Deconstructing Llicorella

PrioratThis morning I set about to research the wine region of Priorat for a blog post.  I already knew the basics of the region, such as the fact that it is one of Spain’s two DOCa wines, the main grape variety is Garnacha Tinta, and the area came to international attention in the 1990s.

Wikipedia (I know, not the best reference but in this case, just a starting point) also had this to say, “The area is characterized by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known locally as Llicorella.” I already knew that the soil in Priorat is mainly Llicorella…at least I knew the word, and could have guessed it correctly on a multiple choice test.  But being in a Monday sort of contemplative mood, I wondered if I really understood Llicorella.  Of course, I didn’t. So I set about to deconstruct Llicorella.

First of all…just what exactly is slate? Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash. It is the finest grained foliated metamorphic rock.

Slate...a Metamorphic Rock

Slate…a Metamorphic Rock

Metamorphic Rock? Metamorphic rocks are created from the transformation of existing rock types.  Metamorphism means “change in form.” Rocks under the earth’s surface change form by being subjected to heat, generally temperatures from 300° – 400°F, which can cause both physical and chemical changes in the rock itself.

Sedimentary Rock? Sedimentary rocks are formed by the solution of mineral and organic particles within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the name for several different processes that cause mineral particles and organic particles to settle and accumulate first into a dissolved solution and later into sediment.  Sediment is then transported to dry land by water, wind, or glaciers, or is left behind when the bodies of water dry up.  With time, the slushy sediment hardens into rock. Sandstone is probably the most well-known sedimentary rock.

Clay? Clay is a very fine-grained soil type made up of very fine minerals such as aluminium phyllosilicates, iron, magnesium, and a bunch of other chemicals I have never heard of. The minerals that make up clay soil are the result of weathering…the breakdown of rocks, soils, and minerals through contact with air, water, and living creatures.

Licorella

Llicorella

Volcanic Ash? Volcanic ash is made up of pieces of pulverized rock, minerals, and volcanic glass that are created during volcanic eruptions. Pieces of ash must be less than 2 mm in diameter – larger fragments are referred to as cinders or blocks. At least this one I can understand!

Foliated? There are two types of metamorphic rocks:  foliated rocks and non-foliated rocks.  Foliated metamorphic rocks, such as schist and slate, have a “layered” appearance that has been produced by exposure to heat and directed pressure.  Non-foliated metamorphic rocks such as marble and quartz do not have the “layered” appearance.

And what is quartz? Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s continental crust, after feldspar. There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Quartz is the most common element of sand and sandstone and is used in glassmaking.  Quartz is almost immune to weathering and is a component of granite and other igneous rocks.

Aha- that’s why sand is coarse (quartz doesn’t “weather”) and clay is fine (its made up of materials that do weather or “breakdown”).

I think I’ll stop there. But for those of you who are curious, igneous rocks are rocks that are formed by the cooling and solidification of lava or magma. Granite and obsidian are igneous rocks.

So now, when someone says, “Llicorella is a unique soil made up of black slate and quartz,” what do you know?

Vineyard in PrioratSources (in addition to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priorat_(DOQ)):

http://geology.com/

http://www.quartzpage.de/index.html

http://www.mineralszone.com/

http://www.turismepriorat.org/en

http://www.in-spain.info/top20/spanish-white-wine-priorat.htm

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

A New Branch of the Chianti Family Tree?

Tree Use for ChiantiNews Flash!

Last month (February 17, 2013 to be exact), the Chianti Classico Consorzio approved the creation of a new top-tier classification of Chianti Classico DOCG wines to be known as “Gran Selezione.”  The term is expected to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, and if so, will be a quality level “above” Chianti Classico Riserva. 

It is estimated that approximately 7% of the production of Chianti Classico will be eligible for the  designation.  The first wines eligible to display the term on their label will be those from the 2010 vintage.

If you’ve been following my study guide on the wines of the Veneto (or even if you’ve been following Italian wines at all) you know that Italian wines are already surrounded by a jungle of regulatory and legislative classifications.  Luckily, this in no way affects how delicious, delightful, and affordable they can be!

In the interest of “keeping it simple.” here is a quick look at how this new branch of the Chianti family tree fits in with its brothers and sisters:

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG:

  • Must be produced from 100% estate-grown fruit
  • Minimum 30 months of aging  
  • Is intended to acknowledge vineyard-specific wines
  • Will represent approximately 7% of the production of Chianti Classico

chianti classico gallo neroChianti Classico Riserva DOCG:

  • Minimum 24 months of aging
  • Minimum 12.5% abv

Chianti Classico DOCG:

  • Minimum 12 months of aging
  • Minimum 12% abv

All versions of Chianti Classico must be a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, produced from grapes grown within the 100-square miles of the designated Chianti Classico region.  Up to 10% Canaiolo may used, along with up to 15% other varieties, of which Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot are often used.  Yields are limited to 3 tons per acre.

Sangiovese in TuscanyBy the way, not everyone is thrilled about this new development.  A quick websearch on “New Chianti Classification” revealed a wide range of opinions up to and including disgust(!), bewilderment(!), and we are not amused(!).  Of course, many people also think it is a great idea, intended to showcase and honor the highest level of production of the region.  We will be watching how this plays out in the future!

My Source (in Italian): http://www.aisitalia.it/chianti-classico-gran-selezione.aspx

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

If you think there is a Bubbly Professor Tuscany Quiz in your future…you are correct!

 

The Best of the Veneto: The DOCG’s

At last count, The Veneto has 14 DOCG’s.  Read on to learn more about them! 

Drying grapes for AmaroneAmarone della Valpolicella:  Amarone della Valpolicella received its DOCG in 2009.  Amarone is a well-known version of Valpolicella made using the partially dried grape process known as apassimento.  The grapes used for Amarone must be dried until December 1st following the harvest.  The wine must also be aged for two years from the 1st of January following the vintage.  (Riserva versions must be aged 4 years from November 1st of the vintage year.)  The minimum alcohol percentage of Amarone della Valpolicella is 14%. While technically considered a dry wine, small amounts of residual sugar are allowed; the amount allowed is in proportion to the amount of alcohol with higher alcohol wines allowed slightly larger amounts of R.S. Interesting factoid:  Along with the 2009 DOCG decree, Molinara is no longer a required component of Amarone della Valpolicella, although it may be used in small amounts for blending.  

Recioto della Valpolicella:  Like Amarone, Recioto della Valpolicella received its DOCG in 2009.  Also like Amarone, Recioto is made from well-ripened grapes that are left to dry following the harvest.  The grapes for Recioto must be dried until January 1st following the harvest – one month longer than for Amarone.  Unlike Amarone, which is fermented dry (or near-dry), fermentation is arrested in a Recioto at about 12% alcohol, leaving a good deal of residual sugar.  Recioto della Valpolicella is a rich, highly extracted, sweet wine with a velvety texture.  Only a tiny amount of Recioto della Valpolicella is produced each year; about 2% of the total production of Valpolicella is made into Recioto. 

Veneto WinerySoave Superiore: The Soave Superiore DOCG was created in 2002 to differentiate some of the large, productive region’s highest quality wines.  As in a typical Soave, the Soave Superiore blend is based on 70% Garganega. Other white varieties, including Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Verdicchio, Friulano, Cortese, Riesling Italico and Serprina (aka Glera) are allowed in varying degrees to fill up the remaining 30%.  Soave Superiore must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 11.5% as opposed to 10.5% for “regular” Soave DOC wines; yields are stricter as well.

The geographic area of the new Soave Superiore DOCG includes the vineyards that were previously the Soave Classico zone as well as some hillside vineyards beyond the original Classico zone.  The wines grown in this new part of the zone may be labeled as Soave Colli Scaligeri Superiore DOCG, a name referring to the Scaligieri family, Lords of Verona, who were once owners of the region.

Recioto di Soave:  Recioto di Soave received its DOCG in 1998.  This is a sweet white wine from the typical Soave blend based on Garganega, produced in the passito style.  

Recioto di Gambellara:  Gambellara is well known for its dry white wines made from Garganega, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Verdicchio.  Located about 8 miles east of Soave, comparisons are inevitable; Gambellara is often thought of the “poor cousin” to Soave. However, the passito-produced, sweet version known as Recioto di Gambellara is highly regarded and received DOCG status in 2008.  Alas, Recioto di Gambellara is produced in very small quantities and is rarely seen in America.  Interesting factoid:  The region also produces Vin Santo di Gambellara. It seems a trip in is order.  

MontelviniColli Asolani (aka Asolo Prosecco):  In 2009 and 2010, along with the change of the name of the Prosecco grape variety to Glera and an expansion of the boundaries of the Prosecco zone, DOCG’s were awarded to two sub-regions within the Prosecco DOC.  The Colli Asolani region extends for about five miles along a ridge of gently rolling hills between the towns of Cornuda and Asolo.  The finest vineyards in the Colli Asolani are planted on the southern slopes of the hills, which provide maximum sun exposure, a gentle sloping grade, loose soils, and excellent drainage. 

Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene:  If you are a Prosecco lover (and they are legion), you are undoubtedly already familiar with the communes of Conegliano and Valdobbiadance, long considered the finest areas within the Prosecco DOC.  In 2009, along with the expansion of the Prosecco DOC and several other changes, the authorities made it “official” by awarding the Communes (and 13 other towns and villages) a DOCG under the umbrella of “Conegliano Valdobbiadene.”  Similar to labeling pracitices before the DOCG was granted,  a wine can use either commune name (or both) on the label.  Wines that are produced from the vineyards within the San Pietro di Barbossa area (east of the commune of Valdobbiadene) can also add the term “Superiore di Cartizze” on the label. 

Colli di Conegliano: While Conegliano is best known for Prosecco, the region does produce still wines as well.  A small area west of the town itself, known as Colli di Conegliano DOC since 1993, has a tradition of producing still wines, including red, white, and passito versions.

As of 2011, some of the region’s best wines were elevated to the status of Colli di Conegliano DOCG.  Red DOCG wines can be made from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Marzemino, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, and Incrocio Manzoni grape varieties.  Reds must be aged in wood for at least six months, one year for the riserva version.  White wines with Colli di Conegliano DOCG status must be made from 33% Incrocio Manzoni and a balance of either Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco.  Sauvignon Blanc and Riesing are allowed, in a combined maximum of 10%. There is no aging requirement for the white wines, except that the earliest allowed release date is May 1st following the harvest.  

Montello Rosso: The Montello wine region,  towards the Northern portion of the Veneto, covers an 8-mile swath from Cornuda to Castelcucco, and includes at least 16 villages in between.  This area was inducted into the world of Italy’s DOC’s in 2011 and Montello Rosso was immediately elevated to DOCG status. Montello Rosso wines are made from a Bordeaux-inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Carmenere.

BardolinoBardolino Superiore:  Bardolino Superiore was granted DOCG status in 2001, and unlike some of the new DOCG’s with rather complicated regulations, still refers to a typcial Bardolino, which must be made in the dry style, and with the added requirement of at least one year of aging.

Friularo di Bagnoli:  The Friularo di Bagnoli DOCG, another new addition to the DOCG world, is located in the southern half of the Padua province. The DOCG covers red wines made from the indigenous Friularo variety, also known as Raboso. The Raboso grape ripens late and thrives in the cold weather that creeps into the area around November.  The term “Friularo” might even have come from the latin term for cold, “Frigus” (in Venetian “Frigoearo”).  The Friularo di Bagnoli DOCG makes dry red wines, riserva wines, late harvest (vendemmia tardiva) wines harvested after Novmber 11, and wines in the passito style. 

Piave Malanotte (aka Malanotte del Piave):   The entire Piave zone, first granted DOC status in 1963,  is the largest viticultural region in the Veneto, covering more than 50 communes in the area between Treviso and Vincenza.

The Piave Malanotte DOCG was granted a separate DOC and immediately elevated to DOCG in 2011.  Piave Malanotte dares to produce red wines in this region dominated by white wines and bubbly. Piave Malanotte must be made from at least 95% Raboso, although this may be divided between Raboso Piave (considered the superior version) and Raboso Veronese, which may account for no more than 30% of the finished blend.  This DOCG has some very strict standards.  Any wine bearing the Piave Malanotte DOCG label must be aged for at least three years before release, and 15- 30% of the grapes must under go the appassimento drying process until at least December 8th following the vintage.  For these reasons, Piave Malanotte is among the most expensive wines of the Veneto.

Lison:  Lison is a new DOCG for white wines made from the Tai (formerly Tocai) grape variety.  Lison was, until recently, part of the Lison-Pramaggiore DOC.  The Lison-Pramaggiore DOC produces a variety of wines including varietals, rosso blends, bianco blends, and sparkling wines based on both indigenous grapes and international varieties.  In 2010 the region of Lison was split off from the Lison-Pramaggiore DOC,  and was elevated to DOCG status for white wines only.

The geographical boundaries of the Lison DOCG actually cross over from the eastern Veneto into the western portion of Fruili-Veneiza Guilia, making it the only DOCG in Italy to be shared by more than one political region.  

Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio:  The Colli Euganei hills, located just south of the town of Padua, are named for the semi-mythical Euganei people who lived in the area before the arrival of the Veneti and the Roman Empire.  The hills themselves are of volcanic origin making the soil uniquely rich in minerals. The Colli Euganei DOC was established in 1969 and makes (at last count) at least 12 different wines, including red blends, white blends, varietals and sparkling wines. Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Cabernet Franc, and Tai are widely grown here, as is the Glera grape variety, which goes by the local name of Serprina.

But enough about the DOC.  In 2011, a sweet, sparkling wine made from the Fior d’Arancia grape was singled out for elevation to DOCG status. The Fior d’Arnacia grape variety, whose name can be translated to “orange blossom” is known elsewhere are Orange Muscat or Muscat Fleur d’Oranger.  A sweet, sparkling wine made from Muscat…who would have thought?  

Good Luck with your studies!

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

How to Pass the CSW: How Well do You Know France?

map france citiesI love maps, because they make me dream of travel!  Someone once said “maps are the foreplay to travel.”  I don’t know where I heard that, so I can’t credit the source, but it’s a great line and I wish I had said it first!

Being a wine person, maps also make me dream of wine – or have nightmares about the study of wine.  

I think we would all agree that understanding a region’s geography sets the groundwork for really understanding their wines. Note that I said “really understanding” and not just memorizing lists of rivers, towns, and grapes.  If you are a regular reader of The Bubbly Professor you know that in my classes, I try to  emphasize learning – emphasizing understanding, context, and meaning – as opposed to just “memorizing factoids” or “trying to pass a test.”

In an attempt to help those of you who are studying – and hopefully, really learning – about wine for the CSW Exam or other wine certification, I’ve put together a set of map exercises.  I’ll give you a blank map and you get to fill in the rest! 

This first exercise might just be the hardest, as I’ve chosen to head straight to “ground zero” for wine study and head to France! If you take some time to do this exercise, trust me, doing some research and referencing a good map will go a long way to your understanding of the geography of France.  However, the act of actually drawing in the towns, rivers, mountain ranges and wine regions on the map takes this activity from passive learning (looking at someone else’s work) to active (drawing it yourself) and turns it into a “whole brain learning” experience.  Trust me, this exercise will increase your retention and understanding of the geography of France, laying the groundwork for understanding the geography of the wines produced there. Note that I did not say it would be fast or easy, but I guarantee it will be a worthwhile way to spend an evening.  (Perhaps a good swap for a night of watching re-runs of Mad Men???)

BeaujolaisIf you dare, click here to download the So You Think You Know France ExerciseEnjoy the study session, and let’s see just how much we know – or have yet to learn – about the geography of France!

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

Bubbly Disclaimer:  This is my own personal advice and should not be considered as “official” advice from any school or organization. I hope the materials here on The Bubbly Prof help you out with your wine studies, and that you are successful in your certification endeavors.  Cheers!

How to Pass the CSW: “Do I Need to Study the Maps?”

world map backgroundBeing the Bubbly Professor, I get lots of emails asking the question, “How do I study for the CSW?”  Usually people that contact me have been studying a while – thankfully – and have many more specific questions as well.  Since I have spent so much time answering these questions on a one-on-one basis, I figured it was time for a new series of posts:  “How to Pass the CSW!” 

I really should call this series “How to Study for the CSW” but somehow “How to Pass…” just seemed like more fun.  So stay tuned as I try to address these questions one by one.

“Do I need to study the maps?”  Yes. 

“Do I need to know everything on the maps?”  This is one of the most common lines of questioning I receive.  It’s like people don’t want to have to study the maps.  However, let me make it perfectly clear:  Yes, you need to study the maps.  Yes, you need to know everything on the maps.

Hold on, it’s about to get even better, because imho, if a wine region is listed on a map, someone up at SWE thinks it is important, and you should also know what types of wine they produce there, including the grape varieties and any tidbits about terroir or production methods that are noted in the text of the CSW Study Guide.  You should also know where the region is located in relation to other wine regions, as well as the rivers, mountain ranges, and cities that surround it.  If any specific geographical information is including in the text, you might need to know that as well!

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

New Zealand is located 1,200 miles east of Australia.

Napa County lies north of San Pablo Bay.

Chile is almost 3,000 miles long and barely 100 miles wide in most spots.

These bits of information are what I call “factoids.”  Factoids are seemingly random pieces of information and can be baffling to study – if all you are trying to do is memorize them.  A factoid such as “New Zealand is located 1,200 miles east of Australia” seems trivial – unless you put it in context.  So please don’t try to just memorize random factoids.  You will get bored and shut down; you might as well try to memorize a series of non-sequential numbers.  More importantly:  The brain just isn’t good at it. 

What the brain is very good at doing, however, is learning meaning, context, and stories.  The New Zealand/Australia factoid makes perfect sense, and is pretty memorable, when put in context.  We could weave the factoid into a story such as:

“Many people studying for the CSW lump the wines of Australia and New Zealand together and call it something like “wines from down under.”  However, the two land masses are separated by 1,200 miles of ocean – they are about as close together as San Diego and Dallas. Australia and New Zealand have more distance between them than Tuscany and the Mosel.   

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia

This means that the climates of Australia and New Zealand have little in common except the name of the nearest ocean.  Australia is hot and dry and only hospitable to grapes in certain regions along the coastlines or clustered around the Great Dividing Range.  New Zealand has a maritime climate, and is even cooler than one might imagine due to the fact that most of the country lies within 50 miles of the frigid South Pacific Ocean.

This huge distance also means that New Zealand is quite isolated, considering that Australia is its closest neighbor. To the south, there’s nothing but ice – Antarctica is the only continent south of New Zealand. Chile, its closest neighbor to the east, is over 5,000 miles away.   Seeing as how sheep outnumber people in New Zealand, this isolation makes for some interesting challenges, particularly when it comes to mobilizing a non-existent labor force for harvest.

That’s what you need to learn from the maps. Does it make sense? Sure does.  Is it a good story?  Hell yeah.  Will you remember it?  Just try not to.

Click here for my related series, “How to Pass the CWE.”

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

Bubbly Disclaimer:  This is my own personal advice and should not be considered as “official” advice from any school or organization. I hope the materials here on The Bubbly Prof help you out with your wine studies, and that you are successful in your certification endeavors.  Cheers!

Train the Trainer: Mirror, Mirror

Several weeks ago, as I was reviewing about 5,000 end-of-the-semester course evaluations, I noticed a trend.  Oh sure, there were the usual comments about grading policies and reading assignments, but I also noticed that a large number of the surveys mentioned the instructor’s enthusiasm.  It was no big surprise that the positive evaluations mentioned the instructor’s obvious love of the subject matter and their enthusiasm in class.  This I have seen before.  However, I noticed an overwhelming amount of the less-than-perfect evaluations had statements such as “the teacher just didn’t have any passion” or “instructor showed no enthusiasm for the class or the material.” Ouch.

As educators, we are always looking for that spark that will engage our students, and we’re always told to “be enthusiastic.” I’ve told myself and my faculty that very thing a thousand times.  But reading those surveys brought out the Academic in me and I wanted to know “why”.  Why is it that gusto of the teacher has such an impact on the student in terms of both engagement and learning?  The answer, it seems, is something called “Mirror Neurons.”

Mirror Neurons are a recent discovery, having been first identified in 1980 by an Italian Neuroscientist named Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti. Dr. Rizzolatti and his team discovered that in a monkey’s brain, the exact same neuron is fired when a monkey performs a specific act, such as grasping a peanut, as when the monkey observed a human perform the same act.   It seems that “monkey see, monkey do” might be the exact same thing, at least to the neurons in the monkey’s brain! 

This initial discovery, soon termed “mirror neurons,” led to research on human mirror neurons, and some fascinating implications for education.  The two facets of mirror neurons that I find the most interesting and relevant to adult education are:  (1) Mirror neurons allow us to feel what someone else is feeling, and (2) Mirror neurons allow us to learn through observation as well as action. 

Mirroring Emotions

We’ve all experienced the effect of mirror neurons on our emotional state; in fact, we experience it everyday.  You are walking down the street and somebody barely misses getting hit by a car – woah! Your heart starts racing, you recoil in sympathy, you actually feel the fear in your gut. Or you find yourself enjoying a nice movie, having a great time, but as soon as the leading lady gets her heart broken, you can’t stop crying! For decades, such responses puzzled neuroscientists. Now we know that on a certain level, watching something happen to someone else and having it happen to us fires up a reaction in the same part of the brain – right down to a single neuron. 

The implication for education is pretty strong; if the teacher is in a good mood, that good mood will rub off on the class. If the teacher is enthusiastic about the subject, your students’ mirror neurons will fire off a corresponding enthusiasm in their brains as well.  And we all know that enthusiasm, engagement, and attention all equal enhanced knowledge retention, so anything I can do to enthuse my class is a good start. I don’t know about you, but just knowing about mirror neurons makes me feel much more responsible for my mood in class; who knew we really could affect one another’s outlooks so directly?

Of course, as teachers we have all experienced the flip side of the mirror neurons in action:  one student in a foul mood can bring the whole class down, and quickly.  Thankfully, as the person standing in front of the room, you  can reign in or remove Debbie Downer from the back row before the negative classroom phenomenon that I have always called “the feeding frenzy” gets out of control. 

Mirroring Knowledge

One of the very cool “tricks of the trade” we have as educators is to tie new information to something the student already knows. This is known as “anchoring information” and involves finding an aspect of some a topic that might be familiar to the students– such as  the “Charlemagne” of “Corton-Charlemagne” – before introducing new information -such as the geography of Aloxe-Corton.  The familiar topic, already safely present in long-term memory, provides an existing framework that  helps working memory grasp onto and make sense of new information.

This technique is so profoundly successful that I have often wondered just how we aquire that first bit of new information about a topic.  If we have no knowledge to anchor to, what lights the spark that leads to the acquiring of original knowledge? Rote repitition?  I hope not.  Relevant visuals?  They only work some of the time.  The answer could lie in mirror neurons. 

It seems that new knowledge, including that which occurs in babies learning to make sense of the world and the ease with which young children acquire new languages, is the direct  result of the action of mirror neurons.  A baby watches the people around her and soon figures out how to move, and walk, and talk.  

It sounds amazing, but it just could be true that without the direct learning of new knowledge and skills that is afforded by mirror neurons, there would be no basis on which to build (“anchor”) new learning. 

Maximizing the Mirror

There’s one more fascinating implication for education:  the effect of mirror neurons is amplified with study.  This was proven at a 2003 study at the University College of London, led by Dr. Daniel Glaser, that tested mirror neurons at a dance demonstration. The test found that people who had studied ballet showed more mirror neuron activity during a ballet demonstration than those who had not.  It’s a fascinating conclusion, but do you think my students will do their textbook reading assignments if I tell them it will amplify their mirror neuron reaction during the next class? 

Perhaps I should just keep that to myself.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas

missjane@prodigy.net

Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Cabernet Franc

The Soundbyte:  Cabernet Franc has often been thought of as Cabernet Sauvignon’s more cerebral and refined little brother.  Lower in tannins and acids, not quite as full-bodied, and more aromatic and herbaceous than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is also much better able to withstand cool temperatures and ripens early.  These characteristics most likely led to Cabernet Franc’s plantings in Bordeaux, where it still holds fast as one of the red grapes of the Bordeaux blend. 

The grape’s cold weather-heartiness is also leading to increased plantings in much of the new world, and it’s unique “elegant-structured-spicy” quality is inspiring new legions of fans.  However, it might be time to hang up the “Cabernet Sauvignon’s little brother” cliché, and the sooner the better:  recent DNA technology has confirmed that Cabernet Franc, with a little help from Sauvignon Blanc, is actually Cabernet Sauvignon’s father.

Typical Attributes of a Cabernet Franc-based wine:

  • Medium tannins, sometimes referred to as “silky”, “fine”, or “well-integrated” tannins.  Whatever you call it, Cabernet Franc does indeed have a lower tannin profile and a smoother mouth feel than many red wines.
  • Elegance, finesse, and well-structured:  well-earned terms used to describe Cabernet Franc’s balanced, moderate tannin and moderate acidity combination.  
  • Typical flavors and aromas include red fruit, berries, perfume, and spice.
  • Bright, sometimes pale-red in color, although the color and depth can be deeper in warm weather versions.
  • Though typically thought of as lighter wines, Cabernet Franc-based reds from strong vintages or warmer climates can be full bodied and well-structured for aging.
  • Cabernet Franc is used to make delightful rosés in the Loire and in many new world regions.
  • Cabernet Franc’s cold heartiness makes it a natural for ice wines as well as late harvest dessert wines, as is done in Ontario and New York.

Typical Aromas of a Cabernet Franc-based wine:

Fruity: Raspberry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Cranberry, Red Cherry, Black Currant, Cassis, Plum, Pomegranate

Spicy:  Black Pepper, White Pepper, Dried Herbs, Black Licorice, Rosemary

Earthy/Vegetal:  Tobacco, Cedar, Cigar Box, Green Bell Pepper, Green Olives, Graphite, Mushroom, Tea

Floral:  Violets, “Blue Flowers,” Perfume

Oak-derived:  Vanilla, Coconut, Sweet Wood, Smoke

Where the Best Cabernet Franc is Grown:

  • Bordeaux, where it generally plays third fiddle in the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Petit Verdot quintet.  However, Cabernet Franc often gets to be the star of the show in St. Émilion and in much of Bordeaux’s right bank, where some of the most prestigious wines of the region (and the world) give Cabernet Franc a starring role. The vineyards at Château Cheval Blanc, one of the world’s most renowned wines, are planted to about 57% Cabernet Franc, and at Château Ausone, a St. Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “Category A,” the vineyards are about 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot.
  • The Loire Valley, where the regions of Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny make both red and rosé wines from a minimum of 90% Cabernet Franc.  Cab Franc is sometimes called “Bouchy” or “Breton” in the Loire.
  • Tuscany, of all places, where a brave soul at Tenuta di Trinoro makes a blended wine with varying levels of Cabernet Franc, feeling it is “under planted” in Bordeaux.
  • Northern Italy, particularly Friuli and Veneto, where it goes by the name “Bordo”.
  • Many people feel Cabernet Franc might have found a home in the vineyards of Hungary.  Cabernet Franc in Hungary gained lots of attention in the late 1990’s when it became apparent that some regions of Hungary were not optimal for Cabernet Sauvignon to reach its full ripeness. Cabernet Franc is now grown widely in the Hungarian regions of Villány, Szekszárd, and Eger.
  • Ontario, Canada, where is it made into both dry table wines and Ice Wines.   
  • New York’s Finger Lakes and Long Island wine regions, as well as the states of Virginia, Michigan and Colorado.
  • California and Washington State, where the grape appears as part of the Meritage Blend as well as in varietal wines. In the warm Napa Valley, the plantings are small, but in some cases quite prestigious.  For instance, Della Valley Vineyards “Maya” is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Food Affinities – Base Ingredients:

Beef, Veal, Pork

Chicken – just make sure you prepare it via a grill, saute, bake, roast, broil or braise in order to add lots of flavor and complexity.  (Save the poached chicken on a bed of spinach salad for a Chenin Blanc day.)

Duck and just about any Poultry (see above.)

Grilled Things – including Meat Poultry, and Vegetables 

Food Affinities – Bridge Ingredients:

Garlic, Roasted Garlic, Onions, Mushrooms

Bell Peppers, Cajun/Creole Spices

Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Bay Leaf

Tomatoes, Roasted Tomatoes, Eggplant, Fennel

Barbeque Flavors, Grilled and Smoked Foods

Greek and Middle Eastern Flavors

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas.