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Carmenere: The Great Lost Grape of Bordeaux Gets A Troubled Chilean Makeover

Vinted on November 2, 2009 binned in wine industry events
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This week just might mark a seminal event in my personal wine journey.  Either that, or a huge, disappointing wine bust served up on a bed of bell pepper and pine needles.

On November 4th, I’ll be taking part with a small group of bloggers in an on-line tasting event with Wines of Chile, the theme of which is “Discover Carmenere: The Lost Grape.”  Why is this a boom-or-bust wine moment for me?  Because I have what I would call a troubled relationship with Carmenere.

Of course, I love the idea of this grape, the story of Carmenere – it’s the stuff of which wine legends are made.

Carmenere was born in Bordeaux, and thought to be extinct after outbreaks of oidium and then the Phylloxera epidemic in the 1800s, which wiped out a good portion of the wine grape vineyards of Europe.  Though widely thought to be able to help produce high quality wines, Carmenere was pretty much abandoned in France in favor of varieties that were less susceptible to disease, ripened more consistently and produced better yields.  But, Carmenere was not dead – plantings were transported, from France to South America, along with vineyard workers looking for more gainful employment at the time (just prior to the Phylloxera outbreak).  For almost one hundred years, the vine thrived in Chile and was thought to be Merlot; it was discovered to in the mid 1990s to actually be the ‘lost grape’ – Carmenere.

So now we have a legendary Bordeaux grape long considered extinct, thriving in the New Wine World and growing on its own, ungrafted rootstock.  The modern wine Coelacanth.  The Grape from The Land of The Lost (Sleestaks sold separately).

So what’s the trouble?  Well, in my experience, the tale spun about the lost grape Carmenere is a lot more compelling than the wine that Carmenere is actually producing…

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Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews Round-up for 2009-10-31

Vinted on October 31, 2009 binned in wine mini-reviews
  • 07 Agur Kessem (Judean Hills): Dark red fruits abound in this kosher Bord'x belnd, but the PV comes off harsher than the dessert sands. #
  • 07 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling (Rheingau): Big on fruit, flowers & RS, low in alcohol. Is this really from the Rheingau? Could've fooled me. #
  • 05 Chaddsford Due Rossi (PA): A game of hide and seek. As in, you want to seek out the bright red fruit, but it's hiding behind some smoke. #
  • 08 Chaddsford Proprietor's Reserve Red (PA): Could be aptly renamed 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. Except that they'd probably get sued… #
  • 08 Chaddsford Riesling (Lake Erie): Actually a blend, but it all comes together into a big green apple. And it's hungry for Chinese food. #
  • 07 Folie a Deux Merlot (Napa Valley): Nice overall, but makes promises (plum & chocolate) that 2 hours later it can't keep (cherry cola). #
  • 07 Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage Vines Zinfandel (Sonoma County): A blueberry roundhouse kicks your face, then sprinkles some pepper on it. #

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TasteLive German Wines Finale – Tonight 8PM ET

Vinted on October 30, 2009 binned in german wine, twitter taste live

Tonight marks the finale of the month-long salute to German wines taking place at TasteLive. October has more-or-less been “Riesling Month” for me (not that I don’t drink Riesling pretty much every month) in helping to get the word out about the events being hosted by TasteLive and Wines of Germany

Tonight’s twitter tasting event, at 8PM ET, is the final October Wines of Germany tasting event and will feature a handful of bloggers tasting through selections of Schloss Reinhartshausen wines from the Rheingau (the region typically home to Germany’s most austere and powerful Rieslings).  There will be one more public TTL event on Dec. 3rd that will feature a sample of Rieslings from various German producers – that’s one where you will be able to join in and taste; more to come on that from both me and the folks over at TasteLive.  For tonight, you’ll be able to follow along with the tasting action at the TasteLive website, or by following the #TTL search term using your favorite twitter client.

Here’s a bit about tonight’s highlighted producer, as lifted from the TasteLive website:

Schloss Reinhartshausen (Reinhartshausen Castle) has been identified with production of rare and majestic German Rieslings since 1337. Schloss Reinhartshausen embraces 15 separate vineyard sites located in the vicinity of the townships of Erbach and Hattenheim. These include a significant portion of the legendary Grand Cru Erbacher Marcobrunn vineyard, as well as the neighboring Erbacher Schlossberg site in its 15-acre entirety.

More on the wines for tonight’s event are below.  Interestingly, the TasteLive website lists a Trockenbeerenauslese among tonight’s selections, and I received an Auslese (more on those terms can be found here).  Not sure which one is correct.  I don’t have any experience with the wines of Schloss Reinhartshausen – the notes below are not my words but have been taken from the importer’s descriptions, so take those with a grain of salt.  Having said that, the descriptions have certainly whet my appetite…

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Riesling, Rocks, and Magic: The Effects of Soil on Aroma

Vinted on October 29, 2009 binned in german wine, wine books

At this point, most anyone who has listened to me speak (or read my blog posts) about Riesling for more than six seconds is (painfully) aware of my love-affair with the noble wine grape, I consider it probably the greatest white wine variety due to its uncanny ability to retain a signature while also elegantly translating a sense of place as purely as the best red wine grapes, blah blah blah…

Truth be told, even I’m getting sick of hearing about how great I think Riesling is.

Having said that… I cannot resist the temptation to relay some interesting facts about how Riesling is able to translate a sense of place so well.

You see, I’ve been sitting on a book (well, not literally sitting on it, just waiting to read it… ah, forget it…) that I received as a sample from the Wines of Germany folks during my trip to German wine country earlier this year.  The book is a bit of a sleeper – it’s dry reading, oscillates wildly between wine-geek information on Riesling, producer profiles, and beginner’s guide takes on how to enjoy Riesling wine.  It’s also translated a bit awkwardly from the German, which means the English version reads with an odd cadence and uses the word “indeed” multiple times in the same sentence – as in

Indeed, what I am about to write in this sentence is indeed going to reinforce what was stated in the sentence prior to this one!”

No surprise then that this book isn’t exactly lighting up the Amazon.com sales rank charts (currently, it’s at number 2,832,386).

But, that doesn’t stop the book, titled simply Riesling, by Chrstina Fischer and Ingo Swoboda, from delivering a masterstroke of Riesling wine appreciation.  At least, it did for me. (Indeed) Chapter three of Riesling is (indeed) so freakin’ awesome that I’m going to summarize a large section of it, because it provides what might be the most eloquent overview of the link between Riesling wine aromas and soil types that I’ve ever seen.

(Indeed) It’s like the f—king Rosetta Stone for translating Riesling soil types!

And that is enough to get any Riesling wine geek’s mouth watering (Indeed!)…

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