Mind your Latitude: 34° South


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 South!

Rapel Valley: The Chilean city of Rancagua—located at 34°S, about 50 miles (75 km) south of Santiago—sits alongside the Cachapoal River as it winds its way towards the Rapel River and out to the Pacific Ocean. The valley surrounding the Cachapoal River—along with the Colchagua Valley, carved out by the Tinguiririca River—form the basis of the Rapel Valley wine region. The Rapel Valley is a prodigious region planted to over 100,00 acres (41,000 ha) of vines. Those vineyards planted closest to the coast (mainly in the Colchagua Valley Zone), receive some cooling influences from the Pacific, while those planted further inland (mainly in the Cachapoal Valley Zone) are tucked into the foothills of the Andes. Like much of Chile’s Central Valley, the area is planted largely (over 80%) to red varieties. The leading grapes of the Rapel Valley include Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay.

San Rafael DOC: The San Rafael DOC—one of only two appellations in Argentina entitled to use the Denominación de Origen Controlada (DOC) designation—is located in a subregion of the Mendoza province known as South Mendoza. The San Rafael DOC is situated somewhat to the east of the Andes Foothills, near the town of San Rafael and surrounding the Diamante River as it flows towards the plains. The elevation is moderate by Argentine standards—vineyards are planted between 1,600 and 3,100 feet/485–950 meters above sea level—but impressive, nonetheless. Malbec is the leading grape variety, but outstanding wines are also being produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Montevideo: Montevideo—located in the south of the country, on the northern bank of the Río de la Plata—is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. Many of the country’s oldest wineries are located here, and the region is still home to nearly 1,000 hectares/2,470 acres of vines, despite the growing population of the city (close to 40% of the entire country’s population now lives in Montevideo).With the growth of the city, vineyards and wineries have migrated just to the north, to the Canelones Region (located only about 20 miles north of the outskirts of Montevideo). Canelones boasts over 60% of the country’s vineyards and more than 100 wineries. Tourists are often surprised by the gentle terrain of Uruguay (in great contrast to the wine regions of Argentina and Chile)—elevation varies between 25 meters/75 feet and 55 meters/175 feet. The rolling hills, combined with significant rainfall and the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, often leads to comparisons with the terroir of Bordeaux—not a bad reputation for a wine region, I would guess!

Cape Town: The Cape Town wine district (named after the vibrant city of the same name) lies at the heart of South Africa’s Western Cape, making it a fantastic starting point for anyone touring the winelands (and other amazing destinations) of South Africa. This newly-designated district includes the historic center of South African wine—the Constantia Ward (known for its world-famous Vin de Constance dessert wine), as well as the wards of Durbanville, Hout Bay, and Philadelphia. Cape Town’s location on the Atlantic Coast makes this a cool-climate region well-known for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. However, when in Cape Town, you are less than an hour’s drive from the world-class wine regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek Valley—so you should plan to stay a while.

Margaret River: Located in Western Australia, the Margaret River is a fairly young wine region—Harold Olmo (in 1955) was one of the first viticulturists to take notice of the area—but it was not until the late 1960s that commercial vines were planted. These first vines (mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz) proved to be a success, and soon the wineries began to spring up, and the region was declared a geographical indication (GI) in 1996. The Margaret River is located on the extreme west coast of Australia, bounded by both the Indian and Southern Oceans. As such, this low-elevation, sea-side region has a Mediterranean climate with strong maritime influences—ideal for the area’s Chardonnay, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (including some of the original vines).

Barossa Valley: The Barossa Valley—located in the state of South Australia about 35 miles (53 km) north of the city of Adelaide—is one of the oldest and most famous wine regions in all of Australia. Wine has been produced in the area since the 1840s, with the early days of Barossa Valley viticulture largely shaped by an influx of German immigrants. This first wave of viticulture included the production of Riesling and fortified wine and —not surprisingly—these wines were not regarded too highly. However, by the late 1900s, the area had begun to produce full-bodied Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache. These wines—much better suited to the warm, continental climate of the area—soon earned the worldwide acclaim still enjoyed by the red wines of the Barossa Valley. While many of the vineyards of the region are planted on the warmer valley floors, the region does include some hillsides and higher-elevation vineyards—allowing for world-class white wines (namely Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, and Viognier) to be produced as well.

Northland: Northland is the northernmost wine region in New Zealand, and tends to be warmer, more humid, and rainier than the rest of New Zealand. Wine production in this region is miniscule in quantity, but the area can claim to the very first vineyards in New Zealand—planted by Reverend Samuel Marsden in the Bay of Islands area (on the east coast of the Far North District) in 1819. Later, at the end of 1800s, a wave of immigrants from Croatia carried their wine culture and expertise with them, and soon the area was known for its Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Viognier—in addition to red wines made with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chambourcin (among others).

References/for more information:

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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


Mind your Latitude: 32° South


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 South!

Choapa Valley: Chile’s Choapa Valley is located near the southern edge of the Coquimbo Viticultural Region, south of both the Elqui and Limarí Valleys. This is the narrowest part of Chile—around the town of Illapel, the country is just 94 kilometers (60 miles) wide. This is also a region where the Andes Mountains blend in with the hills of Chile’s Coastal Range, leaving no room for an east-west valley between the two ranges. As such, the vineyards of the Choapa Valley are cooled by the breezes of the Pacific Ocean while being planted at significant elevations (averaging 800 meters/2,600 feet). This makes for an overall cooler climate than would be expected due to the latitude (although at an average of 4.5 inches [100 mm] of rain per year, the area definitely qualifies as a desert. The Choapa Valley is very scarcely planted to vines; only about 100 hectares (247 acres) are planted. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most-planted varieties.

Luján de Cuyo DOC: The Luján de Cuyo DOC is located within the Primera Zona of Mendoza, Argentina’s leading wine-producing province. This is a moderately high-altitude area, situated just south of the city of Mendoza, with vineyards planted at elevations between 2,300 and 4,300 feet (690 meters to 1,300 meters) above sea level.  This is a warm area with very little rainfall, tucked into the plateau located between the foothills Andes to the west and the Lunlunta Hills (to the east). While many grape varieties are grown in the area, the Luján de Cuyo DOC (approved as a denomination in 2005) is approved for 100% Malbec only.

Salto, Uruguay: Uruguay’s Salto Department is located in the northwestern part of the country just across the Uruguay River from Argentina. Salto is currently home to less than 100 hectares/247 acres of vines—most of it planted to Tannat. However; the region still holds a great deal of importance to the wine industry of Uruguay, as it was here that Don Pascual Harriague—a Frenchman from the Basque country—first introduced the Tannat grape variety to Uruguay.  After Harriague settled in Salto in the 1840s, he developed an interest in farming and began to grow grapes and other crops. The native grapes, however, did not prove to be suitable for wine, so he consulted Juan Jauregui, a viticulturist from Argentina for advice. Through this connection, Harriague acquired some cuttings of Tannat sourced from the Madiran region of Southwest France. Harriague cultivated the grapes and, after first his successful harvest of Tannat in 1878, championed the grape for use in the rest of the country. Today, Tannat is considered Uruguay’s “signature” grape as well as the leading vinifera variety in the country, accounting for close to 40% of all plantings. Well done, Don Pascual!

Perth Hills: The Perth Hills Region of Western Australia is a long and narrow region running north-to-south just east of the Darling Scarp (and the Swan District below), and only a few miles inland from the Indian Ocean.  As the name implies, this is a hilly area—elevation ranges from 495 to1,300 feet /150 to 400 meters) above sea level—so vineyard microclimate depends a good deal on slope, aspect, elevation, and whether or not the spot receives the benefit of the ocean breezes. In general, however, the climate is described as typically Mediterranean, and vines have been cultivated in Perth Hills since the 1880s. These days, there are just over 125 hectares (310 acres) in Perth Hills, with the majority of the vines planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

Hunter Valley: Located about 90 miles/145 km north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley can easily claim to be the best-known wine area of the Australian state of New South Wales. This is a large area, stretching inland from coast, almost completely surrounded by mountains, and covering a region known as the Hunter Valley Catchment. This is one of the oldest wine-producing areas of Australia, serving as the original home base for James Busby (in the 1830s) and Dr Henry Lindeman (in 1843).  The region is known for a sub-tropical, humid, and warm climate—but mid-to-high elevation vineyards, precision viticulture, and early harvest dates help this area turn our world-class wines—both red and white. The Hunter Valley is famously one of the few regions in the world specializing in varietal Semillon—and the Shiraz and Chardonnay are fabulous as well.

Swartland: The Swartland District, located about an hour’s drive north of Cape Town, is part of South Africa’s Western Cape Geographical Unit (GU). This is a large area, covering a rugged landscape that includes mountains, valleys, hills, the banks of the Berg River and Atlantic Coastline. Formerly planted mainly to wheat and other grains, many of the vineyards in this dry-farmed area are planted with gobelet-trained bush vines, making them well-suited to the warm climate and widespread use of dry farming. Swartland has traditionally been known for robust red wines—Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage in particular—and these days, is a prolific producer of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc as well. The name Swartland—meaning black land—refers to the native (and endangered) renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that turns black after the rain

References/for more information:

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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

Mind your Latitude: 30° South


We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we will be taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  30 degrees South, as we begin our journey through the southern latitudes.

Elqui Valley: The Elqui Valley sits in Chile’s Coquimbo viticultural region—just south of the Atacama Desert. Traditionally, the Elqui Valley produced table grapes and grapes for Pisco (Chile’s grape-based brandy)—and Pisco production is still a very big deal here.

As would be expected, the Elqui Valley is warm, dry, and famous for its bright pure sunshine—and as such, is increasingly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. However, the valley between the Coast Range and the Andes is narrow-to-non-existent here, and the region’s vineyards reside at elevations up to 6,550 feet (2,000 m) above sea level, meaning that warm, clear days are followed by cool, crisp nights. The areas close to the Pacific Ocean (along the Elqui River) are producing cool-climate Syrah, which may soon become the best-known wine of the region.

The Elqui Valley—world-famous for its clear skies—is home to the Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary as well as a plethora of research observatories. This makes the Elqui Valley heaven for those looking to the skies—astro-tourists and astro-physicists alike.

Jáchal, San Juan: Argentina’s San Juan province sits between La Rioja (to the north and east) and Mendoza (to the south). San Juan is well-known as the second largest wine-producing province in the country (second, obviously, to Mendoza). The Jáchal sub-region—situated around the city of San José de Jáchal—is one of the northern-most wine -producing areas in the province, placing it firmly in the 30th parallel south. This is a picturesque, sparsely-populated area blessed by a series of mountain ridges as well as the fast-flowing Jáchal River and a spectacular canyon—the 100-foot (30 meter) Jáchal River Gorge. This economy of the area is focused on agriculture, and includes olives, onions, alfalfa, and quince in addition to wine. The vineyards of the Jáchal GI (approved in 2002) are focused on Torrontés Riojano, Muscat of Alexandria, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Bonarda (Douce Noir).

KwaZulu-Natal: Nearly all of South Africa’s wine hails from the Western Cape Geographical Unit, however, a few other areas around the country produce wine as well. KawZula-Natal, a province located on the eastern coast of the country, was approved as a Geographical Unit (GU) for wine production in 2005. Vitis vinifera has been planted in the area since the 1990s, with the first wine estate—Stables Wine Estate, founded by Tiny and Judy van Niekerk—founded soon thereafter.  Since these beginnings, a  few other wine estates, including Cathedral Peak Wine Estate and Highgate Wine Estate, have been established as well. These properties focus on Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, The KwaZula-Natal GU currently contains two wine-producing appellations: within it: Central Drakensburg District and Lions River District.

New England Australia: New England Australia is the northernmost wine region (geographical indication) in New South Wales. Actually, it is located along the northern border of the NSW, touching the boundary of Queensland (and the Granite Belt Wine Region). The New England Australia region sits along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and extends westward into the region known as New England Tablelands. Most of the vineyards reside at elevations between 1,300 and 3,300 feet (400–1,000 meters) above sea level, making this area slightly cooler than the Hunter Valley Zone located on low-lying ground (to the south and west). The New England Australia Region holds the title for the highest-elevation vineyard in Australia, located near Black Mountain at an altitude of 4,330 feet (1,320 meters). The leading grapes of New England Australia mimic those found in most Australian regions—including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvingon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Merlot—but a few interesting varieties, including Verdelho, Petite Sirah, and Gewürztraminer are found here as well.

Northern Cape, South Africa: South Africa’s Northern Cape Geographical Unit (and province) lies just to the north of the Western Cape, and stretches as far north as 28°S. Vineyards are sparse in this typically hot and dry area; however, it does contain three wine-producing wards: Central Orange River, Hartswater, and Prieska. The best-known of these—Central Orange River—is also the northernmost, however, the climate is moderated by the presence of the Orange River itself. The Orange River has its origins in the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho, and flows (generally) west for over 1,300 miles (2,100 km) before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The majority of the vineyards in the Central Orange River ward are located about 250 miles (400 km) inland from the coast, and planted on gravelly, alluvial soils. Traditionally, the region has been planted to white wine grapes (some used for bulk wine), but red grapes—including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, and Shiraz—are on the rise.

Serra Gaúcha: Serra Gaúcha, considered one of the six main wine-producing regions of Brazil, is located in the state of Río Grande do Sul—Brazil’s southern-most state (sitting just to the north of Uruguay). Serra Gaúcha is the biggest (and most important) wine region of Brazil, producing over 85% of the wine grapes and quality wine made in Brazil. The modern era of wine production in the region dates back to at least 1875, when a wave of Italian immigrants brought their knowledge and love of viticulture to the region. Serra Gaúcha built its reputation on Italian varieties—including Bonarda, Moscato, and Trebbiano. These days, however, international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are widely represented, and the area has become a leading producer of Brazilian sparling wine as well.

References/for more information:

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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

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