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    Blog

    Is a wine horizontal or vertical? Square or round? Hollow or dense? Relaxed or tensed? Grainy or smooth? This is a small sample of GeoSensorial Tasting vocabulary — a method that seeks to empower the taster to feel, interpret and give voice to wines of place.

    By focusing on mouthfeel and assessment criteria such as energy, salivation, geometry, texture and consistency, this methodology helps you to better understand the nuances that a specific terroir, among other factors, brings to wine and helps you to express those nuances. It puts light on how, for example, Chenin Blanc wines from the schist soils of Savennières, the tuffeau of Saumur and the flint-clay and limestone-clay of Vouvray differ from one another.  Quite an ambitious undertaking!

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    With warmer weather, bud break comes quickly. The tiny buds swell and then quickly reveal small, fuzzy, green leaves as the shoot primordia begin to elongate. These shoot primordia will become fully developed shoots over the next few weeks! 

    Although the exact timing of bud break varies from location to location and from year to year, cooler growing areas can have bud break as late as May; warmer regions as early as March. Either way, bud break officially starts the new vintage for the vines!

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    Few, if any, moments in wine are more dramatic than when a producer decides it is time to pick fruit. Whether they rely upon a Brix reading, a visual cue from the grape seeds, or the finely tuned instrument of their own palate, making the call to harvest a plot of grapes is a decision fraught with consequence. Get it exactly right and you can have a legendary vintage. Get it wrong, and nothing that follows from the vine to the winery to the bottle can make up for an ill-timed harvest.

    “Ripeness is balance at its apogee,” notes Julia Harding, a Master of Wine, wine critic, contributor to JancisRobinson.com, and the co-author of the often-referenced book Wine Grapes. Yet given the frequency with which “ripeness” and “balance” are used as terms in wine discussion, it is worth our time to take a step back and try to find a consensus on what they actually are (or even, if they are the same thing), and the ramifications this may hold for our sensory perception. 

    As we discovered, defining where that apogee of balance lies can be exceedingly difficult. Balance “resists codification,” says wine writer and Wine Scholar Guild Academic Advisor Andrew Jefford. “It varies culturally; it varies by individual; it varies by region and by variety.”

    For our latest Great Debate, Andrew Jefford and Julia Harding tackle the finer points of ripeness and balance in wine. Their back-and-forth covers a lot of ground: how to decipher balance on the palate, the differences between tasting wine and drinking a wine, putting the value of alcohol levels into context, the role climate change is playing in defining our sense of taste, and even the dangers of allowing one’s intellect to override the sensual response. All of it, Jefford suggests, is in a quest for, what he calls, “resonance.”

    While we may not have arrived at any convenient new truisms, in the end, wine’s remarkable ability to reveal the harmony of nature is — at least for now — something we can all agree on.

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    In many ways, wine education relies on face-to-face contact between educators and students. After all, wine is a drink to be shared and which — for centuries — has stimulated conversation among those partaking. So last March, when it became apparent that the global spread of COVID-19 was about to alter the nature of “face-to-face” contact across every aspect of our lives, many wine educators were faced with a daunting prospect: how to carry on with classes.

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    February is still a relatively quiet time in the vineyard.  Pruning continues in warm climates while in cold climates it may not begin until March or later.  This is primarily due to the risk of winter bud kill.  Different varieties have different tolerances for cold. February, in the northern hemisphere, has historically been the coldest month in the calendar year and a cause for worry.

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    Bourgogne Goes Green

    One of the most significant trends happening in Bourgogne today, is a movement towards sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture. Due to the warming of temperatures, increase in sunlight and shift in rainy season, there has been less vineyard mildew pressure, drier soil and earlier harvests. This change in climate, combined with the desire for a more ecologically sustainable growing model by Bourgogne producers, has led to the recent trend towards Green Farming.

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    Andrew Jefford, award-winning author and columnist in every issue of Decanter and World of Fine Wine, Co-Chair Decanter World Wine Awards; Vice-Chair Decanter Asia Wine Awards as well as Wine Scholar Guild Academic Advisor, gives us his insight about the 2019 vintage in France.

    The beat goes on. The 2019 vintage in France marked five continuous years (since 2015) of warmer-than-average weather. Global warming is with us and accelerating – but so far, for the wine growers of France, it has been merciful.

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    WSG launches “Vine to Wine,” an exciting, new blog series that will chronicle what is happening in the vineyard and in the winery each and every month of the calendar year. Nova Cadamatre, MW and winemaker, will author these authoritative and detailed posts drawing upon her studies (Cornell Viticulture and Enology graduate) as well as her winemaking experience in California, China and the Finger Lakes.

    Each “Vine to Wine” installment will detail that month’s vineyard and winery tasks with deep dives into a particular grape growing or wine making topic such as pruning methods and training systems or barrel aging and fermentation vessels.

    The series is designed to give wine students and educators an opportunity to develop or hone their technical savvy.

    January is a very quiet time for the winery in the northern hemisphere. It is the in between time when the last vintage is quietly waiting in maturation and the next vintage has yet to start. In cold climates, all eyes are still on the weather to ensure that the depths of winter do not bring damage to the dormant buds. The buds hold the entire shoot and cluster primordia (more on this in February’s post) for the new vintage and each variety has a different tolerance to the cold… so monitoring the risk of damage is very important.

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    Few consumer products in the world are more steadfastly focused on origin than wine. Think of the last great bottle of wine you enjoyed and, odds are, its place of origin featured prominently on the label.

    Known as appellations, these defined areas of wine production have fostered a fanatical faithfulness to origin across the industry. Whether it is a Chianti Classico or a Chambolle-Musigny, a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, how we interpret wine often comes down to how we interpret the place of origin.

    While the general concept around the world is the same, the approach certainly is not. In the European sense, appellations define not only the boundaries of a region but the permissible production of wine (including grape varieties, yields, winemaking techniques and more).

    “It is better to call non-European systems of this sort ‘Geographical Indications,’ since outside Europe it is generally only a producing zone which is defined,” says wine writer and Wine Scholar Guild Academic Advisor, Andrew Jefford. “Grape varieties and production methods are left up to the producer, and are a matter of free choice.”

    Studying the differences and similarities among appellations, as well as their traditions and modifications, can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment — or frustration.

    “The tail is vigorously wagging the dog,” says wine writer Robert Joseph, who is also a producer and wine analyst. He notes that too many places lack the distinction required to make appellations practical, useful and relevant to today’s consumer. Add in the not-so-little wrinkle of climate change, and the very purpose of appellations going forward becomes a rousing debate.

    So: are appellations too “rooted to the spot” to be useful in a changing world? Or do they still offer producers the best chance to market their wines on a crowded global marketplace? We sat down with Andrew Jefford and Robert Joseph and hashed it out.

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    Where are we headed? This is a question which all of us have probably asked ourselves at some point during 2020, as a global pandemic unfolds chaotically across a planet experiencing runaway climate change. Both challenges have directly affected French wine growers, with trade tariffs imposed by the USA on European winegrowers forming a third stress-inducing headwind.

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    Barolo Communes

    Apart from the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, perhaps no other wine territory has been dissected in greater detail than the Barolo zone. This makes perfect sense, as these are arguably the two most ideal representations of the concept of terroir; just as Pinot Noir from one village in Burgundy reveals different flavors than that of another nearby hamlet, so too offerings of Barolo from various communes often display diverse characteristics, despite the fact that every wine here is made exclusively from Nebbiolo.

    There are 11 approved communes in the Barolo production zone. For this article, we will deal primarily with the five largest: La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and Barolo itself. The remaining six are Cherasco, Diano d’Alba (interestingly, planted more to Dolcetto than Nebbiolo), Grinzane Cavour, Roddi, Verduno and Novello; these last two are home to two of the most in-demand vineyards in the entire zone: Monvigliero in Verduno and Ravera in Novello.

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    Making Sense of the Numbers

    Every wine appellation in France has a cahier des charges, a set of regulations that delineates the production zone and specifies viticultural practices and production standards.

    In many instances, a single cahier des charges references one zone of production and multiple wine styles within it (e.g. Lirac red, white, and rosé; Rasteau dry red, plus red, white and rosé Vins Doux Naturels). Some single cahiers also incorporate complementary geographic denominations or dénominations géographiques complémentaires (DGCs) such as Languedoc Montpeyroux or Bourgogne Hautes Côte de Nuits. Other times, very different wines can be grouped under one single cahier as is the case for Beaujolais, Beaujolais Supérieur, Beaujolais + Named Commune, and Beaujolais-Villages.

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    25 Italian Wine Terms You Need To Know

    The Italian wine world is full of wine-related terminology that many consumers struggle to understand. Learning the meaning of a few key terms can increase your confidence level and help you make informed decisions when selecting your next glass, or bottle, of vino. We have compiled a list of 25 common terms and phrases that we know will help you navigate the delicious world of vino Italiano!

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