Mind your Latitude: 50° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 50 degrees North!

Ahr, Germany: The Ahr is one of Germany’s smallest winegrowing regions, with just over 1,300 acres (526 ha) planted to vine. It is also one of Germany’s northernmost wine areas….but it also is noted as being the world’s most northerly wine region that focuses on red wine.  The secret to its red-wine focus (red wine accounts for nearly 85% of its total production) is its south-facing, terraced vineyards planted on steep, rocky slopes in the rain-and-wind shadow of the Eifel Mountains. The best sites of the area are planted on dark-colored, volcanic soils that absorb and retain the heat from the daytime sun. Pinot Noir is (by far) the leading grape of the Ahr, followed by Blauer Portugieser and Riesling.

Cornwall County: Cornwall County, located in South West England bordering the Celtic Sea, the English Channel, and the county of Devon, has recently emerged as one of the players in the production of English Wine. Being a cool-climate region its focus has been (along with the majority of English Wine) on white wine and sparkling wine using cold-hardy white grapes such as Seyval Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus, and Chardonnay. Cornwall County, however, has a very special place in English Wine, as it is home to the Darnibole PDO—the only site- and vineyard-specific protected designation of origin for wine in the United Kingdom. Darnibole PDO wine must be produced from 100% Bacchus grapes, which must be grown in a specific 5-hectare (12.4-acre) plot and produced at the Camel Valley Winery. If you find yourself in Cornwall, take a quick trip to Land’s End and St. Mawes Castle, but don’t miss a visit to the Camel Valley Winery!

Gomli, Manitoba: Gimli, located on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in the Canadian Province of Manitoba, has a humid continental climate with warm-to-hot summers and bitterly cold winters. Perhaps in part because of the winter conditions, the area has a somewhat small human population (about 2,246 people in its Urban Center) but a huge population— 1.5 million and counting—in barrels of whisky.  The source of all of these whisky riches is the Crown Royal Distillery. Crown Royal was originally created in 1939 by Samuel Bronfman—then the president of Seagram—as a tribute to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth upon their visit to Canada, the first-ever visit of the reigning British monarch to Canada. According to the company website, the Crown Royal distillery uses 10,000 bushels of locally-sourced rye, corn, and barley a day. Twelve distillation columns produce fifty distinct base whiskies that are variously aged and matured before being blended together into Crown Royal’s “fit for royalty” signature style.

Lille, France: Lille is a small city at the northern tip of France, located right next to the border with Belgium. This region is often referred to as “French Flanders” (technically referred to as Nord, formerly Nord-Pas-de-Calais). Lille has a long-running history of small-scale beer production—what we now call micro-breweries or craft breweries—and is often referred to as the “Beer Capital of France.” While hundreds (if not thousands) of these small beer producers have been lost to history, the city still boasts at least 20 small breweries, and some people will say that this is the only place in France where craft beer survives. In light of this, if you find yourself in Lille, a visit to the original Trois Brasseurs (“Three Brewers”) brewpub is certainly in order.

Okanagan Valley: The Okanagan Valley is the leading wine-producing region of British Columbia, producing over 80% of the province’s grapes and wine. The Okanagan Valley GI (geographical indication) spans over 150 miles (250 kilometers) from north to south, with over 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) planted to vine and more than 180 bonded wineries. The area is nicely tucked between the Columbia Mountains (to the west) and the Cascades (to the east), providing a relatively warm and dry climate across much of the region. Leading grape varieties include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. The Okanagan Valley GI has two official sub-regions: Okanagan Falls and Golden Mile Bench.

Prague: Prague (Praha) is the largest city and capital of the Czech Republic. Prague also happens to located within the Mělnická wine region—itself a sub-region of the country’s larger Central Bohemia wine region. While the Czech Republic has a long and storied history of beer production, the country enjoys a tradition of wine production and consumption as well. It is believed that Pinot Noir from Burgundy was brought to Prague during the Middle Ages, and that the vineyards of Prague produced wine for the Royal Court. These days, a variety of international and Germanic grape varieties are grown in the Mělnická wine region, including Müller-Thurgau, Frankovka (Blaufränkisch), Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon in addition to Pinot Noir.

Saale-Unstrut: The Saale-Unstrut region— in its northern-most reaches—is the northernmost of the German Anbaugebiete. It is also one of only two (of Germany’s 13) Anbaugebiete located in the former East Germany.  Saale-Unstrut is named after two rivers—the Saale and the Unstrut—that come together in the region before flowing northward (as the Saale) into the Elbe River an onward towards the North Sea. This is a cool-climate, landlocked region with approximately 1,690 acres/685 hectares planted to vine. The leading grape varieties of the area include Müller-Thurgau, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Silvaner, and Riesling.

Wallonia: Wallonia is a region of central Belgium, located just to the south of Brussels. Wallonia produces quality wine under the Côtes de Sambre et Meuse AOC, which applies to a range of white grapes including Riesling, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Madeleine Angevine, and Müller-Thurgau as well as a few red grapes (including Gamay, Merlot, and Pinot noir). Another specialty of the region is Maitrank (May Wine), a seasonal, aromatized wine produced using white wine steeped with the fragrant herb known as Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata). As its name implies, May wine is served in the spring—particularly on May Day (May 1).

References/for more information:

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

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


Mind your Latitude: 48° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 48 degrees North!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 46° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 46 degrees North!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 44° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 44 degrees North!

(The city of) Bordeaux: Bordeaux—the land of first growths, world-famous reds, snappy whites, and luscious dessert wines—radiates out from the city of Bordeaux, itself located on the left bank of the Garonne River about 28 miles/45 km inland from the Atlantic Coast.  The maritime influence is pulled inland via the Gironde Estuary, but blocked a bit by the Landes Forest…making for an overall cool/temperate climate. It is just warm enough to get the grapes—which include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and several other varieties—ripened, yet cool enough to create a long, slow road to ripening…and edgy enough to create a distinct vintage variation in its wines.

Bucharest: Bucharest—Romania’s capital and largest city—is located within the country’s Muntenia-Oltenia wine region.  So, after you visit the Palatul Parlamentului and have a snack at Caru’ cu Bere (the city’s oldest beer hall—opened in 1879), jump in your car and head out. Most of the wineries will be located north of the city, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. The Deaulu Mare DOC should be your first stop. Deaulu Mare, considered to be one of the most promising wine regions in the country, produces a range of wines but specializes in reds such as those made from Fetească Neagră, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir.

Cornas: The Cornas AOC, situated in the Northern Rhône on the western bank of the famous river, is approved for the production of red wines made using 100% Syrah.  Located about 120 miles/195 km from the Mediterranean Coast, Cornas is fairly landlocked and—along with the rest of the Northern Rhône—experiences a mainly continent climate. In Cornas, the finest vineyards are planted on steep, granite slopes that capture the long days of sunshine and help to create ripe, robust grapes that in turn are used to craft rustic, powerful, intensely flavorful wine.

Eugene, Oregon: The city of Eugene is tucked into the southern portion of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley AVA, just about where the McKenzie River flows into the namesake Willamette. In the city’s Market District you can visit the Oregon Wine Lab to taste wine, take a yoga class, and learn to dance the bachata. On the outskirts of town, you’ll find a plethora of impressive wineries, including Benton Lane, Silvan Ridge, and King Estate. As befits the hallowed ground, these wineries are creating some of the finest Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay on the planet.

Pignoletto DOC: The Pignoletto DOC, surrounding the city of Bologna in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, produces white wines based on the Grechetto Gentile grape variety.  Pignoletto DOC is produced in a range of styles—from dry-and-still to frizzante, sparkling, and sweet (late harvest or Passito). Until 2015, Pignoletto was the name of a grape (a synonym for Grechetto Gentile), a frazione (a village located in Emilia-Romagna), and a wine: Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG. However, as of the 2015 vintage, it was decided that the term Pignoletto warrants protection as the name of a specific place, and that anyone growing the grape outside of the defined Pignoletto region is not entitled to use the name Pignoletto and should use the name “Grechetto Gentile” instead. Amidst all the ruckus, the Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG had its name changed to Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto DOCG, and a new DOC—Pignoletto DOC—was born.

Pula, Croatia: Pula, a seafront city on the tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, is known for having some of the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. The Istrian Peninsula is also known for a wine producing region, Hrvatska Istra (Croatian Istria) PDO—which is part of the larger Primorska Hrvatska (Coastal Croatia) region. The specialty grape of the region, Malvazija Istarska—known in Italy as Malvasia Istriana or Malvasia del Curso—is believed to be an Istrian native, yet still a part of the extended Malvasia family. Malvasija Istarska is often used in this area to produce a varietal wine—sometimes dry, sometimes sweet. The finest versions are typically crisp and zesty with aromas of fruit (green apple, apricot, lime), flowers, sweet spices, and honey.

Sevastopol, Crimea: Sevastopol, located on the southwestern edge of the Crimean Peninsula, is the largest city in Crimean and an important Black Sea port. The area has a rocky coastline, cool winters, warm-to-hot summers, three main rivers (the Belbek, Chorna, and the Kacha) and an abundance of mountains (including a portion of the Balaklava Highlands). Not surprisingly, it also has something of a wine industry—with quite a history. In the 1800’s, Count Mikhail Vorontsov (1782—1856) imported vines from France and Spain and established vineyards throughout the region. Soon thereafter (in 1878), Prince Lev Sergeievitch Golitsyn—a highly educated member of a royal Family—established a winery in Crimea and began producing award-winning sparkling wines. The winery, Novy Svet, is still in production. A wide range of grape varieties—including international varieties (Muscat, Pinot Gris, Malbec) as well as those typically associated with eastern Europe (Saperavi, Rkatsiteli) are grown in the region.

Tip of the Mitt AVA: Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt is an AVA (approved in August of 2016) is located on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula—an area often (aptly) described as being shaped like a mitten.  Surrounded by water on three sides—Lake Huron to the east, Lake Michigan to the west, and the Straits of Mackinac to the north—the area’s cold-in-winter continental climate is somewhat assuaged by the summer warmth held in place well into the fall by the thermal mass of the huge lakes. Nevertheless, the region runs the risk of cold-weather calamities such as spring frost and winterkill, so the majority of the vineyards are planted to cold-hardy hybrids such as Frontenac Gris, Marquette and La Crescent.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 42° North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 42 degrees North!

Applegate Valley: The Applegate Valley AVA is—along with the Rogue Valley AVA—one of the southernmost AVAs in the state of Oregon. (Technically speaking, the Applegate Valley AVA is a sub-region of the larger, surrounding Rogue Valley AVA.) The Applegate Valley AVA is named for the Applegate River. The source of the Applegate River is located in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California; from there it flows northeast (then northwest) for about 51 miles (82 km) until it joins the Rogue River for its final journey to the Pacific. The Applegate Valley is slightly further south (and a bit warmer and drier) than much of Oregon’s wine country and is quite well-suited to Bordeaux and Rhône varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah—although Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo are found here as well. 

Cayuga Lake: The Cayuga Lake AVA extends for over 40 miles (65 km) along either side of Cayuga Lake (the longest of New York’s Finger Lakes). The vineyards of the area—which became an AVA in 1988—benefit from three natural features of the region: the temperature-moderating effects of the lake itself, the steep hillsides poised to catch the morning sun, and the heat-retaining, finely-grained shale soils. The Cayuga Lake AVA is particularly well-known for Riesling produced in a particular mineral-and-fruity flavor style, as well as Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris. The Cayuga Lake AVA is a sub-region of the New York’s Finger Lakes AVA. 

Fennville AVA: The Fennville AVA, located along the shores of Lake Michigan, was the first AVA approved in the state of Michigan (back in 1981). The tiny Fennville AVA is completely surrounded by the larger Lake Michigan Shore AVA. Between the two of them, the Fennville and Lake Michigan Shore AVA grow over 40% of Michigan’s grapes. The Fennville AVA grows vinifera grapes—primarily those that can thrive in cool climates such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay—as well as cold-hardy hybrids such as Traminette, Vignoles and Chardonel. 

Hokkaido: Hokkaido, a large island located in the northern section of Japan, was awarded a GI (geographical indication) for wine—Japan’s second—in October of 2018. The wine industry in this area has grown exponentially as of late—in 2000 there were only eight wineries to be found here; today the number is closer to 40. Hokkaido GI wines are produced using Koshu, Muscat Bailey-A, and several other grapes—including Pinot Blanc, Bacchus, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir.

Orvieto: Orvieto DOC—a crisp white based on Trebbiano Toscano (known here as Procanico) and Grechetto grapes—is one of the best-known wines of Umbria. Umbria is a land-locked region located in the rugged Apennines between Marches and Tuscany. Grapes used in the production of Orvieto take up nearly 80% of Umbria’s vineyard area, with many vines planted in the valley of the Paglia River as it flows from Mount Amiata towards the Tiber. Orvieto is typically a dry wine, but semi-sweet and sweet styles are produced as well. 

Patrimonio: Located towards the northern end of the French island of Corsica, the vineyards of the Patrimonio AOC have a lovely view of the fishing boats (and pleasure yachts) in the Gulf of Saint-Florent. The area is blessed with limestone, chalk, and clay soils as well as the typical Mediterranean climate of mild winters followed by long, warm, dry summers. Red, white, and rosé wines are produced here, with the list of grape varieties showing the influence of both Italy (located just 75 miles/120 km away) and France. Red wines are typically based on Sangiovese (known here as Nielluccio) sometimes blended with splash of Grenache. The best-known white wine of the area is 100% Vermentino (Malvoisie de Corse).

Racha, Georgia: Racha is a small wine region—often discussed together with the equally small Lechkumi region (aka Racha-Lechkhumi)—located in the northern section of Georgia along the border with Russia. The region is known for its fertile soils and sunny climate that help to produce grapes very high in sugar content.  Semi-sweet red wines—particularly Khvanchakara (based on Alexandrouli and Mujuretuli grapes)—are a specialty of the area.

Rías Baixas: The Rías Baixas (“low estuaries”) DO occupies the northwest corner of Spain, bounded on two sides by the cold Atlantic Ocean and sharing its southern border with the Minho Region of Portugal. The Albariño-based wine produced in Rías Baixas might just be the highest-regarded white wine of Spain (forgive me Rueda and Valdeorras—rest assured we love you too).  While the Rías Baixas DO produces a range of wines (including small amounts of red and sparkling wines) from a list of grape varieties; white wine aficionados around the world crave the stone fruit, citrus, and white flower aromas of a 100% Albariño from the Rias Baixas DO. 

Rioja Alta: The Rioja Alta Zone, surrounding the town of Haro, is the westernmost (and according to many, the most important) sub-region of the Rioja DOCa. The majority of the zone lies south of the Ebro River. The Rioja Alta sits slightly lower than the Rioja Alavesa to the north, and slightly higher than Rioja Oriental (formerly the Rioja Baja) located to the east. The Rioja Alta is known for its reddish, alluvial soils rich in limestone, clay and iron. Tempranillo is the superstar grape here, renowned for the complexity and structure it lends to the wines of the region along with its blending partners including Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.   

Valley of the Roses, Bulgaria: Bulgaria’s Valley of the Roses wine region is located just to the south of the east-west running Balkan Mountains, in the region (and wine region) known as the Thracian Lowlands (or Thracian Valley). The Valley of the Roses is primarily known for its flower industry focusing on Damask roses—many of which are used to produce rose oil for use in perfumes and cosmetics all over the world. The Valley of the Roses is also an emerging wine region focusing mainly on white wines produced from Muscat, Muscatel, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, and the pink-skinned Misket Cherven.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 40º North

We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 40 degrees North!

Bairrada DOC: The Bairrada DOC is located in north/central Portugal, just inland from the Atlantic coast. The area grows a range of grapes and produces red, white, rosé, and sparkling wine. White wines are typically based on the Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes) grape, but may be produced from several other varieties as well, including Arinto (Pedernã), Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Rabo de Ovelha, and Verdelho.  Reds are produced using a minimum of 50% Baga. The Baga grape variety is well-known for its powerful tannin, great structure, dark color, and complex cherry-berry-plum-tobacco-coffee flavors. Some of Portugal’s best Baga-based red wines are produced in the Bairrada DOC.

Chengde, Hebei: Hebei is a province in eastern China, located on the Bohai Sea coast and surrounding the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin. Hebei, whose name translates to “north of the river” is located north of the Yellow River. It is estimated that Hebei, together with its neighbor Tianjin, has over 50 wineries and over half of China’s total wine production. In the area’s vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading grape variety, followed by Chardonnay, Merlot, and Marselan. The China Great Wall Wine Company (the country’s largest producer, in terms of volume) and the Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard (Domaine Franco Chinois) are both located here.

Humboldt County, CA: Humboldt County—best known for Redwood National Park and the tallest trees on earth—occupies part of the northernmost reaches of California.  Viticulture is sparse—there are perhaps 60 acres currently planted to vine in all of Humboldt County—and yet a range of cool-climate grapes are grown here, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Merlot.  The tiny Willow Creek AVA, one of the few to be found in the area, lies in the valley of the Trinity River surrounded by the rugged Klamath Mountains. The influence of the river makes the AVA slightly warmer than the surrounding areas. PS: The Willow Creek AVA of Humboldt County should not be confused with the Paso Robles Willow Creek District AVA (located 500 miles to the south).

Madrid: The Community of Madrid—located somewhat in the center of the country—is one of the autonomous communities of Spain. The city of Madrid—the capital city of Spain, full of world class art museums (the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Reina Sofía), historic squares (Plaza Mayor) and amazing parks (El Retiro)—lies within its borders. However, in the context of wine, we’re going to focus on the autonomía of Madrid and its very own DO wine region:  Vinos de Madrid DO.  Red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines are produced in the Vinos de Madrid DO, using a range of grapes including Viura, Torrontés, Parellada, Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), Garnacha Tinta, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The Vinos de Madrid DO is also approved for “sobremadre” wines produced via an extended maceration (up to 180 days) on the madre—that is, the grape skins and stalks. During this time period, the madre slowly sinks to the bottom of the vessel and lends a gentle clarification to the wine. Both red and white (orange) wines are produced via this process.

Marmara, Turkey: Turkey’s Marmara wine region (also known as the Thracian region) is situated in the north of the country, bordering the Marmara Sea (as well as the Black Sea and the Aegean).  The region can be quite humid, to say the least: it averages 73% humidity. The region typically has mild winters and warm summers, showing characteristics of both maritime and Mediterranean climates. A range of grapes are grown in the area, including international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Native Turkish grapes such as Adakarası, Kalecik Karası, and Papazkarası are also planted. The region produces about 13.6% of the country’s wine.

Sardinia: Located about 150 miles (240km) off the west coast of Italy, Sardinia is one of the largest islands in the  Mediterranean Sea (second only to Sicily). Despite the fact that just a small portion of the island’s 9,300 square miles are dedicated to viticulture, a wide range of grape varieties are grown on Sardinia. These include including native Italian varieties (such as Monica, Torbato, and Nasco), French varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon), and those believed to be native to Spain (including Grenache and Carignan). Grenache is a bit of a local hero—starring in the well-known Cannonau di Sardegna DOC—as is Vermentino, which is made into several wines, including Vermentino di Gallura (the island’s only DOCG wine).

Slopes of Meliton PDO: TheSlopes of Meliton PDO is located on the Greek mainland in the region known as Halkidiki (Chaikidki). Haikidiki is often described as resembling “a hand with three fingers.” Vineyards of the Slopes of Meltion PDO are planted in terraces up Mount Meliton, starting at elevations of 328 feet (100 m) and continuing up as high as 1,150 feet (350 m).  A range of grapes, including both Greek and international varieties are planted here. The main wines produced under the rules of the PDO include dry whites (based on Athiri, Roditis, and Assyryiko) and dry reds produced with a minimum of 70% Limnio (often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc). Domaine Porto Carras is the main producer.

Taurasi DOCG: Located in Italy’s Campania region about 30 miles inland from the city of Naples, the area around Taurasi has been known for its wine for a long time…since 800 BCE, according to some. These days, this ancient region is enjoying a newly-found popularity, thanks in large part to the efforts of Antonio Mastroberardino and his truly legendary 1968 vintage. Taurasi earned its DOCG status in 1993 and according to these standards it must be made using a minimum of 85% Aglianico. Taurasi tends to be a highly tannic red wine that comes into its own with a few years of age (perhaps 8 at least). Those that have the patience (and the cellar space) will be rewarded with a well-structured, complex wine with floral-fruity-flavors of sour cherry, raspberry, dried plum, dried herbs, licorice, and spice.

Warren Hills AVA: New Jersey might not be famous for wine production, but early American colonists successfully planted grapes and made wine here as early as 1767. These days, New Jersey boasts just over 50 bonded wineries and more than 1,500 acres (607 ha) of vineyards. The state contains four AVAs (one of these—Central Delaware Valley—is shared with Pennsylvania). The Warren Hills AVA, located in the rolling hills of the New York-New Jersey Highlands  is found in the northwest of the state, about 50 miles (80 km)  inland from Raritan Bay. The Warren Hills AVA currently has five wineries and just over 100 acres (40 ha) of vines. Many of the grapes grown here are cold hardy hybrids such as Vidal, Chambourcin, and Catawba; vinifera grapes including Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir are grown as well—planted betwixt and between the area’s dairy farms and apple orchards.

Click here for our post: Mind your Latitude – 38º North

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 38° North

There are so many ways to look at and study wine…region, grape, wine-making techniques…even soil and farming methods. So…what about latitude? It’s worth a try!

Here’s a quick look at some of the wines and wine regions of the world that have very little in common…save for the fact that they all reside on the 38th parallel north…

Athens: Located on the southern part of the Greek mainland, Athens is considered part of the “Central Greece” wine region. This area is famous for being the home of Retsina, often made with the Savatiano grape variety (thought to be native to the region). There are no PDO regions in Central Greece, but the area does produce quite a bit of PGI-level wines from a range of grape varieties (from Cabernet Sauvignon to Assyrtiko and beyond).

Augusta, Missouri: Missouri might not seem like a wine hotspot to some, but the Augusta AVA was the first American Viticultural Area to be approved, back in June of 1980. Norton is the area’s “signature” grape variety, but the region also grows vinifera varieties (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay) as well as cold-hardy hybrids such as Chambourcin, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, and Vidal.

Cosenza, Calabria: The tiny town of Consenza in Calabria (the “tip of the toe” of the Italian “boot’) is surrounded by the DOC region of Terre di Consenza. Many styles of wine are produced in this region—from white to red as well as sparkling, fortified, passito (dried grape), and late harvest. Interesting grapes grown in the Terre de Consenza DOC include Gaglioppo (best known as the main red grape in the Cirò DOC), Mantonico Bianco, and Calabrese (aka Nero d’Avola).

Izmir, Turkey: The province of Izmir, located on the Aegean Sea in far west Turkey is—along with the provinces of Manisa and Denizli—part of Turkey’s Aegean Wine Region. A wide range of grapes are grown here—including international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay as well as local grapes such as Çal Karası and Papaskara (both red). Approximately 52% of all Turkish wine is produced in the country’s Aegean Wine Region.

Jumilla, Spain: Located in the autonomía of Murcia on Spain’s eastern coast, Jumilla is one of three DOs in the region—the other two being Yecla and Bullas. The Jumilla DO and with its two side-kicks all produce a range of wines in various styles, but are primarily known for concentrated reds and flavorful rosés based on Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre).

Middleburg, Virginia: Centered around the town of the same name, the Middleburg AVA is located about 50 miles south of Washington DC. It is bordered on the north by the Potomac River and encircled by mountains to the east, west, and south. The area’s nearly-300 acres of vines are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Gris (among others).

Miyagi Prefecture, Japan: Miyagi Prefecture comprises 14 cities and a number of towns and villages; of these the capital—Sendai—is the largest and best-known. Miyagi is located on Honshu—Japan’s largest and most populous island. Honshu is also home to the majority of Japan’s vineyards and wine production. The native grape, Koshu, is grown here, as well as a variety of other grapes including Muscat of Alexandria, and Muscat Bailey-A (a Japanese hybrid).

(The city of) Napa, California: The Napa Valley AVA hardly needs an introduction…however, to be specific about the 38th parallel, the city of Napa is somewhat surrounded by the Oak Knoll, Mount Veeder, and Los Carneros AVAs. The Sonoma Valley AVA is just to the west. That means that—depending on elevation and the proximity to San Pablo Bay—this spot could produce world-class wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc…and a host of other grapes as well.

Ningxia, China: Located about 500 miles (805 km) west of Beijing, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is considered one of the most promising areas for viticulture and wine production in China. Due to its deep, finely-grained loess soils—the area is in large part an alluvial plain formed by the Yellow River— viticulture is encouraged here both for economic and ecological reasons, as the vines help prevent erosion.

Setúbal, Portugal: Setúbal is both a commune and a DOC wine region in southern Portugal. The area is located just across the Tagus (Tejo) River from the city of Lisbon, on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The DOC is best known for its sweet licoroso (fortified) Moscatel de Setúbal—based on the Muscat of Alexandria grape.

Click here for our post: Mind your Latitude – 40º North

References/for more information:

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

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