Wine Regions

Wine Regions

Chile

Chile has a long viticultural history for a New World wine region dating to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. In the mid-19th century, French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Cabernet Franc were introduced. In the early 1980s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005 and now over 90 (2014). Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. So far Chile has remained free of phylloxera louse which means that the country's grapevines do not need to be grafted.

Grape varieties

Merlot & Sauvignon blanc

In the late 20th century as Chilean wines became more popular, wine tasters around the world began to doubt the authenticity of wines labeled Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. The wines lack many of the characteristics and typicity of those grapes. Ampelographers began to study the vines and found that what was considered Merlot was actually the ancient Bordeaux grape Carménère that was thought to be extinct. The Sauvignon blanc vines were found to actually be Sauvignonasse, also known as Sauvignon vert, or a mutated Sauvignon blanc/Sémillon cross. In response to these discoveries several Chilean wineries began to import true Merlot and Sauvignon blanc cuttings. Most bottles labeled Merlot and Sauvignon blanc from vintages in the 21st century are more likely to be those varieties.

Others

Over twenty grape varieties are grown in Chile, mainly a mixture of Spanish and French varieties, but many wineries are increasing experimentation in higher numbers. For most of Chile's history, Pais was the most widely planted grape only recently getting passed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red wine varieties include Merlot, Carménère, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignan. White wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Riesling, Viognier, Pedro Ximenez, Gewürztraminer and Muscat.

 

Wine Style

Chilean winemakers have been developing a distinct style for their Cabernet Sauvignon, producing an easy drinking wine with soft tannins and flavors of mint, black currant, olives and smoke. The country's Chardonnays are less distinctive, following more the stereotypical New World style. While sparkling wines have been made since 1879, they have not yet established a significant place in Chile's wine portfolio. In recent years, the Pais grape variety has been creatively employed on its own or in blends, to make modern wines that have received favorable reviews.

Viticulture

Many of Chile's vineyards are found on flat land within the foothills of the Andes.

Chile's natural boundaries (Pacific Ocean, Andes Mountains, Atacama Desert to the north and Antarctica to the south) has left it relatively isolated from other parts of the world and has served to be beneficial in keeping the phylloxera louse at bay. Because of this many Chilean vineyards do not have to graft their rootstock and incur that added cost of planting. Chilean wineries have stated that this "purity" of their vines is a positive element that can be tasted in the wine but most wine experts agree that the most apparent benefit is the financial aspect. The one wine region that is the exception to this freedom from grafting is Casablanca Valley whose vines are susceptible to attack by nematodes. While phylloxera is not a problem, winemakers do have to worry about other grape diseases and hazards such as downy mildew, which was spread easily by El Niño influences and severely affected the 1997-1998 vintages. Powdery mildew and verticillium wilt can also cause trouble.

There is not much vintage variation due to the reliability of favorable weather with little risk of summer time frost or harvest time rains. The main exception, again, is Casablanca due in part to its closer proximately to the Pacific. For the Chilean wine regions in the Valle Central, the Andes and Coastal Ranges create a rain shadow effect which traps the warm arid air in the region. At night, cool air comes into the area from the Andes which dramatically drops the temperature. This help maintain high levels of acidity to go with the ripe fruit that grapes develop with the long hours of uninterrupted sunshine that they get during the day. The result is a unique profile of flavonoids in the wine which some Chilean wineries claim make Chilean wines higher in resveratrol and antioxidants. Harvest typically begins at the end of February for varieties like Chardonnay with some red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon being picked in April and Carmenère sometimes staying on the vine into May.


Bordeaux - selected notes

The Bordeaux wine-producing area lies in the Aquitaine region of south-west France and remains the centre of the fine wine world. All its vineyards lie within the département of the Gironde. This vast region of 120,000ha of vineyards (four times the size of Burgundy) is home to 10,000 wine producers and 57 different appellation contrôlées The largest producer of AOC wine in France, representing 1.5% of the world's total vineyard area. Red wine, with minimal amount of rosé, accounts for 88% of production.

The vineyards of the Bordeaux region lie around the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers with the Gironde Estuary.  These waters exert a significant influence on both the climate and the soil structures of each sub-region in the appellation, by virtue of their sedimentary deposits.  Those vineyards lying to the west of the Garonne and Gironde are deemed to be wines of the Left Bank, those to the east, Right Bank.

Bordeaux lies on the 45th parallel, in south-west France, close to the Atlantic Ocean, warmed by the Gulf Stream, and enjoys a mostly mild, maritime climate.  This usually protects the vineyards from freezing winters although spring frosts remain an anxiety.  A normal spring will be warm and damp, but the region's proximity to the Atlantic means that weather can be unpredictable, especially during the crucial flowering period in June.

Summers are hot, often with thunderstorms in August but the pine forests of the Landais to the west of the region help to moderate temperatures and protect the vineyards from the strong, prevailing winds off the Bay of Biscay.  Harvest is from early September to the middle of October, depending on the grape variety and the conditions of the year and, as autumn approaches, rain during that period is a constant threat.

 

The Bordeaux region in France is unique in its wine laws, which have evolved for centuries – making it the most classified wine region of the world. The most famous classification is the one which came into being in 1855 and was subsequently known as the 'Classed Growths', taking in Médoc, one wine from Graves and the sweet wines of Sauternes-Barsac. According to this, the châteaux or estates were classified into five tiers based on the relative quality of their wines as expressed by the prices at that time.

Some other notable classifications within the region are those of the 1955 Official Classification of Saint-Émilion, re-classified in 2012, the 1959 Official Classification of Graves and the  Cru Bourgeois classification, which has been the subject of many amendments.

 

Bordeaux Trade Structure

 

Bordeaux has 10,000 wine producers, 53 co-operatives, 130 brokers and 400 négociants.  It is estimated that one person in six of the Gironde's working population is involved in the trade.  Not all wine producers own châteaux, of which there are approximately 5,000 across all the regions of Bordeaux.  Through its reliance on courtiers and négociants (known generically as "la place"), its way of working is unique in the wine business.

Producers account for an average of 850 million bottles each year.  Of these 60% make wines on their own properties (75% of all wine produced).  The balance is processed and marketed by the region's co-operatives.

Co-operatives work in an essentially technical capacity for their members, offering vinification, blending and packaging facilities.

The rôle of the broker ("courtier") is to work as an intermediary between the producers and the négociants, matching supply and demand, advising and conciliating between the two parties.  Brokers work as guarantors to the supply contracts and monitor the quality of the wine through its period of maturation, ensuring that the finished product corresponds to the buying samples.  They are paid by commission ("courtage"), normally set at 2% and paid by the buyer.

A négociant is a merchant house, selling wines made at estates or commercial brands.  The latter is sourced from producers or co-operatives, usually as wine, and matured by the négociant before blending, bottling and sale.  One that undertakes that process is known as a "négociant-éléveur". Although there are almost 400 registered négociants, nearly 90% of the profession's business is accounted for by about 25 firms.  The sector is responsible for selling 75% of all Bordeaux's production to more than 160 different countries

 

Historical perspectives


The vine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-1st century, to provide wine for local consumption, and wine production has been continuous in the region since then.

 

In the 12th century, the popularity of Bordeaux wines in England increased dramatically following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The marriage made the province of Aquitaine English territory, and thenceforth the majority of Bordeaux was exported. At this time, Graves was the principal wine region of Bordeaux, and the principal style was clairet. This accounts for the ubiquity of claret in England. The export of Bordeaux was interrupted by the outbreak of The Hundred Years' War between France and England in 1337. By the end of the conflict in 1453 France had repossessed the province, thus taking control of wine production in the region.

In the seventeenth century, Dutch traders drained the swampy ground of the Médoc in order that it could be planted with vines, and this gradually surpassed Graves as the most prestigious region of Bordeaux. Malbec was dominant grape here, until the early 19th century, when it was replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 1855, the some of the châteaux of Bordeaux were classified; this classification remains widely used today.

From 1875-1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were ruined by Phylloxera infestations. The region's wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock and all Bordeaux vines that survive to this day are a product of this action. This is not to say that all contemporary Bordeaux wines are American wines, as rootstock does not affect the production of grapes.


English Vineyards

The re-birth of English wines since the 1950's is gathering momentum and there are now some exceptional wines produced in England - particularly regarding sparkling wines. This article has some general information about English wines, together with some examples of good vineyards - wines tasted at the AWS event in September 2013.

History

It is generally agreed that the Romans introduced the vine to Britain. It has also been inferred that the climate in Britain at that time was warmer. At the end of the first century AD, however, the writer Tacitus declared that our climate was “objectionable”, and not at all suitable for growing vines, which could suggest that someone had at least tried to establish vines, even if they had been unsuccessful.

The Dark Ages followed the Romans. Invasions by the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons destroyed much of the limited civilisation that the Romans had established during their 300 years of occupation. These warring tribes neither had the time nor the inclination to settle down and set up vineyards, and whatever vineyards there had been undoubtedly became neglected.

spread of Christianity in the sixth century to the south and east of the county, old skills were revived and there is some evidence that vineyards were established. However, trade with mainland Europe also increased, including that in wine, which is well documented, and vinegrowing in this country would therefore have been limited.

The Viking invasion in the late eighth century destroyed many monasteries and with that once again vinegrowing and winemaking skills were lost.

King Alfred, who defeated the Danes in the late ninth century, helped re-establish the Christian religion, and in doing so, undoubtedly encouraged the revival of viticulture. By the 10th century, vineyards did exist and wine was made.

1066 marked the start of an era of viticultural activity that would not be matched until the current revival which began some 900 years later. With William the Conqueror came French Abbots and their monks who were experienced in winegrowing, along with soldiers and courtiers for whom wine was a daily requirement

The middle ages through to the 20th century

This long 600 year period marks change and gradual decline in English viticulture.

Although the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 is often cited as being the single event that destroyed winegrowing and winemaking in England, it would appear that by this time, many monasteries had given up. The new landowners who had been handed these religious assets, proved reluctant to indulge in viticulture.

It is also said that the British climate underwent some change at this time, becoming generally wetter, with cooler summers and milder winters, leading to less ripe grapes and more fungal diseases, both of which would have been disincentives to profitable winemaking.

Wine had been coming into the country from Bordeaux since Henry II (1154–89) became King of England. Transport conditions and speeds improved and the importation of wine (and other goods) became cheaper. Also, as techniques of preserving wine for long journeys improved, imported wines arrived in better condition. Home produced wines faced, as they do today, considerable competition from imported wines.

From the mid-1300s, Great Britain became renowned for its expertise in selecting, importing, bottling and cellaring wine and much of the finest wine came into ports like London, Bristol and Leith. Wines such as Claret, Port, Madeira, Sherry, Hock and Mosel were, if not invented, then refined, nurtured and made more famous by their association with Britain.

The Revival

The revival had to wait for the arrival of pioneers who wanted to disprove the theory that wine could not be made from grapes grown outside in our climate. A combination of new varieties, more suitable growing techniques, better disease control and an acceptance by the public of the style of wines that those varieties produced, were the key elements in that revival

Müller-Thurgau was planted, amongst other varieties. In later years, Ward became instrumental in introducing varieties such as Reichensteiner, Huxelrebe and Schönburger to the UK.

The last 20 years has seen a marked change in wine styles and types sold in the UK.

English and Welsh wines have reflected these changes in the market, and today very few growers bottle in tall German-style Hock and Mosel bottles, preferring to use the Burgundy and Bordeaux (in green or clear) bottles. Many growers also refrain from using the Germanic sounding varietal names such as Müller-Thurgau, Reichensteiner, Huxelrebe etc. and will now give their wines more descriptive names (Surrey Gold, Stanlake Park)

Statistics

Key Facts (based on 2011 data)

Number of Vineyards:

419

Average Size of Vineyard:

3.3 Hectares

Annual Production:

3.02m bottles

Total Hectarage under vine:

1,384 Hectares

Number of Wineries:

124

The growth of English wine has had its ups and downs. Plantings accelerated in the last decade, helped by the growing success of English sparkling wines, led by Nyetimber. In 2004 a panel judging European sparkling wines awarded most of the top ten positions to English wines – the remaining positions going to French Champagnes. Similar results have encouraged an explosion of sparkling wine plantings. English still wines too have begun to pick up awards at most big wine competitions, notably Decanter, and the IWSC.

Winemaking has spread from the South East and South West and also to the Midlands and the north of England

21st century

Significant plantings have been happening across the south of the country with a number of farmers contract growing vines for some of the major English producers. Farmers are looking at the potential benefits of growing vines as the return per tonne for grapes over more traditional crops are not to be ignored. A field of wheat might yield 3 tonnes per acre at around £120 per tonne. Growing grapes could yield 3 to 4 tonnes per acre at around £950 to £1100 per tonne. One concern is that growers need to invest money for no initial return, as crops tend to come in the third or fourth year. Another concern is that grape production in the climate is highly variable: "In England, it is only in about 2 years in every 10 that grape production will be really good, 4 years will be average and 4 years poor or terrible – largely due to weather and/or disease exacerbated by weather." However English vineyards share in common European weather patterns so 2006 was a bumper year, 2007 saw ripe grapes but low volumes, 2008 was very poor, but both 2009 and 2010 were good year Total British cereal production is not so variable.

English wine was given added prestige when HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became the new President of The United Kingdom Vineyards Association on 25 July 2011.

And in June 2012 there was also a boost for English wine during the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

PDO, Protected Denomination of Origin is the top category official category of wine in the UK. PGI, Protected Geographical Indication, is next and then varietal wine. PDO & PGI wines must have a full post bottling analysis and pass a tasting panel (or win an award at a recognised competition). These are established via the UK Vineyards Association (UKVA) and The UK Government's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

English sparkling wines are made from grapes grown close to the limit for viticulture. All vineyards are positioned at above 49.9 degrees north leading to long daylight hours in the growing season. The climate is temperate with few summer days above 30 °C. The diurnal temperature range is high.

These wines are made from the classic sparkling wine grape varieties. In England these varieties reach full phenolic ripeness at moderate sugar levels and with high acid levels. Wines from this PDO are made entirely from must containing only natural acid. These wines exhibit stronger aromatic flavours of the underlying grape varieties than wines from the same varieties grown at warmer latitudes.

The northerly latitude of the vineyards in this PDO creates the long growing season and long daylight hours that are key to the development of strong aromatic flavours. The moderate temperatures lead to the high acidity and low pH which is the backbone of fine sparkling wines.

English sparkling wines are made from the following vine varieties: (a) Chardonnay (b) Pinot noir (c) Pinot Précoce (d) Pinot Meunier (e) Pinot blanc (f) Pinot gris

Where the conditions for the use of the terms "bottle-fermented", "traditional method" or "bottle fermented by the traditional method" have been met, the term "Traditional" can be used on the label.


Fronsac

A favourite area of the Chairman amongst the lesser known regions of Bordeaux. Fronsac makes easy drinking reds in the St Emilion style, which is adjacent to the region. The grape varieties are the normal Bordeaux red mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a dominance of Merlot.

A favourite area of the Chairman amongst the lesser known regions of Bordeaux.

Fronsac makes easy drinking reds in the St Emilion style, which is adjacent to the region.
The grape varieties are the normal Bordeaux red mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
and Merlot, with a dominance of Merlot.

Some wines have oak used in production, but normally it is used lightly, using second
year barrels and with only 30-40% of the wine being oaked, which is then later blended with the rest
which is matured in stainless steel vats or resin-lined cement tanks. A few of the top wines use new oak                             

but this is relatively rare in this region.

The oaked wines do not always work well, with the oak not being integrated and hiding the fruit
character. The better wines have great concentration of plummy fruit, with medium length and medium body.

Although these wines can be drunk young, 2 to 3 years maturing is probably the minimum.In good vintages,
the wines drink well for 6 years or so, with the top wines being good for 10 years.

There are two appellations - Fronsac and the slightly better Canon Fronsac. The soils over-lye Sandstone and Limestone,
with the vineyards planted on the higher ground stretching up from the Dordogne river.

The wines from Fronsac are undervalued and worth seeking out as a less expensive type of St Emilion for
'everyday' drinking.
http://www.vins-fronsac.com


Prosecco

Normally thought-of as a wine type, since the beginning of 2010, it is now a ‘geographical indication’ according to Italian law (confirmed by EG-Regulation Nr. 1166/2009 of 30 November 2009). The grape variety used is the Glera grape – often previously called the prosecco grape.

Normally thought-of as a wine type, since the beginning of 2010, it is now a ‘geographical indication’ according to Italian law (confirmed by EC-Regulation Nr. 1166/2009 of 30 November 2009). The grape variety used is the Glera grape – often previously called the prosecco grape.

 

The best wines are undoubtedly from the Valdobbiadene area and Conegliano and have DOCG status. The Prosecco region is in the North of Italy, with the best vineyards in the hills around Treviso and down towards the lakes.

 

Prosecco is usually produced using the Charmat method (see topics under Vinification). The secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks rather than in bottle, which considerably reduces production costs. There are, however, some wines which are bottle fermented (Metodo Classico).

 

Until the 1960’s Prosecco was generally rather sweet and of poor quality, but production techniques have improved, leading to the good quality wines now available.

 

The best wines are normally Brut, which are the driest. The Extra-Dry wines are in fact slightly sweeter than the Brut, but some can be good drinking wines.

 

Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually

 

On the Label, Look out for Prosecco from Valdobbiadene which is Brut – and if possible Metodo Classico


Ribera del Duero DO

In the last 30 years Ribera del Duero has emerged from almost nowhere to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia (arguably one of the most prestigious wines of Spain) it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality like Pesquera, Alion and Condado de Haza.

In the last 30 years Ribera del Duero has emerged from almost nowhere to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia (arguably one of the most prestigious wines of Spain) it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality like Pesquera, Alion and Condado de Haza.  Ribera del Duero was granted its DO in 1982 at a time when only nine bodegas were operating. Today it has over 170 wineries and over 18,000 ha of vines. Most of Ribera del Duero's production is red, with only a modest quantity of rosado produced. No white wines are allowed under the DO.

Vega Sicilia was established in the western part of Ribera del Duero in 1864, but although that bodega has been long established as Spain's perhaps most notable winery, up until the 1970s the rest of the region did not receive much attention. Most of the other wine production at that time consisted of simple rosado wines from Garnacha produced in the eastern parts of the region. This started to change when Alejendro Fernandez founded his bodega Pesquera and started to make red wines from Tempranillo in a more concentrated, full-bodied and fruit-driven style than most Rioja wines of the day, which were then virtually the only Spanish red wines found on export markets. Pesquera was well-received both in Spain and by many international wine critics, and wine-making in the region expanded considerably in the 1980s and 1990s, with many new bodegas being founded.

The Denominación de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero was founded on
21 July 1982

Geologically, tertiary sediments, consisting of gently lenticular layers of silty or clayey sand, alternate with layers of limestone, marl and chalky concretions.
Climate
The Ribera del Duero has moderate to low rainfall (450 mm per year) and is exposed to quite extreme climatic conditions; long, dry summers with temperatures of up to 40 °C are followed by hard winters during which temperatures may fall as low as -18 °C. There are also marked variations in temperature within each season. The climate is continental and Mediterranean, with more than 2,400 hours of annual sunlight.
Vineyards occupy around 120 km² of the region, most of which are situated in the province of Burgos, with around 5 km² in Valladolid and 6 km² in Soria.
Vega Sicilia wines are traditionally blended Tinto Fino with such Bordeaux varietals as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.


Rioja

Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro River, La Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region which has a moderating effect on the climate. They also protect the vineyards from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. The region is also home to the Oja river (Rio Oja), believed to have given the region its name. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level.

The harvesting of wine in La Rioja has an ancient lineage with origins dating back to the Phoenicians. The earliest written evidence of the existence of the grape in La Rioja dates to 873.

Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro River, La Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region which has a moderating effect on the climate. They also protect the vineyards from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. The region is also home to the Oja river (Rio Oja), believed to have given the region its name. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level.

The area is subdivided into three regions - Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. La Rioja Alavesa and la Rioja Alta, located closer to the mountains, are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. La Rioja Baja to the southeast is drier and warmer. Annual rainfall in the region ranges from 12 inches (300 mm) in parts of Baja to more than 20 inches (510 mm) in La Rioja Alta and Alavesa

Rioja Alta
Located on the western edge of the region and at higher elevations than the other areas, the Rioja Alta is known more for its "old world" style of wine. A higher elevation equates to a shorter growing season, which in turn produces unripe fruit flavors and a wine that is lighter on the palate
Rioja Alavesa
Despite sharing a similar climate as the Alta region, the Rioja Alavesa produces wines with a fuller body and higher acidity. Vineyards in the area have a low vine density with large spacing between rows. This is due to the relatively poor conditions of the soil with the vines needing more distance from each other and less competition for the nutrients in the surrounding soil.
Rioja Baja
Unlike the more continental climate of the Alta and Alavesa, the Rioja Baja is strongly influenced by a Mediterranean climate which makes this area the warmest and driest of the Rioja. In the summer months, drought can be a significant viticultural hazard, though since the late 1990s irrigation has been permitted. Temperatures in the summer typically reach 35 °C (95 °F). A number of the vineyards are actually located in nearby Navarra and the wine produced from those grapes belongs to the Rioja appellation. Unlike the typically pale colour Rioja wine, Baja wines are very deeply coloured and can be highly alcoholic with some wines at 18% alcohol by volume. The wines typically do not have much acidity or aroma and are generally used as blending components with wines from other parts of the Rioja
Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.

Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). La Rioja has a total of 57,000 hectares cultivated, yielding 250 million litres of wine annually, of which 85% is red. The harvest time for most Rioja vineyards is September–October with the northern Rioja Alta having the latest harvest in late October. The soil here is clay based with a high concentration of chalk and iron. There is also significant concentration of limestone, sandstone and alluvial silt.
The "old vines" of the Alavesa regions can produce very concentrated grapes but in low yields.

Among the Tintos, the best-known and most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine with Tempranillo contributing the main flavors and aging potential to the wine; Garnacha adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavors and Graciano adding additional aromas
With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (also known as Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. In the white wines the Viura contributes mild fruitness, acidity and some aroma to the blend with Garnacha Blanca adding body and Malvasía adding aroma

 
Winemaking and styles

A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. First introduced in the early 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers, the use of oak and the pronounced vanilla flavors in the wines has been a virtual trademark of the region though some modern winemakers are experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak. Originally French oak was used but as the cost of the barrels increased many bodegas began to buy American oak planks and fashion them into barrels at Spanish cooperages in a style more closely resembling the French method. This included hand splitting the wood, rather than sawing, and allowing the planks time to dry and "season" in the outdoors versus drying in the kiln. In recent times, more bodegas have returned to using French oak and many will age wines in both American and French oak for blending purposes.

In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15–20 years or even more before their release. One notable example of this the Marqués de Murrieta which released its 1942 vintage gran reserva in 1983 after 41 years of aging. Today most bodegas have shifted their winemaking focus to wines that are ready to drink sooner with the top wines typically aging for 4–8 years prior to release though some traditionalists still age longer. The typical bodega owns anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 oak barrels.
The use of oak in white wine has declined significantly in recent times when before the norm was traditionally 2–5 years in oak. This created slightly oxidized wines with flavors of caramel, coffee, and roasted nuts that did not appeal to a large market of consumers with some of the more negative examples showing characteristics of rubber and petrol flavors. Today the focus of white wine makers has been to enhance the vibrancy and fruit flavors of the wine.
Quality designations and styles

Crianzas are aged for 2 years before release with at least 1 year in oak barrels, Reservas must be 3 years old with at least 1 year spent in oak, and finally Gran Reservas must be 5 years old before going on sale, with two years spent in barrel. The young (joven) unoaked red wines called Roble, tend to boast a moreish, vibrant, bramble fruit while the best oak-aged styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva show intense, generous fruit overlaid with notes of vanilla and sweet spice, wrapped up in polished, elegant tannins.

Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.

 

In 2008, the Regulatory Council for the La Rioja Denomination of Origin created a new logo to go on all bottles of wine produced under this designation. From now on bottles of wine from the La Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin will no longer bear the familiar logo. In an attempt to appeal to younger wine-lovers, the long-standing logo will now be replaced with a brighter, more modern logo with cleaner lines. The aim is to reflect the new, modern aspects of wine-growing in La Rioja without detracting from the traditional wines. In theory, the new logo represents a Tempranillo vine symbolising “heritage, creativity and dynamism”.

 


Soave Classico

These wines, together with those from the lesser DOC – Soave – can often be rather thin and disappointing. White wines from Northern-ish Italy, they come from the Veneto area near Verona. The principal grape varieties are Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (similar if not the same as Ugni Blanc in France), and some have small percentages of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay.

http://www.montetondo.it/ 

These wines, together with those from the lesser DOC – Soave – can often be rather thin and disappointing. White wines from Northern-ish Italy, they come from the Veneto area near Verona. The principal grape varieties are Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (similar if not the same as Ugni Blanc in France), and some have small percentages of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay.

 

Due to various legal changes concerning the DOC and DOCG during the last decade, with a new Superiore designation being created, there is some turbulence amongst growers and confusion in the market – quite often the case with Italian wines!

 

Generally light-bodied with a pale straw colour and dry palate there are some stunning exceptions worth seeking out. Classico wines are virtually always going to be several steps ahead of the others, but an absolutely superb wine is Casette Foscarin, produced by Monte Tondo http://www.montetondo.it   . This is a wine which ages well for 2 or 3 years. The 2009 vintage is drinking superbly (December 2012) and is full-bodied, deep flavoured, with great aromas and length on the palate. Quite different to the majority of Soave Classico’s, this wine is presented in a tall ‘Alsace’ style bottle and packs a punch at 13% alcohol.


Valdeorras - Denominacion d'Origen

Valdeorras is the easternmost DO (Denominación de Origen) in the autonomía of Galicia in Spain. Its location has earned it the unofficial title “Gateway to Galicia.” Known for its wines in Roman times, Valdeorras has made huge strides in recovering its native grapes in the last thirty years and in making distinctive varietal wines assisted by the most advanced technology in the field.

Valdeorras is the easternmost DO (Denominación de Origen) in the autonomía of Galicia in Spain. Its location has earned it the unofficial title “Gateway to Galicia.” Known for its wines in Roman times, Valdeorras has made huge strides in recovering its native grapes in the last thirty years and in making distinctive varietal wines assisted by the most advanced technology in the field.

Valdeorras, whose name means “Valley of Gold”, may have been the first grape growing and wine producing region in Galicia. After the ancient Romans had finished mining the area for gold, they planted vines and the wines produced were mentioned in several inscriptions in Latin.
During the Middle Ages the vineyards were taken over and managed by the religious orders. After a century’s long period of decline, the 19th century saw the area develop again. In the 20th century, in the 1970s, experiments were conducted to reintroduce the native Godello white grape variety.
The DO acquired its official status in 1977
The Mencia grape variety is the main red grape variety of the region.
Most wines produced from Mencía were traditionally light, pale, relatively fragrant red wines for early consumption. This style of wine was the result of post-Phylloxera plantations on fertile plains, which tended to give high yields but diluted wine. In recent years, much more concentrated and complex wines have been produced by a new generation of winemakers, primarily from old vines growing on hillsides, often on schist soils, in combination with careful vineyard management. This has led to a renewed interest in Mencía and the Denominaciones de Origen using it, such as Valdeorras.

Since the 1990s, the grape is increasing in popularity, and an increasing number of noted Spanish winemakers are now working with it.

Thought once to be an ancient clone of Cabernet Franc, this has now been disproved through DNA profiling.  It is however, identical to the Portuguese variety Jaen.