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

 

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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