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The Super Classic Grape Varieties (Week 3)
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The Super Classic Grape Varieties (Week 3)

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  • Today Chenin Blanc and Merlot
  • The New World refers to the colonies established as a result of European exploration which began in the 15th century. It contrasts with the Old World of Europe and other Mediterranean countries where almost all the vineyards were established by the 4th century. Though many were in existence before the Christian Era. New World wine producing countries include South Africa, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand. There are Asian wines that could be called “New World” but I just don’t know enough about them yet. Maybe in the future… Mainly for religious reasons, planting vines in the New World was a high priority. Most countries discovered by Europeans had grape harvests within just a few years. New World is also a phrase used to differentiate viticultural practices . One example of this is vine density. Vines are generally planted 1 meter X 1 meter in Bordeaux. Vines are often planted 3.7m X 2.5m in California and Australia. Such differences are by no means constant or absolute; trends go both ways. Varieties in NW (New World) are considered “international”: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay – but these varieties were, of course, made famous in OW vineyards. Mechanization was first developed in NW but by the 1990s was becoming widely accepted in Europe. In the New World wines are more likely to be varietal – both in labeling and in style or taste. The idea of terroir in the New World is not as important as in the OW and most wines are designed to express grape variety rather than vineyard or geography, as in the Old World. “Fruit driven” is an essentially New World desicription. Old World tradition regards nature as a determining, and guiding force. New World winemakers regard nature with suspicion – as enemy to be subdued and controlled. New World winemakers are more likely to adopt protective winemaking methods like shielding must from oxygen, cold fermenting temperatures, cultured yeasts... They might be more concerned with hygiene. Old World extends maceration – New World racks to barrels. New World wines might be softer, fuller, earlier maturing, while Old World wines might be more capable of extended bottle age. These differences are slightly artificial and constantly changing as the Old World recognizes the benefits of New World practices and as the New World begins to recognize the role terroir and geography can have in making wine more enjoyable to drink.
  • Chenin blanc (or simply Chenin ) is a particularly versatile grape that is used to make dry white wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines and brandy. It provides a fairly neutral palate for the expression of terroir , vintage variation and the winemaker's treatment. The Chenin blanc grapevine buds early in the growing season and ripens late - traits that would make the vine more ideal in warmer climates rather than the cool Loire Valley. However, in warm years (which has been increasing in frequency due to global warming ) the balance between the Loire's marginal climate and the warmth to attain full ripeness has the potential of producing wines with depth of complexity and finesse. [ In cool areas the juice is sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity varietal palate. In the unreliable summers of northern France, the acidity of underripe grapes was often masked with chaptalization with unsatisfactory results, whereas now the less ripe grapes are made into popular sparkling wines such as Crémant de Loire . The white wines of Anjou are perhaps the best expression of Chenin as a dry wine, with flavors of quince and apples. In nearby Vouvray they aim for an off-dry style, developing honey and floral characteristics with age. In the best vintages the grapes can be left on the vines to develop noble rot , producing an intense, viscous dessert wine which will improve considerably with age. In the Loire, yields are tightly controlled - even basic Anjou Blanc is restricted to 45hl/ha.However yields of three times that can be achieved in the New World and the results are generally everyday wines that "are dull compared to the Loire wines". As ever there are exceptions to this rule, particularly in South Africa. History in Anjou there are records of Chenin Blanc in the ninth century. It then migrated to the Loire valley and later the Rhône. The French ampelographer Pierre Galet has theorized that Chenin blanc originated in the Anjou wine region sometime in the 9th century and from there traveled to Touraine by at least the 15th century.[4] It was first mentioned in 845 the records of the abbey of Glanfeuil as growing on the left bank of the Loire river.[3] Chenin Blanc probably originated as a mutant of the Pineau d'Aunis (Chenin Noir) in Anjou.[2] In 1445 it was planted in near a site known as Mont Chenin in Touraine by the Lord of Chenonceaux and his brother in law, the abbot of Cormery. Ampelographers believe that this is the likely origin of the grape's name.[3] It then migrated throughout the Loire valley and later the Rhône. The French writer François Rabelais (1494–1553) wrote glowingly about the white wines of Anjou, and mentions the medicinal qualities of the grapes at the end of chapter XXV of Gargantua : This done, the shepherds and shepherdesses made merry with these cakes and fine grapes, and sported themselves together at the sound of the pretty small pipe, scoffing and laughing at those vainglorious cake-bakers, who had that day met with a mischief for want of crossing themselves with a good hand in the morning. Nor did they forget to apply to Forgier's leg some fat chenin grapes , and so handsomely dressed it and bound it up that he was quickly cured.[5] From France the grape spread to South Africa where it was most likely included among the vine cuttings send to Jan van Riebeeck in the Cape Colony by the Dutch East India Company. In the 20th century it was discovered that a sub-variety of Chenin planted in the Loire was not actually Chenin blanc at all but rather the grape Verdelho which is banned from French AOC regulations in the Loire.[3] In 1999, DNA profiling conducted by a ampelographers in Austria suggested that Chenin blanc may be a parent of Sauvignon blanc.[4]
  • One of the major differences between Old world and New world styles of Chenin blanc is the fermentation temperature. Old World style producers in the Loire tend to ferment their Chenin blanc at higher temperatures, 60-68°F (16-20°C), than New World producers in South Africa and elsewhere which usually ferments their whites at temperatures around 50-54°F (10-12°C). This is because Old World wine producer tend not to put a premium on the tropical fruit flavors and aromas that come out more vividly with cooler fermentation temperatures. Chenin blanc can accommodate some skin contact and maceration which will allow extraction of phenolic compounds that could add to the complexity of the wine. While Chenin blanc is planted across the globe from China to New Zealand to Canada and Argentina , it is considered a "major" planting in only a few locations. [3] Though France is the viticultural home of Chenin blanc, by the turn of the 21st century there was twice as much Chenin blanc planted in South Africa as there was in France. The grapes' versatility and ability to reflect terroir causes it to lead, what Jancis Robinson describes as, a " double life ". In the Loire Valley of France it is prized as a premium quality wine grape able to produce world class wines while in many New World wine regions it used as a " workhorse variety", contributing acidity to bulk white blends and showing more neutral flavors rather than terroir . Throughout all its manifestations, Chenin blanc's characteristic acidity is found almost universally in all wine regions. [4] In South Africa , Chenin blanc is the most widely planted variety-accounting for nearly one-fifth of all vineyard plantings in the early 21st century. The variety was most likely introduced to the country in the collection of vine cuttings sent to Jan van Riebeeck by the Dutch East India Company . For the next couple hundred years of South African wine history , the variety was known as Steen . It wasn't till 1965 that ampelographers were able to concretely identify the numerous plantings of Steen around the country as being Chenin blanc. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chenin blanc was the principle grape in the "white wine renaissance " of the South African wine industry that was ushered in by the introduction of new technologies such as temperature controlled fermentation vessels. During this time the focus was on producing off-dry, clean and crisp wine that was mostly neutral in flavor that could capitalize on the wine market's demand for white wine. Near the end of the century, several Chenin blanc specialist producers emerged that worked with vineyard managers to isolate older Chenin vines on suitable terroir that could produce wines that exhibit Chenin's unique aromas and trait. While plantings of Chenin blanc have decreased in recent years, the work of these producers has risen the quality profile of South African Chenin blanc. [4] The majority of Chenin blanc in South Africa is planted in the Paarl and Worcester regions with Malmesbury in Swartland also having sizable plantings. [3]
  • The vineyards of Anjou cover a wide area south of the city of Angers. The area produces wines of all colors and styles. Two very popular types of rosé represent the best-known wines of Anjou, Rosé d'Anjou and Cabernet d'Anjou. Red wines outnumber whites and may be made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and several other varieties. White Anjou can be made from a number of grapes, alone or in combination. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are all planted here. Anjou is also home to most of the most celebrated sweet wines of the Loire Valley -- Coteaux du Layon , Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux -- and one of its most unusual dry white wine, Savennières , all of which are made completely from Chenin Blanc. Vouvray is the largest white wine appellation of the Anjou-Saumur-Touraine region and it produces splendid wines from the dry and austere to the richest dessert wines, as well as excellent sparkling wines. Vouvray is made exclusively from Chenin Blanc, which has been grown in the region since the 4th century. On average, 60% of each vintage is made into still wine and 40% is made sparkling. The siliceous-clay, and limestone-clay soils lie on top of tuffeau, the limestone used to build the many châteaux of the surrounding countryside. The cool climate insures good acidity, which is balanced by the distinctly fruity character of the Chenin Blanc, and the mineral qualities imparted by the soil. The Vouvray vineyards are subject, in good years, to botrytis cynera , the mold responsible for most the world's greatest sweet white wines. In these years, harvest is delayed until well into November (the latest harvest in France) and there may be several pickings in order to harvest the grapes at their moment of optimum ripeness. In other years, only dryer wines are made. Vouvray can age magnificently for decades and has been known to remain in prime condition for more than a century. The wine develops richness and depth over time but will never lose its fresh and fruity character. Sparkling Vouvray shows all the qualities of the still wines but with an even more pronounced flavor of minerals. It is an excellent aperitif, but also an ideal sparkling wine to drink with a meal. Situated just across the Loire river from Vouvray is Montlouis-sur-Loire, which also makes dry, demi-sec, sweet and sparkling wines from 100% Chenin Blanc. Where the wines of Vouvray are fruity and floral, Montlouis-sur-Loire tends to reflect some of the more earthy and mineral notes of Chenin Blanc. The western Loire , around Nantes, is the home of Muscadet. This is an area of low, sandy hills and the climate is cool.   In the middle Loire things heat up a little, and the climate is mild with moderate rainfall. The west of this area has a tendency towards the noble rot, and is capable of making some great sweet wines.
  • Vouvray Methode Traditionelle (Sparkling) NV 100% Chenin Blanc from vines planted on chalk and silex (flint). Fermented and aged in stainless steel tank before spending two years in bottle before release. With a shocking patch of blond hair, massive build, and in-your-face intensity, Lionel Gauthier seems more Scandinavian than Loire. His friends started calling him the “Viking” several years ago. After a few years, the name “Viking” had stuck, so in 1989, Lionel decided to rename the property. Lionel’s style is what he called “Sec Tendre” or “Tender Dry”. This is usually a demi-sec (off dry) bottling with very high acidity. Because most of the vines are planted on flint (silex), the minerality and acidity are startling and stunning. There is a type of mouthwatering acidity that makes drinking these wines all too easy. Every single bunch of grapes on the property is hand-harvested, sorted, destemmed, crushed, and fermented in Lionel’s tiny garage cellar, and left to age in tank and barrels made from local chestnut (according to Lionel, oak imparts too many unwanted flavors to his wines.)
  • On 2nd February 1659 the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, produced the first wine recorded in South Africa, and at one time Constantia was considered one of the greatest wines in the world. But wines from South Africa have only recently become popular in the United States. Sub-Regions There are actually several distinct wine growing regions within South Africa. The 3 most well-known are the Coastal region, Breede River Valley and Broberg. Others include Olifants River, Piketberg, Swartland, Tulbagh, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Overberg, Robertson, Worcester, Klein Karoo and Suid-Kaap. All of these areas are clustered in the southwestern portion of the country (indicated in purple on the map to the left) where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at the Cape of Good Hope. Climate The region receives a cool coastal breeze due to its location at the meeting point of two Oceans. The terrain is fairly hilly and moderately hot, requiring irrigation throughout much of the region. A wide range of soil conditions is present, from sandy to mineral-rich. Some regions such as Stellenbosch experience climate conditions that are favorable for production of “noble rot”, which results in some very good Sherry-style wines. The Paarl region is also know for its Port-style wines. Grape Varieties Roughly 90% of the vineyard acreage in South Africa is dedicated to the production of white wines. The most widely planted is chenin blanc (steen). Early opinion had it that Steen was of Germanic origin, supported by the evidence of a handwritten note, by Governor Simon van der Stel, on wine quality, that mentioned that wine made from Steen was comparable to quality German Stein wines. This saw the introduction of the Germanic spelling 'Stein'. After an extensive, but unsuccessful, Germanic and eastward search for the origin of Steen, the variety Franche (from which Fransdruif might originally have taken its name) provided the answer. This variety was also apparently known by the French, as Chenin blanc - and approximately thirty other names. In 1963, the then Head of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor C.J Orffer, matched Steen and Chenin blanc leaves and finally pronounced Steen, Chenin blanc. Steen first came to prominence in the first half of the twentieth century as a base for South African brandy. In the 1960s, Lieberstein, a semi-sweet blend of Steen and Clairette Blanche, enjoyed phenomenal success. It was, for a while, the world's bestselling single brand of wine. Chenin blanc in South Africa has extensive depth in terms of vineyards, terroir diversity and winemaking expertise. While most South African Chenin blanc wines are still made in a fresh and fruity style, that is changing. More and more producers are focusing on mature vines. They prune these dramatically to cut down on yields, pick the grapes riper and often introduce oak fermentation and maturation. Chenin blanc is a very responsive variety - it will give back in the bottle what the winemaker has put into the vineyard and in the cellar.
  • Chenin Blanc’s high-acid tendencies have made it popular in warmer than usual viticultural regions, like California and South Africa (where it is known as Steen), both of which easily eclipse total French plantings. However, in these warmer conditions, the wines tend to be much more neutral, rarely hinting at the complexity of wines from Loire appellations like Vouvray and Montlouis. The reasons for this disparity may stem from the lack of regard afforded the variety by American vineyard managers and the US marketplace. In the shadow of more in-vogue varieties, like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc is rarely privileged with the best growing sites. No doubt North American Chenin Blanc would benefit from more moderate climactic conditions, lower yields, and being planted in the chalky type of soils which it performs so well in elsewhere. In California’s hotter bulk winegrowing regions, yields are often as much as 2 1/2 times the maximum allowable from Loire vineyards. Chenin’s response to such treatment is to make wines of little varietal character and complexity, lacking much of its typically refreshing, life-giving acidity. It isn’t surprising that such bland wines have doomed the variety to the role of jug-wine workhorse. However, a very notable exception to this is the Clarksburg AVA at the northern end of California’s Central Valley. Here. many producers have recognized the grape’s potential for high quality wine, and Clarksburg is beginning to build a reputation for premium wines based on its great success with the generally overlooked Chenin Blanc. Warm summer days and cool nights typify the climate in the Clarksburg appellation during the long, dry growing season. These prime conditions allow for the growing of over 25 varieties including Chenin Blanc.
  • Situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in the heart of South Africa's most famous wine region Stellenbosch, commonly referred to as the Home of Chenin Blanc. Of course France is the home of Chenin Blanc In 1993 with a young family, Ken and his wife Teresa acquired Scholtzenhof, one of the oldest wine farms in the Cape was originally granted as Zandberg in 1689. Located on the slopes of the Helderberg mountain range in the famous wine region Stellenbosch which is blessed with duplex soils, mountainous terrain and a Mediterranean climate. The picture-perfect trellised vineyards in combination with 45 yr old bush vines are testimony to Kens commitment to deliver benchmark wines backed on his passion for traditional winemaking and ability to deliver value at every price point. Chenin Blanc Hand harvested with careful selection. Barrel and tank fermented, left on the lees for 9 months in French oak, matured (on secondary lees) for a rounded complexity. A full bodied, well rounded wine with a complex structure. This wine is a great example of the harmonious balance which can be achieved between fruit and delicate oak/vanilla flavors as they combine to form complex, soft flavors with sufficient body to enhance even spicy and full flavored meals. Flavors burst with dried apricots, pineapple and a hint of vanilla on the long lasting finish. WINEMAKER'S NOTES Vintage : 2008 Grape Varieties : 100% Chenin Blanc Region : Stellenbosch, Helderberg 35 years old Soil : Clovelly (deep yellow sand). Mature unirrigated vineyards with controlled yields. Yield : Low trellis and old bush vines. Approx 4 - 6 tons Locality : South-south-west FOOD MATCHES Can be served with many varied spicy dishes, full flavored fish or chicken dishes. Ideal with crayfish, prawns.
  • Domaine Georges Brunet Vouvray Demi-sec The Brunet family has been producing wine in the village of Vouvray for eight generations. They work 14 hectares of vineyard on clay, limestone and flinty soils. The wine is vinified and aged in three cellars cut into the limestone hillsides. The vines are all harvested by hand and are never chaptalized. The primary focus of the estate is on sparkling wines of which they produce 80,000 bottles per year. Another 20,000 bottles of still wines are produced which range in style from the very crisp, dry Sec to the very sweet, age worthy Moelleux. The still wines have the classic style of Chenin Blanc from the village of Vouvray. They are bursting with tart, green apple fruit and given complexity by the goutte de terroir of limestone, flint and minerals. Although there is the full range of wine from dry to very sweet, all the wines are balanced by a lively, bright, fresh acidity. These wines take age exceedingly well. 100% Chenin Blanc 13.5% alcohol, 21g sugar 25% affected by botrytis Fermented in stainless steel Yellow-straw color Sweet honey, apricot nose Great balance of fruit, acidity and minerals Bright, fresh, clean finish
  • You can pair a wide range of foods with Chenin blanc. The softer styles could be used with spicy Asian cuisine or even with deserts, particularly those based on apples or pears. Drier, cripser minerally chenins could enhance grilled or fried seafooods, chicken with creamy sauce, or perhaps grilled pork chops with lightly fried apple slices. Chenin blanc can be a very versatile player in food and wine pairings but the wide range of wine styles needs to be taken into account. Lighter, dry styles can pair well with light dishes such as salads , fish and chicken . The sweeter styles Chenin blanc can balance the spicy heat of some Asian and Hispanic cuisines . The acidity and balance of medium-dry styles can pair well with cream sauces and rich dishes like pâté .
  • Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux. It adds softness and roundness to the peaky flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends It can be made in a variety of styles depending on yields, picking dates, ripeness and winemaking… from succulent, sweetly fruity, ripe and perfumey – of which there are many examples; to mean, dark, muscle-bound bruisers that develop slowly in the bottle – of which there are not so many. Merlot became important to American drinkers after the t.v. show 60 Minutes aired that famous report on “The French Paradox.” I don’t think Merlot was actually mentioned in that show about the health benefits of red wine drinking; but Merlot can make a soft, fruity, early drinking wine that people, who never thought they would be able to like red wine, could enjoy and know that it was good for them too. Since the movie Sideways , Merlot’s reputation as a serious wine took a hit. This despite the fact that lead character Miles’ treasured bottle, a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, is 50% Merlot. Cheval Blanc is in the St. Emilion, on the border of Pomerol, wherein lies Chateau Petrús, oft-cited as the world’s most expensive red wine…and almost entirely Merlot. The taste of Merlot can be hard to define, and winemakers make it in such a variety of styles that it is hard to give it a general description… rich, ripe, plumy fruit is common. Smooth, soft, with flavors of black and red berry fruits. Spice flavors like cinnamon and cloves, as well as tobacco, licorice and toasted nuts. In warm climates it can be like stewed fruit, not warm enough and it can be too minty and herbaceous. One thing is certain: Merlot is perfect blend-mate for Cabernet Sauvignon. It softens and fills out the angular flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon. Each has what the other lacks. Merlots can be round, but empty in the middle – like a donut. Cabs can be sharp and pushy. But the best merlots lack nothing.
  • Merlot may be native to Bordeaux but wasn’t mentioned there before the 18 th century. Merlot has been in Italy just as long. First recorded in Veneto in 1855. Merlot does well around the world and is a better bet than Cabernet Sauvignon in vineyards where its early ripening is a plus: New Zealand, New York’s Long Island, the Veneto in Italy, Switzerland, Romania and even Canada. In Tuscany it works with Cabernet in the “Super Tuscans” like it does in Bordeaux. Merlot is slowly taking over in Bordeaux because of the world demand for softer, earlier drinking wine – 60% in St Emilion, 80% in Pomerol, 25% in Graves… California is the 4 th largest producer of Merlot. They’re growing it in cool sites that wouldn’t make good Cabernet, like Carneros and Mendocino. Look for some of the greatest American Merlot from Washington vineyards. In Napa and Sonoma the best merlot sites are being sought and winemaking keeps getting better; the best examples are as good as any in the world.
  • In Italy, a large portion of Merlot is planted in the Friuli wine region where it is made as a varietal or sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Merlot's low acidity serves as a balance for the higher acidity in many Italian wine grapes with the grape often being used in blends in the Veneto , Alto Adige and Umbria . Italian Merlots are often characterized by their light bodies and herbal notes. In other parts of Italy, such as Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends. In Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast they make a very expensive wine called Ornellia that is often a large percentage Merlot and is considered one of the best wines of Italy.
  • In the early history of California wine , the Merlot was used primarily as a 100% varietal wine until wine maker Warren Winiarski encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends. [8] In California, Merlot can range from very fruity simple wines (sometimes referred to by critics as a "red Chardonnay ") to more serious, barrel aged examples . It can also be used a primary component in Meritage blends. [6] While Merlot is grown throughout the state, it is particularly prominent in Napa , Monterey and Sonoma County . In Napa, examples from Carneros , Mount Veeder , Oakville and Rutherford tend to show ripe blackberry and black raspberry notes. Sonoma Merlots from Alexander Valley , Carneros and Dry Creek Valley tend to show plum , tea leaf and black cherry notes.
  • 2005 Provenance Vineyards Napa Merlot - $21.99 Wine Profile Vintage:2006Wine Type:Red WineVarietal:MerlotAppellation:Napa Valley Acid:6.3g/LPH:3.42 Ageability:5 years or more Alcohol %: 14.5 ” Tasting Notes: Our 2006 Merlot isn’t shy, with its deep, dark garnet hue and abounding aromas of rich black cherry, cassis and clove. Approachable, integrated tannins frame the generous dark fruit flavors and coat the palate with soft velvet. The long, fruity finish, laced with autumn spices, ends with a lively cranberry zing. “This is a very classy wine from a gorgeous vintage. Take that, Miles!” laughs Winemaker Tom Rinaldi, with a reference to the film Sideways. Vineyard Notes: Winemakers Chris Cooney and Rinaldi chose Merlot from two subappelations of Napa Valley: Los Carneros and Oak Knoll. The Oak Knoll fruit gives the wine rich, ripe flavors and softer texture, while the cooler Los Carneros region–closer to the San Francisco Bay–provides lively acidity and bright, red fruit Merlot character. They selected grapes from six blocks of the Beckstoffer Las Amigas Vineyard and two from an Oak Knoll vineyard. These well-drained, high quality vineyard blocks are trained and pruned to maximize flavor intensity from sun exposure and prolonged hangtime. Variations in soils and mesoclimate contribute to our Merlot’s complex array of fruit and spice expression. Winemaker Notes: “It was a long and rewarding harvest, perhaps—with all due respect for 2001—the best of the decade so far,” says Cooney. “Vine balance (leaf-to-fruit ratio) was more consistent in 2006, promoting slow, even fruit ripening and a relaxed harvest. Berry size was smaller than average in Rutherford, leading to highly structured wines. The 2006 vintage quality looks excellent; our red wines show great depth, flavor concentration and velvety tannins, even at this early stage in their development.”  
  • In the 1980s, Merlot helped put the Washington wine industry on the world's wine map. Prior to this period there was a general perception that the climate of Washington State was too cold to produce red wine varietals. Merlots from , , Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste Michelle demonstrated that areas of the Eastern Washington were warm enough for red wine production. Today it is the most widely grown red wine grape in the state and accounts for nearly one fifth of the state's entire production. It is widely planted throughout the Columbia Valley AVA but has earned particular notice from plantings grown in Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills.[9] Washington Merlots are noted for their deep color and balanced acidity. The state's climate lends itself towards long days and hours of sunshine with cool nights that contributes to a significant diurnal temperature variation and produces wines with New World fruitiness and Old World structure.
  • 'Ecole No 41 Columbia Valley Merlot - $34.99 'Ecole No 41 is indisputably best known for Merlot — Ecole’s principle red variety since 1983. Fermentation control is carried out in a traditional Bordeaux style, with small lot fermentations punched down by hand for optimal color and flavor extraction. When the fermentation is completed, the must is gravity fed into the press. The wine is gently racked into a combination of new and older French and American oak barrels and aged for 18 months. With rich black cherry and berry fruit flavors in balance with the tannins, they traditionally bottle this wine unfined and unfiltered. They produce two merlots: Columbia Valley Merlot (first vintage 1983) and Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot (first vintage 1993). Walla Walla Valley Merlot (first vintage 1998, last vintage 2001). 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes Rich with aromatic aromas of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, this spicy Merlot shows red cherry fruit, black plum, blackberry and dark fruit flavors encased in a peppery, chocolate, black cherry finish.
  • The Left Bank vineyards lie west of the Garonne River and the Gironde Estuary, into which the Garonne empties. The Right Bank vineyards lie east and north of the Dordogne River and east of the Gironde Estuary. The Gironde, formed by the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne in the heart of Bordeaux, flows through the region to the Atlantic, providing passage for ships filled with wine destined for northern Europe, America and beyond. Merlot is early ripening and does well in the cooler clay and sandy soils of Pomerol and St Emilion. It likes cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon does. Cabernet Sauvignon would be hard to ripen fully in the damper, cooler environment. In hot climates Merlot ripens too fast and doesn’t develop its full personality. For the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris , Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France 's best Bordeaux wines which were to be on display for visitors from around the world. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a château 's reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality. The result was the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 . The wines were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the red wines that made it on the list came from the Médoc region except for one: Château Haut- Brion from Graves . The white wines, then of much less importance than red wine, were limited to the sweet varieties of Sauternes and Barsac and were ranked only from first great growth to second growth.
  • Pomerol is the smallest of the great appellations in Bordeaux .  Red wines make up almost all the production.  Merlot is the dominant grape in Pomerol (as it is in St. Emilion ) and the wines from this area often contain 80% or more of that variety.  The Merlot variety produces wines in Pomerol that are soft, full of fruit and rich in flavor.  Even though the Merlot grape produces wonderful wines in this Pomerol, the real reason that it is grown here is that frosts arrive earlier in this region than in the Medoc .  Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and is much more likely to produce a mature crop. The second, most used grape in Pomerol is Cabernet Franc .Pomerol estates tend to be much smaller than their counterparts in the Medoc region.  There are only about 1800 acres of vineyards in Pomerol.  These vineyards are spread among the roughly 150 estates that produce an average of 1000 to 4000 cases each.  In the Medoc region, the estates are generally much larger with production in the 10,000 to 20,000 case range for most of the estates. There has never been an official classification of the chateaux of Pomerol.  Even without an official classification, there are several properties that have distinguished themselves based on the consistent quality they have achieved over many years. The soils of Pomerol range from a gravel and clay mixture found in the eastern part of the commune to a lighter soil with more sand in the west. The Plateau of Pomerol is a gravel deposit on the east side of Pomerol where most of the famous and well known chateaux are located. Within this gravel deposit you will find clay in quatities that range from a mixture with the gravel to actual pockets of almost pure clay. The most famous chateau of Pomerol is Chateau Petrus . Petrus is located on one of the pockets of clay on the plateau. The wines from the plateau are fuller, richer and generally better than those from the sandy area to the west. HISTORY: Jean-Pierre Moueix, born in Corrèze in 1913, arrived with his parents in Saint-Emilion following the 1929 depression. In 1937, he founded his wine merchant business on the Quai du Priourat in Libourne and spent his life promoting his wines internationally. His second son, Christian, joined the family business in 1970 and today owns the estate with his children, Edouard and Charlotte. BELIEFS: The company, while always up-to-date with the latest innovations to improve quality, maintains the highest respect for traditional values. The vineyard director, oenolog, cellar masters and technical directors dedicate their attention and experience equally to the care of the grapes in the vineyards as to the vinification and aging of the wine. The team of experienced harvesters allow for those grapes which have reached their optimum maturity to be picked rapidly. A family spirit permeates through all levels of the company, assuring a cohesion for developing markets in favorable vintages and gathering support in difficult ones. NOTES: The grapes are picked only in the afternoon, when the morning dew has evaporated, so as not to risk even the slightest dilution of quality. The composition of the topsoil and the subsoil is almost all clay. (Merlot flourishes in this soil.) The vines are unusually old and are only replanted after they reach 70 years of age. Replanting takes place plot by plot, instead of vine by vine, in order to guarantee that the average age of vines is maintained at a high level. REGION DESCRIPTION: Jean-Pierre Moueix is synonymous with Pomerol, and no other family in Bordeaux has had such a profound influence on an entire appellation. The wines are quite different from those in the Medoc; the weather and soil vary significantly, and the primary grapes used in the region are the softer Merlot and Cabernet Franc varieties. The region itself and most of the estates in the area are tiny, resulting in limited quantities of wines that tend to be quite expensive. GRAPE VARIETY: 72% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon FOOD PAIRINGS: Lamb and game, whether roasted or prepared as a steak TASTING NOTES: "Ample, rich, almost over-ripe nose. Medium body. Good grip. Lovely black fruit. This is a lovely, seductive wine. Very good for a bourgeois Pomerol." (Clive Coates, The Vine)
  • Because Merlot is medium-bodied, it pairs easily with medium-weight foods: Veal, meat loaf, Italian-style sausages, lamb or beef stews, roast lamb, duck with fruit sauce, fish like salmon and tuna, and dishes with mushrooms and berries are good matches. Hearty pasta dishes and pizza also pair well. For cheeses, try Parmesan, Gouda, cheddar, Monterey Jack or smoked provolone. Try it with pâtés or other charcuterie, pork or veal roasts, rich, cheesy gratins and even hamburgers.
  • Since fermentation is the converting of sugar in the grape into alcohol and CO2, then if you stop the process you’re going to get some residual sugar. This is usually done by chilling the must and filtering out the yeast. Most yeast can’t live in concentrations of alcohol much above 17%. The amount of alcohol in the wine is directly related to the amount of sugar in the grape. Sugars can be concentrated in an interesting variety of ways. Adding sugar (usually unfermented grape must) after fermentation is sort of like cheating. You can concentrate the sugar by drying the grape –either on the vine or in special drying areas, allowing the grapes to freeze on the vine or freezing the grape must artificially, and by allowing, when the weather is perfect for it, the Botrytus fungus to attack the grapes.
  • 2005 Philippe Delesvaux "Grains Nobles" Coteaux du Layon 500ml 98 points Wine Spectator: "Very lush and racy at the same time, this starts with creamy layers of mango and papaya before giving way to persimmon, fig paste and crème brûlée notes, all carried by well-embedded acidity. The superlong finish lets date, spice cake and green tea notes linger endlessly. Yet another classic for this amazing wine. Drink now through 2032." (11/07) Philippe Delesvaux, a Parisian, was not born into viticulture but came to the vine while working on his agricultural studies on a cereal farm in the Loire Valley in the early 1980s. By 1983 he had purchased some vineyards and was working out of a shed in Anjou producing some of the most concentrated botrytis wines the area had ever seen. His philosophy is simple, "A good wine cannot be made without good grapes. The wines are born of the grape, and nothing but the grape." To this end he works biodynamically in the vineyards and naturally in the cellar, using wild yeast fermentations to fully capture the essence of Anjou. The Selection de Grains Nobles is produced only from hand picked 100% botrytis Chenin Blanc from vines averaging 40 years of age planted to soils containing sedimentary rock, slate and coal. The genius of Delesvaux is his ability to produce extremely concentrated and soil expressive botrytis wines that are never cloying or too heavy, but are rejuvenating and light on their feet.
  • Many wine labels have good information besides the regulation stuff (producer, alcohol content, silly warnings) like how the wine was grown in the vineyard and made in the winery. Besides reading about wine or reading recommendations or specific wine descriptions, one of the best ways to get what you want is to develop a relationship with a wine expert. Where can you find a wine expert of your very own? At a good wine shop, usually not at the supermarket. There might be good wine there. In fact it can be fun finding a bottle of good wine among the junk but it is hard to find anyone who knows how to help you get what you like. I recommend finding a wine shop where you can communicate with the people there. Don’t be afraid to mention your budget; there are good wines in all price ranges. (But be wary of $2 wine because a bottle costs $12.00 per case for just the labels, corks, bottles, etc. Another really good way to learn about wines is to join a tasting group – or start your own.
  • Be careful of wine reviews. I always think it is sad when somebody religiously follows the opinions of one wine reviewer or another. I’m not saying don’t read them. But just keep your own ideas about what you like. There is no reason on Earth why you have to like a wine that somebody else says is good. I often have people coming up to me all concerned because they don’t like a wine that gets high scores in some popular wine review. There are all kinds of reasons why a wine can be considered good. You don’t have to like them all. Objective quality isn’t based on individual taste. One of the reasons for a class like this is to find out what things about a wine you like and to be able to express those things to get the wine you want. Also, by learning the “language” of wine you might be able to read a review and pick out a few key qualities that you know you like (or hate) irrespective of what the reviewer thinks of them.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Understanding the Classic Grape Varieties
    • 2. Rob’s Super-Classic Varieties
      • Chardonnay
      • Sauvignon Blanc (and Semillon)√
      • Riesling√
      • Pinot Noir
      • Cabernet Sauvignon (and Cabernet Franc)√
      • Syrah (and Grenache) √
      • Merlot
      • Chenin Blanc
      • Muscat
    • 3. What is “Terroir” ?
    • 4. New World Old World
      • Places colonized by European exploration in 15 th century
      • Modern viticultural practices - mechanization
      • Varietal wines
      • Fashion
      • More free to experiment
      • Worship the winemaker
      • Ready to drink
      • Europe and Middle East.
      • Traditional, labor-intensive, viticultural practices
      • Terroir, geography
      • Tradition
      • Appellation Controlee laws
      • Worship the soil / vineyard
      • More likely to improve with age
    • 5. Chenin Blanc
    • 6.  
    • 7. ANJOU / VOUVRAY
    • 8.  
    • 9. South Africa
    • 10. Chenin Blanc in California
      • Clarksburg
    • 11.  
    • 12.  
    • 13. Foods with Chenin
    • 14. Merlot
    • 15.  
    • 16. Italy
      • Friuli
      • Veneto
      • Alto Adige
      • Umbria
      • Tuscany
    • 17. California Merlot
      • Napa
      • Monterey
      • Sonoma
      • Mendocino
    • 18.  
    • 19. Washington Merlot
    • 20.  
    • 21. The Right Bank
    • 22.  
    • 23. Foods with merlot Why not?
    • 24. Dessert Wines How do you make a wine sweet?)
      • Arrest the fermentation
      • Concentrate the sugar in the grape
      • Add sugar after fermentation.
    • 25.  
    • 26. Wines we tasted today:
      • Domaine du Viking Vouvray Brut NV - $17.99
      • Ken Forrester Stellenbosh Chenin Blanc 2008
      • Domaine Georges Brunet Vouvray Demi-sec - $24.99
      • Provenance Vineyards Napa Merlot 2005 - $21.99
      • 'Ecole No 41 Columbia Valley Merlot - $34.99
      • Ch âteau Plince - $69.99
      • 2005 Philippe Delesvaux "Grains Nobles" Coteaux du Layon - $64.99 ( 500ml )
    • 27. How to get the wine you want?
      • Read the Label√
      • Read a Book or Magazine
      • Consult an Expert
      • Taste with friends
    • 28. Read a Book
      • Wine For Dummies
      • Introducing Wine: A Complete Guide for the Modern Wine, by Oz Clarke
      • Encyclopedia of Grapes, by Oz Clarke
      • The Oxford Companion to Wine, by Jancis Robinson
      • The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNiel
    • 29. Consult an Expert
      • Take a wine class √
      • Consult a Retail Wine Specialist
      • Consult a Restaurant Sommelier
      • De gustibus non est disputandum
    • 30. Taste With Friends
      • Have a wine tasting at home
      • Attend more wine classes (Wines of the World)
      • Visit wineries
    • 31. Next Week
      • Chardonnay
      • Pinot Noir
      • Muscat