We all know the basic wine overview of the Loire… It’s divided into 4 big areas, each with their distinctive grapes and famous names. Going from West to East these are: Nantais (Muscadet from the Melon de Bourgogne grape); Anjou (Chenin Blanc); Touraine (more Chenin and Cabernet Franc); Centre (Sauvignon Blanc and some Pinot Noir). This gives a mental picture that can be represented a bit like this:


All well and good, and in fact a pretty accurate general picture. However, the four areas aren’t really of equal size. Just looking at West-East extension – Nantais is nearly 60 miles, Anjou only 45 miles, Torraine over 70 miles, and then a 20 mile gap to the 50 mile wide Centre. Production is uneven too: Nantais produces a bit over 10%; Anjou nearly 40%; although the geographically largest, Touraine only yields about 20%; and Centre nearly 30%.

Here’s a much more accurate topographically correct map:
All the above notwithstanding, the naive generalisation isn’t too far off. Only the small areas of the Vendée are not covered in the West. In Anjou you will find bits of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grolleau, and Gamay here and there (Gamay actually appears across Touraine too). The East only real exception is the deceptive Pouilly-sur-Loire (not Fumé) area which makes wines from Chasselas!

The real variations to the general picture are within the Touraine area.

You can find all sorts of grapes here but there are three main departures, which form the basis of this month’s tasting:

  • In the North: the often neglected areas of Coteaux du Loir and (less significantly) Coteaux du Vendômois
  • In the North-East: the odd areas of Cour-Cheverny and Cheverny and the Solonge area in general
  • The increasing presence of Malbec – under its original name Côt – especially as you go East along the Cher River. Côt actually arrived here from its original home in Quercy at the time of the renaissance, before going to Cahors and thence to Argentina…

Firstly the relatively little known area lying along Le Loir river about 25 miles due North of Tours. [Le Loir actually flows West, pretty well parallel to La Loire, for another 50 miles from here before joining the Sarthe just North of Angers.]
This area (sometimes referred to as North Touraine) is actually composed of three wine areas: Coteaux du Loir (CdL), Jasnières and Coteaux du Vendômois. You can read more by scrolling down to the post of January 24 2017…
Jasnières is an enclave within the general CdL area, capable of rather good Chenin Blanc – fierce acidity with a rich counterpoint. However the area’s oddity is the Pineau d’Aunis grape, a spicy, herby grape which must form 60% of the reds. Sometimes it’s 100% – and we’ll see what that’s like…

The area in the extreme NE of Touraine is the second source of strange wines. The story goes back to the renaissance ascent of the Château at Chambord – as a hunting home for Francois I in the early 16th Century. Many grapes, from Bourgogne and elsewhere, were planted there, nearby in the Solonge area and at Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny. The unusual white grape Romarantin is the main grape in the appellation of Cour-Cheverny… While Cheverny white is mainly Sauvignon Blanc, and red is a Pinot Noir / Gamay blend (recalling Bourgogne Passetoutgrains). Many grapes find their way into the Rosé from here and the surrounding area including Pineau d’Aunis again.
However other varieties also made their way to Chambord and despite being lost to phylloxera in their home some have survived. A couple moved from there to be in the Solonge winery of Henri Marionnet, Domaine de la Charmoise (you can read more about this winery by scrolling down to the September 20 2016 post).
As well as un-grafted Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Gamay and Côt, they have direct line descendants of the Chambord plantings of Romarantin and the otherwise extinct, Teinturier (red flesh), grape: Gamay de Bouze.

Finally – the eastern Touraine has an increasing preponderance of Côt. We’ll try an example from the Cher area, together with a Pineau d’Aunis Rosé sourced from the same grower..

 

Due to circumstances requiring my attention in France, I will be away almost immediately after the tasting… So you can look forward to my notes from this tasting alongside the July Sock Club notes sometime at the end of the month…

Until then…

On Monday 10th July WING met to taste Beaujolais Cru. Led by Yvonne.

Yvonne presented a tasting giving a rare opportunity to sample 6 different Beaujolais Cru: all from the same vintage – all produced in roughly the same way, and to the same price point, by the same grower.

The vintage in question is 2015, a warm year (though for good growers without the stress of the 2003s) giving – in careful hands – ripe, full yet balanced wines. The grower is Frédéric Burrier, making wines at the family domaine: Château de Beauregard and for the négociant business Domaine Joseph Burrier. The first and last wines are labelled “Château de Beauregard” the others are Domaine Joseph Burrier wines.

All the wines are from old vines in single sites within the Cru they represent – mostly 40-60 years old. They are treated the same way: with careful extraction to avoid too much tannin, and with fermentation finished in barrel. They have 10-14 months in 228 litre oak barrels but (I think) not new… and showing no taste of it….

So the differences in these wines will surely be the terroir… we’ll see…


Here are my notes:

Château de Beauregard Fleurie “Poncié”
From a site with shallow granite soil. Has the slightly floral nose of the cru with plum and raspberry fruit, and only a hint of gummy notes. Palate has soft plum fruit a sharper plum skin twist – warm (it’s 14% abv) and a mineral drying finish… opens with time

Chiroubles “Saint Roch”
This is grown at over 500m altitude in entirely granite soils…It is slightly darker than the Fleurie, the same alcohol – but with a sweeter, lighter fruit nose – strawberry? – no gumminess and a floral (violet?) hint. Palate is lighter, rounder and sweeter with a long warm finish…

Saint-Amour “Côte de Besset”
This is the most northerly cru, where sedimentary soils mix with granite scree, and has only 13.5%abv. A quiet nose at first – with darker fruit that opens with time and becomes rather gummy…The palate is succulent  with a citric acidity and dark fruit combining to hint towards blackcurrant, and some herby notes too… The most stereotypical Bojo maybe?

Juliénas “Beauvernay”
This terroir has poor granite soil over Burgundian clay/limestone – the highest alcohol (14.5%). Very dark wine with a plum, almost plum-tomato Grenache, inflection. Palate is almost Italian – plum, prune, cherry with an almost “vinaigrette” acidity – very big, round and more Southern Rhone than Northern Beaujolais!

Morgon “Grand Cras”
This is from soil with much more clay – helping moisture retention and lessening stress – mixed with decomposed schist and granite. The first nose had an elegant hint of apricot, swiftly passing to redcurrant and then to sour cherry with a banana hint too… The palate is very succulent with a strong fruit acid line – red fruit in general with sour and sweet cherry hints, a twist of drying mineral and tannin. Very classy and definitely in the Burgundian direction. A lovely example of the cru with years left to go….

Château de Beauregard Moulin-à-Vent “Clos des Pérelles”
This is from dark clay soils with high manganese levels, the vineyards sustained by cuttings and not new planting… Very dark and 14.5%. The nose is less fruit, more herbs and mushrooms, higher perfumed notes and forest fruit emerge later. Palate has structure with a saline hint, well balanced power and length, suggesting sweet fruit with a plum and cherry character. Will last longest, in my opinion, and improve the most.

A lovely tasting showing how high above the reputed quality Beaujolais can (sometimes) reach. I liked all the wines in different ways but found the Morgon the star of the night. Always my favourite cru, in its own complex and succulent way it showed a lot of typicality. The wines did show the relative differences of terroir well, I thought, although at a level of richness and quality rather higher than typical from Beaujolais in general. I felt the most obviously Bojo was the Saint-Amour. All in all – lovely wines that might all be approached again in 2 or 3 (or 6?) years time…

Thank you so much Yvonne…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Before I take my leave this time I have a (half-) report on the Sock Club gathering hosted by Kathryn and Matt (while I was in France) 10 days earlier… “A lovely relaxed sociable night with lovely food and company”, according to reports.

Below is a photo and list of the wines. Now… I could look all the wines up and post the winery’s info –  but you can do that yourself if you are interested. If you’ve tasted the wine or are interested and want to discuss them you can do that via the comments section. If you do then I, and/or the person who brought the wine, will respond…

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Here’s the list (with a few comments from Ann and I):

THE RHONA, BRUT NV, GRAHAM BECK, SOUTH AFRICA     (Welcome)

BOSMAN FAMILY VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY PINOT NOIR PINOT MEUNIER 2015    (Sue)
A still wine produced in 2010s as a result of the grapes being bit riper than anticipated to make their usual sparkling. The alcohol content was a bit too high. It went down well so produced again deliberately in 2015.

HOWARD PARK, MOUNT MOUNT BARKER RIESLING, W AUSTRALIA 2015   (Kathryn)

COLLEFRISIO FALANGHINA AGT TERRE DI CHIETI- ABRUZZO 2015   (Ann).

JORDI MIRÓ, GARNACHA BLANCA, TERRA ALTA 2015     (Yvonne)

LA CÔTE DORAL (Switzerland) 2012    (Kim)

A wine I do know a little about: here’s a note on this wine from January 2014:
Doral is a Chasselas x Chardonnay, bred to be more aromatic than Chasselas and with more citrus and apricot than Chardonnay. There are only 27ha in Switzerland – 75% of it in Vaud.
This wine comes from various vine plots between Morges and Nyon. The wine is a bit darker than straight Chasselas, but the nose is quieter with hints of pear and citrus. The same things and sharp apricots on the palate, with hints of green herbs. Much more subtle, integrated and refreshing than Chasselas, good length with the flavours and acidity persisting – quite a satisfying wine…
.

ZORZAL EGGO FILOSO  PINOT NOIR (Argentina) 2015    (John)

PALATAIA PINOT NOIR (Pfalz) 2015   (Matt)

SCOTTO FAMILY VINEYARDS LODI ZINFANDEL 2013    (Mike)

RIVE BARBERA D’ASTI IL CASCIONE 2012   (Rob)

 CHATEAU LA BIRONDIE MONBAZILLAC 2013   (Matt)

Until next time…

On Thursday 15th June Richard led the ICC Group in tasting wines from Domaine La Tour Vieille, comprising Apellation Collioure Controlée wines and a Bunyuls. My reports from this tasting were all excellent, both in regard to the quality of wine and about Richard’s presentation. I am very grateful to him for conducting the tasting, and for the notes below:


These are high quality wines and were all ready for drinking now although they will keep for many years. An underlying theme of all the wines was a reflection from their growth area; subtle undertones  of minerality, salinity and garrigue. The balance of fruit and acidity made the wines smooth, elegant and complex . This gave a voluminous quality in the mouth.

Les Canadells 2014    14.5%   (Yapp Bros £17.30   Grower €14.42)
70% grey and white Grenache, 10% Macabeu, 10% Verminto, 10% Rousanne.
Yeast, almonds, mineral, flinty and tropical. Good to drink on its own but will go well with food.

Rosé Des  Roches 2015     14%  (Grower €9.27)
50% black Grenache 50% Syrah
Salty, strawberry, candy floss, tropical, melon strawberry jam, redcurrant. Good on its own or with food.

La Pinede 2014     14.5%    (Grower €12.36   Yapp Bros £16.20)
75% black Grenache  and 25% Mourvedre and Carignan
Nose of leather, rubber, caramel. Taste of brambles (blackberry) cinnamon liquorice, aniseed, black cherry, spicy and tinned tomatoes. Again, good on its own or with typical food of the area.

Puig Oriol 2015      14%    (Grower €14.42   Yapp Bros £17.30)
70% Syrah and 30% black Grenache
Black cherry, spice box, seaweed, chalk, mineral, pencil, cloves, stewed plums, frankincense. Very smooth, rich and velvety without being overbearing.

Puig Ambeille 2014   14.5%    (Grower €14.42)
80% Mourvedre  20% black Grenache
Tobacco nose. Blackberry fruits, herby, spice, rounded and smooth. Forest floor, black cherry and ripe berries. Well balanced.

Banyuls Reserva Vin  Doux Naturel     16.5%     (Yapp Bros. £20.90 Grower €16.48)
90% black Grenache and 10% Carignan.
Plum, prunes, coffee, fig, dried cherry, raisin, toffee, chocolate and sweet spice. Lighter than port but goes well with chocolate, chocolate dishes and with cheese. Lovely sweet taste with lots of flavours again without being too intense.

So – very many thanks to Richard for collecting and showing these wines, I really would have loved to attend. Other tasters have told me of the overall salinity (does that reflect the sea-side location), balance and poise in the wines. This confirms my impressions over time about wines of Roussillon – that the better end is cheaper, fresher and more complex than comparable Languedoc wines, despite (?) being further South. Perhaps the reason is more small artisan growers, or the easier affordability of the wines (meaning we can drink higher up the scale), or the sea… or the good offices of people like Richard who brought us these wines… At any event a great success – thanks again Richard…

À Bientôt…

This month, the ICC Tasting will be of wines from Collioure, in the very capable hands of Richard.

Collioure AC (AOP) is a small wine area in the very South-Eastern corner of Roussillon – and indeed France.  Centred upon the old fishing village of the same name, the area also produces  produces Vin Doux  within the identical geographical boundaries, which is always labelled Banyuls.  Collioure is the name reserved for normal strength, dry wines.

Collioure/Banyuls is a small area, producing about 4% of all wine in the Roussillon area. Similar amounts of each are made, depending on the harvest. Collioure is untypical in that 20% of the planting is white (the average over all Roussillon is 3%!) – so about a third of white Roussillon AOC (now AOP) is from Collioure. Which is interesting now since AOC white was only permitted in Collioure from 2003.


Collioure AOC red is always a blend which must contain at least a 60% of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre with no individual grape permitted to exceed 90% of the total blend. Cinsault and Carignan and allowed to up to a maximum of 30%. Today the AOC white blend must contain a minimum of 70% blend of Grenache blanc and Grenache gris with Macabeo, Malvoisie, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino (Rolle) permitted to round out the remaining portion of the blend – though each of those grape varieties can not individually exceed 15%.


Richard has chosen to show wines based on one of the top 5 producers – if not the best – Domaine La Tour Vieille. They produce 70,00 bottles a year of Banyuls and Collioure, by manual harvesting 10 ha of red and 2.5 ha of white. They practice Lutte Raisonnée viticulture. The grapes are all grown on schist soils and are composed of – Reds: (5%), (15%), (65%), (15%); Whites:  (10%), (10%), (50%), (20%), (10%). So a very typical mix from the area. The grapes range in age from 20 years old (some of the whites) to 70!

All grapes are harvested by hand and nothing is mechanized at all (no tractors) and all wines are fermented traditionally with wild yeasts. They make a white, a Rosé and several Banyuls and late harvest wines, as well as several prestigous Reds….

The white Collioure, “Les Canadells” is vinified in the following way:  the Grenache Gris is pressed immediately after harvest; Grenache Blanc, Macabeo, Vermentino, Roussanne undergo a short skin maceration; then percentage of the wine is fermented in oak barrels with a regular stirring of the lees and bottled 6 months after harvest.

All the Collioure reds undergo pump-overs and all punch-downs are by foot, the wine is bottled 10 to 18 months after fermentation.

A very attractive tasting, I think… I wish I was there but I am actually avoiding the 31°C sun in the Loire….  With Richard’s (and other attendees’) assistance the notes should be with you early next week (although I face a crashingly busy weekend before then)…..

À Bientôt…

On Monday 5th June the WING met for a Tutored Tasting of wines from Dão, led by Ralph.

Dão is quite a small wine area situated pretty well bang in the centre of the Northern half of Portugal – between Douro and Bairrada. It produces 4% or 5% of all Portuguese wine. It is encircled by mountains giving it a sheltered temperate climate, where grapes are mainly grown on sandy soil covering a granite base. Most famously it is known for red wines (80% of the production is red) from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro grapes, and whites from Encruzado. Mainly seen in the UK as cheap, supermarket, generic blends (Dão DOC blends have to have at least 20% Touriga Nacional) the area is capable of very good wine if you can track it down…

For this tasting Ralph chose a highly regarded, modern producer called Quinta de Lemos. This winery is located in the Silgueiros sub-region (1 of 7 in Dão), and is reputed to have a “French feel”….

If you want maps and graphs, and thoughts, about Portuguese wine in general, please refer to the February 15th 2017 post below>>>

All the wines at this tasting were from Quinta de Lemos, and sourced from drinkportuguesewine.co.uk, where they retail around £25 (the Roriz is £50!). At the moment they are all on sale at around £16 ( and the Roriz for £35!), with mixed cases available….

I myself was in France – actually driving to the Loire Valley – on the day of the tasting, so all the information and notes below are courtesy of Ralph and Kim,  thanks to them:


DONA PAULETTE   ENCRUZADO 2012    (13%)  -countries top white grape.
This grape, the country’s top white, has high reputation as ‘burgundy beater’ similarities to chardonnay as shows off wine-making technique. We were looking for complexity and minerality; well integrated acidity; good structure and medium body; and aromas and flavours of resinous plants, eucalyptus and mint with notes of hazelnut and tamarillo. Kim felt his example was pale golden with citrus notes on nose. Limes and minerality + resinous notes seeming more like a Semillon to me (Kim), a bit wet wool. Good length and complexity.  High acid – good food wine. Kim’s favourite on the night.

ALFROCHEIRO 2009   (14.5%)
[This wine achieved 89 Parker (P) points and  92 @ Wine Enthusiast (WE)]. Looking for aromas and flavours of blackcurrant and concentrated black fruits. The ripe and integrated tannins without being green or aggressive. Kim found a brown brick rim., looking older than other reds. Ripe fruit flavours cherries plums and tinned toms (Kim). Sweet fruit and nice acidity. Spicy and warming – high alcohol.  Some dark chocolate.  Good but not elegant or complex.

JAEN 2009   (14.5%)
[89 P, 93 WE] Jaen is the same grape as Mencia so we were thinking of structure with red fruits, vegetal and resinous notes. Fresh medium body. Young with long, lingering finale. Kim got a wine that was dense dark red. Very concentrated. Fusty, musty nose (not a fault).  Black berries and dried leaf on nose with some tobacco? Dried fruit and raisin.  Big and soft and not enough grip for my liking. Seems simpler later.

TINTA RORIZ 2009   (14.5%)
[90 P, 93 WE] Tinta Roriz is the Northern Portuguese name for Tempranillo – so expecting a concentrated color with ripe fruit and spices present in the aroma. Complex and spicy body with a good structure and great longevity. In vino veritas: A deep purple hue (not “Smoke on the Water”!)  Bit herby on the nose then smokey bacon. Softer plummy palate. Very smooth modern style. Lower in acid than the previous 2 reds.  I found it bit blousy but quite a few liked it best so far.

TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009   (14.5%)
[92 P, 90 WE] Originally from Dão, this grape is long associated with Duoro for vintage port and latterly big table wines. This is a multiple medal-winning wine, and prefigures a deep ruby colour. Aromas and flavours of ripe blackcurrant and fresh crushed wild berries with notes of Bergamot and Pine. Kim found very inky red. Pungent but less fruit driven. Big and concentrated Savoury and spicey, dates and chocolate later.  High tannins very powerful wine.  The “Bordeaux grape” of Portugal. Favourite red of the night for most.

DONA SANTANA 2009   (14.5%)
This is an indigenous Dão blend of 60% Tourga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Jaen, 10% Alfrocheiro. [90 P, 91 WE]. Another wine with many medals, we were looking for lots of fruit (strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, rhubarb are mentioned in citations) floral notes, full body and tannins
Kim found a purple/ black hue. The blend disguises the individual grape characteristics: slightly stalky nose; big black fruit. Very rich, dry at end of palate. Thought bit bland by comparison with others….

So, a very enjoyable evening according to several of my informants. Thanks so much Ralph for conducting it and the info above – and to Kim, and other contributors, for compiling the notes.

A theme piece on Collioure in about 4 days… until then….

On Thursday 18th May 2017 the ICC group tasted 3 Alto-Adige varietal wines (Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer) against “reference” equivalents from Alsace. The idea being to see if the “lighter, drier, cleaner” reputation for the former was justified – and/or if it implied a “less characterful” other side to that coin? I chose mature Alsace wines to emphasise this, and to ponder if the Alto-Adige wines would ever develop to a similar degree.

The wines were served in pairs, so the notes below will contain both-way comparative comments. However only the first pair were served blind as I thought the relative ages of the wines would make the other pairs too obvious anyway.


Here are my notes:

KAEFFERKOPF RIESLING 2008 (Schaetzel)      –   13%     –     Grower €17  (Approx £25 in UK)
Only showing a slight hint of diesel, despite its age – floral hints and an apple blossom note in a more aromatic wine. Palate is rounder and richer with a long warm acidic line supporting a fruit phase reminiscent of dried apricots. Rather satisfying and still quite young.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

PACHERHOF RIESLING  2012 (Valle Iscaro)   –   13%     –     £15 Le Langhe
The nose has a light but more evolved diesel element, but is quite quiet overall with a hint of citrus. The palate is actually less dry than the Alsace wine, clean with warm acidity and a pear hint – but a mineral, slightly bitter, line grows through the wine, supporting the middle but somewhat unbalancing the finish.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

It seemed the older wine was on a much longer evolution, and had more depth and interest. However I felt the A-A was not shamed by comparison, and would work as well or better in some contexts.

BRAND GRAND CRU PINOT GRIS 2005 (Turckheim)         13½%    –      £19 Noel Young
Instantly recognizable Alsace PG, much darker than the Alto Adige but still fresh. Hints of flowers (roses?) and ginger with smoky notes. The palate only a little off-dry with an integrated fruit-acid line (passion fruit, quince, mango) held well together for a long time. Long and complex – a lovely wine…
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  17/20

ERSTE + NEUE PINOT GRIGIO 2015    –  14%   –      £15 Noel Young / Highbury Vintners
This has a some PG character but only about a third as intense as the Alsace. Similar profile to the AA Riesling: clean; warm acidity; fruit (peachy in this case); mineral at the end… not all that interesting and certainly nor compared to the Alsace PG.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20

This was even more telling a comparison than I imagined. With ten years between the wines, I wondered that the Alsace might be too old… Far from it – it positively shined with flavour and complexity and supported its slight sweetness well. The A-A certainly paled by comparison, although not a bad wine – I thought it had more interest than most Grigio, but here the least interesting of the A-A wines anyway…

HEIMBERGER “SOL GRANITIQUE” GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2007 (Beblenheim)     –    13%    –      Grower €12
No lychees on this nose but ginger and (surprisingly) pear. Palate is rich and viscous with some sweetness and a gingery spicy warmth and a “granitique” mineral line. Long warmth and a food-demanding grip.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15.5/20

ELENA WALCH GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2015   –   14%      –    £16 Bottle Apostle
Slightly nutty nose with a slightly bitter herb notes. Palate has citrus and peach, with a hot spice line giving structure and a chalky (tending to creamy) mouthfeel. As long but cleaner than the Alsace and equally food-demanding…
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

This seemed the closest comparison – both had clear Gewürztraminer characteristics – focusing on the ginger and floral more than the stereotype lychee. The A-A was a hotter wine, both in the foregrounding of its ginger flavours and its alcoholic weight. Also the mineral character was different: the A-A chalky, whereas the Alsace had drying salinity that held up the relatively low acidity.

Overall an interesting comparison in which the reputation of the Alto-Adige wines is justified: vibrant, leaner with a mineral frame. They are good wines with preference a matter of taste for most of the pairs we tasted. However the Alsace Pinot Gris was a long way ahead of the A-A Grigio (IMO) – maybe one needs to go up a notch to find a really characterful example… Also I can’t imagine any of the  Alto-Adige wines have as long a development time in them as the Alsace, so – personally – in most cases I’d rather buy Alsace and wait a while…

Until soon!

Most wine enthusiasts will be familiar with Alsace Wines. We have explored the area often and become familiar with their main grapes: Riesling; Pinot Gris; Gewürztraminer (of course)… but also Pinot Blanc; Sylvaner; Auxxerois; Muscat and Pinot Noir… Many fewer wine lovers will be as acquainted with Alto Adige, however.

Alto Adige is actually only the northern third of the full Italian region: Trentino-Alto Adige. That itself is the northernmost Italian region, comprising two areas with very different personalities: the Germanic Alto Adige (or Südtirol), which borders and once belonged to Austria, and right below it the more Italian but still very Alpine Trentino. The region’s capital and largest city is Trento, followed closely by the Südtirol provincial capital: Bozen (Bolzano). The breathtaking valley of the Adige River is renowned in the wine world for varietal labeled cool-climate wines, mainly white. It has no DOCGs, eight DOCs and four IGPs.

In fact the full region, Trentino–Alto Adige, is a similar size to Alsace in terms of area under vine and volume of wine production. In 2015, Trentino–Alto Adige produced about 2.5% of Italian Wine (13.7 million cases),  but Alto-Adige has less than a third of the Regions vineyards – mostly small growers unlike large co-operatives and producers further South – and it’s contribution is about 0.7% (3.9 million cases).

The Alto-Adige area is Y-shaped: Valle Iscaro is the right arm,  following the Iscaro river from nearer Austria until it meeets the Adige River near Bolzano. The Adige above Bolzano constitutes the left arm from the Valle Venosta, flowing though Terlano. Below Bolzano, going  due South towards Trento and the “tail” of the Y, fuller versions of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanco Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtraminer are more common.

Terlano focuses more on international varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinots.  Valle Iscaro majors on the Germanic grapes: Riesling; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; and Grüner Veltliner.

Overall white grapes varieties occupy about 60% of Alto Adige’s wine-growing area and are vinified into the best wines. There are 20 varieties common: Pinot Grigio; Gewürtraminer; Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay lead the way, but Sauvignon Blanc; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are also significant in Alto Adige.

So Alto-Adige has many grapes of Germanic origin: Riesling; Gewürztraminer; Sylvaner; Kerner; Müller-Thurgau and Grüner Veltliner. The first three are shared with Alsace too – as are the Pinot Family – so comparison seems attractive.

It may be said that the most obvious comparison: Pinot Gris/Grigio is actually the most complicated. First of all there may be clonal or selectional differences in the grape plantings although they are the same variety. Secondly the “target” style is different: richer complex wines in Alsace and fresher lighter wines in Italy. Finally,  yields are often much higher in Italy resulting in a neutral “quaffing” wine. That’s being generous,  a lot of the Italian version – possibly two thirds – could be called Pinot (e)Gregious, wines that are often thin, inoffensive occupants of the early parts of Restaurant wine lists, where they offer (I would say) characterless wines for people who don’t like wine…

Actually some of the better examples, though of a radically different style, do come from Alto-Adige – and I think the comparison is one we are going to have to try.

So the varieties I have chosen to show in comparison of the two areas end up being the Alsace big three: Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The Alsace wines will act as a style reference to see what we think of Alto Adige versions. I think the next time I approach a tasting focusing on Alsace I’ll make sure basic versions of those three grapes are entirely omitted and concentrate on all the other styles and varieties .

The wines will be in pairs to aid comparison, although it’ll be immediately obvious which is which – not least because the Alsace example will have more age. So only the most similar pair – the Rieslings – will be tasted blind… We’ll see how these – vaguely Germanic – wine areas deal with those grapes.

Notes will follow in 3 or 4 days…

Until then….

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