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Understanding Wines and Vines

Wine Terms: What is Millerandage?

There is typically little variation in the size of grapes on a single bunch. Millerandage refers to a condition where there a numerous very small berries on bunch along with those of normal size. Millerandage is also known as “hen and chickens” or, less commonly, “pumpkin and peas.” Individual under-sized grapes are sometimes called shot berries, a reference to the small pellets fired from shotguns.

millerandage
A grapevine in the Livermore Valley showing mild millerandage due to bad weather during flowering. 

shot-berries-with-arrow
A close up of Pinot Noir with a few shot berries indicated by the arrow. 

The primary problem resulting from millerandage is reduced yield. There are simply fewer properly-sized, ripe grapes per bunch from which to get juice. The photo above shows just minor millerandage. It’s not ideal, but won’t have a significant impact on production.

The undersized grapes result from flawed fertilization of the ovary during flowering. (The ovaries eventually turn into grapes.) Such grapes will have fewer seeds than the normal ones and may also not ripen fully. The most common cause of millerandage is poor weather during flowering. That was the case for the grapes shown above. However, millerandage can also result from a disease of the vine called fanleaf virus or a boron deficiency in the soil.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photos by Fred Swan. All rights reserved.

I Want Mour(vedre)

Mourvèdre is like a middle brother. It’s not big and strong like Syrah. Syrah exudes power, even when Auntie Viognier pins a little white flower to the lapel of it’s black jacket. It can carry a barrel of wine all by itself.

Nor is Mourvèdre fresh and rosy-cheeked, like that cute little Grenache everyone fawns over these days. Grenache is thin-skinned and can be high-spirited, but people always focus on its cheerful and light-hearted nature, it’s potential.

MourvedreMourvedre just hangs around quietly, doing what it’s told. “Mourvèdre, give some of your grilled meat to Syrah. He does all that heavy lifting.” "Mourvèdre, give your thick leather gloves to Grenache. He's got thin blood.” Or, even worse, ”What’s that smell? Mourvèdre Monastrell Mataro, is that you? Take a shower, boy!” And in group photos, Mourvèdre gets shuffled around to fill in a gap or hide something distracting in the background.

Then there are the rumors. “Something about that Mourvèdre boy isn’t right, Mildred. He’s so rough! They say in France people called him Estrangle-Chien. Dog strangler! Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, I say.” Personally, I think Mourvèdre is just misunderstood.

Facts About Mourvèdre

For one, Mourvèdre isn’t French but Spanish in origin. The Spanish can’t decide whether it’s from Catalonia or Valencia, but they do agree it’s name is Monastrell. Don’t ask...

It is true, however, that Mourvèdre is best-known for its use in wines from southern France. It usually takes a supporting role in the blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol. On rare occasions, it gets center stage.

Mourvedre is late-ripening. And it is prone to excessive vigor. That makes proper ripening even more difficult. You don’t want to drink wines made from under-ripe Mourvèdre lest you experience those dog-strangling tannins. Nor do you want it under-age. Mourvèdre is at its best when fully ripe and given time to soften and develop in barrel and/or bottle.

What is Mourvèdre like, at it’s best then? It is dark red and structured, with moderate to high alcohol. It’s fruit is often reminiscent of briary blackberry, sometimes plum. Its most distinct aromas and flavors are earthy though: leather, wild game, garrigue, clove. The wine can be truly delicious, exotic and a perfect match for foods that echo its flavors such as Mongolian lamb, game meat pie, sausage of wild boar and dried herb.

Despite it's delectable potential, Mourvedre isn’t among the top three red Rhone varieties in California by acreage. Or the top four. Carignane places fourth. Carignane?

Top 5 Red Rhone Varietals in CA
Variety 2010 CA Acres Under Vine
Syrah 19084
Petite Sirah 7544
Grenache 6011
Carignane 3342
Mourvèdre 847

Data from http://www.nass.usda.gov

Mourvèdre is a distant fifth. While Syrah, Grenache and Petite Sirah stand on the podium after the race, and Carignane is getting kudos for over-achieving, Mourvedre shuffles back to the locker room unnoticed. But I like it and seek out Mourvedre varietal wines.

Four Mourvèdre Varietal Wines from California

Despite Mourvèdre’s under-the-radar status, I’m pleased to say it does get full varietal focus from a number of California wineries. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

Anglim Mourvèdre Hastings Ranch: The first, and current, vintage of Mourvèdre from Anglim is 2007. Leather and white pepper aromas are followed by black and red fruit and spice. The tannins are satisfyingly mouth-coating, smooth enough to allow immediate drinking but sufficiently robust for aging.

Cline Small Berry Mourvèdre: Flavors of bold dark fruit, tobacco leaf (common in Mourvèdre) and eucalyptus characteristic of the small, low-yield vineyard are framed by tannins kept friendly by a gentle crush and 14 months in French oak.

Quivira Mourvèdre Wine Creek Ranch Estate: Quivira tends the Mourvedre very carefully in their biodynamic estate vineyard, adds a healthy splash of Grenache and then lets it soften in huge French oak foudres and puncheons. The wine is full of blackberry and plum complemented by the grape’s natural aspects of spice and earthiness.

Tablas Creek Mourvèdre: I often find this wine to have more red fruit than in most Mourvèdre I've tried. There is also dark plum and the essential meat and black spice notes.

A Mourvèdre Tasting Opportunity

At the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting this coming Sunday, March 25, be sure to taste Syrah, Grenache, Rhone whites and even Carignane. But don’t overlook Mourvedre. It’s definitely worth a try.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

New Wine and Viticulture Classes in San Diego

San_Diego_skyline01.jpg

At one time, before Prohibition, San Diego County led California in grape production. The industry was slow to recover from Prohibition and, after WWII, much of the vineyard land was lost to urban sprawl. The fires of 2007 also took a toll on the wineries of Ramona Valley. But the area is making a comeback now and county residents are showing a lot of interest in grape-growing. A recent viticulture demo at a nursery drew 150 people.

Now there is a program covering both viticulture and wine starting up in San Diego at Cuyamaca College. These classes complement the school’s existing horticultural programs. I think they’re a great value too.

The Basics of Growing Wine Grapes is a seven-session course. It will meet on Monday evenings at 6pm beginning on January 23. It will cover grape varieties, parts of the vine, rootstock, climate, geology, the seasonal cycle from bloom to veraison to harvest to winter dormancy, trellising and pruning, and vineyard practices for high quality grapes.

Wines of the World is a six-week survey of the world’s major wine regions and wines. You’ll learn the differences between Pinot Noir from Burgundy, California and Oregon, the Cabernet Sauvignon of Bordeaux and Napa Valley, etc. At the end of the class, you’ll know how to decode wine labels from different countries, make sense of wine lists and ask the right questions at wine shops. These classes meet on Wednesdays at 6pm starting on January 25.

The classes are taught by Donn Rutkoff. He’s been in the retail and wholesale wine business since 2002 where he represented hot California brands such as Staglin and Kosta Browne as well as the best of Burgundy, Germany and more. He has an MBA from San Francisco State and completed three years of study in viticulture and wine technology at Napa Valley College.

The courses are just $60 each (per course, not per session). Learn more about the classes at their Grossmont-Cuyamaca webpage. To register, call (619) 660-4350.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Get WSET (Wine & Spirits) Certified in San Francisco

logo_detailsThe Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a globally-recognized training and certification organization. It’s also the only such organization officially recognized by the British Government. WSET is based in London but offers training worldwide. It offers three main levels of credentials: Intermediate, Advanced and Diploma. WSET Diploma is the prerequisite for pursuing Master of Wine Certification.

I have completed Intermediate, Advanced and am just about to finish Diploma as well. I found the classes very valuable. They vastly increased my knowledge with regard to wines of the world and honed my analytical wine tasting skills. I took all of the classes through Adam Chase’s Grape Experience organization.

Adam is an excellent instructor and the leading provider of WSET training in Northern California and Boston. Now, for the first time in a few years, Adam is offering Intermediate and Advanced certificate classes within the city of San Francisco. I recommend them very highly. The deadline for enrollment is October 15. If you’d like to take the classes or get detailed information on them, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


WSET Intermediate Certificate course

The WSET Intermediate course is a solid introduction to the wines of the world, with a big emphasis on understanding important grape varieties well. You’ll learn how wine is made, the primary characteristics of the most significant varieties and where they are most commonly grown. You will also taste the wines and begin learning to taste wines analytically — a very important skill for identifying variety, region of origin and quality. The class also includes training in distilled spirits.

These Intermediate classes are fun. They are also a good way to gauge your own interest level in wine and whether or not you’d like to pursue additional certification, WSET or otherwise. Intermediate classes are suitable for consumers and for people in the wine and spirits industry, be it at a restaurant, distributor, shop, or winery. Since Intermediate lays the groundwork for Advanced, it’s best to do Intermediate first even if you think you’re know enough to skip to the next level. And, even if you don’t want to go on to Advanced, having taken Intermediate will increase your enjoyment of wine and make more comfortable selecting it in stores and restaurants.

Intermediate is a five-class series with a test on a sixth meeting. The classes will run from 6-9PM on every Tuesday in November. The test will be on December 6. (If that particular test date is problematic, there will be other dates to choose from.) All class meetings will be held at the Presidio Golf Course Clubhouse restaurant. The cost for the entire course and test is $725. That includes instruction, course materials and the wine.


WSET Advanced Certificate course

The WSET Advanced Certificate course goes into much more detail on every aspect of wine and spirits. It builds on the knowledge gained in Intermediate by going deeply into the important wine regions of the world. This includes details on how their particular climates, soils, wine laws and winemaking styles make their wines distinctive. Sparkling, sweet and fortified wines are also covered in much more detail, as are spirits. And there is a lot more tasting of wine involved, further developing your analytical skills. Successfully completing Advanced gives you broad and deep knowledge and is respected by employers in the wine and spirits trade.

The Advanced course starts on November 2. It runs for 15 weeks, from 6:15 to 8:30PM, also at the Presidio. The first two classes are on Wednesday, the rest will be on Mondays. There won’t be any classes during Christmas and New Years’ weeks. The fee is $1400, all inclusive. (Note that many companies in the trade pay all or part of this tuition for their employees.)

Some in-depth wine classes are done on an intensive basis, either all day on consecutive weekdays or full weekends. My WSET Diploma classes were that way too. However, my Intermediate and Advanced classes were spread out over weeknights like the classes Adam is now offering. I much preferred the spread out format. While it seems attractive to get things out of the way quickly, I found the weekly approach allowed me to spend more time reading the support materials and practicing my tasting. It was a better way to really get a grasp on the information.

If you’d like to take your wine knowledge and tasting skills to the next level, you should definitely consider these course. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or in the business, you’ll find the classes very useful. Again, the deadline for enrollment is October 15, so This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. soon.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.