It’s Baffling…Bonarda (and Friends)

Bonarda is baffling. One grape—Bonarda Piemontese—may be considered the Original Bonarda or the True Bonarda…and yet there are quite a few other distinctly different grapes that (at least sometimes) go by the same name. These include Croatina, Douce Noir, and Uva Rara. Let’s take a closer look and try to unravel the mystery of Bonarda.

Bonarda Piemontese: Native to Italy’s Piedmont region, Bonarda Piemontese has been linked with the area around Turin since the 1790s. This heritage suggests that Bonarda Piemontese is the Original Bonarda and most likely the first grape to use the moniker.

Bonarda Piemontese is very sparsely planted—the latest statistics count just 540 acres/218 ha planted in Piedmont. The grape—typically used in red blends—is specifically mentioned and allowed for use in a few of the appellations of northwest Piedmont, including Colli Tortonesi DOC and Pinerolese DOC. (Several other Piedmont appellations allow for the use of Bonarda; but the regulations are unclear as to which specific version of Bonarda is intended.)

According to the Vitis International Variety Catalogue (VIVC), Bonarda Piemontese has up to 14 synonyms; of these, the ones that make the most sense include Bonarda di Asti, Bonarda di Chieri, and Bonarda Nero. In red blends, it is appreciated for its color, freshness, and ability to add a bit of softness to a wine otherwise full of edgy (often Nebbiolo-derived) tannin. If you ever happen to stumble across a varietal Bonarda Piemontese, you could expect to find a smooth, soft-tasting wine with floral aromas and fresh, fruity flavors.

Croatina (Bonarda Rovescala): Croatina is a dark-skinned red grape believed to be native to the Oltrepò Pavese area of Lombardy. It is here—in this area named after the town of Pavia across the Po—that the Croatina grape is often referred to as Bonarda Rovescala (after the tiny town of Rovescala), or simply Bonarda.

The name Croatina means Croatian Girl, and for many years it was assumed that the grape was native to the Primorska Hrvatska (Coastal Region) of Croatia. While it would have been a short trip indeed from Croatia to Northern Italy, it is now considered doubtful that the grape originated in Croatia.

What is known is that there are currently close to 8,100 acres/3,300 ha of Croatina grown throughout Northern Italy, where it is known to produce richly hued (purple/blue), mildly tannic wines with aromas of red cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and sweet spices.

Croatina is allowed for use in more than a dozen AOCs across Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto. These include Oltrepò Pavese DOC, Colli Tortonesi DOC, and Colline Novaresi DOC (among others). It is also used in the Bonarda dell’Oltrepò Pavese DOC, which is required to contain a minimum of 85% Croatina.

Douce Noire (Bonarda Argentina): Douce Noire is a minor French grape, believed to be native to the Savoie Region and still planted in small amounts in this mountainous area of eastern France. In other parts of France, it is more commonly referred to as Corbeau (meaning crow, and likely referring to its dark black color).

Douce Noire is also planted—under the name Charbono—in some parts of California, particularly in Napa where it was once a specialty of the Inglenook Winery. It is believed that the grape was originally brought to California by Italian immigrants who may have introduced it as Charbonneau (a name once used in eastern France).

It is, however, Argentina where Douce Noire really shines; at last count there were over 46,000 acres/19,000 ha of Douce Noire planted in Argentina—mainly in Mendoza and San Juan. In Argentina— where it is known as (you guessed it) Bonarda—Douce Noire is used to produce red blends and fruity, easy-to-drink reds and rosés typically available at a good (value) price. It is unclear how the name Bonarda came to be used in Argentina, but it is likely that when it first arrived, the grape was thought to be of Italian origin. It has been suggested that the grape be referred to as Bonarda Argentina to avoid (further) confusion.

Uva Rara (Bonarda Novarese): Uva Rara is thought to be native to northern Italy (Piedmont and Lombardy), where it currently accounts for 1,500 acres/600 ha of vines. The name translates to rare grape and is believed to refer to the small number of grapes in each bunch rather than rarity in use.

Uva Rara is typically used in red wine blends; it can soften the tannic edge of Nebbiolo and add color and depth to wines based on Barbera or Croatina. You may find a splash of Uva Rara in the wines of the Ghemme DOCG, Gattinara DOCG, Lessona DOC, or Oltrepò Pavese DOC (among others). In addition, it is allowed for use as a varietal wine in the Colline Novaresi DOC

While you are on the lookout of these wines, be alert…you may experience a sighting of Bonarda. If you’ve read this far, you should be not at all surprised to learn that in these parts, Uva Rara is sometimes referred to as Bonarda; specifically, Bonarda Novarese.

TL/DR: Croatina, Douce Noir, and Uva Rara are sometimes referred to as Bonarda; however, they are all distinct grape varieties and not identical to nor related to Bonarda Piemontese.

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Ciron, Cérons, Créon

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Welcome to Confusion Corner, where we take on the befuddlements that lurk around the world of wine and spirits. Here’s a good one—Ciron, Cérons, and Créon: what are they, what do they mean, and why should we care?

To put it briefly, we are talking about a river, an appellation, and a town…all located within a few miles of one another in the southwestern reaches of Bordeaux. Let’s take a closer look!

Ciron—the River: The Ciron river arises at the edge of the Landes Plateau—close to the town of Lubbon—at an elevation of about 500 feet/152 m. From its source, the Ciron flows mainly north/northwest for 60 miles/97 km—across the vineyards of the Sauternes and Barsac AOCs—until it joins the Garonne River near the town of Langon.

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For most of its course, the river flows through a deeply forested, humid area and the tall trees lining its banks keep the waters of the Ciron cool—even in the summer.

The mingling of the cool waters of the Ciron with the warm waters of the Garonne creates the region’s famous morning mists. This fog meanders into the areas surrounding the two rivers, enveloping entire vineyards and becoming trapped in the lower-lying spots. This mist helps to create the ideal microclimate for the development of Botrytis cinerea—the “noble rot” that helps to concentrate the area’s grapes into the super-sweet, highly flavorful fruit used in the famous dessert wines of the area.

Cérons—the Appellation: The Cérons AOC—located along the Garonne River just to the north of Barsac—is approved for the production of sweet white wines. The wine is typically based on Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, although Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle are allowed. The wine’s inherent sweetness (4.5% residual sugar minimum) is derived from the grapes themselves due to the mist-enhanced presence of botrytis and/or passerillage (allowing the grapes to over-ripen and partially dry out on the vine).

The Cérons appellation is named for the Ciron River—source of the botrytis-inducing mists of the region. The Ciron used to flow alongside the region’s southern border—however, over the centuries, the Ciron changed its course to the point that these days, the river flows to the south of Barsac.

The wines of the Cérons AOC tend to be lighter in flavor intensity—and perhaps less sweet—as compared to those of the adjacent Barsac and Sauternes AOCs. This is due—in part—to the specifics of the local terroir. The Cérons AOC is rather flat, meaning there are fewer low-lying areas to trap the mists rising off the river. In addition, the soils of Cérons are heavier in clay (with less gravel) than the areas to the south; this keeps the soil temperatures a bit higher and more stable, which speeds the dissipation of the morning fog.

Photo of the Eglise Notre-Dame de Créon by Ophelia2 via Wikimedia Commons

Créon—the Town: Créon is a small town (technically, a commune) located within the Entre-Deux-Mers AOC, just a few miles away from where the Ciron joins the Garonne. The commune is currently home to about 5,000 people as well as several wine producing estates and vineyards, including Château Baudac and Vignobles Quinney. After a few samples of the local white wine, visitors might want to check out the Eglise Notre-Dame de Créon—originally built in the 15th century and an official Monument Historique (national heritage site) of the Republic of France.

References/for more information:

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

(French) Wine from a Tropical Island: La Réunion

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La Réunion (Reunion Island)—one of the five Départements d’Outre-Mer (Overseas Departments) of France—is located about 340 miles/550 km east of Madagascar and surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Considering its tropical-island vibe (as well as its position at 21°S latitude), it is easy to understand the fame of its locally-produced rum—which has been protected as a geographical indication—Rhum de la Réunion IGP—since 1989.

What is a bit more surprising is Vin de Cilaos—an esteemed wine produced from island-grown noble grape varieties such as Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Malbec.  Cilaos—located somewhat in the center of the island and home to 6,000 people—is one of the larger villages on La Réunion.

Vin de Cilaos can truthfully call itself a mountain wine, a high-elevation wine, and a volcanic wine. The village and its vineyards are situated in a volcanic caldera (crater) known as the Cirque de Cilaos at an elevation of 1,200 meters/3,940 feet above sea level.

Not surprisingly, Vin de Cilaos is—along with the wines from the Tahitian vineyards—one of the only French wines produced in the Southern Hemisphere. Vinifera grapes are believed to have been brought to the island in the year 1655, but most were wiped out by Phylloxera. In 1992, the Chai de Cilaos Cooperative was founded and planted over 6,000 vinifera vines—including Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Malbec—in the region. The first wine produced by the cooperative (in 1996) was a dry Chenin Blanc. Since then, other wines—including a red blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec—have followed suit. Alas, these wines are made in highly limited quantities, so if you want to try Vin de Cilaos…you’ll need to visit the island (not such a bad idea).

In addition to its fame as (French) wine-producing region, Cirque de Cilaos is a thermal spa retreat area renowned for its lentils, wildflowers, naturally sparkling water, hiking trails, and meticulous white linen embroidery—as carried on by the Maison de la Broderie de Cilaos (Cilaos Embroidery House).

Cirque de Cilaos

Grapes are grown in other parts of La Réunion as well, and a light red wine produced from Isabella grapes (a Vitis labrusca variety) is enjoyed locally. The Isabella grape variety was once-upon-a-time banned from the island, as it was believed that the wine—known as vin qui rend fou (‘wine that sends you mad’) drove people crazy. The ban was lifted in 2004.

Note: Wines from Cilaos were sometimes labeled as “Vin de Pays de Cilaos” up until 2009, when the EU disallowed the use of the title. The wines of Cilaos have never been awarded a French geographical indication, although there are rumors that an application is in process.

The Outer Limits is my series of appreciative posts about small, oddball, obscure, or out-of-the-way wine regions.

References/for more information:

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

Getting to Know Grolleau

You have  probably already met Grolleau, but you just don’t know it yet.

The Grolleau grape variety—more precisely known as Grolleau Noir, to differentiate it from its siblings/color mutations Grolleau Blanc and Grolleau Gris—is the third most widely planted red grape variety in France’s Loire Valley (after Cabernet Franc and Gamay). It has most likely made its way into your glass via a snappy rosé or creamy sparkling wine (either white or rosé) produced somewhere around Anjou, Saumur, or Touraine.

Grolleau—believed to one of the many descendants of Gouais Blanc—was first recognized as “Grolleau de Cinq-Mars” (in reference to the Central Loire Valley town of Cinq-Mars-le-Pile) in the early 1800s. It is also known to have been cultivated in the Charente Department of Southwest France around this same time, but it is assumed to be native to the Loire. The name may derive from the Old French grolle—meaning black crow—referencing the dark skin of the grapes.

Grolleau is appreciated for its reliable high yield, but this rampant fertility can pose a challenge. If left unchecked, the plant can produce huge crops of uninspiring grapes somewhat lacking in flavor and tannin—despite the lovely dark-skinned appearance of the grapes. Due to this tendency—coupled with the variety’s susceptibility to certain vine diseases—plantings of Grolleau have been declining over the last fifty years. In the 1950s, there were over 28,000 acres/11,000 ha of Grolleau planted in the Loire Valley; as of the last decade, there are just over 5,800 acres/2,350 ha (although the decline seems to have stabilized).

Nevertheless, Grolleau is widely used in the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley and persists as one of the leading grapes of region’s rosé. It is often the majority grape in the much beloved and slightly sweet wines of the Rosé d’Anjou AOC. Alas…this could be because Rosé d’Anjou is one of the few AOC wines of the region—and even the country—that allows for its use.

Grolleau-based wines tend to be high in acid, moderate in alcohol, and may show aromas/flavors of red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, cherry),  watermelon, citrus (lemon, tangerine), rose petals, and (some say) red candy.

Despite its dark reddish-black hue, the grape’s thin skins mean that Grolleau is rarely used to produce red wines. If you find one, it is likely to be labeled under an IGP—such as the Vin de Pays du Val de Loire— or a Vin de France designation. It might also be produced via carbonic maceration. (Fun fact: Grolleau is only allowed to be used in the red wines of ONE single AOC—the Anjou AOC—and even here it is limited to no more than 10% of the total blend.)

In the world of wine, one can always find the exception to the rule—and despite its penchant for bubbles and rosé, there are some serious red wines produced with Grolleau. Domaine Clau de Nel—located in Anjou—cultivates two hectares (about five acres) of 60-to-90-year-old Grolleau vines trained in gnarly, gobelet style and farmed biodynamically (Demeter Certification and all). The grapes are hand harvested, sorted in the field, and fermented with native yeasts. The resulting wine is placed in used French oak barrels and aged for at least 12 months in “ancient troglodyte cellars cut into the limestone hillside on the property.” The wine is then bottled—unfined and unfiltered. Jancis Robinson described this wine as having a “mid garnet color, a certain wildness on the nose” and as “possibly the most serious Grolleau I have ever tasted.”

Loire Valley AOCs that allow for Grolleau include the following:

  • Anjou AOC (allowed in sparkling wines; red wines may include a max. 10% Grolleau)
  • Coteaux du Loir AOC (allowed in rosé only, limited to a max of 30%)
  • Crémant de Loire AOC (no limits, but this is a bubbly-only appellation)
  • Rosé d’Anjou AOC (Grolleau is typically the majority grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Gamay, and Pineau d’Aunis/Chenin Noir are allowed as well)
  • Touraine AOC (allowed in sparkling wines and rosé only)
  • Saumur AOC (allowed in sparkling wines and rosé only)

References/for more information:

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

The Bubbly Professor’s third annual “I don’t Wanna Study on Christmas Eve” Wine Quiz

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

It’s so dang hard to study on Christmas…

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

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 Study on Christmas Eve” Wine Quiz

Study tonight? Who, me?

I know you probably don’t want to study today, tonight, or tomorrow…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