California is the best-known wine region of America. The region is subdivided into six main areas. From north to south these are the North Coast (north of San Francisco, home of Napa Valley, Sonama, Carneros wines), Humboldt (on the banks of the Sacrmamento River), Sierra Foothills (at the foot of the Sierra Mountains east of Sacramento), Central Coast (south of San Francisco to slighty north of Los Angeles), Central Valley (a huge area on the banks of the San Joaquin River), and South Coast (between Los Angeles and San Diego).
Franciscan monks from Bordeaux with the rather appropriate name of Jean Louis saw th possibilities here in 1830 and he improted countless European varieties of grapes.
Campania is an elongated area on the Tyrrhenian Sea in south-western Italy. The fortunate country-side of Campania felix was much appreciated by the Romans. Naples, the capital of Campania, is one of the liveliest cities in Italy. The cultivation of vineyards in Campania is yet another proof of how skilled the ancient Greek and Roman wine-growers were. Despite all the modem technology, the best Italian wines of Campania are still produced from the same places as 2000-4000 years ago. The grapes introduced by the Greeks way back then have survived to modern times. The Aglianico and Greco vines of today both originate from the original vines planted by the ancient Greeks.
This is a famous dry and fresh white Italian wine that is elegant and full-bodied, made from Greco grapes. This Greco di Tufo is produced around Avellino, from where the red Taurasi also comes. The ordinary Greco di Tufo is a pleasant white wine but the top ones are little gems of finesse. Drink this Italian wine at 10-12°C (50-53.6°F). An excellent Greco Spumante is also made.
The Spanish wine-growing area of Campo de Borja borders in its north with the southern tip of Navarra and follows the southern bank of the Ebro in the east. The Sierra de Moncayo forms the western boundary and is also the highest point of the region. This Spanish vineyards are concentrated around the three towns of Ainzon, Albeta, and Borja. The area was only granted DO status in 1980 since when the growers have worked steadily but surely to improve both the quality and image of their Spanish wines. Campo de Borja’s soil chiefly consists of underlying beds of chalk with scattered ironstone which ensures good drainage, overlaid with brown alluvial sand.
The Canary Islands lie off the south-western coast of Morocco, to the south of the Portuguese island of Madeira. The seven large islands and six small ones form two offshore Spanish provinces named after their capital cities: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (the eastern islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the western islands of Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera, and Hierro). The largest island is Tenerife and Hierro is the smallest.
The Term de Fronsac, at the highest point of this area, has been inhabited for many centuries. Under Charlemagne, an impressive fortress was built, which long protected the locals from barbarian invasions.
Henry IV made Fronsac the centre of his dukedom. On the ruins of the fortress, which was destroyed in 1623, the Duke of Richelieu-who was also Duke of Fronsac-built a charming Italian folly, where elegant, witty parties were held. As a result of these, many of the country's most important figures came to think highly of Fronsac's wines.
Because of their particularly favorable locations, their terrou", and a microclimate extremely well suited to wine-growing, six towns (Fronsac, La Riviere, Saint-Cermain-la-Riviere, Saint-Michel-de-Fronsac, Sainr-Aignan, and Saillans) plus some parts of Galgon benefit from the specific Fronsac AOC.
The general wine-making method in Beaujolais is carbonic maceration. The Gamay grapes are tipped into lare vats of timber, concrete or stain less steel as soon as possible after they are picked.
The entire bunch including stems is left intact. The weight of the grapes themselves gently presses the grapes at the bottom and the juice from these (10-30% of the total volume) begins to ferment slowly. The sugars in the juice are converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide th ro ugh fermentation. The pressure of carbon dioxide increases and forces the 'cap' or grapes upwards. The soaking in carbonic acid gas causes the alcohol to break down natural colourants and tannin and these are absorbed in the subsequent fermentation.
The pressure of carbonic acid gas is highest at the top of the vat and the pressure causes metabolism within the grapes. These start to ferment internally, with alcohol being produced and the level of malic acid significantly reduced. Just as important though and a characteristic of this method of wine-making is that the presence of oxygen ensures the retention of o utstanding fruitiness in the aroma and taste. After the carbonic acid has soaked the grapes in a process that takes four to ten days, depending on the type of wine to be produced, the naturally pressed juice or 'vin de goutte' is drawn off. The remaining grape matter is then pressed gently and added to the initial tapping. Some cuvées may make wine consisting solely of the initially tapped natural pressing and these wines can usually be spotted by their 'heavenly' names on the label of 'Paradis'as the French call this sweet, very fruity, and aromatic french wine.
Slightly to the south east of Campo de Borja lies the wine area of Cariñena, the oldest DO of Aragón. The recognition was granted as long ago as 1960. The vineyards surround the town of Cariñena in the province of Zaragoza, chiefly in the area between the Sierra de la Virgen and the river Ebro. In common with Campo de Borja, wine-growing originated during the Roman occupation. The present-day town of Cariñena, which derives its name from the Roman settlement of Carae, has been an important centre for both wine-growing and the wine trade since ancient times. The well-known Cariñena grape (known in French as Carignan) gets its name from the town and has spread from its home town via Cataluña to French Catalonia and even to the Rhone valley.
This Italian wine was once part of the top Chiantis. After many years of relentless lobbying and continuing above all to make excellent Italian wine, the inhabitants of the small town of Carmignano managed first to see their pampered child elevated to its own DOC in 1975 and then eventually in 1990 to join the elite ranks of DOCG wines. The charm of this famous wine is probably created by the combination of the noble French Cabernet grapes and the mischievous and unruly Italian grapes.
These are reds and roses from Schiava grapes, possible supplemented to a maximum 20% with some Lambrusco, Merlot, Lagrein, or Teroldego.
These wines are either ruby red or pink, very light in texture, and extremely mellow in taste. They are available as dry (Asciutto) or slightly sweet to sweet (Amabile). These wines keep well. Serve slightly chilled at 53.6- 57.2°F (12- 14°C) but cooler for the sweeter wines (46.4- 50°F/8- 10°C).
There are two types of Sorni: whites from Nosiola grapes, possibly supplemented with Miiller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, and Sylvaner, and reds made with Schiava, Teroldego, and possibly Lagrein. Sorni Bianco is pale golden yellow with a green cast and barely noticeable bouquet or taste. It is refreshing though and can be served on any occasion. Drinking temperature is 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).
Sorni Rosso has a more expressive nose and taste than its counterpart. It is an elegant, aromatic wine that is delicious throughout a meal. Choose a Scelto (auslese) for these are slightly higher in alcohol and more rounded. Drink at 53.6- 57.2°F (12- 14°C).
TEROLDEGO ROTALIANO DOC
This wine from the Teroldego grape that is native to Trentino is virtually unique. The grapes prefer the flat land in the Rotaliana valley, to the north of Trent (Trento) . These grapes only develop fully with such great finesse in this one location. Wherever else these grapes are grown in Italy the results are moderate to atrocious. The Teroldego Rotaliano Rosso is very intensely coloured (ruby with glints of purple when young) and its characteristic nose is of violet and raspberry. A hint of bitter almond can be detected in the finish. In common with red Loire wines, Teroldego Rosso is best drunk when young or not before eight to ten years after the harvest. In the intervening years this wine often suffers from evaporation and becomes closed, revealing nothing of itself. Drinking temperature is 50-53.6°F (10-12°C) when young and 57.2-60.8°F (14-16°C) when mature.
Teroldego Rotaliano Rosso Superiore has more body and is higher in alcohol and this is equally true of Riserva wines which must have at least two more years maturing before sale. Drinking temperature is 57.2-60.8°F (14-16°C).
This is an exceptionally elegant pink Cava with a sparkling colour. It has wonderful floral and fruity aromas and is full-flavoured, dry, and fruity. It makes an excellent aperitif.
This is the driest (least sweet) of all Cavas. This type contains less than 6 grams of sugar per litre.
This wine is slightly less dry than the previous one. Although quite a dry wine it is much less so than a French Champagne for example.
Cava Brut is by far the most favourite Cava with non Spanish drinkers. It has 6-15 grams per litre of sugar.
In Spain too, the grapes intended for production of Cava are carefully selected and harvested. The best grapes for making Cava are grown on very chalky soil at a height of between 656-1,476 feet (200-450 metres).
The following grapes are used for the base wine: Macabeo (fruit and freshness), Parellada (floral perfumes) and Xarel-lo (acidity and alcohol). Sometimes a little Chardonnay is also added. For Cava Rosado the grapes used are Carifiena, Garnacha Tinto (Grenache Noir), Tempranillo, and Monastrell. Inland Cavas are usually made from Viura (Macabeo) grapes. Because it can become extremely hot in Spain the grapes for Cava are usually picked early in the morning. This Spanish grapes are pressed as soon as they are brought in from the vineyards.
The juices are transferred to stainless steel tanks where fermentation takes place at a constantly controlled low temperature. After fermentation the wine is rested for a while before being sampled by the cellar master. The best cuvees are selected and blending takes place in great secrecy. This Spanish wine is then bottled and held in enormous cellars for a minimum of nine months but often for longer. During this period a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Just as with Champagne, Saumur, or Limoux lots of tiny bubbles form.
The bottles, which are stored on racks or rotating pallets, are manually or mechanically shaken to get the floating remnants of unfermented sugars and dead yeast cells to fall to the neck of the bottle. Here too the neck of the bottle is dipped into a special salt solution to freeze the sediment. When the bottle is opened the plug of sediment is forced out of the bottle by the pressure. The wine, which is now clear, is topped up with a liqueur (see main section on sparkling wines) and provided with a cork and retaining wires and cap. The wine is now ready to be shipped to the customers.
More than 90% of all Cava originates from Catalonia, particularly from Penedes. Two major companies control about 90% of the market. Freixenet (which also owns Segura Viudas and Castell Blanch) is the undoubted leader of the export market.
The true market leader though in Spain is Codorniu. Cavas are generally somewhat less dry than French sparkling wines. They have that little bit of Spanish temperament. The price of the top quality Cavas is exceptionally low for their quality but one needs to be careful. Corners are sometimes cut, especially with the nine month 's period of maturing in the bottle.
There have been cases for many years against brands which do not stick to the minimum nine months and whose wine is therefore not permitted to be termed Cava.There are officially only two different types of Cava: white and pink. The white Cava though is subdivided into a variety of different taste types.
This area is the centre of the Greek mainland, bounded in the north by Ipeiros and Thessalia, in the west by the Ionian Sea, and in the east by the Aegean. Vast quantities of wine are produced here but the region only has one guaranteed source of origin wine. The other wines are all table wines or country wines. The three areas that together form Central Greece do produce an excellent Cava-style wine (Hatzi Michalis) and very good topikos oinos (Hatzi Michalis, Zarogikas, and Cambas). There are very fruity retsina (appellation traditionelle) wines from Thebe and Messoghia that are made from Rhoditis and Savatiano. There has been substantial investment in this region recently in Prench grape varieties and the better Greek ones. It is anticipated that fine wines will originate from here in the future.
This is a very subtle white wine made from Savatiano and Rhoditis, that is like a retsina without the resin. Drinking temperature for Kantza Greek wine is 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).
The Ionian Islands lie to the west of the Greek mainland on a latitude with Ipeiros, Central Greece, and parts of the Peloponnese. Vines are cultivated on virtually all of these islands. The conquest by the Turks in this part of Greece - also known as Eptanessos or the seven islands - was of sufficiently short duration that the inhabitants were able to continue to cultivate vines and make wine.
The wine industry in the most northerly island of Corfu (Kerkyra) has been somewhat depressed by the rise of tourism and the growing of olives. Here too though excellent white wines are made such as that from the house of Ktima Roppa. This is an oldfashioned and traditional wine with the culture of 'flor' (a film created by the fermentation) in the same way as sherry.
The wine is a lot like dry sherry. The grapes used are Robola and Kakotrychi. New businesses are developing modern-style dry white wines of elegance using the native Kakotrychi grapes. Production of this new wine is very limited. Very little wine worth mentioning is produced at present on the islands of Paxi, Lefkas, and Ithaki (with the exception perhaps of Lefkas's Santa Mavra). Cephalonia (Kefallinia) does make good wine though.
Robola, also known as Rombola, is one of the finest white grape varieties of Greece. This grapevine thrives extremely well on the seven Ionian islands, thanks to both the weather and soil structure. The summers are hot but there are light sea breezes to provide the necessary moisture and cooling. The vineyards are sited at 1,968 feet (600 metres) and sometimes as high as 2,952 feet (900 metres) .
Robola's colour is fairly pale yellow with a tinge of green. The bouquet, with hints of hazelnut and citrus fruit, is seductive and the taste is mellow, elegant, and extremely pleasant. Drinking temperature Kefallinia Robola Greek Wine is 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).
This is a first class sweet red wine made from Mavrodaphne grapes. At first glance it resembles a ruby port in looks. Drinking temperature for Kefallinia Mavrodaphine Greed wine is 46.4-53.6°F (8-10°C) or 57.2-60.8°F (14-16°C) according to preference.
This is a first class sweet Muscat wine that is very aromatic. Drinking temperature for this Greek wine is 42.8- 50°F (6- 10°C). A number of reasonable white and red wines are also made on Cephalonia. The white wines, made from grapes such as Rhoditis, Sideritis, Tsaoussi, Zakinthino, Robola, or Sauvignon Blanc, are fresh and fruity. The reds, made from Agiorgitiko, Mavrodaphne, or Tymiathiko, are fresh, fruity, very aromatic, and not always equally dry.
On Zakynthos just as on Corfu, a fresh green white wine in the style of a Madeira is made that is known as Verdea. This is an excellent aperitif. Drinking temperature for this Greek wine is 46.4-53.6°F (8-10°C).
Chardonnay: The only grape allowed for Chablis producing a steely dry, green, acidic wine. The best wines are much richer, with depth and intense flavour although still bone dry.
Sauvignon Blanc: Used for Sauvignon de St.Bris. The variety is not legal in Chablis which is why the wine has only VDQS status.
Pinot Noir: Mainly used for red wine production, with some César, Gamay and Tressot.
This light, fruity and fresh tasting French wine is drunk young. True Chablis can be laid down for maturing but is also very enjoyable in its first year. This French wine is fully matured after three years.
Chablis Premier Cru is at its best after three to five years. It does not contain the depths of the Grand Cru but can be drunk much earlier for those too impatient to wait.
A Premier Cru Chablis is golden with a definite tinge of green. The nose is fruity but above all vegetal : lemon balm, fern, and the suggestion of coriander. The taste is dry and reminiscent of chalk with a touch of iodine. Known Premier Crus are: Mont de Milieu, Tonnere, Sechet, Montee de Fourchaume, Montmains,Vaillons.
These French wines need to be laid down for at least five years after bottling and can certainly be left for twenty years. These are rare French wines, very dry, with a good balance between strength and finesse. The colour is a very clean pale yellow with the minimum of green tinge.
The nose tends towards fern and coriander with the occasional suggestion of preserved citrus fruit. The chalk soil is readily discovered in the flavour, with a pronounced undertone of iodine.
The preserved citrus fruits put in a further appearance in the aftertaste. There are seven Grand Cru wines: Vaudesir, Les Preuses, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Bougros, Valmur, and Blanchots.
This is a feminine, almost gentle French wine of a pure ruby red with a nose filled with fruit (raspberry and cherry) when young, tending towards toadstools, humus, or game undertones when more mature. It is a elegant and refined French wine. The better wines originate from the Premier Cru climats, especially that of Les Amoureuses, a name and a wine to fall in love with. The colour tends towards cherry red and the nose varies from raspberry to cherry brandy with hints of truffle, toadstool, or other fungus.
The Champagne district is the most northerly wine region of France, located some ninety miles northeast of Paris. The method of production for champagne is explainde here.
Originally, the wines of Champagne were still. The cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers, a certain Pierre Pérignon (1639-1715), developed a system of blending, whereby the wines from different area in Champagne and made from different grape varieties, were blendend together. Although Dom Pérignon has been credited as being the inventor of sparkling Champagne, there is little real evidence to support this. There are claims that it was the English who put the sparke into imported Champagne wines, in the seventeenth century. On school of thought argues that warm weather caused the wine to undergo a secondary fermentation in the barrels in which it was exported.
What can be read on a champagne label? The brand and the name of the maker; the dosage (brut, sec or so on); the year or lack of a year; the phrase blanc de blancs when only white grapes have been used in the wine; when possible, the commune of origin of the grapes, and finally, sometimes, but less and less often, the qualitative classification of the grapes: Grand Cru for the 17 communes that have the right to the description, or Premier Cru for 41 others. The professional standing of the producer must appear, printed in small letters: NM meaning a merchant-winemaker; RM a grower making champagne from other sources; CM a cooperative that makes and sells its own champagne using grapes from its member growers; MA the brand of the buyer; RC a small grower who sends his grapes to one or several cooperatives to be make into champagne because he does mot habe the equipment to do so himself, and who receives the finished champagne to sell;
Champagne The uniqueness of champagne is apparent right from the harvest itself. No harvesting machines are permitted, and everything is picked by hand because it is essential the the grapes get to the press in perfect condition. Rather than the hods used elsewhere, pickers carry small baskets to ensure that the grapes are not too crushed. Presses are set up in the heart of the vineyards to shorten the time the grapes are transported. Why is such care taken? Because champagne is a white wine made for the most part from o black grape, the Pinot Noir, and it is essential that the colorless juice should not be stained by contact with the grape skins.
Pressing has to take place as quickly as possible and in such a way as to collect the juice from different concentric parts of each fruit one after the other. This explains the particular shape of squashing the grapes and to facilitate the circulation of the juice, the grapes are piled over a very wide area but not very deeply. The skins of the harvested grapes must never be damaged.
Read more Champagne - Part three
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