Join the club

You may or may not have heard of the Wine Century Club. This organization has a great premise: Try wines with 100 different grape {varieties}. They don’t necessarily have to be {varietal wines}, blends are perfectly legitimate. Heck, with the right Châteauneuf-du-Pape you could theoretically knock down 13 varieties in one glass. Anyway, I think that this is a great idea and a great way to get wine lovers to explore a small percentage of the approximately 10,000 different grape varieties grown in the world today.

Based on my recollection, an informal count of the varieties they have listed on their application puts me at around 79, and I was able to come up with about 23 that weren’t on the list that I have had. So I guess I could theoretically put in my application now.

I wondered, though, why I had had so many “obscure” varieties that these professional winos didn’t have listed. It’s not because I seek out the most obscure grape varieties I can find (even though I do). It’s because I live in a cool-climate viticulture region, and one of the pillars on which the industry in the Finger Lakes stands is native and interspecific hybrid grape varieties. Concord, Catawba, and Niagara you may have heard of. But Diamond? Frontenac? Scuppernong? Are these not grapes? Are these not Vitis spp.? They certainly are, and they are important not only to historical American winemaking, but to viticulture in many American wine regions today. Often, these wines are met with a snobbery usually reserved for 2-buck Chuck. I would like, if I can, to try to change that. That’s why I have decided to:
Insert suspense here…

Published in: on 7 October 2009 at 7:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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Palate-friendly hybrid


Six Mile Creek is in the town of Ithaca, right on 79.

Six Mile Creek Vignoles 2007
Varietal: Vignoles (also known as Ravat 51)
ABV: designated as “table wine” so between 7-14%
Price Point $9.75
Looks: Mild yellow, kind of like a light vegetable oil
Nose: Right away there’s pear and creamy component kind of like baby food (like mashed bananas or something). Perfumey floral aromas are present, too, with touch of sulfur off-aromas* on the back end.
Palate: Fresh acidity with a little sweetness. Very enjoyable, I would drink this a lot, especially for the price.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork

Six Mile Creek is the closest winery to Ithaca, and they have some decent wines. They also have grappa (made from distilled grape skins), limoncello, vodka, and gin, all distilled from grapes. Usually I’m not too big on hybrids, but I really liked this wine.

I’ll talk about hybrid grapes like Vignoles another time (basically, they’re cold-hardy crosses between European-native {vinifera}, and Native American grapes.)

Hey, dudes, do you smell me?

Hey, dudes, do you smell me?

Now though, I’d like to talk about sulfur. Sometimes called “reduced” aromas or “sulfur off-aromas”, things like rotten egg, garlic, old cabbage, etc., can invade wine under certain conditions. For example, if the fermenting {must} doesn’t have enough nitrogen content, the yeast will metabolize the amino acids cysteine and methionine (the two sulfur containing amino acids) to create other amino acids and nitrogen compunds like nucleic acids. The result of this metabolism is the creation of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs, also one of the active gases in flatulence (Ref: Oghe et al., “Effectiveness of devices purported to reduce flatus odor”, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005, interesting read actually) and mercaptans (cabbage, onions). The human nose is actually quite sensitive to these compunds, detecting them at around 1 part per billion. This problem can be treated by copper fining, but winemakers have to be careful not to exceed the legal limit of copper. I’ve heard that if you have a pre-1982 copper penny, you can drop it in and remove some of the sulfides, never tried it though. A better way to get rid of sulfur off-aromas, especially hydrogen sulfide, is to aerate the wine, e.g., in a decanter or a pitcher, or heck, even a blender!
Other fun mercaptans include ethyl mercaptan, added to natural gas (which is odorless), so you know when you’re about to blow up. And 2-butenethiol is secreted by skunks. They’re not all bad, though. Grapefruit and passion fruit aromas (3-mercaptohexanol) are also mercaptans. If you’ve got too high a concentration, though, it will smell like B.O.

Published in: on 23 March 2009 at 6:53 pm  Comments (3)  
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