The Basque country has three faces: the picturesque coastline with endless countless beaches and fishing harbours, the large industrial towns, and the interior. The Basques have their own culture and own language that is possibly the original European language, and above all their own character. The Spanish part of the Basque country still has close ties with the French part (Pays Basque and Gascony or Gascogne). In this section we restrict ourselves to the north of the País Vasco, and in particular the areas of Bizkaya (Vizcaya) and Getaria (Guetaria). We use the Basque spellings with the Castilian spelling in brackets.
This is Bordeaux’s newest AOC. Because the vineyards are located within Graves, wines produced here can also be labelled with any of the region’s AOCs. Seeing their region threatened by urbanization, Pessac Leognan’s producers worked with great perseverance to obtain a specific AOC. A number of factors made this a logical step. In this part of Graves, with remarkable consistency, the soil is particularly gravelly and typical of the region. The wines stand out by their quality—confirmed by fifteen editions of the Feret guide and their soaring prices. Historically, as one of the first Bordeaux vineyards, Pessac-Leognan also deserved recognition.
A difficult 'customer' described by one well-known winemaker as a 'moving target of a grape variety', on top form Pinot Noir can make the most complex and hedonistic of red wines.
Pinot Noir has fewer colouring pigments than other dark-skinned varieties, so it can appear to be lighter or more aged, when compared to wines such and almost inky on occasions. There are exceptions to the rule, such as the wines from the likes of Romanée Conti in Burgundy's Côte D'Or.
Pinot Noir is a prime example of the importance of terroir, the term used to describe the growing conditions of the grape such as the soil, drainage, microclimate, and exposure to the sun. Pinot Noir is an excellent wine when the grapes have been grown in Burgungy but an altogether more challenging prospect when grown elsewhere.
Carneros and the Central Coast of California, Oregonn the Yarra Valleym and cooler spots in Australia, are consistently producing 'typical' and different expressions of Pinot Noir. New Zealand, via Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago and South Africam via Walker Bay, are also now producing decent Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir nose is often reminiscent of paspberry, strawberry, and redcurrant when young, taking on subtle, earthy, leafy, prune-like aromas with age. It is also one the classic Champagne varieties.
Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne and Sancerre in France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and California, Oregon ans Washington State in the United States.
One of the word's most popular black grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon's deep colour, blackcurrant aroma and flavour is the backbone of many is the backbone of many full-bodid red wines.
A member of the Bordeaux family, Merlot, in constrast to Cabernet Sauvignon, is soft, fruity, fleshy, and less tannic. It's the principal grape variety in the wines of St Emilion and Pomerol, and is often blended with Cabernet Franc.
The Hill of Hermitage and vineyards steeply overlooking the Rhône provide the home of Syrah and one of the most famous place names associated with this great grape variety. Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rôtie are full-bodied red wines, while Crozes Hermitage and St Jopeph are generally a touch lighter. Syrah is a hardy grape, growing well in poor soil, such as the
An extremely versatile variety of grapes, Chenin Blanc is capable of making dry and crisp white wines that are great as an aperitif, through to medium, unctuous and sweet styles. Due to the keeen and vibrant acidity often found in Chenin Blanc grape, they make brilliant food wines and can stay in good shape for many years after the vitange.
Without doubt the best-known Burgundy in the world. The name resonates just like the wine's taste - of a thunderclap on a hot autumn evening.
The colour is an exciting red and the bouq uet (black cherry, herbs, leather) and taste are both strong. This is a full, fatty wine that is both powerful and harmonious. A more classic traditional Burgundy is not to be found.
This red French wine is strangely better known with painters, sculptors, and writers than gastronomes. Perhaps this is because of its almost artistic, tender, and feminine qualities. Volnay is certainly not a macho wine. It has a very pure and clear red colour and the nose suggests violets and blackcurrant or sloes when young, which later develop into a complex bouquet with an assortment of fruits, flowers, herbs, and toadstools. It is a rounded, velvety wine that above all is sensual.
The better wines originate from the Premier Cru climats. This French wine merits serving with fine food.
It is impossible to explain why Monthelie has not yet been truly discovered. Exceptionally pleasant white and red French wine is made here which is certainly not inferior to neighbouring Volnay. It is a wine then for the astute who want quality at a lower price. The red wines are better than the whites which are classic Burgundian Chardonnay with lots of butter (sometimes too much) and wood in the nose with a mild but full taste. The best Monthelie whites also contain hints of toast, white flowers, and honey with the occasional suggestion of Virginian tobacco.
The red Monthelie French wine is a seductive clear, and cheerful red colour. Its nose is fruity when young (blackberry, bilberry, blackcurrant) with occasional floral notes (violets). When more mature this changes to the classic fungal aromas while the fruitiness reminds of home-made jam. It is a rich, lithe, generous, and friendly French wine which is at its best after several years maturing in the bottle.
The same hill has two very different sides to it. Red French wine is made from one side and white wine from the other. White Auxey-Duresses is pale yellow, very aromatic (fruity and minerals) with the occasional suggestion of exotic fruit such as mango.
The wine-growing area on the right bank of the Garonne is about 60 km (37 miles) long and runs from the suburbs of Bordeaux to the border with the Cotes de Bordeaux St-Macaire. The landscape is hilly and there are magnificent views across the river and the vineyards of Graves. The underlying beds are varied but chiefly chalk and gravel on the hills and alluvial deposits closer to the Garonne.
Production is mainly of red French wines but some smooth to liquorous white wines are made in the southeastern tip close to Cadillac,
On the other side of Bourges, in the direction of Vierzon, you will find the small wine area of Quincy. The Quincy AC was recognised way back in 1936. The wines of Quincy have been among the elite of French viticulture for more than 60 years but they are hardly ever to be found outside their own area.
This wine area in the centre of France, west of the Loire, and on the left bank of the Cher, had acquired a reputation by the Middle Ages. This French wine-growing area comprises just two communes: Brinay and Quincy, totalling about 180 hectares. The terraces on which the vines grow are covered with a mixture of sand and ancient gravel. The underlying strata consists of chalk-bearing clay. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrive particularly well on this poor soil.
Red or 'black' grapes produce different levels of colour and body, the colour coming from the grape skin. Creating a light-bodied red wine depends on the amount of structure obtained from extract and tannins that the wine takes on.
These 'flavourings' provide depth and longevity. Medium-bodied wines will have taste that may be a direct result of the grape variety or varieties used in the blend, the climatic conditions or even, in some cases, the vintange. Thick-skinned grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, are capable of making full-bodied, dense, and long-lived wines. Winemaking also plays a part, as colour and extract can be controlled as part of the process to make wines that are well balanced and harmonious.
Light-bodied red wines include Beaujolais Primeur, medium-bodied red wines include Chinon and Barossa Vally Shiraz is among the most popular of the full-bodied red wines.
A difficult 'customer' described by one well-known winemaker as a 'moving target of a grape variety', on top form Pinot Noir can make the most complex and hedonistic of red wines. Pinot Noir has fewer colouring pigments than other dark-skinned varieties, so it can appear to be lighter or more aged, when compared to wines such and almost inky on occasions.
This is certainly the best known but not the only quality DO of Galicia. The white Spanish wine of the Albariño grape is deservedly famous. Galicia has an attractive coastline with large inlets or estuaries here and there known as rías baixas or 'low rivers'. These are slightly reminiscent of the Scandinavian fjords. The rest of the country consists of green valleys in which the coolest and moistest vineyards of Spain are to be found.
There are three different soil types in Rías Baixas: bedrock of granite covered with alluvium, alluvial deposits, or a bedrock of granite with a covering of sand. The average height at which the vineyards are situated is about 1,476 feet (450 metres) . This Spanish wine is mainly white and made from 90% Albariño grapes. These Albariño grapes are said to be a twin of the Riesling. These are said to have been brought to Santiago de Compostella as gifts by German monks. Some wine is also made with Treixadura and/or Loureira Blanca, and also an extremely rare red produced from Brancellao and Cañio.
This is the largest appellation for vin doux naturels at 10,821 hectares. Moderately sweet wines used to be made here once from both red and white Grenache grapes. There has been a change under way here though since 1996. The areas cultivated have been significantly reduced, with the yield per hectare lowered as the growers seem to have become aware of the potential quality of their French wine. Various grape varieties are used to make these vin doux naturels: red and white Grenache, Macabeu, Malvoisie, and Muscat. There are two types of Rivesaltes: the amber-coloured wine produced with white grapes, and the roof-tile red wine of at least 50 per cent Grenache Noir. The better cuvées (Rivesaltes hors d'age) should be kept for at least five years.
The young ordinary Rivesaltes should be drunk at approx. 12°C (53 .6°F), while the better ones are best at 14-16°C (57.2-60.8°F) for a good French wine taste.
Amidst the vineyards of Maury, Rivesaltes, and Banyuls, 4,540 hectares are planted with Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Petits Grains. The Muscat of Alexandria imparts breadth to the Muscat de Rivesaltes in addition to aromas of ripe fruits, raisins, and roses, while the Muscat Petits Grains is responsible for the heady bouquet of exotic citrus fruit and suggestion of menthol for a good French wine. This Muscat de Rivesaltes is at its fruitiest when still very young. Drink this French wine at 8-10°C (46.4-50°F) .
This area with is renowned vineyards of Cotnari, Odobesti, Panciu, Nicoresti, Husi, and Dealurile Moldovei, borders the Ukraine (Russian Federation). The soil chiefly consists of a mixture of humus and chalk.
Many Romanian wines here are made from the native grapes of Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Negra, and Galbena, possibly supplemented with or even supplanted by imported grapes such as Rhine Riesling, Welsch Riesling, Pinot Gris, Traminer, or Sauvignon Blanc.
Sancerre is one of the best-known Loire winegrowing areas and also one of the best-known wines of France. Since its early beginnings as an AC wine in 1936 Sancerre white has made the area part of the French wine-growing elite.
Sancerre rose and red only gained their recognition in 1959. The French vineyards for white, rose, and red Sancerre (approx. 2,400 hectares) are located within 11 communes, of which Sancerre, Chavignol, and Bue are the best known. The area is noted for its attractive landscape of gently undulating hills with chalk or gravel-bearing soils. The grapes used here are Sauvignon Blanc for
The wine area in the centre of France has three isolated areas of vineyards: the Sancerrrois (Gien, Sancerre, Bourges, and Vierzon), Chateaumeillant (above Montluçon) and the Haute-Auvergne (between St-Pounçain and Roanne).
The appellations of the Sancerrois are Pouilly sur Loire, Pouilly Pume, Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy en Reuilly, and C6teaux du Giennois VDQS.
The region defined by the Sauternes AOC consists of five communes: Sauternes, Fargues, Bommes, Preignac, and Barsac. This is the region that produces the precious nectar known throughout the world as Sauternes, considered by many enthusiasts to be the world's best white wine. The ultimate Sauternes wine is Chateau d'Yquem, which in 1855 was the only Gironde wine to be awarded the title Premier Cru Supérieur.
Like Cérons, this wine-growing region is included in the southern part of Graves. It is separated from the Graves region on the west by the pleasant, green Ciron valley, which serves as a border for the Sauternes, Bommes, and Preignac communes. On the north, this valley separates Preignac from Barsac. The type of soil and subsoil gives a particular character to the wine produced, which explains the slight differences between wines of different crus. Workers pick the grapes bunch by bunch, selecting the fruit that has been affected by the famous "noble rot", which is the key to Sauternes wines. This rot is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea.
This is an aromatic grape, which ripens early and is mostly grown in cool-climate vineyards.
Its range extends from featherweight tangy, dry white wines like Sauvignon de Touraine, to the ripe, almost tropical-like fruitiness obtained in California, where the less common addition of oak is often adopted and labelled 'Fume Blanc'. Sauvignon Blanc thrives on chalk or gravel soil.
In France, Savignon Blanc finds its greatest expression at the eastern end of the Liore Valley, at Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, but this is matched in New Zealand, particularly in the Marlborough district. The New Zealand style -all the rage today- offers a stunning combination of zesty fruit and rich melon undertones which burst into action as soon as the cork is drawn, or indeed the cap os loosened.
In Bordeaux, a few chateaux, such as La Mission Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chavalier, lavish attention on Sauvignon, carefully blending it with Semillon and ageing the blend on oak. These rich, lanolin-textured wines are allowed to age for decades, but most Sauvignon Blanc are consumed as young wines. Sauvignon Blanc can plau an extremely important supporting role to Semillon, in both dry and sweet wines. This is particularly the case in Bordeaux, as Semillon, naturally low in acidity, gains a fresh and youthful attribute from its presence.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape is grown in the Loire and St Bris in France, New Zealand, USA, Western and South Australia, South Africa and Chile.
Today world's most popular white grape, Chadonnay express its varietal character in many forms: from the racy, steely, and nervy wines of Chablis, to the fuller-bodied, buttery rich wine made in the Napa Vally, California.
The Riesling grape is seen by many as the most versatile variety of white grape in the world. It is without doubt a class act with a number of strengths, not least its ability to outperform Chardonnay in the longevity stakes.
Arguably one fo the most underrated verieties of grapes, Sémillon, Bordeaux's most widely planted white grape, makes delicious dry and sweet wines. With an almost honeyed texture, Sémillon is often partnered by Sauvignon Blanc to lift the acidity, although Australian winemakers also blend Sémillon Trebbiano.
This distinctive grape variety is known by its friends simply as Gewürtz but sometimes also as Traminer. It provides interese aromas, reminiscent of lychee, rose petals and spice.
The vineyards of Savoie only amount to about 2,000 hectares but these are spread across a large area. From Lake Geneva in the north, the wine country spreads itself out to the foot of the Alps in the east and the as far south as the valley of the Isere, south of Chambery, about 100 km (62 miles) south of Lake Geneva. It is a shame that wine from Savoie is not better known. The predominant white wine is fresh and full of flavour. The scattered vineyards and hilly terrain make both wine-growing and making difficult so that these wines are not cheap. Savoie French wines are subtle, elegant, and characteristic of their terroir like no other wine.
The vineyards of Savoie resemble a long ribbon of small areas in a half moon facing south-east. The climate is continental in nature but is moderated by the large lakes and rivers. To the west the vineyards are protected from the rain-bearing westerly winds by the Jura mountains and other hills. The high level of annual sun hours (1,600 per annum) are an important factor. The vineyards are sited between 300 and 400 metres (984--1,312 feet) above sea level. The soil is a mixture of chalk, marl, and debris from Alpine glaciers.
The most important appellation is Vin de Savoie (still, sparkling, and slightly sparkling). There are 18 Crus which are permitted to use their name on the label.
The Roussette de Savoie appellation (which uses solely the local Altesse grape) has an additional 4 Crus. Savoie is a wine region well-worth making a detour to visit, if only to discover the four unique native grape varieties: the white Jacquere, Altesse or Roussette, Gringet and red Mondeuse. In addition to these native grapes, Aligote, Chasselas, Chardonnay and Molette are grown for white wines and Gamay, Persan, Joubertin and Pinot Noir for the red and rose French wines.
VINS DE SAVOIE BLANC
These French white wines are all made from the Jacquere grape. These are fresh, very aromatic wines. The colour varies from barely yellow to pale yellow depending on the terroir and from light and comforting with floral undertones such as honey-suckle that lightly prick the tongue to fully-flavoured and fruity. Chill this wine to 8°C (46.4°F). and drink when still young.
The Chasselas grape (known from the best Swiss wines) typifies the white French wine. The colour is pale yellow and the nose reminds of ripe fruit, sometimes even of dried fruit. There is a full and fresh taste.
Certain French wines such as Crepy in particular prick the tongue. Locally they say of a good Crepy: 'Le Crepy crepite,' or in other words it crackles.
The white Slovenian wines from this area are certainly among the best in Europe. Unfortunately the means are not to hand to make their wines better known. The Slovenian wines from the local cooperative Jeruzalem Ormoz should have a large market potential in Europe. You are unlikely to encounter such fine Pinot Blanc (Beli Pinot) anywhere else than from Ljutomer Ormoske Gorice. The bouquet is redolent of may blossom and other white flowers, perhaps with a hint of broom, and even fruit stone liquor (Slibowitz). The taste is very fresh with elegant and refined acidity, the relationship between alcohol, body, and fruit is perfect, and the price is a gift. Drinking temperature for this Slovenian wine is 10-12°C (50-53.6°F).
Rioja soil and climate
The underlying ground of La Rioja consists largely of a mixture of calciferous and ferruginous clay. There are also alluvial deposits along the banks of the Ebro, while in Rioja Baja there is also sand. The best vineyards are situated at a height of 984- 1,968 feet (300- 600 metres), particularly in the northwestern part of Rioja Alavesa (País Vasco) and Rioja Alta (La Rioja and a small enclave of the province of Burgos). With its heavier soil and lower altitude (a maximum of 2000 feet), which does not provide as much cooling for the grapes, the wine from Rioja Baja is less refined than from the other two Rioja areas. Consequently this Spanish wines from this latter area are ready to drink earlier, therefore more quickly consumed, helped by a relatively cheaper price.
This French wine area is situated to the south of Bergerac. The small town of Ste-Foy appears to consist oftwo parts. Port-Ste-Foy is on the right bank of the Dordogne, hence in the Bergeracois, while Ste-Foyla-Grande is in the Bordelais on the left bank. The soil of Ste-Foy varies from clay bearing alluvial deposits for the reds to chalk bearing strata on which the whites are grown. The underlying strata are gravel, sand, and calciferous clay. This explains the difference in types and taste of the Ste-Foy wines. A remarkable and positive fact regarding this French wine-growing district is their quality charter that is signed by the communal winegrowers.
The red French wine is the most widely produced, using Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Most of these are fairly dark, very fruity, with a bouquet of red fruit and vanilla, which merge into more complex aromas such as leather, fungus, coffee, and spices, when mature. Drinking temperature for Ste-Foy-Bordeaux French wine: 16°C (60 .8°F).
The Hill of Hermitage and vineyards steeply overlooking the Rhône provide the home of Syrah and one of the most famous place names associated with this great grape variety.
Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rôtie are full-bodied red wines, while Crozes Hermitage and St Jopeph are generally a touch lighter. Syrah is a hardy grape, growing well in poor soil, such as the granite-based hills and slopes of the Northern Rhône, and able to adapt to a number of climates. In their infacy, Syrah-based wines smell of blackberry and ground pepper, sometimes mixed with aromas of smoke and toasty oak. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is the only permitted black grape, while in the south it is used as a blending material and can be just one of several grape varieties making up the final Cuvée. Grenache is more widely grown and used in the south.
Often requiring time to develop, due to the tannic nature of young Syrah, the wines soften with agem taking on smoky, leathery characteristics. In Australia, a range of styles exist, from light to medium-bodied fruity reds, to the massively fruity, rich, powerhouse wines of the Barossa Valley, Australian Shiraz, which has captured the imagination of wine lovers throughout the world, ranges from the moderate to very expresive, such as Penfond's legendary Grange.
The grape is known as Syrah in the French growing areas of the Rhône and the south of the countru but as Shiraz in its other locations: Australia, Tuscany in Italy, South Africa, and California
The area surrounding Lake Balaton is ideal for summer holidays. The lake itself is a watersports paradise. The lake is 77 km (48 miles) long and 14 km (9 miles) wide as its broadest point. The water is only some 3-4 metres (10-13 feet) deep except around the Bay of Tihany where the lake can be 12 metres (39 feet) deep.
The climate is mild in winter and hot in summer (above 25°C). The water temperature varies in the summer between 20 and 26°C (68-78.8°F). In addition to still wines, the wine areas around Lake Balaton also produce several very acceptable sparkling wines.
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