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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by MtBakerDave » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:02 pm

Well, we agree on that! The majority of CalItals I've tried haven't been so interesting to me. On the other hand, I can safely say that most of the California wine of ANY kind I've tried leave me cold too.

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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Ian Sutton » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:53 pm

One of the great handicaps for new varieties, is that few wineries seem committed to making a great example of it. In many countries the plantings are aimed at an emerging trend and the wines released off young vines. The quality is often poor. The poor reception of these young vine wines leads to a poor reputation which may be hard to shake off.

Where successes seem more likely, is when wineries aim to stake their name on a variety (or selection of complementary varieties), aiming to make one of the best versions of it in their country. They can still put out a cheaper version (newer vines, or based on selection), but only by producing a version that allows the grape full expression can they hope to make their name (and that of the grape).

Of course there's plenty more involved, especially climate and soil. I just feel we need more champions and less trend-chasers.

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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:29 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:One of the great handicaps for new varieties, is that few wineries seem committed to making a great example of it. In many countries the plantings are aimed at an emerging trend and the wines released off young vines. The quality is often poor. The poor reception of these young vine wines leads to a poor reputation which may be hard to shake off.

Where successes seem more likely, is when wineries aim to stake their name on a variety (or selection of complementary varieties), aiming to make one of the best versions of it in their country. They can still put out a cheaper version (newer vines, or based on selection), but only by producing a version that allows the grape full expression can they hope to make their name (and that of the grape).

Of course there's plenty more involved, especially climate and soil. I just feel we need more champions and less trend-chasers.

regards

Ian


Ian, I think the importance of your post is in the last sentence.
Europeans, especially northern Europeans, worked hard to establish the varieties that were suited to the environment. It is a good model for New World producers to follow.

Ask anyone who knows me where I live, in the Finger Lakes, and they will tell you I constantly berate them for trying to produce from grape varieties that don't belong here.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Paul B. » Sun Dec 03, 2006 2:00 pm

Thomas wrote:Ask anyone who knows me where I live, in the Finger Lakes, and they will tell you I constantly berate them for trying to produce from grape varieties that don't belong here.

I know that there is a winery in the Niagara Peninsula growing and selling a varietal Nebbiolo, but I haven't tried it yet. It's pretty expensive, and I don't hold out much hope of it rivalling Barolo.

Thomas, I have long had similar opinions - mainly about the suitability in Ontario of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even Cabernet Franc, occasionally ... though I do concede that in excellent years and with costly, aggressive crop control (which must result in a commensurate price of the final wine), very fine wines can result even from these varieties. But overall, I'm not convinced that Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, should ever be grown in Ontario to make an inexpensive $10-15 table wine. When grown with a view to this price point, the result is nearly always rough, pyrazine-loaded crap - even though it has name cachet. But aiming for that as a goal is just silly to my thinking.

Enter my disdain for fad chasing.

I have long believed that the best grape varieties for us are those that are suited to the terroir viticulturally and not those that a manufactured demand would have us plant. What needs to happen in our region is (and I know this sounds silly, but bear with me) for people to become a bit more provincial; to start identifying with grape varieties that are actually suited to our climate. Some of these will be suitable vinifera such as Riesling and Chardonnay, while others will doubtlessly be hybrids that have an evolutionary foot in our soil. Of course, making Vidal and Foch household names at dinner tables across our region takes work, but if it happens - and Vidal is already on the path to gaining that recognition due to its role in icewine production - then a local demand and a local appreciation of those wines will take root and may eventually push out the poseurs.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Sun Dec 03, 2006 3:55 pm

Paul B. wrote:
Thomas wrote:Ask anyone who knows me where I live, in the Finger Lakes, and they will tell you I constantly berate them for trying to produce from grape varieties that don't belong here.

I know that there is a winery in the Niagara Peninsula growing and selling a varietal Nebbiolo, but I haven't tried it yet. It's pretty expensive, and I don't hold out much hope of it rivalling Barolo.

Thomas, I have long had similar opinions - mainly about the suitability in Ontario of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even Cabernet Franc, occasionally ... though I do concede that in excellent years and with costly, aggressive crop control (which must result in a commensurate price of the final wine), very fine wines can result even from these varieties. But overall, I'm not convinced that Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, should ever be grown in Ontario to make an inexpensive $10-15 table wine. When grown with a view to this price point, the result is nearly always rough, pyrazine-loaded crap - even though it has name cachet. But aiming for that as a goal is just silly to my thinking.

Enter my disdain for fad chasing.

I have long believed that the best grape varieties for us are those that are suited to the terroir viticulturally and not those that a manufactured demand would have us plant. What needs to happen in our region is (and I know this sounds silly, but bear with me) for people to become a bit more provincial; to start identifying with grape varieties that are actually suited to our climate. Some of these will be suitable vinifera such as Riesling and Chardonnay, while others will doubtlessly be hybrids that have an evolutionary foot in our soil. Of course, making Vidal and Foch household names at dinner tables across our region takes work, but if it happens - and Vidal is already on the path to gaining that recognition due to its role in icewine production - then a local demand and a local appreciation of those wines will take root and may eventually push out the poseurs.


Paul,

I generally agree with you (not on the specific varieties, but on the concept) however, you and I are not marketing wine to the masses--they are.

Until the overall wine consumers learns to think for him/herself, and like what he/she likes, producers will be hard-pressed not to try to sell to them what they have been told to buy.

There's an interesting sentence in teh Atlantic Monthly within a listing of who the mag believes are the top influential critics. Robert Parker is among their choices. The sentence, "Wines are being made on five continents to suit his (RP) preferences." Besides the crtics' denials that this phenomenon is real, that sentence tells us a lot, and every wine producer is up against that kind of marketing wall.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Oliver McCrum » Sun Dec 03, 2006 4:38 pm

Paul B. wrote:
Thomas wrote:I have long believed that the best grape varieties for us are those that are suited to the terroir viticulturally and not those that a manufactured demand would have us plant. What needs to happen in our region is (and I know this sounds silly, but bear with me) for people to become a bit more provincial; to start identifying with grape varieties that are actually suited to our climate. Some of these will be suitable vinifera such as Riesling and Chardonnay, while others will doubtlessly be hybrids that have an evolutionary foot in our soil. Of course, making Vidal and Foch household names at dinner tables across our region takes work, but if it happens - and Vidal is already on the path to gaining that recognition due to its role in icewine production - then a local demand and a local appreciation of those wines will take root and may eventually push out the poseurs.


This is certainly already happening in CA, I don't know about the north-east. Many mistakes were made, such as Cabernet in Monterey County, but people are much smarter now about matching variety to climate.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Carl Eppig » Sun Dec 03, 2006 6:49 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Many mistakes were made, such as Cabernet in Monterey County.


Ouch! Not sure if your tongue is in cheek or not, but what about Galante, Heller, Meador, and Smith & Hook to name just a few?
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Dec 04, 2006 2:29 pm

Carl,

Perhaps I should have been more specific. Twenty years ago in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties there were a number of Cabernets that were overwhelmingly vegetal, principally because they were planted in the wrong place. I don't know about Monterey now, but SBC has certainly figured out where to plant Bordeaux varieties so they taste good.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Hoke » Mon Dec 04, 2006 2:57 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Carl,

Perhaps I should have been more specific. Twenty years ago in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties there were a number of Cabernets that were overwhelmingly vegetal, principally because they were planted in the wrong place. I don't know about Monterey now, but SBC has certainly figured out where to plant Bordeaux varieties so they taste good.


Oliver is totally on target here.

Case in point:

Bill Jekel started a vineyard in what is now the Arroyo Seco AVA, mid-Salinas Valley in Monterey. He planted Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. The cool climate varieties were hits right from the start. The Cabernet got some acclaim, but it never took off commercially in the US---primarily because it was the wrong variety in the wrong place. What was perfect for Chardonnay and even Riesling was too damned cold and windy for Cabernet.

The Jekel Cabernet was a big hit in some vintages, but most vintages showed waaaay too much vegetal quality. The best market for the Cab, at that time, was the UK, which seemed to like that veggie, St. Estephe kind of style. But in the US, not so. (In hindsight, we discovered, the wines did tend to age pretty well; but they took years and years to soften and come around).

Years later, Jekel secured a long-term lease for another vineyard about three and a half miles away. It was a very particular location, in a palisaded canyon from 40 to 100 feet deep, cut by the Arroyo Seco River into soft sandy soil with up to 70% rock from a prehistoric alluviated riverbed that went down about 200 feet (that's as deep as they drilled, and they were still finding river rock). The site was protected from the notorious Monterey/Salinas Valley winds, was sitting on rapid draining soil, and was a good 12 degrees ambient temperature warmer than the original vineyards up on the main valley bench. There, Jekel put in about 180 acres of single vineyard plantings of all five Bordeaux blend grapes.

Made all the difference in the world. No more instant V-8 Cabernet. The meritage blends became quite lovely, rich, yet sophisticated too.



Another success story would be the rapid shift over to Syrah in the southern part of the valley (think the Delicato family, and others). Yet another would be the development of the Hames Valley for Cabernet/Merlot, for the Hames Valley is a 'closed valley' (no access to the oceans as it is hemmed in by the coastal range). Hotter, more suited to the Bordeaux varieties than the cool climate varieties; actually it is closer to the Paso Robles to the south than it is the Salinas/Monterey to the north.

We could say some of the same things about the learning trials over in Carmel too.

So, yes, Monterey has made tremendous strides in putting the proper varieties in the best possible places.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Dec 04, 2006 3:27 pm

One gets the sense that some of these vineyards were planted with no thought for variety and climate, but rather 'what's selling?' I know of one Santa Barbara vineyard that was planted that way.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Mon Dec 04, 2006 3:57 pm

"So, yes, Monterey has made tremendous strides in putting the proper varieties in the best possible places."

Well, it's about time.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Hoke » Mon Dec 04, 2006 4:10 pm

And let's not even get into the clonal issue....
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Mon Dec 04, 2006 6:19 pm

Hoke wrote:And let's not even get into the clonal issue....


Over on another bb there's a thread on rootstocks. Seems some believe that vines planted on their own rootstocks make better wine. I wonder if these are the same people who don't believe in terroir?

Seriously, I suppose it's possible that own-rootstock makes better wine, but then, own-rootstock may not be around as long as resistant rootstock...clone or no clone.

Everybody knows the answer. (:
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by wrcstl » Mon Dec 04, 2006 6:32 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Pinot Grigio is just better-known than Pinot Gris (now that Pinot Grigio has overtaken Sauvignon as the second-best-selling white variety in the US). I think its main 'benefit' is relative neutrality; I am not a big fan of the variety.


I agree that Pinot Grigio is popular because it is non descript and something like jazzed up water. Having said that there are some excellent producers in NE Italy. Most of the time I pass on this variety.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Mon Dec 04, 2006 7:27 pm

wrcstl wrote:
Oliver McCrum wrote:Pinot Grigio is just better-known than Pinot Gris (now that Pinot Grigio has overtaken Sauvignon as the second-best-selling white variety in the US). I think its main 'benefit' is relative neutrality; I am not a big fan of the variety.


I agree that Pinot Grigio is popular because it is non descript and something like jazzed up water. Having said that there are some excellent producers in NE Italy. Most of the time I pass on this variety.
Walt


In NE Italy, a great deal of the Pinot Grigio is far better than jazzed up water. Now, Santa Margawreaking is another story...
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by JC (NC) » Mon Dec 04, 2006 8:20 pm

I like the Arneis from Ponzi. It's very aromatic as well. Of course, that's Oregon--not California. I've had an interesting Sangiovese rose from Washington State.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Carl K » Mon Dec 04, 2006 9:47 pm

If you're considering imports from Italy, Greco di Tufo seems to be making a big comeback here in the Charleston area. Of course that could be that it's a wonderful wine to sip on the veranda on hot Charleston summer days. Yet even the worst I've tried is still much more food friendly than most CA Chardonnays.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Hoke » Mon Dec 04, 2006 9:51 pm

I like the wines of Campania well enough to think that the aggregate style could be quite successful in the broader market.

But I wouldn't limit it strictly to Greco di Tufo: I would include Greco with Fiano, Falanghina, and even the Lachryma Christi Bianco, and call it Campanian whites.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Victorwine » Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:28 pm

Besides similarity in growing conditions, another driving force behind this trend (especially when it comes to Italian grape varieties) is that wine consumers are getting smarter. There’s a lot more out there than the “French grape varieties”, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Up until a few years ago if you wanted to make it in this business you had to grow Cab and Chard. Now there is an awareness that “other” grapes are out there, and wine consumers are now becoming more ‘international”. So not only, are the small family run boutique wineries experimenting and testing the viticultural and winemaking virtue of “other” grape varieties, but the “big boys” are also getting their hands dirty.

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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Carl Eppig » Tue Dec 05, 2006 5:48 pm

Tobin James makes and bottles Sangiovese, Primitivo (from Italian clones), Lagrein, and Refosco. All grapes come from Paso vineyards. The Sangiovese is an easy drinker, and the others take some mid-term aging (4-6 years). All are very nice wines. None taste like Italian wine, and none go with Italian food.

The point of this is that this producer and others are experimenting with Italian grapes, and maybe someday Lagrein and Refosco will become household names. However, just as Barbera has shown, even when the proper terroir is found and quality wine is produced, it doesn’t taste like the stuff from the old country.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:11 pm

Carl Eppig (Middleton, NH wrote:Tobin James makes and bottles Sangiovese, Primitivo (from Italian clones), Lagrein, and Refosco. All grapes come from Paso vineyards. The Sangiovese is an easy drinker, and the others take some mid-term aging (4-6 years). All are very nice wines. None taste like Italian wine, and none go with Italian food.

The point of this is that this producer and others are experimenting with Italian grapes, and maybe someday Lagrein and Refosco will become household names. However, just as Barbera has shown, even when the proper terroir is found and quality wine is produced, it doesn’t taste like the stuff from the old country.


I can think of three possible reasons for "it doesn’t taste like the stuff from the old country."

1. the clones may not be the right ones

2. terroir matters greatly

3. winemaking techniques are so different

Could be one or a combination.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Carl Eppig » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:47 pm

Thomas wrote:I can think of three possible reasons for "it doesn’t taste like the stuff from the old country."

1. the clones may not be the right ones

2. terroir matters greatly

3. winemaking techniques are so different

Could be one or a combination.


I agree 100%. And another point is that there are only a handful of grapes that are transportable in kind, as it were. By this I mean they taste pretty much the same here, there and everywhere. Cabernet Sauvignon heads this list, and it parent Sauvignon Blanc is not far behind. Merlot and Chardonnay and maybe Pinot and Riesling just about round out the list.
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Thomas » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:56 pm

Carl Eppig (Middleton, NH wrote:
I agree 100%. And another point is that there are only a handful of grapes that are transportable in kind, as it were. By this I mean they taste pretty much the same here, there and everywhere. Cabernet Sauvignon heads this list, and it parent Sauvignon Blanc is not far behind. Merlot and Chardonnay and maybe Pinot and Riesling just about round out the list.


What do you think makes this so?
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Re: What will the next successful Italian variety here?

by Dave Erickson » Tue Dec 05, 2006 8:16 pm

My experience of California sangiovese is limited; the best one I had came from Showkett, where Heidi Barrett makes nice wines that have nothing to do with Chianti.

Zinfandel and Primitivo may not be exactly the same, but I have a suspicion that if Paul Draper wanted to introduce a "Primitivo" tomorrow, he could just change the wording on his labels and no one would be able to object. :D

Hey, I have a great idea! There's this little red grape, grows in the Alto Adige, called schiava (sometimes "vernatsch"). Maybe you've heard of it... :D
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