Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

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Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby AlexR » Fri Jul 21, 2006 5:13 pm

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are planted in many wine-producing countries.

I am no longer up-to-date: how often do you see the other varieties though, outside of France ?

- Malbec (I know this is The Thing in Argentina)
- Cabernet Franc
- Petit Verdot
- Carmenère (I know this one is big in Chile...)

Do you believe that producers who sell these under the varietal name are looking for niche markets (something odd and rare)... or that there are also some very good wines out there?

A related question: do Meritage-type Bordeaux blends generally produce better wines than straight varietals in other countries, or is this is done more out of tradition, or for marketing purposes?

It seems to me the Australians pioneered blends of grape varieties that have nothing do do with each other in the Old World (Cabernet-Shiraz, etc.).
Have you had any such blends that were very successful? Or do you find this deviant behavior?

Best regards,
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby David Creighton » Fri Jul 21, 2006 5:31 pm

well, cabernet franc is big in the northeast US and Ontario.

petit verdot is less common - i seem to remember some being grown in virginia?
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Paul Winalski » Fri Jul 21, 2006 5:35 pm

There's some petit verdot and cabernet franc grown in California, mainly for use to blend with cabernet sauvignon, either as a minor ingredient in varietal cabernet sauvignon, or in "Meritage" Bordeaux-style blends.

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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Jenise » Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:16 pm

Malbec (I know this is The Thing in Argentina)
- Cabernet Franc
- Petit Verdot
- Carmenère (I know this one is big in Chile...)


Malbec and cabernet franc are all over the place, both as single varieties and blenders. Cab franc is bottled by itself quite often here in the Pacific Northwest. Petit Verdot is fairly uncommon, although some of it is grown in small quantity almost anywhere people grow cabernet and want to make authentic Bordeaux style blends. I've only seen single varitety petit verdot from Australia (Pirramina, Leconfield) and southern France.

Do you believe that producers who sell these under the varietal name are looking for niche markets (something odd and rare)... or that there are also some very good wines out there?


With the caveat that what I believe is irrelevant, I do believe most producers are just trying to find suitable grapes to grow and make good wine with. It doesn't hurt to make a product that no one else has, to invent/create something that stands out from the rest, though.

A related question: do Meritage-type Bordeaux blends generally produce better wines than straight varietals in other countries, or is this is done more out of tradition, or for marketing purposes?


I believe they do produce better, more complex wines.

It seems to me the Australians pioneered blends of grape varieties that have nothing do do with each other in the Old World (Cabernet-Shiraz, etc.). Have you had any such blends that were very successful? Or do you find this deviant behavior?


A lot of these blends make no particular sense except to make a cuvee out of whatever's left over or wasn't good enough for prime time in the winery's better bottlings. And most I've had don't succeed at competing in the quality arena against the traditional blends. However, some DO work exceptionally well--a Canadian winery I know of blends a large amount of pinot noir with lesser amounts of merlot and syrah, I think it is, though it might be merlot and cabernet or cab franc. It doesn't get much more non-traditional than that and you'd think the result would be mud, but in fact it's terrific.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Dave Erickson » Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:35 pm

AlexR wrote:
It seems to me the Australians pioneered blends of grape varieties that have nothing do do with each other in the Old World (Cabernet-Shiraz, etc.).


Image

Alex, there are some vignerons in Costieres de Nimes who would be very upset to learn that cabernet and syrah have nothing to do with each other. The label pictured is for a wine sold as Vin du Pays because it doesn't fit the Costieres de Nimes DOC rules...
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Dave Erickson » Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:39 pm

AlexR wrote:
It seems to me the Australians pioneered blends of grape varieties that have nothing do do with each other in the Old World (Cabernet-Shiraz, etc.).


Image

Alex, there are some vignerons in the Languedoc who would be very upset to learn that cabernet and syrah have nothing to do with each other. :D
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Ruth B » Fri Jul 21, 2006 7:33 pm

Blending has a tremendously long history, so I don't think there is a shred of deviance in it. :)

As for the less common single varietal wines, I think producers are learning what works well for their soil and climate and that is what they are making. I am sure that some operators are looking for the novelty value, but I don't think that is the majority.

Some of the cool climate growers are using hybrids to produce the best wine from the grapes that will grow in their region. That is just good sense to me!

Good topic
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby AlexR » Sat Jul 22, 2006 3:56 am

Dave,

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to scan those labels which show that my example was a poor one (I'd have done better to cite "Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir" or something....).

What has me confused is that I thought it was illegal for French wine labels to mention the name of the grape variety on the main label unless it consisted of 100% of that variety (French law overriding European law).

Clearly, [i]vins de pays [/i]are exempt from this. I wonder what the legal percentages need to be in order to list two varieties on the label?


Best regards,
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Michael Pronay » Sat Jul 22, 2006 7:26 am

AlexR wrote:What has me confused is that I thought it was illegal for French wine labels to mention the name of the grape variety on the main label unless it consisted of 100% of that variety (French law overriding European law).

The only French AOC labels stating a grape variety that come to my mind are those from Alsace, Bourgogne Aligoté, and Sauvignon de St-Bris. Maybe there are more, "mais ils m'échappent pour l'instant".

The 100% requirement is true, but that doesn not mean one might not state two varieties. The regulations most certainly say that when you state two varieties, there cannot be a third one, and there cannot be a higher percentage of the variety mentioned in second place than the variety mentioned first.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jul 22, 2006 8:44 am

Michael Pronay wrote:The only French AOC labels stating a grape variety that come to my mind are those from Alsace, Bourgogne Aligoté, and Sauvignon de St-Bris. Maybe there are more, "mais ils m'échappent pour l'instant".


Don't forget, Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Bourgogne Chardonnay are in wide use. In terms of U.S. sales, at least, I would guess that these two labels are by far the most common French varietal labels.

I can't offhand think of any others, though.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Gary Barlettano » Sat Jul 22, 2006 12:23 pm

Michael Pronay wrote:The 100% requirement is true, but that doesn not mean one might not state two varieties. The regulations most certainly say that when you state two varieties, there cannot be a third one, and there cannot be a higher percentage of the variety mentioned in second place than the variety mentioned first.


Michael, are you aware of a nifty, handy dandy, more or less official French website somewhere where these rules are written down for us mere mortals to ponder? Most of my French stuff on the web is regionally (speak "appellation") oriented and the INAO website was not much help? I was under the same impression as Alex with the 100% thing, but my only references were the comments of several French winemakers and French wine distributors who took a wrong turn in Tenerife and ended up hawking their wares here in California.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Tim York » Sat Jul 22, 2006 1:00 pm

Alex,

For me the outstanding Cabernet/Syrah blend (and not just from France) is Domaine de Trévallon produced near Les Baux by Eloi Dürrbach. As he has no difficulty in selling his wine, classified as VDP des Bouches-du-Rhône, for approx 45 EUR/bottle, it is obvious that there are plenty of comfortably-off consumers who agree. This is no Parkerised cult wine; I have never been able to detect any new wood aromas and most years need up to 10 years ageing before becoming really expressive. When ready it is powerful yet classical in profile and beautifully balanced while displaying a real meridional charcter. Story has it that the INAO was ready to turn a blind eye to the "excessive" amount of Cabernet if Dürrbach planted one Grenache vine but with admirable rigour he refused.

Another French area where Cabernet and Syrah co-exist along with some Merlot and Grenache is Cabardès, North of Carcassonne and West of Minervois. The taste of the wines is a bridge between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. I have enjoyed the basic wine from Château Pennautier, approx 6 EUR/bottle but, at tastings, I have found the more prestigeous Esprit de Pennautier, approx 20 EUR/bottle, somewhat over-ambitous and clumsy.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Michael Pronay » Sat Jul 22, 2006 1:30 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:Michael, are you aware of a nifty, handy dandy, more or less official French website somewhere where these rules are written down for us mere mortals to ponder?

Sorry Garry, no, I havent. I have extrapolated from Austrian regulations which compell with EU regulations, and I'm pretty much sure that this is not the slightest of a problem: Cite grape varieties in descending order of importance, and there you are.
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Cabernet Syrah blends

Postby Jay Labrador » Mon Jul 24, 2006 4:22 am

If I remember correctly, in the 19th century, the Bordelais would "Hermitage" their wine, adding Rhone wine (Syrah) to make the claret stronger and darker. The Hermitaged wine would sell for more than the regular claret.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Graeme Gee » Mon Jul 24, 2006 7:41 pm

There was stuff-all cabernet in Australia until the sixties, but I think the trendsetters found it difficult to make well-balanced wines from it anyway. Max Schubert couldn't find enough decent cabernet for Grange, which was why it was made from shiraz, but he always seemed to find a mid-palate hole in cabernet which shiraz filled nicely; perhaps the role that Merlot fills in Bordeaux?

There's a heap of Malbec in Australia, plenty in the Clare valley where it's often blended with Cab-S, but in other places too, and a reasonable amount of PV as well. James Halliday published a book a few years ago which had planting data for this country, but I don't have a copy. I'd guess the popularity order would go: C-S, Mer, Mal, with C-F & PV tied at the bottom.

Cullen in Margaret River make a powerful wine called Mangan out of Malbec and PV - a fairly unusual blend. Wendouree in Clare have been blending CS and Malbec for 100 years.

The rarest one to find over here is a straight cab-franc (although I believe Tahbilk manage one sporadically.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:04 am

Dave Erickson wrote:
Alex, there are some vignerons in Costieres de Nimes who would be very upset to learn that cabernet and syrah have nothing to do with each other. The label pictured is for a wine sold as Vin du Pays because it doesn't fit the Costieres de Nimes DOC rules...


Dave, I have no doubt that Mas Carlot makes a VdP Cab-Syrah, but that's not what your label shows. A VdP would not have either year or the AOC name on the label. As best as I can tell, Mas Carlot makes two different "Cuvée Tradition"s, one for domestic (FR) consumption that's a Grenache/Syrah blend -- that's the label you show -- and one for export that's a VdP D'Oc.

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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby AlexR » Tue Jul 25, 2006 6:31 am

That's interesting Mark... because a label that's illegal for the French market should also be for export markets...

I'm wondering though if there's not some confusion between vins de pays and vins de table here.

Best regards,
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Peter May » Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:39 am

AlexR wrote:
It seems to me the Australians pioneered blends of grape varieties that have nothing do do with each other in the Old World (Cabernet-Shiraz, etc.).
Have you had any such blends that were very successful? Or do you find this deviant behavior?



Seems to me that there are a large number of these blends from countries that have been planting international varieties and blending them with a local variety in order (I'm maybe being cynical) to get a variety recognised by consumers onto the label.

This we see Merlot/Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon/Melnick, Odessa Black/Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay/Misket etc

Successful? Commercially as a way of selling wine, yes
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:57 am

AlexR wrote:That's interesting Mark... because a label that's illegal for the French market should also be for export markets...

I'm wondering though if there's not some confusion between vins de pays and vins de table here.

Best regards,
Alex R.


I'm afraid that I've unintentionally misled you, Alex. The label shown is for a "Cuvée Tradition" of their Costières de Nîmes AOC and is a perfectly legal belnd of Grenache and Syrah. What Dave is talking about is another "Cuvée Tradition" of their VdP D'Oc, which is a Syrah-Merlot blend. Both are probably sold both in France and in the US. They are different wines with different labels.

Sorry,
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby Eric Ifune » Thu Jul 27, 2006 2:45 am

Cabernet Franc has been widely grown in Northern Italy for over 100 years. A wine labeled just Cabernet is most likely Cabernet Franc.
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Re: Question regarding less-common Bordeaux varieties on foreign turf

Postby James Roscoe » Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:47 am

Cabernet Franc is fast becoming the "IT" red grape of the Blue Ridge region including western Virginia, western Maryland, south central Pennsylvania, and I suspect western North Carolina as well. I have had some really good examples from all over that area.
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