Wine Blogging Wednesday 62: A grape by any other name…


This month, for Wine Blogging Wednesday, Boston wine bigwig Dale Cruse selected a very clever theme. The idea: drink wines called by their lesser-known synonyms. For example, if you like Zinfandel, have a Primitivo. This exercise is also interesting because regional names tend to denote regional winemaking styles. (Think about Syrah vs. Shiraz!)

In this case, since it is Regional Wine Week (and since I forgot to stop at the wine store on the way home), I decided to hit on what has become a bit of a touchy issue in the New York wine community.

Blaufränkisch or Lemberger?
Same grape, two goofy names, and strong opinions about said names.

(Note: these wines were tasted together, blind, in identical ISO 9000 glasses)

Channing Daughters Blaufränkisch 2007
Appellation: The Hamptons, Long Island, NY
Grape: 75% Blaufränkisch (or whatever you want to call it), 25% Merlot
ABV: 12.5%
Price Point: $25
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: from the website: Estate-grown in the Hamptons. “…[A]ll the fruit was hand-picked, de-stemmed, crushed by foot and punched down by hand. The wine was handled minimally and bottled by gravity.” 12 months in older oak barrels.

Hedonic Notes: Brilliant bluish-purple color. Smells like purple, and according to Homer Simpson, purple’s a fruit. Kind of a black raspberry thing. A little H2S at first, but that blows off quickly. An herbal component is thrown in for good measure. The acid backbone shines through, all the way to the medium-length finish. It might be a tad too acidic for me. The {astringency} that comes in at the end seems a bit late and not really necessary. A little woody/cardboard as well on the finish. This wine has its really good moments, particularly after swishing around for a little while, but it’s far from perfect.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks

I’ve written about a Channing Daughters wine before, the Meditazione. This winery is doing some really innovative things on Long Island, and I’m all about more people growing this grape. I wish more Channing Daughters wines were available up here, as I’ve found interesting characteristics in almost all of the wines that I’ve tasted from there.


Keuka Spring Lemberger 2007
Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: 100% Lemberger (or whatever you want to call it)
ABV: 13%
Price Point: $19
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: Estate-grown, harvested at 21 Brix (pretty ripe). Whole berry fermentation, cold soak before and extended maceration after fermentation (for color and tannin extraction), mix of older and new French oak.
Hedonic Notes: Wow. Big, pure fruit up front. There is distinct citrus which brings to mind a sort of mixed berry marmalade. Beyond the fruit is a toasty and vanilla oak component which I rather like. It is integrated very well. Acid is present but subdued in the mouth by substantial alcohol, which also contributes to a nice, full-bodied {mouthfeel} without running {hot}. The mid-palate is a fruity blast of cherry. It just keeps on giving into a long, slightly earthy finish. Lovely. Good to the last glass.

Rating: corkcorkcorkcorknocork 4 out of 5 corks for a wonderful effort from Keuka Springs, who continues to surprise me with great offerings.

Honestly, when I tasted these two, I thought that this one was the Long Island. Not because it was better, but because of the noticeable oak. It was a mistake, though, since Channing Daughters isn’t your typical Long Island winery and they make very judicious use of oak. Shows what stereotypes can do. When I found out that this one was the Finger Lakes Lemberger, I was very pleased.

A note about names: Lots of people seem to prefer the name Blaufränkisch and I’m not sure exactly why. I talked about this a little bit before, but I’m convinced it must be the ümlaut. The name itself has become a cause célèbre to some naïve people who feel as fancy as a maître d’ when they are able to coördinate their sentences to put a smörgåsbord of diacritical marks on words like açaí, El Niño, and crème fraîche. They say that Lemberger reminds people of Limberger and thus stinky cheese. I say whatever helps people remember the name of the wine is fine by me. Blaufränkisch just seems a tad too Teutonic to be memorable to the average consumer. Lemberger is like hamburger! In fact, I would love this wine with a hamburger. Or even a frankfurter. Not that it really matters, but for the record, I am in the Lemberger camp.

Thanks to Dale for hosting a thoughtful and thought-provoking WBW.


Who says the Finger Lakes can't make bold, dark reds?

Who says the Finger Lakes can't make bold, dark reds?

The Lemberger was cold soaked and given extended maceration for maximum extraction of color and tannin. Cold soaking, leaving the grapes in cold storage for a day or two after harvesting and usually adding dry ice, can have several purposes, including weakening the cellular structure of the skins to promote the release of color compounds. I sort of did this with my strawberry wine, but only because I forgot to buy yeast that day. You’ve got to be careful with extended maceration, though, especially if your fruit isn’t ripe. In this case, the Lemberger seemed to be pretty ripe. Overly long macerations, I’ve found, can lead to a spicy aroma that is not unlike potpourri. I have detected this aroma in many Finger Lakes reds, and I think that some tend to overextract in hopes of gaining the most possible color in a region that sometimes has trouble adequately ripening reds. This is one reason I think Lemberger has such a bright future in this region. It ripens well in the cool climate and provides stunning purple color. In my winemaking class last year, one group’s project was a thermovinified (must heated at 65C for a bit before fermentation) Lemberger, and the result was extremely purple.


Give me some skin

Channing Daughters Meditazione 2006

Click to go to the Channing Daughters website

Click to go to the Channing Daughters website

Appellation: Long Island
Varieties: Tocai Friulano 36%, Pinot Grigio 25%, Sauvignon Blanc 17%, Chardonnay 10.3%, Muscat Ottonel 9.5%, Viognier 1.2%, Malvasia Bianca 1%. Yeah, a bunch of grapes, so to speak.
ABV: 13%
Price Point: $40
Looks: Bold, deep golden color with a tinge of orange, somewhat like Sauternes.
Nose: Floral, orangey Muscat-like nose, with lemon peel and pineapple, LOTS going on.
Palate: Unlike any white wine I’ve had. There is some {astringency} to it! Unripe honeydew shows up on the perfumey palate, which also reminds me of peach iced tea. Great {mouthfeel}. Full-bodied, complex, and beautifully balanced, this white drinks like a red. It’s really unique.
Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork for an interesting aromatic white with panache.

Not everyone will like this wine, at least not at first. The muscat can be a bit overly perfumey for me. I’d also recommend having it at room temperature (cold can increase perception of bitterness and astringency, Ross and Weller, “Effect of serving temperature on the sensory attributes of red and white wines”, Journal of Sensory Studies, 2008, and if you don’t believe that, make some tea and try it hot, then put it in the refrigerator and try it cold). Basically, if you treat it like a red, this wine will do nicely. Its price and overall qualities make this more of a special occasion wine to me, but I believe it can function as more than just a curiosity in a wine sideshow. (Barker: Step right up! See the white wine fermented… on its own skins! Crowd: *gasp* Victorian ladies: *swoon*)

Channing Daughters is based on Long Island and uses grapes from both the North Fork and Hamptons. Perusal of the wine list on the website will quickly let you know that this winery is not about producing ordinary wines. This wine is no exception.

Check out the color!

Check out the color!

Unlike most white wines, which are pressed before fermentation, separating the juice from the skins, this wine is fermented ON the skins*, providing the somewhat rare experience of a white wine with noticeable tannin. I’m sure it also contributes to the fantastic color. (NB: Channing Daughters makes a few other whites with varying degrees of skin contact which I have not tried but would like to.)

For many readers, there are some unfamiliar grape varieties packed into this wine, likely because tocai fruilano and malvasia bianca are typically varietals grown in northern Italy. Lots of peoples’ wine varietal education starts with France: Bordeaux (merlot, cabernet, sauvignon blanc), Burgundy (pinot noir, chardonnay), Alsace (riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris). They then move on to California (all of the above, plus zinfandel), then the rest of the New World (Aussie shiraz, Argentine malbec, NZ sauvignon blanc, etc.) and sometimes never really make it to the “Italy” chapter of the book. At least this is the case with me. (NB: I’ve recently decided to add some Italian flair to my cellar, picking up a case including barbera, sangiovese, malvasia bianca, freisa, and others. Working on it…) I suppose one exception to this unfamiliarity is the ubiquity of pinot grigio, which may stem from consumers’ delight in saying “pinot grigio” out loud. Many FL producers will bottle a pinot gris/grigio.
It turns out that lots of great wines come out of Italy, along with lots of different grape varietals. Northeast Italy is a slightly cooler climate. It makes me wonder if there is a reason (beyond name recognition and marketing) that more Italian varietals aren’t grown in quantity in the Finger Lakes. Ventosa Vineyards does produce a tocai fruilano, which I have yet to try. They also have plantings of sangiovese, and of course, pinot grigio.

This wine was fermented on the skins, allowing extraction of phenolic groups (e.g., tannin) that would normally stay behind in a typical white wine fermentation. White wines fermented on skins have been shown to have an antioxidant capacity similar to that of red wine (Ref: Furman et al., “White Wine with Red Wine-like Properties: Increased Extraction of Grape Skin Polyphenols Improves the Antioxidant Capacity of the Derived White Wine”, J. Ag. and Food Chem., 2001). So if you drink wine strictly for health reasons, you’ve got that going for you. Interestingly, while {tannin} extraction is somewhat dependent on the alcohol content of the fermentation, color will start showing up much sooner. This is why rosé wines (reds pressed off of skins, perhaps with brief skin contact) have some color, but not much noticeable astringency. (Cf. Monday’s entry, the Chateau Frank Blanc de Noirs, made from black grapes [pinot noir and pinot meunier], pressed gently such that little to no color escaped from the skins). Finally, (possibly just so this site gets more hits on google) skin contact can even increase levels of the wine media darling resveratrol, a molecule which in itself merits its own discussion at a later time (Ref: Darias-Martín et al., “Effect of skin contact on the antioxidant phenolics in white wine”, Food Chemistry, 2000).

Published in: on 9 April 2009 at 4:24 am  Comments (2)  
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