Waitaki World

The Waitaki River near Kurow (in the Waitaki District)

Waitaki World—the river, the lake, the district, and two regions for wine

I am a huge fan of everything about New Zealand, in particular New Zealand wines. I’ve been a fan of New Zealand wines since the release of Cloudy Bay Vineyards’ first Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc back in the 1980s. I’ve grown to be an even bigger fan over the years as I’ve been able to experience the rise of Central Otago Pinot Noir, red blends from Hawke’s Bay, serious Méthode Marlborough sparkling wines, and even “carbonated” Sauvignon Brut (delicious).

As such a fan of New Zealand wines, it makes sense that I have been following—with something resembling giddy excitement—the long discussed but newly activated laws regarding the wine and spirit geographical indications of the country. For some background information on the ten-year legal process leading up to this point, click here.)

One thing I discovered during my almost daily check-ins of the website of the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand/Geographical Indications is that there are two Waitaki Valleys. This was confusing enough, however, upon further research I discovered that there is an entire Waitaki World—including not just the two valleys, but a river, a lake, and a district.  Let’s start at the beginning:

Vineyards in the Waitaki District

The Waitaki River: The Waitaki is a river that begins with several small streams that flow from the Southern Alps (somewhat in the central portion of New Zealand’s South Island) towards Lakes Ohau, Pukaki, and Tekapo. Once past the lakes, the streams weave together to form the Waitaki. The Waitaki River, named for the Maori term for “weeping waters,” then travels eastward for about 130 miles (210 km) until it meets the Pacific Ocean near the town of Glenavy on the island’s east coast. The Waitaki River is a braided river, meaning that it consists of a series of river channels connected and separated by small (and sometimes temporary) islands.

Lake Waitaki: The Waitaki River is also home to one of the largest hydroelectric power projects in New Zealand, and is home of several large dams that create several man-made lakes—such as Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore and Lake Waitaki—along its path. Lake Waitaki is the smallest and the furthest downstream of the three lakes on the Waitaki River.

The Waitaki District: Here’s where it gets interesting—the Waitaki River served as a traditional—and now political—boundary between the large political regions of Canterbury (to the north) and Otago (to the south). With the hydroelectric plants and other developments along and on either side of the river, it was decided that it would be best to include the entire catchment of the river within one political district. The Waitaki District, with approximately 60% of its area in the Canterbury Region and 40% in the Otago Region, is the only district on New Zealand’s South Island that is split between two political regions.

More Waitaki Vineyards…

The two Waitaki Valley wine areaa:  Both sides of the Waitaki River include some prime (if remote) viticultural areas, and both political regions—Canterbury and Otago—can lay claim to some of them. So there are indeed two wine regions known as the Waitaki Valley. Here’s where it gets interesting:

  • Waitaki Valley/North Otago: The area to the south of the river (located in the Otago Region) is known as Waitaki Valley/North Otago. This area has applied to be an official geographical indication under the new scheme now taking form in New Zealand. (Central Otago, located just to the south of Waitaki Valley/North Otago has also applied to be a GI.)
  • The Waitaki Valley of Canterbury: This area is listed on the website of Wines of New Zealand as a sub-region of the Canterbury GI. (Canterbury has applied for, and has been granted, official status as a new Geographical Indication.) However, the Waitaki Valley of Canterbury has not applied for GI status—as of today (November 4, 2017)—so for now it joins a long list of New Zealand wine areas that will be considered “unofficial.” As such, the Waitaki Valley area to the north of the river is considered to be an unofficial sub-region of the Canterbury GI.

Map of the Waitaki Valley/North Otago Region via: https://www.iponz.govt.nz (click to enlarge)

The Waitaki Valley viticultural areas (on either side of the river) follow the course of the Waitaki River for 46 miles (75 km). The area has unique limestone-based soils—a reminder of its ancient past, when it was covered by the sea—as well as loess and alluvial deposits. The Waitaki Valley(s) are remote, cool-climate areas that are planted mainly to Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.

References/for more information:

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

Five Fast Facts about the Mayacamas Mountains

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The Mayacamas Mountain Range is a short mountain range—stretching just 52 miles (80 km) in a northwest-southeasterly direction—but it is very well-known to wine lovers as the range that forms the dividing line between Napa and Sonoma counties. However, the famous Napa/Sonoma divide only accounts for about 30 miles of the famous mountains’ total length of 52 miles. Read on to see what else makes the Mayacamas Mountains famous!

#1—Cobb Mountain: Cobb Mountain, peaking at 4,720 feet (1,439 m), is the highest point in the Mayacamas Range. It lies just outside of the town of Cobb in Lake County. The mountain is located outside of the range of any Lake County AVAs, but is only about five miles south of the southern edge of the Red Hills—Lake County AVA (and the larger Clear Lake AVA). This portion of the Mayacamas is responsible for the rolling hills and high-elevation vineyards of the Red Hills-Lake County AVA, which range in elevation from 1,600 to 2,500 feet (490 to 760 m) above sea level.

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#2—Mount Saint Helena: Mount Saint Helena, located at the boundaries of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties, has five peaks that form something of an “M” shape. One of those peaks is located within the Knights Valley AVA and is the highest point in Sonoma County. The second-tallest peak—at 4,200 feet (1,280 m)—is the highest point in Napa County (this peak is located within the Napa Valley AVA but to the north of the Calistoga AVA). Both of these peaks may be reached via hiking trails located within Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

#3—The Napa River: Mount Saint Helena is the source of the Napa River. The Napa River runs for 50 miles (88 km) from the southeast slope of Mount Saint Helena through the revered Napa AVAs of Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, and Oak Knoll (as well as the city of Napa) before heading towards the Napa/Sonoma Marsh. The last 17 miles of the Napa River take it from the Trancas Steet bridge in Napa to the city of Vallejo through the Carquinez Straits—a long estuary bordering and empyting into San Pablo Bay.

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#4—The Watersheds: Towards their northern edge—just before the Mayacamas Mountains blend into the Mendocino Range in Mendocino County, the Mayacamas Mountains form the boundary between the watershed of the Russian River (as it flows south into Sonoma) and Clear Lake. This is one of the differentiating factors between the terroir of Mendocino County and Lake County.

#5—The Howell Mountains: The famous Howell Mountain AVA (of Napa Valley) is actually located within a mountain range known as the Howell Mountains. The Howell Mountains blend into the Mayacamas in northern Napa just north/west of their famous namesake mountain and namesake AVA. The Howell Mountains begin just north of San Pablo Bay and form the border between the Suisun Valley (of Solano County) AVA and the Napa Valley AVA. From there, they extend to the north/northwest for about 40 miles (64 km), after which they blend into the Mayacamas. The Howell Mountains are also known as the Mt. George Range; the southern portions of the mountains are often referred to as the Napa Hills.

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In terms of mountainous parentage, the Mayacamas Mountains are considered to be part of the Coast Ranges of California—which (in addition to the Mayacamas Range) include the Vaca Mountains, the Mendocino Range, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Coast Ranges of California span for over 400 miles (640 km) from Humboldt County, through Mendocino, onward through Napa and Sonoma—all the way south to Santa Barbara County.

References/for more information:

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

The Melancholy Seewinkel

Lighthouse on Lake Neusiedl

For the title (and the rest of this article) to make any sense at all, I need to start this post with a quote, lifted directly from the website of the Neusiedllersee DAC Association  (or, as they like to call it, the Verein Neusiedlersee DAC):

“The Neusiedlersee vineyards are situated along the eastern shore of the Neusiedl Lake, ranging from the hills of the county capital, across the large wine growing community of Gols, over the flats of the Heideboden, down in to the melancholical Seewinkel.”

For those of us who are not too well-versed in the wines of Austria, let me break this down a bit:

  • Neusiedlersee is a politcal region as well as a DAC wine region located in the Austrian state of Burgenland.
  • One of the main geological features of the area is its namesake Lake Neusiedl—a large endorheic (closed-basin) lake that extends in a long, narrow swath between the  wine regions of Neusiedlersee and Leithaberg, and crosses over into the neighboring country of Hungary on its southern edge. The large water surface of the lake heats up in the summer and releases stored heat at night. Certain areas planted around the lake are conducive to the growth of botrytis, and the area is known for both dry, red wines and sweet, botrytis-affected white wines.
  • The vineyards of the Neusiedlersee are planted across an area of about 15 miles (25 km)—when measured from north to south—and are centered around the east side of the lake and extend slightly eastward from there.

  • Gols (located near the northern tip of the lake) is a town of about 4,000 people that is largely centered on wine in addition to lake-centric tourism (bird watching, lake excursions).
  • The Heideboden is a flat area located just to the south of Gols.  The name Heideboden does not show up on the wine map (or most other maps) as it is not an actual town or appellation, but is the traditional name given to the area between Lake Neusiedlersee and the Danube River.  Heideboden covers parts of both modern-day Austria and Hungary.
  • Seewinkel (which means lake [see] corner [winkel]) is the area located at the southern end of Lake Neusiedlersee, closest to the Hungarian border. The area has a unique microclimate due to the presence of many small lakes and ponds, and is well-known as a producer of botrytis-affected sweet white wines.  While grape varieties vary, Welschriesling is the focus. (The famous sweet-wine-producing town of Rust is just to the west, on the opposite side of the lake.)

Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park

The area of Seewinkle is well-known for its natural beauty which includes—in addition to vineyards—the Neusiedlersee-Seewinkle National Park that serves as both a park and a nature reserve. The park is unique in that it stretches across the borders of Austria and Hungary, where it is known as Fertő-Hanság National Park. Combined, these areas encompass the Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. The park is famously home to over 340 species of birds and a landscape of sand dunes, reed beds, and shallow salt water ponds. Year-round activities include guided hikes, cycling, canoe excursions, photography classes and llama walks (yes, llama walks).

Once I figured out all of the above, I was still obsessed with why Seewinkel is described as “melancholy.” Hours of research failed to provide a solid answer, but I did find a few references to a certain melancholy beauty of the sunsets and a melancholy edge to the folk dances and traditional music of the area.

Reed Belt landscape in Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park

It certainly isn’t the wine!

Note:  The Neusiedlersee DAC is approved for Zweigelt-based red wines only, so the sweet wines of the area are labeled with Burgenland as their region-of-origin.

References/for more information:

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

 

The Hunt for Red Mountain

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During the years when I taught my Professional Wine Studies class at a local culinary school, I had a standard set of wines I used on tasting days. Red wine day always included Napa Cabernet, Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, Sonoma Zinfandel, Oregon Pinot Noir, and Washington State Merlot. You have to admit, it’s a pretty good flight for wine newbies.

My favorite wine to use for the Washington Merlot was from Fidélitas Wines. Fidélitas Red Mountain Merlot, to be exact. I adore that wine—rich with aromas of blackberry, strawberry, pomegranate, and dried cherry—with a hint of sage, tobacco, and rose petal as well. It was a great example of Merlot for my students, and remains one of my favorite red wines.

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When my husband and I decided to embark on a road trip after this year’s SWE Conference in Portland, we had the idea to drive through Oregon and Washington, down through Idaho, and onward to Salt Lake City (we’d fly home from there). This was a great trip, and we planned some wonderful experiences, including hiking though the Columbia Gorge, seeing the actual “rocks”of Milton-Freewater, lunching at the Crossings Winery in Idaho, and visiting Shohone Falls. But I had one main goal—to seek out and find the source of my long-time favorite Washington State wine: Fidélitas Red Mountain Merlot.

And thus began our hunt for Red Mountain.

To begin the hunt, we headed west from our hotel in Richland assisted by our handy rental car GPS device and anticipating an easy 15-mile drive. The first part of the drive was a bit confusing, as we rolled past suburban strip malls and then a whole lotta nothing…but then we experienced one of those magical wine touring moments where the lazy highway looped around a corner and suddenly we were at the bank of the Yakima River staring at an expanse of vineyards as far as the eye could see.

Obviously, we were getting warmer and when the GPS squawked at us to take a sharp turn off the highway and head north, we obliged. It wasn’t long until madame GPS told us get off the highway altogether and make a sharp U-turn and turn south, followed by a quick turn east. It made sense, seeing we were surrounded by vineyards, but the very road we had been ordered to take soon turned to gravel, and then to dirt, and then to cinder blocks, abandoned tractors, and  a few discarded washing machines. This was not the place.

Without beating the story to a pulp, let’s just say that after four more tries, we gave up on GPS and switched to iPad navigation—with the same results. After giving that a try, we decided to just drive around and see what we could find. We soon found a street called Antinori Drive. Well…what wine lover could resist a drive down Antinori Drive?

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We didn’t know it yet, but we had driven around in circles enough to find ourselves in the heart of the Red Mountain AVA, and as we slow-drove down Antinori Drive we passed Force Majeure Vineyard, Longwinds Canvasback Vineyard, and the Hedges Family Estate. We turned on North Sunset Road and stumbled upon Red Mountain Vintners and the Kiona Ranch at the End of the Road.

We decided to make our way home and opted for more scenery by taking a different road out—and drove directly into the parking lot at Fidélitas Wines’ Red Mountain Tasting Room. Of course, we made an afternoon of it and sampled an array of delicious wines—the Malbec and the Chardonnay were among my favorites—they were almost as good as the Red Mountain Merlot. They had a large map of the Red Mountain AVA on the wall and we were able to figure out where we had been (and how to get home in one piece). We purchased a slew of bottles, enjoyed the amazing view from their back patio, and even ran into some folks from the SWE Conference that had ended just a few days earlier. All in all, it was a pretty good day in wine country.

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Here are a few fascinating fast facts about the Red Mountain AVA:

  • At just 4,040 acres, Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in Washington State.  Just under 3,000 of these acres are planted to vines.
  • Red Mountain is a sub-appellation (along with Rattlesnake Hills and Snipes Mountain) of the Yakima Valley AVA (which is itself a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley AVA).
  • The AVA  has an elevation of 1,410 feet (430 m) at its highest point.
  • The name “Red Mountain” derives from the invasive Cheatgrass that covers parts of the mountain—it turns a reddish color in the summer.
  • The entire AVA is located on the south/southeast slope of Red Mountain (which really looked like more of a hill to me) that faces the Yakima River. This combined with the northerly latitude (46°N) and minimum rainfall (just 7 inches in a typical year) means the area has long days, an extraordinary amount of sunshine during the growing season, and a large diurnal temperature variance.
  • Red Mountain is largely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, but Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese and a smattering of other grapes are seen here as well.
  • In 2002, Quilceda Creek Winery used Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Red Mountain and Heaven Hills AVAS to produce the first American wine from outside of California to earn a 100-point score from Robert Parker.  As of this year (2017), Quilceda Creek Winery has produced six wines that have earned “100 Parker Points.”

References/for more information:

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

In my Mind I’m Going to Porto Santo

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Porto Santo is a Portuguese island located in the Atlantic Ocean, 27 miles (43 km) northeast of the island of Madeira. It forms the Madeira Archipelago along with the island of Madeira and a small string of islands known as las Ilhas Desertas (literally “the Deserted Islands”).  Porto Santo is a small island, measuring 9 miles (14 km) long and just 5 miles (7.7 km) across.

The earliest record of the history of Porto Santa dates from 1418, when a group of Portuguese ships were (accidently) blown into its sheltered harbor. The ships were in the service of Infante Henrique of Portugal, and had been blown off-course by an intense storm. They named the island Porto Santo (“Holy Harbor”), as their arrival in a sheltered bay during the storm was seen as the result of divine intervention. .

The Ilhéu de Baixo along the unpopulated northern coast

Geologically, the island is divided into two parts—the mountainous northeast, and a relatively flat coastal plain in the southwest, which includes a 4.5 mile-long (7 km) golden sand beach. Laid-back tourism is one of the main industries, and visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, motorbiking, off-roading, windmills, forts, or golf; and may choose to take a two-hour boat ride to Madeira aboard the ferry Lobo Marinh. Waterfront wining and dining may be found in Vila Baleira, the one and only “city” on the island.

History buffs can pay a visit to the Christopher Columbus House Museum and learn that Christopher Colombus was once married to a Portuguese woman and that they lived on Porto Santo for a period of time. Colombus’ wife, Filipa Moniz, unfortunately passed away during childbirth just a few years after their marriage.

Topographical map of the Madeira Archipelago by Bourrichon via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1420s, the Portuguese King sent a group under the command of Captain Bartolomeu Perestrelo to colonize the island. The group planted grapevines and sugar cane, and introduced rabbits to the island. The introduction of rabbits turned out to be not such a good idea, as they rampaged their way across the island and soon dominated the local environment. In a matter of a few (rabbit) generations, they basically ate everything else up.

Another not-so-smart move by these early settlers involved the local Dragon Trees. The valuable sap of the trees, known as “dragon’s blood” is a type of resin used for medicine and dyes. The colony chopped down the trees and literally bled the trees dry to the point that they became extinct on the island. As such, the island lost its original wind protection—and with the help of the ravaging wild rabbits—the area was left rather rugged, wind-blown, and barren. While it certainly has  its own style of natural beauty, the island has never recovered to its original lush state.

Despite the challenges, there is some viticulture on the island of Porto Santo. As Porto Santo is included in the geographic territory of the Madeira DOC, the Madeirense DOC and the VR Terras Madeirenses, these wines may be produced on the island of Porto Santo. Despite the limitations, grapes are a pretty big deal here—agriculture is limited on the island, making grapes, melons, and rabbit the three biggest commodities.

Grapes or wine from Porto Santo may also be sent to the island of Madeira for use in the wines bottled there. There are some obvious logistical challenges to such a project, however—it has been known to happen. For instance, the Madeira Vintners used Listrão and Caraco grapes from Porto Santo in their 2013 vintage. That same year, Porto Santo grower J. Santos produced a sweet white wine from locally grown Listrão as well as an off-dry white wine from the Porto Santo-grown Caracol grapes. You can read reviews of both of these wines on Niklas Jörgensen’s Mad about Madiera blog.

References/for further information:

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

The Long Pour: Sidra de Asturias

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Apple cider and Perry (pear ciders) hold a dear spot in many European cultures: Normandy and Brittany are known for cider as well as apple brandy, the West Country of England prides itself on their unfiltered “scrumpy” cider, and a trip to Ireland is incomplete without a taste of Magners.

Spain is considered to have the longest continuous cider culture in Europe. Spain’s cider (sidra) production is centered in the regions of Asturias and Basque Country, located in the northern part of the country. The climate, cooled by ocean breezes and with decidedly more rainfall than much of the rest of Spain, makes for the ideal growing conditions for apples.

Asturias makes 80% of Spanish cider, produced by more than a hundred small producers with the help of over 250 growers. Sidra de Asturias was awarded denominación de origen (DO) status in 2003. According to the DO guidelines, the cider must be made exclusively with cider apples of specified varieties grown within the Principality of Asturias, and produced under strict quality controls.

There are currently three styles of sidra allowed to be produced under the Sidra de Asturias DO. They are:

  • Sidra Natural (Natural Cider): Natural cider is produced from any of the 22 approved cider apple varieties. The process begins with the harvest, grinding, and pressing of the apples to create juice. Next, the juice is allowed to ferment—typically in stainless steel, or perhaps in large chestnut barrels. The newly-fermented cider is then allowed to rest for a few months, after which it is typically decanted to remove some sediment. Sidra natural is fermented to near dryness and is unfiltered. Sidra natural benefits from a “long pour.”
  • Nueva Expresión (New Expression Cider): New expression cider is produced in a manner similar to natural cider; the difference being that new expression cider is filtered and stabilized before being bottled.
  • Sidra Natural Espumosa (Natural Sparkling Cider): Sparkling cider may be produced via the tank method or by a second fermentation in the bottle. These ciders are also fermented to dryness and can be classified as “brut” in style.

Sidra natural and other artisanal Spanish ciders benefit from aeration just before drinking; this helps to bring out the inherent complexities of the beverage as well as release some dissolved gas. This has given rise to a few colorful traditions, such as serving cider via a “long pour” with the bottle raised high above the server’s head, while the glass is held at arm’s reach below. This is termed escanciar la sidra, or “throwing the cider.”

Race of the pouring of sidra de Asturias in the town of Gijon

The long pour is serious stuff for sidra enthusiasts, and there are certain rules to achieving the perfect long pour. For starters, the glass is held with the thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger supporting the bottom of the glass (and the ring and pinky finger tucked away in the palm of the hand). The arm holding the glass must be stretched down straight with the glass held at the center of the body. The arm holding the bottle must be stretched straight and high above the head. When the bottle is tipped and the cider is poured, the stream of cider must find the glass while the glass stays still. It’s the responsibility of the cider-pourer to ensure that the cider foams.

The next time you are in Austurias, you’ll want to seek out a sidrería (cider house). It’s possible that your friendly neighborhood sidrería will serve nothing but cider, but it is also possible that they may serve a few pintxos and maybe even other types of drinks. If you visit in January, you can participate in the beginning of the txotx (pronounced “choach”) season. During txotx season, cider is served directly from the large wooden cask—actually, it is allowed to ‘shoot” in a very thin stream straight out of the barrel—while thirsty bar patrons take turns “catching” the cider in their glasses (held out at arm’s length).  Asturias sounds like a good place to be.

Well-known brands of Sidra de Asturias include J.R. Cabueñes, Herminio, Cortina, and Castañón.

References/for more information:

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

Twenty Feet from Stardom: the Vinous Version

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In 2013, an American documentary film was released by the name of “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” Directed by Morgan Neville, the film is a behind-the-scenes look at backup singers. These talented folks are a big part of the sound—and the success—of many the biggest stars of the music world, and yet most of us will never even know their names.

This post is my vinous version of the concept, meant to be an homage to some of those obscure, unknown wines that occupy the same stage—in terms of time and place—as some of the blockbuster, world-famous wines of the world…and yet they remain just out of the spotlight.

Curtefranca DOC: The Curtefanca DOC shares the stage with the sparkling wines of the Franciacorta DOCG. Franciacorta is Italy’s serious, traditional method sparkling wine produced from Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), Chardonnay, and Pinot Bianco grapes. Starting with the 2017 vintage, you can add the Erbamat grape variety (a white grape) to that list as well. The Franciacorta DOC was originally established allowing for a range of allowed wines, including a sparkling wine known as Pinot di Franciacorta, in 1967. In 1995 the Franciacorta DOCG “broke away” as a sparkling wine-only designation, and at the same time the Terre di Franciacorta DOC was created as a separate classification for non-sparkling wines. Both designations occupy the exact same geographic area.

The Terre di Franciacorta DOC changed its name to the Curtefranca DOC in 2008. The name was changed, not surprisingly, as it was determined that there was too much confusion between the sparkling wines of the Franciacorta PDO and the still wines of the Terre di Franciacorta PDO.

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Here are a few interesting factoids about the wines of the Curtefranca DOC:

  • The appellation allows for both red and white wines.
  • White wines are based on a minimum of 50% Chardonnay, with the remaining allowed to be Pinot Bianco or Pinot Nero (vinified as a white wine).
  • Red wines are blends, requiring a minimum of 25% Merlot, a minimum of 20% Cabernet Franc and/or Carmenère, and a minimum of 10% (up to a maximum of 35%) Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s a slush fund of sorts, allowing for (but not requiring) up to 15% “other aromatic red grapes” suitable for production in Lombardy.

The use of the name “Franzacurta” or “Franzia Curta” in the region can be traced back to 1277, appearing in the municipal statute of the commune of Brescia in reference to an area south of Lake Iseo. The name “Corte Franca” has been used for a commune in the area since 1928.

Collioure AOC: The Collioure AOC, perched high atop the cliffs of France’s Pyrénées-Orientales (Roussillon) region overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, occupies the same geographic area as the Banyuls AOC. The famous wines of the Banyuls AOC are fortified vin doux naturel with a minimum of 4.5% residual sugar. The most famous version of Banyuls are the red wines requiring a minimum of 50% Grenache Noir, but blanc, amber, and rosé versions are produced as well. There is even a separate Banyuls Grand Cru AOC for the highest-quality wines; Banyuls Grand Cru must be made from a minimum of 75% Grenache Noir and requires at least 30 months of barrel aging.

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The Collioure AOC is approved for the non-fortified wines (red, white, and rosé) of the area. Here is some information on the wines:

  • Collioure whites are generally produced using Grenache Blanc or Grenache Gris, but are allowed to be produced using a range of grapes including Macabeu (Macabeo), Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino, Carignan Blanc and Malvoisie du Roussillon, as well as 15% (allowed maximum) Muscat.
  • Reds and rosés must include at least two grape varieties, which may include Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, and Counoise. Rosé may also include a measure of Grenache Gris.
  • Collioure AOC wines must be dry, and have a maximum allowance of between 3 g/l and 4 g/l of residual sugar.

The Banyuls and Collioure AOCs are named after neighboring communes within the growing region.

There are more vineyards sitting twenty feet from stardom, including the Douro DOC (in the same place as the Porto DOC), the Coteaux Champenois AOC (sharing the stage with Champagne), and Moscadello di Montalcino (occupying the same space as Brunello di Montalcino). What are some of the others?

References/for more information:

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