Mind your Latitude: 45° to 46° South

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We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re looking at latitude. Today, we present:  45 to 46 degrees South—and along with it, we enter into the “southernmost vineyard in the world” debate.

Central Otago: New Zealand’s Central Otago Region—located near the southern end of the South Island—seems to be the clear contender for “southernmost viticultural region and official geographical indication currently producing commercially viable wine.” Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s oldest winegrowing regions—a Central Otago “Burgundy” was awarded a Gold Medal at a 1881 wine competition in Sydney. However—despite this early success—cherries, apples, and nectarines were the leading agricultural crop in the region until the 1970s, when commercial viticulture began (again) in earnest.

Today, Central Otago is planted to over 1,873 hectares/4,630 acres of vines. The great majority (nearly 80%) is Pinot Noir. Other leading grapes include Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Many of the vineyards of Central Otago are planted at high elevations, on rocky hillsides, and along steep river gorges. The Southern Alps provide a significant rain shadow and give this area a semi-continental climate as well as extreme annual and diurnal temperature fluctuations. As we all know, vineyards can thrive in these kinds of conditions—and the area’s intensely flavored Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines can certainly attest to this.

The Central Otago GI has six sub-regions; the southernmost—situated at 45°25’—is Alexandra. the Alexandra area is home to several producing vineyards, including Grasshopper Rock, Last Chance, and Legacy Vineyards.

For the record: the southernmost point of the Central Otago GI is located close to the town of Millers Flat, located at 45°66’S.

Chile Chico: Chile Chico is a tiny town located on the south shore of General Carrera Lake. General Carrera Lake—shared by Chile and Argentina (where it typically goes by the name of Lake Buenos Aires)—is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The climate in this area is typically cold and humid, but certain swathes in the area enjoy a sunny, temperate microclimate. It is believed that some spots located along a narrow ridge of land—east of the ice floes and tucked into the Andes west of Chubut—could potentially sustain commercial viticulture. Apparently, the Torres Family believes the area has a future in viticulture, as the company has purchased a large parcel of land in the province of Coyhaique (at 45°43’S). According to the Miguel Torres Chile website, the purchase was made “taking climate change into account…as a project for future generations.” Who knows what the future may bring?

Sarmiento, Argentina: Sarmiento is located in the foothills of the Patagónides (a series of mountain ranges east of and parallel to the Andes) and tucked between two lakes (Lago Musters and Lago Colhué Huapí). In general, the area is challenging and subject to spring frosts, strong winds, and short summers. However, Sarmiento is one in a series of high-altitude plateaus spread across southern Chubut. Sarmiento benefits from the moderating influences of a series of nearby rivers and lakes, as well as the protective rain shadow of the taller mountains. This area has long been planted to cherry orchards; and—as of 2011—vineyards are being planted as well. Sarmiento’s latitude—reported as 45°59’S by Google Maps—certainly makes it a contender for the southernmost vineyards in the world.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 44° South

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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 South! At this latitude we are getting close to the southern edge of commercial viticulture, but there is always something interesting to find!

Waitaki Valley—Canterbury: New Zealand’s Waitaki River—flowing eastward from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean—serves as a natural boundary and political dividing line between the provinces of Canterbury (to the north) and Otago (to the south). As such, there are two wine regions that go by the name Waitaki Valley.

On the north side of the River, the Waitaki Valley-Canterbury region is an unofficial sub-region of the Canterbury GI. Geographically, the Canterbury region is quite large, and most of the vineyards are located to the west and/or the north of the city of Christchurch. Canterbury’s Waitaki Valley area is located a good 120 miles/195 km further south. This is an emerging region for viticulture, centered around a sunny area 30 miles/48 km inland from the coast.  Plantings are limited but the area shows promise for the production of Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines.

Waitaki Valley—North Otago: On the south side of the river, the Waitaki Valley-North Otago region is an official geographical indication for wine, registered in December of 2018. The area stretches along the south bank of the Waitaki River for about 45 miles/75 km, centered around the town of Kurow. The majestic mountains of the Southern Alps, located to the west, provide significant protection from rain and clouds, helping to create the area’s “almost continental” climate with warm, dry summers and cold winters. This is an emerging region—I was only able to locate about 8 wineries—but it is an area to keep your eye on. Leading grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and (surprise!) Arneis.

Cisnes (Aysén Region): The town of Cisnes is located within the Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region of Chile. The name of the region is, for obvious reasons, typically shorted to simply Aysén Region (Región de Aysén). The Aysén Region is one of Chile’s 16 top-order administrative regions, and the third largest in area. However…it is the second-southernmost and the most sparsely populated—with a population density of 0.85 inhabitants per square kilometer (compared to 8,470 inhabitants per square km in the capital city of Santiago). The reason for the sparse population is somewhat obvious: Aysén—straddling both the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field—contains the third largest ice field in the world (after those in Antarctica and Greenland). Most areas are reachable only by boat or plane. We won’t find any viticulture in these parts, but it is, at least in theory, possible that vines could grow in the interior—perhaps close to the Chile/Argentina border (100 miles inland from the coast).

Los Altares, Chubut: The Los Altares wine region is part of the Argentina Province of Chubut. It is located at the near-perfect geographic center of the province, about 150 miles (240 km) from the Chilean border, the Atlantic Coast, and the provinces of Río Negro (to the north) and Santa Cruz (to the south).   Los Atares is a sparsely populated region with a semi-arid terrain that is typical of the Patagonian Steppe (Argentina’s largest desert).  The area is well-known for its rock formations—there are close to 50 miles (80 km) of rock walls; some up to 230 feet (70 m) tall. The name of the area—Altares—derives from the altar-like appearance of some of these walls. The vineyards of Los Altares are planted close to the banks of the Chubut River which has the unusual feature of being higher than the land around it in some places. This leads to frequent flooding and a subsequent narrow band of fertile soil on both sides of the river. There are only about 73 hectares/180 acres of vines spread across the whole of central Chubut, so viticulture is truly in its infancy here.The area’s short growing season is a challenge, however, the region shows promise for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 42° South

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

Chiloé Archipelago: The Chiloé Archipelago is part of the southern extension of the Chilean Coastal Range and part of Chilean Patagonia. A small chain of mountains runs north-to-south through the area, creating a string of natural deep harbors along the cold and rainy western side well as a series of warmer and drier areas to the east.  Long-inhabited by the native Chono, Huilliche, and Cunco peoples, Europeans began to settle in the area in the late 1800s. This was followed by the creation of towns and industries including whaling, farming, and—of all things—providing railroad ties for the entire South American continent. As for wine, this is certainly a frontier—and one that Aurelio Montes is willing to forge. An avid sailor, Montes has sailed through these islands for decades., and he recently planted what is believed to be the first vineyard in the area—five acres of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir on the island of Mechuque. While the climate here is a challenge, the ocean waters surrounding Mechuque Island are actually a bit warmer than those on the coast next to Chile’s Central Valley (to the north). This is due to the outer islands of the Chiloé Archipelago that provide some distance and insulation from the cold Humboldt Current. The first harvest on Mechuque Island (and perhaps some wine) is expected soon.

Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42: Politically speaking, La Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42 (Andean Region of the 42nd parallel) is an organization of small towns located high in the Andes and near the 42nd parallel. The region is centered around 13 towns in the Argentine provinces of Río Negro and Chubut. Traditional agriculture in the region includes fruit trees, cider, and beer; viticulture is a new and emerging industry. Vineyards are sparse, but include plantings of Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay and Torrontés.

While obscure, the Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42 is also the stuff of legends: The famous American Outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived on a ranch near the town of Cholila from 1901 until  about 1905; they were forced to flee when Pinkerton Detectives discovered their hideout. Their ranch house has been restored and might be worth a visit!

Tasmania: Tasmania is one of Australia’s coolest-climate wine regions. This makes sense, as the region is an island surround by cold ocean waters with few areas more than 100 km/75 miles from the coast. Tasmania also contains some high-elevation vineyards—much of the island is mountainous, with the highest mountain—Mount Ossa—topping out at 1,617 meters (5,305 ft). The leading grape varieties here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Tasmania is known for producing some of the finest sparkling wines in Australia—as well as providing a good deal of the grapes used to produce sparkling wines on the Australian mainland.

Marlborough: Located in the northeastern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough is the heart and soul of the country’s wine industry. Marlborough is home to close to 24,000 hectares/59,000 acres of vines and accounts for nearly 2/3 of the country’s output of grapes and wine.  It was Marlborough, in the 1980s and 90s, that provided the wine world its first taste of a zesty, herbalicious-explosion-in-a-glass version of Sauvignon Blanc now recognized and beloved as unique to New Zealand  (although these days, tamer and subtler versions are produced as well). The Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east combine to give Marlborough a cool climate and abundant sunshine—making this an ideal area for the country’s signature Sauvignon Blanc as well as significant plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Nelson: The wine region of Nelson is located just to the west of Marlborough, on the northwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This small area is surrounded by small mountain ranges, giving Nelson one of the sunniest climates in New Zealand—as well as the nickname “Sunny Nelson.” The vineyards in Nelson total just over 2,500 acres/1,000 ha of vines. Sauvignon Blanc makes up nearly 50% of the plantings, followed by Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.  The historic town of Nelson enjoys a reputation as an artsy-beachy place with a plethora of cool cafes and craft breweries—in addition to the wineries on the outskirts of town. Road trip, anyone?

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 40° South

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

Valle de Osorno DO: Chile’s Osorno Valley—part of Chile’s Austral Viticultural Region—stretches from the coast, over the mountains of the Coast Range, through the high-plateau “Los Lagos” (lakes) region and up into the foothills of the Andes. The area’s rich volcanic soils and cool climate (moderated by the presence of the some of the largest lakes in the country) provides the backdrop to a massive cattle and dairy industry, fueled by Basque, Spanish, and German immigrants along with the native Huilliche-Mapuche population.  The area is also a traditional center for horsemanship and the national breed of Chilean Horses—los Caballoes de Pura Raza Chilena.  The Osorno Valley’s thriving economy is based, in part, on its location close to the Paso Cardenal Antonio Samor—one of the few asphalt highways between Chile and Argentina found in the Southern Andes. Vines—mainly Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling—are a recent but welcome addition to the area. The wines of the Valle de Osorno DO have been praised for their mineral character, elegance, and pleasing acidity—and plantings are on the rise.

San Patricio del Chañar: Viticulture in the Argentine province of Neuquén is centered in the southern and eastern quadrants of the area. Many of the vineyards are planted in or near the basins of the Limay and Neuquén Rivers, at a moderate elevation (between 886 and 1,362 feet/270 to 415 meters above sea level). In recent years, the town of San Patricio del Chañar—located on the banks of the Neuquén River and just a few miles north of the province of Río Negro—has emerged as a leading center for viticulture in the region. San Patricio del Chañar is largely planted to red grapes (mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec) aong with small amounts of white grapes. The next time you are passing through, be sure and stop at the aptly named Bodega del Fin del Mundo and try some of their Reserva del Fin del Mundo (a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Viognier).

Río Negro Lower Valley: Argentina’s Río Negro (the river) begins at the confluences of the Limay and Neuquén Rivers, and flows southeast across the continent towards the Atlantic Ocean. Along its 653- kilometer (405-mile) path, it forms a series of valleys that have become important centers for viticulture and wine production in Patagonia.  The Río Negro Lower Valley—located in the east of the Río Negro Province—is among the lowest-elevation viticultural areas in Argentina, and close enough to the sea to receive the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean. There are currently about 100 hectares (240 acres) of vines in the area, planted to a range of grape varieties including Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Wairarapa: The Wairarapa wine region is located in the southernmost portion of New Zealand’s North Island—within the administrative region of Wellington (and about 35 miles/58 km east of the city of the same name). The area is best-known for savory Pinot Noir, which accounts for nearly 50% of all vines. Other leading grapes include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. The vineyards of Wairarapa typically enjoy sunny days due to the rain shadow of the nearby Rimutaka and Tararua Mountain Ranges and a cooling influence from the coastline that curves around the east and south of the area. Despite its small production—the region produces just under 1% of New Zealand’s total output—Wairarapa contains two official sub-regions: Martinborough and Gladstone.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 38° South

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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:  38 degrees South!

Malleco Valley: Located 540 kilometers (340 miles) south of Santiago, the Malleco Valley was once considered the southernmost outpost of Chilean viticulture. The area is known for its cool, almost marginal climate and (quite unlike the northern reaches of Chile) high rainfall—which often total 1,100 mm (44 inches) a year. The region’s volcanic soils—containing red clay and sand—provide reasonably good drainage, which is essential considering the area’s impressive rainfall. Malleco Valley Plantings focus on cool-climate varieties including Pinot Noir, País, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Viña Aquitania planted some of the first vinifera vines in the Malleco Valley back in 1995, using them to produce both still and sparkling wines under their “Sol de Sol” brand.

Chapadmalal GI: Regulations concerning commercial vineyard plantings in Argentina were somewhat loosened in the 1990s, and in the years that followed some producers began to venture beyond the boundaries of the typical Andes-influenced wine regions the country is known for. As such, some producers have begun planting vines in the province of Buenos Aires. These vineyards, which include those planted in Médanos and Sierra de la Ventana, are planted mainly to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The Chapadmalal GI—located near the coast and about 200 miles (320 km) south of the city of Buenos Aires—contains the easternmost vineyards in the country. The area, approved as a geographical indication in 2014, has a primarily maritime climate and receives much more rainfall than most of Argentina’s established wine regions.

Mornington Peninsula: Located on a narrow, hook-shaped strip of land between Port Philip’s Bay and the Bass Strait, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is one the coolest-climate wine regions in Australia. Surrounded by water on three sides, the region experiences a truly maritime climate, abundant sunshine, and a long growing season. This is a relatively young wine region, with significant commercial viticulture dating back only from the 1970s. Pinot Noir is the leading grape variety, followed by Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. Cool-climate versions of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are made as well. Situated a mere 45 miles/70 km from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a popular weekend destination for wine lovers as well as those interested in the region’s growing number of cideries, breweries, and distilleries. For everyone else, there’s always the beach!

Gisborne: Gisborne is located on the east side of New Zealand’s North Island. Many of Gisborne’s vineyards are located in the valley of the Waipaoa River and in the foothills of the surrounding mountains. Gisborne benefits from abundant sunshine—provided via the rain shadow of these mountains—as well as the cooling breezes from the nearby sea. The area is largely planted to white grapes; Chardonnay is the leading variety—followed by Pinot Gris. Sauvignon Blanc is relegated to minor status here, and small amounts of Gewurztraminer and Merlot are grown as well. As befits the area’s palate of grape varieties, Gisborne is often referred to as the “Chardonnay capital of New Zealand.”

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 36° South

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We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  36 degrees South!

Itata Valley: The Itata Valley is located within Chile’s Southern Regions Viticultural Area, just to the south of the Maule Valley. With viticulture dating back to the 1500s, it is believed that the Itata Valley—particularly the area around the towns of Chillán, Quillón and Coelemu—was one of the first areas of Chile to be planted with vines. Chile’s Coastal Range is not as tall nor as wide in this area as it is to the north, so a large part of the area enjoys a cool Mediterranean climate with maritime influences. Heritage grapes—including Moscatel de Alejandría, País, and Cinsault—are planted here, along with recent plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenère, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Total plantings in the Itata Valley are estimated to be close to 16,900 acres (6,800 ha).

La Pampa: La Pampa, part of Argentina Patagonia, is in the center of the country—southeast of Mendoza and situated between the high Andes Mountains (to the west) and the Atlantic Coast (to the east).  The terrain of La Pampa is, for the most part, gently undulating grasslands—at an average elevation of 1,000 feet (305 m) in the west, leveling out a bit as one travels eastward towards the coast. La Pampa experiences a moderate continental climate with mild autumns and springs, warm summers, and cold winters. The area is currently planted to just over 680 acres (275 ha) of vines, with nearly 85% of the vineyards are dedicated to red grapes. Over 50% of the vines are planted to Malbec; other leading grapes varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

Padthaway: Padthaway is the northernmost wine region in South Australia’s Limestone Coast Zone, an area known for its limestone bedrock and terra rosa soil. The Padthaway GI extends northward from Wrattonbully and Coonawarra in a unique, long, and narrow shape. Stretching for over 38 miles (62 km), it follows a vein of sandy terra rosa soils—as well as the Riddoch Highway—from the town of Naraccorte to just north of the town of Padthaway. By contrast, the region is a mere 5 miles (8 km) wide at its widest point. Shiraz is the most widely planted grape, followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon (known to have an  affinity for terra rosa). Chardonnay is also widely planted. These top three grapes—Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon-Chardonnay—account for nearly 80% of the region’s vines. Other varieties grown in Padthaway include Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.

Rutherglen: Rutherglen, located within the Australian state of Victoria, has been producing wine since the 1850s. Vines were first brought to the area along with an influx of settlers during Victoria’s gold rush. These days, the area is famous for its old vines (some of the oldest in Australia) as well as its unique, ultra-aged fortified wines. This area is markedly inland, and the terrain is mostly flat. This makes for a dry continental climate that can produce some very hot summertime temperatures. Thus, Rutherglen is an ideal spot to grow Muscat grapes (a very heat-tolerant variety) for use in the area’s famous stickies. Rutherglen fortified wines are also produced from the Muscadelle grape—these wines used to be referred to as Tokay but are now known as Topaque (to avoid regional and regulatory confusion). Rutherglen also produces unfortified table wines from Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon—but its fame rests with the “liquid gold” of Rutherglen fortified wines.

Auckland: Located on New Zealand’s North Island, the Auckland region has a plethora of (mostly boutique) wineries tucked into the areas to the north and south of the metropolitan area surrounding the country’s capital city. The wine industry of Auckland benefitted greatly from a wave of Croatian immigrants that began to settle in the area around Kumeu in the 1880s. Several of New Zealand’s leading estates—including Babich, Villa Maria, Kumeu River, and Nobilio—were founded by Croatians. These days, this relatively warm, humid area is mainly planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Syrah—as well as small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Auckland is considered a hub for the New Zealand wine industry, with many of the country’s largest wineries—including those with vineyard holdings in other part of the country—headquartered in Auckland.

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 34° South

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We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 34 degrees South!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

 

Mind your Latitude: 32° South

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We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present:  32 degrees South!

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

Mind your Latitude: 30° South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

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

Study tonight? Who, me?

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

If you want to go for it, click here.

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

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

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