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Performance-Enhancing Wines

Three of the

When we first started the club, there was talk about how few bottles it may take to reach 100 grape varieties. Perhaps 10-20 with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Port field blends etc. Those speculations now seem quaint and completely blown away by these bottles of vinous steroids

  1. Leth’s Simply Wow! 216 grape varieties (186 confirmed)
  2. Giribaldi Cento Uve 152 grape varieties (125 confirmed)
  3. Pheasant’s Tears Poliphonia 417 grape varieties claimed

Depending on how you count them, that’s 728 to 785 varieties in 3 bottles! (Heinz, you’ve got nothing on these!) These have been languishing for a few years now in my cellar. Quite frankly, I’ve been afraid to open them, not knowing what kind of horrors or delights might be unleashed by this veritable Pandora’s Box. And, of course, I will be tempted to make the ultimate cuvee that can propel any mere mortal into the exalted Heptavin (700) level of Wine Century Club membership. It will undoubtedly send Deborah and me well over 1000.

Is this fair? I’m not so sure, especially when our current holder of the Grand Prix du Cépage, has never tasted the Poliphonia (he has had the Leth’s Simply Wow!, however). I admire Chris Hamm’s remarkable work in coming up with a speculative list of the 417 varieties in the Poliphonia, but unfortunately, they can’t be confirmed with the winemaker. He and his wife Gayle have recently submitted their applications for 1,220 (wow!) grape varieties. A ruling by the Committee was necessary.

The Committee came back with this ruling:

Applications with grape counts that include performance-enhancing wines will be permitted. However, given the speculative nature of the count in the Poliphonia, all certificates will be marked with an asterisk (like Barry Bond’s record-breaking baseball in the Baseball Hall of Fame). Furthermore, Poliphonia grapes will not count in the Grand Prix du Cépage.

By Delaywaves – Own work, CC BY 3.0

6th Anniversary Global Wine Regions List

Please post the regions you tasted today (and any more information about the wines) in the comments below. Do you think it’s possible to beat 314 (which was last year’s grape total)?

Let’s give it our best shot!

running total:


Whew! We broke one hundred!

Snake River Valley AVA
Red Mountain AVA
Walla Walla AVA
Columbia Valley AVA
Idaho (non-AVA) – all the above from Ted Judd
Mantinia, Peloponnese, Greece – Mark and Diane Freeland
Luxembourgeoise Appellation, Luxembourg – Mark and Diane Freeland
Tennessee – Terry Sullivan
Beijing – Joe L
Franciacorta – Meri Kukkavaara
Pessac-Léognan – Gary Newborough
Porongurup, Great Southern, Australia – Darby Higgs
Gaillac – Alex Bardsley
Napa Valley – Wm Patrick Cranley
Virginia – Terry Sullivan
Central Coast AVA – Wence
Chile AVA – Michael DeMucci
Okanagan Valley, BC Canada – Bruce Johnson
Somló, Hungary – James Webb
El Terrerazo, VdT, Spain – Paul Mims
Vipava Valley, Slovenia – B&B Berry
Texas Hill Country AVA – Hunter Hammett
Texas High Plains AVA – Hunter Hammett
Northern Virginia Region – John Clark
Sicily IGT – Marc Braes
Saint Mont, VDQS – Marc Braes
Alentejo, Portugal – Jo Diaz
Nova Scotia – Peter J. Rockwell
Uruguay – Randy Cepuch
Wachau/Kremstal, Austria – MaJ
Limoux, France – Anna S
Duoro, Portugal – Bob Gregg
West Virginia – Terry Sullivan
Rocky Knob AVA, Virgina – Dave highfield
Castelli di Jesi – Peter Conway
Soave DOC Italy- Steve & Deborah De Long
Touraine AOC France – Steve & Deborah De Long
Bonnezeaux AOC France – Steve & Deborah De Long
Etna DOC Italy- Steve & Deborah De Long
Wuerttemberg Germany – Susanne Kuehne
Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Italy – Christine Skandis
Ozark Highland AVA – Aaron Mandel
Tassel Ridge, Iowa – Aaron Mandel
Erbaluce di Caluso – Christine Skandis
Stellenbosch – Peter Conway
South Eastern Australia – Peter Conway
Mendoza, Argentina – Sheila Fruman
Jurançon, France – Sheila Fruman
Burgenland, Austria – Tim Faust
Yakima Valley AVA, WA – Chris Cary
Columbia Gorge AVA, WA – Chris Cary
Similkameen Valley, BC, Canada – Chris Cary
Snipes Mountain AVA, WA – Chris Cary
Newton, Iowa – Phil Watkins
Finesville New Jersey – Phil Ward
Getariako Txakolina DO Spain – Phil Ward
Cochise County, Arizona – Chris Herbert
Cucamonga Valley AVA, California – Chris Herbert
Yadkin Valley AVA, North Carolina, USA – Sue Harmon
Penedes DO Spain – Jackie & Bob Rogers
Cirò DOC Italy – Sassodoro
San Luis Obispo County, California – Susan Blomeley
Alto Adige, DO Italy – Peter Conway
Ile d’Orleans, Quebec, Canada – Kenneth Harris
Long Island, New York – Kenneth Harris
Wisconsin – Wm. Darrell Lee
Kansas – Jim and Patricia Breed
Prosecco – Wm. Darrell Lee
Aglianico del Vulture DOC – Rutha A
Natchez, Mississippi – Great Black Swamp Chapter
Hermann, Missouri – Great Black Swamp Chapter
Paros (Island), Greece – Great Black Swamp Chapter
Vin de Savoie Chignin, France – Great Black Swamp Chapter
Kunság, Hungary – Great Black Swamp Chapter
Savuto DOC – Mark Scholar
Albemarle County, Virginia – PDKramer
Sicilia IGT – PDKramer
British Columbia VQA – PDKramer
Sicilia IGT – PDKramer
Commandaria Cyprus – PDKramer
Rivesaltes Ambré – Stanislav Rudý
Rivesaltes Tuilé – Stanislav Rudý
Beira Interior, Portugal –Paula Sindberg
Knights Valley AVA, California –Patrick Cranley
Russian River Valley AVA, California –Patrick Cranley
Knights Valley AVA, California –Patrick Cranley
Dry Creek Valley AVA, California –Patrick Cranley
Alexander Valley AVA, California –Patrick Cranley
Ica valley, Peru –Robert Austin
Tokaji, Hungary –Jeffrey Elliott
Montstant DO, Spain –Jeffrey Elliott
Red Mountain AVA, Washington –Jeffrey Elliott
Montstant DO, Spain –Jeffrey Elliott
Chassagne-Montrachet AOC, France –Jeffrey Elliott
Cava DO, Spain –Jeffrey Elliott
Middleburg, VA –Kate-Darcy
West Connecticut Highlands AVA –Jon Haight
Navarra DO, Spain –Jon Haight
Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon –Jon Haight
North Fork of the Roanoke AVA –Greg Teese
Valle de Rapel, Chile –The WineCRU
Paso Robles AVA, California –The WineCRU
Monterey AVA, California –The WineCRU
Rioni Gorge, Republic of Georgia –Henry Weingarten
Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Charmes –John Hornbeck
Chablis Premier Cru Cote de Lechet –John Hornbeck
Vinho Verde Region, Portugal –Cliff and Marla Treat
Livermore Valley AVA –Cliff and Marla Treat
Getariako Txakolina –Central Virginia Chapter
Fiefs Vendeens VDQS France –Central Virginia Chapter
Puglia IGT Italy –Central Virginia Chapter
California –Central Virginia Chapter
Washington –Marlene Rossman
Golfo del Tigullio –Jeff Grossman
Barbera d’Asti –Jeff Grossman
Slovenia –Jeff Grossman
Colli Trevigiani –Jeff Grossman
Valle d’Aosta –Jeff Grossman
Etna –Jeff Grossman
Faro –Jeff Grossman
Alto Adige –Jeff Grossman
Umbria –Jeff Grossman
Valtellina Superiore Sassella Riserva –Jeff Grossman
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer –Jeff Grossman
Taurasi –Jeff Grossman
Chambave –Jeff Grossman
Sardinia –Jeff Grossman
Veneto –Jeff Grossman
Mornag, Tunisia –Steven Moore
Pennsylvania –Mike Czerpak
Saint Bris AOC, Burgundy/France –Wendy

Le Grand Prix du Cépage – We Have a Winner!

Le-Grand-Prix-du-CepageAfter thoroughly checking the applications for synonyms, clones, steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, we now have an official winner.

Thomas Reagan, Jr of Georgia is the champion with 431 grape varieties.  He just edged out Michael Mangahas of Maryland who had 419 grape varieties.

Congratulations, Tom!

Breaking . . . Le Grand Prix du Cépage . . . currently counting

I have two giant applications that I am still assessing for duplicates.  We will have a winner later today!

Update . . . lots and lots of synonyms to check . . . count is going into the night . . .

A Wine with 152 Grape Varieties

That’s 95 more than Heinz’s 57! And in one bottle no less!

Through the generosity of Tom Reagan (our reigning champ with 426 varieties) I was able to try the 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Lange DOC a wine that our sole Indian member, sommelier Subhash Arora, has written about.

Obviously this wine poses a problem for the Wine Century Club. Since we allow all the grapes in a blend to count towards our totals, it makes things far too easy – one sip and Bob’s your uncle – wham-bam welcome to the club. Where’s the adventure in that? Something must be done!

I convened an emergency executive committee meeting where we came up with a ruling: the 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Lange DOC can not count for initial membership in the club but the grape varieties in it can count towards higher levels of membership (ie Doppel).


So how was the wine?

It’s about 50% Nebbiolo which is interesting since Nebbiolo is rarely blended with other grapes and some would say that, like Pinot Noir, it’s a grape that shouldn’t be blended. Initially it was fairly closed and not very interesting, but opened up into a very aromatic and enjoyable wine – floral, roses and violets along with a big splash of Dr. Pepper with cocoa and cherries coming out on the palate. The tannins were abundant and chewy but also drying which would usually indicate that it needs a few more years in the cellar, however in other ways it already seems fully matured. I wouldn’t wait, especially if you’re working on your Doppel level! It was perfect with grilled sirloin.

159 Varieties in a Night

The final count is in:  worldwide we tried 159 different grape varieties last Thursday.  Thank you to everyone who participated in our 4th Birthday International Tasting Extravaganza – it was a big success and could potentially be much bigger next year.


London, England
Paula Sindberg hosted an incredible tasting of 12 obscure Swiss varieties: Gwass, Resi, Himbertscha, Humagne Blanche, Amigne de Vetroz, Lafnetscha, Petite Arvine, Heida, Eyholzer Roter, Humagne Rouge, Gamaret and Cornalin! Ted Lekas was able to grace us with his presence all the way from Greece.


Miami, Ohio, USA

Charter Member John Keegan hosted a big party that netted 10% of the grapes on the list.


Kent Benson drinking with Max Riedel. No unusual varieties tasted but Kent convinced the Riedel company to make a dedicated glass for Susumaniello. (word just in: the Susumaniello part is a complete fabrication.)

Thanks again to everyone who participated. If you have a photo from that night that you would like to share, please send it to me at

4th Birthday International Tasting Extravaganza

Running Grape Variety Count (tasted today by members worldwide):


Varieties tasted so far (in order of appearance):

  1. Viura (synonym: Macabeo)
  2. Malvasia (synonym: Malvasia Fina)
  3. Grenache Blanc
  4. Chambourcin
  5. Tinta Roriz (synonym: Tempranillo)
  6. Touriga Franca
  7. Touriga Nacional
  8. Malvasia Istria
  9. Refosk (synonyms: Terlano, Teran)
  10. Cabernet Sauvignon
  11. Merlot 10:40 AM EST
  12. Coda di Volpe
  13. Regent
  14. Negroamaro
  15. Primitivo (synonym: Zinfandel)
  16. Freisa
  17. Feteasca
  18. Babich
  19. Lasin
  20. Plavina
  21. Codega
  22. Rabigato
  23. Donzelinno
  24. Viosinho
  25. Arinto
  26. Falanghina
  27. Vermentino di Sardegna
  28. Trebbiano
  29. Grechetto
  30. Montepulciano
  31. Cannonau di Sardegna (synonyms: Grenache, Garnacha)
  32. Nero d’Avola
  33. Sagrantino
  34. Incrocio Manzoni
  35. Susumaniello
  36. Riesling
  37. Sauvignon Blanc 2:23 PM EST
  38. Grignolino
  39. Malbec
  40. Norton
  41. Syrah
  42. Verdelho
  43. Chenin Blanc
  44. Tinta Cao
  45. Tinta Amarella
  46. Petit Verdot
  47. Petite Sirah
  48. Gwass
  49. Resi
  50. Himbertscha
  51. Humagne Blanche
  52. Amigne de Vetroz
  53. Lafnetscha
  54. Petite Arvine
  55. Heida
  56. Eyholzer Roter
  57. Humagne Rouge
  58. Gamaret
  59. Cornalin
  60. Koshu
  61. Picpoul (syn: Folle Blanche)
  62. Prosecco
  63. Tocai Friulano
  64. Verdicchia Nera
  65. Moscato
  66. Nebbiolo
  67. Treixadura (syn: Trajadura)
  68. Godello
  69. Loureira (syn: Loureiro)
  70. St. Laurent
  71. Cinsault
  72. Viognier
  73. Negrette
  74. Gruener Veltliner
  75. Vidal Blanc
  76. Assyrtiko
  77. Garganega
  78. Rousanne
  79. Marsanne
  80. Pinotage
  81. Albarino
  82. Pinot Noir 7:56 PM EST
  83. Müller-Thurgau
  84. Feteasca Regala
  85. Dragon Eye (aka Longyan, a native Chinese varietal)
  86. White Feather (aka Baiyu, aka Rkatsiteli)
  87. Vignoles
  88. Muscat Canelli
  89. Chardonnay 9:22 PM EST
  90. Gamay
  91. Mourvedre
  92. Cabernet Franc
  93. Aglianico
  94. Pinot Meunier
  95. Carignane (syn: Carignan)
  96. Prieto Picudo
  97. Vilana
  98. Graciano DING DING DING DING!!!!!! Lori puts us over the top at 10:35 PM EST
  99. Mazuelo
  100. Arinto
  101. Moschofilero
  102. Harslevelu
  103. Kekfrankos (syn: Blaufrankisch)
  104. Corvina
  105. Covinone
  106. Tinta Negra Mole
  107. Bukettraube
  108. Semillon
  109. Muscadelle
  110. Grapello
  111. Marzemino
  112. Barbera
  113. Procanico
  114. Trincadeira
  115. Aragones
  116. Souzo
  117. Alicante Bouschet
  118. Pinot Gris
  119. Airen
  120. Palomino
  121. Pedro Ximenez
  122. Mavrodaphne
  123. Xynomavro,
  124. Agiorgitiko,
  125. Carmenere
  126. Tannat
  127. Pecorino
  128. Rondinella
  129. Molinara
  130. Marselan
  131. Auxerrois (the white one and not a synonym for Malbec)
  132. Gaglioppo
  133. Bosco
  134. Albarola
  135. Parellada
  136. Xarel-lo
  137. Lagrein
  138. Traminette
  139. Edelweiss
  140. Vespolina
  141. Dornfelder
  142. Neuberger
  143. Bastardo
  144. Mencia
  145. Zammarica
  146. Verdello Tinta
  147. Serodio Tinta
  148. Welschriesling
  149. Romorantin
  150. Obaideh
  151. St. Pepin
  152. Insolia
  153. Teroldego
  154. Torrontés
  155. Symphony
  156. Sangiovese
  157. Savagnin
  158. Poulsard
  159. Trousseau

Ygay Gran Reserva Blanco 1998

Deborah and I have kicked off the our 4th Birthday today in London with a 1998 Marques de Murrieta YGAY Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco, a traditionally styled white Rioja. A slightly sherryfied, golden-hued, nutty, complex and delicious wine. It also scored us 3 grape varieties: Viura (synonym: Macabeo) 90%, Malvasia (synonym: Malvasia Fina) 5%, Grenache Blanc 5%.

This evening we’re going to join Paula Sindberg at her giant Swiss wine tasting. We’ll be toasting the anniversary there with Heida (Païen), Cornalin, Resi, Lafnetscha, Gamaret, and Gwäss (obscure Swiss grape varieties!).

Members please mention the wines(s) you’ve tasted today in the comments below. Don’t forget to list the grape varieties in each wine – no matter how small a percentage – so we can update the running total above.

Mollard – Preservation of a Vine Variety

Mollard by Grahame Martin

Try to find the name of the grape variety – Mollard – in any book of vine varieties even in those by Pierre Galet and you will be unlucky. It is one of those vines that have almost passed into oblivion. But like the Phoenix, it is now beginning to rise from the ashes thanks to a few dedicated individuals and ENTAV (The National Technical Establishment for the Improvement of Viticulture).

Mollard was well known in the Hautes-Alpes prior to the invasion of phylloxera in the 1870s. At this time the Hautes Alpes had nearly 6000 hectares under vine, today it is under 200. For Mollard the decline has been even worse; even as late as 1958 there were still nearly 300 hectares grown in this French Department. Currently there are just 25 hectares under cultivation.

Its origin is the Hautes-Alpes (05) and it is believed to be a mutation from the Goulais Blanc. Mollard is a red skinned variety vitis vinifera that adapts itself well to the cooler climates of the Alpes. (Embrun is over 860 metres and Gap 740 metres above sea level). Back in 1868 Dr. Guyot in his book “Studies on French Grape varieties” stated “I find it (Mollard) fresh, with moderate alcohol, a good garnet colour and easy to drink. It is somewhere between a Mondeuse (Savoie) and a Gamay Noir (Beaujolais) in terms of aroma.”

The characteristics of this vine are:
1. Its ability to adapt itself to the soil conditions and the climate of this mountainous area and in the rift valley of the River Durance.
2. It is late in bud-break, thus avoiding many of the problems of late spring frost and snowfalls.
3. It ripens fairly late in the season, loving the long warmish autumn days.
4. It is only a little sensitive to coulure and is easily treated against both oidium and mildew.
5. The bunches are close knit and most commonly almost cylindrical, whilst the berries are of medium size and round in shape.
6. The wine produced is rich, with aromas black plums, a little tar, and some earthiness. (The term used locally is ‘rustique’).
7. The younger vines produce grapes that are well suited to the production of the ‘Vin de l’Année’ wines, whist the grapes from older vines produce wines that are best drunk after 2 – 4 years.

Marc Allemand of Domaine Allemand in Theus (05) in collaboration with ENTAV has just completed a 10 years study on this old vine. 2005 saw the beginning of the results of this study with the acceptance of a ‘mother vine’ with which to produce grafts to begin the preservation of the species. Two of the dozen or so clones were accepted by ENTAV and in 2007, 2000 ‘new’ vines were produced – most of which have been planted in his own vineyards. The production is guaranteed as ‘virus free’. In 2009 it is hoped that a ‘small’ number of grafted vines will become available commercially.

Marc Allemand

Speaking with Marc Allemand he told me, “I started getting the ‘bug’ about Mollard when I was still at school, and it developed further when I joined my farther after graduation. It has become my second ‘wife’, what with all the meetings, discussion groups, seminars etc. that it was necessary to attend to get as far as we have done until now. My greatest joy is that now ‘Cepage Mollard’ is allowed to be stated on my Vin de Pays wine label for my ‘vieilles vines’ red wine, I am currently the only one but it will not be long before a few of my fellow Vignerons will follow. There is another grower in the next village also producing a 100% Mollard wine.”

Question – “What do see as the future for Mollard?”

Answer – “It is an ideal grape variety for those wishing to produce red wines in the cooler climates of the world. It is certainly nowhere near as temperamentally difficult, shy bearing, or as prone to mutation as the pinot noir. Being virtually unknown it offers a new choice to both producer and, hopefully, consumer. Mollard is already being regarded with interest by the Swiss, and in a small way by other small northern producing countries who wish to offer something different to the cabernets, merlots, syrahs and grenaches. But my main interest is in the preservation of ancient varieties that can produce quality wines. So many have already been lost and our ‘big brother’ in Bruxelles is not easy to convince that some tiny varieties of anything are worth retaining. I am also a qualified distiller producing spirits from both grape pomace and fruit ‘eaux de vie’ so I understand it from both the vine and fruit grower’s point of view”.

Question – “Could this be another viognier?”

Answer – “I would love it to be, but somehow I don’t think so. For Mollard there are too many attributes that are similar, some in a tiny way, to other red wine varieties. But with more countries further north in Europe, perhaps Canada and higher regions in Chile and Argentina, and others in hilly regions, wanting to produce red wines with a difference, hopefully there may be a few that will give the Mollard a chance.”

Question – “Is anything being done to publicize the Mollard and its acceptance?”

Answer – “A film, due for release in late October in French, has been made about the vine varieties of the Hautes Alpes. Part of the film was shot here in my vineyards. I will ensure you are invited to its premiere”.

Question – What date and what is the quantity and quality of the 2008 harvest?

Answer – “The best example I can show you is where I have three ages of Mollard in a small parcel of wines at Espinasses (the next village). Harvest will be later than usual as we have not had a great deal of sun (unusual for the valley). The Mollard has lived up to its reputation of not having too many problems with rot and I have done only a limited amount of spraying. The quantity is around average and the quality – good to very good – if we get some late afternoon sunshine. The vintage will start in early October.”

Visiting the one remaining wine co-operative in the Department at Valserres (05), I enquired of the new manager, M. Millot, a young graduate oenologist from Montpellier, if any of the members produce a listed Molllard wine. He told me, “At present there is only one co-operative producer in the Hautes Alpes, producing a 100% Mollard wine, the rest of the members only have tiny amounts of Mollard remaining, so therefore it is it blended into our Vin de Pays des Hautes Alpes rouge.

The one area where there is the opportunity for expansion of Mollard wines is in the growth of the ‘all the year round’ tourist market, but are the ‘powers in office’ capable (or willing)’ to back the small vineyard industry of this department, or will the French anti-drink lobby fire another shot in the foot of the country’s wine industry?

Article and photographs copyright Grahame Martin.

The Wine Century Club Turns 4!

4th Birthday

We’re now 590 members strong and growing!

This year, instead of our annual shindig in New York City, we’re going to celebrate online in recognition of the international nature of the club (not to mention the massive global financial meltdown).

Wherever you may be, please raise a glass of something interesting and delicious on May 7th in honor of the club and the glory that is you.  Bask in grapeness, recite the sacred oath and if at all possible please post a short note about the wine you had here.  The note can be as simple as the name of the wine and its grape variety(ies).

It would be amazing if we could collectively taste 100 or more different grape varieties that day.  It would be more amazing if we could taste over 200 in honor of the newly minted Doppel Members.

If you happen to be in London, England on May 7th, please join me, Deborah De Long and Paula Sindberg at Paula’s giant Swiss wine tasting. We’ll be toasting the anniversary with Heida (Païen), Cornalin, Resi, Lafnetscha, Gamaret, and Gwäss(yes, these are grape varieties!).  To sign up, please contact Paula.

Swiss Wines – Grape Varieties You’ve NEVER Heard Of
Date – 7 May 2009 (Thursday)
Venue – Bacchus & Comus, 57 Pelham Street (private home), London SW7 2NJ
Time – 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Cost – £40/person – sorry but Swiss wines are expensive!

This tasting will feature 12 (!!) unique grape varieties that you’ve probably have never heard of so it’s a real opportunity to add to your grape variety “life list”.
All these wines are rare and seldom made anywhere, even in Switzerland. Most are from the Valais, that beautiful valley along which the Rhône River flows on the way from to Zermatt. The tiny producers here make some outstanding wines. The wines aren’t cheap but, then, what is in Switzerland. So to experience the pleasures of Heida (Païen), Cornalin, Resi, Lafnetscha, Gamaret, and Gwäss, among others, join us on 7 May. Book & pay in advance to secure your place.

Australia’s Top Alternatives Announced

Someone once said ‘variety is the spice of life’ and this is certainly true of wines. In recent years, more and more Australian grapegrowers and winemakers have been experimenting with ‘new’ grape varieties. There are countless different grape varieties grown around the world, which are outside what are considered to be the classic varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Not all of these varieties are suitable for producing premium quality wines and therefore some of our more progressive winemakers are continually experimenting to see which varieties suit their micro climate.

Early in November each year, an inquisitive bunch of wine industry folk gather in Mildura to examine and appraise the latest crop of wines made from non-mainstream or alternative grape varieties.

In 1999 when Stefano de Pieri and Bruce Chalmers started the Sangiovese Awards which, have developed to become the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, the few alternative varieties that most people in the wine industry had heard about were some of the Italian varieties such as Sangiovese & Nebbiolo. In less than a decade we have seen the emergence of varieties such as Viognier, Pinot Gris and Tempranillo into the Australian wine drinking public’s cognizance.

The 2008 wine show had 581 entries, down slightly from the 626 in 2007, with the Mayford 2006 Tempranillo taking out 3 trophies including Best Wine of the Show. Tempranillo entries were strong this time, with 43 entries over the two classes, divided into 2007/2008 Vintage and 2006 and Older. The older class being considerably the better one with wines having had more time to settle down and become more complex. The judges commented that many of the wines in the 2007/2008 class had good fruit but were over-oaked. It will be interesting to see these wines again in 12 months time at the next show, to see if they develop over that time like their predecessors have.

Other Trophy winners were Tahbilk 2004 Marsanne which won the Trophy for Best White Wine of the Show as well as the trophy for Best Commercial Volume. The Trophy for the Best Italian varietal was taken out jointly by the Dal Zotto Arneis for the white wine and the David Hooks 2006 Barbera for the red wine.

By far the largest numbers of entries were the 93 wines entered in the four Pinot Grigio classes, with Gold Medals going to Trentham, Taltarni, Yarra Burn and Hentschke. This was followed by the 64 entries in to the two Viognier classes where the gold medals were won by Haan Wines Hanenhof 2008 Viognier and Geddes Seldon Inn 2008 Viognier.

One of the positives in the main white wine classes was the increasing number of Albarino & Fiano wines entered. Whilst there weren’t many medals handed out for these two varieties by the Judges, their progress is exciting and these are two varieties to watch with great interest over the next few years, in my opinion.

In the red classes the largest number of entries was in the Sangiovese classes. Again like with the Tempranillo the older class – 2006 & older significantly outperformed the 2007/2008 class- 2 Gold Medals to Nil.

The Nebbiolo class had 22 entries, of which the Gold Medal winning S.C. Pannell Adelaide Hills 2006 Nebbiolo was a stunning wine.

One of the low points of the show was the decline of Petit Verdot, not only were the number of entries down by more than 50% from the 2005 Show to a mere fourteen entries, but also across the two classes, the judges only awarded two Bronze medals and commented “ Petit Verdot’s strength is as a blending component” . By comparison the Lagrein Class had three Bronze medal winners out of nine entries.

In the Durif class 10 out of the 20 entrants achieved Bronze medals and 2 achieved Silver medals. In my opinion the wines from De Bortoli, 919 Wines, Rutherglen Estate and Morris are showing the way forward.

Again the Zinfandel class with 15 entries was strong and showing much progress in the handling of this variety other than one or two overly sweet wines.
The two most exciting classes to me were 19 (other medium bodied varieties & blends) & 20 (other full bodied varieties & blends) were there were a plethora of different varieties and more significantly blends made from a number of varieties. I am convinced that the future of alternative variety reds is destined to be in blends rather than straight varietals.

Whilst good-great varietal wines such as the Brown Bros Carmenere, Rimfire Touriga National, Symphonia Tannat and Hugh Hamilton “The Oddball” Saperavi will carve out a niche for themselves in this crowed wine world, I am convinced that it is the blends such as Heartland Wines Dolcetto & Lagrein, Pindarrie ‘Bar Rossa’ Tempranillo/ Grenache/Shiraz, Symphonia Wines Quintus Saperavi/Temp/Tannat/Merlot/Cab & Yalumba Hand Picked Tempranillo/Grenache Viognier which will make a bigger and longer lasting impact on the wine drinking public. The blend option allows the winemaker to have greater consistency from vintage to vintage and they are therefore less likely to disappoint/confuse their customers.

Wines made from Alternative varieties have made much progress in the last decade.
The question is, which alternative varieties will come to the forefront in the next decade? It will be interesting to watch the progress over the next ten years and see which names become as well known as Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sangiovese and Tempranillo have become over this decade. My tips are Albarino, Fiano, Tannat and Saperavi.

Hondarrabi Who?

In keeping with the theme of Spain (as per the posting by Chris Wilford), I thought I would draw your attention to a recent posting on my blog concerning the grape Hondarrabi Zuri from Spain as it seems fitting for the members of The Wine Century Club.

~Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., CSW
Grand Cru Classes