Mind your Latitude: 50° 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: 50 degrees North!

Ahr, Germany: The Ahr is one of Germany’s smallest winegrowing regions, with just over 1,300 acres (526 ha) planted to vine. It is also one of Germany’s northernmost wine areas….but it also is noted as being the world’s most northerly wine region that focuses on red wine.  The secret to its red-wine focus (red wine accounts for nearly 85% of its total production) is its south-facing, terraced vineyards planted on steep, rocky slopes in the rain-and-wind shadow of the Eifel Mountains. The best sites of the area are planted on dark-colored, volcanic soils that absorb and retain the heat from the daytime sun. Pinot Noir is (by far) the leading grape of the Ahr, followed by Blauer Portugieser and Riesling.

Cornwall County: Cornwall County, located in South West England bordering the Celtic Sea, the English Channel, and the county of Devon, has recently emerged as one of the players in the production of English Wine. Being a cool-climate region its focus has been (along with the majority of English Wine) on white wine and sparkling wine using cold-hardy white grapes such as Seyval Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus, and Chardonnay. Cornwall County, however, has a very special place in English Wine, as it is home to the Darnibole PDO—the only site- and vineyard-specific protected designation of origin for wine in the United Kingdom. Darnibole PDO wine must be produced from 100% Bacchus grapes, which must be grown in a specific 5-hectare (12.4-acre) plot and produced at the Camel Valley Winery. If you find yourself in Cornwall, take a quick trip to Land’s End and St. Mawes Castle, but don’t miss a visit to the Camel Valley Winery!

Gimli, Manitoba: Gimli, located on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in the Canadian Province of Manitoba, has a humid continental climate with warm-to-hot summers and bitterly cold winters. Perhaps in part because of the winter conditions, the area has a somewhat small human population (about 2,246 people in its Urban Center) but a huge population— 1.5 million and counting—in barrels of whisky.  The source of all of these whisky riches is the Crown Royal Distillery. Crown Royal was originally created in 1939 by Samuel Bronfman—then the president of Seagram—as a tribute to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth upon their visit to Canada, the first-ever visit of the reigning British monarch to Canada. According to the company website, the Crown Royal distillery uses 10,000 bushels of locally-sourced rye, corn, and barley a day. Twelve distillation columns produce fifty distinct base whiskies that are variously aged and matured before being blended together into Crown Royal’s “fit for royalty” signature style.

Lille, France: Lille is a small city at the northern tip of France, located right next to the border with Belgium. This region is often referred to as “French Flanders” (technically referred to as Nord, formerly Nord-Pas-de-Calais). Lille has a long-running history of small-scale beer production—what we now call micro-breweries or craft breweries—and is often referred to as the “Beer Capital of France.” While hundreds (if not thousands) of these small beer producers have been lost to history, the city still boasts at least 20 small breweries, and some people will say that this is the only place in France where craft beer survives. In light of this, if you find yourself in Lille, a visit to the original Trois Brasseurs (“Three Brewers”) brewpub is certainly in order.

Okanagan Valley: The Okanagan Valley is the leading wine-producing region of British Columbia, producing over 80% of the province’s grapes and wine. The Okanagan Valley GI (geographical indication) spans over 150 miles (250 kilometers) from north to south, with over 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) planted to vine and more than 180 bonded wineries. The area is nicely tucked between the Columbia Mountains (to the west) and the Cascades (to the east), providing a relatively warm and dry climate across much of the region. Leading grape varieties include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. The Okanagan Valley GI has two official sub-regions: Okanagan Falls and Golden Mile Bench.

Prague: Prague (Praha) is the largest city and capital of the Czech Republic. Prague also happens to located within the Mělnická wine region—itself a sub-region of the country’s larger Central Bohemia wine region. While the Czech Republic has a long and storied history of beer production, the country enjoys a tradition of wine production and consumption as well. It is believed that Pinot Noir from Burgundy was brought to Prague during the Middle Ages, and that the vineyards of Prague produced wine for the Royal Court. These days, a variety of international and Germanic grape varieties are grown in the Mělnická wine region, including Müller-Thurgau, Frankovka (Blaufränkisch), Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon in addition to Pinot Noir.

Saale-Unstrut: The Saale-Unstrut region— in its northern-most reaches—is the northernmost of the German Anbaugebiete. It is also one of only two (of Germany’s 13) Anbaugebiete located in the former East Germany.  Saale-Unstrut is named after two rivers—the Saale and the Unstrut—that come together in the region before flowing northward (as the Saale) into the Elbe River an onward towards the North Sea. This is a cool-climate, landlocked region with approximately 1,690 acres/685 hectares planted to vine. The leading grape varieties of the area include Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Silvaner, and Riesling.

Wallonia: Wallonia is a region of Belgium, located just to the south of Brussels. Wallonia produces quality wine under the Côtes de Sambre et Meuse AOC, which applies to a range of white grapes including Riesling, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Madeleine Angevine, and Müller-Thurgau as well as a few red grapes (including Gamay, Merlot, and Pinot noir). Another specialty of the region is Maitrank (May Wine), a seasonal, aromatized wine produced using white wine steeped with the fragrant herb known as Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata). As its name implies, May wine is served in the spring—particularly on May Day (May 1).

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


About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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