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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Grüner Veltliner

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Posted by Burke Morton On November - 6 - 2009

GrüVeThere is something of a natural progression of understanding wine for someone in the wine trade as they mature through many roles, and for those who harbor some humility, they start with the great regions of the wine world and work outward. Those of us who wanted to be the young lions of the wine trade managed to avoid the chestnuts and sought out the obscure wines that no one else knew, and because of this, many people believed that we were more knowledgeable about wine than we actually were, because we must already know the great wines. This group of insufferables, of which I was surely a part, has a tendency to champion obscure grape varieties, and occasionally some of them became rather trendy. One of the most successful of these trends that started eight or nine years ago was around Grüner Veltliner, a wine that should never have been simply trendy—it is one of the great white wines of the world.

This is on my mind because I’ve been hearing that Grüner Veltliner is apparently out of favor. This notion is kind of ridiculous because, beyond the groundswell of retailers, sommeliers, and some adventurous wine lovers, it never really took off they way I had hoped. It has gotten harder to sell it at retail lately, but this is true for most white wines. Smart retailers will continue to stock and sell GrüVe (and yes, it is groovy...) anyway because it offers some of the world’s greatest values, especially the more expensive they get. Any expensive Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay at $80 to $300 seems like highway robbery compared to the outrageous complexities of a $40 GrüVe.

Why GrüVe is Great

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s most noble contribution to the wine glass outside of crystal companies, and it is a wonderfully flexible wine with food. Any food that you think goes well with Chardonnay usually goes better with an archetypal GrüVe. I have read such assertions before, with some doubt, only to find with experimentation that they are true. It is so versatile at the table that clever (and generally older, I suppose) sommeliers discovered that GrüVe actually goes well with such wine enemies as artichokes, brussel sprouts, and arugula. Chefs love to use these things, and sometimes it seems they’re throwing down the gauntlet to the sommelier: “show me what you’ve got—match something with my spontaneous concoction of shrimp, white truffle, paddlefish caviar, and lentils, served in a leek hollow with a sweet pea, saké, and free range rabbit stock reduction.” Now I love this kind of challenge, and when I’ve been painted into a corner, I can usually use Grüner Veltliner as my trump card.

GrüVe in the Glass

So what is it like? It has fruit characteristics that remind me of rhubarb and kiwi fruit, but these don’t dominate entirely. You may also find a lentil or split pea notion, and a floating, ethereal essence that reminds me of the mimosa that grew behind my childhood home. This wine description sounds unlike most others, and the wine itself is different from most others, but it doesn’t possess anything particularly foreign in flavor that might inhibit accessibility. And GrüVe can be sleek and radiant with rays of sun streaming through your mouth, or it can be vast and burly in the way that I find great Chardonnay to be. Ask your local retailer about what they have and give one a try. I hope it will be groovy for you too.

Food and Wine Harmony

Grüner Veltliner is insanely versatile for food--so much so that I keep on hand and use it often. It works with a wide variety of foods that are excellent with other wines, and it is the one wine that goes with those foods that are notorious antagonists of wine.
Vegetables: Almost every vegetable tastes good with Grüner Veltliner, and the ones that don't generally work with wine at all tend to be delicious with Grüner Veltliner, and can often be revelatory: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, green beans, kale, radish, sorrel, spinach, swiss chard, et al.
Land: pork (esp. roast loin), sweetbreads, veal (esp. roasted), Wiener Schnitzel
Sea: lobster (without butter is best, but it doesn't really matter), scallops, shrimp, sushi

Popularity: 14% [?]

The Vine’s Enemy: Phylloxera Vastatrix

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Posted by Burke Morton On November - 4 - 2009

photo: dogeared-1144I just got an e-mail asking, “What is phylloxera, and what does it do?” Here is a relatively brief answer (most entries on this topic are outrageously long) to a complex problem:

Any name ending in “-trix” can't be good. Whether it's a dominatrix or an Agent from The Matrix, you know there's going to be pain involved (though Beatrix Potter was certainly a benign individual...). [Okay...if it is your inclination to get bent out of shape here, I'm not making a political statement--I know full well that the '-trix' suffix is feminine (where the '-tor' suffix is masculine)--but it is an archaic form that rarely surfaces with a good meaning...when was the last time you heard the words directrix, executrix, or mediatrix? It might be fun to bring them back, however. Whatever else is true, I'm sure you'll agree that Beator is not a good woman's name.] Anyway, Phylloxera vastatrix--a dastardly scourge that only attacks grapevines--hit France in the 1860s and by the end of the decade wine growers were no doubt scanning the horizon for the four horsemen, because this root-feeding aphid wreaked destruction on vineyards across Europe (and therefore had a calamitous social and economic impact). While it is under control today, it continues to be a problem.

Phylloxera is a native of the eastern part of the United States, where it feeds on the native grape vines without doing serious damage. European wine grapes--Vitis vinifera--have no natural defenses against this microscopic louse, which came to Europe on vines imported by fanatical amateur botanists in Victorian England. Hordes of this insect (which, as you will see, are not hard to come by) eventually destroyed vineyards across Britain, and then moved to the continent, where this menace--anointed vastatrix because it was “the devastator” (and males don't live long enough to do anything other than their standard procreative function)--feasted as no pest has feasted before. The only vines that remained unaffected were those planted on soils containing high concentrations of sand or schist, as the louse does not survive well in these kinds of soil.

The Life of the Louse

As is not atypical for an aphid, phylloxera has an up to eighteen stage life cycle. This is divisible into four parts: sexual form, leaf form, root form, and winged form.

The sexual form is born from eggs laid on the bottom side of young grape leaves. The males and females mate, the females lay a single winter egg in the bark of a vine's trunk, then they both die.

From this single egg comes the female stem mother, which is the leaf form. It climbs onto a leaf, injects it with saliva (often creating a depression in the leaf that acts as a nest), and lays several eggs by self-propagation (parthenogenesis).

The nymphs that hatch from the leaves are the root form. They crawl down to the roots, perforating the surface of the root to feed on the sap, secreting a poison that prevents the root from healing. This keeps the root open for return visits, but is also the death knell for the vine. There are up to seven generations created by these nymphs over the course of the summer, each one producing females that lay more eggs (by parthenogenesis) on the roots.

The last generation of these nymphs hatch in the autumn and hibernate in the roots, and in humid areas mature into the winged form. They climb the roots with the sap in the early spring, and fly off in search of other vines to destroy (or in the case of wingless nymphs, continue to scuttle their current home), where they lay eggs on the bottom side of a young grape leaf, and the cycle begins again.

Trying to Solve the Problem

Insidious! This is geometric expansion of a single louse, involving only one sexual reproduction (the rest is essentially self-cloning). Generally, the more complex a life cycle, the easier it should be to eradicate a species. The phylloxera life cycle is apparently infinitely adaptable, because interruption of the life cycle at any stage has done nothing to halt its advance. It has proven so resilient that it is likely to stand with the cockroach in surviving a nuclear holocaust.

The solution to the destruction of Europe's wine grapes lay in grafting rootstock from American vine species onto cuttings of European grapevines. Phylloxera has proven adaptive even to that approach: a rootstock that is resistant in one country may not be resistant in another. Grafting is another topic altogether, for a later time.

A Narrative Bibliography

If you wish to do any further research, or check on mine, my reference sources include my own observations of phylloxera at work, as well as the 2nd Edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine; The Wines of Alsace by Tom Stevenson; Burgundy by Anthony Hanson; and Vines, Grapes, and Wines by Jancis Robinson.

Popularity: 37% [?]

Gewürztraminer

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Posted by Burke Morton On November - 2 - 2009

GewurztraminerGewürztraminer is the grape variety that makes one of the wine world's most effulgent and warming wines. When it is well made, it is a serious wine indeed, with an obvious voluptuousness and brazenness. To make this seem less high-brow, I'll call it the Mae West of wine. As you might expect with such a wine, drinkers tend to have polarized reactions to it, though the reaction to the wine doesn't tend to break down along gender lines.

Gewürztraminer (guh-VURTZ-TRA-mee-ner, pronounced this way because it...) is a pink-berried mutation of the Traminer (TRA-mee-ner) grape variety. It earned the gewürz (which literally means "spiced" in German) modifier thanks to its heady perfume, which is so exuberant that it alone provides enough information to identify the wine blind.

The Qualities of the Wine
The basic character of Gewürztraminer is generally broken into two styles: one defined by spiced aromas and opulence, and the other by a floral fragrance and a slightly reserved essence. In both cases, one may detect aromas akin to litchi nuts, rose petals, and/or grapefruit and honey, and when it is bone-dry it can smell strongly of bacon fat. It often tastes of litchi nuts as well, but in the depths of its golden hue many flavors lurk, and since varietal stereotyping makes me uncomfortable anyway, I'll just say that whatever flavors it presents, they are so bold that one can easily grow weary of the flavor profile of a run-of-the-mill Gewurz. However, a Gewürztraminer from a Grand Cru in Alsace can be fabulously complex, continuously evolving, and capable of mid-term aging (20 years or so, but, with a couple of exceptions, I fail to see why one would wait so long). Over the course of a decade in the bottle, the spice quality of a great Gewürztraminer intensifies to such a degree that simply opening a bottle has made my kitchen smell as though I just pulled some gingerbread out of the oven.

If you are a lover of wines of finesse, then perhaps Gewürztraminer is not for you. However, many a finesse-driven Gewurz exists, largely from vintages that are not "hyped" by the growers or wine press--i.e., cooler vintages that didn't necessarily ripen the other varieties grown in the region. These wines are lovely and seductive but more demure and more versatile (with food or without) than bigger, bolder Gewürztraminers.

Speaking of food...

Food and Wine Harmony

Gewurztraminer is generally quite food friendly, so long as the food your are serving with it is also strongly-flavored. This makes it a good companion during the holidays, when many disparate flavors come together at a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. It is also the classic (and best) pairing for French Muenster (not the sandwich cheese from Wisconsin). In fact, if you don't like Gewurz, you may find that the wine makes more sense with Muenster.

It is commonly recommended with Indian and Thai food (especially curries), though I am not generally a proponent of this, as the flavors too often clash. This is not to say that I don't find Gewurz to be felicitous with spicy food, because I do generally like it with Cajun cuisine and a broad range of Chinese foods, including Sichuan and Hunan. It is best to experiment here, as it is unfair to Sichuan and Hunan cuisines to suggest that the wonderfully wide variety of flavors found in the foods of these regions go well--as a class--with Gewürztraminer, which is obviously not the case. It is also a great companion for dishes with a pronounced smokiness, or strong flavors of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, or soy.

Cheese: Époisse, Muenster (the French kind), Roquefort
Meats: Cornish Game Hen, Duck, Pâté (esp. if the Gewurz is off-dry), Pork (especially roast loin and ham), Prosciutto (esp. with melon), Turkey,
Fruits: Coconut, Litchi Nuts, Mango, Papaya
Vegetables: Acorn Squash, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Sauerkraut, Grilled Vegetables

Dessert form of Gewürztraminer: this goes well with the same cheeses, but is also sensational with coconut desserts (huzzah for coconut creme pie!), as well as fruit desserts based on tropical fruits like mango and papaya.

You may safely stop here without missing anything. Should you want to learn a bit more, read on...

Hurdles to Making Great Gewürztraminer
It takes very little sunny and warm weather for Gewürztraminer to reach maturity on vine. It is therefore not the easiest variety for growing to make great wine, because it presents the inverse of the challenge associated with more famous wine grapes: it has a high level of natural sugar while its natural acids are rather low. The high grape sugar means that its alcoholic content is commonly over 13-14%, which limits its use with food to heartier cuisines. The low acid means that it can be quite flabby and unappealing unless a grower carefully employs vineyard practices that encourage acid:sugar balance. Good growers are capable of wrenching great wine from this quirky grape even in such blisteringly hot vintages as 2003. The Great Growers of Gewurztraminer (GGG, I guess...) often find enough acidity AND sugar in their grapes that they need to leave an appropriate level of residual sugar in the final wine, though I rarely find such wines taste overtly "sweet."

Gewürztraminer Around the World
There is no question that Alsace is the spiritual home of Gewürztraminer, as the preponderance of Gewurz is planted and made there. It is not a lucrative grape to grow, it is occasionally found from estates and growers who have an affection for it. It is grown to a limited extent in Germany, and does rear its head across eastern Europe, though it is fairly insignificant. It has become a relatively popular variety to grow in New Zealand and in some of the cooler pockets of California. It is in Oregon and Washington that it has made its New World home, with many dedicated growers, especially in Washington, crafting some exciting examples.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Riesling

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Posted by Burke Morton On September - 16 - 2009

RieslingThe jewel in the crown of any growing region where it may thrive (and like Pinot Noir, that is a narrow range of places), Riesling is the world's finest white wine grape. Okay, in the interest of equanimity, it is arguably the world's finest white wine grape. Certainly it is responsible for the finest white wines in the cool-climate regions of three of the world's great wine-growing countries--Austria, Germany, and France.

Riesling has suffered at the hands of bad wines made in its name, and suffers still from a bottle shape that also reminds consumers ineluctably of that too-sweet wine that they thought they had left behind. Over the years of rehabilitation, Riesling has proven that--while great--it is certainly not for everyone, and it is still fabulously unfashionable in the minds of drinkers who haven't yet been willing to let go of what they "know" and approach Riesling without prejudice.

Misunderstood though it may be, this statement cannot be gainsaid: based on the kaleidoscopic flavors it can present, along with the incredible sense of fathomlessness (if you want this to be a more dispassionate statement, you may substitute "along with numerous indescribable qualities") it can achieve, whether bone dry or super-sweet, a well-made Riesling has no peer. I'll give Chenin Blanc a close second, a grape is possibly even less fashionable than Riesling lately (given the rate with which Chenin is being pulled up in South Africa).

Riesling has a soaring aroma and intense flavors, and usually a lower alcoholic content, especially in Germany, where after fermentation, unfermented grape juice (usually called süssreserve) is added to the wine in order to balance out the high acids that are routine in the cool-climates of the Mosel River and its tributaries, the Ruwer and Saar Rivers. Alcohol levels of 8% are the norm, but in Austria and Alsace, the wines are much more potent at 12%. They are also generally made in a dry style.

I have poured many a BONE DRY Riesling to customers who will insist that it is sweet after they've tasted it. This happens less often if I can pour it in a blind-tasting. That it continues to happen even in a neutral setting is attributable to the simultaneous purity and depth of fruit inherent to Riesling that Chardonnay, for example, doesn't have. Tasters expecting the relatively fruit-poor expressions of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and to a certain extent Pinot Grigio, will no doubt perceive sweetness in a dry Riesling. The irony is that a dry Riesling almost surely possesses less sugar than any of these others.

Food and Wine Harmony

Riesling is among the most useful of wines at the table. Residual sugar is, up to certain limits--a non-issue. Savory food tends to like sugar mixed-in, making Riesling an obvious choice for a mellifluous pairing. It would almost be better to say what it DOES NOT go well with, as that is a much shorter list. Some obvious choices, though, are:
Dry: Asian cuisine, beef (can be a revelation!), cheese, chicken, Choucroute, ham, duck, goose, onion tart, rabbit, salmon, trout
Off Dry: apples, Asian cuisine, chicken, crab, mild curry, roast duck, fish, fruit and fruit sauces, pork, smoked salmon, scallops, roast turkey, Vietnamese food
Sweet: dessert (except chocolate, depending on the wine), foie gras

Unless you want to go deep with Riesling, you may safely stop here without missing a thing.

The natural disposition of Riesling is so fine--provided it is planted in the proper regions--that it can continue to ripen for many weeks after initial ripeness is attained. The natural relationship between the grape's sugars and acids can be maintained while the grape has an opportunity to develop more flavors. This is seen most clearly in Germany, with designations for different ripeness levels that are dictated in several cases by the number of days between harvest (i.e., Kabinett wines may be picked no earlier than two weeks after the first picking of the basic "Qualitätswein")

Riesling from Alsace is not particularly similar to German Riesling, though occasional similarities can be seen with the Trocken (dry) Rieslings from the Pfalz in Germany. German Riesling, especially those from the Mosel area are low in alcohol and can seem to be born out of the ether.

Riesling is a particularly hardy vine, and this is especially helpful in cooler wine regions where other grape varieties might succumb to frost damage. Riesling's springtime bud-break is later than most, and ripening comes earlier than other famous varieties, but achieving full-ripeness in cooler regions can stretch well into Autumn--late October or even late November.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Pinot Noir

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Posted by Burke Morton On August - 10 - 2009

Pinot NoirThis great grape of Burgundy has been a wine-world nexus of legend and disappointment for at least two millennia. It can achieve such glorious heights of seductiveness and heart-rending power that it is the one grape variety that ambitious winemakers worldwide want to wrestle with at some point in their career path.

A capricious (and therefore expensive) vine to grow, Pinot Noir only thrives in a narrow range of climates, and while it will yield fruit in the hot regions that the much more flexible Cabernet Sauvignon is routinely grown in, the main charms of Pinot Noir--a sensuous essence and graceful subtlety, along with the more cerebral transparency of provenance--are lost to what would be better-off sold in a jar as imitation cherry jam.

It is exactly these charms that have fascinated and excited drinkers of Pinot Noir since the Romans occupied France. In its youth, it has flavors and aromas akin to cherries, violets, raspberries, and rosehips. As it matures, it sheds these nubile elements and acquires qualities that remind me of some experiences I've had while camping--woodsy, game-y notions that are warming and unforgettable.

Burgundy is still the standard-bearer for this variety, producing Pinot Noirs of a sensational assortment of characteristics within a 60km span of the roughly 80km length of the Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise combined. Depending upon the growing area, it can be extraordinarily perfumed and shimmering, or zesty and bold, or intensely powerful and rich, all without losing the essential ethos of Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is also grown with great success in Oregon, California, Italy, Austria, New Zealand (especially Central Otago, but really almost anywhere is good), and Australia (esp. Yarra Valley in Victoria and Margaret River on the southwestern coast). There are many excellent examples from other regions of France (Alsace, Champagne, and the Loire Valley), and from less commonly considered growing areas like Germany, Austria, and Italy.

In my experience, Pinot Noir is not for everyone, insofar as a drinking it without food is concerned. It often has a fragile, nervy, and mercurial character, even when the wine is quite robust. Merlot is much more of an everyman's wine, and is (or was, but is becoming so again) appropriately popular. I have found that those who dislike Pinot Noir in general, actually enjoy it with an appropriate food pairing. Because of the wide variety of flavors and styles in which Pinot Noir can be cast, it is good to know the wines you are choosing from before going in, or consult with your sommelier or wine retailer.

Tasting Pinot Noir
One should use a bulbous glass when tasting Pinot Noir. The commonly accepted design for a Pinot Noir Glass looks like a brandy snifter on a tall stem. This glass is designed to give the aromatics of Pinot Noir room to expand before directing them to the taster's nose through a small opening.

When tasting many other wines alongside Pinot Noir, one should taste Pinot Noir first. This is true for white wine as well. White wine can (and Riesling will) cause the taster's perception of Pinot Noir to be distorted and unpleasant.

Pinot Noir with Food
There is hardly anything that really doesn't work with Pinot Noir, though sweet and/or spicy foods are typically not a good combination, but I've had many exceptions. Also, it isn't terribly good as a companion for most smoked fish, but see below for an exception.
Land: roast beef, steak tartare, charcuterie, lamb loin, pork loin, rabbit, veal, liver, duck, game birds, quail, squab
Cheese: Époisse, Gruyère, aged goat, Brie
Fish: salmon, trout, smoked bluefish, scallops, tuna, shark
Fruit & Vegetables: mushrooms, cherries, beets, fennel, eggplant, root vegetables

Unless you're looking for deeper knowledge about Pinot Noir, you may stop here without missing a thing....

More on Pinot Noir (for those with the desire to fill up on relevant info)

The Pinot family is a convoluted one. Pinot Noir is one of the more ancient vine varieties, and is, as a result, genetically unstable. This led to the mutation of the vine into Pinot Gris (and Pinot Gris then mutated into Pinot Blanc, so the mutation hardly helped stabilize the vine). We also have other mutations of Pinot Noir, the most important of which is Meunier (aka Pinot Meunier). Also found in the Pinot family are the many progeny of Pinot and Gouais Blanc: St. Laurent, Auxerrois (also known as Pinot Auxerrois), and further on down the family tree, Chardonnay.

Growing location imparts an ineffable set of qualities to Pinot Noir that is impossible to duplicate except from the same set of vines. Apart from Riesling, it is the grape that most eloquently expresses terroir, or the combination of soil, micro-climate, and various uncontrollable human macro influences, of a given growing site. One can perhaps correlate the ethereal Pinots from Russian River Valley to the ethereal Volnays grown in the Côte de Beaune of Burgundy. However, from vineyard to vineyard in RRV the wines have an individualistic character, and this same effect is even more dramatically exemplified in Volnay, due to strictly defined sub-regions based on, usually, soil type. The differences between these wines side-by-side and half-way across the world can be even further radicalized by the winemaker's actions in the winery.

Pinot Noir is not just difficult to work with on the vine, but also in the winery. It never endures recipe winemaking (though some try to subject it to this), because questions continuously arise over the fragile juice that is turning into wine. A notoriously thin skin leaves yearly concerns about the wine's potential tannin content as an oenologist tries to extract what little color is willing to leech out of the grape skins without also getting too much tannin. I.e., one can easily have overly tannic wines trying to achieve the dark purplish-red typical of Pinot Noir. This is bad because grape skin tannins are much less appealing ("mouth-puckering" comes to mind) than tannins acquired from an oak barrel (which is more-or-less pleasantly tongue-gripping). Conversely, the skins can often contain very little tannin, so no amount of additional soaking will yield tannin in the appropriate character and in enough quantity to ensure longevity. To solve this winemakers may leave the stems in the fermentation vat (if they don't already use a whole-cluster method) to impart necessary tannic structure. This has its own problems, as the stems may not be fully "ripe" themselves, so the tannin character they can impart is potentially quite harsh. Another concern revolves around pigéage (which is the punching down of the cap that forms during fermentation) or pump-overs (which uses a vacuum pump to keep the cap wet). Generally the gentler the better (pigéage is gentler), but I have heard some winemakers argue for pump-overs in certain vintages.

France, with the world's tenderloin of Pinot Noir production in Burgundy's Côte d'Or, continues to produce the most soul-stirring examples of this hallowed variety. In addition to the Côte d'Or and Côte Châlonnaise mentioned above, Pinot Noir is planted to a limited extent also in the Côte d'Auxerre in northern Burgundy, and the Mâconnais at the southern end. Champagne holds the single largest area of Pinot Noir in France. Aside from using it for sparkling wine, several estates make still red wine, often blended with Meunier. The reds and rosés of Sancerre in the Loire Valley are made from Pinot Noir, and it is also the only legally allowed red wine grape in Alsace.

Pinot Noir is Germany's most noble red variety, and it increasingly successful in Pfalz, Rheingau, and Baden. Germans refer to it as Spätburgunder or Blauburgunder.

In Austria, it is an important if minor variety in the Burgenland (that would be the German for Burgundy...), the country's principal source of red wine, where it is grown alongside St. Laurent, Blaufränkisch, and Zweigelt. Austrians often refer to Pinot Noir as Blauer Spätburgunder.

Pinot Noir is a commonly found grape in Switzerland where it is often blended with Gamay to make Switzerland's most famous (which isn't saying very much--market penetration of Swiss wine is not good) wine, Dôle.

California has perhaps the most reliable climate for growing grapes in the world, and Pinot Noir is grown widely there, but is most successful (to my mind), in no particular order, in the Central Coast, Sonoma County, Mendocino, and Carneros.

Oregon is more climatically aligned to Burgundy, and the wine profiles are similarly diverse. A source of some sensational Pinots, most of the wines in Oregon are made in the Willamette Valley. There is an excellent case to be made for the Pinots of the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, which are typically more dense and velvety.

New Zealand is now well established as a source of fine Pinot Noir. Central Otago has been showing great promise, but Marlborough and Christchurch (esp. Waipara) produce excellent wines as well. The wines tend to start at an expensive tier (around $30), but top out far below the most expensive wines from Burgundy, California, and Oregon...for now.

Known as Pinot Nero in Italy, it is widely planted in Lombardy, in the northern reaches of Italy, where in addition to making red wine, it is used in Franciacorta for that region's sparkling wines.

Spain has very little Pinot Noir planted, and given the typically high average temperature of the growing season, this will likely stay that way. There are plantings across eastern Europe, but nothing has as yet taken hold as a new hot-spot for Pinot Noir.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Syrah (Shiraz)

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Posted by Burke Morton On July - 16 - 2009

SyrahSyrah is one of the world's great red wine grapes. It has a principal aroma and flavor of black raspberries. In its native northern Rhône, it is long-lived and can be stiff and somewhat unappealing in its youth, but it can be full of glorious, sensuous fruity and savory characteristics in its maturity. Grown in Australia, where it is called Shiraz (also called Shiraz in other regions where the desire is to communicate a warm-climate character), it comes in two basic styles: laden with jam qualities in hotter climates like Barossa or McLaren Vale, and elusive and edgy--more akin to its Rhône cousin--in cooler areas of Margaret River or Victoria.

Syrah is the northern Rhône's main grape variety. Famously long-term wines come from the appellations of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, but equally ageworthy wines hail from the small appellation of Cornas, where a minimum of ten years maturation is the norm for even the entry-level wines. Syrah is used to add some backbone to wines across southern France, usually giving longevity to Grenache-based wines. It is grown is every region of Australia, and is particularly successful in the central coast of California, and in the Columbia Valley of Washington.

Syrah has only recently been definitively determined to be a native of the Rhône Valley. The variety was for years conjectured by some to have originated in or around the ancient Persian city of Shiraz (located in modern-day Iran). A few blustery legends developed around this, but in 1999 a comprehensive ampelographic study determined it to be the offspring of two wildly obscure French grapes, Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza.

Syrah with Food
From the cooler climates, it is excellent with cheese, grilled duck, lamb, osso bucco, steak, venison, and wild mushrooms.
From the warmer climates, good pairings include barbecue sauce, BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, chili, hamburgers, ribs, and grilled sausages.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Video Today


You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 64% [?]

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