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

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

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!

Gomli, 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 central 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


Mind your Latitude: 48° 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: 48 degrees North!

Bellingham, Washington: Bellingham, Washington—a university town located about 30 miles/48 km south of the Canadian Border—is part of the Puget Sound AVA and home to at least ten wineries. Many of the wineries in the Puget Sound AVA purchase their grapes from vineyards located in Eastern Washington, but the area does have at least 104 vineyard acres of vinifera grapes. One of the leading grapes is “Mad Angie”—otherwise known as Madeleine Angevine—an early-ripening white grape that produces fruity, floral-scented wines that do well in a range of styles from dry to sweet. Other leading grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA include Siegerrebe, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.

Gander, Newfoundland: Gander is tiny, far-flung town but a famous one. The town’s airport, Gander International, was once-upon-a-time a mandatory refueling stop for all aircraft flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Gander seems like a good place to enjoy a drink, and the island does have a few orchards, vineyards, and wineries—such as the SapWorld Winery that makes fruit wines as well as “Spring Wine” produced from fermented birch sap. But Newfoundland is especially well-known for Screech—locally-bottled Caribbean rum sold by the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation. The term Screech apparently refers to the scream you might let out after downing a quick shot.

Normandy: Normandy’s greatest claim to fame is no doubt the legendary World War II invasion of Normandy; however the area is also renowned for its apples. The apples (and pears) of Normandy are made into a range of beverages, including cider, aperitifs, and brandy. Ciders produced in the main apple-growing region of Normandy may carry the Pays d’Auge Cider AOC designation. Such ciders are made in a range of styles—from dry to sweet, and from still to sparkling (often packaged in a “champagne-style” bottle and cork). Calvados AOC is the legendary apple brandy of the region (that sometimes includes pears), and Pommeau AOC is an aperitif produced using two parts unfermented apple juice and one part one-year-old Calvados.

Strasbourg: Strasbourg, the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France, sits just a few miles away from some of most storied vineyards of the Alsace AOC. As you sip coffee in your half-timbered hotel in Strasbourg, you are just a few kilometers away from the Bruderthal Grande Cru vineyard in the village of Molsheim, and the Steinklotz Grand Cru vineyard in the village of Marlenheim. At either spot (or any in between), you can find a world-class glass of Riesling. If you’d rather try something a bit…older…Strasbourg’s Hôpital Civil has a wine barrel in its basement marked 1472. It is believed to contain 450 liters of the oldest barrel-stored wine in the world.

Wachau: The Wachau wine district, located in Austria’s Danube River Valley, specializes in Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. The prime vineyards are planted along the river on steeply inclined slopes lined with dazzlingly terraced vines. Wachau is well-known for its local Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus organization which classifies the wines of the area according to abv: light-bodied wines up to 11.5% are “Steinfeder,” wines of mid-concentration are known as “Federspiel,” while the heavier wines are designated as “Smaragd.” These three categories are named after a field grass, a falconry call, and emerald-green lizard.

Baden: Baden, one of the southernmost wine-producing regions in Germany, is located just to the east of Alsace; and the majority of the vineyards omprising a long, narrow strip of land tucked between the Rhine River and the Black Forest.  The rain shadow of the Vosges Mountains provides the area with copious sunshine, and helps to make this one of the warmest of Germany’s wine regions. As such, it makes sense that leading grape variety here is Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), which accounts for almost 40% of the plantings. Other leading grapes of Baden include Müller-Thurgau, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, and Gutedel (Chasselas).

Victoria, BC: Victoria is a beautiful city located in the corner of Vancouver Island—itself located just about 100 miles northwest of (and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from) Seattle, Washington. Vancouver Island is an official geographical indication and part of British Columbia’s Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA).  The Vancouver Island Mountain Range, which runs nearly the entire length of the island, provides a rain shadow for much of the eastern side of the island—where most of the vineyards are found. This is a cool-climate growing region, however, the lower rainfall and long frost-free season allows for a long growing season, and a range of grape varieties are successful here. There are close to 40 licensed wineries on Vancouver Island, and almost 400 acres/162 ha planted to vine. The leading grapes of Vancouver Island include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gamay, Chardonnay, Siegerrebe and Maréchal Foch (a red hybrid).

Vienna: Vienna is an amazing city for many reasons (Sachertorte, Christkindlmarkt, Hundertwasserhaus…) including the fact that it is the only European capital city to contain a PDO wine-producing region—the Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC. The designation is approved for blended white wines containing a minimum of three (and maximum of 15) different grape varieties. These wines are meant to be fruit-forward and refreshing, and are often enjoyed at the city’s many Heurigen (fun, raucous, and often seasonal wine taverns).

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: 46° 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: 46 degrees North!

Alto Adige: Alto Adige is a landlocked, mountainous region of northern Italy located along the border between Italy and Austria. Alto Adige has a large German-speaking population, many of whom are apt to refer to their home province as Südtirol (while English speakers may prefer “South Tyrol”). The Alto Adige DOC is approved for a long list of wines including white wines (bianco/weiss), red wines (rosso), rosés (sometimes known as kretzer), sparkling wines, and late harvest/passito wines. The list of approved grape varieties is also long, and includes typically “Italian” grapes such as Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Schiava as well as those more aligned with Germany such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Silvaner, and Kerner.

Jura, France: The Jura is a department in eastern France located along the Swiss Border. The area is home to some of France’s most unique wines, produced under a range of AOCs including Arbois, Macvin du Jura, Crémant du Jura, and Château-Chalon. The grapes grown in the region include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as the more idiosyncratic Poulsard, Trousseau, and Savagnin (also known as Naturé). Vin Jaune (loosely translated to “yellow wine”), a specialty of the Jura, is produced using a Savagnin-based, unfortified white wine that is deliberately oxidized, aged under a veil (voile) provided by a film-forming yeast (similar to the flor yeast of Jerez) and barrel-aged for anywhere from the minimum of six years to several decades.

Neuchâtel AOC: The area surrounding Switzerland’s Neuchâtel AOC (located in the northwest of the country about 25 miles/40 km west of the city of Bern) is often called the three lakes—after Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Murten, and Lake Bienne. Neuchâtel is one of Switzerland’s French-speaking cantons and plenty of wine is produced here. The AOC is approved for white wines based on Chasselas, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Müller Thurgau, and Gewürztraminer as well as reds and rosés using Pinot Noir. Oeil-de-Perdrix—a Pinot Noir rosé—is a specialty of the area, along with sparkling wines and “non filtré” (unfiltered) wines. The Neuchâtel AOC has three sub-regions: La Béroche, The Coast, and the aptly named Entre-deux-Lacs located between Lake Bienne and Lake Neuchâtel.

Maribor, Slovenia: Maribor—the second-largest city in Slovenia—is located within the boundaries of the Podravje PGI wine-producing region. Podravje is Slovenia’s largest wine region in terms of geographical size, and the second (out of three PGIs) in production. The Podravje PGI stretches from the country’s northern border (next to Austria) to its southern border (with inland Croatia)—about 70 miles/112 km) away. While the area is approved for the production of a wide range of wines,  white wines are dominant and include Diseci Traminer (Gewürztraminer), Renski Rizling (Riesling),  Zeleni Silvanec (Silvaner), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Modri Pinot (Pinot Noir).

Meursault: Meursault—a large village AOC in the Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune—is known for its rich (buttery, nutty, honey-scented) Chardonnay-based white wines—although a tiny bit of its production (5%) is red. Despite the fact that Meursault does not contain any grand cru sites, it enjoys a fine reputation based on its 19 premiers crus—particularly those grown on south- and southeast-facing limestone-rich slopes at the southern end of the commune. If you’d like to experience a highly-regarded Meursault premier cru, look for Perrières, Genevrières, or Charmes.

Odessa, Ukraine: Odessa, the third most populous city of Ukraine, is located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea and is part of the Odessa Oblast (which translates to Odessa Province—a term used for both the administrative region ([province] and a wine region). Wine has been produced here for centuries, and a modern wine industry is evolving with most Ukrainian wines consumed in and around Eastern Europe. International grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Merlot have a presence here, as do more typical eastern European varieties such as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, and Fetească. As the country shares a border with both Poland and Russia, it should come as no surprise that Ukraine also has an impressive vodka industry.

St. Pierre: St. Pierre, an island located off the coast of Newfoundland (Canada) is part of the French Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. That’s right…this small group of islands located 2,700 miles/4,350 km from Paris is a vestige of the colony of New France (1543-1763),nd its inhabitants are French citizens. The area is small (about 93 square miles) and there are only about 6,000 inhabitants. While St. Pierre does not have a wine-producing industry to speak of, it does have its share of boulangeries et patisseries as well as an important place in the history of adult beverages: during American Prohibition, Al Capone’s henchmen used the tiny island of St. Pierre as a way station for the transportation of Canadian whisky to the United States.

Snipes Mountain AVA: Washington State’s Snipes Mountain AVA is a tiny region—the second smallest AVA in the state with just over 700 acres (284 ha) planted to vine—and most grapes grown in the region are used in wines that bear the “Yakima Valley AVA” or “Columbia Valley AVA” label. However, there are some exceptions, such as DeLille Cellars’ “Harrison Hill” red blend made using 100% Snipes Mountain fruit. Harrison Hill is a small (5-acre/2 ha) but impressive vineyard that contains some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon wines in all of Washington State. In addition to its long-lived Cabernet Sauvignon, the Snipes Mountain AVA grows Merlot, Chardonnay. Riesling, Syrah, and Grenache (among others).

Warren, Ontario: Warren is located about 215 miles/345 km north of Toronto—which places it just about that far north of the VQA wine-producing areas of Ontario. However, Warren has a winery all its own—Boreal Winery—which bills itself as Canada’s “coldest-climate winery.” Boreal Winery (full name: Boreal Berry Farm and Winery) is also the largest certified organic boreal and arctic berry orchard in North America, and the only winery in the world to produce wine from haskap berries (a “superfood” also known as blue honeysuckle berries). In addition to fruit wines, Boreal Winery produces traditional ciders and ice ciders, including Manitoulin Maple Apple Traditional Ice Cider, cherry cider, and a limited edition Mara des Bois Strawberry Ice Cider. Note: the term boreal means “of the north or northern regions” or “relating to the climate zone just south of the Arctic.”

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