Protected: My Advice – How to Prepare for the CWE Exam

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Merlot

Cabernet TopThe Soundbyte:  Thank goodness we are ten years past the movie “Sideways” and we can stop defending Merlot.  Ha! Ok, that was a fantasy.  I still find myself defending Merlot, like this:  despite some serious bashing, Merlot has a lot going for it.  Merlot is loved for its supple texture and forward fruit characteristics.  Merlot is often thought of as just a blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon, and indeed these two grapes are often combined in some of the world’s greatest red wines.  Merlot does just fine on its own, however, and those very qualities that make it a great blending partner also make it an ideal match for a wide variety of foods.

Typical Attributes of a Merlot-Based Wine:

  • Medium tannin as compared to many red grapes, due to the large size of the grape berries, giving it a higher juice-to-skin ratio than most red wines
  • Smooth, soft, and supple texture…many winemakers say it’s all about the texture when it comes to Merlot
  • Rich red color…often belying the smooth character or the wine
  • Moderate-to-lively acidity, fruit-forward flavors
  • Lighter than Syrah and heavier than Pinot, Merlot ranks just under Cabernet Sauvignon in the rankings-by-heft.
Well, hello my little vixen. You try to look so tough and edgy, yet I know you are velvety smooth...

Well, hello my little vixen. You try to look so tough and edgy, yet I know you are velvety smooth…

Typical Aromas of a Merlot-Based Wine:

  • Fruity:  Grapes—Merlot is one of the few red vinifera wines that tastes like grapes:  Welch’s Grape Juice, Grape Jelly, Grape Jam; Blackberry, Boysenberry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Cranberry, Plum, Ripe Cherry, Currant, Fig, Prune
  • Floral:  Rose, Violet
  • Oak-Derived: Cedar, Cocoa, Cigar, Tobacco, Vanilla, Smoky
  • Herbal:  Mint, Bay Leaf
  • Spicy:  Cinnamon, Clove, Licorice, Coffee
  • Sometimes: Candied Fruit, Fruitcake, Sandalwood, Truffles, Tobacco

Where The Best Merlot is Grown:

  • The Bordeaux region of France, where it is a large part of the blend of most wines, and the predominant variety in the wines of the Right Bank
  • The Languedoc, Roussillon, and throughout Southern France
  • Surprise, surprise…Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in all of France (who’s Merlot-bashing now?)
  • California, particularly the North Coast Regions
  • Washington State
  • Italy, especially Trentino-Alto Adige, Tuscany, Veneto, and Fruili
  • Australia, Chile, and Argentina
I'll have what she's having.

I’ll have what she’s having.

Food Affinities – Base Ingredients:

  • Beef, Veal, Venison, Pork
  • Lamb – Merlot does especially well with Lamb.  Everywhere that Mary went, Merlot was sure to go…
  • Duck, Turkey
  • Cheddar Cheeses
  • Blue Cheeses

Food Affinities – Bridge Ingredients:

  • Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic
  • White Beans – weird but really really true
  • Rosemary, Mint, other fresh and dried herbs
  • Walnuts, Pecans
  • Blackberries, Boysenberries (but be careful with the sweetness)
  • Tomatoes, Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • Eggplant, Fennel, Beets
  • Bacon, Pancetta
  • Dijon Mustard

Are you ready to stop bashing Merlot now?  Don’t make me get out the Petrus!

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

Food, Wine, and True Love

Wine and CharcuterieWhat do you think makes a great pairing of food and wine? 

Some people like to base a food and wine pairing on aromas, textures, or intensity.  Some like to match or contrast flavors.  Others ponder occasion, quality, and variety.  Many people prefer to keep it simple and think the best thing is to just “serve what you like!”

As with beauty, whether or not a pairing is “good” or “bad” is in the eye of the beholder. But the truth remains, food and wine transform each other, and in many cases, this transformation is predictable.  When food meets wine, you can be certain that one of the following things will happen:

The food will exaggerate a characteristic of the wine.  For instance, salty foods can turbocharge the acidity of a white wine, and matching a big red wine with a mild cheese will emphasize its fruit flavors.  Both of these matches would most likely be pleasant combinations to most people.  However, sometimes this reaction will throw a wine out of balance.

The food will diminish a characteristic of the wine.  This is especially obvious with the basic taste components of acid and sweet, which tend to cancel each other out.  Serving a wine with an acidic food, such as lemon, vinegar, or tomatoes, will make the wine taste much less acidic.  This is considered a “good” match by most, if your wine has the acidity to stand up to the food.  However, if the wine was low acid to begin with, it may taste flabby and dull.  Sweetness has the same diminishing effect – sweet foods and sweet wines make each other taste less sweet. (Try saying that five times fast.)

Cabernet and ChocolateThe flavor intensity of the food will obliterate the wine’s flavor, or vice versa.  In my classes I call this “Godzilla versus Bambi.” Think about pouring chocolate sauce on a salad.  Or serving Albariño with blackened ribeye.  Imho, this combination would render the wine flavorless; this might be a good time to “serve what you like” or crack open a beer.

The wine will contribute new flavors to the food.  If your Trout Amandine tastes a little bland, you can give it a squeeze of lemon.  Or, you can serve it with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and add a squeeze of acidity along with the flavors of lime and dill.  If your steak is boring, you can reach for the A-1, or, better yet, pour a glass of Red Zinfandel and add the flavors of black pepper and red berries to your meal.

The wine and food will remain neutral.  In this scenario,nothing turns more acidic, or more harsh, or less sweet.  Everybody just goes their separate ways.  It’s ike going to the movies with your parents.  Better than nothing, but kind of dull.  You would have had more fun with your pals, but at least your stalker ex didn’t show up.

The wine will provide a refreshing “jolt” to your palate and make the flavors of the food more clear, forward, or noticeable.  One of the great pleasures of wine is its acidity and its tannin, both of which make for excellent palate cleansers, allowing you to experience your food more fully.  The acidity of many wines also stimulates saliva flow (gross, I know…), which ups your ability to taste foods and experience their flavors.

The wine and food together can create an unwelcome third flavor.  I call this the “third wheel”.   I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but bad pairings do happen. Which can be helpful, in the case of unwanted guests. Break out the salty snacks… serve up a big, earthy, tannic Syrah…soon everyone’s mouth will be filled with the lovely flavors of tin can, dentist’s drill, detergent, and copper penny.  One by one, your unwelcome guests come up with clever excuses to leave.  Which is good if you hate them.  It’s really bad if you were hoping (ahem) they would stick around a while.

Chenin Blanc BottomThe wine and food combine to create a totally welcome new flavor. This is the magic moment of  synergy! A match like this is often so individual to the flavors and textures of each dish and each wine that it can’t be predicted.  But when it does..its great! For instance, Ruby Port  and Roquefort Cheese combine to create butterscotch and vanilla flavors, or the combined forces of Prosciutto ham and dry Riesling create a dried fruit, clove, and cinnamon symphony (cue the violins).

Confusing?  Yes indeed.  Anyway, it’s magic and can’t be reduced to a formula. It’s like true love.  You can’t explain it, but you know it when you find it.  

Then again, you can always just serve what you like.

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

 

Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Carmenère

CarmenereThe Soundbyte: Carmenère is often called “the lost grape of Bordeaux” and was widely planted in Bordeaux in the years before phylloxera. However, in the 1880’s as phylloxera ravaged the vineyards of Europe and all the vines needed to be re-planted, Carmenère resisted grafting and was essentially forgotten.

Many of the original vinifera vines planted in Chile were brought from Bordeaux during the mid-1800s, as phylloxera was ravaging the old world. Along with its better-known cousins such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot, Carmenère arrived in Chile at the same time.

Carmenère thrived in Chile, where it was often mistaken for Merlot in the vineyard. In fact, much of what was bottled as a particularly spicy style of Chilean Merlot—Merlot Chileno—before 1994 quite possibly contained quite a bit of Carmenère. The mystery was solved in 1994 when Professor John-Michel Boursiquot of the Montpellier School of Oenology noticed the distinctive character of Chilean Merlot and soon confirmed that much of what was considered to be Chilean “Merlot” was actually Carmenère.

In the vineyard, Carmenère is often the last grape to be picked, and it requires a lengthy season to reach full maturity. Therefore, it is not well suited to many parts of Bordeaux—but in the right areas it can produce great wines. Chilean Carmenère is rich in color, redolent of red fruits, spice, and berries, and has softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. Many consider Carmenère to be the signature grape of Chile.

Typical Attributes of a Carmenère-based Wine:

  • Rich with dark fruit flavors of ripe berries and plum.
  • grilled steak for carmenre with tomatoesFirm structure, full body and heavy tannins; lush, velvety texture.
  • Deep, dark color.  This is a “big red wine”!
  • Carmenère is distinguished by fruitiness accompanied by the flavors of “spice and smoke”
  • Some experts think Carmenère is a long-established clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the grapes do share many qualities
  • Underripe Carmenère, or grapes from a cool growing season, can have a vegetative “green bell pepper” aroma or flavor. Carmenère  takes longer to ripen than other red grapes, so be on the look-out for these flavors.

Typical Aromas of a Carmenère-based Wine:

  • Fruity: Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Currant, Dark Plum, Cherry
  • Spicy: Black Pepper, White Pepper, Dried Herb, Cinnamon, Anise, Vanilla, Licorice
  • Earthy:  Smoke, Wet Earth, Leather, Tobacco, Coffee
  • Oak-Derived:  Oak, Chocolate, Mocha, Cocoa
  • Vegetative:  Green Bell Pepper, Green Olive, Herbal, Lavender

Where The Best Carmenère is Grown:

  • Chile, where vintners have staked a claim on Carmenère as their “signature” grape variety
  • A few wineries in California and Washington State, where it is largely used in Meritage blends.  The Guenoc Winery in Lake Country brought the grape, which had to withstand a three-year quarantine before being planted, to the United States from Chile
  • Italy’s Eastern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, including the Piave DOC, which since 2009 have been allowed to produce a varietally-labeled Carmenère
  • Bordeaux, France; where the grape is grown on a very limited basis, but is still considered part of the Bordeaux Blend. Grande Vidure is a historical synonym sometimes used in Bordeaux. Château Clerc Milon has the largest plantings of Carmenère in the region, but there are still less than ten acres in all of Bordeaux
  • China, which grows a great deal of Carmenère, often under the name Cabernet Gernischt

Grilled spicy steakFood Affinities – Base Ingredients:

  • Beef, Lamb, Veal, Venison, Pork
  • Poultry when prepared in a rich, hearty manner such as grilled, smoked, or braised…
  • Grilled Foods, Smoked Foods

Food Affinities – Bridge Ingredients:

  • Garlic, Onions, Mushrooms
  • Walnuts, Pecans
  • Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, fresh Herbs of all kinds
  • Tomatoes, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Eggplant, Bell Peppers
  • Black Pepper, White Pepper, Green Peppercorns, Spicy flavors
  • Barbeque Flavors, Hearty, highly seasoned foods

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

Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Chardonnay

Chardonnay Salmon PastaThe Soundbyte:  Chardonnay may very well be the world’s most widely recognized grape variety.  It was very likely the first wine you ever heard of, and what you will most likely be served if you order a glass of “white wine” at a cocktail party.  The grape itself is quite neutral, but can be transformed via wine making magic into an oak-infused butter bomb, a crisp, citrus-and-mineral balancing act, or even a front porch-chugging box wine.  There’s a lot to be said about the chameleon known as Chardonnay!   

Typical Attributes of a Chardonnay-Based Wine:

  • Creamy, complex, high alcohol and lush flavors.
  • The fruity aromas wary widely depending on the climate.
  • The grape itself can be called “delicate” in aroma and flavors, but Chardonnay is very susceptible to the influence of wine making, and can be laden with aromas and flavors of oak, butter, cream, yeast, and vanilla, among others, through wine-making processes.  Whether or not these are “good for the wine” is a matter of personal opinion and much debate.
  • Attributes of a European “Chablis Style” Chardonnay: Crisp, Medium-bodied, terroir-driven, fruity, and mineral
  • Attributes of a New World, “California Style” Chardonnay:  Full-bodied, highly alcoholic, likely oak-aged, and “buttery”
  • Chardonnay is also used in Sparkling wines, including Champagne and Franciacorta.

Typical Aromas of a Chardonnay-Based Wine:

  • Fruity:  Green Apple, Red Apple, Baked Apple, Pear, Peach, Apricot, Pineapple and Other Tropical Fruits, Citrus:  Lemon, Lime, Orange
  • Caramel: Honey, Butterscotch, Caramel, Brown Sugar
  • Nutty: Hazelnut, Toasted Hazelnut, Walnut
  • Yeast-Derived: Toast, Baked Bread, Oatmeal, Popcorn
  • Butter (from malo-lactic fermentation…of course!)
  • Mineral: Flint, Wet Stone, Wet Sand
  • Oak-Derived: Vanilla, Coconut, Sweet Wood, Oak, Smoke, Toast, Tar

Chardonnay HarvestWhere Chardonnay is Grown:

  • The Burgundy Region of France, especially the Côte de Beaune and Chablis
  • The Champagne Region of France
  • Other regions of France, such as Alsace (where it is only allowed to be used in sparkling wines) and the Languedoc-Roussillon
  • California, where it is grown in many diverse regions and produces a wide range of styles
  • Oregon, where it shines in both still wines and sparklers.
  • Australia, where it is a leading white wine grape
  • New Zealand, where it is the #2 white wine grape after Sauvignon Blanc
  • The cooler regions of Chile
  • Franciacorta and other regions in Italy
  • Canada, including Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia
  • And…almost anywhere wine is grown!

Food Affinities – Base Ingredients:

  • Seafood of all kinds
  • Crab Cakes, Lobster, Shrimp dripping with butter and garlic…
  • Chicken, Turkey, Game Hen, Duck
  • Roast Chicken…Roast Chicken…Roast Chicken
  • Veal, Pork…Beef.  (About that beef…be careful with the preparation. As certainly as the heavier bodied white wines, including Chardonnay, can pair with beef, that does not mean that it is a good substitute for red wine in every case.   Keep your dishes plain and simple, seasoned with herbs, mushrooms, or grilled onions.  Unless you want to hurt someone, avoid Texas Chainsaw Barbeque Sauce and other condiments that are over-the-top rich and heavy in flavor, texture, sweetness, or spiciness. Trust me on this one.)

 Roasted Chicken for ChardonnayFood Affinities – Bridge Ingredients:

  • Corn, Pumpkin, Squash, Polenta
  • Tarragon, Basil,  Thyme, Oregano and other fresh herbs
  • Soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert (especially good with unoaked versions)
  • Semi-firm cheeses such as Havarti, Monterey Jack, Meunster and Gouda. Smoked      versions of Gouda are especially good.
  • Firm cheese such as Swiss, Emmentaler, Gruyère, Manchego, and Jarlsberg
  • Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Allspice (but resist the temptation to go sweet…think savory…savory…savory…)
  • Hazelnuts, Cashews, Walnuts, Pecans, Coconut (savory…savory…savory…)
  • Butter, Brown Butter, Cream, Sour Cream, Olive Oil
  • Bacon, Ham, and other cured pork products
  • Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic
  • Dijon Mustard (think about it…where is the town of Dijon?  hmmmm….)

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

WineGeo: Escarpment and Bench

Niagara on the lakeJust yesterday, following a lovely trip to Toronto and the Ontario Wine Country, I was doing a bit of research in order to write up a blog post about the four sub-appellations of the Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA.  For the record, they are:  Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek and St. David’s Bench. According to the website for the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, these four areas are differentiated by soil types, weather, elevation and proximity to “three unique geographical features: the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.”

I have to stop right there and promise to write the blog post on the sub-appellations (they are quite lovely) at a later date, because I just realized that in that one short paragraph I spouted off two words that I have no earthly idea how to really define.  And you, dear wine student, if you honest with yourself, must admit that you have done the same thing; you use the words all the time (chatting about wine is so-much-fun) but can you tell me, in your own words, just what exactly is an “escarpment” and what, geologically speaking, is a “bench?” 

Well, neither could I. So, I did some early morning research and am going to try to define those geological terms in simple, regular person’s language, with just a teeny bit of wine geek thrown in.

Escarpment:  An escarpment is basically an area of the Earth where the elevation changes suddenly. An escarpment is often found along the ocean shore, such as the Devil’s Slide area of California Highway 1.  An escarpment can also refer to an area on dry land that separates two level land surfaces, such as Africa’s Great Rift Valley and the Niagara Escarpment (only a small portion of which hosts the famous falls.)

A tiny piece of the Niagara Escarpment

A tiny piece of the Niagara Escarpment

An escarpment usually indicates two different types of land, such as the area of a beach where tall cliffs surround a lower area of sand.  Escarpments between two areas of level land are usually composed of different types of rock or rocks from different geologic eras, one of which erodes much faster than the other. Escarpments can also be formed by seismic action; such as when a fault displaces the ground surface so that one side is higher than the other (scary).

Significant Wine-Related Escarpments include the Niagara Escarpment, the Côte d’Or, the Balcones Fault in Central Texas, and the Darling Scarp in Western Australia. The term “scarp” technically refers to just the the cliff-face of an escarpment, but the two terms are generally interchangable.

Bench: Admit it, you’ve talked in hushed tones about the amazing flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rutherford Bench….but do you know what is meant, geologically, by the term bench?  Neither did I.  Tchnically, a bench or a “benchland” is a long, narrow strip of relatively level land that is bounded by distinctly steeper slopes above and below it. Benches can be formed by many different geological processes, such as a river (as in a river’s flood plain, or an “abandoned” river bed), waves (if alongside an ocean), or the varying levels of erosion of different types of rock.

Cross Section of Different Types of "Bences"

Cross Section of Different Types of “Benches”

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the diagram of “Bench Structure.” The diagram shows the different ways benches can form, such as structural benches formed by the  erosion of shale beds overlying limestone beds and the more common “river terraces.”

The famous “Rutherford Bench” is a stretch of the Napa Valley, about three miles long, starting in Oakville and heading north to Rutherford.  The bench sits in the middle of the valley floor, surrounded on two sides by small hills. The famous soil of the Rutherford Bench consists of gravel, loam, and sand, much of which was deposited there by earlier advances and retreats of San Pablo Bay.

The term “bench” appears in the discussion of wine regions (though not necessarily AVAs or appellations) frequently:  the Rutherford Bench and the Oakville Bench were both at one time or another considered for AVAs of their own, but to date have not been designated as such. There are however, five “official” wine regions that I could find that use the term:  Kelsey Bench-Lake County AVA, and four VQAs in Ontario: Short Hills Bench, St. David’s Bench, Beamsville Bench, and Twenty-Mile Bench.

References/for more information:

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 fun (?) map exercise for France.  I’ll give you a blank map and you get to fill in the rest!

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 Exercise.  Enjoy 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!