Category: Wine Terroir

A Thrilling, Endangered Grape from the Stunning Mountains of Northern Greece

Vertical village (lower left) in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr

THE ZAGORI region of Greece has only very recently become a hot “alternative” tourist destination — in part since it became a UNESCO protected geopark in 2010.

The Zagori highlands, located within the Pindus mountain range in the larger Greek region of Epirus, are for the most part abandoned, shockingly steep, infertile lands.  As is the case with most of Greece, the Zagori’s beauty stems from its karst landscape; that is to say, a limestone landscape which has been eroded by groundwater.

Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.

These karstic landscapes sculpt some of the most beautiful places on earth. (Click to Read more)

Guess What’s In Your Bourgogne Rouge …

La grappe de raisin, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1868.

I’ll say it again: I firmly believe any true Burgundy lover will regularly drink entry-level Bourgogne from carefully chosen producers.

Granted, the keywords here are carefully chosen. Some producers’ Bourgogne rouge will be a mind-boggling value, a terroirdriven portal to their house style.  Others will range from serviceable to saddening.

As I’m skeptical of négociants’ ability to produce quality, inexpensive wine at such a massive scale across vintages (30,000 bottles in 2011, according to this source), I’d wanted to taste the 2013 Bouchard Père et Fils Bourgogne rouge before committing to a first 5 cases for the wine shop. I sold a pallet of the 2012 Bourgogne rouge, and was proud to offer a pleasant red Burgundy to customers insisting on Pinot Noir under $20. It was a value workhorse of sorts, one that I could actually envisage drinking at home.

I ended up bringing the 2013 in; it does the trick at $20. But while tasting the 2013 Bouchard Bourgogne rouge, I stumbled upon a question for which I had no answer.

The 2013 Bouchard Bourgogne rouge was decidedly more stern than the 2012; it immediately fetched a sense memory of Irancy reds.

You’ll probably never see an Irancy; in part because there aren’t many, and in part because Irancy are strangely earthy, alien reds, to which few wine buyers will commit resources. Irancy are always red, and are Pinot Noir with bits of César — a wildly tannic, rare grape allowed only in the Yonne region — growing in Chablis-like Kimmeridgian limestone marls. César can constitute up to 10% of Irancy reds. (Click to Read more)

Wine Geology 101: A Book That Needs to Be Written

Piles of blue slate in the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard. Mosel Valley, Germany.

You’ve probably heard of vineyards covered in slate or schist. But did you know that slate can turn into schist? Or that shale can transform into slate, then schist, and later into gneiss?

I didn’t. And I wish I’d known this years ago.

Wine lovers like myself are in DIRE need of a bare bones guide to geology for wine. Someone needs to do for geology and terroir what Karen MacNeil did for wine with her Wine Bible — make it user-friendly by extricating needless jargon. And that’s a tall order, because unfortunately, geology starts off intuitive, then grows hopelessly complicated with an unending barrage of esoteric terms.

I’ve alerted Kevin Pogue, a wine geology expert specialized in Washington terroir. Unfortunately, he has a book on the Columbia Basin to write first, and admits that the project would prove daunting.

Meanwhile, I’ve found an excellent resource: an online geology course crammed with explanations and visuals at GeologyCafe.com. Creator Phil Stoffer is an ex-librarian and geology professor in MiraCosta College in California, and is committed to open-source science education … what a beautiful humanist.

I’ve culled the essentials from his site that seem useful to wine lovers.

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Image courtesy Geologycafe.com

So, yes: shale, when under pressure (via both heat and friction), will transform into slate, and with greater pressure, into (Click to Read more)