Category Archives: Viticulture

Baden, Germany

In the south-western corner of Germany lies a distinctive wine region, encompassing some 16,000 hectares of vineyards – making it the third largest wine region in the country – stretching over 200km north to south, east of the Rhine River.

Vineyards around the Kaiserstuhl, Baden, Germany

Vineyards around the Kaiserstuhl, Baden, Germany

The average vintage in Baden produces around a million hectolitres of wine.

At the time of writing this page, Baden is the only wine grape region included in the EU’s Zone B – which exposes higher minimum requirements for Quality Wine and Quality Wines of Distinction.

Other wine regions included in this zone include the likes of Alsace, Champagne and the Loire Valley – which places Baden in serious company!

Surprising then, that little is actually known about Baden outside its own borders, despite the fact that it is as large as Alsace – just over the river.

Baden covers over 400km, including 9 districts:

Baden vineyards

Baden vineyards

Badische Bergstrasse, Tauberfranken, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Tniberg, Markgräflerland, and Bodensee.

Around 55% of wine grapes grown here are of Pinot varieties; 36% Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), 10% Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) and the rest Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder). This makes Baden the largest producer of Pinot varieties in the whole of Germany.

The remaining 45% odd is made up of Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and the lesser-known Chasselas (Gutedel).

Interestingly, although we don’t hear a lot about its use, Chasselas has a number of pseudonyms around the world: Abelione, Abelone, Albilloidea, Alsacia Blanca, Amber Chasselas, Amber Muscadine, Bar sur Aube, Bela Glera, Bela Zlahtnina, Berezka Prostaya, Berioska Casla, Beyaz Gutedel, Biela Plemenika Praskava, Biela Plemincka Chrapka, Biela Plemincka Pruskawa, Blanchette, Blanquette, Bon Blanc, Bordo, Bournet, Bournot, Charapka, Chasselas, Chasselas Angevin, Chasselas Bianco, Chasselas Blanc Royal, Chasselas Blanchette, Chasselas Crognant, Chasselas Croquant, Chasselas de Bar-sur-Aube, Chasselas de Bordeaux, Chasselas de Florence, Chasselas de Fontainebleau, Chasselas de Jalabert, Chasselas de la Contrie, Chasselas de la Naby, Chasselas de Moissac, Chasselas de Montauban, Chasselas de Mornain, Chasselas de Pondichéry, Chasselas de Pontchartrain, Chasselas de Pouilly, Chasselas de Quercy, Chasselas de Rappelo, Chasselas de Tenerife, Chasselas de Teneriffe, Chasselas de Thomeri, Chasselas de Toulaud, Chasselas de Vaud, Chasselas di Fountanbleau, Chasselas di Thomery, Chasselas Dorada, Chasselas Dorato, Chasselas Dore, Chasselas Dore Hatif, Chasselas Dore Salomon, Chasselas du Doubs, Chasselas du Portugal, Chasselas du Roi, Chasselas du Serail, Chasselas du Thor, Chasselas Dugommier, Chasselas Dur, Chasselas Fendant, Chasselas Hatif de Tenerife, Chasselas Haute Selection, Chasselas Jalabert, Chasselas Jaune Cire, Chasselas Piros, Chasselas Plant Droit, Chasselas Queen Victoria, Chasselas Reine Victoria, Chasselas Salsa, Chasselas Tokay Angevine, Chasselas Vert de la Cote, Chasselas White, Chasselat, Chrupka, Chrupka Biela, Chrupka Bila, Common Muscadine, Danka Belaya, Dinka Belaya, Dinka Blanche, Dobrorozne, Doppelte Spanische, Dorin, Doucet, Eau Douce Blanche, Edelschoen, Edelwein, Edelweiss, Edelxeiss, Elsaesser, Elsasser Weiss, Fabian, Fabiantraube, Fábiánszőlő, Fehér Chasselas, Fehér Fábiánszőlő, Fehér gyöngyszőlő, Fehér ropogós, Fendant, Fendant Blanc, Fendant Roux, Fendant Vert, Florenci Jouana, Fondan Belyi, Franceset, Franceseta, Frauentraube, Gamet, Gelber Gutedel, Gemeiner Gutedel, Gentil Blanc, Gentil Vert, Golden Bordeaux, Golden Chasselas, Grossblaettrige Spanische, Grosse Spanische , Grosser Spaniger, Gruener Gutedel, Gutedel, Gutedel Weiss, Gutedel Weisser, Gyöngyszőlő, Junker, Koenigs Gutedel, Kracher, Krachgutedel, Krachmost, Lardot, Lourdot, Maisa, Marzemina Bianca, Marzemina Niduca, Morlenche, Mornan Blanc, Mornen, Mornen Blanc, Most, Most Rebe, Moster, Pariser Gutedel, Perlan, Pinzutella, Plamenka Belyi, Plant de Toulard, Plant de Toulaud, Plemenika Praskava, Plemenka, Plemenka Bela, Plemenka Rana, Pleminka Biela, Praskava, Pruscava Biela, Queen Victoria, Queen Victoria White, Raisin D’officier, Ranka, Rebe Herrn Fuchses, Reben Herm Fuchs, Reben Herrn, Rheinrebe, Rosmarinentraube, Rosmarintraube, Royal Muscadine, Sasla, Sasla Bela, Schoenedel, Shasla Belaya, Shasla Dore, Shasla Lechebnaya, Shasla Viktoria, Silberling, Silberweiss, Silberweissling, Silberwissling, Strapak, Suessling, Suesstraube, Sweetwater, Sweetwater White, Temprano, Temprano Blanco, Terravin, Tribi Vognoble, Tribiano Tedesco, Ugne, Uslechtile Bile, Valais Blanc, Viala, Viviser, Waelsche, Waelscher, Weisser Gutedel, Weisser Krachgutedel, White Chasselas, White Muscadine, White Sweetwater, White Van der Laan, Zlahtina, Zlahtnina, Zlahtnina Bijela, Zlatina, and Zupljanka! [Source: Wikipedia]

…but anyway, back to Baden …


Kaiserstuhl vineyards

Kaiserstuhl vineyards

By far the largest number of wines, and largest vine area in Baden is the Kaiserstuhl [King’s Seat].

This hilly outcrop in an otherwise fairly flat area is actually the core of an ancient volcano. Its soils are thus volcanic, and give rise to a mineral quality to the wines.

However there are areas of loess – a fine, light soil that erodes very easily – which retain water more readily and have given life to some fuller-bodied wines during hot years.

This area – the warmest wine grape-growing region in Germany – is able to ripen even red wine grapes to sufficient levels to produce excellent wines.

Kaiserstuhl vineyards, Baden, Germany

Kaiserstuhl vineyards, Baden, Germany

The area speciality would have to be the Spätburgunder Weissherbst. Made from the Pinot Noir grape, the mineral qualities of the soil impart a spritzy character to this light-bodied red.

Unfortunately the best wine of this region stays in the region. – and you really can’t leave without trying several bottles!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Tale of Two Identities – Alsace, France

Alsatian wines have often mistakenly been referred to as German, due to the tumultuous history of ownership of this track of land on the French border.

Riquewihr, Alsace, France

Riquewihr, Alsace, France

In the late 17th century, it became French territory, however during the 1871 Franco-Prussian war, it became part of Germany.

The end of WWI (1918) saw Alsace returned to France, only to be annexed once more to Germany in 1940.

It’s worth reflecting at this point how this would have affected the mood of the Alsatians. During WWII, they were drafted as German soldiers and expected to fight against their fellow frenchmen, and the very distributors who peddled their wines around France for them!

Fortunately, after the defeat of Germany in 1945, France once again opened its arms and welcomed the Alsatians back as their own. It has remained so to this day.

Produces World’s Best Rieslings …

Despite the association with Germany, and the similarities in grape varieties used (mainly Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer), Alsatian wines are drier and fuller-bodied, with less residual sugar.

Rieslings and Gewürztraminer from Alsace in particular are world reknowned for excellence.

 Appellations History

Riquewihr, Alsace, France

Riquewihr, Alsace, France

Alsace finally became part of the Apellation Contrôlée in 1962, and since 1972 only the Alsace flûte style bottle is permitted for these wines.

Contrary to other appellations, Alsace wineries are allowed to include the grape varietal on the labels of their wine – but only if it is made from 100% of the varietal.

The Alsace apellation consists of two départements: Haut-Rhin (considered the best) and Bas-Rhin.

Vineyards near Riquewihr, Alsace, France

Vineyards near Riquewihr, Alsace, France

In 1975, Alsace became eligible for the classification of Grand Cru.

For a vineyard to attain this status, it must make wines from one of four noble varietals:



Pinot Gris


Yields are maximised at 65hl/ha and minimum natural alcohol must reach 10% or 12% depending on grape. Both grape and vintage must be shown on the label.

Special Thanks!!

I must extend a big THANK YOU, to my friend Phillipe Durst, Export Manager of the wine house Dopff au Moulin, for providing the pictures on this page.

Head Office, Dopff au Moulin, Alsace, France

Head Office, Dopff au Moulin, Alsace, France


Beautiful Bordeaux

Beautiful Bordeaux!

Grand Vins de Bordeaux, a fabulous wine store to explore!

Grand Vins de Bordeaux, a fabulous wine store to explore!

Despite the explosion of New World wines out there, no one country or region has managed to snatch the title of “World’s Most Emminent Wine Region” that Bordeaux holds tightly in its grasp. It is the red wines of Bordeaux, (formerly called “Claret” by the poms for centuries), that have set the standards for quality wine the world over.

That’s not to say that all of them are exciting … there are the vin ordinaires for the princely sum of a few euros, and only the backpackers are thankful for those … But the true Bordeaux red rewards those with patience, and offers a challenge not for the feint-hearted. Opening these wines too early is a waste, as is opening them in the middle of their maturity, or too late.

Big Bordeaux are tannic and tight for the first 5 or 6 years, holding back the blackcurrant or plum flavours of the signature Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Then strangely, they seem to slump – becoming flat and lifeless for the next few years, before taking on a new depth of complexity, aromas and fruit.

Probably Bordeaux’ biggest enemy is itself. It’s out of control in terms of … err, control.

Chateaux in the Blaye Bourg region, Bordeaux, France

Chateaux in the Blaye Bourg region, Bordeaux, France

In an area of 123,000ha under vine, there are 10,200 growers, 35,000 Chateaux, 400 Distributors and 100 Brokers. One out of every six people in Bordeaux work in the wine industry.

Stats (at time of my visit – late 2006) held that 790,000 bottles are produced every year to reach a market value of €3,000,000,000. 90% of these are red – Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and 10% white – Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc, Colombard.

Harvest in Bordeaux is determined by chemical analysis. What they’re looking for from grapes is 220 g/ltr sugar, 12.5 Baume – min level as per AOC. Bordeaux reds must be fermented dry, and the use of tartaric acid addition is prohibited.

Vineyards in the Blaye Bourg region, Bordeaux, France

Vineyards in the Blaye Bourg region, Bordeaux, France

There are a whopping 57 appellations within this region, telling growers what to grow, how to grow it, how much to grow …

In 2007, a new appellation “Côtes de Bordeaux” was introduced. This encompasses an area of the right bank of the Garonne river, from Saint Maixant and Cadillac to the city of Bordeaux, and in short paves the way for lower value wines to use oak chips during production. All these sub-regions are located on the right bank, and all currently produce easy-gowing, fruit-driven, primarily Merlot-based wines, 85% of which are reportedly consumed locally.

Bordeaux wines reflect terroir

Beautiful Bordeaux city

Beautiful Bordeaux city

They’re not allowed to irrigate in Bordeaux. Underground water supplies keep them alive, but also provide sediment to feed the vines – which helps the grapes and resulting wines take on the characters of the soils, which are actually quite poor.

Bordeaux wines are named after their location. So you won’t see the names of the grapes used in a wine on the label.

They divide the Bordeaux region between the left and right banks of the Gironde Estuary, which continues divided between the Garonne and Dordogne tributaries.

On the hilly right bank the soil is primarily clay and limestone – suitable for fruit-forward, lower tannin Merlot. These cooler soils slow down the ripening stage (avoiding August heat and rain), and budburst (avoiding April frosts).

The right bank encompasses Côtes de Blaye and Bourg to the north, and St Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Côtes de Castillon and Francs divided from Entre-deux-Mers by the Dordogne.

Roman ruins @ Palais Gallien, Bordeaux.  Once on the outskirts of the city, now in the suburbs!

Roman ruins @ Palais Gallien, Bordeaux. Once on the outskirts of the city, now in the suburbs!

The left bank is more sandy, and has pebbles to absorb heat during the day, for distribution during the nights. It is a continuation of the sedimentary Acquitaine Basin; lowlands boundaried by Gironde Arch, the Pyrenean mountain chain, and the Bay of Biscal. This is big, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon territory, producing wines with pronounced blackcurrant and cassis flavours.

The left bank is home to five major communes of Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux and Graves. Located here are the five esteemed First Growth Chateaux: Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion. Further north we find the Médoc, and in the hinterland we find the Haut-Médoc. Alas, poor Médoc doesn’t get a mention on Grand Cru labels, however Haut-Médoc does.

I must add here that the above is not an exhaustive list of all vignobles Bordelais but quite frankly this page is getting too long, and I haven’t talked about Cellar Door visiting yet … such is the complexity of Bordeaux!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Provence, Southern France

AixEnProvence0039The quintessential Provencal wine is Rosè, however they do some other red wines here.

There is a mish-mash of grape varieties brought into the region by various invaders over the past few centuries – however Carignan planted to supply cheap reds in the 1900’s to the rest of France is slowly being replaced by more Rosè-friendly varieties of Grenach, Cinsault and Syrah [Shiraz].


Provence actually consists of several different appellations – the largest being Côtes de Provence, which covers a triangular area from Toulon in the south west to almost Cannes in the east, and inland to the small town of Cotignac.

Then curiously enough, this appellation also includes some dotted areas just east and south of Aix, and even the odd coastal region between other appellations.  Altogether, this patchwork appellation is France’s largest.

The other appellations of Provence include:

  • Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence – spreading north and north-west of Aix
  • Les Baux-de-Provence – south of Avignon (although this has become an appellation of its own in the past 20 years)
  • Coteaux Varois – east of Aix
  • Côte du Lubéron – noth of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
  • Bandol – a relatively tiny region on the coast between Marseille and Toulon;
  • Bellet – struggling to maintain ground around a growing Nice;
  • Cassis – east along the coast from Marseille;
  • Pallette – encircling Aix;
  • Côte du Ventoux on the northern border of Provence.

 Blessed with good winds …

Château des Baux overlooks Les Baux-de-Provence in Southern France.

Château des Baux overlooks Les Baux-de-Provence in Southern France.

Whilst at first it seems that the southern French just can’t make up their minds whether their wines are Provencal or not, it is more likely there are so many appellations within Provence because of the varying climatic influences.

An appellation considers the terroir of an area, rather than a geographical location, and this of course includes the climatic influences.

The mediterranian warmth spreads across much of Côtes de Provence, however the massifs [mountains] inland shield some areas from maritime influence and produce sometimes alpine temperatures.

The mistral winds which blow across the south of France quickly reinstate dry conditons after rainfall in some areas – particularly Les Baux – creating almost ideal conditions for organic viticulture. [Less chance of rot = less fungicides]

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 19, 2013 in France, Viticulture, Winemaking


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

La Belle France

There is no doubt, despite the past decade’s trend towards New World wine consumption, France is untouchable in terms of perception of its wines. French wine is renowned around the world as the benchmark for fine wines.

Map of french wine regions

Map of french wine regions

France has the ideal terroir to produce fine wines – with climate-moderating benefits of two large bodies of water [Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans], varied soil types to accommodate and bring out the best in grape varietals, and centuries of expertise.

Ironically, in the war between Italy and France for wine-world supremecy, it is interesting to note that the Romans actually brought winemaking to France in the early ages.

In fact, if it weren’t for the ingenuity of Roman aquaducts, Bordeaux may not exist today.

Regardless, the French ran with it, perfecting the art of winemaking to the point that today France is so synonymous with wine that it’d be hard to picture the two not coexisting. However, that was almost the case in the late 1800’s when phylloxera nearly wiped the whole industry out!

French labeling system:

All over the world, people are both captivated and bamboozled by the complex control systems in place for the past two centuries- “appellations” – which render French wine labels incapable of enunciation or comprehension. I won’t bore you with all the details of every appellation but let’s look at the basics:

The labelling system consists of two classifications – Quality Wine and Table Wine, which are further split into two categories:

Quality Wines:

Vins de Délimités de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC/ AC)
Small category – covers only around 1% France’s production;
Regulations similar to AOC but less stringent – eg yields and varietals can differ.
Criteria varies between regions, however this is the most stringent of the controls;
Delineation of production areas – based on soil composition;
Short list of grape varietals based on suitability for region, history and reputation;
Maximum yields set per hectare in each region;
Viticultural practices defined: planting density, pruning techniques, etc;
Winemaking practices also defined;
Minimum natural alcohol potential imposed;

Table Wines:

Vins de Table Vin de Pays (Est 1979)
Produced anywhere in France;
Any grape can be used;
Cannot be chaptalised;
No maximum yield;
Proportion of production over 100hl per hectare must go for distillation.
Certain areas of production: regional, département or zonal;
Certain grapes listed for Vin De Pays – more than VDQS and AOC wines;
Maximum yields imposed – usually 80 or 90hl/ha;
Minimum alcohol content – 9% (some southern regions – 10%);
Controls (max usage guides) placed on Sulphur Dioxide and Volatile Acidity levels.

I’ll publish more information on individual French wine regions in seperate postings. There’s far too much info for one post!


Tags: , , , , ,

Czech Out The New Word in Old World Wines

In the south-east of The Czech Republic, a sleepy, ancient vineyard region has emerged, blinking its eyes at the modern wine world … probably wondering what all the fuss is about …

Castle Mikulov - the heart of the Moravian wine region

Castle Mikulov – the heart of the Moravian wine region

Insularity due to Soviet control over several decades has meant that this wine region missed the boat in terms of the current global wine boom, and as such, has little export history.

That’s the good news. Good because it means there is a new “Old World” wine region for vinophiles to discover! … and it comes wrapped in a turbulent history of castles, cathedrals and conflict. Sounds like a wine-marketer’s dream …

… after all, they’ve been doing this for ages.

Monastic vines growing in the middle of Prague.

Monastic vines growing in the middle of Prague.

Moravian wines claim to date back to the Roman times of third century AD. However, it wasn’t until the middle-ages that things got serious … and that was in the west, around the major city of Prague.

Vines were introduced to the fairy-tale Bohemian region as far back as the ninth century at the decree of Saint Ludmila, Queen of Bohemia. The vines were planted at Melník , for the sole purpose of mass wine production. After all, what’s a medieval monarchy without wine and banquets!

Emperor Charles IV, sovereign of the fourteenth century and educated in the French Court, ordered vines from Burgundy, France – heralding the start of a prosperous wine industry for Czech.

By the sixteenth century, vineyard cultivation and industry were peaking around Prague, but this was nipped in the bud by the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century.

Over the next two centuries, viticulture was virtually wiped out – to the point where most of the current wine industry in Czech these days dates back only around the 1920’s.

Two main wine regions … Bohemia and Moravia.

Where is Moravia?

Where is Moravia?

Bohemia is probably more widely reknowned for its excellent beers – Pilsener unequalled in the world for freshness, purity and quality … and crystal. Nevertheless, Bohemian wine has an affinity with German wine.

Prague is on the same latitude as the Rheingau and the Palatinate, and most of the varietals grown are the same as those grown in the German regions. Around 4,000ha of vines are grown in this region, just north of Prague.

Moravia, on the other hand, is the fruit bowl of Czech’s wine industry, providing most of Czech’s wines. This region covers an area of 11,000ha under vine, lying between Brno at it’s northern tip and Mikulov on the Austrian border to the south.

The average annual temperature around 9.5°C is undoubtedly the reason that 75% of the wines produced are whites. Grape ripening hence takes a slower pace, with berries developing a concentration of terpenes, producing highly aromatic wines.

 What do they grow?

REDS (less than one third vineyard planting)

Svatovavřinecké – Saint Laurent

Frankovka – Lemberger

Zweigeltrebe – Zweigelt

Rulandské modré – Pinot Noir

Modrý Portugal – Blauer Portugieser

Cabernet Sauvignon

WHITES (makes up the rest of vineyard planting):


Veltínské zelené – Grüner Veltliner

Ryzlink vlašský – Welschriesling

Ryzlink rýnský – Riesling

Sauvignon blanc

Rulandské bílé – Pinot Blanc


Rulandské šedé – Pinot gris

Tramín červený – Gewürztraminer

Neuburské – Neuburger

Muškát moravský – Moravian Muscat

Veltlínské červené rané – Frühroter Veltliner

Irsai Oliver

Labelling & Regulation

Well, this is, after all, part of Europe … and like any other European Wine Region, Czech wine is categorised to the “nth” degree … in accordance with the Wine Act of the Czech Republic.

Wine origin is specified:

vinařská oblast – (region)

vinařská podoblast – (subregion)

vinařská obec – (local village)

trať – (vineyard)

Wine type is labelled:

révové víno – (made from grapes)

stolní víno – (table wine)

jakostní víno – (quality wine made from must with sugar levels of 15g/L)

jakostní víno odrůdové – (max 3 grape varietals)

jakostní víno známkové – (cuveé, min 2 grape varietals)

jakostní víno s přívlastkem – (quality wine, max 3 grape varietals. Must required to have sugar level of 19g/L, with chaptalisation not allowed.)

MoraviaIceWein  Ice Wine, Moravian styleMoraviaScareCrow


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Viticulture for Virgins Part IV: Voluminous Vitis Vinifera

Cinsault - photo courtesy Mulineux Family Wines, Swartland, Africa

Cinsault – photo courtesy Mulineux Family Wines, Swartland, Africa

Most people know the major grapes used to make wine: Shiraz,Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, blah blah blah …

But the truth is, there are actually a whole gamut of grapes that are used all around the wine worlds (new and old) for making wines.

I’ve come across many in my travels and studies, and it really became too hard to memorise them all.

So I started building this list to refer to.

Hope you find it helpful, and please – if you know of any that aren’t on my list, I’d love you to add a comment at the bottom telling me of others!

These here are the more well-known ones:



Barbera One of the world’s most widely planted red grapes. Important in Italy, Argentina and parts of California. Retains higher acidity even in hot areas. Intensely coloured and astringent.
Cabernet Franc Important variety in St Emilion and Pomerol, France. These areas of north Bordeaux have less maritime influence and are subject to cooler winters. This red prefers cool climates – budbursts and ripens early. Makes softer, higher quality wines than Cabernet Sauvignon. Mostly blended.
Cabernet Sauvignon Comes from Bordeaux, France where it is the major variety in Medoc wines. Considered the world’s premium red grape. Grapes have good tolerance of bunch rot, and damage as berries are small and tough. Vines don’t like damp, clay soils – they need drainage. The Medoc has gravelly, well-drained soils. Takes a long time to ripen so likes hot summers and long mild autumns.
Carignan Red grape which makes wines of good colour but average quality. Takes time to age, so is often blended with faster aging grapes such as Grenache or Cinsault. Spanish name – Mazuela. Used for bulk wines in USA. Likes hot, dry climates.
Chardonnay Versatile white grape widely planted in many wine regions around the world. Used in Champagne – blended with Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier preferably. Easy to grow, good yields, few problems.
Chenin Blanc Used mainly in Loire Valley, France for still and sparkling white wines. Widely grown in South Africa – where it’s sometimes called Stein. Has good acidity so is blended to balance other whites.
Cinsaut (or Cinsault) Southern France varietal red. Often mispelled ‘Cinsault’. Sometimes a table grape, sometimes wine. Adapts well to hot, dry climates, tough skins resistant to rain damage, but prone to fungal rots. Makes average quality, low tannin wine – often blended.
Colombard One of the whites used for Cognac in France, although larger plantings exist east of Gironde in Bordeaux. Often a table grape. High-yielding, tolerant of rot and mildew. High acidity, and has a distinct varietal flavour.
Crouchen White grape originating from (but not grown there much these days) south-west France. History of being associated with the name Riesling in South Africa and Australia – however it is not Riesling. Real problem child … doesn’t ripen well in cool regions, and is very susceptible to rots and mildews in hot regions. Thus its decline in favour globally.
Durif This majestic red, also known as ‘Petite Verdot‘ or ‘Petite Sirah‘ originates from the Rhone Valley, France. This grape ripens late and is tricky to grow. Durif offers wines of intense, blue-black colour, guaranteed to stain your teeth, and high tannins which require long ageing before drinking. However, Durif grown in warmer areas presents as a faster aging wine – probably due to advanced characteristics in the grapes – and is more approachable at younger age. Also used for Port.
Frontignac The official name for this grape is ‘Muscat a’ petit grains” (Muscat of small berries), and it can come in white or coloured varieties. The ripe berries wilt and shrivel quickly to concentrate sugar – thus its extensive use in sweet fortified wines called Muscats. The white variety is commonly used for table wines, with coloured grapes preferred for fortifieds.
Grenache Spaniards call this red “Garnacha”. Blended in southern France (Rhone) popularly with Shiraz and Mataro or Carignan. Before Cabernet Sauvignon took its place in the 1990’s, Grenache was important grape in Australia. Likes hot, windy conditions. Wind is important as it’s also prone to rots, fungus, mildew, etc. Makes wines of low colour, but faster aging. Most often used for Rose` or Tawny Port.
Malbec Red grape known as ‘Cot’ in west France, where it’s decreasing in popularity due to productivity issues. Grown near Bordeaux and Loire Valley, France as a blender. Important grape in Argentina. In Australia it has been confused with Dolcetto and Inta Amarella. Irregular crops have been improved through cloning. Rich in colour and tannin and used for blending mostly.
Marsanne As the name suggests, this white is another originator of France, where it is grown in the Rhone region. Similar to Viognier, the wines made from Marsanne have little varietal character and age quickly. Used as a varietal in Australia – famously by Tahbilk – as it seems to develop more character in this climate.
Mataro In Provence, France, this red is known as Mourvedre, and in Spain (where it holds more importance) is called Monastrell or Morastell. Recovers well after frost, and yields well. Hardy grape, and needs warmth to ripen. Makes neutral wines of high astringency. Good for blending.
Merlot The principal red of Bordeaux. Sensitive to salinity, enjoys cool damp clay soils. Makes softer wine than Cabernet Sauvignon, ripens earlier so avoids the summer rains and autumn winds from the Bay of Biscal. These two wines are often blended. Wines made from Merlot age quicker than other red wines.
Palomino White grape used for Sherry and other fortifieds – makes low quality table wines. Important to Spain – providing most of the wines for Sherry (Jerez). High sugar content, low acidity and neutral flavour.
Pedro Ximinez Also used in Spain for Sherry. This white is tender-skinned and thus prone to weather damage and rots. Sometimes blended into table wines.
Pinot Noir Burgundy, France’s favourite red grape, and one of the most popular varietals for white sparklings and Champagne. In Germany and Switzerland, it’s known as ‘Spätburgunder‘. An old varietal, it is claimed there are over 1,000 different clones. Has little colour, and excels in cool areas. Has distinctive varietal characters ranging from “barnyard” to “cherry”.
Riesling The white grape king. Widely grown around the world. Originated in Germany – prolific in Rheingau and Mosel regions, makes excellent wines from Alsace, France. Moderate producer, Riesling ripens well in many conditions, and produces distinctive, aromatic wines.
Sangiovese An Italian red grape, most used in Italy’s Chianti, becoming more popular in the north-eastern area of Victoria, Australia.
Sauvignon Blanc This white grape put New Zealand on the map, at the same time as it was decreasing in plantings in France. A large leaf-area:fruit ratio enables successful capture of sunlight to produce sugars in colder regions. Wines have distinct varietal characters.
Semillon This poorly identified white historically gets confused with Chenin Blanc, Crouchen and Riesling – particularly in Australia. In Bordeaux it claims fame as second most important white. Berries split easily in rain when ripe, leaving it susceptible to rot – which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you want to do with the grapes. In Australia, botrytised semillon is probably the most famous dessert wine in the country.
Shiraz The red grape king in Australia – however not necessarily so important elsewhere. Also known as ‘Syrah‘. Red wines from Hermitage region of Rhone Valley are 100% Shiraz. Yields well in variety of climatic conditions, but berries tend to wilt when ripe – making mechanical harvesting difficult.
Tarrango An Australian-born red grape developed by CSIRO as a cross-breed of Sultana and Touriga grapes. Makes a light-bodied red table wine with good acidity, and faster aging. Don’t hold your breath looking for it in an Australian bottle shop, though.
Touriga Red Port variety, more succinctly called Touriga Nacional, of Douro Valley in Portugal. Mostly used in fortified wines. Excellent colour and flavour for Ports. Sometimes used as productive blender in table wines.
Verdelho This Portuguese white varietal, known on the island of Madiera as ‘Gouveio‘, has until recent days been used for fortified wine. In the new millenium however, table wines have been popping up in the bottle shops made from this varietal. Ripens early, and offers distinct tropical fruit characters in hot regions.
Viognier Wine made from this white have been traditionally blended with Marsanne and Roussanne to increase complexity as it’s pretty ordinary on its own. [Mind you, I’ve had workmates threaten to string me up for saying that] Often apricot flavours and aromas. Ages quickly. Relative new kid on the block in Australian market is Shiraz/Viognier – emulating the Cote Rotie wines of France.
Zinfandel Common red varietal in California, USA. Reportedly the same grape as Primitivo in Italy and Mali Plavac [or more distinctly Crljenak – a parent of Mali Plavac] in eastern European countries, eg Croatia. Wines made from Zinfandel have distinctive Raspberry characters.
Chardonnay - photo courtesy Dusan Jelic, Belgrade, Serbia

Chardonnay – photo courtesy Dusan Jelic, Belgrade, Serbia

Sauvignion Blanc - photo courtesy Dusan Jelic, Belgrade, Serbia

Sauvignion Blanc – photo courtesy Dusan Jelic, Belgrade, Serbia

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Viticulture


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: