Grapes and Blends
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Name the 3 primary black grape varieties of Bordeaux
- Merlot: 60% of black plantings
- Cabernet Sauvignon: 26%
- Cabernet Franc (aka Bouchet, Grosse-Vidure, Carmenet, Breton): 12%
Was more Cabernet Franc than Cabernet Sauvignon planted in Bordeaux until the 1960s?
Is there more Merlot planted in Bordeaux than in any other wine region?
Name the 3 secondary black grape varieties of Bordeaux
- Malbec (aka Auxerrois, Noir de Pressac, Malbeck, Cot)
- Petit Verdot
- Together, these varieties comprise 2% of black plantings
Name 3 "accessory" black grape varieties of Bordeaux
- Cahors (aka Negrette?)
- Bouchales (aka Prolongeau)
- Bequignol Noir
Name the 3 primary white grape varieties of Bordeaux?
- Sauvignon (Blanc and Gris)
What is the predominant variety in Bordeaux white wine?
- Dry: Sauvignon with Semillon
- Sweet: Semillon with Sauvignon
Name 5 secondary white grape varieties permitted in AOC Bordeaux
- Mauzac Blanc
- Merlot Blanc (Merlot X Folle Blanche)
- Ugni Blanc
Are the secondary white grape varieties encouraged in Bordeaux?
- Tolerated but no new plantings allowed.
- Must be less than 30% of the blend
Name 2 "accessory" white grape varieties in wines from Bordeaux
- Chenin (aka Pineau de la Loire, Pineau d'Anjou): not authorized in regional Bordeaux AOCs; permitted in Cotes de Blaye until 2025
- Folle Blanche: not authorized in regional Bordeaux AOCs since 2004; permitted in Cotes de Blaye
- The above varieties can be vin de table
Name 3 synonyms for Ugni Blanc
- Trebbiano: in Italy, where it originated
- St.-Emilion des Charentes: in Gironde and Cognac
- Muscadet Aigre ("sour Muscadet"): in Girone
When were hybrids forbidden in Bordeaux?
Name the Bordeaux principal grape varieties in order of picking
- Chasselas: epoch 1 (reference grape)
- Sauvignon: epoch 2 early
- Semillon: epoch 2 late
- Muscaelle: epoch 2 end
- Merlot: epoch 2
- Cabernet Franc: epoch 2
- Cabernet Sauvingon: epoch 3
- Petit Verdot: epoch 3 end
What AOC has Colombard as a principal variety?
Cotes de Blaye Blanc must be 60%-90% Colombard
Is the reputation of a vintage dependent on white, red, or both wines?
Describe the characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon
- Thick-skinned (Intense color, Tannic, Resistant to rot)
- Black fruit aromas (If ripe, blackcurrant, wild strawberries; if very ripe, mint, licorice, cedar)
- Only in Bordeaux: "Cold Chimney" (ashy) and floral (roses) aromas
Why might Cabernet Sauvignon not ripen?
- If Unripe, herbaceous, green pepper (this is a fault)
- Picked too early
- Vines too vigorous
- Low-density planting
- Planted on "heavy" soils
- Weak vintages
What does it take to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon?
* MILD WATER STRESS (produces fruit and floral aromas
Describe the characteristics of Merlot
- Thinner-skinned than CS so lighter in color and softer tannins
- Early maturing (first to come out of winter dormancy)
- High sugar levels (= alcohol)
- Red fruit aromas (if ripe, cherry, plum and with age, humus, truffle; if over-ripe, fig, stewed prune)
What do "Merlot" years or "Cabernet" years mean?
Refers to how successfully the grapes ripened in a given year.
What does "tight pollination" mean?
- Pollination requires clear skys, light breezes, moderate temperatures.
- The flowers will be pollinated in 5-8 days.
What is Coulure?
- A condition resulting from cold, rainy, windy weather may prevent pollen from fully setting in the flower's pistil
- Called "shot berry" (because grapes only achieve size of BB shot) or "shatter" in England.
What grapes are susceptible to Coulure?
Merlot, Malbec, Grenache, Muscat Ottonel.
- Merlot years: 98, 99, 01, 04, 06
- Cabernet years: 96, 02 03 06, 08
What were the percent of red grapes grown in Bordeaux in 2009?
- Merlot: 64%
- Cabernet Sauvignon: 24%
- Cabernet Franc: 11%
- Petit Verdot/Malbec/Carmenere: 1%
Describe the characteristics of Cabernet Franc
- Tannic but more rustic ("cashmere" tannins) than Merlot or CS
- Contributes a "savory" character
- If unripe, grassy, "ice tea"; If ripe, mineral, metholated, raspberries, black pepper and with age flowery, leathery, tobacco
Describe challenges with Cabernet Franc
- If overcropped, becomes "pissy"; color and character diluted
- Veraison can be tricky -- irregular yields
- Starts with an herbaceous character
- Disappointing right after harvest; gains depth after several months
Describe the advantages of Cabernet Franc
- Affinity for barrel aging
- Gives freshness to Merlot
- Grows well in sandy soil (at the base of the Saint-Emilion hill) and clay but prefers limestone
Why are most red Bordeaux wines blended?
- CS is too tannic; requires Merlot for suppleness, balance
- Merlot too flabby by itself; needs tannin from CS or CF
- Left bank (Medoc, Graves) has gravel needed by CS
- Right bank/Entre-deux Mers has clay for Merlot
Is climate change expected to render Merlot less dependable?
Name 3 wines that use a large proportion of Cabernet Franc planted
- Le Dome: 80%
- Chateau Cheval Blanc: 65%
- Chateaux Angelus: 55% (for web site for info about CF)
- Chateau Trotte Vieille and Chateau Belle Assise: 100%
Describe the characteristics of Petit Verdot
- High Quality Grape; if grown successfully and more widely it would be equal of CS or Merlot
- Think if it as a "Super CS"... can make a good wine into a great wine
- Difficult to ripen so planted in gravel soils (Medoc)
- Needs lots of attention
- Ripens 2 out of 10 years (so planted in very small quantities)
Why are Petit Verdot planings increasing?
- * Warmer in Bordeux recently ("climate change")
- * On Left Bank, CS obviates need for CF so PV replacing CF
Why is Malbec a disappearing variety?
- Susceptible to coulure (lower yield due to poor fruit set)
- Falls apart after 20 years (but can make very good wine in Cahors, Argentina)
- Favored in the Bourg (in particular) and Blaye regions
Name a Chateaux that still uses Carmenere
Chateau Clerc Milon (fifth growth)
Describe the characteristics of Carmenere
- Practically extinct (even smaller planting that PV or Malbec) -- a "folklore" grape
- Similar to PV but even more disease-prone
What type of soil is best for growing white grapes?
Describe the characteristics of Sauvignon
- The main variety in dry whites (~ 70%)
- High sugar levels (= alcohol)
- High acidity
- Aromas include if Ripe, boxwood (evergreen) and "broom" (shrubby weed); if Very Ripe, lemon, grapefruit
- Flavors include tropical fruit (mango, passion fruit)
Describe challenges with Sauvignon
- Unripe grape aromas include Herbaceous, vegetal aromas
- Too-high yields
- Heavy and cold soils
Compare Sauvignon Gris (aka Sauvignon Rose) with Sauvignon Blanc
- Lower yields
- More alcohol
- Less susceptible to rot and eutypiose (attacks vine's wood)
- Aromas more fine
Describe the characteristics of Semillon
- The main variety in sweet whites
- Round, fleshy character that Sauvignon lacks
- Less expressive than Sauvignon
- Aromas (if Ripe, white peach, fresh apricot, lemon, orange and with age grilled, toasty, smokey)
Describe the characteristics of Muscadelle
- Minority partner of the blend; contributes little to a wine's structure
- For best quality it must be picked very ripd and at moderate yields
- Muscat aromas (but not a member of the Muscat family)
- Extraordinarily problematic (susceptable to rot, bee attacks, delicate berries must be hand harvested)
- But... produces a full crop after a frost
What were the percent of white grapes grown in Bordeaux in 2009?
- Semillon: 52%
- Sauvignon: 39% (was dominant before Phyloxera)
- Muscadelle: 6%
- Other: 3%
What is the percent of red vs white grapes planted in Bordeaux?
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