Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wine Country News from Guadalupe Valley (2/3)

The Fine Art of Blending Premium Mexican Wine
By Steve Dryden (continued)

The southern Rhône sub-region is similar to Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Santo Tomas and Valle de San Vicente, all having a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. Drought can be a problem in these areas, so drip irrigation is common. The southern Rhône's most famous red wine is Châteauneuf du Pape, a blend containing up to 13 varieties of wine grapes, both red and white, as permitted by the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC rules. Depending on the specific AOC rules, grapes blended into southern Rhône reds may include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsaut. White wines from the southern Rhône sub-region, such as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites, are also typically blends of several wine grapes. These may include Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, and Clairette.
Vinisterra Winery has been designing their line of premium wine over the last several years with many of their wines derived from southern Rhône varietals grown in Baja California.

During the last few months Vinisterra winery has been introducing their 2004 Syrah/Mourverde and their 2004 Grenache/Tempranillo blends. Historically, Syrah is the only grape used to make the famous Rhône wines of Côte Rotie and Hermitage, but also forms the backbone of most Rhône blends, including Chateauneuf du Pape. Although cultivated since antiquity, competing claims to the origin of this variety gave credit to it either being transplanted from Persia, near the similarly-titled city of Shiraz or to being a native plant of France. Research completed at the University of California in Davis and at the French National Agronomy Archives in Montpellier has proved that Syrah is indeed indigenous to France. Actually, DNA profiling proved Syrah to be a genetic cross of two relatively obscure varieties, Mondeuse Blanc and Dureza.

More than half the world's total Syrah acreage is planted in France, but it is also a successful grape in Australia, South Africa, California, Washington and Baja California. Syrah is a fairly new variety in California, Washington and Mexico and is one of the most rapidly increasing varieties in these regions. Syrah vines seem to love growing in Mexico because these vines require heat to get fully ripe, bud fairly late and are considered to be a mid-season ripener. The berry is thick-skinned and dark, almost black, often allowing for intense wines, with deep violet, sometimes nearly black in color with a chewy texture, richness and spicy aromas.

Mourvèdre is a variety of red wine grape grown around the world with some new and old vineyards planted in Mexico. In some parts of Europe and the New World it is known as Mataró, Generally these vines produce tannic wines that can be high in alcohol, and are usually most successful in Rhone-style blends. Mourverde blends well with Grenache and Syrah, softening and giving more structure to these varietals. Typically the taste of Mourverde grapes vary greatly according to area, but often have a wild, gamey or earthy flavor, with soft red fruit flavors. Recent DNA fingerprinting and research has shown that Monastrell is, in fact, the Graciano of Rioja. Mourvèdre is widespread across the Mediterranean coast of southern France, where it is a notable component (like Syrah) of Châteauneuf du Pape. It is sometimes used to produce a fortified red wine in Languedoc-Roussillon and is being rediscovered in some older vineyards and planted in new vineyards throughout Baja California.

To be continued (next week)

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