The Toughest Wine Theory Question in the World? (les Notres Dames)

Notre-Dame de Paris (2015)

I think I may just have stumbled upon one of the toughest wine theory questions in the world. Here goes: Name all the French wines that have a “Notre Dame” sub-appellation.

How many did you get? If asked this question yesterday, I am quite sure I would have only come up with one: Bourgogne-La Chapelle Notre-Dame AOC.

However, for some reason I became intrigued with the name, and after some research I discovered two more (and I may have missed some; if so, let me know in the comments below).

So, with a tip of the hat to the great cathedrals, chapels, and universities of the world that take the name of Our Lady, here are the three wines of Notre Dame. 

Bourgogne-La Chapelle Notre-Dame AOC: The Burgundy Region is known for its web-like system of overlapping, scattered, and nested appellations. Critics call this system confusing; proponents prefer to call it complex…like the wines.

Even at its most basic, generic level of geographical indication—the area-wide Bourgogne AOC—the region is complex. Theoretically, a Bourgogne AOC wine may contain grapes grown anywhere within the region—and this includes Chablis, the Côte d’Or, the Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais, and Beaujolais. Allowed in red, white, and rosé, Bourgogne AOC wines may be produced as still (non-sparkling) wines based on Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, or Pinot Noir, with other grapes—Pinot Gris, Gamay, and César—allowed in limited amounts, but only if grown in certain places.

In addition, the Bourgogne AOC has no less than 14 geographically defined subzones, many of which carry their own specific standards (as to yield, density, and minimum must weights, for example). The most interesting of the 14 subzones, for our question du jour, is Bourgogne–La Chapelle Notre-Dame AOC.

The tiny (5 acre/2 ha) La Chapelle Notre-Dame subzone is located in the commune of Ladoix-Serrigny (near the northern edge of the Côte de Beaune). The region sits at the bottom of the hill of Corton, just below the vines of the Corton Grand Cru (and overlapping the single-vineyard Ladoix Premier Cru (there’s that mash-up again). The vineyard overlooks the town of Ladoix-Serrigny and takes its name from the nearby Chapelle Notre Dame du Chemin. 

Puy Notre-Dame: photo by AnnyB via Wikimedia Commons

Saumur-Puy Notre-Dame AOC: The Saumur AOC—covering a sizable area in the central Loire Valley—is approved for a range of wine types and styles, including Chenin Blanc-based whites and Cabernet Franc-based reds. However, a significant amount of the appellation’s production (and lots of the attention) is focused on the region’s high-quality, traditional-method sparkling wines—Saumur Mousseux. The area is also home to some renowned red wines, such as the Cabernet-Franc based wines of the Saumur-Champigny AOC (tucked into the northwest corner of the larger Saumur AOC, just south of the Loire River).

The Puy Notre-Dame sub-appellation covers most of the larger region, save for the area designated as the Saumur-Champigny AOC and a few other outposts. The Saumur-Puy Notre-Dame AOC is named for the commune of Puy Notre-Dame (sometimes referred to as Le Puy; and built around the hill of Puy. The Saumur-Puy Notre-Dame AOC is approved for Cabernet France-based red wines only, and has stricter standards (as for yield, viticultural practices, and aging) than those for the red wines produced under the larger Saumur AOC.

The village church of Puy Notre Dame purportedly houses a wristband once worn by the Virgin Mary and has served as a way station for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Francés.

Photo of Sanctuaire Notre-Dame des Anges by Christian Pinatel de Salvator, via Wikimedia Commons

Côtes de Provence-Notre-Dame des Anges AOC: The Côtes de Provence AOC is ground zero for Provençal rosé. Although red and white wines are approved for production, nearly 90% of production is rosé.

Rosé made in the Côtes de Provence AOC must contain at least two grape varieties—typically Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and/or Tibouren. 

Covering close to 50,000 acres/20,000 ha—and encompassing almost the entire eastern half of the region—the Côtes de Provence AOC is the largest appellation in Provence. The terrain is understandably varied, ranging from the rolling hills in the north, limestone ridges, low coastal mountains, and the coastal plain. In 2019, an area located somewhat in the center of the Var Département—known as Notre-Dame des Anges—was approved as the fifth sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence AOC.

The Côtes de Provence-Notre-Dame des Anges AOC surrounds the Massif des Maures—a low mountain range that cuts (west to east) across the center of the Var department. The AOC is named for the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame des Anges—a catholic church and pilgrimage site at the top of one of the Massif’s highest peaks.

Bonus Points—French cider also has a Notre-Dame connection: Within the Pays d’Auge AOC—centered around the Calvados department and approved to produce dry-to-off-dry, frizzante apple cider—there are 22 sub-appellations. Two of these—Notre-Dame-deLivaye and Notre-Dame-d’Estrées—are communes named for Our Lady. 

References/for more information:

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

One Small Step for the EU, a Giant Leap for German Wine?

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All good wine students know that Germany famously has 13 Anbaugebiete (quality wine regions); each of which can produce Qualitätswein and Prädikatswein.  These are wines of the highest quality—with multiple layers of regulation and protection—classified in the EU as wines with a protected designation of origin (PDO). The 13 Anbaugebiete are all permitted to produce a wide range of wines, and each region’s product specification contains a long list of allowed grape varieties, wine styles, and wine-making techniques.

Well, good wine students of the world, hold on—because things are changing. Germany now has five PDOs defining small, specific areas within the larger Anbaugebiete. In addition, their rules dictate a list of approved grape varieties, limits on yield, and required/allowed/disallowed methods of production—just like a French-style AOC or an Italian DOCG. Welcome to the world, German PDOs.

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Here are some details concerning Germany’s new region-grape-and-style-specific PDOs:

Monzinger Niederberg (Nahe): This vineyard was registered as a PDO by the EU on December 13, 2018. Monzinger Niederberg PDO is approved for the Riesling grape only; specifically for wines with “fine apple and citrus fruit notes in their aroma and a distinct minerality.” The region specializes in dry wine (defined as having less than 25 g/L residual sugar/less than 18 g/L if total tartaric acid is below 7.2 g/L), but sweet wines are produced as well. PDO regulations specify that the wines must be produced using taste-neutral containers, but allows for the use of oak containers if the oak character in the finished wine is “discreet” or not discernible. The use of small, new oak barrels is specifically prohibited.

Bürgstädter Berg (Franken): Bürgstädter Berg PDO was registered by the EU on May 17, 2017. It allows for the production of white wine, rosé/weissherbst, red wine, and sparkling wine. The wines may be produced in a range of styles, including the “traditional but very rarely produced sweet wines—Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein.” The Bürgstadter Berg PDO is located on a predominantly south-facing slope alongside the River Main. According to the documentation, the area within the Bürgstädter Berg PDO differs from the surrounding region by way of its variegated sandstone soils that contain “lower soil cohesion and the lower pH value than is usual in Franconian soils.” The preferred grape varieties for white wines are Riesling and Silvaner; other allowed grape varieties include Zweigelt, Frühburgunder, Weissburgunder, Silvaner, Spätburgunder, Müller Thurgau, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

Map of the Uhlen Roth Lay, Uhlen Laubach, and Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay PDOs via https://www.ble.de/DE

The following three PDOs—Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay, Uhlen Laubach, and Ulen Roth Lay—are all part of the larger Winninger Uhlen vineyard. Located in the Lower Mosel—just 5 miles/8 km from where the Mosel meets the Rhine—they are positioned next to each other (intertwined in some spots), on a series of south-facing terraces along the Mosel River. All three of these PDOs were registered on December 13, 2108:

Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay (Mosel): This region is approved for white wines, both still and sparkling. Riesling is the only grape variety permitted. The wines are described as having fruity notes (ripe autumn apples) as well as notes of violets and licorice—but it is the “slate minerals” and “cool metallic” aromas that the wine is best known for.  Some wine making practices (including the use of potassium sorbate, de-alcoholization, concentration via centrifuge or osmosis, sweetening with grape must, and the use of oak chips) are specifically prohibited.

Uhlen Laubach (Mosel): This PDO is approved for the same styles of wine (Riesling only, still and sparkling) as its neighbors. It also shares the same list of prohibited wine making practices. However, in addition to fruity aromas and the character of clean slate, the wines of the Uhlen Laubach PDO are described as smelling of “cool smoke and hazelnuts,” and as “generally fuller, softer, and with great depth of flavor.”

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Uhlen Roth Lay (Mosel): Like its neighbors, the Uhlen Roth Lay PDO is approved for Riesling only, which may be still or sparkling. The wines of the area are known to demonstrate fruity and aromas and notes of minerality. The region is unique for its sparse rainfall and climate, which features slightly higher temperatures than the surrounding areas.

Wait, there’s one more: A sixth appellation—Würzburger Stein-Berg, located in Franken—is at the “publication” stage of the EU approval process. The Würzburger Stein-Berg PDO application was accepted earlier this year and published in the Journal of the EU on April 17, 2020; it still needs that final step of EU registration. Update: the Würzburger Stein-Berg PDO was approved on November 24, 2020. 

Pictures or it didn’t happen: If you are finding all this a bit hard to believe, I feel you. As proof-positive, you can read the documentation—straight from the Official Journal of the EU—in the reference section below.

References/for more information:

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

Happy June Solstice 2020!

The Bubbly Professor’s Second Annual “I don’t Wanna Sudy on Christmas Eve” Wine Quiz

Study tonight? Who, me?

I know you probably don’t want to study today, tonight, or tommorow…but you also don’t want to lose your study rhythm! How about a nice compromise….the Bubbly Professor’s second annual “I don’t wanna study on Christmas Eve” quiz!

If you want to go for it, click here.

Happy Holidays to those that are celebrating, and best wishes to all!

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

Click here if you want to try last year’s “I don’t wanna study on Christmas” quiz.

Peculiarities of Perception

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Time flies when you’re having fun (or better put: time flies when you’re having rum).

A watched pot never boils.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

It seems—at least from the platitudes we often use—that we all understand that perception is relative. Time does seem to fly by when you’re having fun, but every  second spent while stuck in traffic drags by endlessly.

This vagary of perception is equally easy to understand when applied to taste. For instance, I love coffee, but when served black it’s too bitter for me. Once I add a shot of milk, I don’t notice the bitterness as much (and I drink at least three cups every morning). I also like Earl Grey tea, but only if there is a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lemon involved, making it taste less tannic and (in my opinion) richer and smoother.

Wine enthusiasts experience these peculiarities of perception with just about every taste – despite the fact that we don’t always know or recognize it. First-time sippers of Sauternes often have an immediate reaction to the sweetness of the wine (some even recoil from it). However, Sauternes is typically quite acidic in addition to its more obvious sweetness. We just don’t notice it (unless we are truly focused on finding it), as our perception of the acidity is masked by the sweetness – especially on the attack (the first few seconds of the tasting experience).

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Sweetness (residual sugar) in a wine really does a number on our overall perception of that same wine, and can be credited with the following peculiarities on the palate:

  • Suppresses the perception of acidity
  • Suppresses the perception of bitterness
  • May suppress the perception of astringency (tactile dryness)
  • May enhance the perception of viscosity

And then there are those factors that cause a quirk in our ability to perceive true sweetness (residual sugar) in a wine:

  • Acidity, tannin, and/or bitterness may suppress the perception of sweetness
  • High(ish) levels of alcohol enhance the perception of sweetness
  • Bubbles in sparkling wine tend to suppress the perception of sweetness
  • Aromas of oak and/or vanilla mimic sweetness
  • Oak-derived lactones: mimic sweetness
  • Fruity aromas tend to mimic sweetness
  • Cold temperatures suppress the perception of sweetness
  • Glycerol (glycerin) has a sweet taste (but is not sugar)

Most of this only really matters if you are trying to analyze a wine (as in a blind tasting or when writing a tasting note), or when you are trying to develop your palate and improve your wine tasting ability. If this happens to be one of your idiosyncrasies, perhaps you’d like to check out the attached chart (see below) that lists the peculiarities of the perception of sweetness in wine, as well as some for bitterness, tannin, and acidity.

I hope it makes the time fly!

Check out the chart here: The Peculiarities of Wine Perception – the Bubbly Professor

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

 

Pertaining to Petrichor

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Wine and spirits aficionados have a unique vocabulary. Consider these terms, and admit to yourself how often you have used them: foxy, malo, stemmy, corked, brett. Dig a bit deeper and we find hogo, rancio, lanolin, graphite, and iodine.

And then there is petrichor, often used to describe an earthy, sometimes mineral-like aroma defined as “the scent that arises from the earth after it rains.” To be specific, it refers to the scent of the air after a light rain falls on dry earth—the breaking of a dry spell, as it were. Scientists will tell us that we humans find the aroma pleasant due to the fact that in an evolutionary sense, humans relied on the rain for survival and the aroma represents life-sustaining rainfall (a fact which remains true today).

The term itself was invented in 1964 by two Australian scientists—Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G. Thomas—who were working for Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Their work was published in the March 1964 edition of Nature magazine, under the title The Nature of Argillaceous Odour (the word “argillaceous” referring to rocks or sediment containing clay).  Bear and Thomas explained the source of the petrichor aroma as remnants of the oils emitted by plants and bacteria trapped in the soil.

The word itself is derived from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood that flowed in the veins of the gods, according to Greek mythology). In terms of etymology, it is the stuff of legends: blood from a stone. 

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In 2015, scientists at MIT figured out—and captured using high-speed cameras—the mechanism of petrichor. Put simply, as a raindrop hits the ground (a porous surface), tiny air bubbles are trapped just below the surface. The bubbles then shoot upward, creating a tiny explosion of aromatic compounds as they escape the surly bonds of earth.

Pop culture alert: the word petrichor had its moment of fame in the Doctor Who TV series. In the episode titled “The Doctor’s Wife,” characters played by Karen Gillna, Matt Smith, and Suranne Jones used the word as part of a password (Crimson…Eleven…Delight…Petrichor). They defined petrichor as “the smell of dust after rain.” It’s an impressively accurate definition. Check out a video here.

There is also a winery known as Petrichor Vineyards, located in Sonoma’s Fountaingrove District AVA. According to the winery website, the term “petrichor” represents a passion for terroir—and a good choice it is.

References/for more information:

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

Rotling Revival

 

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This week I happened upon a few examples of Rotling—served at the home of a friend fresh off a Paris-to-Switzerland river cruise. I don’t know much about Rotling, besides the fact that it is type of German rosé, and I can’t remember the last time I tasted (or even thought about) Rotling. It is obviously time for a Rotling revival!

The basics: according to the Wines of Germany website, Rotling is a German rosé made by blending red and white grapes (or red and white must) together prior to fermentation. The “prior to fermentation” detail is very important, as this is NOT a pink wine made by blending together red and white wine (that’s frowned upon in most European PDO wines). Rotling must be pale pink to light red in color, but it may be produced in various levels of sweetness, varying levels of spritz (from still to Perlwein or Sekt), and from a range of grape varieties.

Throughout the course of a very long morning, I googled down many a wine-website-rabbit hole trying to find Rotling for sale in the US. I wasn’t successful in finding a bottle available in Texas, however, I did learn that Rotling is widely enjoyed throughout Germany and Central Europe, often served as a “wine by the glass or carafe” or packaged as a bulk wine. There is also a good deal of bottled Rotling available in Europe at a good, quaffable price—sometimes as low as five euros for a liter bottle.

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The details: There are a few specifically-defined types of Rotling:

  • Schillerwein is a Rotling produced in the Württemberg wine region; it must be at least Qualitätswein-level quality. According to Dr. Christian Schiller, writing on the i-winereview.com blog, the wine’s name is derived from the verb “schillern,” meaning “to scintillate”—a reference to the wine’s brilliant (scintillating) color.
  • Badisch Rotgold is a Rotling produced in the Baden wine region; it also must be at least Qualitätswein-level quality. Badisch Rotgold must be produced using Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), with Grauburgunder as the majority grape, and the grape varieties must be declared on the label.
  • Schieler is a Rotling from the Sachsen wine region; it too must be at least Qualitätswein-level quality.

The wines: here is a bit of information about the wines I was lucky enough to sample:

  • Castel-Castell Rotling Trocken 2016: This wine was a beautiful, bright-but-light watermelon hue. This wine is produced in the Franken wine region from a blend of Müller-Thurgau and Acolon (a Blaufränkisch X Dornfelder cross) grapes. This is a crisp, fruity, delightful wine with aromas and flavors of ripe berries (raspberries, strawberries), a whiff of baking spice and a floral note.
  • Weingut Heinrich Basten Rotling Feinherb 2016: This wine was slightly lighter in color, but still had a delightful “light-reddish” color and crystal-clear-clarity. Nicely crisp but slightly sweet, this wine had aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry, and tangerine, with a slight hint of nutmeg and (yum) marshmallow. This wine is a blend of Müller Thurgau und Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir).

In Germany, from what my friend tells me, they have no problem drinking Rotling in December—or any other time of year…so now is as good a time as any to reach for a Rotling!

References/for more information:

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

Indiana Jones and the Grapes of Olmo

Photo of Dr. Harold Olmo via the Archives of UC Davis: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=8037

The other day I was doing some quick research on Ruby Cabernet. The first result (via Wikipedia, no less) introduced the grape as such: “Ruby Cabernet is a red Olmo grape variety…” As these things go, my interest quickly changed from the parentage of Ruby Cabernet to the Olmo grapes. It sounded familiar, yet only vaguely familiar.

The Olmo grapes it seems, are the creation of Dr. Harold Olmo, a former UC Davis professor with a long list of viticultural (and other) accomplishments. In total, Dr. Olmo served on the faculty of UC Davis for over 60 years, including 29 years as a Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Olmo began his studies and research at the University of California at Berkeley (he had a PhD in genetics), but moved to the Davis campus along with the rest of the University’s wine research program in the 1930’s. There he embarked on his grape breeding program, attempting to create grapes of great flavor and structure that could be grown in the warm, dry climate of California’s Central Valley.

Of the dozens of grapes he created, Dr. Olmo’s best-known grapes include the following:

  • Ruby Cabernet—a Cabernet Sauvignon X Carignan cross, often used for blends but also made into varietal wines, grown throughout Central California, Australia, South America, and South Africa
  • Emerald Riesling—a Riesling X Muscaelle cross bred for use in warm climates; it is grown in some parts of California and South Africa and is used quite extensively in Israel
  • Symphony—a Muscat of Alexandria X Grenache Gris cross, grown in some parts of California and used to produce slightly spicy white wines with citrus–peach–apricot aromas
  • Rubired—a hybrid of Tinto Cão (vinifera) and Alicante Ganzin (a vinifera X Vitis rupestris hybrid), Rubired is a teinturier with deeply-colored red juice used primarily in blends and fortified wines in California and Australia

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Dr. Olmo was known not only for his grape breeding program, but his swashbuckling adventures in pursuit of wild grapes, grape archaeology, and viticultural consultation.  These adventures included (as reported by his daughter, Jeanne-Marie Olmo, via an interview on Uncorked: The Blog), being arrested and jailed in a chicken coop (as a result of the death of a donkey), harvesting ancient vine seeds on the Iranian border, and attempting to deliver grape cuttings to the  ambassador of Afghanistan. These escapades earned him the nickname of “the Indiana Jones of Viticulture.”

Dr. Olmo created the first grape quarantine facility in California, allowing hundreds of European varieties to be imported into and planted securely in the United States—many people consider this his greatest contribution to California wine. Dr. Olmo also created an in-depth study of Chardonnay in California that resulted in an increase in California Chardonnay from less than 300 acres in the 1970’s to the powerhouse grape that it is today.

Dr. Olmo was a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, and received the Medal for Outstanding Contributions to World Viticulture by the Office of International de la Vigne et du Vin in 1965. He was a consultant to the United Nations for over twenty years and was named, in 2007, as an “Icon” in the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame. These are just a few of the dozens of national and international awards and recognition he received over his career. Dr. Olmo passed away in the middle of an afternoon nap on June 30, 2006. He was 96 years old, and the world of wine will never forget him.

References/for more information:

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

March of the Hybrids

Hybrid grape varieties—they are loved in Canada (Vidal) for icewine, in New York State (Cayuga) for sparkling wine, and in Texas (Blanc de Bois) for deflecting Pierce’s Disease.

In the European Union? Not so much. The EU has very little love for hybrid grapes, and only a handful of them are approved for use in quality wines—meaning they have made it onto the all-important Register of Approved Varieties. Ouch.

However….hybrid grapes are not entirely shunned in the vineyards of the EU. Here are three examples of hybrid grapes that marched right into the European Union where they were greeted with (somewhat) open arms.

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Baco Blanc: Baco Blanc is a hybrid of Folle Blanche (vinifera) X Noah (a seedling of Tyler—a natural riparia X labrusca hybrid discovered in Henry County, Kentucky—that for some spooky reason has a DNA profile identical to the Basque grape Hondarribi  Zuri). Baco Blanc was created in 1898 by François Baco, working in the Landes in southwest France, in response to the fact that Folle Blanche was not taking well to grafted rootstock.  The inventor actually named the grape Maurice Baco in honor of his late son, but the name Piquepoul du Gers was widely used in and around southwest France, leading to some confusion about the progeny of the grape. Baco Blanc is a light-skinned white grape with fairly neutral flavors and just a hint of the “foxy” shining through.

Baco Blanc’s claim to fame: Baco Blanc is one of the ten grapes authorized in the production of Armagnac, and is listed as an approved variety on all four of the decrets concerning the great brandy: Armagnac AOC, Armagnac-Ténarèze AOC, Bas Armagnac AOC, and Blanche Armagnac AOC. This makes Baco Blanc the only hybrid grape used in a French appellation d’origine controlee (AOC/PDO) product. Not bad.

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Regent: Regent (a red grape) was created in 1967 in Pfalz, Germany by a scientist named Gerhardt Alleweldt. Bred to be resistant to diseases of the fungus/rot/mildew variety, it is a hybrid of Diana (vinifera—Silvaner X Müller-Thurgau) X Chambourcin (itself already a complex French-American hybrid).  The grape was named after a famous diamond that once embellished the Crown of Louis XV (and now resides in the Louvre).

Regent’s claim to fame: Regent makes darn good wine. It ripens to high sugar levels, and can produce full-bodied wines with velvety tannins and aromas of red fruit (cherry, red currant, red plum). It’s so good that it often is described—in complimentary terms—as “vinifera-like” and “you can’t even tell it’s a hybrid.” Germany even managed to get it listed in the Register of Approved Varieties as a vinifera variety. There are currently over 5,000 acres (2,020 ha) planted in Germany, with additional plantings in Switzerland and England. In Belgium, it is an approved variety in the Côtes de Sambre et Meuse, Hageland, Haspengouw, and Heuvelland AOCs.

Rondo grapes photo credit: Dr. Joachim Schmid (Geisenheim University) via Wikimedia Commons

Rondo: Rondo, a red grape, is a hybrid of St. Laurent (vinifera) X Zarya Sevra (a Seyants Malengra X Vitis amurensis hybrid). Rumor has it that it was originally created in 1964 by Czech Professor Vilém Kraus, who later offered the grape to Dr. Helmut Becker of the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute—which explains why the grape is known as a German hybrid.

Rondo’s claim to fame: Rondo has been listed in the EU’s Register of Approved Varieties since 1997—interestingly enough, with the entry for “species” left blank (cue the theme to The Twilight Zone…) But all conspiracy theories aside, it seems that Rondo is a vigorous vine with excellent disease resistant, and as a bonus the grapes have red-colored flesh—making it a good blending partner for many cold-weather red grapes. It seems that despite its amurensis-linked heritage, the wines it produces are vinifera-enough in style to give it a spot on the roster.  Rondo is currently the number 4 red grape (by vineyard plantings) in England, and is planted in Germany (particularly in Baden and other areas near the southern portion of the country).

References/for more information

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

Marselan from Marseillan

Photo of Marselan Grapes by Vbecart Photography, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Marselan Grapes by Vbecart Photography, via Wikimedia Commons

I first heard of the grape variety Marselan while studying – for the first time – the wines of China. China, as you may have heard, recently became the world’s second-place country in terms of vineyard holdings – coming in on the list right after Spain, and before France. While many of China’s vineyards are dedicated to table grapes, wine grapes, including vinifera varieties, now account for at least 10% of the vines. Of the vinifera varieties grown, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, followed by Carmenère, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Gamay, Grenache, and Marselan.

There it was: Marselan – a grape variety I had never heard of before – so of course I had to investigate…

Marselan is a vinifera cross (Cabernet Sauvignon X Grenache) created in 1961 by French ampelographer Paul Truel. Truel was working in Montpellier, France at the Institut National de la Recherché Agronomique (INRA). His goal was to create a high yielding grape with large berries of at least moderate quality. Marselan produces grape berries of small-to-medium size, so the variety was shelved and not expected to have a future in commercial wine production.

However…by the 1990’s viticultural priorities had shifted, and disease resistance, particularly to threats such as powdery mildew and coulure, brought Marselan out of cold storage. The grape was approved by the French as a commercial variety in 1990 and in 2007 was approved by the TTB (United States) as a varietal wine name.

At its best, Marselan is said to combine the finesse and quality of Cabernet Sauvignon with the heat tolerance and high yield of Grenache. According to Jancis Robinson’s book “Wine Grapes,” varietal Marselan “tends to produce deeply colored and highly aromatic wines that have supple tannins and the potential to age.”

In addition to its plantings in China, Marselan is planted – albeit in small amounts – throughout the south of France. It is allowed to be up to 10% of the blend in the wines of the Côtes du Rhône AOC, and is produced as a varietal wine in the Languedoc. Small plantings may also be found in California, Argentina, Arizona, Spain, Uruguay, and Brazil.

The grape was named “Marselan” by its creator, in homage to the town of Marseillan, France. Marseillan is the home of the phylloxera-free vine collection of Domaine de Vassal, operated by the INRA. Domaine de Vassal provided the parent Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache vines from which the original Marselan was bred.

References:

  • Robinson, Jancis (et al): Wine Grapes. New York, 2012: Harper Collins Publishers
  • Robinson, Jancis and Harding, Julia: The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4rd Edition. Oxford, 2015: The Oxford University Press
  •  http://www.winechina.com/en/