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The Real Riesling | White Wines

January 22nd, 2009

That’s a very good tutorial video to those who still think that the Riesling wines are just some sweet wines, with poor quality. Actually, Riesling is one of the most important white grapes in the world. And in the regions of Alsace (France), Pfalz, Baden and other german areas, Austria, Switzerland, and now even from the Washington and Oregon states in USA, you will be able to find a very fresh, with a very nice acidity. That’s what makes the Riesling wines one of the best in the world in terms of pairing with food. Listen to what she says in the video and have a nice Riesling wine by yourself.

by Wink Lorch

Sometimes my self-imposed brief seems to be to collect obscure wine regions, preferably in or close to mountainous areas. Hence, my acceptance of an invitation to a Clairette de Die (pronounced ‘Dee’) harvest festival.

This was the ideal focus for an exploration of the Diois (pronounced ‘Deewah’) area of the Drôme department, which lies just south of the stunning Col de Rousset pass, generally considered to be the north-south dividing point of the French Alps. To the north, the vegetation is typically continental with mountain spruce, larches and alpine cows; to the south it changes towards Mediterranean, with umbrella pines, ‘garrigue’ scrubland and hundreds of sheep.

In wine terms, the Die area is included in the Rhône Valley region (though it doesn’t fit into either north or south categories); the town of Die is 50km (30 miles) southeast of Valence and the vineyards follow the Drôme River, a tributary of the Rhône. The vineyards are some of the highest in France (higher than most in Savoie for example), lying between 400 and 700 metres with a climate that is a cross between semi-continental and semi-Mediterranean.
Clairette de Die
There are different versions of how the semi-sweet, delicate sparkling Clairette de Die got its name. Strangely it is not named after the Clairette grape even though it’s grown there. Sparkling wine had been made in this area for centuries, even in the days of Pliny, when Muscat was mentioned as grown here; however, it was most widely enjoyed in the late 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, in the closest large towns of Lyon and Grenoble, the fizzy wine from Die was still sold in bars directly from a barrel - a little like Vin Bourru, the part fermented wine which is sold just after harvest all over France. Needless to say, it was cloudy with the yeast in suspension, but gradually it would clear leaving the deposit behind - so the name derived from this phenomenon of ‘clearing’ or ‘clairette’.

The main grape grown is Muscat à Petit Grains (shown left) which for AOC Clairette de Die must be at least 75% of the blend, with the balance being Clairette, better known further south in the Rhône. Some of the best Clairette de Die is made with 100% Muscat. Clairette is an acidic grape used in particular here for the dry sparkling wines, previously Clairette de Die Brut but now, with stricter production controls, Crémant de Die, in which recent changes to the law state that small quantities of both Muscat and Aligoté must also be included.The area also makes a little still wine, the best from the appellation Châtillon-en-Diois, named after a village at higher altitude than Die - these are dry, fresh whites from Chardonnay and Aligoté, and light reds/rosés from Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Search: http://www.wine-pages.com/guests/wink/die.htm

It seems that the years running up to the Exposition Universelle de Paris in 1855 were indeed busy for the merchants of Bordeaux. That they were charged with drawing up a new classification of the red wines of the Médoc, in order to facilitate showing the wines at the exhibition, is well known. It is easy to forget, however, that the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac were classified along with their red counterparts.

As with the wines of the Médoc, the sweet wines were classified according to market value. It is not surprising that the Bordeaux négociants already had firmly established league tables, based largely on price (and therefore quality), and this knowledge formed the basis for this particular Bordeaux classification.

The system is less complicated than the Médoc classification, with essentially just two tiers, although within the higher ranking Yquem is accorded special recognition with its rating as Premier Cru Supérieur, an accolade unmatched by any wine from the Médoc. Below this level come the remaining 25 properties, and they range right across the quality spectrum, from the frequently delicious - such as Rieussec, Coutet and Climens - to the rarely seen, which obviously produce wines on which I am unable to comment. Here I am thinking of estates such as Caillou, Myrat and Suau, to name three examples, all second growth properties that should perhaps have a somewhat higher profile.

Chateau d’Yquem

With all such classifications the first question usually trotted out is relevance. What does this classification mean to us today? In quite straightforward terms I would argue none at all, and I would suggest that those who proffer a newly revised classification simply suffer from a lack of imagination. This is an item of historical interest, nothing more. The wines were classified to inform visitors to an exhibition, more than 150 years ago, as to which wines should impress them most, assuming those that cost the most also tasted the best. Today, the world is populated by a very different body of consumers, and to be frank very few of these consumers have any interest in Bordeaux, never mind the communes of Sauternes of Barsac, at all. Those that do, however, buy on tasting experience, track record and critical review, and for the latter they usually pay a handsome subscription fee. It may be that many of the high ranking properties continue to dominate the trade, that the premier cru estates on the whole tend to be better known, and tend to make better wines, than those ranked as deuxième cru. But this is not an unchallengeable assertion; there are a number of wines that frequently disappoint, as well as some that punch well above their weight - their weight in 1855, that is. It is these properties that show classifications such as this to be nothing more than an historical curiosity that we should all summarily acknowledge, and then summarily ignore, before moving on to taste and explore the wines of the region for ourselves. (30/11/07)

Source: http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/bordeauxclassificationssauternes.shtml

Picpoul Blanc | White Wines

June 25th, 2008

Picpoul Blanc White Grape Picpoul Blanc (also spelled Piquepoul Blanc) is one of the lesser-known Rhône varietals, but one that we think has a tremendous future in California. It is one of the thirteen permitted varietals in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where it is used primarily as a blending component to take advantage of its acidity. Like the better known Grenache and Pinot, Picpoul has red, white and pink variants, though Picpoul Noir and Picpoul Gris are very rare. Literally translating to “lip stinger”, Picpoul Blanc produces wines known in France for their bright acidity, minerality, and clean lemony flavor.

Picpoul in France

Most scholars believe Picpoul is native to the Languedoc region of Southern France, where it is still found today. Records from the early 17th century indicate that it was blended with Clairette (another white Rhône varietal) to form the popular sweet Picardan wine (not to be confused with the Chateauneuf du Pape varietal of the same name) which was exported by Dutch wine traders from Languedoc throughout Northern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the phylloxera invasion at the end of the 19th century, Picpoul was not widely replanted. Today it is best known from Picpoul de Pinet, the crisp light green wine of the Pinet Region in the Côteaux de Languedoc.

Picpoul at Tablas Creek

We did not import Picpoul with our initial eight varieties. After the original eight were established in the vineyard, we decided that the consistent sun and long growing season at Tablas Creek might allow varietals that in France are lean and high in acidity to show character impossible elsewhere. Picpoul, with its reputation for sharp acidity, was the first of these high-acid whites that we brought into quarantine, and was in fact the first supplemental varietal we brought in of any sort. It was released from quarantine in 1998, and we spent the next two years propagating and grafting it. We planted approximately one acre of Picpoul in 2000, and received our first significant harvest in 2003. It has been such a success that we plan to triple our acreage in the next few years.

In the vineyard, Picpoul is not a difficult varietal to grow. It pushes early, making it somewhat susceptible to frost, but ripens relatively late. In the past two years, Picpoul was the last white varietal to be brought in, just before Mourvèdre (the last red of the season) at the end of October. In the winery, we ferment it in neutral barrels to complement the grape’s brightness with a bit of roundness.

When we first bottled Picpoul, it was necessary to petition the Tax and Trade Bureau to recognize the varietal, a process we had undergone with several other varietals, including Grenache Blanc, Counoise and Tannat. We amassed literature on Picpoul to demonstrate that it was a recognized varietal in other countries, and compiled descriptions of its characteristics to satisfy the TTB’s requirement that it have distinct value as a wine grape in the United States. In February of 2004, our petition was formally approved.

Aromas and Flavors

We have found that, in California, Picpoul maintains its bright acidity, but also develops an appealing tropical lushness. It is quite rich in the mouth, with an exceptionally long finish. When we have enough fruit, we bottle Picpoul Blanc as a single varietal, and the wine shows a rich nose of pear, pineapple and spice. In the mouth, buttery flavors of pineapple and orange are balanced by crisp acids, and the long, rich finish shows flavors of piña colada.

Beginning in 2004, we have included Picpoul Blanc in our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, where it lifts the aromatics of the wine in much the same way Viognier might, and its bright acids and pronounced minerality highlight the richness of the Roussanne and Grenache Blanc.

Whereas in previous vintages Viognier had played the role of lifting the aromatic profile, including Picpoul instead in the Esprit Blanc means that the wine includes only grapes approved for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (Viognier, while a Rhône varietal, is not permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape). The 2004 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc was included in the Fall 2005 VINsider shipment, and will be released nationwide in early 2006.

Source: http://www.tablascreek.com/picpoul.html

Roussanne | White Wines

June 24th, 2008

Roussane White Grape
Roussanne, with its honeyed richness and excellent longevity, forms the backbone of our Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. In addition, it makes a tremendous single varietal wine, as in our varietal Roussanne that debuted in 2002. The varietal takes its name from “roux”, the French word for “russet” – an apt description of the grapes’ reddish gold skins at harvest.

Roussanne in France

Although no one is precisely sure where Roussanne originated, it seems likely the varietal is native to the Rhône Valley and to the Isere Valley in eastern France. The varietal has not ventured far from its origin; most of the world’s Roussanne is grown throughout the Rhône, where it is traditionally used as a blending grape. In the Southern Rhône, Roussanne is one of four white grape varietals permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and it is often blended with Grenache Blanc, whose richness and crisp acids highlight Roussanne’s pear and honey flavors. In the Northern Rhône, Roussanne is frequently blended with Marsanne in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph to provide acidity, minerality and richness. As a single varietal wine, it reaches its pinnacle as the sole component of Château de Beaucastel’s Roussanne Vieille Vignes.

Roussanne is also found the Savoie region of France (where it is known as Bergeron), and in limited quantities in Australia and Italy. In the United States, Roussanne is planted in the Central Coast and Sonoma regions of California, as well as in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.

Roussanne in California

In the 1980s, pioneering American growers attempted to import Roussanne into the United States by taking cuttings from the Rhône Valley. Those cuttings were propagated and planted in vineyards all over California, and many wines from those cuttings garnered critical acclaim. Years later, in 1998, DNA tests identified those vines as Viognier – a discovery which led to significant confusion, relabeling, and several lawsuits. We avoided this confusion by importing all of our vine cuttings directly from Château de Beaucastel; the Roussanne and Viognier propagated in the Tablas Creek Nursery are certified clones, tested by the USDA and declared virus-free. We have have more information on the Roussanne-Viognier Controversy.

Around the same time we brought in the Beaucastel clones, John Alban imported Roussanne to plant in his Central Coast vineyards. Those clones were also true Roussanne, and virtually all of the 177 acres of Roussanne currently planted in California are descendants of the clones brought in by Alban and by Tablas Creek.

Roussanne at Tablas Creek

Roussanne has a reputation as a difficult varietal to grow, and as such is often passed over in favor of the more cooperative Marsanne. In its native France, plantings had almost disappeared until superior clones were developed towards the end of the twentieth century. Roussanne grapes are susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, and the vine is a shy producer even under ideal conditions. Of the four primary white Rhône varietals that we grow at Tablas Creek, Roussanne is generally the latest-ripening.

The vines are particularly responsive to sunlight, and grape bunches on the western side of the vine tend to ripen more quickly than bunches on the eastern side. To combat this tendency, we aggressively thin the leaves to expose more bunches to sunlight and harvest the grapes in multiple passes. Bunches on the western side are picked first, leaving the eastern ones more time to ripen. Sixteen acres of our vineyard are devoted to Roussanne, representing over half of our white Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties and almost ten percent of the Roussanne planted in California.

Flavors and Aromas

Wines made from Roussanne are rich and complex, with distinct honey, floral and apricot flavors. At Tablas Creek, we ferment and age about half of our Roussanne in one- to five-year-old French oak, which provides a structured richness and enhances the flavors of honeyed peach and apricot fruit. Unlike most white wines, Roussanne ages very well due to its unusual combination of richness and crisp acids; Château de Beaucastel’s Roussanne Vieille Vignes wines can be enjoyed up to 15 years or more after bottling.

Roussanne is gaining popularity as a single varietal, especially among producers on the Central Coast. After a wine-club-only bottling of two barrels in 2001, we have begun producing a single-varietal Roussanne made from grapes that we feel are particularly characteristic of the varietal. The single-varietal bottling provides a nice counterpoint to the terroir-characteristic grapes we use in our Roussanne-based Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc.

Source:http://www.tablascreek.com/roussanne.html

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