WORTH EX­PLOR­ING

Colum­nist Jean-Sébastien Morin pro­vides some wine choices with lots of ap­peal.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - Jean Sébastien Morin

Clas­sic grape va­ri­eties such as Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Chardon­nay are now grown in most wine re­gions of the world hav­ing ra­di­ated out from their re­spec­tive an­ces­tral homes of Bordeaux and Burgundy in France on a large scale in the mid 20th cen­tury.

The ubiq­uity of these va­ri­eties, and oth­ers such as Mer­lot, Syrah, Riesling and Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, has led the wine in­dus­try to re­fer to them as ‘in­ter­na­tional grape va­ri­eties”. In the span of a few decades, va­ri­eties that had long his­to­ries of be­ing as­so­ci­ated with spe­cific re­gions in Europe were now deemed to be part of the global wine heritage.

These in­ter­na­tional grape va­ri­eties rep­re­sent a large por­tion of the vol­ume of wine made each year world­wide and are clas­sics for a rea­son. They grow rea­son­ably well in var­i­ous cli­mates and tend to pro­duce good wines when grown and vini­fied com­pe­tently.

That is not to say that they are mono­lithic. Given the fact that they are grown in a mul­ti­tude of cli­mate and re­gions, they are avail­able in al­most lim­it­less vari­a­tions – Shi­raz from the Barossa Val­ley in Aus­tralia will be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from Syrah from the Walla Walla Val­ley of Wash­ing­ton State. Shi­raz and Syrah are in fact the same grape va­ri­ety. Some coun­tries that tend to pro­duce it in a riper, jam­mier style, like Aus­tralia, gen­er­ally re­fer to it as Shi­raz whereas coun­ties that tend to pro­duce it in a savoury, pep­pery style, like France, tend to re­fer to it as Syrah with the pro­duc­ers of some coun­tries us­ing both spell­ing de­pend­ing on the style of the wine they are mak­ing.

But what does the wine world look like out­side the realm of these in­ter­na­tional grapes? Va­ri­eties that are spe­cific to a coun­try or wine re­gion are of­ten re­ferred to as “in­dige­nous.” Some coun­tries are trea­sure troves of in­dige­nous grape va­ri­eties. Italy and Portugal for ex­am­ple, both boast hun­dreds of in­dige­nous grape va­ri­eties in­clud­ing many that have been cul­ti­vated for cen­turies. Some are more of a cu­rios­ity and are dif­fi­cult to find out­side of the few vil­lages where they are grown, but some are rea­son­ably easy to find and are an in­ter­est­ing source of fine wines. They can of­fer great value for the price given that they don’t al­ways have the “star power” or brand recog­ni­tion of in­ter­na­tional grape va­ri­eties to com­mand high prices. In­deed, for the wine ex­plorer or col­lec­tor, wines made from in­dige­nous grape va­ri­eties are worth seek­ing out as they can of­fer in­ter­est­ing taste pro­files and good value. You may not fall in love with each one you try, but there is some­thing special about find­ing a new favourite off the beaten path.

An­other strat­egy for find­ing in­ter­est­ing wines at ad­van­ta­geous prices in­volves keep­ing an eye on the sta­tus of des­ig­nated wine re­gions or “ap­pel­la­tions” as they are bet­ter known. It re­quires a bit more work but if you are in­ter­ested in wine, read­ing up on it won’t be much of a chore and will only serve to heighten your ap­pre­ci­a­tion for these finds. A case study for this strat­egy is the Cairanne ap­pel­la­tion of the Rhone Val­ley in France.

Many dif­fer­ent lev­els of ap­pel­la­tions ex­ist in the Rhone Val­ley. Sim­ple Côte du Rhône made in a large area North of Avi­gnon, Côtes du Rhône Vil­lages made around 95 spe­cific vil­lages with bet­ter soils and grow­ing con­di­tions, 20 of which have the priv­i­lege of adding their name on the la­bel af­ter “Côte du Rhône Vil­lage” in view of their rec­og­nized qual­ity. Such an ex­am­ple is “Côtes du Rhône Vil­lages – Cairanne.” What is in­ter­est­ing in this in­stance is that the “Côte du Rhône Vil­lage – Cairanne” ap­pel­la­tion was re­cently pro­moted to the high­est tier of Rhone Val­ley ap­pel­la­tions, the crus du Côte du Rhône. This top tier in­cludes much pricier ap­pel­la­tions such as Châteauneufdu-Pape and Gigondas that are deemed to be special enough that they are al­lowed to drop the Côtes du Rhône ref­er­ence al­to­gether and claim their spe­cific ori­gin front and cen­ter. 2014 is the last vin­tage when

wines made in Cairanne were re­leased as Côtes du Rhône Vil­lages. When the 2015 vin­tage is re­lease later this year, it will most likely com­mand a higher price.

In coun­tries with qual­i­ty­ori­ented wine laws and reg­u­la­tions, ap­pel­la­tion seek­ing to move up to the next tier, have to op­er­ate at the qual­ity level of the su­pe­rior tier for sev­eral years be­fore they can qual­ify to be pro­moted. This is why a lit­tle knowl­edge about what ap­pel­la­tions are look­ing to “move up” can help pin­point sources of wines punch­ing well above their weight for sev­eral years. These days, most of the or­ga­ni­za­tions re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing ap­pel­la­tions of a given re­gion share de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on the web and a bit of sleuthing can go a long way.

Jean-Sébastien Morin is a cat­e­gory man­ager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an ac­cred­ited som­me­lier, wine writer, ed­u­ca­tor, and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while study­ing and work­ing in Europe. In­spired Grapes aims to trans­mit Morin’s pas­sion for wine while never for­get­ting that the plea­sure of a glass of wine of­ten re­sides in the mo­ment and the com­pany in which it is shared. To reach, Morin email in­fopeilcc@liquor­pei.com.

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