New York is the third largest wine producer in the United States, following California and Washington. New York produces roughly 3.5% of the U.S.’s wine production compared to California at over 84% and Washington at slightly over 5%.
There are eleven designated American Viticultural Areas (AVA). An AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States as identified by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the United States Department of the Treasury. The AVAs are Champlain Valley, Long Island, North Fork of Long Island, The Hamptons Long Island; Hudson River Region; Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake; Niagara Escarpment , Upper Hudson and Lake Erie.
Wine production began in New York in the 17th century with Dutch and Huguenot plantings in the Hudson Valley. Today the two dominant wine regions are the Finger Lakes and Long Island. In 1976 the Finger Lakes and Long Island regions had 19 wineries. By 1985 this number increased to 63 wineries.
The climate differs amongst the eleven regions because of regional influences, such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream and the numerous bodies of water and mountainous regions around the state. The annual precipitation ranges from 76 cm to 127 cm. The growing season in the Lake Erie and Finger Lakes regions ranges from 180 to 200 days a year, while on Long Island the season extends to 220 days.
Today there are over 450 wineries throughout the state.
Riesling grapes consist of less than 10% of New York’s wine production but are used to make some of the highest quality wines. Other varietals include French hybrids, American hybrids and Vitis Labrusca, which are vines native to eastern North America.
American hybrids grown include Catawba, Delaware, Niagara, Elvira, Ives and Isabella. French hybrids consist of Aurore, Baco Noir, De Chaunac, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga, Vidal and Vignoles, which is used to make late harvest wines and ice wines.
I find it interesting that even though I can see New York State from a Muskoka chair in my yard I can very seldom find New York wine in my local liquor store. On the other hand I can find California, Washington and even Oregon (ranked 5th in U.S. production at only 1.5%) wines all the time. Especially in the case of Oregon, I am left to think that either Oregon wines are superior in quality and flavour to New York wines or they have a much more aggressive marketing plan, or both. I can vouch for the quality of Oregon wine but have not had the opportunity to do the same for New York wine.
This week I conclude my review of the grape varietals grown in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The focus is on red wine grapes grown in these 3 provinces.
Baco Noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety created by Francois Baco. In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of North America, such as British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon.
Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in all 3 Canadian provinces and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in these regions.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon making a bright, pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France and Spain, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, British Columbia and Ontario.
The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be a full-bodied wine with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates like Canada, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can be accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages. In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olive notes while in very hot climates the currant flavours can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side.
The grape was created in 1953 by Ollie A. Bradt, at what is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Ontario. The grape is hardy, early-ripening and disease resistant.
De Chaunac is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety used to make red wines. The grape was named after Adhemar de Chaunac, a pioneer in the Ontario wine industry.
De Chaunac is known to have a very vigorous growth habit and good resistance to mildew. It is grown in varying amounts for wine production across northeastern North America, especially in the winegrowing regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.
Gamay is a purple-coloured grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley of France. It has often been cultivated because it makes for abundant production. It is grown in all 3 of the Canadian wine provinces.
Léon Millot is a red variety of hybrid grape used for wine. The variety was named after the winemaker and tree nursery owner Léon Millot. The grapes are grown in Nova Scotia.
This is a Kuhlmann hybrid variety, with growing and ripening characteristics similar to Leon Millot and Marechal Foch, though less widely grown. The wine, like Leon Millot, is capable of deep colour with a pronounced berry-like fruitiness. Wines made from Lucie Kuhlmann tend to have a slightly firmer tannic structure compared to Leon Millot. These grapes are grown in Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Malbec is a purple grape variety that creates a dark red intense wine with robust tannins. In addition to being bottled on its own it is also commonly blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux blend or is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.
In addition to France, Malbec has become an Argentine varietal but is also becoming popular in British Columbia and Ontario.
Marechal Foch is a hybrid French red wine grape variety. It was originally known as Kuhlmann 188-2. The vines were imported to North America in the mid 1940s, where it was subsequently renamed Marechal Foch in honour of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War.
Marechal Foch ripens early and it is cold-hardy and resistant to fungal diseases. The quality of wine produced is dependent on the age of the vines, and the flavour profile associated with many new-world hybrid varietals is much reduced in comparison to wine made from older vines.
Today Marechal Foch is grown in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Marquette is a blue/black-berried variety introduced in 2006 by the University of Minnesota in the United States. Marquette is the cousin of Frontenac, a well-known French-American hybrid.
Marquette is promising for cold-climate producers in North America, and a number of plantings have been established in Minnesota, Vermont, New York and Nova Scotia.
The grape has high sugar levels and moderate acidity. Marquette wines are typically medium bodied, with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries. In some cases more complex aromas such as tobacco and leather may also be exhibited, with spicy pepper notes on the finish.
Merlot is a dark blue wine grape variety that is used by itself, as well as a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes it a popular grape for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals.
While Merlot is made around the world, there tends to be two main styles. There is the International style that produces inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. The second style is the Bordeaux style where the harvesting of the grapes takes place earlier to maintain acidity. This style produces more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries.
In Canada Merlot is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.
This vine is from Eastern Europe but is now being grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. In 1983 a wine from Nova Scotia was voted the ‘best wine of Canada’ in a blind competition to supply the Canadian Embassies around the world. More recently two other Nova Scotia wineries, Jost Vineyards and Sainte Famille, are making notable wines with Michurinetz.
This extremely cold-hardy and vigorous vine typically produces red wines with tannic strength. The grapes also typically have extremely high natural acidity, and low sugar levels.
Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape that is mainly used in classic Bordeaux blends. It adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend. Petit Verdot has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into a single varietal wine. It is also useful in ‘stiffening’ the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends. It is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.
Pinot Noir is a red wine grape that is grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates. It is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot noir is now used to make red wines around the world. Regions that have gained a reputation for red Pinot Noir wines include Oregon, California, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the wine regions of Canada.
When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, there is the potential to develop more vegetal and barnyard aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.
Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.
The style and flavour profile of Syrah wines are influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown. Moderate climates tend to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint and black pepper. In hot climates, Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of licorice and earthy leather.
Syrah is used as a single varietal, as well as in blends. It can be found all over the world from France to Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California, Washington, British Columbia and Ontario.
Widely planted in Austria, Zweigelt vines have made inroads in Washington and the Canadian wine regions of Ontario and British Columbia. There are some plantings in Hungary. In the Czech Republic it is known as Zweigeltrebe and is the third-most widely planted red-grape variety, comprising approximately 4.7% of total vineyards. It grows in most of the wine regions in Slovakia and now in Belgian and Polish vineyards.
In Canada, the two main commercial grape-growing areas are southern Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula and British Columbia’s Okanagan and neighbouring Similkameen valleys. Smaller industries have been established in the other eastern provinces, most notably Nova Scotia and Québec.
For the purposes of this article and the following one next week I will focus solely on British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
This week the focus will be on white wine grapes grown in these 3 provinces.
The Bacchus is a white wine grape that was created by the Geilweilerhof Institute for Grape Breeding in Siebeldingen, Germany in 1933. In Canada it is grown in British Columbia.
Bacchus wines can have powerful flavours and character. It is low in acidity, which does not always make it very well suited for varietal wines under typical German growing conditions. Bacchus is often used for blending with other varietals.
Chardonnay is said to be the world’s favourite white wine. It can be produced in a youthful, fruity style that’s ready for to be drunk soon after bottling, or as a complex, barrel-fermented wine capable of aging for years.
Chardonnay wines are medium to full-bodied and pair with a range of simple or complex foods.
In France, Chardonnay is labelled by the region in which it is grown, like Chablis. It is also a key variety in Champagne.
Chardonnay is native to the Burgundy region of France but is now grown in all 3 of Canada’s wine provinces.
Chasselas or Chasselas blanc is a wine grape variety grown mainly in Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, New Zealand and Chile. In Canada it is grown in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Chasselas is usually used to make a full, dry and fruity white wine. However, it is also suitable as a table grape. It is grown in Turkey and Hungary for this purpose.
Ehrenfelser is a white wine grape variety of German origin. Outside Germany, Ehrenfelser has found some success mainly in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. B.C. wineries including Cedar Creek, Lake Breeze, Gray Monk, Gehringer Brothers, Mount Boucherie, Quails’ Gate and Summerhill make both still and ice wine styles using this grape.
The Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute was founded in 1872 and is located in the town of Geisenheim, Germany. In 1876 Swiss-born professor Hermann Müller joined the institute, where he developed his namesake grape variety, Müller-Thurgau, which became Germany’s most-planted grape variety in the 1970s.
In Canada Geisenheim is grown in Nova Scotia and Ontario.
Gewürztraminer is an aromatic wine grape variety used in white wines and performs best in cooler climates.
Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a white wine grape as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as red wine grapes. It has a high amount of natural sugar. The wines are usually off-dry.
In Canada, Gewürztraminer is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.
The Kerner grape is an aromatic white grape variety. It is the 8th most planted variety in Germany. Kerner is most commonly planted in Germany but it is also grown in Austria, Switzerland, the island of Hokkaido in Japan and Italy. It is now grown in Ontario.
L’Acadie Blanc is a white Canadian wine grape variety that is a hybrid crossing of Cascade and Seyve-Villard. The grape was created in 1953 in Niagara, Ontario at what is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia, with some plantings in Ontario. It is considered to be Nova Scotia’s equivalent to Chardonnay.
Muscat Ottonel was created in Loir, France. It is a white grape that is easier to cultivate in cooler climates than the other Muscats, as it ripens early and produces more delicate wines than Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains or Muscat of Alexandria.
It is popular in Alsace, France, Austria, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Hungary and Ontario.
New York Muscat
These grapes are used in dry wines and Icewines. Bold and exotic, New York Muscat produces aromatic but dry, full-bodied white wines with intense aromas of roses, grapefruit and exotic fruit. These grapes are grown in Nova Scotia.
Pinot Blanc is a versatile white-wine grape variety that is used in the production of still, sparkling and sweet dessert wines. It is grown in all 3 wine provinces.
Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio or Grauburgunder is a white wine grape variety. It normally has a grayish-blue fruit, but the grapes can have a brownish pink to black, and even white appearance. The wines produced from this grape also vary in colour from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink.
Pinot Gris is grown around the world including in all 3 of the Canadian provinces.
Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. It is one of the top three white wine varieties along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
It is grown in all 3 Canadian wine provinces.
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. Sauvignon Blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Romania, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bulgaria, the states of Washington and California and the 3 Canadian wine regions.
Depending on the climate, the flavour can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and the flavour of green grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit and floral notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes.
Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, mostly in France and Australia. However, it is also grown in British Columbia and Ontario.
Seyval Blanc is a hybrid wine grape variety used to make white wines. It is grown mainly in England, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Oregon, as well as, to a lesser extent in Nova Scotia.
Seyverni is the name of a Russian red-grape variety. The variety has been imported to the Finger Lakes area of New York as well as Nova Scotia. The grape is very resistant to frost.
Vidal is a white hybrid grape variety. It is a very winter-hardy variety that manages to produce high sugar levels in cold climates with moderate to high acidity. Due to its winter hardiness, this grape variety is cultivated most extensively in the Canadian wine regions of Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia where it is often used for ice wine production.
The wine produced from Vidal tends to be very fruity, with aroma notes of grapefruit and pineapple. Due to its high acidity and sugar potential, it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. In particular, because of the tough outer skin of the fruit, it is well adapted for the production of ice wine.
Viogner (BC, ON)
Viognier is a white wine grape variety. It is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. Outside of the Rhône, Viognier can be found in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, the United States, British Columbia and Ontario.
Viognier has the potential to produce full-bodied wines with a lush, soft character. It has aromatics that include notes of peach, pears, violets and minerals.
Grapes have been grown in Nova Scotia since the 1600s, and wine has been an evolving, increasingly sophisticated part of the cultural landscape for almost 25 years. The soils and climate of the Annapolis Valley encourage wines with a strong sense of provenance, and as winemakers continue to gain a greater understanding of their land, the wines are only going to get better and better.
Though Chardonnay and Riesling are grown there, the warm, short growing season, combined with the direct cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the severe winters, have necessitated the cultivation of winter-hardy grapes. Hybrid varieties such as L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Lucie Kuhlmann and New York Muscat form the backbone of this region’s aromatic, fresh, characterful white wines. Pinot Noir is grown too, for use in the expressive sparkling wines for which Nova Scotia is becoming increasingly well-known.
Nova Scotia has one appellation, which is called Tidal Bay. It was initiated in 2012 and there are now 70 grape growers and more than 800 acres of grape vines. Though each winery may develop their own unique take, strict rules of production and a rigorous evaluation process ensure that Tidal Bay wines reflect a distinct Nova Scotian aromatic character and a consistent flavour profile.
The Wineries of the Annapolis Valley
Below I have profiled the larger producers in the Annapolis Valley but there are a handful of others that I have not included here.
Avondale Sky Winery
Avondale Sky’s objective is to grow the best grapes possible in Nova Scotia. They have one of the oldest vineyards in the province, but the winery itself is one of the newest.
Their retail shop is a restored 180-year-old former church that was transported 40 kilometres over the highest tides in the world. They produce small lots of wine that are crafted with care.
New York Muscat
Ontario Chardonnay and Riesling grapes are used in some of the wines
Benjamin Bridge Vineyards
Benjamin Bridge is Canada’s most acclaimed sparkling wine house, situated in Nova Scotia’s picturesque Gaspereau Valley. Its cool climate is moderated by the Bay of Fundy, promoting natural acidities and the ability for the grapes to remain on the vine for an extended period of time. This is required for the classic Champagne varietals, which are critical to producing sparkling wines of richness, structure, and finesse. The climate has a close resemblance to France’s Champagne region.
Benjamin Bridge is primarily a traditional method sparkling wine producer. Their portfolio is also comprised of brisk, aromatic whites – wines that take full advantage of the same, unique climatic traits that produce world-class sparkling wines. Nova 7, coined “Nova Scotia’s iconic wine,” pioneered an effervescent, off-dry style in the province, crafted on a foundation of quintessential freshness.
Blomidon Estate Winery
Blomidon is a boutique winery that crafts small lots of 100% Nova Scotian wines from estate-grown grapes. They have won numerous national and international awards and acclaim for their wines
They are located in a scenic 10-hectare setting on the edge of the Minas Basin near Canning, a unique micro-climate for grape-growing.
New York Muscat
Gaspereau Vineyards is a boutique winery best known for outstanding Rieslings and elegant white and robust red wines. They have had award-winning, premium, estate-grown wines.
New York Muscat
Silver at 2018 The National Wine Awards of Canada
Double Gold at 2017 All Canadian Wine Championships
Silver at 2017 The National Wine Awards of Canada
Best in Class for Tidal Bays at 2017 Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards
Silver at 2015 Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards
Top Scoring for Tidal Bay at 2014 Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards
Silver at 2014 Wine Align’s National Wine Awards of Canada
Domaine de Grand Pré Winery
Domaine de Grand Pré is the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada. The Swiss-born Stutz family re-opened the doors to the public in 2000 displaying a European sensibility for quality and a passion for wine.
They grow specialty grapes that are developed for Nova Scotia’s specific climate and landscape. The result is an array of award-winning vintages.
New York Muscat
Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards
Lightfoot & Wolfville is a 4th generation family-farm. They are certified organic (Ecocert) and biodynamic (Demeter). Their focus is on classic Burgundian-inspired Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Rieslings and other German-styled white wines, as well as traditional method prestige cuvée sparkling wines.
Luckett Vineyards aims to capture the magic of Nova Scotia’s distinctive character through their wines. They are situated by the Bay of Fundy where they produce unique white wines.
Mercator Vineyards is distinctive for its authentic heritage and its timeless, relaxed and simple focus on old-world style wines.
Located just east of the town of Wolfville and adjacent to the Grand-Pré National Historic site, the vineyards are located on a bluff overlooking the historic Acadian dykelands where the Cornwallis River enters the tidal bay of the Minas Basin.
The winery is devoted entirely to growing exceptional grapes and making extraordinary limited-edition wines.
New York Muscat
Planters Ridge Winery
Planters Ridge is situated in a unique microclimate where it is bordered in the north by the basalt and granite of the North Mountain that rises from the shores of the Bay of Fundy. To the south it is sheltered from the cooler air of the Atlantic Ocean by South Mountain and Wolfville Ridge.
Planters Ridge is housed in a renovated 156-year-old timber frame barn that combines historical features with modern flourishes. This artisanal winery has invested in state-of-the-art equipment, producing highly acclaimed wines. With a focus on blends, they have developed a reputation for crafting aromatic whites and well-balanced, silky-smooth reds.
New York Muscat
Sainte Famille Wines Ltd. is a small family owned vineyard and winery located on an original Acadian Village site known as “La Paroisse Sainte-Famille De Pisiquit” which was settled around 1685. It has one of the warmest vineyard sites in Nova Scotia. The result is rich full bodied reds such as their premium Old Vines Marechal Foch, produced from the oldest vines in Nova Scotia. They have also produced whites of exceptional character such as the 2004 L’Acadie Blanc, which was chosen Best of Appellation.
Even though the Annapolis Valley produces more native grapes than Ontario and British Columbia, who produce more European varietals, the wines of Nova Scotia should not be discounted when considering quality and taste. The vintners of Nova Scotia have made the most out of the harsher grape growing climate and produce some excellent wines.
If you ever travel to the Annapolis Valley, taking the time to explore some of these wineries would be well worth the time.
Viticulture began in British Columbia around 1859, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that a quality-focused approach saw the emergence of consistent, comprehensive excellence in their wines. The Okanagan Valley is situated in the rain shadow of the Coast and Monashee mountain ranges, which protect the valley from rain and help create ideal conditions for over 60 grape varieties to flourish.
The valley stretches over 250 kilometres, experiencing a temperature differential of about 5°C from north to south which, along with numerous site-specific mesoclimates, has a significant impact on the style and type of wines produced.
With 84% of the province’s vineyard acreage, the valley stretches over 250 kilometres, across four sub-regions, each with distinct soil and climate conditions suited to growing a range of varietals from sun-ripened reds to lively, fresh and often crisp whites. The four sub-regions are Golden Mile Bench, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls and Skaha Bench.
With both quiet family-run boutique vineyards and world-class operations, the Okanagan Valley wineries are rich in tradition and character, consistently ranking among the world’s best at international competitions. Nearly every style of wine is produced across the whole spectrum of sweetness levels that include still, sparkling, fortified and dessert wines—most notably ice wines.
The more than 60 grape varieties grown in the Okanagan include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Auxerrois Blanc, Marechal Foch and Cabernet Franc. Additionally many German varieties are still found throughout the Okanagan including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Bacchus, Optima, Ehrenfelser, Kerner and Siegerebe.
Recently, growers have been planting warmer climate varieties typically not associated with the Canadian wine industry. These varietals include Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Trebbiano, Pinotage, Malbec, Barbera and Zinfandel.
The Okanagan Valley is on my bucket-list of places I would like to visit once we reach the post-COVID-19 era. The valley provides not only great wines but is a hiker’s and biker’s dream, with awe-inspiring vistas, theatre, music, boating, art galleries, craft breweries, boutiques, artisanal bakeries and great restaurants.
Israel is located in the Middle East at the very eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. The modern Jewish state’s famously controversial borders were created at the conclusion of World War II. Its wine industry has its roots in the late 19th century, but has largely developed in recent decades.
A number of ‘international’ wine grape varieties have proven to be successful in Israel. Among these are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and even Gewurztraminer. Several members of the extensive Muscat family, which retains its historic links with this part of the world, are also to be found here.
Although small compared to most modern wine-producing nations, Israel’s wine production has attracted attention from all across the wine world. This is not only due to the development of new cooler-climate terroirs such as the Golan Heights, but also to the quality-conscious approach of the nation’s wine producers.
Many parts of Israel are too hot and dry to be a reliable producer of high quality wine. However there are some suitable microclimates that are either well established or showing good potential.
Throughout much of the 20th century, wine production was focused on Kosher wine to be exported around the globe. These wines were generally sweet and made from high yield vineyards. Carmel Winery was the first to produce a dry table win, as late as the 1960s. Today sacramental wine accounts for only about a tenth of Israel’s wine output.
The revival in quality winemaking began in the 1980s. This was aided by an influx of winemakers from France, Australia and the USA, and a corresponding modernization of technology. The 1990s saw a marked rise in the number of boutique wineries. By 2000 there were 70 wineries and by 2005 this number had doubled.
Today Israeli wine is produced by hundreds of wineries ranging in size from small boutique enterprises to large companies producing over ten million bottles per year. In 2011, Israeli wine exports totaled over 26.7 million bottles.
It has been observed by several wine authorities that Israel’s approach to winemaking has evolved from being an Old World producer to developing into a stylistic New World producer.
The demand for kosher wines throughout the world has reinforced the development of the Israeli wine industry over the past few decades. However, not all wine made in Israel is kosher. Modern Orthodox Jews believe that for wine to be considered truly kosher, the wine should only be prepared by Jews. Some Jews consider non-Jewish wine (known as yayin nasekh) to be kosher if it has been heated; the reason being that heated wine was not used as a religious libation in biblical times and its consumption is therefore not sacrilegious. Therefore, mulling, cooking and pasteurizing wine renders it kosher in the eyes of many Jews.
The modern Israeli wine industry was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, owner of the Bordeaux estate Château Lafite-Rothschild. Today winemaking takes place in five vine-growing regions: Galilee, Shomron, the Judean Hills, Samson and Negev. Some of the Israeli defined wine-growing regions, such as the Judean Hills, refer to areas that are largely Israeli-occupied territories. Because of this the definition of wines produced in such areas are subject to legal contention abroad.
Beaujolais is located at the southern end of Burgundy, France. It produces more than three-quarters of the world’s Gamay wine. During the past number of years Beaujolais has improved beyond just producing Beaujolais Nouveau, fruity wines made specifically for early consumption, to now include high-quality yet affordable red wines.
It continues to be the most recognizable type of Beaujolais. It is bottled and appears on store shelves just a few weeks after being harvested. The phenomenon was started by vineyard workers as a way to celebrate the end of harvest. Gradually the wine began appearing in local cafés and eventually even in Paris. Today, tens of millions of bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are distributed to more than 100 countries in time for its official release date of the third Thursday of November.
Beaujolais Nouveau is young and simple with a very low tannin content and high acidity.
This is the most basic level of Beaujolais. Wines are light bodied, with plenty of fresh fruit flavours. The majority of wine produced in this appellation is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais Villages AOC
There are 38 designated villages in the region that can make Beaujolais Villages wines. The majority are red wine but there are also small amounts of white and rosé wines. Producers have the option of adding the name of the village to the label if the grapes come solely from a specific location, but most of the wines that fit the criteria are destined to be classified as Cru Beaujolais, leaving the villages themselves with little name recognition.
Beaujolais Villages wines are smooth and balanced, with ripe red and black fruit flavours.
Crus Beaujolais offer wine with unique character and history. Though highly regarded, wines from this quality level only account for 15 percent of the region’s total production.
Beaujolais wines are available in a variety of body types, depending on the cru from which they come.
Light and Perfumed
Brouilly: The largest cru totaling 20 percent of the Beaujolais Cru area.
Chiroubles: Home to vineyards located in the region’s highest altitudes.
Elegant and Medium-Bodied
Fleurie: The most widely exported to Canada and the United States and a good vintage that is age-worthy up to 10 years.
Saint-Amour: The most northerly cru which is known for its spicy character and ability to be aged up to 10 years in a good vintage.
Côte de Brouilly: Sits within the Brouilly cru, with vineyards on higher slopes of the extinct Mont Brouilly volcano.
Rich and Full-Bodied
Juliénas: Named after Julius Caesar and said to be one of the first wine producing areas of Beaujolais, dating back more than 2,000 years.
Régnié: It is the newest cru, being recognized in 1988.
Chénas: The smallest cru in Beaujolais (under one square mile of vineyards).
Morgon: Earthy wines with a deep and rich Burgundian character that can age up to 20 years.
Moulin-à-Vent: The most likely cru to use oak witch adds tannins and structure. Wines from this cru are the boldest in the region. In good vintages they can age up to 20 years.
Beaujolais Food Pairings
Beaujolais pairs well with traditional French foods such as Brie or Camembert cheese, or with a rich pâté. Given its low level of tannins, Beaujolais is also a great partner to lighter fare like grain salads or white fish.
Medium-bodied Beaujolais will pair well with a barbecued burger or a veggie-loaded pizza.
Have you ever noticed the variety of shapes and colours of wine bottles? Have you ever wondered whether there is any rhyme or reason for this? The differences in wine bottle shapes are purely regional variations that have more to do with glassblowing techniques than the flavours of the wine.
The Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris bottle shape differs from a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc bottle shape. Bottles are deliberately shaped a certain way in order that the region of origin may be identified. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are presented in a Burgundy shaped bottle with less pronounced shoulders that slope downward. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot are presented in a Bordeaux shaped bottle, which has distinct, high shoulders and a deep punt on the bottom of the bottle.
There’s no scientific reason why you couldn’t put Pinot Noir in a Bordeaux bottle, but vintners around the world still use the traditional wine bottle shapes for the region with which their wines are associated. For most, it’s simply a matter of tradition. But it also makes it easy for people to identify different types of wine by sight. Bottles are colored differently for the same reason.
While there are innumerable varieties of wine available in the market, the bottles themselves generally fall into a few specific shapes. There are 12 basic shapes of wine bottles.
It’s the most common shape of bottle and as the name indicates, it originated in Bordeaux. It has straight sides and distinct shoulders. The bottle is generally dark green or brown for red wines and light green or transparent for white wines. There is a good reason for the colour difference. The coloured glass protects red wines from the sun’s rays, and a transparent bottle improves the colour of white wines.
This type of bottle is used for a variety of grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Sauternes.
The burgundy bottle was introduced in Burgundy around the 19th century, before the Bordeaux bottle. This bottle has sloping shoulders and the colour of the glass is green. The grape varietals stored in a burgundy shaped bottle include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Nebbiolo and Pinot Gris.
This bottle originated from Langhe, Piedmont, Italy. It was first used near the beginning of the 18th century. It looks similar to the Burgundy bottle and is used for the great red wines of Piedmont, such as Barolo and Barbaresco.
Côtes de Provence
The shape of the bottle is a mix between a Greek amphora vessel and a bowling pin. It’s the typical bottle for the wines of Côtes de Provence, which includes a variety of rosés and reds. In Italy, it’s used for Verdicchio wine.
The glass for this type of bottle is typically transparent or light green in the case of Verdicchio wines.
Alsace bottles are taller and thinner in shape compared to the other bottles. They have gently sloping shoulders. The colour is green for German wines and brown for French. The main grape contained in this type of bottle is Riesling.
Champagne bottles are unique because they need to withstand up to 90 psi of pressure of the sparkling wines contained within them. It’s also heavier and thicker, with a hollow bottom. The shape looks similar to the Burgundy bottle. The colour is usually varying shades of green, ranging from light to dark.
This shape is used for Hungarian Tokaji and it has a capacity of 0.5 litres. The glass is transparent.
A Port bottle is typically used for Port, Madeira and Sherry wines. The bottle has a bulb in the neck, which is intended to trap excess sediment during the pouring. The colour of the glass can be varying shades of green or brown.
A Marsala bottle looks similar to the Port bottle but it is higher and thinner. It’s used for Marsala wine. The glass is typically dark brown or black in colour.
This bottle is short, stocky and heavily built. It’s the only bottle authorized for Vin Jaune. Its capacity is 0.62litre. Vin Jaune (French for “yellow wine”) is a special and characteristic type of white wine made in the Jura region of France. It is similar to dry fino Sherry.
Bocksbeutel is completely different from the other wine bottle shapes; it is a flattened ellipsoid. The glass is a dark green colour. It’s used for the red wines of Germany’s Franconia region, some Portuguese wines, and Italy’s Orvieto wines. This particular shape is protected under the European Union.
This is the old bottle of Chianti wine which is no longer in use. The bottle gave a rustic aspect to the wine. It was round, so it required a basket to allow it to stand upright on the table. The capacity was about 2 litres. Once empty these bottles were often used as candlesticks.
The Mosel (aka Moselle) River begins in France and flows into Germany where it flows 250 km and disperses into the Rhine River. It is along this winding river gorge that most classic Riesling wines in the world are situated.
So what makes the Mosel Valley so special for this wine and grape? It’s a combination of geology, geography and history (Riesling was first recorded in Germany in 1435) that makes the Mosel wine region unique.
Although over 60% of the grapes grown are Riesling, Elbling; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Kerner and Auxerrois are also grown. There are some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the region as well, often used in Sekt–German sparkling wine.
Mosel Riesling ranges from bone-dry to sweet. The wines start out with a pale straw color and become deep yellow as they age.
Young wines have medium-intensity aromas of lime and honeydew, sometimes with slightly reductive smells of plastic or mineral notes. As the wines age, they reveal high intensity aromas of honey, apricot, lemon and petroleum. The smell of gas might be off-putting to some but it is a classic indicator of German Riesling.
Riesling has intensely high acidity, usually balanced with some level of sweetness. Wines that taste bone-dry will usually have around 6 to 10 grams per litre of residual sugar and wines that taste barely off-dry may have as much as 30 to 40 grams per litre of residual sugar. Generally, Mosel wines have low to medium low alcohol ranging from 7.5 to 11.5% alcohol per volume.
German Riesling is known to age well. A wine by a quality producer from a great vintage will last up to 40 years. Even modestly priced wines can age for 5 years and develop a deep golden hue with aromatics of honey and petroleum.
The first level for identifying quality in Mosel’s wine is classification, of which there are 3: Qualitatswein (QbA), Pradikatswein, and VDP. These are explained in detail in my August 11, 2019 post “Germany’s Quality Standards”.
The second level to finding great quality in the Mosel is understanding the variations from one vintage to the next. Cool climate wine growing regions, which the Mosel Valley is one, tend to be more susceptible to variable weather conditions. It’s possible that great producers will still make great wines in less favorable years, but the vast majority often suffer.
As a general rule, great vintages offer amazing wines at all price points, whereas less-awesome vintages require some buying finesse and a little bit of luck. Here is a quick rundown of what the experts said about the past decade of releases:
10: Purchase without hesitation with great cellaring capabilities.
9: Purchase without hesitation as wines are very enjoyable.
8: Purchase as wine is drinkable but not very noteworthy.
7: Only the best producers made decent wine that year.
2018 – 10 – Largest yield in the past decade; expecting to be of outstanding quality.
2017 – 8 – Difficult growing season.
2016 – 7 – Tough vintage. Lots of rain and insect problems.
2015 – 10 – A fantastic year.
2014 – 9 – A cooler vintage overall, leading to wines with more acidity. These wines may age quite well.
2013 – 8 – Great producers did well but others didn’t because of rain and rot problems.
2012 – 7 – Inconsistent grape bunch development meant only the best producers made out.
2011 – 9 – A great vintage; the wines have awesome structure and depth.
2010 – 8 – A challenging vintage for ripeness but some producers expect these wines will last for decades.
2009 – 9 – A long warm vintage that produced rich wines.
2008 – 9 – Great producers produced age-worthy wines.
Finding Great Mosel Wines by Sub-Region
The third layer of finding great quality Mosel wines is understanding the geography of the region. Not all of the vineyards here are created equal. The northerly latitude means longer days during the growing season, but only certain vineyards are situated to receive these sunshine hours.
Areas that face south receive up to 10 times more sunlight during parts of the year than those facing north. Also, vineyards located on slopes receive even more sun than the flat lands. 40% of the vineyard acres in the Mosel are located on steep slopes and the best vineyards typically face south.
The steepness of the vineyards makes the use of tractors or mechanical harvesting impossible; farming and harvesting on steep slopes requires as much as three times more labour than more level vineyards.
The 6 sub-regions of Mosel all offer different expressions of Riesling. While the most planted sub-region of Bernkastel attracts the most attention, other regions, including Saar and Ruwertal, make great wines as well.
Riesling is definitely the most renowned varietal in the Mosel. There is no true comparison to these wines anywhere else in the world. If you enjoy Riesling and have never experienced any from the Mosel, then you owe it to yourself to experience it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Because of the romantic glamor of its endless rolling hills, cypress-lined country roads and hilltop villages, Tuscany is often considered to be the most famous of the Italian wine regions. Tuscany has a magnificent reputation for its iconic wines – Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Situated in central Italy, Tuscany’s neighbors are Liguria and Emilia-Romagna to the north, Umbria and Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. Its western boundary is formed by the Tyrrhenian Sea. As is the case with almost all of Italy’s 20 regions, Tuscany has a long wine history.
Today, Tuscany is one of the most famous wine regions in Europe. Its vineyards produce an array of internationally recognised wines in various styles. These go far beyond the well-known reds, and include dry whites such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano and sweet wines, both white (Vin Santo) and red (Elba Aleatico Passito). The region’s top wines are officially recognised and protected by a raft of DOC and DOCG titles. (For explanation see my post on Italian Quality Standards August 31, 2019)
The climate has been a vital factor in its success as a wine region. It has warm, temperate coastal areas contrasted by inland areas where increased temperature variation helps to maintain the grapes’ balance of sugars, acidity and aromatics.
The Sangiovese grape is the mainstay variety in almost all of Tuscany’s top red wines. Its long history and broad regional distribution means that it has acquired various names. In Montalcino it goes by the name Brunello, whence Brunello di Montalcino. In Montepulciano, it is known as Prugnolo Gentile. Under the name Morellino, it is the grape used to make Morellino di Scansano.
Sangiovese is also the main grape in Chianti. Modern Chianti can be made of 100% Sangiovese but also can include percentages of the native Canaiolo and Colorino grape , as well as Cabernet and Merlot.
I have a yearning to one day, when we are free to travel abroad once again, to sit under the Tuscan sun and enjoy a bottle of Chianti.