Peculiarities of Perception

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Time flies when you’re having fun (or better put: time flies when you’re having rum).

A watched pot never boils.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

It seems—at least from the platitudes we often use—that we all understand that perception is relative. Time does seem to fly by when you’re having fun, but every  second spent while stuck in traffic drags by endlessly.

This vagary of perception is equally easy to understand when applied to taste. For instance, I love coffee, but when served black it’s too bitter for me. Once I add a shot of milk, I don’t notice the bitterness as much (and I drink at least three cups every morning). I also like Earl Grey tea, but only if there is a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lemon involved, making it taste less tannic and (in my opinion) richer and smoother.

Wine enthusiasts experience these peculiarities of perception with just about every taste – despite the fact that we don’t always know or recognize it. First-time sippers of Sauternes often have an immediate reaction to the sweetness of the wine (some even recoil from it). However, Sauternes is typically quite acidic in addition to its more obvious sweetness. We just don’t notice it (unless we are truly focused on finding it), as our perception of the acidity is masked by the sweetness – especially on the attack (the first few seconds of the tasting experience).

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Sweetness (residual sugar) in a wine really does a number on our overall perception of that same wine, and can be credited with the following peculiarities on the palate:

  • Suppresses the perception of acidity
  • Suppresses the perception of bitterness
  • May suppress the perception of astringency (tactile dryness)
  • May enhance the perception of viscosity

And then there are those factors that cause a quirk in our ability to perceive true sweetness (residual sugar) in a wine:

  • Acidity, tannin, and/or bitterness may suppress the perception of sweetness
  • High(ish) levels of alcohol enhance the perception of sweetness
  • Bubbles in sparkling wine tend to suppress the perception of sweetness
  • Aromas of oak and/or vanilla mimic sweetness
  • Oak-derived lactones: mimic sweetness
  • Fruity aromas tend to mimic sweetness
  • Cold temperatures suppress the perception of sweetness
  • Glycerol (glycerin) has a sweet taste (but is not sugar)

Most of this only really matters if you are trying to analyze a wine (as in a blind tasting or when writing a tasting note), or when you are trying to develop your palate and improve your wine tasting ability. If this happens to be one of your idiosyncrasies, perhaps you’d like to check out the attached chart (see below) that lists the peculiarities of the perception of sweetness in wine, as well as some for bitterness, tannin, and acidity.

I hope it makes the time fly!

Check out the chart here: The Peculiarities of Wine Perception – the Bubbly Professor

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

 

Girò, Nasco, Nuragus: the Grapes of Cagliari

Cagliari coastline

Cagliari is the capital city of the Italian island (region) of Sardegna (Sardinia). Located on the southern edge of the island, the city and its surrounding municipality (also known as Cagliari) are home to more than 430,000 people.

Cagliari is a modern city built on and around the ruins of an ancient civilization; people have lived and congregated here for over 5,000 years. There are many amazing sites to see for the traveling history buff: check out the spooky pre-historic chamber tombs of Domus de Janas, the Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari, or the hilltop citadel Il Castell. Art lovers will want to make sure to leave time to visit the Galleria Comunale d’Arte di Cagliari —and anyone and everyone will want to spend some time on Poetto beach.

Foodies will have plenty to keep them occupied as well. In addition to the ridiculously abundant seafood, be sure and try the uniquely Sardinian Pane Carasau (a thin, crisp bread), fregola (a small, pearled pasta somewhat similar to couscous), and culurgiones (stuffed pasta similar to ravioli). Of course, you’ll want to eat as much Pecorino—a sheep’s milk cheese made in many regions of Italy, with a great deal produced in the area around Cagliari—as you possibly can.

Poetto Beach

And then there is the wine. The island of Sardegna produces a great deal of wine, much of it reflecting the 400-year Spanish rule that lasted until the 1700s. Sardegna boasts 18 PDO wines, including Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Malvasia di Bosa DOC, and Vermentino di Gallura DOCG—the island’s only DOCG.

There is also a Cagliari DOC that encompasses the city and municipality of Cagliari as well as a good section of the island’s southern and western portions. A range of wines are produced under the auspices of the Cagliari DOC, including red wines based on the Monica grape, white wines using Moscato and/or Vermentino, and both still and sparkling wines based on Malvasia.

Cagliari also produces some unique wines based on unique grapes, such as Nasco (Nasco di Cagliari DOC), Girò (Girò di Cagliari DOC) and Nuragus (Nuragus di Cagliari DOC). It was the unfamiliar (to me) names of these grapes that caught my eye and inspired this post. You’ll find some information about these grapes and these wines below—hopefully you’ll find them as interesting as I did.

Photo by Fabio Ingrosso, via Wikimedia commons

Nuragus (Nuragus di Cagliari DOC): Nuragus is a white grape variety that—despite its seeming obscurity—is the second most widely-planted white grape on the island of Sardinia (after Vermentino). Wines produced using Nurugus tend to be somewhat neutral in aroma and character; however, the best (low-yield) versions can be crisp in acidity, somewhat bitter, and redolent of green apples and almonds. The Nuragus grape is used—blended with other white grapes—in up to 15 different IGP wines of Sardinia, and is often used in the production of vermouth.  The Nuragus di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of dry and sweet wines (based on a minimum of 85% Nuragus) in both still and sparkling version.

Nasco (Nasco di Cagliari DOC): Nasco, a white grape, is rumored to have been introduced to Sardinia via Spain (although there is as yet no solid evidence to confirm this). History tells us that the grape was once widely planted across the island, but the variety did not fare well post-phylloxera. These days,  Nasco is grown in very small amounts in and around Cagliari—reported plantings total just 423 acres/171 ha—and it is possible that it is not planted anywhere besides Sardinia.  The Nasco di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of dry wines, sweet wines, and fortified wines (which may be either dry or sweet). The grape—and its wines—are known for a musky aroma, as well as aromas and flavors of green herbs, dried flowers, honey, sweet spices, and apricots.

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Girò (Girò di Cagliari DOC): Girò is a cherry-scented red grape variety, also believed to have been introduced to Sardinia via Spain. It was widely grown throughout the island before phylloxera, but now is somewhat limited to the area around Cagliari. At last count, Sardinia had just over 1,300 acres (525 ha) of vines planted to Girò. The grape thrives in hot, dry climates—and such conditions will lead to high concentrations of sugar, but sometimes leads to low acidity.

The Girò di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of still (non-sparkling) red wines, both dry and sweet. Many Girò di Cagliari DOC wines are fortified, and post-harvest drying of the grapes is sometimes used to produce passito-style wines as well.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Un-study Techniques: Wine (or Spirits) Map Scavenger Hunt

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This is the sixth post in our series about “un-study techniques” for use in wine and spirits studies.  Click here to view our other posts on un-study techniques.

Un-study techniques are all about what to do when you need to study…but you just can’t stand the thought of studying. You feel burned out, unmotivated, and like your brain can’t handle one more AOC, DOP, obscure grape variety, aging requirement, or other factoid. It happens to the best of us!

The next time you really need to study but you just can’t stand another book, handout, or flashcard…how about a scavenger hunt? Surely that sounds ok!

For just such an occasion, we’ve designed the “Wine (or Spirits) Map Scavenger Hunt” activity. This activity requires the use of the Google Maps search (“get directions”) function and should take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete (unless you choose to go down a photo search rabbit hole—but that’s up to you). The Wine (or Spirits) Map Scavenger Hunt activity will help you engage with and understand some of the regions/places/appellations on your wine and spirits maps (as opposed to just “memorizing” them—which gets exhausting).

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To go on a wine or spirits map scavenger hunt, the first thing you need to do is to pick the region you want to study. We have four scavenger hunts ready to go: Argentina, Bordeaux’s Left Bank, Napa County, and Scotch Whisky (these resources are found below).

Next, you need to download a wine or spirits map of the location you have chosen and print up the scavenger hunt location list. Using the wine or spirits map as a key, trace or draw a rough “blank map” of the region. We’ll be plotting our locations on the blank map as we go.

Then, fire up your internet connection and access Google Maps. Choose one item from the location list and allow the miracle of Google Maps to take you there. Look around a bit and make sure you are in the right place. You might want to click on some of the pictures, zoom out and use the satellite function to check out the terrain (if you are hunting in a wine region the vineyards are likely to be of interest), or zero in on your location and see what you can learn. Mark the location on the blank map you’ve drawn and make sure to note the name of the location and the region (appellation).

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Next, click on the icon for “directions” and type in the location that you think is closest to the first location (you can go in any order on the location list page—the list is randomized). You might want to choose the directions for walking, but it is probably best to choose driving directions. Once you’ve landed on the new location look around a bit (like you did before). Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity, plot the new location on your blank map (the paper-and-pencil version).

Continue using Google Maps to plot your locations. As you find them, re-arrange the items in the list of driving or walking directions so that you are plotting the most efficient way to navigate through the region whilst visiting each of your locations—this will help you learn distances between regions as well as the east/west/north/south orientation of your chosen spot.  When you are done you should have a nice record of your virtual trip through the region.

You can use the scavenger hunts we’ve posted below, or you can make your own. To make your own scavenger hunt, start with the wine or spirits map of your choice, draw or trace it in order to create a blank map, and then search one interesting spot in each area you want to explore. Use whatever type of establishment (winery, vineyard, distillery, historical site, restaurant/bar/wine bar, etc.) that will hold your interest and increase your understanding of the area. As you find your spots, use the Google Maps “directions” tool to map your course! Be sure to “log” each of your finds onto the paper-and-pencil map you made. After all…we do want to make this as (painlessly) educational as possible!

Happy Hunting!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Mind your Latitude: 30° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  30 degrees North! Wine production is not incredibly widespread this close to the equator, but we found some interesting wine regions and wineries, as well as a distilled spirit or two!

Baja California:  The Mexican state of Baja California, located in the northern half of the Baja California Peninsula, produces over 90% of all of Mexico’s wine. The main wine region here is the Valle de Guadalupe, located about 12 miles/20 km north of the city of Ensenada. The Baja California wine industry has grown quickly since its modern-day beginnings in the 1990s, and now there are more than 20 wineries, dozens of modern restaurants, and an influx of new hostelries located in the region—clustered along Highway 3, now dubbed “El Ruta de Vino.” Vines are planted on hillsides at elevations typically ranging from 1,000 feet/305 m to 1250 feet/380 m high, and the area enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate tempered by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. A wide range of grape varieties are grown in the Valle de Guadalupe; leading varieties include Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah.

Bell Mountain AVA: The Bell Mountain AVA is located in Gillespie County (central Texas) about 60 miles west of the city of Austin. Approved in 1986, Bell Mountain was the first AVA located entirely in Texas to be approved (it is pre-dated by a few months by the Mesilla Valley AVA [shared between Texas and New Mexico]). Bell Mountain is a tiny AVA centered on the southwestern slopes of its namesake mountain. Bell Mountain stands 1,956 feet/ high, with most of the vineyards planted at 1,640 to 1,970 feet (500 –600 m) of elevation. The well-drained soils and elevation differentiate the terroir of Bell Mountain from the surrounding (and much larger) Texas Hill Country AVA (approved in 1991). Leading grape varieties of the Bell Mountain AVA include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Viognier.

Jiujiang, China: The city of Jiujiang, located within the China’s Jiangxi Province, is situated on the southern shores of the Yangtze River. Jiujiang has been a leading center of baijiu (rice- or grain-based distillate) production since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). These days, the area around the city of Jiujiang is still known for its rice wine and baijiu; specifically a type of rice-scented baijiu known as Shuangzhengjiu (“double-distilled liquor”), as well as Sanzhengjiu (“triple-distilled liquor”).

Negev, Israel: The Negev wine region is located in the southern section of Israel. Located on the edge of the Syrian Desert, this is an arid region that often receives less than 4 inches (100 mm) of rain per year. Despite these challenges, Negrev has a history of viticulture and wine production that goes back thousands of years. In modern times, drip irrigation has allowed the area’s wines to improve in both quality and quantity (although it still accounts for a mere 5% of the country’s total wine output). The area does contain some hills, and many vineyards are planted on the hillsides at elevations up to 2,625 feet/800 meters above sea level. The first commercial winery to open in Negev was the Sde Boker winery, established in 1999 in association with the Hebrew University’s School of Agriculture.  The Negev wine region now has over two dozen wineries as well as a wine trail—the Negev Desert Wine Route.

Punjab, India: The majority of India’s vineyards and wine industry are centered around the state of Maharashtra, located in the southwestern part of the country. However, the Punjab, located in a temperate climate zone in the northwest of the country, is also home to a nascent wine industry. Punjab is one of the most fertile areas in India, and grows a significant percentage of India’s wheat, rice, fruit, and vegetables. Table grapes—primarily Thompson Seedless—are widely grown; however, grapes of the vinifera and  labrusca species—such as Perlette, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Bangalore Blue—are grown as well and used in small but increasing amounts in the production of wine.

St. Augustine, Florida: St. Augustine, Florida—located on Atlantic Coast—is well-known as the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental US (it was founded 1565 by Spanish explorers). While beach recreation and historical sites abound, there are also some vineyards and wineries (and distilleries) to see as well—including the San Sebastian Winery. A family-run business, the San Sebastian Winery was opened in 1996. The winery owns 127 acres of vineyards in Clermont (just west of Orlando) as well as 450 acres of vines in located in the Florida panhandle; other grapes are acquired from Florida vineyards under contract. The winery focuses on Native North American varieties including Red Noble, Bronze Carlos, Blanc de Bois, and Welder Muscadine. Some vinifera-based wines, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio are produced as well. San Sebastian Winery is located on King Street just a few blocks from the heart of St. Augustine’s downtown historic district, and is open 7 days a week for tours and tastings.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Click here for more information on our “Mind your Latitude” series

 

Mind your Latitude: 32° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  32 degrees North!

Doukkala, Morocco: The Doukkala wine region, located just inland of the city of Safi, is the southernmost Appellation d’Origine Garantie (AOG) wine region in Morocco. The area inhabits a fertile plain located between the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. This is a rugged, agricultural area that is home to sheep farming, wheat, and sugar beet crops. Castel, a large French wine company, produces one of France’s leading foreign wine brands—Castel Boulaouane—in the Doukkala region. Red wines and rosé (often using the label term vin gris) are the main wine styles produced; leading grapes include Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. 

Madaba, Jordan: The country of Jordan, named for the Jordan River (which forms part of the border between Jordan and Israel), has a long history of viticulture and wine production. However, the modern history of wine production in Jordan began relatively recently—in the 1950s—when Bulos and George Zumot established the Saint George winery. They planted their first vineyards in the area around the town of Madaba, home to the ancient Church of Saint George, from which the winery took its name. Saint George Winery produces a wide range of wines (red, white, and rosé) from a number of grapes varieties, as well as Arak Al-Zumot—an anise-flavored distilled spirit made using a base of grape brandy. 

Mimbres Valley AVA: The Mimbres Valley AVA, located in southwestern New Mexico, is named for the Mimbres River which once-upon-a-time cut a pass through the mountains of this rugged area. Situated about 35 miles from the border with Mexico, most of the vineyards here are planted at elevations between 4,000 feet (1,220 m) and 6,000 feet (1,830 m) above sea level. The AVA stretches between the towns of Deming and Silver Spring and is home to St. Clair Winery—one of the largest wineries in New Mexico. St. Clair is owned and operated by the family of Hervé Lescombes; the family has deep roots in the wine industries of Algeria and France and has been making wine in New Mexico since 1981.  Leading grape varieties of the Mimbres Valley AVA include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. 

Miyazaki Prefecture: Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture is located near the southern tip of Japan on the island of Kyushu. Kyushu has long been considered the epicenter of Japan’s Shōchū industry, and indeed—plenty of Shōchū is distilled in Miyazaki. However, the area is also home to several wineries, including the Tsuno Winery—located on a hill overlooking the sea just a few miles from the city of Miyazaki. Tsuno Winery is a popular spot for tours and tastings, and produces a wide range of wines from red to pink, white, sparkling, and sweet. Many vinifera grapes are used, as are a range of Vitis labrusca grapes and hybrids such as Campbell Early (a red grape developed in the United States) and Muscat-Bailey-A. Some of the grapes used by the winery are grown on the slopes of Mount Osuzu located a mere 10 miles (16 km) inland from the winery.

Pelham, Georgia: Pelham, Georgia—located about 200 miles south of Atlanta—is quite a ways away either of Georgia’s two AVAs (the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA—shared with North Carolina, and the Dahlonega Plateau AVA). However, Pelham—along with the rest of southern Georgia—is home to quite a few vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms.  The Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards, located in Pelham, is a third-generation family farm and winery. Using estate-grown, hybrid grapes, the winery produces a range of off-dry wines with fantastical names such as “bombshell,” hell-raiser,” and “daredevil.” The winery has a tasting room in Thomasville (about 20 miles away) that offers wine tastings, nibbles, beer, wine cocktails, and live music—and is open 7 days a week. 

Ramona Valley AVA:  The Ramona Valley AVA, a sub-appellation of southern California’s South Coast AVA, is located about 28 miles (45 km) northeast of the city of San Diego. Centered around the city of Ramona, it’s a large AVA—about 14.5 miles long and 9.5 miles wide—located between the Pacific Ocean and the Colorado Dessert (about 25 miles/40 km away from each). The area consists mostly of rolling hills, and sits at an average elevation of 1,400 feet/427 m above sea level. The climate is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild winters—moderated by the cooling effects of the sea breeze (exactly what southern California is known for). The Ramona Valley AVA is home to over 100 acres (40 ha) of vines and more than 20 commercial wineries. Leading grape varieties include Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Shomron, Israel: Israel’s Shomron wine region—also known as Samaria—is located on the Mediterranean Coast, just a few miles south of the city of Haifa. The region extends about six miles to the east and includes the Sharon Plain (near the coast), the Shomron Hills, and a portion of the Mount Carmel Mountain Range. The Mount Carmel Range slopes gradually towards the southwest from a high ridge topping out at 1,791 feet/546 meters in height. Most of the established commercial vineyards are planted at low elevations near the coastal plain, but new vineyards are being planted in the foothills and mountains. One of the leading wineries of Israel, Carmel Winery, was founded here by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1882.

Willcox AVA: Located in southeastern Arizona, the Willcox AVA was approved on September 12, 2016. The AVA covers over 526,000 acres of a broad, shallow, and mostly flat area surrounded (on all sides) by mountains. Despite the AVA’s large outline, only about 500 acres (202 ha) are currently planted to vines. However, the area contains close to 20 wineries and a plethora of commercial vineyards. The climate of southeastern Arizona is warm and arid, and as such it makes sense that a good deal of the grapes planted in the Willcox AVA are Mediterranean varieties including Tempranillo, Viognier, and Mourvèdre. The state of Arizona currently has one other AVA, the Sonoita AVA—located just one county over and about a one-hour drive from the vineyards of the Willcox AVA.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Click here for more information on our “Mind your Latitude” series

 

Mind your Latitude: 34° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 34 degrees North!

Coteaux de l’Atlas 1er Cru: Morocco, located at the northern tip of Africa and just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Southern Europe, was once-upon-a-time a wine-production powerhouse. Much of the country’s former industry has since faded away, beginning in the 1950s when the country won its independence from France and Spain. However, in the 1990’s, thanks to efforts led by King Hassan II of Morocco, foreign investment (primarily from France and Spain) began to flow into the Moroccan wine industry. These days, the county contains over acres (50,000 ha) of vines, and several designated wine regions, including the Coteaux de l’Atlas 1er Cru (Atlas Hills) region located between the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Coast. A range of grapes are grown in the area, led by the red varieties Cinsault, Alicante, Carignan, and Grenache.

Dahlonega Plateau AVA: The Dahlonega Plateau AVA, approved in 2018, is located in the state of Georgia. The region is named after a long, narrow plateau located in an elevated section of land sitting between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. The area consists of gently rolling hills separated by wide valleys and has an average elevation of 1,554 feet (474 m) above sea level. There are currently just over 110 acres (45 ha) planted to vine and approximately seven commercial wineries within the newly-minted AVA. Leading grape varieties include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

Ghazir, Lebanon: Ghazir, located near Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast about 15 miles (24 km) north of Beirut, is the home of Chateau Musar— arguably Lebanon’s most renowned winery, and an amazing tribute to life, family, and wine despite the ravages of war. Chateau Musar was founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar upon his return from a trip to Bordeaux. In 1959, Gaston’s son, Serge Hochar, took over as winemaker. In 1979, the winery burst upon the international scene after a successful showing at the Bristol Wine Fair, as Michael Broadbent declared it “the discovery of the Fair.” The winery is best-known for its red blends, produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvèdre grapes. White wines and rosés are also produced; white wines are based primarily on Obaideh and Merwah—both considered to be native to Lebanon.

Malibu Coast AVA: Southern California’s Malibu Coast AVA, established in 2014, is located in on the edge of Los Angeles, somewhat between Ventura County and the Hollywood Hills. The vineyards of the AVA are located in the rugged, volcanic mountains that border the Pacific Coast. The area included within the AVA is immense—45,000 acres/18,000 ha—but just under 200 acres/81 hectares are planted to vine. Leading grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Despite its small acreage, the area surrounding the Malibu Coast does have a history of viticulture that dates back to the 1820s. These days, the Malibu Coast AVA contains two subregions (which were actually approved as AVAs prior to the Malibu Coast). There areas are now known as the Malibu-Newton Canyon AVA (approved in 1996) and the Saddle Rock-Malibu AVA (approved in 2006).

Middle Rio Grande AVA: Established in 1988, the Middle Rio Grande Valley AVA is located in the state of New Mexico; it follows the banks of the Rio Grande River for over 50 miles (80 Km) from Santa Fe through Albuquerque.  The vineyards here benefit from the mountainous terrain, and most sit at an elevation of 4,000 to 6,500 feet (1,200 to 2,000 m). While the concept of “fine wine from New Mexico” still seems to shock some consumers, wine has been produced here since 1629, two Capuchin monks from Spain first planted grapes at a spot that would later become Socorro, New Mexico. As such, viticulture and wine production in New Mexico can be said to pre-date the rise of the California wine industry by at least two hundred years.

Shanxi, China: The Chinese province of Shanxi is located on a high plateau between the Gobi Desert and the coastal plains, about 250 miles (402 km) inland from the Yellow Sea. This is a high-elevation area with ample sunshine, well-drained loess soils, and a continental climate (that can sometimes prove severe in winter). The Shanxi region contains approximately 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of vines largely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat, Chardonnay, Marselan, and Merlot. Grace Vineyards, one of China’s most famous and respected wineries—known for world-class facilities and a leader in wine tourism—is located in Shaxni’s Taigu county, about 25 miles (40 km) south Taijyuan (the provincial capital).

Texas High Plains AVA:  Surrounding the city of Lubbock, the Texas High Plains AVA is located in north Texas—just south of the area often known as the Texas Panhandle—and sitting atop a large, elevated mesa known as the Llano Estacado (“Staked Plains”). A portion of the AVA’s eastern boundary follows the edge of Caprock Escarpment—a series of sharp cliffs that divide the high plains from the red Permian plains of Texas below. Despite the state’s reputation for flat terrain, the Texas High Plains is a region of high elevation—rising from 3,000 feet (900 m) in the southeast to over 5,000 feet (1,500 m) in the northwest of the area. Cotton and wheat have typically been the leading agricultural products of this region, but there are currently over 4,000 acres (1,618 ha) of vines. The climate here is quite continental, although winters are rarely severe. One challenge is the lack of rain and the fast-draining soils; however, the waters of the vast Ogallala Aquifer (sometimes referred to as the High Plains Aquifer) are often used for irrigation. A range of grape varieties are grown in the Texas High Plains AVA; leading grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Grenache, Cinsault, and Viognier.

Yamaguchi Prefecture: The Yamaguchi Prefecture—located in the southwest corner of Japan’s “main” island of Honshu—is surrounded (on three sides) by the Sea of Japan, the Setouchi Inland Sea and the Kanmon Straits. Not surprisingly, seafood—including the dangerous-but-delicate fugu (puffer fish)—is a specialty here along with hot-tile noodles and pressed sushi made with lotus root.  One of Japan’s leading producers of sake, Dassai, is located in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, and indeed takes its name from an ancient name for the region (the name translates to “otter festival” and denotes a time when a large number of otters lived in the area’s rivers). Dassai is one of the few sake breweries in Japan that uses only the finest strain of sake rice— Yamada Nishiki—and concentrates on the production of only the most delicate style of sake, known as Junmai Daiginjo. The Dassai brewery also gives tours…so a sake-and-food lovers’ vacation might be in order!

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Click here for more information on our “Mind your Latitude” series

Mind your Latitude: 36° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 36 degrees North!

Island of Rhodes: The island of Rhodes, located in the Aegean (Mediterranean) Sea is one of the most famous of the Greek Islands.  Rhodes is rugged and mountainous, with most of the vineyards planted near the coast in the lower slopes and foothills of the mountains. Rhodes produces a range of wine, including two styles with protected designation of origin (PDO) classification. The Rhodes PDO is approved for a range of dry to semi-sweet wines in red, white, or rosé. The main grape varieties of the Rhodes PDO include Athiri (white) and Mandilaria (red). The Muscat of Rhodes PDO is approved for the production of sweet wines based on the Moschato  Aspro (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) variety. Muscat of Rhodes PDO may be produced as a vin doux naturel (a wine fortified during fermentation), vin du liqueur (a wine fortified before fermentation), or it may be produced from sun-dried grapes.

Jerez de la Frontera: Jerez de la Frontera—a city well-known for flamenco, dancing horses, and an amazing Cathedral—is home to Sherry, one of the world’s leading fortified wines. Tucked into a sunbaked corner of Andalucía about ten miles (16 km) inland from the Bay of Cádiz,  Jerez forms one “tip” of the Sherry Triangle along with the towns of El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The famous wine of region—produced under the auspices of the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO—is aged within the boundaries of the Sherry Triangle. Here, the warm-yet-fluctuating climate—somewhat tempered by the salty sea breezes—as well as the 300-plus days of sunshine a  year combine to create the area’s unique terroir. We can find thousands of barrels of Sherry here, piled upon one another in hundreds of solera systems, scattered throughout dozens of bodegas…all experiencing the alchemy that the region plays upon its wine.

Málaga: The Málaga DO is located in a warm, sunny area of southern Andalucía bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the fabulous beaches of Spain’s Costa del Sol. A wide range of wines are produced here, mainly from heat-loving grape varieties such as Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel de Alejandría, and Moscatel de Grano Menudo (Moscatel Morisco).  Dry wines produced in the area are typically released under the Sierras Sierras de Málaga DO, while those of the Málaga DO are typically sweet, but produced in a range of styles—including off-dry, semi-sweet, and very sweet wines—as well as fortified wines, unfortified wines, and those that are enriched with arrope (concentrated, heated grape must). Wines of the Málaga DO include Vino Tierno (produced from sun-dried grapes),   Vino de Uvas Sobremaduradas (produced from overripe grapes),  and Málaga Trasañejo (aged for a minimum of 5 years in oak).

Monterey, CA: Monterey County, located along California’s Pacific Coast between Santa Cruz County (to the north) and San Luis Obispo County (to the south) is included—in its entirety—within the California Central Coast AVA. Monterey County is one of the top five wine-producing counties in California and produces over 20% of the state’s Chardonnay. Despite its southerly latitude, Monterey County is largely a cool-climate region due to the east-west orientation of parts of the coastal mountain ranges, which helps to draw the cooling ocean breezes inland. Well-known wineries in Monterey County include Hahn Estate, Calera Wine Company, and Chalone.

Grand Cru Mornag AOC: Grand Cru Mornag is an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) wine region located in Tunisia. Located in the north of the country near the Mediterranean Sea, the region surrounds the city of Tunis, stretching from the coastal plain into the hills that slope down towards the Lake of Tunis. Tunisia is Africa’s northernmost country, and contains nearly 35,000 acres (14,000 ha) of vines—almost all located in the far north of the country near the Mediterranean Coast. There is a good deal of French influence to be found in Tunisian wine, and the grape varieties largely mimic those found in the French regions of Provence and Languedoc. One of the best-known wines of the region is a red blend   produced by Château Mornag using a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Merlot.

Nagano: The Nagano Prefecture is located on the Japanese island of Honshu (the largest and most populous island in the country). The area—sometimes referred to as the Shinshu Wine Valley, referring to an old-fashioned synonym for Nagano—is surrounded by the mountains that reach up to 9,400 feet (3,000 m) high. The vineyards of the Nagano Prefecture are tucked into valleys and basins of these mountains and feature a range of grapes including Merlot, Pinot Gris, Niagara, Ryugan, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Muscat Bailey-A. The Nagano Prefecture was one of the first places in Japan to pass legislation to regulate its wines—approving the Nagano Appellation Control (NAC) program in 2002. According to NAC standards, Nagano wine must be produced using 100% Nagano grapes in accordance with specific standards for viticulture and vinification.

Santa Cruz Mountains AVA: The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, established in 1981, was one of the first AVAs to be established according to elevation, and its western boundary ensures that it is perched just above the fog line on the Pacific Coast. The AVA is largely planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—however red Bordeaux varieties thrive here as well—and the area lays claim to being the coolest (in terms of climate) Cabernet Sauvignon-producing region in California. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, which is tucked in betwixt and between several other AVAs, is also the only section of California’s coast—stretching from Santa Barbara to the San Francisco Bay—that is not part of the larger Central Coast AVA. As a matter of fact, it is “specifically excluded” from both the Central Coast AVA and the overlapping San Francisco Bay AVA. It seems that by the time the Central Coast AVA was dreamt up, Santa Cruz Mountains already had an established reputation, and they did not care to be swallowed up by the new (at the time), somewhat amorphous Central Coast AVA.

Shandong, China: The Chinese province of Shandong, located on the shores of the Yellow Sea, has a 1,800 mile- (3,000 km-) long coastline, a temperate climate, and mild winters.  Shandong has been producing vinifera-based wine since at least 1890, when the owners of the Changyu Winemaking (now known as the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company and considered by many to be the first “modern” winery in China) imported more than 100 vinifera varieties into the region. The leading vinifera grape varieties of Shandong include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Gernischt, Riesling, Chardonnay, Marselan, and Petit Verdot.

Yadkin Valley AVA, North Carolina: The Yadkin Valley AVA is tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern North Carolina. The region follows the Yadkin River for over 100 miles—through eight counties—and is home to over three dozen wineries and 400 acres (162 ha) of vines. This area was traditionally home to tobacco farms, but as tobacco farming and cigarette manufacture declined, local farmers turned to viticulture and wine production as an alternative. The Yadkin Valley AVA grows some native North American varieties—such as Norton, Muscadine, and Scuppernong—but is also planted to some vinifera varieties including Pinot Gris, Riesling, Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Approved in 2003, the Yadkin Valley AVA was the first AVA in North Carolina. North Carolina now contains two other AVAs—the Swan Creek AVA and Haw River Valley AVA—and is, along with the state of Georgia, part of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

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