The Super-Classic Grape Varieties
Week 3 Notes
Rob’s Super-Classic Varieties
Today Chenin Blanc and Merlot
Terroir is a French term that comes up frequently in these seminars.
Here is an explanation before we go any further:
The French approach to food, and in particular to wine, cannot be
understood without first having an understanding of "terroir". A
dictionary will simply translate the word "terroir" as "land". It is much
more than that. The central ideas behind terroir are,
1. Each area has unique characteristics which exist in combinations
found only in that area. These can be physical characteristics (such
as soil acidity and mineral content, geography, climate…), but may
also be traditions (e.g. the tradition of producing a particular cheese
in a particular way).
2. As each area has unique characteristics, the products traditionally
produced in a given area are unique to that area.
3. This uniqueness is central to the quality and enjoyment of food and
wine, and it should be protected and preserved.
Terroir can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place," or the
effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the
Old World / New World
Here’s another term I’ve been using during these seminars:
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 also Asian wines
that could be called “New World.”
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 the New World are
considered “international”: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc,
Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay – but these varieties were, of course,
made famous in Old World vineyards. Mechanization was first
developed in New World 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 Old World 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
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 have 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
underripe grapes are made into popular sparkling wines such as
Crémant de Vouvray. 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
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.
In Anjou there are records of Chenin Blanc in the ninth century. It
then migrated to the Loire valley and later the Rhône. It was first
mentioned in 845 the records of the abbey of Glanfeuil as growing on
the left bank of the Loire river. Chenin Blanc probably originated as a
mutant of the Pineau d'Aunis (Chenin Noir) in Anjou. 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. 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.
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 1999, DNA
profiling conducted by a ampelographers in Austria suggested that
Chenin blanc may be a parent of Sauvignon blanc, which would make
it one of the more ancient grapes we are looking at in this seminar.
Chenin Blanc in the World
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 ferment their whites at
temperatures around 50-54°F (10-12°C). This is because Old World
wine producers 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. 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.
Anjou and Vouvray
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
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.
Domaine du Viking Vouvray Brut NV
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
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
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.
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
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,
but 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.
Ken Forrester Stellenbosch 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. Thos vineyard is 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 grapes are grown in trellised
vineyards on 45 yr old bush vines.
Chenin Blanc grapes are hand harvested with careful selection. Then
barrel and tank fermented and left on the lees for 9 months in French
The wine is full bodied and well rounded with a complex structure.
Flavors burst with dried apricots, pineapple and a hint of vanilla on
the long lasting finish.
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
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
25% affected by botrytis
Fermented in stainless steel
The wine has a yellow-straw color, sweet honey, apricot nose and
great balance of fruit, acidity and minerals.
Food pairings with Chenin Blanc
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, crisper minerally Chenin could enhance grilled or fried seafood,
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
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, which are not so common.
Merlot became important to American drinkers after the TV 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 right bank of the Dordogne River and east of the
Gironde Estuary and bordering Pomerol, home of Chateau Petrús,
oft-cited as the world’s most expensive red wine which is almost
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 a common description. Merlot is also
described as smooth and soft, with flavors of black and red berry
fruits, or with spice flavors like cinnamon and cloves, as well as
tobacco, licorice and toasted nuts. In too-warm climates it can be like
stewed fruit, not warm enough and it can be too minty and
One thing is certain: Merlot is perfect blend-mate for Cabernet
Sauvignon. It softens and fills out the angular flavors of Cabernet
Sauvignon. It ripens when sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon won’t.
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 in the World
Merlot may be native to Bordeaux but wasn’t mentioned there before
the 18th century. Merlot has been in Italy just as long; it was first
recorded in Veneto in 1855.
Merlot does well around the world and is a better bet than Cabernet
Sauvignon in vineyards where 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 4th largest producer of Merlot. They’re growing it in
cool sites that wouldn’t make good Cabernet, like Carneros and
Look for some of the greatest American Merlot from Washington
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.
Merlot in Italy
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.
Merlot in California
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. 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.
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
Ageability:5 years or more
This 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.
Winemakers Chris Cooney and Rinaldi chose Merlot from two sub-
appellations 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. The vines
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
“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
Merlot in Washington
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.
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
'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
The wine is 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.
Bordeaux’s Right Bank
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 Universal Exposition of Paris in 1855 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 of First Growths 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. Château that
earned a listing way back then still show it on the label and they still
get some credit for it. But today un-classified wines are just as good
as or better than the “great growths,” and their prices can show it.
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. Émilion) and the wines from this area
often contain 80% or more of that variety. Merlots from Pomerol are
soft, full of fruit and rich in flavor. Even though the Merlot grape
produces wonderful wines in 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 quantities 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.
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.
Located at the exit east of Libourne, the property of Château Plince is
close to Château Nénin and opposite Château La Pointe. Its total
surface is more than 10 hectares, of which 8,66 hectares are planted
in vine. The vineyard is of only one holding and is located on a
ground of dark sand largely provided in "iron" which contributes to the
richness of the wine.
GRAPE VARIETY: 72% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet
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)
Pairing Merlot with Food
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
How do you make a wine sweet?
Just a reminder, to make a sweet wine you either have to arrest the
fermentation, concentrate the sugar in the grape, or add sugar after
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. 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. Adding sugar (usually unfermented grape must)
after fermentation is another way to make a wine sweet.
2005 Philippe Delesvaux "Grains Nobles" Coteaux du Layon
Coteaux du Layon is situated in the Anjou district of the Loire region,
along the river Layon, which is a tributary of the Loire River.
The wines of Coteaux du Layon are all made from Chenin Blanc,
locally often called Pineau de la Loire. Often, the grapes are
harvested when they are affected by noble rot, but can also be very
ripe or have sun-dried on the vine, so-called passerillé grapes. While
Coteaux du Layon wines are never dry, the level of sweetness varies.
Simpler wines from the basic appellation could best be described as
semi-sweet, while some producers – nicknamed "sugar hunters" –
produce very sweet wines with an intense botrytis character similar to
a Trockenbeerenauslese. Some, but not all of these very sweet wines
are labeled Sélection de Grains Nobles.
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
This wine gets 98 points from The 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)
Wines we tasted today:
Domaine du Viking Vouvray Brut NV - $١٧.٩٩
Ken Forrester Stellenbosh Chenin Blanc ٢٠٠٨
Domaine Georges Brunet Vouvray Demi-sec - $٢٤.٩٩
Provenance Vineyards Napa Merlot ٢١.٩٩$ - ٢٠٠٥
'Ecole No ٤١ Columbia Valley Merlot - $٣٤.٩٩
Château Plince - $٦٩.٩٩
٢٠٠٥ Philippe Delesvaux "Grains Nobles" Coteaux du Layon - $٦
Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas
and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave his now famous Agriculture
Course in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. The principles and practices of
biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which
includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing
ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-
spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive,
interconnected living system.
How to get the wine you want?
Last week we might have touched on wine labels. Here are some
other things that can help you get the wine you want.
Read a Book
Here are some books I recommend:
• Introducing Wine: A Complete Guide for the Modern Wine, by
• Encyclopedia of Grapes, by Oz Clarke
• The Oxford Companion to Wine, by Jancis Robinson
• The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNiel
If you are a dummy maybe you would like Wines for Dummies.
Consult and Expert
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
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.
Taste With Friends
• Have a wine tasting at home.
One way to do this is to have everybody bring a wine in a brown
paper sack. All the wines should follow some kind of theme, like a
grape variety or wines from a certain place. In any case the wines
should be alike, somehow. The wines are poured so that nobody
knows which wine is which. The bags are numbered. The group
tastes all the wines and discusses them before taking them out of
the bags and revealing their identities. One tasting group I heard
about takes place at a restaurant and the person who brings the
worst wine has to pay for the dinner.
• Attend more wine classes (Wines of the World next semester at
• Visit wineries. Try to get a tour of the production area and even
the vineyard if possible.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Muscat