Confusion Corner: The Grecos

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There are at least 7 different grape varieties that go by the name “Greco.” One of those, Greco Bianco, stars in a sweet, copper-colored dessert wine known as “Greco di Bianco DOC.” Another—that we’ll call “just plain Greco”—produces a crisp, clean, dry white wine in the Greco di Tufo DOCG.

And then there are the red Greco varieties—including Greco Nero, Greco Nero di Sibari, and Greco Nero di Verbaicaro—not to be confused with the un-related Grechetto di Orvieto or Grechetto di Todi (aka Pignoletto, not to be confused with Pignolo).

Welcome to confusion corner, where (in this case) the confusion needs no further introduction. In this post, we’ll attempt to unravel the white varieties (and wines) of the Grecos.

First we’ll unravel the white grapes that go by the name Greco:

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Greco: While the name “Greco” certainly seems to imply that this aromatic white grape variety originally hails from Greece—and this has been suggested—however, it is possible that the grape is native to Western/Central Italy. There are several reasons to believe this theory, including the fact that (these days) a majority of the planet’s Greco is grown in Italy’s Campania region. Beyond Campania, Greco is grown in Puglia, Molise, Lazio, and even Tuscany. The Greco grape variety is allowed for use in several DOCs, scattered throughout Central and Southern Italy. These include the Vignanello DOC (Lazio), Vesuvio DOC (Campania), Capri DOC (Campania), Bianco di Pitigliano DC (Tuscany), the Gravina DOC (Puglia), and—most notably, Campania’s Greco di Tufo DOCG (more on Greco di Tufo later).

Wines produced using the Greco grape variety tend to be slightly aromatic, showing scents of citrus, apricot, white peach, fresh herbs, and a decided minerality. The color tends to be deep yellow to gold. The grape is a late-ripener making it ideal for Central Italy’s warm, Mediterranean climate

Noted (and confusing) synonyms for the Greco grape variety include Greco di Tufo, Greco del Vesuvio, Greco di Napoli, Asprinio, and Greco della Torre but NOT Greco Bianco.

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Greco Bianco: According to Jancis Robinson, et al in the book Wine Grapes, despite the constant confusion between the grapes, the Greco Bianco grape variety is NOT linked to, or even closely related to, the Greco variety (as discussed above). Greco Bianco, rather, is identical to (synonymous with) Pecorello Bianco. Both names are used in Calabria, where most Greco Bianco is found. The Greco Bianco grape variety is allowed for use in a smattering of DOC wines, including Melissa DOC, Terre Di Consenza DOC (Calabria), Frascati DOC and Frascati Superiore DOCG (Lazio), and Cirò DOC (Calabria). As Pecorello Bianco, it may be found in the wines of the Savuto DOC and the Donnici DOC (both of Calabria). Greco Bianco is often used in the production of late harvest/dessert wines, but may also be made in to dry wines with fruity, floral, and citrus aromas.

Greco Bianco di Gerace: Also known as Malvasia di Lipari, and often confused with Greco Bianco (even by the experts – so who knows).

Greco Bianco di Novara: Also known as Erbaluce.

Next, the wines:

Campania, Italy—with the town of Tufo highlighted (via Google Maps)

Greco di Tufo DOCG: First things first: Greco di Tufo is both a grape (synonymous with Greco) and an Italian DOCG wine region. Here, we are focusing on the wine. The Greco di Tufo region (located about 35 miles inland from Naples and about the same distance away from Mount Vesuvius) is named after the town of Tufo. The town—Tufo—is itself named after the “tuff” soil of the area, created when volcanic ash falls down and eventually consolidates into a sedimentary rock.

According to regulations, Greco di Tufo DOCG must be comprised of a minimum of 85% Greco, with the remaining 15% allowed to contain Coda di Volpe. Greco di Tufo DOCG is a highly regarded, dry white wine well-appreciated for its crisp acidity and aromas of citrus (lemon, mandarin orange), pears, peaches, almonds, fresh green herbs and distinctive minerality.

Greco di Tufo is one of the four DOCGs located in Campania; the other three are Fiano di Avellino DOCG, Aglianico del Taburno DOCG, and Taurasi DOCG.

Calabria, Italy—with the town of Bianco highlighted (via Google Maps)

Greco di Bianco DOC: Greco di Bianco DOC, located in the hills surrounding the coastal town of Bianco, is a copper-colored dessert wine produced from dried (passito) grapes. The grapes must be so concentrated as to have a potential of 17% abv and the resulting wine must be either amabile o dolce (semi-sweet to sweet, meaning basically a minimum of 1.5% RS and more likely at least 4.5% RS). The grapes must be at least 85% Greco Bianco (as opposed to just plain Greco), with the other 5% loosely defined as “white grapes allowed for production in Calabria.” Greco di Bianco DOC wines tend to be rich, velvety, and luscious with intense aromas of dried citrus peels, lemon curd, roasted almonds, and honey. These wines are typically aged for a minimum of one year; regulations do not allow its release before November 1 of the year following harvest. To recap: the name of the town is Bianco, the name of the grape is Greco Bianco, and the name of the wine is Greco di Bianco.  Any questions?

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Haut Benauge

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It happens at least once a month: someone emails me (or calls me out over social media) claiming that the list of Bordeaux Appellations in the CSW Study Guide is missing Haut Benauge.

While I love to be called out over social media as much as anyone, here is my typical response: Haut Benauge is not an AOC (but it is a defined sub-zone of two different AOCs), and it is not “missing” from the list.

So…what exactly is Haut Benauge?

Haut Benauge is a region located within the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, situated “between the two rivers” (the Dordogne and the Garonne), to the east of the Cadillac AOC. Haut Benauge covers nine communes: Arbis, Cantois, Escoussans, Gornac, Ladaux, Mourens, Saint-Pierre-de-Bat, Soulignac, and Targon.

The name “Haut Benauge” is an homage to Jean de Foix (1414–1484), the Viscount of Benauge. The 11th-century Castle of Benauge is still standing, and is open to visitors by appointment.

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The terroir of Haut Benauge is differentiated by the surrounding areas due to its elevation and soils. The elevation is slight (between 85 meters/275 feet and 118 meters/390 feet) but is sufficient to define an elevated ridge, formed when the sea floor was pushed up and out of the sea via the movement of the Pyrenees Mountain range several million years ago.

The soils of Haut Benauge reflect its aquatic past, and include limestone, fossilized oyster shells, sand, gravel, and clay.

Haut Benauge was defined as an appellation in 1955 and designated as a sub-zone (defined geographical indication) of BOTH the Entre-Deux-Mers and the Bordeaux AOC. This is where the confusion seems to come in. Here are the two different wines that may carry the Haut Benauge name:

  • Bordeaux-Haut Benauge AOC:
    • White wines only, produced using any mix-and-match blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and/or Muscadelle
    • May be dry/off-dry or sweet; there is a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 60 g/L residual sugar
  • Entre-Deux-Mers-Haut Benauge AOC:
    • White wines only, based on a minimum of 70% (combined) Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, and/or Sémillon; there is an allowed maximum 30% Merlot Blanc, and an allowed (combined) maximum 10% Mauzac, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc
    • Must be dry with a maximum of 4 g/L of residual sugar

Photo of the Castle of Benauge by Henry Salome, via Wikimedia Commons

Fun fact: Haut-Benauge is the only appellation located within the Entre-Deux-Mers area that does not have a boundary that touches one of the defining rivers of the area (the Dordogne nor the Garonne).

Some excellent examples of Haut Benauge wines are produced by Château Morlan-Tuilière and Château de Bertin. These wines are known to be a great value for lovers of white Bordeaux wines—enjoy!

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Torrontés, Terrantez, Turruntés

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Torrontés, Terrantez, and Turruntés…the name of these three grape varieties look and sound so much alike that even the most well-read wine students among us might be tempted to assume they are all the same grape—each using some local or dialect-specific of the same name.

However, let me set the record straight: these sound-alike grapes are indeed three unique varieties, and I am going to try to untangle the confusion therein. For starters, here’s the super-quick version of what to remember:

  • Torrontés—Argentina
  • Terrantez—Madeira
  • Turruntés—Spain

And now for the long version:

Torrontés: Torrontés—a white wine grape that produces a lovely, aromatic, fruit- and floral-scented white wine, is considered to be one of the signature grapes of Argentina. However…it’s not quite that simple. There are three related-yet-distinct Torrontés grape varieties grown in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano (the most widely grown), Torrontés Mendocino, and Torrontés Sanjuanino. (The label on your wine bottle, however, will most likely read just “Torrontés.”)

At least two of the three (Mendocino and Sanjuanino) varieties have been confirmed as native to Argentina, and all three have been determined to be natural crosses of Muscat of Alexandria (Moscatel). The other parent grape is assumed to be Listan Prieto (otherwise known as Crilla Chica, or the Mission grape).  The name Torrontés has been used in Argentina since the mid-1860’s; and the various versions of Torrontés (combined) now make it one of the top white gapes of Argentina—in both viticultural acreage and reputation.

Terrantez: Depending on whom you ask, Terrantez is either a rising star, or a has-been white  grape of the Portuguese island of Madeira. According to Jancis Robinson, et al, in Winegrapes, there are currently just 5 acres (2 ha) of Terrantez on Madeira, and much of that is newly planted. We also know for certain that the grape used to be quite widespread on Madeira, and many older bottles (19th and 20th  century) of Madeira sold at auction even to this day are labeled as Terrantez. The grape does, however, tend to have extremely low yields (which certainly may have contributed to its downfall).

Despite its rarity, it is (according to many sources) possible to get varietally-labeled Terrantez Madeira (see one example here) in various tasting rooms and wineries on Madeira. If you get a chance to taste one, you’ll find a lovely, delicate wine with a sweetness level somewhere between those found in Sercial and Verdelho.

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Turruntés: It’s easy to see why this grape variety is often mistaken for Argentina’s Torrontés…but Turruntés is actually a synonym for Albillo Mayor—which is itself perhaps best-known for being used (in allowed-yet-small amounts) in the red wines of Ribera del Duero. Turruntés/Albillo Mayor is also approved for use in the white wines of the Rioja DOCa and the Cangas VCIG (in Asturias). The grapes are known to create pale yellow-green wines with fruity (green apple) and vegetal (green-grassy) aromas.

It’s natural low acidity makes Turruntés an ideal blending partner with Viura/Macabeo. There are currently about 3,500 acres/1,440 ha of Albillo Mayor/Turruntés planted in Spain.

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Palate, Palette, Pallet, AOC Palette

Wooden Pallets

An artist might paint with a color palette, you might order a pallet of wine, and your palate might enjoy the wines of AOC Palette.

Sound fanciful? Well, all of the above could be true!

For starters—yes, this post is going to be a bit of a whine about word usage—but I hope my readers will realize that I do not present this information with a sneer. I need this post as much as anyone. So here goes:

If you finish an impressive project at work and are rewarded with a bonus, you might decide to purchase a pallet of wine. That’s a lot of wine. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the standard size of a wooden pallet is 48 inches by 40 inches. This standard wood pallet (theoretically) can hold 4,600 pounds—in other words, over 100 cases of wine or one adult male rhinoceros.

Artist’s Palette

If you are a painter and you paint with all the colors of the wind, or even just those on the board that you use to blend and hold your paints, you are painting with a certain color palette—blobs of which you are holding on the palette in your hands as you paint.

Those parts of your mouth that allow you to taste wine—including your tongue, taste buds, the roof of your mouth and the surrounding soft tissue —so precious to us wine lovers—collectively make up your palate. As you test and improve your wine-tasting skills, you are building your palate. If you get really good at blinding wines, you might become known—far and wide—for your impressive palate. You can also describe a wine in terms of its attack (first impressions), mid-palate (what registers as you hold the wine in your mouth), and the finish (what lingers after swallowing or spitting).

Building the Palate

As a wine lover, you might appreciate the wines of the Palette AOC. Palette is a small AOC tucked into the area south of the large Aix-en-Provence AOC, and along the northern edge of the Sainte-Victoire AOC (itself a sub-zone of the Côtes de Provence appellation). Two plots of vineyards—one on each side of the Arc River—make up the region. Palette is the smallest appellation in Provence, and is named after the tiny town of Palette.

The Palette AOC is approved for red, white, and rosé wines. The white wines must be dry (max 0.4% residual sugar) and contain at least 11.5% abv. The appellation boasts a long list of allowed grape varieties. For the white wines, the following principal varieties must comprise (singularly or combined) a minimum of 55% of the wine: Picardin, Clairette (Blanc or Rose), and Bourboulenc. Other allowed varieties include Colombard, Furmint, Grenache Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Piquepoul Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Ugni Rosé, and Terret Gris. This list of allowed grapes also includes a few obscurities, including  Panse Muscade, Panse du Roy René, and Pascal Blanc.

Photo of Château Simone Palette AOC rosé by Michal Osmenda via Wikimedia Commons

For the rosés of the AOC Palette, there is a mandatory minimum of 10% Mourvèdre. Another regulation states that between 50% and 80% of the wine be comprised of the region’s principal varieties that include Grenache and Cinsaut in addition to Mourvèdre. The remaining 20% may include any of the AOC’s accessory varieties, which include Brun Fourca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Castet, Durif, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat Hamburg, Petit Brun, Syrah, Téoulier, Terret Gris, and Tibouren. The white grapes may be present only to a maximum of 15% of the blend.  The rosé wines of Palette may contain up to 0.4% residual sugar, and are required to contain at least 11.5% abv.

The red wines are produced using the same slate of allowed grape varieties as the rosés; however, the white grapes are not approved for use in the red wines. The minimum abv for Palette Rogue is 11.5%, and the maximum allowed residual sugar is 0.3%. For the red wines, there is a mandatory minimum aging requirement of 18 months in wood.

The Palette AOC contains only about 100 acres (40 ha) of vines and just a few producers, including Château Simone and Château Henri Bonnaud.

References/for more information:

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

 

Confusion Corner: Claret, Clairet, Clairette

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It happens every time I teach a class on the wines of France. I mention that the term “claret” is an old-fashioned name, used by the British back-in-the-day to refer to red Bordeaux. Typically, I immediately get the following questions:

  • Is that the same as the grape used in the sparkling wines of the Rhône?
  • Isn’t that a rosé?
  • Shouldn’t that be pronounced “klar-AH”???

I like these questions, as they may indicate that:

  • The group is paying attention
  • The group has read the entire chapter on France, as they were requested to do (yeah!)
  • The group has a few sassy members

In the best of all possible words, all of the above are true (I appreciate sassy students).

In light of all this, I think that the clairet-claret-clairette topic is an excellent one for my “Confusion Corner” series. So here goes, let’s clarify this cluster!

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Claret: Claret (pronounced KLAR-eht in French and klerət in English) is an old-timey English term used to refer to the red wines of Bordeaux. Over time, it also morphed into use for a particular style of red wine defined loosely as higher-in-tannin or “drier” than red Burgundy. It is believed that the use of the term claret, based on the terms vin clar or vin clarum—meaning something akin to pale wine or clear wine— came about due to fact that in the early days of the wine trade, Bordeaux red was a much lighter wine than the deep reds of today’s Bordeaux.  These early Bordeaux reds were quite pale in color (similar in appearance to a “dark rosé” produced today).

In the official documents for the Bordeaux AOC—the Cahier des charges de l’appellation d’origine contrôlée Bordeaux—the term is mentioned in the following manner:  La mention “claret” est réservée aux vins rouges (google-translated as “The word ‘claret’ is reserved for red wines”). Note that the term “claret” is listed as a descriptive term, and that the official name of the wine is some variation of “Bordeaux AOC” (or one of the many other AOCs used for the red wines of Bordeaux).

The term claret is sometimes used, as a sort of proprietary name, on New World wines based on the red grapes of Bordeaux, as seen here on Becker Vineyards Texas Claret (a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).

Clairet: The term “clairet” is also considered a historical term, but in modern times it has a distinct definition as being a defined style of “dark rosé” Bordeaux AOC wine. The Cahier des Charges for the Bordeaux AOC even lists specific standards for Bordeaux Clairet for such particularities as residual sugar, volatile acidity, and total sulfur dioxide—and in some aspects they are clearly distinct from those required for those wines defined as “rosé” as well as “rouge.”  Bordeaux Clairet is typically fermented on the skins for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

On the official documents for the Bordeaux AOC— the Cahier des charges de l’appellation d’origine contrôlée Bordeaux— the term is mentioned in the following manner:  La mention “clairet” est réservée aux vins rosés foncés (google-translated as “The word ‘clairet’ is reserved for dark rosé wines”).

Clairette: If you guessed this thing is not like the others, you are absolutely right! Clairette (pronounced somewhat universally as KL-ERRehT) is a white vinifera grape, native to the south of France and used in a variety of wines throughout the Languedoc, Rhône, and Provence. Its most famous incarnation is quite possibly as the star of the sparkling wines of the Clairette de Die AOC, as well as (along with Muscat à Petits Grains) the slightly sweet, slightly fizzy Clairette de Die Méthode Dioise Ancestrale.  

Clairette is also one of the13 or 18 (depending on how you count them) grapes allowed in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC blend—which allows for both the typical Clairette Blanc version as well as its color-mutation-cousin, Clairette Rose.

Bonus clarification: Clarete (pronounced cla-re-te) is a Spanish term (also somewhat old-timey) used to describe dark rosé or light red wines (something between a rosado and a tinto). It has no “official” definition or appellation, but is a useful descriptive term.

References/for more information:

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

 

Confusion Corner: Lirac and Listrac

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I am back for another round of Confusion Corner! This is the fourth installment of the series in which I attempt to unravel some of the words, terms, and concepts of wine that have always confused me. After unraveling Verdelho from Verdejo, Rully from Reuilly, and Catalunya and Calatayud; this week I take on another tongue-twister: Lirac and Listrac.

First off, here is what these two things have in common: they are both AOC wine-producing regions in France, they are both well-established, and they are both primarily known for red wines (although the Lirac AOC produces whites and rosés as well). And then there are the differences…

First up—Listrac: One thing we need to get cleared up is that while it is very common to see the term Listrac used on its own; the actual name of this place is Listrac-Médoc. Listrac-Médoc is both the name of a commune (in the Gironde department) and an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) wine-producing area of the Médoc.

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Listrac-Médoc sits on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, at about 45°N. Just a portion (1,650 acres/668 ha) of the commune is given over to viticulture, and those grapes that are present are surrounded by other crops, forests, and meadowlands. The vineyards of the Listrac-Médoc are located in an area known as the “limestone outcrops” and are a bit west of Gironde Estuary as well as a bit inland—away from the maritime influence and the mists of the river—and as such the area has a borderline continental climate. The area is often called “the roof of the Médoc” due to its slightly elevated perch—measured at 141 feet (43 m) above sea level.  The soil is more of a limestone/clay mix as compared to the gravelly soils of the surrounding areas, and as such the vines’ roots do not grow as deeply here are they do in the more prestigious vineyards located nearby areas.

The Listrac- Médoc AOC is approved for dry red wines only. The area is mainly planted to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a small amount of Cabernet Franc and a tiny fraction of Petit Verdot and Malbec.  The wines produced in this area are known for being “tightly wound” while young, but powerful and rich with a few years of age.

And in the other (confusion) corner, we have the Lirac AOC. The commune of Lirac, located in the Gard Department, is one of the four communes included in the Lirac AOC (the others are Roquemaure, Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas, and Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres).

The Lirac AOC is situated on the western side of the Southern Rhône Valley, about 300 miles to the east of Listrac-Médoc (and a bit further south, as Lirac sits at about 44°N).  Red, white, and rosé wines may be produced under the Lirac AOC, and the majority of the output is red. However…the area is also known for its rosés  – which makes sense when you realized that Lirac’s neighbor-to-the-south is Tavel, and that the boundary between the two wine regions is the political boundary between two communes.

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Rosés from the Lirac AOC are based on a minimum of 80% Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, or Mourvèdre. The other 20% is allowed to be white grapes or Carignan (although Carignan itself is limited to a maximum of 10%).

The red wines of the Lirac AOC are typically produced from a blend based on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. Lirac AOC rouge tends to be in the softer “Côtes du Rhône” style of red wines, but some producers are going for a bigger, bolder style of wine. Perhaps this is not surprising considered that the region’s neighbor-to-the-east is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Lirac AOC also produces a small amount of white wine from the typical Rhône varieties—namely Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Clairette.

And there you have it. Listrac and Lirac—confused no more.

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Catalunya and Calatayud

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I am back for another round of Confusion Corner! In case you missed the first two installments, in this series I attempt to unravel some of the words, terms, and concepts of wine that have always confused me. So far I’ve unraveled Verdelho from Verdejo and Rully from Reuilly. This week I have another tongue-twister, and one that has eluded me for a long time: Catalunya and Calatayud.

First of all, here is what the two things have in common (besides the fact that the words look and sound alike): They are both areas in northern Spain, and they are both DOs. They both produce a range of wines (including red, white, rosado, fortified, and sparkling) from a long list of allowed and authorized grape varieties. However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

First up—Catalunya: Catalunya is the Catalan name for the Spanish region also known as Catalonia (in English) and Cataluña (in Spanish). It is one of Spain’s 19 autonomies (17 autonomous communities plus 2 autonomous cities), and is the only one of the autonomies to have a DO that covers the entire region.

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Catalunya is located in the extreme northeast of Spain, and shares its northern border with France and the tiny Principality of Andorra, along the Pyrenees Mountains. To the east, the area has a long coastline that borders the Mediterranean Sea; and the western boundary is shared with the autonomous community of Aragon. Valencia is to the south. Not surprisingly, the climate on the coast is Mediterranean, while inland areas share the warm, arid climate of much of the rest of Spain.

Catalunya is an absolute paradise for travelers—whether wine-related or not. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, an ideal vacation spot for those interested in art, architecture, gastronomy, history, beaches, Catalan culture, or shopping—what more could you want? For those interested in wine tourism, San Sadurní d’Anoia—the birthplace and “spiritual home” of Cava—is a very short drive from Barcelona, and dozens of Cava producers and tasting rooms are open to the public. If you don’t mind a slightly longer drive and some winding roads, you can visit Priorat, Alella, or Tarragona as well.

The Catalunya DO, approved in 1999, is authorized for the following types of wine: white (using an allowed 14 grape varieties but dominated by Garnacha Blanca), rosé (rosat in the Catalan language and generally based on Garnacha), red (from a list of over a dozen approved varieties but generally made using Garnahca, Monastrell [Mourvèdre] and Tempranillo [known here as Ul de Llebre]), vino de licor (fortified wines), and vine de aguya (slightly sparkling wines).

Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona

Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona

Wine bottled under the Catalunya DO is typically produced using grapes grown in the areas betwixt and between the 11 DOs of the region, or produced from a mix of grapes grown within the smaller DOs. The DOs of Catalunya include some very prestigious appellations (such as Priorat DOCa), some very famous areas (such as [parts of] the Cava DO and the Penedès DO), as well as some lesser-known regions (such as the Empordà, Alella, and Costers del Segre DOs).

And now for Calatayud: Calatayud is a DO located in the southwest corner of the autonomous community of Aragon. The wine region is named after the city of Calatayud (population around 20,000). Calatayud is an old city, strategically located between the Central Meseta of Spain and the Ebro River Valley. The modern city dates from around 700 CE and is famous for its many surviving examples of Mudéjar (Moorish) architecture.

The Calatayud DO area is almost completely surrounded by the mountains of the Sistema Ibérico—and as such has a hot, arid climate, like much of inland Spain. However, the area also has some elevation with many vineyards planted on south-facing hillsides—some of which reach as high as 2,600 feet (800 m). This elevation, as well as a system of criss-crossing rivers, provides some relief to the heat.

Detail of the Santa Maria Church in Calatayud

Detail of the Santa Maria Church in Calatayud

Many different styles of wines are allowed under the Calatayud DO (approved in 1990), including red, white, rosé, fortified, lightly sparkling, and fully sparkling. Garnacha is the main red grape variety, along with Tempranillo, Mazuela (otherwise known as Carignan, and named after the region of Cariñena, Calatayud’s neighbor-to-the-east), and Bobal—along with a smattering of international varieties. White grapes (and wines) make up a relatively small proportion of the area’s output and include plantings of Macabeo (aka Viura), Malvasia, and Chardonnay.

Some interesting styles of wine that are specifically defined by the Calatayud DO include Viñas Viejas (old vine) wines which must be made from vineyards that are at least 35 years old, and Calatayud Superior, which must be produced from a minimum of 85% Garnacha Tinta from vineyards that are a minimum of 50 years old.

References/for more information:

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