014.
Until recently it was believed that up to the mid-19th century, Barolo was a sweet wine. This was attributed to the fact that the Nebbiolo grape ripens late in October meant that temperatures would be steadily dropping by harvest. By November and December, temperatures in the Piedmont region would be cold enough to halt fermentation, leaving a significant amount of residual sugar left in the wine. Another popular credence was that in the mid-19th century, Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, the mayor of Grinzane Cavour invited the French enologist Louis Oudart to the Barolo region to improve the winemaking techniques of the local producers. Using techniques focusing on improving the hygiene of the cellar, Oudart was able to ferment the Nebbiolo must completely dry, making the first modern Barolo. This new, “dry” red wine soon became a favourite among the nobility of Turin and the ruling House of Savoy, giving rise to the popular description of Barolo as “the wine of kings, the king of wines”.
In addition to being a prominent figure in the Risorgimento, Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, played a significant role in the development of modern-day Barolo
The idea that Barolo was once a sweet wine and that it took a French oenologist to turn it into a dry wine has been recently challenged, based on new research, by Kerin O’Keefe. According to this revision of Barolo’s history, Paolo Francesco Staglieno was responsible for the modern dry version. He was the author of a winemaking manual, Istruzione intorno al miglior metodo di fare e conservare i vini in Piemonte, published in 1835. It was Staglieno who was called upon by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, who appointed him to the position of oenologist at his Grinzane estate between 1836 and 1841. Staglieno’s task was to produce quality wines geared towards ageing and stable enough to be exported. Staglieno fermented the wines dry, something that at the time was referred to as “the Staglieno method”. Oudart was a grape and wine merchant, not an oenologist, who in the early 1800s moved to Genoa and set up a winery, Maison Oudard et Bruché. By the time Oudart turned up in Alba, King Carlo Alberto and Cavour were already following Staglieno’s guidelines and both were producing dry wines. This revised version of the history of Barolo was positively accepted by other experts.
By the mid-20th century, wine production in the Barolo zone was dominated by large negociants who purchased grapes and wines from across the zone and blended it into a house style. In the 1960s, individual proprietors began estate bottling and producing single vineyard wines from their holdings. By the 1980s, a wide range of single vineyard bottlings were available, which led to a discussion among the region’s producers about the prospect of developing a Cru classification for the area’s vineyards. The cataloging of Barolo’s vineyards has a long history dating back to the work of Lorenzo Fantini in the late 19th century and Renato Ratti and Luigi Veronelli in the late 20th century, but as of 2009 there is still no official classification within the region. However, in 1980 the region as a whole was elevated to DOCG status. Along with Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo was one of the first Italian wine regions to attain this designation.
The Barolo wars
In the 1970s and 1980s trends in the worldwide market favoured fruitier, less tannic wines that could be consumed at a younger age. A group of Barolo producers, led by the house of Ceretto, Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo, Elio Altare, and Renato Ratti, started making more modern, international styles of Barolos by using shorter periods for maceration (days as opposed to weeks) and fermentation (usually 48–72 hours or at most 8–10 days), less time aging in new small oak barrels and an extended period of bottle aging prior to release. By using modern technology, including specialized tanks that allow the wine to be pumped out from underneath the cap of skins and then pumped over, they found ways to maximize colour extraction and minimize harsh tannins. Prior to this “modernist” movement, Nebbiolo was often harvested slightly unripe and at high yields which left the grapes with harsh green tannins that had not had time to fully polymerize. To maximize colour extraction, producers would subject the wine to extended periods of maceration, taking up to several weeks, and then several years aging in large oak casks to soften the wine. Through the long slow process of oxidation, the perception of tannins would lessen (such as occurs when decanting wine), but the fruit would also fade and become oxidized. The decline in fruit would no longer be able to balance the remaining harsh tannins, leaving a bitter, astringent wine with withered fruit. To counter this change, some producers would blend in other grape varieties such as Arneis and Barbera to add colour, fruit or softness to the wine.
The use of small French oak barrique barrels is a winemaking technique associated with “modernist” Barolo producers
Advances in viticulture have helped to bridge the gap between modern and traditional producers. Better canopy management and yield control have led to riper grapes being harvested earlier with more developed tannins in the grape skins. As of 2015, winemaking for both traditionalist and modernist Barolo producers includes strict hygiene controls and the use of some modern winemaking equipment such as temperature-control fermentation vessels. Rather than fall into one hardline camp or the other, many producers take a middle-ground approach that utilizes some modernist techniques along with traditional winemaking. In general, the traditional approach to Nebbiolo involves long maceration periods of 20 to 30 days and the use of older large botti-size barrels. The modern approach to Nebbiolo utilizes shorter maceration periods of 7 to 10 days and cooler fermentation temperatures between 82-86 °F (28-30 °C) that preserve fruit flavours and aromas. Towards the end of the fermentation period, the cellars are often heated to encourage the start of malolactic fermentation which softens some of Nebbiolo’s harsh acidity. Modern winemakers tend to favour smaller barrels of new oak that need only a couple years to soften the tannic grip of the wines. While new oak imparts notes of vanilla, it has the potential to cover up the characteristic rose notes of Nebbiolo.
Climate and geography
Vineyards in commune of Serralunga d’Alba
The Barolo zone is located 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) southwest of the Barbaresco zone with only the vineyards of Diano d’Alba planted with Dolcetto between the two Nebbiolo h4holds. Compared to the Barbaresco zone, the Barolo zone is cooler and located on higher elevations, rising nearly 50 metres (160 ft) above Barbaresco. The harvest of the late ripening Nebbiolo grape usually takes place in early to mid-October though some producers are experimenting with viticultural techniques that allow for an earlier harvest in late September. At harvest time, rains and downy mildew are two of the main hazards to worry about, along with early spring hail damage earlier in the growing season. Like most of south central and southeastern Piedmont, the zone experiences a continental climate tempered by the Tanaro river and its tributaries – the Tallòria dell’Annunziata and Tallòria di Castiglione – that split the region into three main zones. To the west of the Tallòria dell’Annunziata is the commune of Barolo and La Morra. To the east of the Tallòria di Castiglione is the commune of Serralunga d’Alba located on one of the highest hilltops in the Barolo zone. Separated by a narrow valley to the west is the commune Monforte d’Alba located in the Monforte hills. Further upstream north, located in the v-shape spur between the two tributaries is the commune of Castiglione Falletto.
Located among the Langhe hills, the Barolo zone is a collection of different mesoclimate, soil types, altitudes and expositions that can have a pronounced effect on the development of the Nebbiolo grape and the resulting Barolo wine. Within the Barolo zone there are two major soil types separated by the Alba-Barolo road. Within the communes of Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba is a compact, sandstone based soil dating from the Helvetian epoch. In the Barolo and La Morra zone, the soils are similar to those found in the Barbaresco zone, dating from the Tortonian period, being composed of calcareous marl that is more compact and fertile. Throughout the Barolo zone there are clay deposits and soil with enough alkalinity to tame Nebbiolo’s naturally high acidity. In Jan 2007 Filippo Bartolotta indicated how a vertical tasting of Barolo, from 1985 to the present “showcased Barolo’s longevity, intense aromatics, freshness, silk-and-cashmere tannins and also highlighted the considerable contrast between production zones”.
Being dependent on a grape that is slow to ripen, global warming has had a beneficial influence on the Barolo zone. Theoretically, the increased temperatures of summer followed by mild autumns that promote misty fog that keeps the grapes from burning has helped to increase sugar levels and led to riper phenolic compounds such as tannins. To empirically link this to anthropogenic global warming is speculative. More likely, better vineyard management and winemaking techniques have contributed to a string of successful vintages for Barolo in the last 20 years.
Vineyards in the commune of Barolo
The present day Barolo zone is located a little over 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) southwest of Alba. While it is nearly 3 times the size of the nearby Barbaresco zone, it is still relatively small and is only 5 miles (8 km) wide at it widest point In 1896, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture demarcated the Barolo production zone to include the communes of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and the northern half of Monforte d’Alba. In 1909, the Agricultural Commission of Alba added the commune of Grinzane Cavour and parts of Novello and Verduno to the zone. When the region was designated as a Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in 1966, parts of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba and Roddi were included with this delimitation of the Barolo zone staying unchanged through the zones promotion to DOCG in 1980. Despite these additions, over 87% of Barolo is produced in the original five communes of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba with Barolo and Castiglione Falletto considered the “heart” or unofficial “classico” areas of the zone. In addition to restrictions on yield and alcohol levels, to be labelled DOCG, a Barolo must have at least two years aging in oak and at least one year aging in the bottle prior to release. For wines labelled Barolo Riserva, five years of total aging is required with at least three of those years in oak.
The Barolo zone can be broadly divided into two valleys. The Serralunga Valley to the east includes the communes of Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. Planted with soils higher in sand, limestone, iron, phosphorus and potassium, the wines of Serralunga Valley tend to be austere and powerful and require significant aging (at least 12–15 years) to develop. The Central Valley to the west includes the communes of Barolo and La Morra with soils higher in clay, manganese and magnesium oxide. This region tends to produce wines with more perfumed aromas and velvety textures. These wines tend to be less tannic and full bodied than those from the Serralunga Valley and can require less aging (8 to 10 years). The most widely planted and productive region of the Barolo zone is La Morra which is responsible for nearly a third of all wine labelled as Barolo and produces twice as much wine as the next leading zone of Serralunga d’Alba.
The “crus” of Barolo
Since the late 19th century, efforts have been made to identify which vineyards in the Barolo zones produce the highest quality of wine. Inspired by the prestige and high prices charged for Grand cru bottlings of Burgundy wine, Barolo producers began separating their holdings into individual vineyard lots and labelling the wines with these single vineyard designations. The practice became so extensive that some producers were doing single vineyard bottlings and charging high prices on all their holdings, regardless of whether the particular vineyard quality merited such a practice.
Led by prominent wine critic Luigi Veronelli, there was a push to have the vineyards of Barolo classified according to the quality of their produce. Winemaker Renato Ratti conducted an extensive study of the soils, geography and produce of vineyards throughout the area and mapped out individual plots based on their quality potential. The “Ratti Map” is still widely used by producers and negociants today. While there is no official designation of cru vineyard in the Barolo zone, both oral tradition and the history of high prices paid by negociants has elevated some vineyards to “cru” status in Barolo. In the commune of Barolo the Cannubi and Sarmassa are considered “cru” class as well as the Brunate vineyard shared with the commune of La Morra. Also in La Morra is the highly esteemed Cerequio and Rocche vineyards. In Castiglione Falletto is the Monprivato and Villero vineyards. The commune of Serralunga d’Alba is home to the esteemed vineyards of Lazzarito and Vigna Rionda while the commune of Monforte d’Alba is home to the Bussia, Ginestra and Santo Stefano di Perno vineyards.
Below is a list of some the traditional “crus” of Barolo (divided by commune):
In 2010 the Barolo Consorzio introduced the Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (additional geographic mentions) also known as MEGA or subzones, after the Barbaresco Consorzio introduced them in 2007. 181 MEGA were officially delimited, of which 170 were vineyard areas and 11 were village designations. Following the introductions of MEGA for Barolo (and Barbaresco) the term Vigna (Italian for vineyard) can be used on labels after its respective MEGA and only if the vineyard is within one of the approved official geographic mentions.
Grape and wines
Barolo wine is produced from the Nebbiolo grape variety with the Lampia, Michet and Rosé clones authorized. The clusters are dark blue and greyish with the abundant wax that dresses the grapes. Their form is lengthened, pyramidal, with small, spherical grapes with substantial peel. The leaves are of average size with three or five lobes. Compared to the annual growth cycle of other Piedmontese grape varieties, Nebbiolo is one of the first varieties to bud and last varieties to ripen with harvest taking place in mid to late October. In some vintages, other Piedmontese producers are able to pick and complete fermentation of their Barbera and Dolcetto plantings before Barolo producers have even begun their harvest. According to DOCG regulations, Barolos are to be composed of 100% Nebbiolo. Historically producers would blend other grapes such as a Barbera and today there is speculation that modern Barolo producers may be blending in Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah but there has been no conclusive proof of this practice.(cn) In the 1990s producers in the Barolo zone petitioned that the required Nebbiolo content be lowered from 100% to 90% but this petition was eventually defeated.
Barolos tend to be rich, deeply concentrated full bodied wines with pronounced tannins and acidity. The wines are almost always lightly coloured varying from ruby to garnet in their youth to more brick and orange hues as they age. Like Pinot Noir, Barolos are never opaque. Barolos have the potential for a wide range of complex and exotic aromas with tar and roses being common notes. Other aromas associated with Barolos include camphor, chocolate, dried fruit, damsons, eucalyptus, leather, liquorace, mint, mulberries, plum, spice, strawberries, tobacco, white truffles as well as dried and fresh herbs. The tannins of the wine add texture and serve to balance Barolo’s moderate to high alcohol levels (Minimum 13% but most often above 15% ABV). Excessive extraction from prolonged maceration periods and oak aging can give the wines an over-extracted bitterness.
Within the different communes of the Barolo zone, stylistic differences emerge due to differences in soil type. The calcareous marl soils of Barolo and La Morra are relatively fertile and tend to produce softer, more aromatic and fruity wines that age relatively sooner than Barolos from other parts of the zone. The less fertile, sandstone soils of the Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba commune produce more intense, structured wines that need more time to mature. Castiglione Falletto is located on a spur between the two valleys with overlapping soil types. This region tends to produce wines with elegance and aromatics of the Barolo commune and the structure of wines from Serralunga d’Alba.
In the Piedmont region, old Barolo wine is used to make an after-dinner digestif known as Barolo Chinato. The bark from the South American cinchona tree is steeped in Barolo and then flavoured with a variety of ingredients, depending on the producer’s unique recipe. Some common ingredients of Barolo Chinato include cinnamon, coriander, iris flowers, mint and vanilla. The resulting beverage is very aromatic and smooth.
A string of favourable vintages in the late 1990s led to an increase of price for Barolos and, in turn, led to increased plantings. Between 1990 and 2004 there was a 47% increase in Nebbiolo plantings in the Barolo zone with 4,285 acres (1,734 ha) under vine. Production subsequently increased from 7 million bottles in the mid-1990s to 10.25 million bottles in the mid-2000s. In the rush to increase plantings some of the less ideal sites previously used by Barbera and Dolcetto were gobbled up. It remains to be seen if these sites will be able to adequately ripen Nebbiolo enough to produce quality Barolo that justifies the high price of the wine. Some experts are predicting a market correction similar to what was seen in the 1980s when a backlog of vintages caused prices to stabilize.
A glass of Barolo with the characteristic brick colour hue around the rim
A big, powerful, tannic wine, Barolo needs to be matched with foods of similar weight. Paired with light dishes low in protein, such as steamed vegetables, a Barolo will overwhelm the food; its tannins will react with the proteins on the tongue and sides of the mouth, accentuating the bitterness and drying the palate. In Piedmont, the wines are often paired with meat dishes, heavy pastas and rich risottos; the tannins bind to the food proteins and come across as soft.
A Chianti wine Italian pronunciation: [‘kjan] is any wine produced in the Chianti region, in central Tuscany, Italy. It was historically associated with a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco (“flask”; pl. fiaschi). However, the fiasco is only used by a few makers of the wine as most Chianti is now bottled in more standard shaped wine bottles. Baron Bettino Ricasoli (later Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy) created the Chianti recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca in the middle of the 19th century.
The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. It described the area near the villages of Gaiole, Castellina and Radda; the so-called Lega del Chianti and later Provincia del Chianti (Chianti province). In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Most of the villages that in 1932 were suddenly included in the new Chianti Classico area added in Chianti to their name-such as Greve in Chianti which amended its name in 1972. Wines labelled “Chianti Classico” come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that includes the original Chianti heartland. Only Chianti from this sub-zone may boast the black rooster seal (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers. Other variants, with the exception of Rufina from the north-east side of Florence and Montalbano in the south of Pistoia, originate in the respective named provinces: Siena for the Colli Senesi, Florence for the Colli Fiorentini, Arezzo for the Colli Aretini and Pisa for the Colline Pisane. In 1996 part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-area was renamed Montespertoli.
During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995 it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100% Sangiovese. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4–7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed in any event to be labelled as “Superiore”.
In 1716 Cosimo III de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, legislated the first official boundaries of the Chianti region in what is today part of the Chianti Classico DOCG.
The earliest documentation of a “Chianti wine” dates back to the 13th century when viticulture was known to flourish in the “Chianti Mountains” around Florence. The merchants in the nearby townships of Castellina, Gaiole and Radda formed the Lega del Chianti (League of Chianti) to produce and promote the local wine. In 1398, records note that the earliest incarnation of Chianti was as a white wine. In 1716 Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany issued an edict legislating that the three villages of the Lega del Chianti (Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti and Radda in Chianti) as well as the village of Greve and a 3.2-kilometre-long stretch (2-mile) of hillside north of Greve near Spedaluzzo as the only officially recognised producers of Chianti. This delineation existed until July 1932, when the Italian government expanded the Chianti zone to include the outlying areas of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Chiocchio, Robbiano, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Strada. Subsequent expansions in 1967 would eventually bring the Chianti zone to cover a very large area all over central Tuscany.
By the 18th century, Chianti was widely recognised as a red wine, but the exact composition and grape varieties used to make Chianti at this point is unknown. Ampelographers find clues about which grape varieties were popular at the time in the writings of Italian writer Cosimo Villifranchi who noted that Canaiolo was widely planted variety in the area along with Sangiovese, Mammolo and Marzemino. It was not until the work of the Italian statesman Bettino Ricasoli that the modern “Chianti recipe” as a Sangiovese-based wine would take shape. Prior to Ricasoli, Canaiolo was emerging as the dominant variety in the Chianti blend with Sangiovese and Malvasia playing supporting roles. In the mid-19th century, Ricasoli developed a recipe for Chianti that was based primarily on Sangiovese. His recipe called for 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia (later amended to include Trebbiano) and 5% other local red varieties. In 1967, the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) regulation set by the Italian government firmly established the “Ricasoli formula” of a Sangiovese-based blend with 10–30% Malvasia and Trebbiano.
The late 19th century saw a period of economic and political upheaval. First came oidium and then the phylloxera epidemic would take its toll on the vineyards of Chianti just as they had ravaged vineyards across the rest of Europe. The chaos and poverty following the Risorgimento heralded the beginning of the Italian diaspora that would take Italian vineyard workers and winemakers abroad as immigrants to new lands.bThose that stayed behind and replanted choose high-yielding varieties like Trebbiano and Sangiovese clones such as the Sangiovese di Romagna from the nearby Romagna region. Following the Second World War, the general trend in the world wine market for cheap, easy-drinking wine saw a brief boom for the region. With over-cropping and an emphasis on quantity over quality, the reputation of Chianti among consumers eventually plummeted. By the 1950s, Trebbiano (which is known for its neutral flavours) made up to 30% of many mass-market Chiantis. By the late 20th century, Chianti was often associated with basic Chianti sold in a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco. However, during the same period, a group of ambitious producers began working outside the boundaries of DOC regulations to make what they believed would be a higher quality style of Chianti. These wines eventually became known as the “Super Tuscans”.
Many of the producers behind the Super Tuscan movement were originally Chianti producers who were rebelling against what they felt were antiquated DOC regulations. Some of these producers wanted to make Chiantis that were 100% varietal Sangiovese. Others wanted the flexibility to experiment with blending French grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or to not be required to blend in any white grape varieties. The late 20th century saw a flurry of creativity and innovation in the Chianti zones as producers experimented with new grape varieties and introduced modern wine-making techniques such as the use of new oak barrels. The prices and wine ratings of some Super Tuscans would regularly eclipse those of DOC sanctioned Chiantis. The success of the Super Tuscans encouraged government officials to reconsider the DOC regulations in order to bring some of these wines back into the fold labelled as Chianti.
The Chianti region covers a vast area of Tuscany and includes within its boundaries several overlapping Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regions. Other well known Sangiovese-based Tuscan wines such as Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano could be bottled and labelled under the most basic designation of “Chianti” if their producers chose to do so. Within the collective Chianti region more than 8 million cases of wines classified as DOC level or above are produced each year. Today, most Chianti falls under two major designations of Chianti DOCG, which includes basic level Chianti, as well as that from seven designated sub-zones, and Chianti Classico DOCG. Together, these two Chianti zones produce the largest volume of DOC/G wines in Italy.
The Chianti DOCG covers all the Chianti wine and includes a large stretch of land encompassing the western reaches of the province of Pisa near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Florentine hills in the province of Florence to the north, to the province of Arezzo in the east and the Siena hills to the south. Within this regions are vineyards that overlap the DOCG regions of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Any Sangiovese-based wine made according to the Chianti guidelines from these vineyards can be labelled and marked under the basic Chianti DOCG should the producer wish to use the designation.
Within the Chianti DOCG there are eight defined sub-zones that are permitted to affix their name to the wine label. Wines that are labelled as simply Chianti are made either from a blend from these sub-zones or include grapes from peripheral areas not within the boundaries of a sub-zone. The sub-zones are (clockwise from the north): the Colli Fiorentini which is located south of the city of Florence; Chianti Rufina in the northeastern part of the zone located around the commune of Rufina; Classico in the centre of Chianti, across the provinces of Florence and Siena; Colli Aretini in the Arezzo province to the east; Colli Senesi south of Chianti Classico in the Siena hills, which is the largest of the sub-zones and includes the Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano areas; Colline Pisane, the westernmost sub-zone in the province of Pisa; Montespertoli located within the Colli Fiorentini around the commune of Montespertoli; Montalbano in the north-west part of the zone which includes the Carmignano DOCG. As of 2006, there were 318 hectares (786 acres) under production in Montalbano, 905 ha (2,236 acres) in the Colli Fiorentini, 57 ha (140 acres) in Montespertoli, 740 ha (1,840 acres) in Rufina, 3,550 ha (8,780 acres) in the Colli Senesi, 150 ha (380 acres) in Colline Pisane, 649 ha (1,603 acres) in the Colli Aretini, and an additional 10,324 ha (25,511 acres) in the peripheral areas that do not fall within one of the sub-zone classifications. Wines produced from these vineyards are labelled simply “Chianti”
The original area dictated by the edict of Cosimo III de’ Medici would eventually be considered the heart of the modern “Chianti Classico” subregion. As of 2006, there were 7,140 ha (17,640 acres) of vineyards in the Chianti Classico subregion. The Chianti Classico subregion covers an area of approximate 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The four communes of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti are located entirely within the boundaries of the Classico area with parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in the province of Florence as well as Castelnuovo Berardenga and Poggibonsi in the province of Siena included within the permitted boundaries of Chianti Classico. The soil and geography of this subregion can be quite varied, with altitudes ranging from 250 to 610 m (820 to 2,000 feet), and rolling hills producing differing macroclimates. There are two main soil types in the area: a weathered sandstone known as alberese and a bluish-gray chalky marlstone known as galestro. The soil in the north is richer and more fertile with more galestro, with the soil gradually becoming harder and stonier with more albarese in the south. In the north, the Arno River can have an influence on the climate, keeping the temperatures slightly cooler, an influence that diminishes further south in the warmer Classico territory towards Castelnuovo Berardenga
Chianti Classico are premium Chianti wines that tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic aromas with the wines expressing more notes on the mid-palate and finish than at the front of the mouth. As with Bordeaux, the different zones of Chianti Classico have unique characteristics that can be exemplified and perceived in some wines from those areas. According to Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Chianti Classico wines from the Castellina area tend to have a very delicate aroma and flavour, Castelnuovo Berardegna wines tend to be the most ripe and richest tasting, wines from Gaiole tend to have been characterised by their structure and firm tannins while wines from the Greve area tend to have very concentrated flavours.
The production of Chianti Classico is realised under the supervision of Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico, a union of producers in the Chianti Classico subregion. The Consorzio was founded with the aim of promoting the wines of the subregion, improving quality and preventing wine fraud. Since the 1980s, the foundation has sponsored extensive research into the viticultural and winemaking practice of the Chianti Classico area, particularly in the area of clonal research. In the last three decades, more than 50% of the vineyards in the Chianti Classico subregion have been replanted with improved Sangiovese clones and modern vineyard techniques as part of the Consorzio Chianti Classico’s project “Chianti 2000”.
In 2014 a new category of Chianti Classico was introduced: Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Gran Selezione is made exclusively from a winery’s own grapes grown according to stricter regulations compared to regular Chianti Classico. Gran Selezione is granted to a Chianti Classico after it passes a suitability test conducted by authorised laboratories and after it is approved by a special tasting committee.
Greater Chianti region
Fiascos of basic Chianti that does not specify any sub-zone on the label. This wine may be a blend from several zones.
Outside of the Chianti Classico area, the wines of the Chianti sub-zone of Rufina are among the most widely recognised and exported from the Chianti region. Located in the Arno valley near the town of Pontassieve, the Rufina region includes much area in the Pomino region, an area that has a long history of wine production. The area is noted for the cool climate of its elevated vineyards located up to 900 m (2,950 feet). The vineyard soils of the area are predominantly marl and chalk. The Florentine merchant families of the Antinori and Frescobaldi own the majority of the vineyards in Rufina. Chianti from the Rufina area is characterised by its multi-layered complexity and elegance.
The Colli Fiorentini subregion has seen an influx of activity and new vineyard development in recent years as wealthy Florentine business people move to the country to plant vineyards and open wineries. Many foreign “flying winemakers” have had a hand in this development, bringing global viticulture and winemaking techniques to the Colli Fiorentini. Located in the hills between the Chianti Classico area and Arno valley, the wines of the Colli Fiorentini vary widely depending on producer, but tend to have a simple structure with h4 character and fruit notes. The Montespertoli sub-zone was part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-zone until 2002 when it became its own tiny enclave.
The Montalbano subregion is located in the shadow of the Carmignano DOCG, with much of the best Sangiovese going to that wine. A similar situation exists in the Colli Senesi which includes the well known DOCG region of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Both regions rarely appear on wine labels that are exported out of Tuscany. The Colli Pisane area produces typical Chiantis with the lightest body and colour. The Colli Aretini is a relatively new and emerging area that has seen an influx of investment and new winemaking in recent years.
Grapes and classification
Since 1996 the blend for Chianti and Chianti Classico has been 75–100% Sangiovese, up to 10% Canaiolo and up to 20% of any other approved red grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Since 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano have been prohibited in Chianti Classico. Chianti Classico must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12% with a minimum of 7 months aging in oak, while Chianti Classico’s labelled riserva must be aged at least 24 months at the winery, with a minimum alcohol level of at least 12.5%. The harvest yields for Chianti Classico are restricted to no more than 7.5 t/ha (3 tonnes per acre). For basic Chianti, the minimum alcohol level is 11.5% with yields restricted to 9 t/ha (4 tonnes per acre).
The aging for basic Chianti DOCG is much less stringent with most varieties allowed to be released to the market on 1 March following the vintage year. The sub-zones of Colli Fiorentini, Montespertoli and Rufina must be aged for a further three months and not released until 1 June. All Chianti Classicos must be held back until 1 October in the year following the vintage.
Jancis Robinson notes that Chianti is sometimes called the “Bordeaux of Italy”. The flexibility in the blending recipe for Chianti accounts for some of the variability in styles among Chiantis. Lighter bodied styles will generally have a higher proportion of white grape varieties blended in, while Chiantis that have only red grape varieties will be fuller and richer. While only 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon is permitted in the blend, the nature of the grape variety can have a dominant personality in the Chianti blend and be a h4 influence in the wine.
Chianti Classico wines are characterised in their youth by their predominantly floral and cinnamon spicy bouquet. As the wine ages, aromas of tobacco and leather can emerge. Chiantis tend to have medium-high acidity and medium tannins. The acidity in the wines make them very flexible with food and wine pairings, particularly with Italian cuisines that feature red sauce, as well as with beef, lamb and game. Basic level Chianti is often characterised by its juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry and can range from simple quaffing wines to those approaching the level of Chianti Classico. Wine expert Tom Stevenson notes that these basic everyday-drinking Chiantis are at their peak drinking qualities often between three and five years after vintage with premium examples having the potential to age for four to eight years. Well-made examples of Chianti Classico often have the potential to age and improve in the bottle for six to twenty years.
Chianti Superiore is an Italian DOCG wine produced in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena, in Tuscany. Superiore is a specification for wines produced with a stricter rule of production than other Chianti wines. Chianti Superiore has been authorised since 1996. Chianti Superiore wines can be produced only from grapes cultivated in the Chianti wine areas except from those vineyards that are registered in the Chianti Classico sub-zone. Vineyards registered in Chianti sub-zones other than Classico can produce Chianti Superiore wines but must omit the sub-zone name on the label. Aging is calculated from 1 January after the picking. Chianti Superiore cannot be sold to the consumer before nine months of aging, of which three must be in the bottle. Therefore, it cannot be bottled before the June after picking or sold to consumers before the next September.
The Chablis (pronounced [ʃa.bli]) region is the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region in France. The cool climate of this region produces wines with more acidity and flavours less fruity than Chardonnay wines grown in warmer climates. These wines often have a “flinty” note, sometimes described as “goût de pierre à fusil” (“tasting of gunflint”), and sometimes as “steely”. The Chablis Appellation d’origine contrôlée is required to use Chardonnay grapes solely.
The grapevines around the town of Chablis make a dry white wine renowned for the purity of its aroma and taste. In comparison with the white wines from the rest of Burgundy, Chablis wine has typically much less influence of oak. Most basic Chablis is unoaked, and vinified in stainless steel tanks.
The amount of barrel maturation, if any, is a stylistic choice which varies widely among Chablis producers. Many Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines receive some maturation in oak barrels, but typically the time in barrel and the proportion of new barrels is much smaller than for white wines of Côte de Beaune.
hablis lies about 10 miles (16 km) east of Auxerre in the Yonne department, situated roughly halfway between the Côte d’Or and Paris. Of France’s wine-growing areas, only Champagne and Alsace have a more northerly location. Chablis is closer to the southern Aube district of Champagne than the rest of Burgundy.
The region covers 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) x 20 kilometres (12 mi) across 27 communes located along the Serein river. The soil is Kimmeridge clay with outcrops of the same chalk layer that extends from Sancerre up to the White Cliffs of Dover, giving a name to the paleontologists’ Cretaceous period. The Grand Crus, the best vineyards in the area, all lie on a single, small slope, facing southwest and located just north of the town of Chablis.
During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church, particularly Cistercian monks, became a major influence in establishing the economic and commercial interest of viticulture for the region. Pontigny Abbey was founded in 1114, and the monks planted vines along the Serein. Anséric de Montréal gave a vineyard at Chablis to the Abbey in 1186. In 1245 the chronicler Salimbene di Adam described a Chablis wine. Chardonnay is believed to have first been planted in Chablis by the Cistercians of Pontigny Abbey in the 12th century, and from there spread south to the rest of the Burgundy region.
The Chablis area became part of the Duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. There are records in the mid-15th century of Chablis wine being shipped to Flanders and Picardy. But in February 1568 the town was besieged by the Huguenots, who burnt part of it.
The development of the French railway system opened up the Parisian market to wine regions across the country, dealing a significant blow to the monopoly held by the Chablis wine industry at the time.
The easily accessible Seine river, via the nearby Yonne river, gave the Chablis wine producers a near monopoly on the lucrative Parisian market. In the 17th century, the English discovered the wine and began importing large volumes. By the 19th century there were nearly 98,840 acres (40,000 ha) of vines planted in Chablis with vineyards stretching from the town of Chablis to Joigny and Sens along the Yonne. Some Champagne producers used Chablis as a basis for a sparkling cuvée.
With the French Revolution, the monastic vineyards became biens nationaux, and were auctioned off. The new owners were mostly local, and the political upheaval saw small farmers involved as part-time vignerons. The English market continued to prosper. The 19th-century Russian novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy mentions “classic Chablis” as a commonplace choice of wine.
The end of the 19th century was a difficult time for the Chablis growers. Firstly, with new railway systems linking all parts of the country with Paris, there was inexpensive wine from regions in the Midi that undercut Chablis. The vineyards were affected by oidium from 1886, and then phylloxera from 1887. Effective replacement of vinestocks to counter phylloxera took some 15 years. Many Chablis producers gave up winemaking, the acreage in the region steadily declining throughout much of the early 20th century. By the 1950s there were only 1,235 acres (500 ha) of vines planted in Chablis.
The 20th century did bring about a renewed commitment to quality production and ushered in technological advances that would allow viticulture to be more profitable and reliable in this cool northern climate. In 1938, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine created the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) region for Chablis that mandated the grape variety (Chardonnay) and acceptable winemaking and viticultural practices within delineated boundaries. One of the objectives of the AOC establishment was to protect the name “Chablis”, which by this time was already being inappropriately used to refer to just about any white wine made from any number of white grape varieties all across the world. In the early 1960s, technological advances in vineyard frost protection minimized some of the risk and financial cost associated with variable vintages and climate of Chablis. The worldwide “Chardonnay-boom” of the mid-late 20th century, opened up prosperous worldwide markets to Chablis and vineyard plantings saw a period of steady increase. By 2004, vineyard plantings in Chablis reached a little over 10,000 acres (4,000 ha).
Climate and geography
All of Chablis’ Grand Cru vineyards and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on primarily Kimmeridgean soil which is composed of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells
Located in northeast France, the Chablis region is considered the northernmost extension of the Burgundy wine region but it is separated from the Côte d’Or by the Morvan hills, with the main Burgundian winemaking town of Beaune located more than 62 miles (100 km) away. This makes the region of Chablis relatively isolated from other winemaking regions with the southern vineyards of the Champagne in the Aube department being the closest winemaking neighbour.
The Chablis wine region has much in common with Champagne province, when it comes to climate. It has a semi-continental climate without maritime influence. The peak summer growing season can be hot; and wintertime can be long, cold and harsh, with frosty conditions lasting to early May. Years that experience too much rain and low temperature tend to produce wines excessively high in acidity and fruit that is too lean to support it. Vintages that are exceedingly warm tend to produce fat, flabby wines that are too low in acidity. Frost can be countered by heaters, and aspersion by sprinklers to form an ice layer. The exceptionally poor 1972 Chablis suffered frost at vintage time.
The region of Chablis lies on the eastern edge of the Paris Basin. The region’s oldest soil dates back to the Upper Jurassic age, over 180 million years ago and includes a vineyard soil type that is calcareous, and known as Kimmeridge clay. All of the Chablis Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on this primarily Kimmeridgean soil, which imparts a distinctively mineral, flinty note to the wines. Other areas, particularly most of the Petit Chablis vineyards, are planted on slightly younger Portlandian soil, still of similar structure. The chalk landscape resembles some areas of Champagne and Sancerre.
Smudge pots protect Chablis vineyards from frost.
A serious viticultural concern for Chablis vineyard owners is frost protection. During the bud break period of a grapevine’s annual cycle, the Chablis region is vulnerable to springtime frost, from March to early May, which can compromise the crop yield. Formerly, the financial risk involved saw many producers turn to polyculture agriculture, pulling up vineyards to plant alternative crops. The 1957 vintage was hit particularly hard by frost damage: the regional authorities reported that only 11 cases (132 bottles) of wine were produced.
In the 1960s, technological advances in frost protection introduced preventive measures, such as smudge pots and aspersion irrigation to the region. Smudge pots work by providing direct heat to the vines while aspersion involves spraying the vines with water as soon as temperatures hit 32 °F (0 °C) and maintaining persistent coverage. The water freezes on the vine, shielding it with a protective layer of ice that functions igloo-style, retaining heat within the vine. While cost is a factor in using smudge pots, there is a risk to the aspersion method if the constant sprinkling of water is interrupted of causing worse damage to the vine. There is no such protection against hail, which in 2016 caused serious difficulties for some Chablis vignerons.
At harvest time, AOC regulations stipulate grapes for Grand Cru vineyard must be picked with a potential alcohol level of at least 11 percent, at least 10.5 percent for Premiers Crus and 9.5 percent for AOC Chablis vineyards. Yields in Grands Crus must be limited to 3.3 tons per acre (45 hectolitres per hectare) with a 20% allowance for increased yields. There is no official regulation on the use of mechanical harvesting, but most Grand Cru producers prefer hand picking because human pickers tend to be more delicate with the grapes and can distinguish better between ripe and unripe bunches. Over the rest of the Chablis region, mechanical harvesting was used by around 80% of the vineyards at the turn of the 21st century. The traditional style of vine training in Chablis is to have the vine trained low to the ground for warmth with four cordons stretching out sideways from the trunk.
The 20th century saw many advances in winemaking technology and practices—particularly the introduction of temperature-controlled fermentation and controlled inducing of malolactic fermentation. One winemaking issue that is still contested in the region is the use of oak. Historically Chablis was aged in old wooden feuillette barrels that were essentially neutral: they did not impart the characteristic oak flavours (vanilla, cinnamon, toast, coconut, etc.) that are today associated with ageing a wine in barrels. Hygiene was difficult to control with these older barrels, and they could develop faults in the wine, including discolouration. These old barrels fell out of favour, replaced by stainless steel fermentation tanks which also controlled temperatures.
The use of oak became controversial in the Chablis when some winemakers in the late 20th century went back to wooden barrels in winemaking, using oak barrels. So-called “traditionalist” winemakers dismissed the usage of oak as counter to the “Chablis style” or terroir, while “modernist” winemakers embrace its use though not to the extent of a “New World” Chardonnay. The amount of “char” in oak barrels used in Chablis is often low, which limits the “toastiness” that is perceived in the wine.
Rarely will a producer use oak for both fermentation and maturation. Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines are most likely to see oak: proponents believe that they have necessary structure and enough extract to avoid being overwhelmed by oak influence. While there are style differences among producers, rarely is basic AOC Chablis or Petit Chablis oaked.
While chaptalization was widely practiced for most of the 20th century, there has been a trend of riper vintages in recent years, producing grapes with higher sugar levels that have diminished the need to chaptalize.
Appellation and classification
The main Chablis Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée was designated on January 13, 1938, but the junior appellation of Petit Chablis was not designated until January 5, 1944. All the vineyards in Chablis are covered by four appellations with different levels of classification, reflecting all-important differences in soil and slope in this northerly region. At the top of the classification are the seven Grand Cru vineyards, which are all located on a single hillside near the town of Chablis. Second in quality are the Premier Cru vineyards, which numbered 40 at the turn of the 21st century, covering an area of 1,853 acres (750 ha). Next is the generic AOC Chablis which, at 7,067 acres (2,860 ha), is the largest appellation by far in the region and the one exhibits the most variability between producers and vintages. At the lowest end of the classification is “Petit Chablis” which includes the outlying land. As of 2004, 1,380 acres (560 ha) of a permitted 4,448 acres (1,800 ha) in the Petit Chablis appellation was planted.
Soil and slope plays a major role in delineating the quality differences. Many of the Premier Crus, and all the Grand Crus vineyards, are planted along the valley of the Serein river as it flows into the Yonne. The Grand Crus and some of the most highly rated Premier Crus (Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Fourchaume) are located on southwest facing slopes; these receive the maximum amount of sun exposure. The rest of the Premier Crus are on southeast facing slopes.
Chablis Grand Crus
There are seven officially delineated Grand Cru climats, covering an area of 247 acres (100 ha), all located on one southwest facing hill overlooking the town of Chablis at elevations between 490–660 feet (150–200 metres). One vineyard there, La Moutonne, between the Grand Cru vineyards of Les Preuses and Vaudésir, is often considered an “unofficial” Grand Cru. The Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) does recognize La Moutonne, but the seven Grand Cru vineyards officially recognized by the INAO are (from northwest to southeast): Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudésir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. Together, the Grand Cru vineyards account for around 3% of Chablis annual yearly production.
While the producer can have a marked influence, each of the Grand Cru vineyards is noted for its particular terroir characteristic. Tom Stevenson notes that Blanchot produces the most delicate wine with floral aromas; Bougros is the least expressive but still has vibrant fruit flavours; Les Clos tends to produce the most complex wines with pronounced minerality; Grenouilles produces very aromatic wines with racy, elegance; the Les Preuses vineyard receives the most sun among the Grand crus and tends to produce the most full bodied wines; Valmur is noted for its smooth texture and aromatic bouquet; Vaudésir tends to produce wines with intense flavours. Of all the Grand Cru vineyards Les Clos is the largest in size at 61 acres (25 ha). Hugh Johnson describes the wines from this Grand Cru as having the best ageing potential among Chablis and developing Sauternes-like aromas after some bottle age.
The Union des Grand Crus de Chablis (UGCC) was launched in March 2000, as a syndicate restricted to Grand Cru proprietors, with mission “to defend and promote the quality of Chablis Grand Cru wines”. Members are bound to abide by a charter which covers wine making and sales. Grand Cru makers must submit their wines to a tasting committee of other Union members to ensure they meet the required quality. These tastings are conducted blind.
At the turn of the 21st century, there were 40 Premier cru vineyards. The names of many of these vineyards do not appear on wine labels. An INAO allowance permits the use of “umbrella names”: in other words smaller, lesser known vineyards are allowed to use the name of a nearby more famous Premier Cru vineyard. Some of the “umbrella” vineyards are Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Fourchaume, Vaillons, Montmains, Beauroy, Vaudevey, Vaucoupin, Vosgros, Les Fourneaux, Côte de Jouan and Les Beauregards. In general, Premier Cru wines have at least half a degree less alcohol by volume and tend to have less aromatics and intensity in flavours.
Grapes and wine
Chablis is characterized by its pale yellow colour with greenish tint.
All Chablis is made 100% from the Chardonnay grape. Some wine experts, such as Jancis Robinson, believe that the wine from Chablis is one of the “purest” expressions of the varietal character of Chardonnay, because of the simple style of winemaking favoured in this region. Chablis winemakers want to emphasize the terroir of the calcareous soil and cooler climate that help maintain high acidity. Chablis wines are characterized by their greenish-yellow colour and clarity. The racy, green apple-like acidity is a trademark of the wines and can be noticeable in the bouquet. The acidity can mellow with age and Chablis are some of the longest living examples of Chardonnay. The wines often have a “flinty” note, sometimes described as “goût de pierre à fusil” (gunflint) and sometimes as “steely”. Some examples of Chablis can have an earthy “wet stone” flavour that intensifies as it ages, before mellowing into delicate honeyed notes. Like most white Burgundies, Chablis can benefit from some bottle age. While producers’ styles and vintage can play an influential role, Grand Cru Chablis can generally age for well over 15 years while many Premier Crus will age well for at least 10 years.
Secondary grape varieties grown locally are permitted in the generic Bourgogne AOC wine. These include Aligoté, César, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot gris (known locally as Pinot Beurot), Sauvignon Blanc, Sacy, and Tressot.
Modern wine industry
For most of the 20th century, Chablis wine was produced more for the export than the domestic French market, which tended to favour the Côte d’Or Chardonnays. Négociants are not as influential in the Chablis wine industry as in other areas of Burgundy. Trends towards estate bottling and co-operatives have shifted the economics towards the individual growers and producer. The La Chablisienne co-operative makes nearly a third of all wine produced in Chablis today.
In recent years, Chablis producers have fought hard to protect the Chablis designation, using legal means to make foreign countries respect it. Despite a long association with Chardonnay, the wines of Chablis can be overshadowed by the New World expression of the varietal, and by other Burgundian Chardonnays such as Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Meursault. The wide semi-generic use of the word “Chablis” outside of France is still seen in describing almost any white wine, regardless of where it was made and from what grapes.
Traditional vineyards are common sights at countryside.
Spanish wines (Spanish: vinos españoles) are wines produced in Spain. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has over 2.9 million acres (over 1.17 million hectares) planted—making it the most widely planted wine producing nation but it is the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being France followed by Italy. This is due, in part, to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil found in many Spanish wine regions. The country is ninth in worldwide consumptions with Spaniards drinking, on average, 21.6 litres (5.706 US gal) per person a year. The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes—including the reds Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Monastrell; the whites Albariño from Galicia, Palomino, Airen, and Macabeo; and the three cava grapes Parellada, Xarel·lo, and Macabeo.
Major Spanish wine regions include the Rioja and Ribera del Duero, which are known for their Tempranillo production; Valdepeñas, drunk by Unamuno and Hemingway, known for high quality tempranillo at low prices; Jerez de la Frontera, the home of the fortified wine Sherry; Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which includes the Cava and still wine producing regions of the Penedès as well the Priorat region.
The abundance of native grape varieties fostered an early start to viticulture with evidence of grape pips dating back to the Tertiary period. Archaeologists believe that these grapes were first cultivated sometime between 4000 and 3000 BC, long before the wine-growing culture of the Phoenicians founded the trading post of Cádiz around 1100 BC. Following the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians introduced new advances to the region-including the teachings of the early viticulturist Mago. Carthage would wage a series of wars with the emerging Roman Republic that would lead to the Roman conquest of the Spanish mainland, known as Hispania.
From Roman rule to the Reconquista
Roman aqueduct built in the Castile and León city of Segovia.
Under Roman rule, Spanish wine was widely exported and traded throughout the Roman empire. The two largest wine producing regions at the time were Terraconensis (modern day Tarragona) in the north and Baetica (modern day Andalucia) in the south. During this period more Spanish wine was exported into Gaul than Italian wine, with amphorae being found in ruins of Roman settlements in Normandy, the Loire Valley, Brittany, Provence and Bordeaux. Spanish wine was also provided to Roman soldiers guarding border settlements in Britain and the Limes Germanicus in Germania. The quality of Spanish wine during Roman times was varied, with Pliny the Elder and Martial noting the high quality associated with some wines from Terraconensis while Ovid notes that one popular Spanish wine sold in Rome, known as Saguntum, was merely good for getting your mistress drunk. (Ars amatoria 3.645-6)
Following the decline of the Roman Empire, Spain was invaded by various barbaric tribes-including the Suebi and the Visigoths. Little is known about progress of viticulture and winemaking during this period but there is evidence that some viable form of wine industry was present when the Moors conquered the land during the early 8th century AD. While the Moors were Muslim and subjected to Islamic dietary laws that forbid the use of alcohol, the Moorish rulers held an ambiguous stance on wine and winemaking during their rule. Several caliphs and emirs owned vineyards and drank wine. While there were laws written that outlawed the sale of wine, it was included on lists of items that were subject to taxation in Moorish territories. The Spanish Reconquista reopened the possibility of exporting Spanish wine. Bilbao emerged as a large trading port; introducing Spanish wines to the English wine markets in Bristol, London and Southampton. The quality of some of these exported Spanish wines appears to have been high. In 1364, the court of Edward III established the maximum price of wine sold in England with the Spanish wines being priced at the same level as wines from Gascony and higher than those from La Rochelle. The full bodied and high alcohol in most Spanish wines made them favoured blending partners for the “weaker” wines from the cooler climate regions of France and Germany though there were laws that explicitly outlawed this practice.
Colonization of the New World
Under the reign of Phillip III, Spain became more dependent on income from exporting wines to South America.
Following the completion of the Spanish Reconquista in 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World under the sponsorship of the Spanish crown. This opened up a new export market as well as new opportunity for wine production. Spanish missionaries and conquistadors brought European grape vines with them as they colonized the new lands. During this period Spanish exports to England began to wane as Spanish-English relations steadily deteriorated following the divorce of Henry VIII of England from his Spanish wife Catherine of Aragon. English merchants from the Sherry producing regions of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda as well as Málaga fled the area due to the fear of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada by Elizabeth I of England greatly reduced the strength of the Spanish navy and contributed to the country’s debt incurred during the reign of Philip II. Spain became more dependent on the income from its Spanish colonies, including the exportation of Spanish wine to the Americas. The emergence of growing wine industries in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina was a threat to this income, with Philip III and succeeding monarchs issuing decrees and declarations ordering the uprooting of New World vineyards and halting the production of wine by the colonies. In some countries, like Chile, these orders were largely ignored; but in others, like Argentina, they served to stunt growth and development until independence was gained from Spanish rule.
From phylloxera to modern day
The 17th & 18th centuries saw periods of popularity for various Spanish wines-namely Sherry (known in Britain as “sack”), Malaga and Rioja wine but the Spanish wine industry was falling behind other European countries which were embracing the developments of the early Industrial Age. A major turning point occurred in the mid 19th century when the phylloxera epidemic ravaged European vineyards-most notably those of France. With the sudden shortage of French wine, many countries turned to Spain, with French winemakers crossing the Pyrenees to Rioja, Navarre and Catalonia-bringing with them their expertise and winemaking methods. One of these developments was the introduction of the 59 gallon (225 litre) oak barrica. Phylloxera eventually reached Spain, devastating regions like Malaga in 1878 and reaching Rioja in 1901. Its slow progress was due in part to the wide tracts of land, including the Meseta Central, that separated the major Spanish wine regions from each other. By the time the Spanish wine industry felt the full force of phylloxera, the remedy of grafting American rootstock to the European vines had already been discovered and widely utilized.
The end of the 19th century also saw the emergences of Spain’s sparkling wine industry with the development of Cava in Catalonia. As the 20th century progressed, the production of Cava would rival the Champagne region in worldwide production. Civil and political upheaval would mark most of the 20th century, including a military dictatorship under General Miguel Primo de Rivera. One of the measures instituted by Primo de Rivera was the early groundwork of the Denominación de Origen (DO) appellation system first developed in Rioja in 1926. The Spanish Civil War saw vineyards neglected and wineries destroyed throughout Spain with regions like Catalonia and Valencia being particularly hard hit. The Second World War closed off European markets to Spanish exports and further damaged the Spanish economy.
It wasn’t till the 1950s that domestic stability helped to usher in a period of revival for the Spanish wine industry. Several large co-operative wineries were founded during this period and an international market was created for generic bulk wines that were sold under names like Spanish sauternes and Spanish chablis. In the 1960s, Sherry was rediscovered by the international wine market and soon Rioja wine was in demand. The death of Francisco Franco in 1975 and the Spanish transition to democracy allowed more economic freedom for winemakers and created an emerging market with the growing middle class of Spain. The late 1970s and 1980s saw periods of modernization and renewed emphasis on quality wine production. The 1986 acceptance of Spain into the European Union brought economic aid to the rural wine industries of Galicia and La Mancha. The 1990s saw the influence of flying winemakers from abroad and broader acceptance of the use of international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1996, the restrictions on irrigation were lifted which gave winemakers greater control over yields and what areas could be planted. Soon the quality and production volume of premium wines began to overtake the presence of generic Spanish bulk wines on the market and Spain’s reputation entering the 21st century was that of a serious wine producing country that could compete with other producers in the world wine market.
Geography and climate
The mountain ranges of Spain influence the climates of many Spanish wine regions, isolating regions like Galicia in the northwest and protecting the Rioja region from the rain and cool winds from the Bay of Biscay.
One of the dominant geographical influences of Spanish viticulture is the vast plateau known as the Meseta Central that covers much of central Spain. Several of Spain’s principal rivers that are at the heart of many Spanish wine regions flow to the sea from that central area. These include the eastward flowing Ebro river that runs through the Rioja and several Catalan wine regions; the Duero which flows westward through the Ribera del Duero region in Spain before crossing the border into Portugal’s Douro Valley which is at the heart of Port wine production; the Tajo which runs through the La Mancha region; Guadalquivir which flows into the Atlantic at the Sherry producing village of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. In addition to the Meseta Central, several mountain ranges known as cordilleras serve to isolate and influence the climate of several Spanish wine regions. These include the Cantabrian Mountains that spur westward from the Pyrenees and protect regions like the Rioja from the rain and the cool of westerlies coming from the Bay of Biscay. The Cantabrian Mountains act as a rain shadow with the coastal regions of the Basque Country receiving an average of 59 inches (1,500 mm) while the winemaking region of Rioja, near Haro, around 62 miles (100 km) away receives only 18 inches (460 mm). In Galicia on the northwest coast, the region receives annual rainfall that ranges from 39 inches (990 mm) on the coast to 79 inches (2.0 m) near the mountainous border of Castile and León.
The climate gets more extreme further inland towards the Meseta Central and is characterized by hot summers with temperatures that can reach 104 °F (40 °C) with drought conditions. Many regions receive less than 12 inches (300 mm) of rain annually with most of the rain falling during sudden downpours in the spring and autumn that can pose the risk of flash flooding. Winters in these regions are characterized by cold temperatures that can often fall below freezing around −8 °F (−22 °C). Towards the southeast, around Valencia, the climate is more moderate with the h4 Mediterranean influence. In the south, the Sherry and Malaga producing regions of Andalusia contain some of the hottest parts of Spain. North of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the Guadalquivir Valley, temperatures often reach 113 °F (45 °C) in the summer. To adapt to these high temperatures, many Spanish vineyards will be planted on higher elevations, with many vineyards located over 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level. These high altitudes create a large diurnal temperature variation with low night time temperatures that allow the grapes to maintain acidity levels and colouring. Regions with lower altitude vineyards, such as along the southern Mediterranean coast are suitable for producing grapes of high alcohol levels and low acidity.
Spanish wine laws created the Denominación de Origen (DO) system in 1932 and were later revised in 1970. The system shares many similarities with the hierarchical Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system of France, Portugal’s Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) and Italy’s Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) system. As of 2009, there were 79 Quality Wine areas across Spain. In addition there is Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa or DOQ in Catalan) status for DOs that have a consistent track record for quality. There are currently two DOCa/DOQ regions: Rioja and Priorat. Each DO has a Consejo Regulador, which acts as a governing control body that enforces the DO regulations and standards involving viticultural and winemaking practices. These regulations govern everything from the types of grapes that are permitted to be planted, the maximum yields that can be harvested, the minimum length of time that the wine must be aged and what type of information is required to appear on the wine label. Wineries that are seeking to have their wine sold under DO or DOC status must submit their wines to the Consejo Regulador laboratory and tasting panel for testing and evaluation. Wines that have been granted DO/DOC status will feature the regional stamp of the Consejo Regulador on the label.
Following Spain’s acceptance into the European Union, Spanish wine laws were brought in line to be more consistent with other European systems. One development was a five-tier classification system that is administered by each autonomous region. Non-autonomous areas or wine regions whose boundaries overlap with other autonomous communities (such as Cava, Rioja and Jumilla) are administered by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen (INDO) based in Madrid. The five-tier classifications, starting from the bottom, include:
Vino de Mesa (VdM) – These are wines that are the equivalent of most country’s table wines and are made from unclassified vineyards or grapes that have been declassified through “illegal” blending. Similar to the Italian Super Tuscans from the late 20th century, some Spanish winemakers will intentionally declassify their wines so that they have greater flexibility in blending and winemaking methods.
Vino de la Tierra (VdlT) – This level is similar to France’s vin de pays system, normally corresponding to the larger comunidad autonóma geographical regions and will appear on the label with these broader geographical designations like Andalucia, Castilla La Mancha and Levante.
Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG) – Introduced in 2003, this level is similar to France’s defunct Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) system and is considered a stepping stone towards DO status. After holding VCIG status for five years a region may apply for DO status.
Denominación de Origen (Denominació d’Origen in Catalan – DO) – This level is for the mainstream quality-wine regions which are regulated by the Consejo Regulador who is also responsible for marketing the wines of that DO. In 2005, nearly two thirds of the total vineyard area in Spain was within the boundaries a DO region.
Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa/DOQ – Denominació d’Origen Qualificada in Catalan) – This designation, which is similar to Italy’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation, is for regions with a track record of consistent quality and is meant to be a step above DO level. Rioja was the first region afforded this designation in 1991 and was followed by Priorat in 2003. In 2008 Ribera del Duero was approved to receive DOCa classification, but acquiring the status was never pursued and Ribera del Duero remains a DO today.
Vino de Pago – Additionally there is the Denominación de Pago (DO de Pago) designation for individual single-estates with an international reputation. As of 2013, there were 15 estates with this status.
Spanish labelling laws
Spanish wines are often labelled according to the amount of aging the wine has received. When the label says vino joven (“young wine”) or sin crianza, the wines will have undergone very little, if any, wood aging. Depending on the producer, some of these wines will be meant to be consumed very young – often within a year of their release. Others will benefit from some time aging in the bottle. For the vintage year (vendimia or cosecha) to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year’s harvest. The three most common aging designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.
Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.
Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak.
Spain has a relatively large number of distinct wine-producing regions, more than half having the classification Denominación de Origen (DO), one of them Ribera del Duero was named Wine Region of the Year 2012 by the prestigious Wine Enthusiast Magazine, with the majority of the remainder classified as Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT). There are two regions nominated as Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) – Rioja and Priorat – the flagship regions of Spanish winemaking. While most make both red and white wine, some wine regions are more dominated by one style than the other.
In many Spanish wine regions, such as Galicia, vines are widely spaced in the vineyard.
Viticulture in Spain has developed in adaptation to the varied and extreme climate of the region. The dry weather in many parts of Spain reduces the threat of common viticultural hazards like downy mildew and powdery mildew as well as the development of Botrytis cinerea. In these parts, the threat of drought and the poor fertility of the land has encouraged Spanish vineyard owners to plant their vines with widely spaced rows so that there is less competition between vines for resources. One widely adopted system is known as marco real and involves having 2.5 metres (8 ft) of space between vines in all directions. These areas, mostly in the south and central regions, have some of the lowest vine density in the world—often ranging between 375-650 vines per acre (900-1600 vines per hectare). This is less than 1/8 of the vine density commonly found in other wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. Many Spanish vineyards are several decades old, with the old vines producing even lower yields of fruit. In the Jumilla region of Murcia, for example, yields are often less than 1.1 ton per acre (20 hl/ha).
In the 1990s, the use of irrigation became more popular after droughts in 1994 and 1995 severely reduced the harvest in those years. In 1996, the practice of using irrigation in all Spanish wine regions was legalized with many regions quickly adopting the practice. In the province of Toledo, Australian flying winemakers helped to popularize the use of underground drip irrigation to minimize the effects of evaporation. The widespread use of irrigation has encouraged higher density of vine plantings and has contributed to higher yields in some parts of Spain.
While traditionally Spanish vineyards would harvest their grapes by hand, the modernization of the Spanish wine industry has seen increased use of mechanical harvesting. In years past, most harvesting had to be done in the early morning with wineries often refusing grapes after mid-day due to their prolonged exposure to the blistering heat. In recent years, aided in part by the wider spread of the use of mechanical harvesting, more harvests are now being done at the lower temperatures at night.
Some records estimate that over 600 grape varieties are planted throughout Spain but 80% of the country’s wine production is focused on only 20 grape varieties. The most widely planted grape is the white wine grape Airén, prized for its hardiness and resistance to drop. It is found throughout central Spain and for many years served as the base for Spanish brandy. Wines made from this grape can be very alcoholic and prone to oxidation. The red wine grape Tempranillo is the second most widely planted grape variety, recently eclipsing Garnacha in plantings in 2004. It is known throughout Spain under a variety of synonyms that may appear on Spanish wine labels-including Cencibel, Tinto Fino and Ull de Llebre. Both Tempranillo and Garnacha are used to make the full-bodied red wines associated with the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès with Garnacha being the main grape of the Priorat region. In the Levante region, Monastrell and Bobal have significant plantings, being used for both dark red wines and dry rosé.
In the northwest, the white wine varieties of Albariño and Verdejo are popular plantings in the Rías Baixas and Rueda respectively. In the Cava producing regions of Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, the principal grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo are used for sparkling wine production as well as still white wines. In the southern Sherry and Malaga producing regions of Andalucia, the principal grapes are Palomino and Pedro Ximénez. As the Spanish wine industry becomes more modern, there has been a larger presence of international grape varieties appearing in both blends and varietal forms-most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Other Spanish grape varieties that have significant plantings include Cariñena, Godello, Graciano, Mencia, Loureira, and Treixadura.
In Spain, winemakers often use the Spanish word elaborar (to elaborate) rather than fabricar (to produce/make) when describing the Spanish winemaking philosophy. This relates to the view that the winemaker acts as more of a nurturer of the grapes and wine rather than as a producer. For many years, Spanish winemaking was very rustic and steeped in tradition. This included the judicious use of oak with some wines, even whites, spending as much as two decades ageing in the barrel. This created distinctly identifiable flavours that were internationally associated with the wines from regions such as the Rioja. In the 19th century, wine writers held negative views about Spanish winemaking. Richard Ford noted in 1846 that the Spanish made wine in an “unscientific and careless manner” while Cyrus Redding noted in his work the History and Description of Modern wines that Spanish gave “rude treatment” to the grapes. Some of these criticisms were rooted in the traditional manners of winemaking that were employed in Spain. Crushing and fermentation would take place in earthenware jars known as tinajas. Afterwards the wine was stored in wooden barrels or pig skin bags lined with resin known as cueros. In the warmer climate and regions of lower elevation, the red wines tilted towards being too high in alcohol and too low in acidity. The standard technique to rectify those wines was the addition of white wine grapes which balanced the acidity but diluted some of the fruit flavours of the red grapes.
The advent of temperature control stainless steel fermentation tanks radically changed the wine industry in warm climate regions like Andalucia, La Mancha and the Levante, allowing winemakers to make fresher and fruitier styles of wine-particularly whites. While many producers focused on these crisp, fresh styles in the early 1990s there was a resurgence in more active use of barrel fermenting whites as a throwback to the traditional, more oxidized styles of the 19th century. The use of oak has a long tradition in Spanish winemaking, dating back even centuries before the French introduced the small 59 gallon (225 litre) barrica style barrels. Gradually Spanish winemakers in the late 19th and early 20th century started to develop a preference for the cheaper, and more h4ly flavoured, American oak. Winemakers in regions like the Rioja found that the Tempranillo grape, in particular, responded well to new American oak. In the 1990s, more winemakers started to rediscover the use of French oak and some wineries will use a combination of both as a blend. Most DOs require some minimum period of barrel ageing which will be stipulated on the wine label by the designations-Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva depending on how long it spends in the barrel. The tradition of long barrel and bottle ageing has meant that most Spanish wines are ready to drink once they hit the market. A new generation of winemakers have started to produce more vino joven (young wines) that are released with very little ageing.
Sherry is a heavily fortified wine produced in southern Spain around the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. In the 1990s, the European Union restricted the use of the name “Sherry” to the wine made from this region. It is mostly made from the Palomino grape, accounting for nearly 95% of the region’s plantings, but Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez can also be used. While the wine is aging in the barrel, a naturally occurring yeast native to the region, known as flor, will develop and distinguish certain styles of Sherry. The flor needs fresh wine in order to survive and is added by the use of a solera system that also gradually blends the wines of different vintages together. Palomino wine, by itself, typically ferments to an alcohol level of around 12% with Sherry producers adding brandy to the wine in order to increase the alcohol level or kill the flor yeast which will not thrive in alcohol levels above 16%.
Sherry has many categories:
Fino Sherry is a very light and delicate Sherry. These wines are characterized by flor. It often contains 15 to 18% of alcohol.
Manzanilla Sherry comes from the Sanlucar district along the sea coast. The sea air leads the Sherry to develop a salty taste. These wines also have flor. This wine is produced using exactly the same process as Fino, but as weather conditions are very different in Sanlucar district it develops into a slightly different kind of wine. It often contains 15 to 19% of alcohol.
Amontillado Sherry is similar to Fino. However, it does not have as much flor development. It is deeper in colour and drier than Fino and is left in the barrel longer. It often contains 16 to 22% of alcohol.
Oloroso Sherry is deeper/darker in colour and has more residual sugar. It is more fortified, and often contains 17 to 22% of alcohol.
Cream Sherry is very rich and can be a good dessert-style wine. It often contains 15.5 to 22% of alcohol.
Pedro Ximénez Sherry is very rich and is a popular dessert-style wine. It’s made from raisins of Pedro Ximenez grapes dried in the sun. It often contains around 18% of alcohol.
Palo Cortado Sherry is very rare, as it is an Oloroso wine that ages in a different, natural way not achievable by human intervention. It often contains 17 to 22% of alcohol.
Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional method of the French sparkling wine Champagne. The definition of Cava is Vino Espumoso de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada (VECPRD). It originated in the Catalonia region at the Codorníu Winery in the late 19th century. The wine was originally known as Champan until Spanish producers officially adopted the term “Cava” (cellar) in 1970 in reference to the underground cellars in which the wines ferment and age in the bottle. The early Cava industry was nurtured by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, which caused the destruction and uprooting of vineyards planted with red grape varieties. Inspired by the success of Champagne, vineyard owners started to replant with white grape varieties like Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo to use for sparkling wine production. These grapes are still the primary grapes of Cava today though some producers are experimenting with the use of the typical Champagne grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
For most of its existence, the production of Cava was not regulated to a particular region of DO but rather to the grapes and method of production. Upon Spain’s acceptance into the European Union in 1986, efforts were undertaken to designate specific areas for Cava production. Today use of the term “Cava” is restricted to production around select municipalities in Catalonia, Aragon, Castile and León, Valencia, Extremadura, Navarre, Basque Country and Rioja. Around 95% of Spain’s total Cava production is from Catalonia, with the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia being home to many of Spain’s largest production houses.
White Muscat – early ripening “July” variety
The Muscat family of grapes include over 200 grape varieties belonging to the Vitis vinifera species that have been used in wine production and as raisin and table grapes around the globe for many centuries. Their colours range from white (such as Muscat Ottonel), to yellow (Moscato Giallo), to pink (Moscato rosa del Trentino) to near black (Muscat Hamburg). Muscat grapes and wines almost always have a pronounced sweet floral aroma. The breadth and number of varieties of Muscat suggest that it is perhaps the oldest domesticated grape variety, and there are theories that most families within the Vitis vinifera grape variety are descended from the Muscat variety.
Among the most notable members of the Muscat family are Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, which is the primary grape variety used in the production of the Italian sparkling wine Asti (also known as Moscato Asti) made in the Piedmont region. It is also used in the production of many of the French fortified wines known as vin doux naturels. In Australia, this is also the main grape used in the production of Liqueur Muscat, from the Victorian wine region of Rutherglen. Young, unaged and unfortified examples of Muscat Blanc tend to exhibit the characteristic Muscat “grapey” aroma as well as citrus, rose and peach notes. Fortified and aged examples (particularly those that have been barrel aged) tend to be very dark in colour due to oxidation with aroma notes of coffee, fruit cake, raisins and toffee.
Muscat of Alexandria is another Muscat variety commonly used in the production of French vin doux naturel, but it is also found in Spain, where it is used to make many of the fortified Spanish Moscatels. Elsewhere it is used to make off-dry to sweet white wines, often labelled as Moscato in Australia, California and South Africa. In Alsace and parts of Central Europe, Muscat Ottonel is used to produce usually dry and highly perfumed wines.
Theories about the origins of Muscat grapes date ancestors of the varieties back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians of early antiquity (c. 3000-1000 BCE) while some ampelographers, such as Pierre Galet, believe that the family of Muscat varieties were propagated during the period of classical antiquity (c. 800 BCE to 600 CE) by the Greeks and Romans. However, while domestic wine production had a long history in ancient Egypt and Persia and classical writers such as Columella and Pliny the Elder did describe very “muscat-like” grape varieties such as Anathelicon Moschaton and Apianae that were very sweet and attractive to bees (Latin apis), there is no solid historical evidence that these early wine grapes were members of the Muscat family.
The first documented mention of grape called “muscat” was in the works of the English Franciscan scholar Bartholomeus Anglicus who wrote of wine made from Muscat grapes in his work De proprietatibus rerum written between 1230 and 1240 while Anglicus was studying in what is now modern Saxony in Germany. Anglicus’ Latin work was translated into French in 1372 with the wine being described by Anglicus as “vin extrait de raisins muscats”.
Origins of the name “Muscat”
The “musky” aroma of ripe Muscat grapes have been known to attract bees (pictured), flies and other insects
Because the exact origins of the Muscat family cannot be pinpointed, the theories as to the origins of the name “Muscat” are numerous. The most commonly cited belief is the name is derived from the Persian word muchk. Similar etymology follows the Greek moskos, Latin muscus and French musc.In Italy, the Italian word mosca for fly could also be one possibility with the sweet aroma and high sugar levels of Muscat grapes being a common attractant for insects such as fruit flies.
Other theories suggest that the grape family originated in the Arabian country of Oman and was named after the city of Muscat located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. Another city that is sometimes suggested as a potential birthplace/namesake is the Greek city of Moschato, located southwest of Athens in Attica with Moschato being a common synonym in Greece for Muscat varieties.
Closely related varieties
Of the more than 200 grape varieties sharing “Muscat” (or one of its synonyms) in their name, the majority are not closely related to each other. The exception are the members of the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat of Alexandria families. In the early 21st century, DNA analysis showed that Muscat of Alexandria was, itself, a natural crossing of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and a black-skinned table grape variety from the Greek islands known as Axina de Tres Bias. Rarely seen outside of Greece, Axina de Tres Bias (also known as “Heftakilo”) is also grown in Malta and Sardinia.
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat of Alexandria, themselves, have crossed and have produced at least 14 different grape varieties, 5 of which are mostly cultivated in South America and 9 still found in Italy though none are of major use in wine production. More notable and widely planted offspring have come from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Muscat of Alexandria crossing with other grape varieties, such as the Argentine wine grapes of Cereza, Torrontés Riojano and Torrontés Sanjuanino, stemming from a cross of Muscat of Alexandria with “Listán negro” (also known as the “Mission grape”)
Muscat of Alexandria has also been crossed with the German / Italian wine grape Trollinger (also known as “Schiava Grossa”) to produce Muscat of Hamburg and Malvasia del Lazio, and with the Italian wine grapes Catarratto bianco and Bombino bianco to produce the Marsala wine grape Grillo and Moscatello Selvatico, respectively. Muscat Ottonel is the result of a crossing between one Muscat variety, “Muscat d’Eisenstadt” (also known as “Muscat de Saumur”), with the Swiss wine grape Chasselas
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains has been identified as one of the parent grapes of several varieties, though with which crossing partner is currently unknown. These include the Italian wine grapes Aleatico, Moscato Giallo (Yellow Moscato), Moscato rosa del Trentino (Pink Moscato of Trentino) and Moscato di Scanzo. DNA analysis was able to identify the Tuscan wine grape Mammolo as the second parent variety that crossed with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains to produce Muscat rouge de Madère (Red Muscat of Madère).
Characteristic aromas and confusion with other grapes
The characteristic floral, “grapey” aroma of Muscat can be seen in wines such as Moscato d’Asti, made in a winemaking style that emphasizes the varietal aromas of the grape, rather than aromas derived from winemaking processes like oak aging or autolysis on the lees
Despite the vast diversity in the Muscat family, one common trait that can be seen in most all Muscat members is the characteristic floral, “grapey” aroma note that is caused by the high concentration of monoterpenes in the grapes. More than 40 different monoterpenes have been discovered in Muscat grapes (as well as in other aromatic varieties like Riesling and Gewürztraminer); these include citronellol, geraniol, linalool and nerol. This characteristic “musk” aroma can be best observed in light bodied, low alcohol wines such as Moscato Asti which have not had their bouquet heavily influenced by other winemaking techniques like oak aging, autolysis with yeast, malolactic fermentation or fortification.
However, this common “musky” (French: musqué) trait has caused some confusion as varieties that are wholly unrelated to the Muscat family are often erroneously associated with Muscat grapes (often by naming and synonyms) due to their aromatic character. These include the German wine grape Morio Muskat which, despite its name, is not related to the Muscat family and is, instead, a crossing of Silvaner x Pinot Blanc. Likewise, the highly aromatic clonal mutation of several wine grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chasselas and Chardonnay are often suffixed with Musqué which can add confusion to their relationship with the Muscat family. Additionally, the Bordeaux wine grape Muscadelle that is used for both sweet and dry wines is often mistaken for a Muscat variety due to its aromatic qualities. While made from a more aromatically neutral grape, Melon de Bourgogne grape, the Loire wine Muscadet is sometimes mistakenly believed to be made by a member of the Muscat family.
Lastly, the Muscat grape can be confused in name only with Vitis rotundifolia, which is commonly known as a “muscadine” grape.
The “Muscat family” is highly populous, with more than 200 distinct members. However, among these many different grapes only a handful of Muscat varieties are widely used in wine production. These include Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat of Scanzorosciate, Muscat of Hamburg and Muscat Ottonel.
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
In France, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is often used to produce fortified “Vin doux Naturel” dessert wines such as the Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois (left) and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is known by many names worldwide, including Muscat Blanc (white Muscat) in France and the United States), Muscat Canelli in the United States, Moscato Bianco (white Moscato) in Italy, Muscat Frontignan in South Africa, Moschato in Greece, Brown Muscat in Australia, Muskateller in Germany and Austria, Muscat de Grano Menudo in Spain, and Muscat de Frontignan and Muscat Lunel in France. While the “petits grains” in the grape’s name accurately describes the small, round berries of the vine, some wine experts, such as Oz Clarke, believe that the term “Muscat Blanc” is misleading, since the grapevine is notorious for its frequent colour mutations siring clusters of berries in nearly every shade possible though most commonly the grape berries are a deep yellow after veraison. In some vineyards, vines of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains are known to produce clusters of berries of different colours that change every vintage.
The precise origins of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains are not known, though Greece and Italy can both make compelling cases due to the proliferation of clones, mutations and offspring. Today, the grape is found throughout the wine-producing world, making a wide range of wine, from light, sweet sparkling and semi-sparkling Asti and Moscato d’Asti wine in the Piedmont wine region of Italy and Clairette de Die region of France, fortified vin doux naturels (VdN) in southern France in AOC regions such as Muscat de Beaume de Venise, Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois and Muscat de Frontignan, fortified Liqueur Muscat in the Victoria wine region of Rutherglen in Australia, to dry wines in the Wachau wine of Austria and Südsteiermark.
Nearly all the most notable sweet Muscats of Greece, particularly those from the island of Samos and the city of Patras on the Peloponnese are made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. In the history of South African wine, the famous dessert wine of Constantia was made from this variety of Muscat and while today Muscat of Alexandria is more widely planted in South Africa, producers around Constantia are trying to reclaim some of the region’s viticultural acclaim by replanting more Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and making wines in the style of the original Constantia.
Muscat of Alexandria
The berries of Muscat of Alexandria clusters are larger and more oval-shaped than those of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
While the grape’s name harkens to the city of Alexandria and suggest an ancient Egyptian origin, DNA analysis has shown that Muscat of Alexandria is the result of a natural crossing between Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and the Greek wine grape Axina de Tres Bias. Though as Axina de Tres Bias has also been historically grown in Sardinia and Malta, the precise location and origins of Muscat of Alexandria cannot be determined. Compared to Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat of Alexandria tends to produce large, moderately loose clusters of large oval-shaped berries that are distinctive from the much smaller, round berries of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
Like most Muscat varieties, Muscat of Alexandria is notable for being a desirable raisin and table grape. This is due in part to the grape’s high tolerance of heat and drought conditions. While it is used in wine production (most notably on the island of Pantelleria between Sicily and Tunisia, where it makes a passito style dessert wine under the name of “Zibibbo”), the grape lags far behind the reputation of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. This is partly because Muscat of Alexandria is very vigorous and prone to produce high yields that can be easily overcropped as well as a more assertive aroma profile due to a higher concentration of the monoterpene geraniol, which produces a geranium scent, and lower concentration of nerol which a more fresh, sweet rose aroma.
In France, Muscat of Alexandria is most prominent as a blending component (with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) in the VdN wines of Muscat de Rivesaltes AOC in the Roussillon wine region. The grape is the primary Muscat variety in Spain, where it is known as Moscatel, though the majority of the country’s plantings are used for table grapes and raisins, rather than for wine production. Likewise, in Chile, most of the Moscatel in that country is used to produce the distilled drink “pisco”.
In South Africa, Muscat of Alexandria is known as “Hanepoot” and was the fourth-most widely planted white wine grape variety in the country until the early 2000s. While some of the plantings were used for wine production, particularly for fortified wine, many plantings were used for the production of grape concentrate and raisins. In California, there is still more plantings of Muscat of Alexandria than any other Muscat variety, with most of these grapes going into anonymous jug wines from the Central Valley. As in many other places in the world, the grape had a long history of use in the United States as a raisin variety, though in the 1920s, plantings of Muscat of Alexandria began to decline as producers turned to more popular seedless grape varieties.
Muscat of Hamburg
Even though the vast majority of the members of the Muscat family are dark skinned grapes, most of the major varieties used in wine production are white or “pale skinned”, with the one significant exception of Muscat of Hamburg, which is also known as Black Muscat. This dark-skinned grape is believed to have originated in the Victorian greenhouses of England, where it was first described in 1858 as being propagated by Seward Snow, gardener to the Earl de Grey. Snow described the grape as a seedling that he created from crossing the Black Hamburg grape (an old synonym of Schiava Grossa) with the White Muscat of Alexandria. In 2003, DNA analysis confirmed that Muscat of Hamburg was, indeed, a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Schiava Grossa, which makes the grape a full sibling to the central Italian grape Malvasia del Lazio which has the same parentage.
While Muscat of Hamburg is used mostly as a table grape throughout the world, there are two notable exceptions. The first is in California, where nearly all of the 102 hectares (250 acres) of Black Muscat in cultivation in 2009 were destined for wine production, primarily to produce dessert wines. The other exception is in China, where Muscat of Hamburg is often crossed with Vitis amurensis species that are native to the region to produce wine grapes that are better adapted to the climate of various Chinese wine regions.
Like Muscat of Hamburg, Muscat Ottonel is a relatively recent addition to the Muscat family, being bred in the Loire Valley wine region of France in the 1850s. The grape is a cross of the Swiss wine grape Chasselas and Muscat d’Eisenstadt (also known as Muscat de Saumur). Of all of the major Muscat varieties, Muscat Ottonel has the most pale skin colour, and tends to produce the most neutral wines and is also the grape variety that ripens the earliest.
While varieties such as Muscat of Alexandria tend to thrive in very warm Mediterranean climates, Muscat of Ottonel has shown an affinity for ripening in cooler continental climates, and has found a home in many Central European nations, such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and many former republic of the Soviet Union, such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. It is also the primary Muscat variety grown in the French region of Alsace, where it is used to produce both dry and off-dry styles. In Austria, it is also the most widely planted Muscat variety, where it is used to produce late-harvest wines around Lake Neusiedl.
Grapes produced Gamay with a little Pinot Noir (and the local variation of Pinot Liébault), Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot gris (known locally as Pinot Beurot), Pinot Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. Wine produced Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, cru Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau
Beaujolais (French pronunciation: [bo.ʒɔ.lɛ]) is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Like most AOC wines they are not labelled varietally. Whites from the region, which make up only 1% of its production, are made mostly with Chardonnay grapes though Aligoté is also permitted until 2024 (on condition the vines were planted before 2004). Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity. In some vintages, Beaujolais produces more wine than the Burgundy wine regions of Chablis, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais put together.
The wine takes its name from the historical Province of Beaujolais, a wine-producing region. It is located north of Lyon, and covers parts of the north of the Rhône département of the Rhône-Alpes region and southern areas of the Saône-et-Loire département of Burgundy. While administratively considered part of the Burgundy wine region, the climate is closer to the Rhône and the wine is sufficiently individual in character to be considered separately from Burgundy and Rhône. The region is known internationally for its long tradition of winemaking, for the use of carbonic maceration, and more recently for the popular Beaujolais nouveau.
The region of Beaujolais was first cultivated by the Romans who planted the areas along its trading route up the Saône valley. The most noticeable Roman vineyard was Brulliacus located on the hillside of Mont Brouilly. The Romans also planted vineyards in the area Morgon. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu, Rhône and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century when it was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy. The wines from Beaujolais were mostly confined to the markets along the Saône and Rhône, particularly in the town of Lyon. The expansion of the French railroad system in the 19th century opened up the lucrative Paris market. The first mention of Beaujolais wines in English followed soon after when Cyrus Redding described the wines of Moulin-à-Vent and Saint-Amour as being low priced and best consumed young.
In the 1980s, Beaujolais hit a peak of popularity in the world’s wine market with its Beaujolais nouveau wine. Spurred on by the creative marketing from négociants like Georges Duboeuf, demand outpaced supply for the easy drinking, fruity wines. As more Beaujolais producers tried to capitalize on the “Nouveau craze”, production of regular Beaujolais dropped and an eventual backlash occurred in the late 1990s and early 21st century. By this point, the whole of Beaujolais wine had developed a negative reputation among consumers who associated Gamay based wines with the slightly sweet, simple light bodied wines that characterized Beaujolais Nouveau. Producers were left with a wine lake surplus that French authorities compelled them to reduce through mandatory distillation. In response, there has been renewed emphasis on the production of more complex wines that are aged longer in oak barrels prior to release. Recent years have seen a rise in the number of terroir driven estate-bottled wines made from single vineyards or in one of the Cru Beaujolais communes, where the name of the commune is allowed to be displayed on the label.
Gamay Noir is now known to be a cross of Pinot Noir and the ancient white variety Gouais, the latter a Central European variety that was probably introduced to northeastern France by the Romans. 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 h4, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance. In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of Gamay as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”, due in part to the variety occupying land that could be used for the more “elegant” Pinot Noir. Sixty years later, Philippe the Good issued another edict against Gamay, in which he stated the reason for the ban was that “The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation”.The edicts had the effect of pushing Gamay plantings southward, out of the main region of Burgundy and into the granite based soils of Beaujolais where the grape thrived.1
Following the 2001 vintage, over 1.1 million cases of Beaujolais wine (most of it Beaujolais Nouveau) had to be destroyed or distilled due to lacklustre sale as part of a consumer backlash against the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau. French wine critic François Mauss claimed, in an interview given to a local newspaper Lyon Mag, that the reason for the backlash was the poor quality of Beaujolais Nouveau that had flooded the market in recent decades. He claimed that Beaujolais producers had long ignored the warning signs that such a backlash was coming and continued to produce what Mauss termed vin de merde (shit wine). This triggered an outcry among Beaujolais producers followed by an association of 56 cooperative producers filing a lawsuit against the Lyon Mag for publishing Mauss’ comments.
Rather than sue for libel, the producers sued under an obscure French law that punishes the denigration of French products. In January 2003, the court in Villefranche-sur-Saône found in favour of the Beaujolais producers and awarded USD$350,000 which would put the small, employee owned publication out of business. The bad publicity garnered from the “Shit wine case” was extensive, with several publications such as Le Monde, The Times, The New York Times and the Herald Tribune running critical or satirical articles on the court’s decision. In 2005, the highest court of appeal found that there was no case for defamation and Representatives of the Beaujolais winemakers were ordered to pay €2,000 (US$2,442) in court costs to Lyon Mag.
In 2005, the Vins Georges Duboeuf company was charged with mixing low-grade wine with better vintages after a patchy 2004 harvest. Georges Duboeuf denied wrongdoing, blaming human error and pointing out that none of the affected wine was released to consumers. The production manager directly responsible admitted his actions and resigned, and a court found that both “fraud and attempted fraud concerning the origin and quality of wines” had been committed. Fewer than 200,000 litres of the company’s annual 270 million litre production were implicated, but L’Affaire Duboeuf, as it was called, was considered a serious scandal.
In December 2007, five people were arrested after reportedly selling nearly 600 tonnes of sugar to growers in Beaujolais. Up to 100 growers were accused of using the sugar for illegal chaptalization and also of exceeding volume quotas between 2004 and 2006.
Climate and geography
Beaujolais is a large wine producing region, larger than any single district of Burgundy. There are over 18,000 hectares (44,000 acres) of vines planted in a 34 miles (55 km) stretch of land that is between 7 and 9 miles (14 km) wide (11 to 14 km). The historical capital of the province is Beaujeu (Bôjor /Biôjœr in Arpitan) and the economic capital of the area is Villefranche-sur-Saône (Velafranche). Many of Beaujolais vineyards are found in the hillside on the outskirt of Lyons in the eastern portion of the region along the Saône valley. The Massif Central is located to the west and has a tempering influence on Beaujolais’ climate. The region is located south of the Burgundy wine region Mâconnais with nearly 100 communes in the northern region of Beaujolais overlapping between the AOC boundaries Beaujolais and the Maconnais region of Saint-Véran.
The climate of Beaujolais is semi-continental with some temperate influences. The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea does impart some Mediterranean influence on the climate. The region is overall, warmer than Burgundy with vines that consistently fully ripen grapes. By the time that the Beaujolais Nouveau is released in late November, the foothills in the western regions will have normally seen snow. A common viticultural hazard is spring time frost.
The soils of Beaujolais divide the region into a northern and southern half, with the town of Villefranche serving as a near dividing point. The northern half of Beaujolais, where most of the Cru Beaujolais communes are located, includes rolling hills of schist and granite based soils with some limestone. On hillsides, most of the granite and schist is found in the upper slopes with the lower slopes having more stone and clay composition. The southern half of the region, also known as the Bas Beaujolais, has flatter terrain with richer, sandstone and clay based soils with some limestone patches. The Gamay grape fares differently in both regions-producing more structured, complex wines in the north and more lighter, fruity wines in the south. The angle of the hillside vineyards in the north exposes the grapes to more sunshine which leads to harvest at an earlier time than the vineyards in the south.
The new rules for Beaujolais appellations were issued by INAO in 2011. There are twelve main appellations of Beaujolais wines covering the production of more than 96 villages in the Beaujolais region. They were originally established in 1936, with additional crus being promoted in 1938 and 1946, plus Régnié in 1988. About half of all Beaujolais wine is sold under the basic Beaujolais AOC designation. The majority of this wine is produced in the southern Bas Beaujolais region located around the town of Belleville. The minimum natural alcohol level for the grapes is 10%, and the maximum yield is 60 hl/ha (65 hl/ha for a bumper crop) The wine may be labelled as Beaujolais Supérieur in case the minimum natural alcohol level for the grapes is 10,5%,and the maximum yield is 58 hl/ha (63 hl/ha for a bumper crop). Exactly the same limits are effective for Beaujolais-Villages. Maximum chaptalization levels are established at 3 g/l (glucose + fructose).
Beaujolais AOC is the most extended appellation allowed to be used in any of the 96 villages, but essentially covering 60 villages, and refers to all basic Beaujolais wines. A large portion of the wine produced under this appellation is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. Annually, this appellation averages around 75 million bottles a year in production. Maximum level of sulphur dioxide in the Nouveau is limited at 100 mg/l.
Beaujolais-Villages AOC, the intermediate category in terms of classification, covers 39 communes/villages in the Haut Beaujolais, the northern part of the region accounting for a quarter of production. Some is sold as Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, but it is not common. Most of the wines are released in the following March after the harvest. The terrain of this region is hillier with more schist and granite soil composition than what is found in the regions of the Beaujolais AOC and the wine has the potential to be of higher quality. If the grapes come from the area of a single vineyard or commune, producers can affix the name of their particular village to the Beaujolais-Villages designation. Since most of the villages of Beaujolais, outside of those classified as Cru Beaujolais, villages have little international name recognitions most producers choose to maintain the Beaujolais-Villages designation. The maximum permitted yields for this AOC is 50 hl/ha. These wines are meant to be consumed young, within two years of their harvest. Several of the communes in the Beaujolais-Villages AOC also qualify to produce their wines under the Mâconnais and Saint-Véran AOCs. The Beaujolais producers that produce a red wine under the Beaujolais-Villages appellation will often produce their white wine under the more internationally recognized names of Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.
Cru Beaujolais from Brouilly.
Cru Beaujolais, the highest category of classification in Beaujolais, account for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Unlike Burgundy and Alsace, the phrase cru in Beaujolais refers to an entire wine producing area rather than an individual vineyard. Seven of the Crus relate to actual villages while Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly refer to the vineyards areas around Mont Brouilly and Moulin-à-Vent is named for a local windmill.9These wines do not usually show the word “Beaujolais” on the label, in an attempt to separate themselves from mass-produced Nouveau; in fact vineyards in the cru villages are not allowed to produce Nouveau. The maximum yields for Cru Beaujolais wine is 48 hl/ha. Their wines can be more full-bodied, darker in colour, and significantly longer-lived. From north to south the Beaujolais crus are- Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.
Beaujolais Blanc & Beaujolais Rosé – A small amount of white wine made from Chardonnay is grown in the region and used to produce Beaujolais Blanc or Beaujolais-Villages Blanc. The vineyards to produces these wines are normally found in the limestone soils of the far northern extremities of the region. Part of the reason for the small production of these wines is that many of the vineyards overlap into the Mâconnais regions and producers will usually choose to label their wines under the more marketable and well known Mâcon Blanc designation. There is also regulations in several Beaujolais communes restricting growers to dedicating no more than 10% of their vineyard space to white wine grape varieties. Beaujolais Rosé made from Gamay is permitted in the Beaujolais AOC but is rarely produced.
The ten Beaujolais Crus differ in character. The following three crus produce the lightest bodied Cru Beaujolais and are typically meant to be consumed within three years of the vintage.
Brouilly – The largest Cru in Beaujolais, situated around Mont Brouilly and contains within its boundaries the sub-district of Côte de Brouilly. The wines are noted for their aromas of blueberries, cherries, raspberries and currants. Along with Côte de Brouilly, this is the only Cru Beaujolais region that permits grapes other than Gamay to be produced in the area with vineyards growing Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne as well. The Brouilly cru also contains the famous Pisse Vieille vineyard (roughly translated as “piss old woman!”) which received its name from a local legend of a devout Catholic woman who misheard the local priest’s absolution to “Allez! Et ne péchez plus.” (Go! And sin no more.) as “Allez! Et ne pissez plus.” (Go! And piss no more). The vineyard name is the admonishment that her husband gave to her upon learning of the priest’s words.
Régnié – The most recently recognized Cru, graduating from a Beaujolais-Villages area to Cru Beaujolais in 1988. One of the more fuller bodied crus in this category. It is noted for its redcurrant and raspberry flavours. Local lore in the region states that this Cru was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans.
Chiroubles – This cru has vineyards at some of the highest altitudes among the Cru Beaujolais. Chiroubles cru are noted for their delicate perfume that often includes aromas of violets.
The next three crus produce more medium bodied Cru Beaujolais that Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan recommend needs at least a year aging in the bottle and to be consumed within four years of the vintage.
Côte de Brouilly – Located on the higher slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly within the Brouilly Cru Beaujolais. The wines from this region are more deeply concentrated with less earthiness than Brouilly wine.
Fleurie – One of the most widely exported Cru Beaujolais into the United States. These wines often have a velvet texture with fruity and floral bouquet. In ideal vintages, a vin de garde (wine for aging) is produced that is meant to age at least four years before consuming and can last up to 16 years.
Saint-Amour – Local lore suggest that this region was named after a Roman soldier (St. Amateur) who converted to Christianity after escaping death and established a mission near the area. The wines from Saint-Amour are noted for their spicy flavours with aromas of peaches. The vin de garde wines require at least four year aging and can last up to twelve years.
The last four crus produce the fullest bodied examples of Cru Beaujolais that need the most time aging in the bottle and are usually meant to be consumed between four and ten years after harvest.
Chénas – Once contained many of the vineyards that are now sold under the Moulin-à-Vent designation. It is now the smallest Cru Beaujolais with wines that are noted for their aroma of wild roses. In ideal vintages, a vin de garde is produced that is meant to age at least five years before consuming and last up to 15. The area named is derived from the forest of French oak trees (chêne) that used to dot the hillside.
Juliénas-This cru is based around the village named after Julius Caesar. The wines made from this area are noted for their richness and spice with aromas reminiscent of peonies. In contrast to the claims of Régnié, Juliénas growers believe that this area was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during this conquest of Gaul.
Morgon – Produces earthy wines that can take on a Burgundian character of silky texture after five years aging. These wines are generally the deepest colour and most rich Cru Beaujolais with aromas of apricots and peaches. Within this Cru there is a particular hillside, known as Cote du Py, in the centre of Morgon that produces the most powerful examples of Morgon wines.
Moulin-à-Vent – Wines are very similar to the nearby Chénas Cru Beaujolais. This region produces some of the longest-lasting examples of Beaujolais wine, with some wines lasting up to ten years. Some producers will age their Moulin-à-Vent in oak which gives these wines more tannin and structure than other Beaujolais wines. The phrase fûts de chêne (oak casks) will sometimes appear on the wine label of these oak aged wines. The region is noted for the high level of manganese that is in the soil, which can be toxic to grape vines in high levels. The level of toxicity in Moulin-à-Vent does not kill the vine but is enough to cause chlorosis and alter the vine’s metabolism to reduce yields severely. The resulting wine from Moulin-à-Vent are the most full bodied and powerful examples in Beaujolais. The vin de garde styles require at least 6 years aging and can last up to 20 years.
A glass and bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau from the 2013 vintage.
The early history of Beaujolais Nouveau can trace its roots to 19th century when the first wines of the vintage were sent down the Saône to the early bistros of Lyon. Upon their arrival signs would be put out proclaiming “Le Beaujolais Est Arrivé!” and its consumption was seen as a celebration of another successful harvest. In the 1960s, this style of simple Beaujolais became increasingly popular worldwide with more than half a million cases of being sold. In 1985 the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) established the third Thursday of November to allow for a uniform release date for the wine. Wines are typically shipped a few days earlier to locations around the world where they must be held in a bonded warehouse till 12:01am when the wines can be first opened and consumed.
Today, about a third of the region’s production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, a marketing name created by George Duboeuf for the local vin de l’année. It is the lightest, fruitiest style of Beaujolais and meant for simple quaffing. Any Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages AOC vineyard can produce Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes are harvested between late August and early September. It is fermented for just a few days and released to the public on the third Thursday of November – “Beaujolais Nouveau Day”. It is the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. In 1992, at its peak, more than half of all Beaujolais wine was sold as “Beaujolais Nouveau”.The wines are meant to be drunk as young as possible, when they are at their freshest and fruitiest. They can last up to one or two years but will have lost most of their characteristic flavours by that point.
Viticulture and grape varieties
The Beaujolais region has one of the highest vine density ratios of any major worldwide wine region, with anywhere from 9000 to 13,000 vines per hectare. Most vines are trained in the traditional gobelet style, where the spurs of the vines are pushed upwards and arranged in a circle, resembling a chalice. This method has its roots in the Roman style of vine training and has only recently begun to fall out of favour for the guyot method which involves taking a single or double spur and training it out horizontally. Harvest usually occurs in late September and is almost universally done by hand rather than with the use of mechanical harvesters. This is because the Beaujolais wine-making style of carbonic maceration utilizes whole bunches of grape clusters that normally get broken and separated by a mechanical harvester.
The Gamay grape, more accurately known as Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc to distinguish it from the Gamay teinturier grapes with red juice and different from the Napa Gamay and the Gamay Beaujolais grapes of California, is the most widely planted grape in Beaujolais, accounting for nearly 98% of all plantings. The remaining plantings are mostly Chardonnay. Aligote vines that were planted prior to 2004 are permitted in wine production, but the entire grape variety is being phased out of the region by 2024. According to AOC regulation, up to 15% of white wine grape varieties can be included in all Beaujolais red wines from the basic Beaujolais AOC to the Cru Beaujolais wines, but in practice the wines are almost always 100% Gamay. Pinot Noir, which has very small plantings, is also permitted, but that grape is being phased out by 2015 as Beaujolais winemakers continue to focus their winemaking identity on the Gamay grape. The characteristics that the Gamay grapes adds to Beaujolais are a deep bluish-red colour, low acidity, moderate tannins, and light to medium body. The aroma associated with the grape itself is typically red berries.
Since the 1960s, more focus has been placed on the choice of rootstocks and clonal selection, with six approved clones of Gamay for the wine region. In recent years the rootstock Vialla has gained popularity due to its propensity to produce well in granite soils. The SO4 and 3309 rootstocks also account for significant plantings. Clonal selection of the Gamay grape has shifted towards an emphasis on smaller, thicker-skinned berries.
Winemaking and style Carbonic maceration
Beaujolais wines are produced by the winemaking technique of semi-carbonic maceration. Whole grape clusters are put in cement or stainless steel tanks with capacities between 4,000–30,000 litres (1,100–7,900 US gal). The bottom third of the grapes gets crushed under the weight of gravity and resulting must begins normal yeast fermentation with ambient yeasts found naturally on the skins of the grapes. Carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct of this fermentation and begins to saturate the individual intact grape berries that remain in the barrel. The carbon dioxide seeps into the skin of the grape and begin to stimulate fermentation at an intracellular level. This is caused, in part, by the absence of oxygen in the winemaking environment. This results in a fruity wine without much tannin. In the case of Beaujolais nouveau, this process is completed in as little as four days, with the other AOCs being allowed longer time to ferment. As the grapes ferment longer, they develop more tannins and a fuller body. Maximum length of the cuvaison for Nouveau wines is limited to 10 days.
After fermentation, the must is normally high in malic acid and producers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation to soften the wine. The process of chaptalization, adding sugar to the grape must to boost alcohol levels, has been a controversial issue for Beaujolais winemakers. Historically, Beaujolais producers would pick grapes at ripeness that were at minimum potential alcohol levels of 10-10.5% and then add sugar in order to artificially boost the alcohol levels to the near the maximum of 13-13.5%. This created wines lacking structure and balance to go with the high alcohol body and mouthfeel. The recent trend towards higher quality wine production has limited the use of chaptalization in the premium levels of Beaujolais wine. Filtering the wine in order to stabilize it is practiced to varying degrees by Beaujolais winemakers. Some producers who make Beaujolais on a large commercial scale will filter the wine aggressively to avoid any impurity or future chemical reactions. This can have the negative side effect of diminishing some of the wine’s unique fruit character and leave a flavour that critics have described as Jell-O-like
Basic Beaujolais is the classic bistro wine of Paris; a fruity, easy-drinking red traditionally served in 1 pint glass bottles known as pot. This is epitomized in Beaujolais Nouveau, which is fermented for just a few days and can be dominated by estery flavours such as bananas and pear drops. Basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais nouveau are meant to be drunk within a year of their harvest. Beaujolais-Villages are generally consumed within 2–3 years and Cru Beaujolais has the potential to age longer, some not even fully developing till at least 3 years after harvest. Premium examples from Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent can spend up to 10 years continuing to develop in the bottle and in very good vintages can take on Burgundian qualities of structure and complexity.
The Beaujolais wine industry is dominated by the more than 30 négociants who produce nearly 90% of the wine sold outside the Beaujolais region. Many of these négociants are based in Burgundy-such as Maison Louis Jadot (through Château des Jacques) and Bouchard Père et Fils. One of the most well known Beaujolais producers is the négociants Georges Duboeuf. There are more than 4000 vineyard owners in Beaujolais and the fractional amount that is not sold to négociants are bottled by the nearly 20 village co-operatives with a growing amount being estate bottled. Very little of the estate bottled Beaujolais wines are exported into the United States or United Kingdom though a few exporters specialize in this small niche-the most notable being Kermit Lynch and Alain Jugenet.
Serving and food pairing
Light bodied Beaujolais wine, such as Beaujolais-Villages pair well with lighter fare like salads.
Wine expert Karen MacNeil has described Beaujolais as “the only white wine that happens to be red”. Similarly, Beaujolais is often treated like a white wine and served slightly chilled to a lower temperature, the lighter the style. Beaujolais Nouveau, being the lightest style, is served at about 52 °F (11 °C). Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais-Villages are generally served between 56–57 °F (13–14 °C). Cru Beaujolais, especially the fuller bodied examples, can be treated like red Burgundy wine and served at 60–62 °F (16–17 °C). The wines rarely need to be decanted. In Beaujolais, it is traditional to soak the bottles in buckets of ice water and bring them out to the centre villages for picnics and games of boules.
Beaujolais wine can be paired with a variety of food according to the lightness and body of the wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is typically used as an apéritif with basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages doing well with light fare, like picnics and salads. The lighter Cru Beaujolais pair well with poultry and the heavier Crus pairing better with red meats and hearty dishes like stews. In Norway, Beaujolais is a favourite with cod and bacalhau dishes. According to Lyon chef Paul Bocuse, Beaujolais wine is used to make a traditional regional dessert involving a glass of sliced peaches, topped with blackcurrants and drenched in chilled Beaujolais wine.
Notable regions Lower Austria, Burgenland, Slovakia, Moravia, Czech Republic
Notable wines Smaragds from Wachau
Grüner Veltliner (Green Veltliner) is a white wine grape variety grown primarily in Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The leaves of the grape vine are five-lobed with bunches that are long but compact, and deep green grapes that ripen in mid-late October in the Northern Hemisphere.
In 2008, Grüner Veltliner plantations in Austria stood at 17,151 hectares (42,380 acres), and it accounts for 32.6% of all vineyards in the country, almost all of it being grown in the northeast of the country. Thus, it is the most-planted grape variety in Austria. Some is made into sparkling wine in the far northeast around Poysdorf. Along the Danube to the west of Vienna, in Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal, it grows with Riesling in terraces reminiscent of Donau, on slopes so steep they can barely retain any soil. The result is a very pure, mineral wine capable of long aging, that stands comparison with some of the great wines of the world. In recent blind tastings organized by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, Grüner Veltliners have beaten world-class Chardonnays from the likes of Mondavi and Maison Louis Latour.
Outside of Austria, Grüner Veltliner is the second most widely grown white grape variety in the Czech Republic, encompassing approximately 2,120 hectares (5,200 acres) and resulting in approximately 11% of Czech wine production. In recent years a few US wineries have started to grow and bottle Grüner Veltliner, including wineries and vineyards in Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland, the North Fork of Long Island AVA and Finger Lakes AVA regions of New York State, Napa Valley, Clarksburg AVA, Monterey AVA and Santa Ynez Valley AVA in California, Ashtabula County, Ohio, Southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and along the Lake Michigan Shore AVA of Southwest Michigan. Gruner Veltliner is also planted in Australia, particularly in the Adelaide Hills wine region in South Australia, as well as the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada.
Some ampelographers (such as Hermann Goethe in his 1887 handbook of ampelography) have long assumed that Grüner Veltliner is not related to the other varieties with “Veltliner” in their name (such as Roter Veltliner), or that it is only distantly related. A first DNA analysis in the late 1990s secured Traminer as one parent of Grüner Veltliner, but was not able to identify the other parent among the candidates studied. The other parent was later found to be an originally unnamed variety of which only a single, abandoned, very old and weakened vine was found in Sankt Georgen am Leithagebirge outside Eisenstadt in Austria. The grape is therefore referred to as St. Georgener-Rebe or “St. Georgen-vine”.
Grüner Veltliner has a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine and is a popular offering on restaurant wine lists. It is made into wines of many different styles – much is intended for drinking young in the Heuriger (bars serving new wine) of Vienna, a little is made into sparkling wine, but some is capable of long aging. The steep, Donau-like vineyards of the Danube west of Vienna produce very pure, mineral Grüner Veltliners intended for laying down. Down in the plains, citrus and peach flavours are more apparent, with spicy notes of pepper and sometimes tobacco.
A Chardonnay from Meursault.
Meursault wine is produced in the commune of Meursault in Côte de Beaune of Burgundy. The Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) Meursault may be used for white wine and red with respectively Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the main grape varieties. The production of white Meursault dominates, with around 98 per cent. There are no Grand Cru vineyards within Meursault, but several highly regarded Premier Cru vineyards.
In 2008, there were 394.05 hectares (973.7 acres) of vineyard surface in production for Meursault wine at village and Premier Cru level and 18,536 hectolitres of wine were produced, of which 18,171 hectolitres were white wine and 365 hectolitres red wine. Some 13.47 hectares (33.3 acres) of this area was used for red wines in 2007. The amount produced corresponds to almost 2.5 million bottles, of which slightly less than 50,000 bottles were red wine.
For white wines, the AOC regulations allow both Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc to be used, but most wines are 100% Chardonnay. The AOC regulations also allow up to 15 per cent total of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot gris as accessory grapes in the red wines, but this is not very often practiced. The allowed base yield is 40 hectolitres per hectare of red wine and 45 hectolitres per hectare for white wine. The grapes must reach a maturity of at least 10.5 per cent potential alcohol for village-level red wine, 11.0 per cent for village-level white wine and Premier Cru red wine, and 11.5 per cent for Premier Cru white wine.
The style of white Meursault typically has a clear oak influence, which have led to descriptions such as “buttery” to be applied to powerful examples of Meursault wines.
There are several climats in Meursault classified as Premier Cru vineyards. They consist of two groups, one to the north of the village Meursault, bordering on Volnay, and a larger group to the south of the village, in the direction of Puligny-Montrachet and Blagny. Their wines are designated Meursault Premier Cru + vineyard name, or may labelled just Meursault Premier Cru, in which case it is possible to blend wine from several Premier Cru vineyards within the AOC.
In 2007, 96.97 hectares (239.6 acres) of the total Meursault vineyard surface consisted of Premier Cru vineyards, of which 0.82 hectares (2.0 acres) red Meursault Premier Cru. The annual production of Premier Cru wine, as a five-year average is 4,706 hectolitres of white wine and 85 hectolitres of red wine.
The climats classified as Premiers Crus are:
Les Santenots Blancs (Santenots)
Les Plures (Santenots)
Les Santenots du Milieu (Santenots)
Les Santenots du Dessous (Santenots) – red only
Les Vignes Blanches (Santenots) – red only
La Jeunelotte (Blagny)
La Pièce sous le Bois (Blagny)
Sous le Dos d’Ane (Blagny)
Sous Blagny (Blagny)
Clos des Perrières
Les Gouttes d’Or
Five climats in the north of the commune together make up Santenots, which also fall within the Volnay AOC and therefore can use the designation Volnay-Santenots. Volnay is more famous than Meursault for red wine, so this designation is logical to use for red wine production. Four climats in the south of the commune are also entitled to the Blagny AOC.
Not to be confused with Petite Sirah.
Notable regions Rhône, California AVAs, Texoma AVA, Texas High Plains AVA, Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Columbia Valley AVA
Notable wines Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage
Ideal soil Stony granite
VIVC number 11748
General High tannins, high acidity, blackberry, dark chocolate
Medium climate Mint, eucalyptus, smoked meat, black pepper
Hot climate Liquorice, cloves, espresso, mocha, dark chocolate
With age Leather, wet leaves, earth
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine. In 1999, Syrah was found to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah; a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880.
The style and flavour profile of wines made from Syrah is influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown with moderate climates (such as the northern Rhone Valley and parts of the Walla Walla AVA in Washington State) tending to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint and black pepper. In hot climates (such as Crete, and the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions of Australia), Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of liquorace, anise and earthy leather. In many regions the acidity and tannin levels of Syrah allow the wines produced to have favourable aging potenti
Syrah is used as a single varietal or as a blend. Following several years of h4 planting, Syrah was estimated in 2004 to be the world’s 7th most grown grape at 142,600 hectares (352,000 acres). It can be found throughout the globe from France to New World wine regions such as: Chile, South Africa, the Hawke’s Bay, Waiheke, New Zealand, California and Washington. It can also be found in several Australian wine regions such as: Barossa, Coonawarra, Hunter Valley, Margaret River and McLaren Vale.
Furmint grape cluster.jpg
Furmint grape cluster
Colour of berry skin Blanc
Species Vitis vinifera
Origin Hungary, Slovakia
Pedigree parent 1 Gouais Blanc
Notable wines Tokaji
Formation of seeds Complete
Sex of flowers Hermaphrodite
Furmint is a white Hungarian wine grape variety that is most noted widely grown in the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region where it is used to produce single-varietal dry wines as well as being the principal grape in the better known Tokaji dessert wines. It is also grown in the tiny Hungarian wine region of Somló. Furmint plays a similar role in the Slovakian wine region of Tokaj. It is also grown in Austria where it is known as Mosler. Smaller plantings are found in Slovenia where it is known as Šipon. The grape is also planted in Croatia where it is known as Moslavac. It is also found in Romania and in former republics of the Soviet Union. Furmint is a late ripening variety. For dry wines the harvest starts usually in September, however sweet wine specific harvest can start in the second half of October or even later, and is often inflicted with Botrytis
The name Furmint may have been taken from the word “froment” for the wheat-gold colour of the wine it produces. While it is possible that the grape was brought to Hungary in the 13th century during the reign of King Béla IV, ampelographers believe that the grape is likely native to the region.
Furmint has been growing in the Tokaji region of north-eastern Hungary since at least the late 16th century when a document dated May 15, 1571 described the grape growing in the Hétszőlő vineyard in Tokaj. In 1611, the grape was also noted to have been growing in the Gyepű Valley of the Zemplén Mountains near the town of Erdőbénye, about 20 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Tokaj.
While many other wine grapes have been used in the production of the historic Tokaji dessert wine, Furmint’s use for the wine was well established by at least the late 18th century when, in 1796, the Hungarian politician János Dercsényi described Furmint as the “genuine Tokaji Aszú” grape.
Gouais Blanc, one of the likely parent varieties of Furmint.
In the early 21st century, DNA analysis confirmed that a parent-offspring relationship exist between Furmint and the Hunnic grape Gouais Blanc. As Gouais Blanc, has been noted in documents since the early Middle Ages and has been well established as the parent of several grape varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Elbling and Gamay, ampelographers believe that Furmint is likely the offspring of Gouais Blanc instead of the other way around.
DNA analysis also suggested that parent-offspring relationships exist with the Hungarian wine grape Hárslevelű and the Swiss wine grape Plantscher but instead of either being the second parent to Furmint with Gouais Blanc, ampelographers believe that it is more likely that Furmint is one of the parent variety for both grapes.
Like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and many other grape varieties, Furmint has beget over centuries a variety of clones, including a pink-skinned colour mutation known as Piros Furmint. As nearly all of these clones are found, almost exclusively, within the Tokaji region, ampelographers believe that it is highly probable that Furmint originated in this part of Hungary.
Furmint may have been introduced to Hungary during the reign of King Béla IV.
Other theories of Furmint’s origins have the grape being introduced to the Austro-Hungarian area in the Middle Ages. As noted by Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, the grape may have been brought to Hungary in the 13th century during the reign of King Béla IV. Following the destruction of the Mongolian invasion of Hungary, Béla wanted to quickly revive the country’s devastated vineyards. The king instituted several policies encouraging mass immigration of people knowledgeable in viticulture and winemaking. Many of the immigrants that heeded Béla’s call brought new grape varieties with them – one of which may have been Furmint.
Another theory has the grape being introduced even early by Italian missionaries during the reign of Stephen II of Hungary. This theory, as noted by the French ampelographer Pierre Galet, could have Furmint originating from the Lazio city of Formia located along the Appian Way with the name being a corruption of Formia’s Latin name Formianum. A later Italian introduction is credited to a soldier from Collio Goriziano region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia who fought in the Seven Years’ War between 1754 (sometimes dated to 1756) and 1763. The soldier, who was nicknamed Forment from the Italian fromento for “wheat” due to his wheat-coloured, reddish blonde beard, was granted the title of Count of Formentin by Empress Maria Theresa. In gratitude, according to this legend, the Count sent grapevines from his native land to the Empress who had them planted in Tokaji.
However, ampelographers often dismiss these Italian origin theories because, in addition to documentation showing Furmint growing in Hungary before the Seven Years’ War, DNA evidence has not connected Furmint to any Italian grape variety (as a sibling or, more likely, a parent through a natural crossing) which would seem unlikely if Furmint did originate in Italy.
Other theories for Furmint’s origin note the grape’s similarities to the Savoy wine grape Altesse and speculate that the grape may have originated there or even in Byzantium where, according to legend, Altesse was brought back to Savoy in 1367 by Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy. The Syrmia region with Serbia has also been listed as one potential birthplace for the grape.
Furmint grape cluster and leaf from Viala et Vermorel’s 1901-1910 ampelography texts.
Furmint is a late-ripening grape variety that also tends to buds early in the growing season which can make the grapevine susceptible to springtime frosts. While the loose-bunches and thick-skins of the berries make Furmint ideal for producing botrytized dessert wines, the grape can be susceptible to the viticultural hazard of powdery mildew. The Furmint vine has a high tolerance for drought condition which can allow the grape to be planted in regions with limited irrigation sources.
In Hungary, Furmint has shown a high degree of genetic diversity with several clones and colour mutation of the grape being propagated in the Tokaji region. Several of these clones, including the Féher (white), Holyagos and Madárkás clones were well known and in production prior to World War II. Other common clones of Furmint used in wine production includes the loose-berried Lazafürtű and the Változó (variable) clone and the pink-skinned colour mutation of Piros Furmint. Ampelographers have noted the proliferation of so many clones of Furmint found almost exclusively in the Tokaj region of Hungary are h4 indicators that the grape likely originated in this region as opposed to be introduced from another area.
Relationship to other grapes
The Hungarian wine grape Zéta (also known as Oremus) is a crossing of Furmint and Bouvier which, like Furmint, is often used in the production of Tokaji.
DNA profiling conducted at the University of Zagreb has shown Furmint to be likely to have a parent-offspring relationship with Gouais Blanc, which similar research elsewhere has shown to be a parent of numerous other varieties, making Furmint a half-sibling to nearly 80 different grape varieties. Furmint has also been confirmed to be the same grape as the Croatian white variety Moslavac.
Currently, there are only two known (or suspected) natural crossings of Furmint—the Tokaji wine grape Hárslevelű and the Swiss wine grape Plantscher. In 1937, Furmint was crossed with the Croatian wine grape Malvazija Istarska to create Vega. The grape has also been used to create the Italian wine grapes Bussanello (with Riesling Italico) and Fubiano (with Trebbiano) and the Hungarian grape Oremus/Zéta (with Bouvier).
Confusion with other varieties
Furmint shares a wide range of synonyms with several other European grape varieties – such as Sauvignon vert which was once known under the synonym of Tocai Friulano even though the grape was probably never used in the production of Tokay. To confuse things further, not only does Furmint share several synonyms with Sauvignon vert but Sauvignon vert itself is a synonym for the “green berry” sub-variety of Furmint. This, coupled with physical similarities between several strains of white grapevines makes identification of different wines, particularly those in developing Eastern European countries difficult.
The grape shares some morphological similarities with the Savoy wine grape Altesse and has been historically confused with the French wine grape variety. In Hungary, Furmint is sometimes confused with Kéknyelű while on the island of Korčula, in Croatia, the grape has been confused with Pošip. The Romanian wine grape Grasă de Cotnari and the Bosnian wine grape Žilavka also shares several synonyms with Furmint and are, thusly, often confused with the grape.
In 2006, there were 4,006 hectares (9,900 acres) of Furmint in cultivation in Hungary, more than 97% of which found in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region. The remaining plantings are found in the western Hungarian region of Somló in Tokaj, the grape is often blended with Hárslevelű and Sárga Muskotály (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) to produce the noble rot-influenced dessert wine Tokaji. Around the villages of Mád, Tállya, Rátka and Tolcsva in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, the grape has a long history of being used for dry wine production as well. The dry Furmint got into the attention of wine connoisseurs and experts of the world when the Úrágya 2000 single vineyard selection had been introduced by István Szepsy. The wine expressed great minerality, complexity and structure, which has been experienced only in the finest white wines of historic regions like Burgundy or the Mosel before. The aging potential was also promising. In 2003 more producers of Mád village produced single vineyard selected dry Furmint wines with great success. Mád village with its almost 1200 ha had the opportunity to produce high quality dry Furmint wine in significant quantity as a commune level wine, which can express the unique volcanic terroir of the region.
Vineyards in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region where Furmint is most widely planted.
Outside Hungary, it is found planted around the Crimea where producers have endeavored to make their own versions of Tokaji. For the same reason, small plantings of the grape have been done in the Swartland region of South Africa. In Austria it is most commonly found in Burgenland (where is known as Zapfner)) and Styria (where it is known as Mosler).
In the Burgenland region (now in Austria), Furmint was historically associated with the production of the sweet dessert wine Ausbruch. The grape gradually fell out of favour in the Burgenland but in the 21st century, several Ausbruch winemakers (particularly around Rust) have been rediscovering the grape’s potential in their area. In 2010, there were 9 hectares (22 acres) of the grape in cultivation in Austria, mostly around Rust.
Across the border from Hungary, in Slovakia, Furmint is most commonly used in the production of sweet wines in the Tokaj region that includes several towns within the Trebišov District: Bara, Čerhov, Černochov, Malá Tŕňa, Slovenské Nové Mesto, Veľká Tŕňa, and Viničky.
In Slovenia, Furmint is known as Šipon with 694 hectares (1,710 acres) in cultivation in 2009, mostly along the Podravina river in the Styria region. Here the grape is often made as a varietal wine in both dry and sweet, Tokaji-like styles. Furmint is also known as Šipon in Croatia (where it is also known as Moslavac) as well. Here the grape is almost always used to make dry style wine with 422 hectares (1,040 acres) of the variety in cultivation as of 2008. In Zagreb County of the Moslavina region, Croatian wine producers have also been experimenting with using Furmint in sparkling wines, often blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
Furmint is most widely known for being a primary component of Tokaji wine.
In the United States, there are some isolated plantings of Furmint in the California wine region of the Russian River AVA of Sonoma County.
Wines and styles
Furmint can be produced in a variety of styles ranging from bone dry to extremely sweet wines afflicted by noble rot. The grape has the potential to produce wines with naturally high levels of acidity with complex flavours derived from phenolic compounds in the juice and through brief contact with the grape skins. Furmint wines, particularly the botrytized dessert wines, can have immense aging potential with some well made examples from favourable vintages continuing to age for over a century. These wines, described by wine expert Oz Clarke as nearly “immortal”, are most often the aszú style wines of Tokaji made from the top 10-15% of Furmint harvested. This potential comes from the balance of acidity and high levels of sugars in the wine which act as preservatives during the aging process.
Dry styles of Furmint are characterized by their aroma notes of smoke, pears and lime. Dessert style wines can develop notes of marzipan, blood orange, apricots and barley sugar. As these dessert styles of Furmint age they will often develop more smokey and spicy notes of tobacco, tea, cinnamon and even chocolate.
A bottle of Prosecco di Conegliano spumante extra dry and a glass of Prosecco frizzante, which stops forming bubbles soon after pouring
Prosecco (/prəˈsɛkoʊ, proʊ-/ Italian: [proˈsekko]) is an Italian white wine. Prosecco controlled designation of origin can be spumante (“sparkling wine”), frizzante (“semi-sparkling wine”), or tranquillo (“still wine”). It is made from Glera grapes, formerly known also as Prosecco, but other grape varieties may be included. The following varieties are traditionally used with Glera up to a maximum of 15% of the total: Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.
The name is derived from that of the Italian village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape and wine originated.
Prosecco DOC is produced in nine provinces spanning the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. Prosecco Superiore DOCG comes in two varieties: Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, which can only be made in the Treviso province of Veneto on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (north of Treviso), and the smaller Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, produced near the town of Asolo.
Prosecco is the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail and can be a less expensive substitute for Champagne. It is also a key ingredient of spritz, a cocktail popular in northern Italy.
The first use of the word “Prosecco” in “Il Roccolo Ditirambo” (1754)
In Trieste at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the local wine “Ribolla” was promoted as the recreation of the Pucinian wine of antiquity, celebrated by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History and praised for its medicinal qualities by Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus. The need to distinguish the “Ribolla” of Trieste from other wines of the same name, produced in Gorizia and at lower cost in Istria, led, at the end of the century, to a change in name. Following the supposed place of production in antiquity, the wine was referred to as “castellum nobile vinum Pucinum”, after the castle near the village of Prosecco.
The first known mention of the name “Prosecco” is attributed to the Englishman Fynes Moryson, who, visiting the north of Italy in 1593, notes: “Histria is devided into Forum Julii, and Histria properly so called… Here growes the wine Pucinum, now called Prosecho, much celebrated by Pliny”. He places Prosecco among the famous wines of Italy: “These are the most famous Wines of Italy. La lagrima di Christo and like wines neere Cinqueterre in Liguria: La vernazza, and the white Muskadine, especially that of Montefiaschoni in Tuscany: Cecubum and Falernum in the Kingdom of Naples, and Prosecho in Histria”.
The method of vinification, the true distinguishing feature of the original Prosecco, spread first in Gorizia, then – through Venice – in Dalmatia, Vicenza and Treviso. In 1754, the word “Prosecco” appears for the first time in the book Il roccolo Ditirambo, written by Aureliano Acanti: ‘And now I would like to wet my mouth with that Prosecco with its apple bouquet’.
Up until the 1960s, Prosecco sparkling wine was generally rather sweet and barely distinguishable from the Asti wine produced in Piedmont. Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the high-quality dry wines produced today. According to a 2008 New York Times report, Prosecco has risen sharply in popularity in markets outside Italy, with global sales growing by double-digit percentages since 1998, aided also by its comparatively low price. It was introduced into the mainstream U.S. market in 2000 by Mionetto, now the largest importer of Prosecco, who also reported an “incredible growth trend” in 2008. Consumption also ballooned in the UK, which became, in the mid-2010s, the biggest export market for Prosecco, consuming fully one quarter of all Italian production.
Until the 2008 vintage Prosecco was protected as a DOC within Italy,as Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano and Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. From 2009, this has been promoted to DOCG status. To further protect the name, an association of traditional Prosecco growers is advocating a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law. Since 1 January 2010, Prosecco is, according to an order of the Italian Minister of Agriculture of 17 July 2009, not the name of a grape variety any more (now to be called Glera), but exclusively a geographical indication. This was confirmed by EG-Regulation Nr. 1166/2009 of 30 November 2009.
Sparkling wine production
Glera grapes on the vine in the Prosecco zone pre-veraison
Unlike Champagne, its main commercial competitor, Prosecco usually is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks,making the wine less expensive to produce. The rules for the DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene also allow the use of the Metodo Classico: secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually. As of 2008, 60 percent of all Prosecco is made in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene area. Production there amounted to €370 million in 2007. Since the 2000s, Glera (Prosecco) grapes also are cultivated and wine from the grapes is produced in other countries including Brazil, Romania, Argentina, and Australia.
In the region of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene there are more than 150 producers and they form together the Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (Consorzio per la Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene).
Bottle of Prosecco clearly showing the DOC designation on the label
Prosecco DOC can be Spumante sparkling wine, Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) depending on the perlage. Prosecco DOC Spumante is the most famous and popular variety and has a fine long-lasting perlage. Prosecco DOC Frizzante has a light, less lingering perlage. Prosecco DOC Tranquillo is a still wine, with no perlage. Depending on their sweetness, in accordance with the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations for Terms used to indicate sweetness of sparkling wine, Proseccos are labelled “Brut” (up to 12 grams per litre of residual sugar), “Extra Dry” (12–17 g/l) or “Dry” (17–32 g/l). The still wine (tranquillo) amounts to only about five percent of production but this wine is rarely exported. Proseccos labelled with another, non-protected designation, such as “IGT-Veneto”, are generally cheaper and of a more varied quality.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG
Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG can only be made in the Treviso province of Veneto on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Producers from Valdobbiadene have recently tended to skip the mention of Conegliano on their front label, calling their wine Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. There is also the smaller Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, produced near the town of Asolo. While the bulk of Prosecco DOC is grown on low-lying plains in an extended area covering 20,000 hectares, Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG is grown exclusively on hillside vineyards in a far smaller growing area totaling 6,586 hectares. The steepness of the hills of Valdobbiadene means that everything, from pruning to picking, is principally done by hand. The manual aspect, especially for the harvest, further increases quality.
Superiore di Cartizze
The hill of Cartizze is a 1,000-foot-high vineyard of 107 hectares (260 acres) of vines, owned by 140 growers. The Prosecco from its grapes, of which comparatively little is produced, is widely considered to be of the highest quality or even the “Grand Cru” of Prosecco. Accordingly, a hectare of Cartizze grape land was estimated to be worth in excess of one million US dollars in 2008, and its value was estimated to have increased to 1.5–2 million euros in 2015, the most for a vineyard in Italy. The sparkling wine produced from Cartizze has recently been named by producers as Superiore di Cartizze, without mentioning Prosecco on the front label to further emphasize its territory.
According to a local legend, Cartizze grapes traditionally were harvested last, as the vines were situated on steep slopes and hard to reach, which led to vintners discovering that this extended ripening period improved the flavour. Nonetheless, in a blind tasting at the 2006 Vinitaly trade fair, Cartizze spumanti were ranked consistently behind “normal” Prosecco.
While Cartizze is at the top of the Prosecco Superiore DOCG quality pyramid, the Consorzio recently introduced their official Rive delimitations, i.e. subzones that are named after the area where the grapes originate, highlighting the different microclimates and distinct terroirs found throughout the growing zone.
Some winemakers are reviving the customary Prosecco Col Fondo, refermented in the bottle but not disgorged, as the wines are left on their lees. This yeasty residue leaves a fine sediment on the bottom (fondo in Italian) that imparts more complexity and flavour. These wines are currently labelled Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, without the added term Superiore—which is reserved for wines that have at least 3.5 bars of pressure in the unopened bottle, while the Col Fondo generally have 2.5 bars.
Cheap Prosecco frizzante is also sold in cans.
In Italy, Prosecco is a ubiquitously utilized wine. Outside Italy, it is most often drunk as an apéritif, much as Champagne is. As with other sparkling wines, Prosecco is served chilled.
Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle, and it grows stale with time. It should be drunk as young as possible, preferably within three years of its vintage, although high-quality Prosecco may be aged for up to seven years.
The view that Prosecco cannot be aged has been challenged by other experts. A tasting in 2013 of wines produced between 1983 and 2013 demonstrated the longevity of the wines from one of their top producers.
Compared to other sparkling wines, Prosecco is low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume. The flavour of Prosecco has been described as intensely aromatic and crisp, bringing to mind yellow apple, pear, white peach, and apricot. Unlike Champagne, appreciated for its rich taste and complex secondary aromas,most Prosecco variants have intense primary aromas and are meant to taste fresh, light and comparatively simple.
Most commonly Prosecco is served unmixed, but it also appears in several mixed drinks. It was the original main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail and in the Spritz cocktail, and it can also replace Champagne in other cocktails such as the Mimosa. With vodka and lemon sorbet, Prosecco is also an ingredient of the Italian mixed drink Sgroppino.
Type Appellation d’origine contrôlée
Year established 1936 (white), 1959 (red)
Part of Loire Valley
Sub-regions Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, Chavignol, Bué
Size of planted vineyards 2,600 hectares (6,425 acres) (2006)
Varietals produced Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
Sancerre is a French wine Appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC for wine produced in the area of Sancerre in the eastern part of the Loire valley, southeast of Orléans. Almost all of the appellation lies on the left bank of the Loire, opposite Pouilly-Fumé. It is well regarded for and primarily associated with Sauvignon Blanc. Some Pinot Noir is also grown, accounting for around 20% of the region’s production, making mostly light red wines under the designation of Sancerre Rouge. A rosé style from Pinot Noir is also produced in a style similar to Beaujolais.
White Sancerre was one of the original AOCs awarded in 1936, with the same area being designated for red wines on 23 January 1959. The AOC area has expanded fourfold over the years, most recently on 18 March 1998. The town lies on an outcrop of the chalk that runs from the White cliffs of Dover down through the Champagne and Chablis. A series of small valleys cut through the chalk, each with their own soils and microclimate and terroir. In the east are the “flints” that make minerally, long-lived wines. Between the town and Verdigny the soil consists of marl and gravel – “les caillottes” – producing fruity, well balanced wines. And in the southwest, away from the river towards Menetou-Salon, the chalky “terres Blanches” (white ground) produce weightier wines. Most – but not all – of the Sauvignon Blancs are unoaked.
Sancerre’s reputation for being a food friendly wine contributed to its popularity in the late 20th century as a popular wine on restaurant wine lists.
The area around Sancerre was likely first cultivated by the Romans, perhaps in the 1st century AD, though the exact date is unknown. The foundations of two separate Roman bridges across the Loire can be seen at the river village of St-Satur, the port for Sancerre, marking its ancient position along a major Roman route. The chalk hill outcrop was not only a distinctive landmark known in Roman times but it also fit the profile of the type of areas that was usually the first to be cultivated-it was near an important town and had easy access to a navigable river. Most importantly, however, the steep sloping hills could provide the grapes with enough direct sunlight and warmth to fully ripen while allowing cold air to flow off the slope and pool into the valleys below.
The region was historically linked to the Duchy of Burgundy, which may have played a role in the introduction of Pinot Noir vines to this area. Sancerre’s position as an administrative centre, and the large nearby cities of Orléans and Bourges (which was the capital of the powerful Duke of Berry) ensured healthy local markets for the Pinot Noir and Gamay wines traditional in the area. Demand further increased with the coming of the railway from Paris. In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic devastated the area wiping out the majority of the region’s vines. While some Pinot Noir vines were retained most of the Gamay was lost. They were replanted with Sauvignon Blanc, partly because it grafted better onto the American rootstocks. After World War II, the wines gained a reputation in the Paris bistro scene as an easy drinking white wine equivalent to Beaujolais. In the late 1970s and 1980s, a wave of quality consciousness helped elevate the reputation of Sancerre as an elegant and food friendly white wine that became a popular feature on restaurant lists across the globe.
Climate and geography
The distance between Sancerre (highlighted in pink within yellow box) and the Atlantic coast diminishes the maritime influence on the region and gives it more of a continental climate.
Sancerre is part of the “central vineyards” of the Loire Valley, so named not because they are in the centre of the Loire but rather because they are nearly in the centre of France. Together with neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé, the region makes up the eastern most extension of the Loire Valley. The area is more than 300 miles (483 kilometres) from the Atlantic Coast and the Loire region of Muscadet, and is actually closer to the Champagne wine region than it is to the Middle Loire city of Tours and the Vouvray and Chinon AOCs. The distance from the Atlantic gives this region more of a continental climate than typical of the rest of the Loire with short, hot summers and long, cold winters that may extend the threat of frost damage into early spring.
The most dominating geographical influence of Sancerre is the nearby Loire river which flows northward past the city before it curves westward at Orleans and makes its path to the ocean. Located on the west bank of the river, Sancerre nearly faces the neighbouring wine region of Pouilly-Fumé on the east bank of the river just a few miles upstream towards the south. The region is located north of the city of Nevers and 22 miles (35 kilometres) northeast of Bourges, To the northeast, the Burgundian wine region of Chablis is only 60 miles (97 kilometres) away and shares the same out cropping of chalk soil that extends all the way to the White Cliffs of Dover in England.
Most vineyards planted on the hills around Sancerre are on south facing slopes at altitudes between 655-1,310 feet (200–400 meters). The soils around the area can be roughly classified into three categories. The far western reaches heading towards Menetou-Salon have “white” soils with clay and limestone. Around the village of Chavignol (considered a cru of Sancerre), the soil also includes some Kimmeridgian marl. Wines from these western reaches tend to have more body and power in their flavour profile. Heading closer to the city of Sancerre the soil picks up more gravel mixed with the limestone and tends to produce more light bodied wines with delicate perfumes. The third classification of soil is found around the city of Sancerre itself which includes many deposits of flint (also known as silex) that add distinctive mineral components. These wines tend to be heavily perfumed with the longest aging potential of Sancerres.
Viticulture and winemaking
Sancerre includes both sloping vineyards and flatter terrain.
As a cool continental climate region, one of the main viticultural threats in Sancerre is springtime frost. Throughout most of the growing season the nearby Loire river to the east and forest to the west help moderate temperatures. Vine growers in the area tend to utilize cordon or single Guyot vine training and tailor their canopy management techniques to whichever style of Sauvignon Blanc they are looking to produce. Grassy, herbaceous styles of Sauvignon Blanc are more prevalent with large, leafy canopies, while producers wishing to minimize these qualities may need wide, open canopies. In cooler vintages, the growers may need to take the additional measures of leaf plucking and de-budding in order to thin out the canopy and produce more fruit concentrated grapes.
A Sancerre rouge is made from Pinot Noir.
The age of vine can also contribute to how much grassy character the resultant wine may have as well as how early the grapes are harvested. Many of the phenolic compounds and aroma compounds, such as pyrazine, that contribute to h4 grassy flavours are found in the grape skins, eventually breaking down as it goes through its ripening process. Grapes that are harvested before they are physiologically ripe may have more overt grassy notes. How the harvest is conducted will depend on where the vineyards are located. As the steep slopes on which many Sancerre vineyards are planted make mechanical harvesting difficult many vineyards are picked by hand. However, in the flatter vineyards located more towards the west of the appellation, mechanical harvesting is starting to become more prevalent.
The focus of Sancerre winemakers is usually to express the pure fruit flavours of Sauvignon Blanc and the natural terroir of the region with very little adjustments taking place during winemaking. Most Sancerre is produced without malolactic fermentation and little oak influences. However, since the late 20th century more producers have begun experimenting with some degree of oak fermentation or aging. While most of the wines in this area are produced dry, in exceptionally warm and ripe years (such as 1989) some producers have made a late harvest wine. However, these are very rare. And while Sancerre Blanc is the most widely produced style, both Sancerre rouge and a dry rosé style wine are also produced with Pinot Noir.
Sancerre wines often have very little interaction with oak, instead spending most of their fermentation and aging period in large stainless steel or fibreglass fermentation tanks, like this from a producer in the Sancerre village of Crézancy.
Wine expert Tom Stevenson describes the classic profile of Sancerre Blanc as bone dry, highly aromatic with intense flavours of peaches and gooseberries. He describes Sancerre rouge as being light to medium bodied with floral aromas and delicate flavours. The Pinot Noir based rosés are described as dry and light bodied with raspberry and strawberry notes. Other wine experts such as Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson note that in recent years overproduction has introduced a lot of variable quality with some Sancerre Blancs producing flavour profiles that are not that much different from generic Sauvignon de Touraine from the Middle Loire, though this varies depending on the producer and overall quality of the vintage.
The styles of Sancerre will vary somewhat depending on what part of the wine region in which the grapes are produced. Around the village of Bué in the western reaches of the AOC, the soils tend to have more clay and produce more full bodied and rounded wines. The village of Chavignol, located to the northwest just outside Sancerre, has light soils that include a mix of limestone and gravel which produce more perfumed wines. Near Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre there is more flint deposits and the wines take on more mineral and steely notes. Within Sancerre the three villages of Bué, Chavignol and Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre (and sometimes Verdign) have become so widely associated with distinctive and high quality wines that they are often referred to as “crus” even though Sancerre is not officially classified like parts of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Still, restaurants in Sancerre will often specify which wines on their wine list come from which of these three villages,while wine producers also try highlighting bottlings from these vineyards by including the village name on the wine label.
Comparisons to other Sauvignon Blancs
Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Sancerre is often compared to neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé which also specializes in 100% Sauvignon Blanc wines, and while there are some differences, wine experts like Robinson, Johnson and Karen MacNeil note that only very experienced tasters can distinguish the differences in a blind tasting. Broadly speaking, Sancerre tends to have a fuller body with more pronounced aromas, while Pouilly-Fumé wines are more perfumed. However, both wines have naturally high acidity and the potential to exhibit the minerally, flinty notes described as pierre à fusil or gunflint, as well as citrus and spicy notes.
Similarly Sancerre is compared to Sauvignon Blancs produced around the globe. According to Master of wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Sancerre tends to be less herbaceous and grassy than Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and the Alto-Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Compared to Sauvignon Blanc grown in Bordeaux, which are often blended with Semillon, Sancerre can be both more concentrated with more racy acidity. When contrasted with New World examples from California, Washington, Chile and South Africa, Sancerre tends to exhibit more assertive mineral flavours.
Pinot Noir grapes growing near the village of Bué.
In 2006, the Sancerre AOC included 6,425 planted acres (2,600 ha).The AOC covers the communes of Bannay, Bué, Crézancy, Menetou-Râtel, Ménétréol, Montigny, Saint-Satur, Sainte-Gemme, Sancerre, Sury-en-Vaux, Thauvenay, Veaugues, Verdigny and Vinon. Within the appellation there are several highly regarded vineyards, such as the Clos de la Poussie, Chêne Marchand, and Le Grand Chemarin, but since the mid-1990s local regulations have prohibited producers from making vineyard designated wines in Sancerre. Some producers have attempted to get around this regulation by abbreviating the name of the vineyard as part of a cuvée designation such as Jean-Max Roger’s bottling of Sancerre Cuvée GC from the Le Grand Chemarin vineyard.
According to AOC regulations, only Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are permitted as AOC classified Sancerre wine. While Sauvignon Blanc represents the vast majority of the area’s production, Pinot Noir can account for anywhere from 1/5 to 1/6 of annual production depending on the vintage. The yields of Sancerre Blanc are limited to a maximum of 60 hectolitres per hectare while Sancerre rouge and rose are restricted to maximum yields of 55 hl/ha. The minimum alcohol content of Sancerre Blanc is 10.5% alcohol per volume while Sancerre rouge and rosé must maintain a minimum alcohol level of 10%. Wines made outside these AOC regulations must be declassified from AOC wines to vin de pays table wine such as Vin de Pays du Jardin de France.
“Servanien” redirects here. For the red French wine grape also known as Servanien, see Servanin.
“Sylvaner Musque” redirects here. For the German wine grape also known as Sylvaner Musqué, see Bukettraube.
“Rouchelin” redirects here. For another French wine grape that is also known as Rouchelin, see Chenin Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes.jpg
Ripe Sauvignon Blanc grapes
Colour of berry skin Blanc
Species Vitis vinifera
Also called Sauvignon jaune, Blanc Fume (France), Muskat-Silvaner (Germany & Austria), Fume Blanc, and other synonyms
Notable regions South Africa, Chile, New Zealand, California, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Ukraine
Notable wines Sauternes, Sancerre
Hazards Powdery mildew, oidium, black rot, and Botrytis cinerea
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage (“wild”) and Blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of Savagnin. Sauvignon Blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the states of Washington and California in United States. Some New World Sauvignon Blancs, particularly from California, may also be called “Fume Blanc”.
Depending on the climate, the flavour can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and “green flavours” of grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit (such as passion fruit) and floral (such as elderflower) notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes but risk losing a lot of aromatics from over-ripeness, leaving only slight grapefruit and tree fruit (such as peach) notes.
Wine experts have used the phrase “crisp, elegant, and fresh” as a favourable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.
Along with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, as varietal Sauvignon Blancs tend to develop vegetal aromas reminiscent of peas and asparagus with extended aging. Dry and sweet white Bordeaux, including oak-aged examples from Pessac-Léognan and Graves, as well as some Loire wines from Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are some of the few examples of Sauvignon Blancs with aging potential.
The first Friday in May is International Sauvignon Blanc Day.
The first plantings of Sauvignon Blanc were introduced to California at Cresta Blanca Winery (pictured) in the Livermore Valley.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape traces its origins to western France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux Regions. As noted above, it is not clear that the vine originated in western France. Ongoing research suggests it may have descended from Savagnin. It has also been associated with the Carmenere family. At some point in the 18th century, the vine paired with Cabernet Franc to parent the Cabernet Sauvignon vine in Bordeaux. In the 19th century, plantings in Bordeaux were often interspersed with Sauvignon vert (In Chile, known as Sauvignonasse) as well as the Sauvignon Blanc pink mutation Sauvignon gris. Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, the insect plague which devastated French vineyards in the 19th century, these interspersed cuttings were transported to Chile where the field blends are still common today. Despite the similarity in names, Sauvignon Blanc has no known relation to the Sauvignon rosé mutation found in the Loire Valley of France.
The first cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc were brought to California by Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, in the 1880s. These cuttings came from the Sauternes vineyards of Château d’Yquem. The plantings produced well in Livermore Valley. Eventually, the wine acquired the alias of “Fumé Blanc” in California by promotion of Robert Mondavi in 1968. The grape was first introduced to New Zealand in the 1970s as an experimental planting to be blended with Müller-Thurgau.
Climate and geography
Vineyards in Sancerre will often plant roses around Sauvignon Blanc vines as an early detector of powdery mildew.
The Sauvignon Blanc vine often buds late but ripens early, which allows it to perform well in sunny climates when not exposed to overwhelming heat. In warm regions such as South Africa, Australia and California, the grape flourishes in cooler climate appellations such as the Alexander Valley area. In areas where the vine is subjected to high heat, the grape will quickly become over-ripe and produce wines with dull flavours and flat acidity. Rising global temperatures have caused farmers to harvest the grapes earlier than they have in the past.
The grape originated in France, in the regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Plantings in California, Australia, Chile and South Africa are also extensive, and Sauvignon Blanc is steadily increasing in popularity as white wine drinkers seek alternatives to Chardonnay. The grape can also be found in Italy and Central Europe.
In France, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the maritime climate of Bordeaux (especially in Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and Pessac-Léognan as a dry wine, and in Sauternes as a sweet wine) as well as the continental climate of the Loire Valley (as Pouilly Fumé, Sancerre, and Sauvignon de Touraine). The climates of these areas are particularly favourable in slowing the ripening on the vine, allowing the grape more time to develop a balance between its acidity and sugar levels. This balance is important in the development of the intensity of the wine’s aromas. Winemakers in France pay careful attention to the terroir characteristics of the soil and the different elements that it can impart to the wine. The chalk and Kimmeridgean marl of Sancerre and Pouilly produces wines of richness and complexity while areas with more compact chalk soils produces wines with more finesse and perfume. The gravel soil found near the Loire River and its tributaries impart spicy, floral and mineral flavours while in Bordeaux, the wines have a fruitier personality. Vines planted in flint tend to produce the most vigorous and longest lasting wines.
Pouilly Fumé originate from the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, located directly across the Loire River from the commune of Sancerre. The soil here is very flinty with deposits of limestone which the locals believed imparted a smoky, gun flint flavour to the wine and hence Fumé, the French word for “smoky” was attached to the wine. Along with Sémillon, Muscadelle and Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc is one of only four white grapes allowed in the production of white Bordeaux wine. Mostly used as a blending grape, Sauvignon Blanc is the principal grape in Château Margaux’s Pavillon Blanc, In the northern Rhône Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is often blended with Tressallier to form a tart white wine.
A dry white Bordeaux made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
In the Sauternes region, the grape is blended with Sémillon to make the late harvest wine, Sauternes. The composition of Sauvignon Blanc varies from producer and can range from 5-50% with the Premier Cru Supérieur Château d’Yquem using 20%. A traditional practice often employed in Sauternes is to plant one Sauvignon Blanc vine at regular intervals among rows of Sémillon. However, Sauvignon Blanc’s propensity to ripen 1–2 weeks earlier can lead the grapes to lose some of their intensity and aroma as they hang longer on the vine. This has prompted more producers to isolate their parcels of Sauvignon Blanc.
Near the edge of the Chablis commune is an AOC called Saint-Bris that is gaining attention for its Sauvignon Blanc production.
In Australia, particularly the Margaret River region, the grape is often blended with Sémillon. Varietal styles, made from only the Sauvignon Blanc grape, from Adelaide Hills and Padthaway have a style distinctive from their New Zealand neighbours that tend to be more ripe in flavour with white peach and lime notes and slightly higher acidity.
Chile and Brazil
In the early 1990s, ampelographers began to distinguish Sauvignon Blanc from Sauvignonasse plantings in Chile. The character of non-blended Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are noticeably less acidic than the wines of New Zealand and more similar to the French style that is typical of Chilean wines. The region of Valparaíso is the most notable area for Sauvignon Blanc in Chile due to its cooler climate which allows the grapes to be picked up to six weeks later than in other parts of Chile. In Brazil, ampelographers have discovered that the vines called Sauvignon Blanc planted in the region are really Seyval Blanc.
In the 1990s, Sauvignon Blanc wines from the maritime climatic regions of New Zealand, particularly the South Island, became popular on the wine market. In the Marlborough Region, sandy soils over slate shingles have become the most desirable locations for plantings due to the good drainage of the soil and poor fertility that encourages the vine to concentrate its flavours in lower yields. In the flood plain of the Wairau River Valley, the soil runs in east-west bands across the area. This can create a wide diversity of flavours for vineyards that are planted north-south with the heavier soils producing more herbaceous wines from grapes that ripen late and vines planted in stonier soils ripening earlier and imparting more lush and tropical flavours. It is this difference in soils, and the types of harvest time decisions that wine producers must make, that add a unique element to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
The long narrow geography of the South Island ensures that no vineyard is more than 80 miles (130 km) from the coast. The cool, maritime climate of the area allows for a long and steady growing season in which the grapes can ripen and develop a natural balance of acids and sugars. This brings out the flavours and intensity that distinguish New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. More recently, Waipara in the South Island and Gisborne and Hawkes Bay in the North Island have been attracting attention for their Sauvignon Blanc releases, which often exhibit subtle differences to those from Marlborough. The asparagus, gooseberry and green flavour commonly associated with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is derived from flavour compounds known as methoxypyrazines that becomes more pronounced and concentrated in wines from cooler climate regions. Riper flavours such as passion fruit, along with other notes such as boxwood, may be driven by thiol concentrations.
In North America, California is the leading producer of Sauvignon Blanc with plantings also found in Washington state and on the Niagara Peninsula and Okanagan Valley in Canada. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in small regions in Ohio along Lake Erie and the Ohio River. In California wine produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape is also known as Fumé Blanc. This California wine was first made by Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi Winery in 1968. Mondavi had been offered a crop of particularly good Sauvignon Blanc grapes by a grower. At that time the variety had a poor reputation in California due to its grassy flavour and aggressive aromas. Mondavi decided to try to tame that aggressiveness with barrel agings and released the wine under the name Fumé Blanc as an allusion to the French Pouilly-Fumé. The usage of the term is primarily a marketing base one with California wine makers choosing whichever name they prefer. Both oaked and unoaked Sauvignon Blanc wines have been marketed under the name Fumé Blanc. California Sauvignon Blancs tend to fall into two styles. The New Zealand-influenced Sauvignon Blanc have more tropical fruit undertones with citrus and passion fruit notes. The Mondavi-influenced Fumé Blanc are more round with melon notes.
Sauvignon Blanc is also beginning to gain prominence in areas like South Africa’s Stellenbosch and Durbanville and Italy’s Collio Goriziano areas. It is also one of the main ingredients in Muffato della Sala, one of Italy’s most celebrated sweet wines.
Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand, demonstrating restrictive pruning practices.
Winemakers in New Zealand and Chile harvest the grapes at various intervals for the different blending characteristics that the grape can impart depending on its ripeness levels. At its most unripe stage, the grape is high in malic acid. As it progresses further towards ripeness the grape develops red & green pepper flavours and eventually achieves a balance of sugars. The flavours characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc come from the chemicals methoxypyrazines. Grapes grown in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley may exhibit different levels of ripeness over the vineyard, caused by slight unevenness in the land and giving a similar flavour profile to the resulting wine.
Sauvignon Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process. One decision is the amount of contact that the must has with the skins of the grape. In the early years of the New Zealand wine industry, there were no wineries on the South Island which meant that freshly harvested grapes had to be trucked and then ferried to the North Island, often all the way up to Auckland. This allowed for prolonged exposure of the skins and juice which sharpened the intensity and pungency of the wine. Some winemakers, like the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of must to spend some time in contact with the skin for later blending purposes. Other winemakers, like in California, generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced aging ability of the resulting wine.
Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18 °C) that bring out the mineral flavours in the wine while New World winemakers prefer slightly colder temperatures to bring out more fruit and tropical flavours. A small minority of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation, a practice more often associated with New Zealand wines. Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavours and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the sharp focus and flavour intensity.
For the Hungarian wine grape also known as Sauvignon vert, see Furmint. For a French wine grape that is also known as Sauvignon vert and Tokay, see Muscadelle.
Species Vitis vinifera
Also called Sauvignonasse, Friulano, Tocai Friulano, Tokaj, Točaj (more)
Notable regions Chile, Friuli, Slovenian Littoral
Sauvignon vert (also known as Sauvignonasse & Friulano) is a white wine grape of the species Vitis vinifera. It is widely planted in Chile where it was historically mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is distinct from the California planting of Muscadelle which is also called Sauvignon vert.
Another synonym of Sauvignon vert is the Italian wine grape known as Friulano in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Giulia was known as “Tocai” Friulano until March 31, 2007 when the European Court of Justice of Luxembourg set the prohibition of using the name “Tocai” in the name of the wine (as stipulated in a 1993 agreement between the European Union and Hungary). Since 2007 Tocai Friulano is merely known as “Friulano” in Friuli and is labelled as such.
The main confusion in Europe of the name Tocai Friulano is due to the Hungarian wine known as Tokaji (Hungarian of Tokaj) which does not have any Tocai Friulano in it all, and is composed typically of the following grapes: Furmint (70%), Hárslevelű (20–25%), and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (5–10%). Hungary does not want anyone confusing the dry and aromatic Italian Tocai Friulano (which is a unique wine in and of itself) with their special sweet style wine called Tokaji. Some believe that early editions of Tocai Friulano in Italy were most likely made of the grape Furmint. The first record of a “new” Tocai, probably made from Sauvignonasse, is documented only in 1932.
The Pinot grigio vine, which is also prevalent in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, is known by the synonym Tokay d’Alsace in Alsace but there is no connection between Tocai Friulano (Sauvignon vert) and Pinot grigio.
The grape is believed to have originated in the Veneto region and from there traveled to other Italian regions especially to the Friuli region where it was cultivated since 1600. In Italy the grape was historically known as Tocai or Tocai Friulano for centuries. The grape has no known relation to any of the grapes used in the Hungarian wine Tokaji, even though evidence suggests that following the wedding of the Venetian princess Aurora Formentini to the Hungarian Count Batthujany in 1632, some vines of Tocai Friulano were brought with the princess to Hungary. To better distinguish the wines and to protect the Tokaji name, the European Union established regulations prohibiting the use of names too closely associated and easily confused with Tokaji. Winemakers in the Friuli have elected to just refer to the grape as simply Friulano.
The grapes were also planted outside Italy in the Goriška region of Slovenia, especially in the Vipava Valley and Goriška Brda and was known as “Tokaj”. After the European Union prohibition, the Slovenian wine producers have first changed the name of the wine in Sauvignonasse or Zeleni sauvignon (Green Sauvignon). After a few years, in 2013 the name of “Tokaj” was changed to “Jakot”, now the official name for the grapes and wine from Slovenia wine regions.
From Italy the grape is believed to have spread to France where it was transported to Chile as “Sauvignon Blanc”. Only in the 1990s did ampelographers determine that the Chilean “Sauvignon Blanc” was actually Sauvignon vert. Once the discovery was made, plantings of “true” Sauvignon Blanc increased as Sauvignon vert (or Sauvignonasse as it known) decreased. While the grape still remains a popular planting in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Goriška Brda, it currently has little presence in other parts of the world.
Unlike Sauvignon gris, which is a clonal mutation of Sauvignon Blanc also found in Chile, Sauvignon vert has no known connection with Sauvignon Blanc. The vines were believed to be interspersed together in Bordeaux during the 19th century when the cuttings were brought to Chile labelled as just “Sauvignon Blanc”. The leaves and berry clusters of the Sauvignon vert and Sauvignon Blanc are very similar which explains part of the confusion between the two vines. The two vines also have similar susceptibility to Botrytis. The wines made from the two grapes are noticeably different when compared together with Sauvignon Blanc being much more aromatic with notes of ripe fruit like gooseberries and black currant that Sauvignon vert lacks in favour of softer, floral flavours. Sauvignon Blanc also has more acidity than Sauvignon vert and retains much of its vibrancy and flavours longer.
Viticulture and wine
Sauvignon vert is a late budding vine with high sensitivity to downy mildew and oidium. The vine is prone to producing high yields which must be controlled in order to make premium quality wine. With Sauvignon vert, the quality of the wine depends greatly on the grapes being harvested at the right point. If picked too early the resulting wine will be dull and lack any varietal character. The grape also has the potential for very high levels of alcohol with 14.5% ABV not being uncommon.
The wine made from Sauvignon vert varies depending on the area in which it is produced. In the Friuli region, Friuilano and in Goriška Brda region, Jakot wine is typically full bodied with moderate acidity, floral aromas and delicate fruit flavours.In Chile, Sauvignon vert typically starts with aromas of green apples in its youth that fade as it ages and is more medium bodied.
While Sauvignon vert still has some presence in Chile, the grape’s most noted homes are in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Goriška Brda where it is one of the regions’ most widely planted grape varieties. In the Friuli it is the main white grape of the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) zones of Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio Goriziano, Friuli Grave and Friuli Isonzo where the grape accounts for more than 20% of those areas’ total vineyard plantings. The grape is believed to be related to the Tocai Italico vine which is planted throughout the Veneto region. The only doubt involves the Tocai Italico plantings around the town of Breganze which ampelographers believe is a different vine altogether. Argentina, with its close ties to Italian viticulture, also has a small amount of Friulano vines planted.
Sauvignon gris is pink colour wine grape that is a clonal mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is primarily found in Bordeaux and Chile, where it was imported with Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon vert cuttings. The grape produces less aromatic wines and is often used for blending.