A guide to Napa Valley Wine (California, USA)

About California's Napa Valley wine region

The Napa Valley, to the North of San Francisco, is the heart of the north Californian wine industry and is one of the world's premier wine regions. It is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. The most famous AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) in Napa include Rutherford, Oakville and Stags Leap. Land in the Valley now sells for very high sums with $750,000 per hectare not uncommon, in  line with Premier Cru Pinot Noir vineyards in Burgundy's Côte d’Or.

The various sub-regions of the Napa valley including cool bayside Carneros to the South and the warmer Calistoga to the north mean that there are different terroirs and hence differentiated wine styles throughout.The style of wines produced in the Napa Valley has evolved over recent years to exploit these geographic and soil differences with several wineries seeking to produce more distinctive style, different to the profile favoured by wine writers like Robert Parker Jr.. The criticism of top Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was that they all tasted the same with extreme ripeness and there was a reluctance to produce single vineyard wines. Nowadays winemakers are exploiting Napa's terroir to produce elegant wines from regions like Stags Leap and Rutherford and more rugged wines from AVA's like Howell Mountain. The best Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is now less about just concentrated fruit and big flavours and more about balance, freshness and elegance.

Napa Valley Climate

As it is a valley the terroir is very much defined by the nearby mountains, the Mayacamas to the west (Spring Mountain, Mount Veeder, Diamond Mountain). Along the base off this range, Napa's key Cabernet Sauvignon regions are based: Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap.  To the East are the Vaca Mountains (Howell Mountain, Atlas Peak, Pritchard Hill).

The Napa Valley has a relatively relatively benign climate ideal for grape production. For example Rutherford has a July average high of 89°F or 31.7°C and low of 55°F or 12.8°C with no rain, and average January low of 39 °F or 3.8°C temperatures with around 17.5 cm of rain. 


History of Napa Valley Wine

George C. Yount is thought to have been the first to grow grapes in the Napa Valley and in 1864, on the marriage of one of his granddaughters to Thomas Rutherford, Yount gave the couple around 1,000 acres of land, which Rutherford planted with vines.

John Patchett was the first to start commercially selling wine in the area in 1858  and in 1861 Charles Krug opened Napa's first true winery in St. Helena.

Captain Gustave Niebaum established Inglenook Winery in 1879 near the village of Rutherford which won gold medals at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris.

In the late 19th century Phylloxera wiped out many of of the vines in the valley and America's Prohibition on alcohol introduced in 1920 and the Great Depression of 1929-1939 caused a major setback to Napa's wine production. 

André Tchelistcheff is generally credited with bringing in modern wine making techniques in the Napa Valley when the Beaulieu winery hired him in 1938. He introduced aging wine in French Oak barriques, cold fermentation, vineyard frost prevention, and malolactic fermentation.

In 1965, Robert Mondavi left his family's Charles Krug estate to found his own winery in Oakville and was first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since prohibition,

1976 Judgement of Paris

The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or "The Judgement of Paris" was a wine competition held in Paris on 24 May 1976 organised by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, who owned a wine shop in the city.

French judges carried out two blind tasting comparisons of the highest quality wines from California and France, one for Chardonnay's and another of red wines (Bordeaux wines from France and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California). 

The results were surprising and ground breaking given that a Californian wine won in both the red and white competitions despite a notable French judging panel. The winning red wine was Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 produced by winemaker Warren Winiarski and the winning white was Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 made by Mike Grgich.

Napa Valley AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) 

Napa Valley has 15's AVA's or American Viticultural Area's and unlike more established appellation systems like in France or Italy the US system is still evolving. The AVA establishment process has been criticised for the ease in which political and legal pressure can alter the boundaries and entry of certain wineries into a particular area. A classic example being the establishment of the Stags Leap AVA which was mired in legal action because of the fame of Warren Winiarski Stag's Leap winery (note with the apostrophe as compared to the AVA due to legal protection).

Los Carneros AVA

The AVA was established in August 1983 and includes parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. It is exposed to the fog and sea breezes from the San Pablo Bay which makes the climate in Los Carneros cooler and more moderate than the wine regions further north in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. This cooler climate has made the AVA particularly notable for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The history of Carneros is linked to that of the nearby mission town of Sonoma and the name is Spanish for sheep, referring to the many sheep ranches that dotted the hills in the early days. Grapes played a prominent role in Carneros agriculture and noted wine historian William Heintz of Sonoma contends that Carneros may in fact be the second oldest vineyard area in northern California. In the late 1830's Jacov Leese planted a small vineyard on the Huichica grant. In the mid-1850s William H. Winter of Indiana purchased 1,200 acres of the Huichica Rancho from Leese and by the early 1870s, had not only one of the largest vineyard holdings in the area, but had also built the first winery in Carneros, Winter Winery. While the wine industry thrived in Carneros in the mid-1800's, it came to a halt caused by the combination of phylloxera in the late 1870's and 1880's and Prohibition (1919-1933). John Garetto established the first post-Prohibition winery in Carneros (the present site of Bouchaine Vineyards). Shortly thereafter, Andre Tchelistcheff and Louis M. Martini pioneered the rebirth of Carneros by establishing it as a cool climate viticultural region. The 1960's heralded a new wave of vineyard development begun by Beaulieu Vineyards and growers Rene diRosa of Winery Lake Vineyard, Ira Lee, and the Sangiacomo family.

Howell Mountain AVA

Established in December 1983, Howell Mountain AVA was the first sub-appellation within Napa Valley AVA. It is located in the Howell Mountains within the Vaca Range on the northeast side of Napa Valley around the towns of Angwin and St. Helena. All the vineyards need to be at 1400 metres or higher which means that they are above the fog which is endemic in the area. The mountain does get cool breezes directly from the Pacific Ocean, and the relatively high elevations result in a cooler climate than on the valley floor with less variability during the day leading to a longer growing season. The soil in the appellation is volcanic with good drainage. Top estates include Cade, Dunn, O'shaughnessy and Abreu with Cabernet Sauvignon being the dominant grape variety.

Wild Horse AVA

The AVA was founded in November 1988 and its southerly location results in more hours of sunshine than other locations in Napa Valley or nearby Green Valley. The proximity to San Pablo Bay results in a cooler climate, making Wild Horse Valley ideal for cool climate grape varieties like Pinot Noir and Joseph Vorbe, one of the earlier settlers, planted 50 acres of wine grapes in the area as early as 1881.

Wild Horse is only 3,300 acres in size, with around 100 acres under vine and just a single winery, Heron Lake Vineyard and Winery. Crossing Napa and Solano counties, the area enjoys more sunshine hours than both Napa and Green Valleys, as summer fogs usually stop before reaching Wild Horse’s elevation. Its southerly location near San Pablo Bay exposes Wild Horse Valley to cool westerly winds from the ocean and bay, especially in the spring and summer.

The soil in Wild Horse Valley is unique in the region —part of the “Trimmer” soil series that once blew out of a volcano. The rocks are rich in minerals and being very rocky, the soil is well drained, but does not retain moisture well– thus the vines have to struggle to become established and simply are not able to ripen a large crop. These low yields (as low as one ton per acre) helps intensify flavours of Pinot Noir. 

Stags Leap District AVA

This is one of the most famous of Napa's AVA's associated with 1976's "The Judgement of Paris"  and the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars with its Cabernet Sauvignon's having a distinctive supple texture. It was founded in January 1989 and is located 6 miles (9.7 km) north of the city of Napa. The Stags Leap District was the first appellation to be designated an AVA based on the unique terroir characteristics of its soil. 

There is a great diversity of soils within the Stags Leap District but two main types predominate. Soils on the eastern elevation are the result of volcanic eruptions that took place millions of years ago, as well as the slow erosion of the arid Vaca Mountains. In the lowland area, where a much broader Napa River once ran, old river sediments have created a blend of loams with a clay-like substructure. These gravely soils, and those of the hillsides, are coarser and retain less water than most resulting in low-vigor vines that yield fruit of great intensity and flavour.

The rock faces of the Stags Leap palisades reflect the heat of the sun onto the vineyards below, causing temperatures to rise more quickly than in neighbouring vineyards. At the end of each afternoon, the hills funnel the cool, marine air  from the San Pablo Bay through the Stags Leap District corridor. The cooling effect of this breeze, coupled with nighttime air drainage off the mountains and hills, means lower nighttime temperatures. This allows the grapes to achieve an excellent balance of acid and sugar and also minimizes the threat of frost. The end result is a longer growing season of warm days and cool nights—perfect for late-maturing varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ninety percent of the district is planted to Bordeaux varietals, with 80% planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. There are also small amounts of Petite Syrah and Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Well known producers include Clos Du Val, Shafer and Chimney Rock.

Mount Veeder AVA

Mount Veeder AVA is located among the Mayacamas Mountains with 1,000 acres (400 ha) planted on thin volcanic soil and was founded in February 1990.

Mount Veeder was named for the German Presbyterian pastor, Peter Veeder, who lived in Napa during the Civil War Era and enjoyed hiking on the mountain. It was during those Wild West days that winemaking on Mount Veeder was first recorded; in 1864 Captain Stelham Wing presented the first Mount Veeder bottling in the Napa County Fair, a wine coming from today’s Wing Canyon Vineyard. By the late 1890's, there were some 20 vineyards and 6 wineries on the slopes of Mount Veeder. Prohibition reduced the number of vineyards, which revitalised beginning with Mayacamas Vineyards in 1951 and Bernstein Vineyards in 1964. Arlene and Michael Bernstein's 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine to bear the Mount Veeder designation on the label.

Many vineyards are located on the steep mountain face with the vines benefiting from more direct sunlight as they are above the fog and better drainage. But there is also shallow topsoil, minimal water retention meaning small grapes meaning that the wines from Mount Veeder are typically powerful in structure with intense flavours yet soft tannins.

It is the only hillside appellation in Napa Valley that adjoins the cool, bayside Carneros, benefiting from the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay.
Mount Veeder is an island of ancient seabed pushed up into a mountain, surrounded by volcanic soils that typify the rest of the Napa Valley. The AVA has the longest growing season and the lowest yields in Napa Valley, with almost all vineyard work is done by hand, due to the rugged conditions and steep slopes.

Atlas Peak AVA

Established in January 1992, the Atlas Peak AVA is located north east of the city of Napa. The appellation is at a higher elevation than most of Napa's wine region which limits the effects of the cool fog coming in from Pacific Ocean and the westward orientation of most vineyards on the Vaca Mountains also extends the amount of direct sunlight on the grapes. The soil of this AVA is volcanic and very porous which allows it to cool down quickly despite the increased sunlight. The area has a fairly significant diurnal temperature variation upwards of 30 °F (17 °C) between daytime and night which adds to the balance of acidity in the grapes.

Spring Mountain AVA

The Spring Mountain District AVA  was officially established as an American Viticulture Area in May 1993 and it is situated in the  north west of the Napa Valley near the town of Saint Helena. 

The AVA is around 8,600 acres in size, of which about 1,000 are planted to vineyards. Currently the region has just over 30 vineyard / wineries.

Historically, the name Spring Mountain has been used in a regional context and does not refer to the name of a peak or prominent point. The area has numerous springs, and is drained by several small streams.

The appellation's vineyards are on steep terraces of the Mayacamas Mountains that separate Napa Valley from Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain. The appellation boundaries extend from the top of the ridgeline on the western edge, which traces the Sonoma/Napa County border, down to the 400-foot contour line at the eastern base of the hillside (generally considered the dividing line between hillside and valley vineyards in Napa Valley). The southern boundary is Sulphur Creek and one of its tributaries, while the northern boundary is Ritchie Creek. Elevations range from 400 to 2,600 feet, with a predominantly eastern exposure.Elevations range from 400 feet (122 m) to 2,600 feet (792 m) with a  predominantly eastern exposure.

Oakville AVA

Oakville AVA was established in July 1993. The AVA is an officially demarcated two-mile-wide swath of Napa Valley that extends to 1,000 feet in elevation up the base of the Vaca Mountains to the east and 500 feet in elevation in the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. 

H.W. Crabb was the first man who made Oakville a premium wine district. He came to California in 1853 and settled in San Lorenzo. In 1868, Crabb purchased a 240-acre parcel in Oakville. By 1877, Crabb had 130 acres of the best vines available and was producing 50,000 gallons of wine. He called the place To Kalon, Greek for “most beautiful.” By 1880, there were 430 acres of wine grapes in the area. 

The cool northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay and the warmer inland air of California’s central San Joaquin Valley combine to provide a temperate Mediterranean climate in Oakville. In general terms, and as American wine regions are classified, the climate of Oakville is considered moderately warm but it is just far enough south to receive regular morning fog from the San Pablo bay. This slows the warming early in the day. But after the fog blows off in mid-morning, Oakville receives the full benefit of the afternoon Napa Valley sun. In the afternoon, when temperatures begin to peak, the bay blows cool breezes north to Oakville to begin again the cooling cycle of night that preserves the colour and acidity of wine grapes. The result is that during most of the growing season, Oakville is about one degree cooler than Rutherford and three degrees cooler than St. Helena. Average low temperatures in Oakville are generally in the low 50's in March, with highs in the mid-80's during July and August. Daytime highs often reach the mid-90s in mid-summer before the sun sets behind the Mayacamas Mountains.

Rainfall also increases from the south to the north. Oakville usually receives around 35 inches of rain per year, almost all of which falls in winter and early spring. Each spring, the rains dissipate in March and April, and Napa Valley receives negligible rain through the end of the growing season in October. November brings the beginning of the new rainy season, and heavier rains and occasional flooding in December and January replenish the Napa Valley watershed.

The Oakville district of Napa Valley has many top wine producers including Robert Mondavi, Groth, Far Niente, Opus One, Joseph Phelps, Dalla Valle, Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle.

Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the most renowned variety grown in Oakville, and by far the most widely planted, other grapes grown include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel,  Sangiovese, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Rutherford AVA

One of the most well known AVA's in Napa with some of the most famous estates including Inglenook, Quintessa, Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford Hill, Raymond Vineyards and Caymus. It is centred on the town of Rutherford in the northern half of Napa Valley between Oakville and St. Helena. With its more northern location, further away from San Pablo Bay, and narrower width, Rutherford is slightly warmer than Oakville and Stags Leap and is particularly well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The Rutherford area west of Highway 29 - stretching from the highway into the base of the Mayacamas Mountains - is commonly referred to as the “Rutherford Bench”.

The well drained soil of this area is composition of gravel, loam and sand with volcanic deposits and marine sediments from the Franciscan Assemblage.  Soils in the Western benchland are sedimentary, gravelly-sandy and alluvial, with good water retention and moderate fertility. The eastern side has more volcanic soils, moderately deep and more fertile. Elevation is from 100 to 500 ft. (33 to 150m).

Rutherford is moderately warm, still partly influenced by fog in the morning. The Western bench area is cooler, with less late afternoon sun and with more cooling marine winds. The AVA summer peak temperatures are around mid-90°F (34-35.5°C) with a good diurnal range and average annual rainfall of 38 inches (95cm).

The term “Rutherford Dust” is commonly used to describe the dusty, earthy flavours common in Rutherford wines. Rutherford red wines are typically rich, medium to full bodied, yet elegant, with black-currant, cedar, cassis, liquorice, spice box, cherry, and earth flavours. 

St. Helena AVA

Established in September 1995, the St. Helena AVA is located near the the town of St. Helena with flat narrow land towards the northern end of the Napa valley between the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains. Its boundaries defined by Zinfandel Lane to the South, Bale Lane to the north, the intersection of Howell Mountain and Conn Valley Road to the east, and the 400 ft. elevation line on the west.

In 1861, Charles Krug established a winery just north of the town of St. Helena. Henry Pellet, another winemaking pioneer, had a winery just south of the town of St. Helena. In 1873, he and Charles Krug combined their wine lots in carloads to ship to eastern cities such as Detroit. But the wines were not well received, buyers having the impression that there were too many Mission grapes in the mix. This impression was confirmed again the following year when Charles Krug returned from a trip to the east and met with discouraging results. Adding to their woes, the country was in a recession and the market was flooded with French wine. Tariffs on the imported wine were low, but railroad fees for the California wine were high. Phylloxera had begun to surface in California, and a glut of wine was beginning to accumulate in the Napa Valley. In December 1875, Charles Krug, Henry Pellet and Seneca Ewer met to establish a new set of quality standards in the area and finally overcame the financial challenges of this period of the 19th century which has stood the AVA in good stead up to modern times.

Top roducers in the area include Corison and Spottswoode.

Chiles Valley AVA

The Chiles Valley AVA was founded in February 1999 and is located in the Vaca Mountains on the northeast side of Napa Valley. The appellation has a cooler climate than the main Napa Valley floor due to elevations of 600-1200 feet as well as a cooling breeze from the Pacific Ocean. The most planted grapes in the well drained soils of Chiles Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon blanc but the AVA is best known for Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the evening and overnight, winds blow through the region and cool air settles on the Chiles Valley floor from the surrounding ridges. The growing season begins and ends later than it does in adjacent regions. The terrain of Chiles Valley Wineries are quite distinct from surrounding areas. Chiles Valley is very narrow and runs from southeast to northwest. Because the ridges that surround the region are so steep, grapes are only grown on the valley floor.

In 1844, Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena granted Rancho Catacula to Colonel Joseph Ballinger Chiles. The first Chiles Valley vineyards were planted in 1870. Because of the region’s isolation, many of these vineyards were spared from phylloxera. Because of this part of Chiles Valley’s history, there are some very old Zinfandel vines in the AVA.

Yountville AVA

The Yountville AVA, founded in March 1999 is centred on the town of Yountville. The town's founder George Calvert Yount planted the first vineyard in this area around 1836. Yountville AVA is one of the coolest wine regions in Napa Valley, which helps contribute to a long growing season. The area is particularly known for its high tannin Cabernet Sauvignon wines, particularly suited for cellaring.

The AVA is 8,620 acres in size, of which roughly 2,700 are vineyards. The first vineyards in the Napa Valley were planted by George Yount in the mid-1800's in the areas now known as Yount Mill and Napanook. 

Wineries in Yountville include Grgich Hills Estate, Dominus Estate, Blankiet and Domaine Chandon, 

Diamond Mountain District AVA

The Diamond Mountain District AVA, established in June 2001, is located in California's Mayacamas Mountains in the northwest portion of the Napa Valley AVA. The appellation sits at a higher elevation than most of Napa Valley's wine region, resulting in less cool fog coming in from San Pablo Bay, and more direct exposure to sunlight. The soil of this AVA is volcanic and very porous which allows it to cool down quickly despite the increased sunlight.

Oak Knoll District AVA

The Oak Knoll District AVA was established in February 2004 and has the largest acreage of vines within the Napa Valley. Its close proximity to San Pablo Bay results in a climate that is cooler and more moderate than any region in Napa Valley other than the Los Carneros AVA. The area mainly grows Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon but varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay are also produced.

Calistoga AVA

Calistoga AVA is located in the northern portion of the Napa Valley and was established in December 2009. The area is characterised by its high daytime temperatues (up to 100 °F or 38 °C) and cool nights during the growing season due to breezes from the Russian River, causing the highest diurnal temperature variation in the Napa Valley—up to 50 °F (28 °C).

Coombsville AVA

Coombsville AVA is Napa Valley's newest appellation, being established in December 2011,  and is one of the coolest with wine from the area featuring higher acidity.  It is located just east of the city of Napa and varies from near sea level at the Napa River on the west to 1,900 feet at the ridge of the Vaca Mountain Range. Since it is close to the San Pablo Bay, cooling breezes and fog occur almost daily during the growing season, arriving earlier and lingering longer than in the more northern regions of Napa Valley. Temperatures are less extreme during the winter frost season. The Coombsville soils are dominated by the volcanic rhyolitic tuff sedimentary rock and lava flows of the Vaca Range on the eastern side of the Napa Valley. Located in the wide alluvial deposits created by the wearing down of the hillsides the Coombsville soils contain abundant rock, gravel and, in some areas, are layered with volcanic ash deposits from Mount George. 

Renowned Napa Valley wineries

Several of the following wineries are often described as the "First Growths" of California's Napa Valley and are often considered cult wines given their limited production and availability. Many are only available from coveted mail order lists, auctions or from high end restaurants around the world.

Beaulieu Vineyard, St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573

In 1900, Georges de Latour founded his winery in Rutherford to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon now their top wine.

When Georges and Fernande de Latour first saw the Napa Valley near Rutherford, Fernande exclaimed "beau lieu!" or "beautiful place." The first Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was made with grapes from the 1936 vintage by André Tchelistcheff, who tasted the wine in barrel and insisted on giving it an independent bottling.  André Tchelistcheff, a research enologist from France's Pasteur Institute was recruited in 1938 and he applied his scientific knowledge to vineyard and winery, benefiting Beaulieu Vineyard as well as the entire California wine industry. His highly trained palate led him to identify the superior Rutherford fruit quality-with the distinctive character he called "Rutherford Dust". Mike Grgich of Chateau Montelena fame has also been a winemaker at Beaulieu.

Screaming Eagle, Oakville

Screaming Eagle, founded in 1992 and owned by Jean Philips,  is one of the original Californian "cult wines" with only 400-750 cases made each year. Phillips originally bought the 57 acre Oakville vineyard in 1986 which was planted to a mix of varieties, most of which Phillips sold to various Napa wineries except the 1 acre plot of around 80 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon. She took her home-made Cabernet Sauvignon based wine made in a plastic trash can to Robert Mondavi. They told her bottle it and the rest is history.

She hired Richard Peterson as a consultant, and subsequently met Peterson's daughter, Heidi Peterson Barrett, who became Screaming Eagle's first winemaker. The entire vineyard was replanted in 1995 to three varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc. The 1992 vintage, released in 1995, through a combination of very low production numbers and highly positive reviews (wine critic Robert Parker awarded the wine 99 points) resulted in Screaming Eagle becoming one of the most celebrated and expensive wines in the Napa Valley.

On March 17, 2006 the estate was sold to Stanley Kroenke and Charles Banks, after Phillips received an offer she couldn't refuse. In April 2009, Charles Banks left Screaming Eagle leaving Stan Kroenke as the sole owner.

Screaming Eagle's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard near Oakville is ideally situated. The soil is virtually a rock pile on a gentle, west-facing slope east of the Napa River. Drainage and exposure are excellent. The vineyard is at a point in the Napa valley where the weather is hot enough during the day to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly, but the grapes are cooled by the northely afternoon breezes from the San Pablo Bay.

The Screaming Eagle wines are complex with blackcurrant, cassis, blackberries and black cherry. The tannins are soft and refined but are firm enough to allow aging for at least 10 years. 

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Not to be confused with Stags Leap Winery based off the Silverado Trail.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is best known for being the winery owned by Warren Winiarski that won 1976 Judgment of Paris, beating top French wines in the process.

Winiarski was born in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois to Polish parents and his experience in Italy convinced him that he should be a winemaker. In 1964 he accepted a job at Souverain Winery in 1964 before moving to Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 and Colorado's Ivancie Cellars in 1969.

In 1970 Winiarski bought a 44 acre property, which was primarily a prune orchard, next to Nathan Fay's vineyard, named the property Stag's Leap Vineyards, and replanted it to Cabernet Sauvignon and a little bit of Merlot. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars was born. The vineyard  sat below the rocky promontory of the Stags Leap Palisades, so named because of the legend of the stag who successfully eluded hunters by leaping to freedom across the district's landmark peaks, was the first planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in what later became the Stags Leap District AVA in 1989.

The land which cost around $200,000 was situated next to the vineyard owned by winegrowing pioneer Nathan Fay. Winiarski decided on purchasing land in the region after tasting a homemade wine from Nathan Fay's vineyard, after tasting the wine Winarski stated “I said to myself, Eureka! That’s it. This wine satisfied what I hoped was possible in the Napa Valley. It had not only regional character but also elements of classic or universal character.”

The first vintage of  S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1973 and CASK 23 was produced in 1974 after consulting winemaker André  Tchelistcheff, while tasting through the lots of wine from this vintage, decided that one lot, which was in the large wooden cask numbered 23, was so good that it should be bottled separately.

In 1976 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars put Californian wine on the world map by winning the Cabernet Sauvignon category in a blind tasting staged by Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant in Paris, among French wine experts between American and French wines. This later became known as the "Judgement of Paris". 

A lawsuit initiated by Winiarski and a counter-suit filed by Carl Doumani, owner of Stags' Leap Winery, was decided in 1986 by the California Supreme Court. The two wineries were founded in the same year, and both claimed first use of the name "Stag's Leap". The court decided that the wineries were named after the area which went back to the 1880's or before, so both were allowed to use the name. The judgment included a provision that Winiarski would keep the apostrophe before the s in his winery name, whereas Doumani would use the apostrophe after the s. But despite the lawsuits Winiarski and Doumani worked together on a Cabernet Sauvignon Wine called Accord in 1985 and unsuccessfully tried to stop the Stags Leap Cuvée by Gary Andrus's Pine Ridge label being sold. They also initially opposed the  Stags Leap American Viticultural Area from being created but later changed their mind. 

The winery was sold to a joint venture by Chateau Ste. Michelle of Woodinville, Washington, and Marchesi Antinori Srl ofItaly for $185 million in August 2007.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars have always had the philosophy of producing wines in a style of “an iron fist in a velvet glove,” a reference to the balance between ripeness and restraint.

The flagship wine from the winery is still the Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23  from the SLV and Fay vineyards. There is still an "Estate & Single-Vineyard Collection" include two Cabernet Sauvignon single vineyard wines, from the "S.L.V" and "Fay" vineyards, as well as a Chardonnay from the "Arcadia" vineyard. A mid-level range called "Napa Valley Collection" is also producd. These wines are made from estate owned vineyards as well as purchased grapes from other vineyards in the Napa Valley. Wines in this range include a "Artemis" Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, "Karia" Chardonnay and a Sauvignon blanc. A range of second wines are produced at a lower price point, under the brand name "Hawk Crest". 

Inglenook Winery, Rutherford

In 1879 Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain, wine connoisseur and entrepreneur, came to Rutherford to build a wine estate that would rival Europe’s finest. In 1882 Inglenook crushes its first vintage of 80,000 gallons of wine and Niebaum purchases 712 additional acres from five neighbours to add to his Inglenook estate and by 1884 the estate is making 125,000 gallons of wine. 

In 1908, dies at the age of 66 and winemaking ceases for several years but in 1911 Inglenook was re-oopened  by his widow. Niebaum’s grandnephew, John Daniel, Jr. inherited the chateau and vineyards in the 1930s and in 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon earns the reputation of being one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons ever made, achieving a perfect 100 score in the Wine Spectator.

By the mid-1960's harvests were small and profits had not yet materialised. The internal system of quality control, initiated by Niebaum and continued through strong directors, ended. The uncompromising management of the Inglenook estate, installed by Niebaum and continued under John Daniel's stewardship, starts to take its toll. In December 1964, the winery is sold to Allied Grape Growers. The purchase includes the brand name Inglenook, the chateau and about 94 acres, with 72 acres in vineyard. It forms United Vintners, a San Francisco-based marketing organization, which officially owns Inglenook. John Daniel Jr. keeps the Niebaum mansion and about 1,500 acres of the Inglenook Estate, where he and his wife continue to live.

In 1975 Francis and Eleanor Coppola buy 1,560 acres of the Inglenook estate, including the Niebaum mansion, with profits from The Godfather films. In the French tradition, they join their name with Niebaum’s, making the property the Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery.  Three years later, the first harvest at Niebaum-Coppola creates the Estate’s flagship wine, Rubicon, a red Bordeaux-style blend named after Caesar’s famous crossing of a river in Northern Italy, which denoted the point of no return for him and his troops – an appropriate metaphor for Coppola’s own quest to create world-class wine. The wine is made in the Carriage House on the back property. In 1995, the Coppolas purchase the last of the Inglenook land parcels with profits from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, including the historic Chateau.  This reunites the property and its Chateau for the first time in three decades.  The restoration of the Chateau begins. In 2011 Francis and Eleanor Coppola acquire the iconic Inglenook trademark and announce the estate will once again be known by its historical name, Inglenook. 

In April 2002, all  the of vineyards were certified organic, a process that took several years. 

The 2012 Rubicon, the estate's flagship wine, released in September 2015 (86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlothas), "very pronounced dark fruit with aromas of currants, black cherries, blackberries, cinnamon, floral notes and the freshness of thyme and other sweet herbs. The palate shows great volume and nicely integrated flavors, fine grained tannins and subtle oak that works beautifully with the fruit. There is softness and delicacy with layered complexity that is constantly evolving. The finish is long and expressive. "

Harlan Estate, Oakville

Harlan Estate is based in the western hills of Oakville and like Screaming Eagle is described as a cult winery. It consists of 240 acres (97 ha) above the Oakville benchlands. The property rises in elevation from 225 to 1225 feet (68 to 374 m) above sea level. Forty acres (17 ha) are under vine, planted to cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (20%), cabernet franc (8%), and petit verdot (2%).

In 1984, H. William Harlan, a real estate developer and Napa Valley resort owner bought the property, a forested area, with steep hillsides, multiple elevations and exposures, west of Martha's Vineyard in Oakville, and proceeded to clear 40 acres (16 ha) for viticulture with an ambition to "create a first growth wine". Harlan attended the opening day of Robert Mondavi’s winery in 1966 and by this time was already nurturing a dream of owning his own wine estate. He traveled to Europe and visited some of the great European estates all the while taking copious notes. He fell in love with Bordeaux and was taken in with the quality and consistency of the wines from these estates. Before Harlan there was Merryvale in 1983 which he sold his interest in in 1990's. This was the first winery to be built after Prohibition in the Napa Valley and Harlan and partners brought it back into production. 

All hillside siting, on both volcanic and sedimentary bedrock; a combination of terraced vineyards and closely spaced vines on spare soils over fractured rock; vertical trellis with shoot positioning, 360º of exposition.

Harlan’s first “vintage” was 1987 but this was not released and not was the 1988 or the 1989. The first Harlan Estate wine label, a design inspired by a 19th-century engraving which was overseen by retired U.S. Treasury engraver Herb Fichter, was 10 years in the making, from when Bill Harlan first started his search for an engraver to the release of the 1990 vintage in 1996. On its qualities, Harlan has stated, "It was a label designed for a bottle that would sit on a table in candlelight, not on a store shelf." It was priced at $65 a bottle.

Dalla Valle Vineyards, Oakville

Dalla Valle vineyard is now owned by Naoka Dalla Valle and before his death in 1995 also her husband Gustav. The winery produces powerful and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc blends with a cult status. 

Founded in 1986, the winery and vineyards are located 400 feet above the valley floor, in the eastern hills of Oakville, Napa Valley. The combination of perfect sun exposure and the cooling marine influence from the Pacific Ocean make this an ideal site for great wine.Gustav came from a family that had grown grapes in Italy for nearly two centuries and now winemaker Mia Klein works with Naoka.

The 16 acre Maya’s Vineyard, named after Naoka's daugher, is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. The property is located at an elevation of 400 feet off of Silverado Trail in the eastern hills of the Oakville AVA. The soils of the vineyard are compact and quite dense. They are largely volcanic with sand, loam, and red clay mixed in.

 The proprietary red wine, named after their daughter, Maya, is usually a blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. These wines are of immense stature and richness with well-integrated tannin and acidity. Only 500 cases of Maya are made each year.

Bryant Family Wineyard, St. Helena

Bryant Family Vineyard was founded by businessman and art collector Donald L. Bryant Jr. in 1985 and was one of the original Napa Valley cult wineries. It is particularly known for its 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines grown on their Pritchard Hill estate Low production levels, high quality and high demand for the wines mean that the estate produces some of America's most expensive wines.

Bryant Family Vineyard is based at Pritchard Hill near St, Helena and overlooks Lake Hennessey and has approximately 13 acres of vineyards.

The first vintage was released in 1992 with winemaker Helen Turley. The 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 wines scored 97, 98, 99, 99 and 100 points, respectively, on Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

In the early 2000's Helen Turley's issued a lawsuit against Donald Bryant over her firing and Phillippe Melka took over winemaking duties. 

Robert Parker Jr. said "The wine from this hillside vineyard near Napa's Pritchard Hill, has already become mythical (1992 was the debut vintage). This is a wine of world-class quality, and is certainly as complete and potentially complex as any first-growth Bordeaux...It is not too much to suggest that in the future, Bryant's Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon might well be one of the wines that redefines greatness in Cabernet Sauvignon." Critic Antonio Galloni, who has taken over Robert Parker Jr.'s role in scoring California wines for the Wine Advocate as of 2011 said"Bryant is without question one of the most spectacular vineyards in Napa Valley. I don’t see any reason why the Cabernets that emerge from this property shouldn’t be among the top 5-10 wines in the valley each and every year

The winery produces Bryant Family Vineyary as well as BETTINA wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from some of David Abreu's vineyards) and DB4 is the second wine for Bryant Family, consisting of declassified wine from Bryant Family Vineyard and BETTINA.

Araujo Estate Wines, Calistoga

Araujo Estate Wines was founded by Bart and Daphne Araujo and its vineyards are located in the Calistoga and Napa Valley AVAs producing organic and biodynamic wines from its Eisele Vineyard.  Araujo is one of California's cult"wineries, with the winery's flagship wine, the Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard considered a Napa Valley "First Growth".

The Araujo's bought the 162-acre property in Calistoga in 1992 including the 35-acre Eisele Vineyard and produced the first vintage of Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in 1991. Named after Milt and Barbara Eisele, who owned the vineyard prior to Bart and Daphne Araujo, the Eisele Vineyard has long been known for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is located on an alluvial fan and has cobbled stone, mineral-rich soils.

Each vintage, four Araujo Estate wines are produced: Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard; Altagracia; Syrah Eisele Vineyard; and Sauvignon Blanc Eisele Vineyard. A Viognier Eisele Vineyard is bottled in some years as well. On average, Araujo produces 2,000 cases of Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon annually. The wines are made from the grapes grown on the estate, except Altagracia, where grapes from other Napa Valley vineyards are used. 

In 2013 the winery was acquired by French businessman Francois Pinault through his holding group, Artemis.

Blankiet estate, Yountville.

The Blankiet estate was created in 1996 is located in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains near to Yountville and owned by Claude and Katherine Blankiet. in the Napa Valley, the estate produces a portfolio of wines from their Paradise Hills Vineyard which is  east and southeast facing to catch morning sun but limit the hotter afternoon temperatures. 

Claude Blankiet was born in Burgundy and he was a pioneer of weathered washed jeans that he sold to companies like Levi Strauss. His visits to San Francisco meant he got to know the Napa Valley and in the mid 1990's he and his wife Katherine decided to try to find a wine estate to buy in the western hills, a difficult task as most land was sold through personal contacts. However, one day he was told a 24 hour hold had been secured on the land above Dominus on the valley floor and adjacent to Napanook. Claude viewed the property immediately. Claude took chance and purchased the land that day despite the undeveloped property and the rest is history.

Yountville AVA is a bit warmer than Bordeaux but the  summer days are sunny and dry with cool nights. Temperatures swing 50 degrees in a 24-hour period, allowing full phenolic ripening of the grapes while maintaining a fresh acidity. Paradise Hills is cooled by constant breezes flowing from the cold waters of the San Pablo Bay and the grape berries tend to develop a thicker skin that protects them from dehydration.

The soil is composed of Pacific seabed formations of greenstone, sandstone, limestone, shale, white volcanic tuffs and pyroclastic lava flows. Each hill is separated by alluvial fans that drain the mountain range.

The estate produces annually a few hundred cases of flagship wines which are farmed organically with Robert M Parker saying “The goal to produce world-class wines at Blankiet Estate has been accomplished, combining the extraordinary power of the site with unbelievable elegance and definition.”

Blankiet Estate Proprietary Red, Paradise Hills Vineyards  -predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. 

Blankiet Estate Rive Droite  - Merlot with a little Cabernet Franc. 

Blankiet Estate Mythicus Paradise Hills Vineyard - 100% Cabernet Sauvignon selection from the best lots and produced for extended cellaring.

Prince of Hearts Red - One of the six “Napa Valley Super-seconds” according to Robert M. Parker and Antonio Galloni. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon from barrels not used for the flagship cuvées.

Prince of Hearts Red ROSÉ -A uniquely made wine from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, cold fermented in 100% new French barrels and aged for a year prior to bottling. 

Other notable Napa Valley producers and wines

  • Heitz cellars, St. Helena. With the flagship organically produced Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville), oak aged 3½ years. heitzcellar.com
  • JJ Cohn Scarecrow Wine, Rutherford . Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from the oldest, most balanced and most intense Cabernet lots grown on the J. J. Cohn Estate, adjacent to Inglenook winery. http://www.scarecrowwine.com/
  • Abreu vineyard, Rutherford. Abreu's label concentrates exclusively on estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon blends from the two vineyards. abreuvineyards.com
  • Shafer vineyard, Stags Leap. Known for its Shafer Hillside Select® Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for four years prior to release (three years in Alliers and Tronçais oak barrels and 15 months in the bottle). http://www.shafervineyards.com/
  • Colgin cellars, Pritchard Hill, St. Helena. Founded by Ann Colgin and husband Joe Wender. The winery provides great views of Lake Hennessey.The Colgin IX Estate red wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The number IX refers to the parcel number and is also significant as the date Ann and Joe were married: 9/9. The 2002 vintage was the first, of four vintages, from this property to achieve the highest accolade of “a perfect wine”. Each year the blend has intensity, purity, and is remarkably long. As well as this and a Syrah, Colgin now makes three different Cabernet's, each with its own characteristics. Tychson Hill is probably the most feminine and floral, while Cariad, made mostly from old-vine Cabernet from Mr. Abreu's Madrona Ranch Vineyard, tends to be more exuberant and spicy.  http://www.colgincellars.com/
  • Dominus Estate, Yountville. In 1982 Christian Moueix entered into a partnership to develop the Yountville vineyard and 1995 became sole owner. He chose the name Dominus or "lord of the estate" in latin to underscore the longstanding commitment to stewardship of the land. The winery seeks to make the best Bordeaux style wines. Dominus and Napanook wines are produced with Dominus 2012 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. http://www.dominusestate.com/
  • Chappellet, Pritchard Hill. Donn and Molly Chappellet with the help of renowned winemaker André Tchelistcheff  created the first winery to plant vineyards exclusively on the high-elevation hillsides of Pritchard Hill (rising up to 1,800 feet) and produced wines from 1967. The estate is known for its Signature Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. http://www.chappellet.com/
  • Spottswoode family estate, St. Helena. A family-owned winery known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Established in 1882 by George Schonewald and acquired by Mary and Jack Novak in 1972. Mary released Spottswoode’s first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982, exactly one hundred years after the estate’s founding. Today, Mary’s daughter Beth Novak Milliken manages the winery. The estate was organically farmed since 1985, and the vineyard was certified organic in 1992. Every year four wines are released: Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, and Field Book Syrah. Spottswoode wines are especially known for their refined elegance, balance, and classic structure. http://www.spottswoode.com/
  • Corison Winery, between Rutherford and St. Helena Corison is a family winery Founded by Cathy Corison and in 1987 she made the first vintage of Corison Cabernet. The Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is the signature wine. www.corison.com
  • Dana Estates, Rutherford. The land in the Rutherford Bench was first farmed and developed by German viticulturalist H. W. Helms in 1883. It was purchased in 1976 by John and Diane Livingston and served as the home for Livingston Moffett winery until proprietor Hi Sang Lee bought the property in 2005.  Helms, Hershey and Lot vineyards, farmed organically at low yields, produce sought after Cabernet Sauvignon. danaestates.com/
  • Larkmead vineyards, Calistoga. In 1993, Cam and Kate began making Larkmead wines from the Estate at Napa Wine Company in Oakville. The 1997 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon was released to great acclaim. The Larkmead Estate is made up of three contiguous vineyard parcels at one of the narrowest points in Napa Valley. The vineyard spans almost the entire breadth of the valley floor from Highway 29 to Silverado Trail with the Napa River dissecting it in half. The vineyard's three block contain four primary soil types: sand, silt, clay and gravel. www.larkmead.com
  • Bond Estates, Oakville. Founder Bill Harlan owned Merryvale Winery in St. Helena and Bob Levy was his winemaker. At the time Merryvale worked with around 60 vineyards in the valley; ultimately Bob recognized several vineyards that stood out from the rest based on quality of site.After Bill sold Merryvale, both he and Bob decided they would work together to create an estate built around select vineyards in the Napa Valley (none of which would be under their ownership, but all would be farmed by their own vineyard team – rather than by the owners of each vineyard). They were able to keep several of these premium vineyards after Merryvale was sold. Sourcing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Melbury, Quella, St. Eden, Vecina, Pluribus vineyards around the Napa Valley. These are hillside vineyards with locations in both the Vaca and Mayacamas mountain ranges.bondestates.com
  • Joseph Phelps. In the late 1960’s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S., Hensel Phelps Construction Company, when he won the bid to build Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill) located a few miles outside of St. Helena. In 1973 Joe bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards and construction of a winery. The first harvest in 1973 yielded Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Johannisburg Riesling bottlings, all custom crushed at nearby wineries. The Joseph Phelps winery was completed in 1974 in time for harvest, crushing grapes for the first Insignia and the first Syrah bottlings. Today, the Phelps estate consists of the Spring Valley Home Ranch outside of St. Helena, Banca Dorada in Rutherford, Backus Vineyard in Oakville, Las Rocas and Barboza vineyards in Stags Leap, Yountville Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Suscol Vineyard in South Napa and Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros. The flagship wine range is Insignia. http://www.josephphelps.com/
  • Opus One, St. Helena.  Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau and Robert Mondavi’s son Timothy made the partnership’s first vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The following year the partners officially announced their joint venture. In 1981 a single case of the joint venture wine sold for $24,000 at the first Napa Valley Wine Auction – the highest price ever paid for a California wine. The partners agreed to choose a name of Latin origin for the joint venture, allowing for easy recognition in both English and French. Baron Philippe announced his choice, “Opus,” a musical expression denoting the first masterwork of a composer. Two days later he proposed an additional word: “Opus One”. The 1979 and 1980 vintages were simultaneously unveiled in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. Constellation Brands purchased Robert Mondavi Corp. and assumed 50% ownership of Opus One in 2005. The current 2012 vintage is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon 79%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Petit Verdot 6%, Merlot 6%, and Malbec 2%. http://en.opusonewinery.com/
  • Siverado vineyards, Napa. The winery’s name, Silverado, comes from the abandoned mining town at the top of the Napa Valley.   The owners, Ron and Diane Miller (Son and Mother) first came to the Napa Valley in 1975. In 1976 they bought the 81-acre Miller Ranch in Yountville and in 1978 the 93-acre Silverado Vineyard, several other properties have been acquired in subsequent years. The estate now makes several wines:  Napa Valley : SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap District), Limited Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. George Merlot, Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc (Yountville), Estate Sangiovese, Sangiovese Rosato. Carneros: Carneros Chardonnay, Vineburg Vineyard Chardonnay. Coombsville: GEO Cabernet Sauvignon http://www.silveradovineyards.com/
  • Futo Estate, Oakville. Futo Estate is owned by Tom and Kyle Futo and began in 2002 when they bought Oakford Vineyards and is in the same area as Bond and Harlan. Oakford, was a 40 acre property with 7 acres of vineyard and in 2004, an adjoining 117 acre parcel was added to the property, of which 6 acres were planted to vineyard Late in 2011, the Futos completed the purchase of a property in the eastern hills of Stags Leap District. This 40 acre property included a 9 acre Cabernet vineyard planted in 1986. The estate focuses on a very limited production estate Cabernet Sauvignon blend and a second wine called OV made in a part of the Napa Valley at an elevation of 300-500 feet where the soils are a combination of both benchland as well as true hillside slopes (Mayacamas Mountains). The soils here are very rocky and well drained. Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot also also produced.  While not receiving as much sun as the eastern hillsides of Oakville Futo’s site tends to remain fairly warm during the growing season. The fog breaks sooner here and because of their slight elevation above the valley floor they tend to be exposed to the warmer air that rises due to the inversion layer. The first vintage was in 2004 with a production of 80 cases with a first commercial release in 2005. The Futo Oakville Estate Red wine 2012 is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot. www.futowines.com

  • Au Sommet, Napa. Au Sommet is a partnership between Heidi Peterson Barrett, John Schwartz and Jim Barbour and is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot blend from a seven acre vineyard on top of Atlas Peak. The vineyard, part of a 45-acre property and is one of the highest vineyard sites in Napa Valley, rising 2,100 feet above sea level.  Unlike the Napa Valley floor, which is often covered in morning fog, the mountain vineyard is exposed to more sun during the growing season. Refreshing mountain breezes cool hot summer days, protecting the fruit from overheating. The nights are much cooler than other areas and can sometimes experience a 20-degree drop in temperature. These cool nights allow for slower maturation of the fruit, resulting in well-balanced, complex wine. The shallow volcanic soils limit vine growth, producing small amounts of fruit with exceptional, intense varietal character. The 2013 vintage of Au Sommet Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot with 422 cases produced. http://www.ausommetwine.com/
  • Lail vineyards, Rutherford.  Lail Vineyards was founded by Robin Lail and her family and whose father was John Daniels Jr. who inherited Inglenook winery from his father (Rubicon Estate). Robin also co-founded Dominus with her sister and Christian Moueix (of Château Pétrus in Pomerol) and co-founded Merryvale Vineyards with Bill Harlan. Wine is produced from two estate vineyards; the Totem Vineyard in Yountville, which was part of the original Inglenook vineyard estate and Mole Hill vineyard which is on Howell Mountain at about 1600 feet.  The Estate's key wine is J. Daniel Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon and is Bordeaux style blend of estate and premium vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon selections. Coming from three vineyards in Napa Valley: one in Calistoga, one in Oakville and the other on Howell Mountain. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 20 months in about three-fourths new French oak. Just under 1,000 cases are produced. https://www.lailvineyards.com/

    Napa Valley Vintages

  • 2014 - Despite a drought and the South Napa earthquake expectations are high for the 2014 vintage in Napa Valley due to good weather. Harvest started and ended earlier than usual, up to 2 weeks early in some cases. The first grapes for sparkling wine picked on July 30th and nearly all harvest activity was finished by the third week in October 
  • 2013 - There was an early, even and excellent growing season with a good quality harvest of grapes. A warm, dry spring brought early bud break, helped with canopy vigour and berry size and created ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set under sunny skies. With the exception of one heat spike in late June/early July, temperatures were consist for optimal vine activity, resulting in notably healthy vines as fruit went through veraison and started ripening.
  • 2012- A Classic Vintage for Napa Valley from Start to Finish with perfect conditions. There was optimal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off grapes found optimal ripeness. This vintage, while as much as 30% higher than the past two years' smaller crops, is on par with near-normal quantity.
  • 2011 - There was a wet winter and spring which continued into mid-June that delayed bloom and disrupted fruit set which meant a long, cooler-than-average growing season with a later-than-average harvest beset with autumn rain storms. Rainfall by June 30th was more than a third above normal and the cloud cover and cool temperatures delayed vine development by several weeks at the onset of the growing season. The first varieties for sparkling wines found the latest harvest start in anyone’s memory, beginning August 29. Few high heat events occurred at any point this year, but growers managed more open vine canopies to ensure sunlight, warmth and good air circulation around the grape clusters. After a consistently cool summer season, significant mid-October rain pushed the vintage even later, but an excellent period of weather in October/November helped ripening. Most waited through the first two rains of this year to pick Chardonnay in October, and that patience paid off. Yields were generally consistent with 2010 — down by 10%. Quality looks very good with lower alcohols, good structure and length on the palate. Mold, rot, and botrytis were challenges to the grapes that were not harvested, and had a major impact on the quantity of the harvest, but not the quality.  While quantity was low, the fruit this year will make for well-balanced wines with good intensity, structure and texture with a brightness of flavor.
  • 2010 - Rainfall returned after three dry years, pushed bud break, flowering and fruit-set back by at least two weeks at the front end of the growing season, and due to the cloud cover, there was no frost damage in 2010. The summer brought cooler than normal temperatures, where constant vigilance and rigorous canopy management averted mildew or pest problems. The ten-day to two-week lag continued into a later than average veraison. Winegrowers were faced with a two-day heat spike into triple digits for the first time in the season, coinciding with the first day of harvest on August 24. With canopies thinned to adjust for the cooler season, grapes at various sites experienced some sunburn. The damage was variable site-to-site with many vineyards reporting no sunburned clusters at all. The relatively cool growing season coupled with the unexpected heat spikes in late summer resulted in a late and shortened harvest with lower yields. Vintners were excited about what they were tasting from the vineyards--concentrated flavours that will materialize into elegant, structured wines, almost European in style. Cooler than average temperatures retuned again in early September, but gave way to warm and consistent Indian Summer. In the midst of the 2010 growing season the potentially crop devastating pest known as the European Grapevine Moth or Lobesia looks to be successfully eradicated in Napa County. 
  • 2009 -With nearly thirty days of intense frost from spring 2008 to the fewer than five frost incidents in 2009, the start to the vintage was much less eventful for growers who were able to sleep nights not worrying about the threat of frost—or the lack of water to combat it if it came. Late spring rains delayed irrigation needs and the warm spell in June helped curtail excessive canopy development. The nearly 14 days of 100°f plus temperatures that mark a typical growing season, 2009 counted perhaps only four or five overall, again helping to reduce demand for water when the resource was relatively scarce. Though rainfall was little more than two-thirds of normal for the third year in a row, the timing of rain was good and with lack of frost and with a mild, relatively cool growing season,it meant good quality grapes. 
  • 2008 - Was a low-yielding, yet high-quality vintage from Napa Valley. In contrast to 2007, the New Year began with intense storms that brought high winds and heavy rains to the region, but the rain soon waned and for the second year in a row, Napa received little more than 60% of its normal rainfall. The spring season was one of the driest on record with virtually no rainfall. The drier soils prompted vines to push out early, providing the "perfect storm" for frigid, dry air to create conditions for the deepest and longest frost period in decades. As vines all over the appellation were budding, the sheer number of days of frost threatened the future of the crop. Some growers, especially those in the eastern hills around the Howell Mountain AVA were low on water for overhead irrigation or farmed in areas that rarely see any frost and were therefore hit hardest. Some growers reported losses of thirty percent or more. Though a second budding occurred, the fruit set was thin and uneven. Daytimes during the spring were perfect, yet the cold temperatures and frost threat held on for more than three weeks. Then, within the same week that many had been irrigating for frost protection, vineyards were irrigated because of a multi-day heat spike that brought early season temperatures into the triple digits in many parts of the appellation and at the time that vines were beginning to flower, another time when fruit and vine development is particularly susceptible to extremes. After the fruit set, fewer clusters with smaller berries appeared to be the norm all around the Napa Valley. The dryness of the season produced less vine canopy, and allowed the vines to focus on fruit production. Fortunately, the summer season continued with cooler, consistent temperatures. A benefit of the dry year found very little pest infestation in the vines, little mold or mildew problems and very healthy vines. Because of the early vine development in spring, growers were initially predicting a very early harvest, however because of the cooler summer it started just a little ahead of normal. As grapes for sparkling wines began to be harvested in mid-August, the lighter white varieties began in earnest toward the third week of August. Then, a week-long heat spell over the Labor Day holiday meant that several varieties were coming to ripeness all at once.  Then, just a quickly as the heat arrived, it was as if a switch had been turned and the temperatures dropped to well below normal. This allowed cellar crew to catch up, and with the following weeks returning to seasonally normal temperatures with warm days and cool nights, the red varieties, which were largely untouched to date, languished on the vine with optimal hang time, excellent ripening and balanced structure. The light rain events in late September and early October had no effect on the grapes or the harvest in Napa Valley.

Napa Valley wineries to visit

See http://www.fermentedgrape.com/tasting-wine/2015/12/10/recommended-wineries-to-visit-on-a-wine-tasting-trip-to-napa-valley

A guide to Burgundy wine

An overview of the Burgundy wine region

Burgundy is a very diverse wine region in the East of France with the highest number of Appellations D'origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the country. Ownership of vineyards in the region is often highly fragmented due to complicated inheritance and marriage rights which have been applied to certain parcels of land.

Burgundy spans from Beaujolais in the south which is north of Lyon (dominated by the Gamay grape) to Chablis in the north (which mainly grows the Chardonnay grape). North of Beaujolais there is the Mâconnais region, a predominantly Chardonnay focused area,  with its best known appellation being Pouilly-Fuissé. Moving further north there is the Côte Chalonnaise between the towns of Chagny and Saint Vallerin (known for its value Pinot Noir and Crémant sparkling wines made using the Champagne method) which also uniquely features the white grape Aligoté in the northern part of the region around Bouzeron.  Then moving on to the renowned Pinot Noir growing area of the Côte d'Or which us located south of Chablis and is Burgundy's most expensive wine area, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated.

Burgundy's top wines are among the most pricey in the world with 38 of the 50 most expensive wines in the world.

About the Côte d'Or, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune

The Côte d'Or is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon to the south of the town of Nuits Saint Georges, and the Côte de Beaune.

80% of the Côte de Nuits wines use the Pinot Noir grape with 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, whilst the Côte de Beaune is a predominantly white wine area, with seven out of eight Grand Cru vineyards producing Chardonnay based wines. 

Position on the slope is the key in choosing a place in the hierarchy of Burgundian wines, with upper middle of slope considered to produce the best wine. The best "Grand Cru" vineyards are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sun and best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from less well positioned slopes. The "Village" wines are normally off the slopes in the valley areas nearer the villages.

Burgundy's best wines are the Premier and Grand Cru's of the Côte d'Or and Chablis. Gevrey Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Chambolle Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne Romanée, Nuits St Georges are the great communes in the Côte de Nuits.

Burgundy Wine Classifications

Regional/District: 22 regional and district appellations which represent over 41% of total production e.g. Bourgogne Blanc, Hautes Côtes de Nuits. District appellations never have Bourgogne in their names (e.g. Mâcon).

Commune: There are 53 communal appellations which represent 36% of total production e.g. Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Gevrey Chambertin and Volnay The communal or village name may be followed by the name of an individual vineyard, e.g. Meursault Clos de la Barre, Gevrey Chambertin Les Evocelles. Many villages have double barrelled names because they have hyphenated the name of their most famous vineyard. For example,  Gevrey has added Chambertin and Chambolle has added Musigny.

Premier Cru: The name of the village the name of the vineyard classified as Premier Cru e.g. Meursault Charmes 1er cru, Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques 1er cru. There are 585 Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise. They represent 18% of Burgundy's total production.

Grand Cru: The name of the vineyard on its own: e.g. Chevalier-Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne (white); Richebourg, Le Musigny (red).  Some of the Grand Cru names (Musigny, Chambertin, Montrachet) also appear as part of a village name which can cause a bit of confusion. There are 32 Grand Cru vineyards in the Côte d'Or. Burgundy has 559 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards and reds account for 57%  of the Grand Cru production area.

To identify a Burgundy wine the name of the owner and the name of the vineyard are needed since in many cases there is shared ownership between different owners. This is a peculiarity of the region because of French inheritance laws and the change in ownership of parcels of land because of marriage or divorce. Only in a small minority of examples is a vineyard in Burgundy completely owned by one family.

Unlike Bordeaux where individual Château have been classified by the 1855 classification system, Burgundy producers are not classified in the same way meaning that different producers can sell wine with very different styles and quality. For this reason many Burgundy aficionados choose the producer and vintage first then the area or appellation.

As well as strong demand for many Burgundy wine and high price of land this fragmented ownership increases wine production costs and hence adds to the high final selling price.

Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy sell between $2.5 million and $13 million a hectare, this compares with around $1.66 million per hectare in the mid 1990's. The cost of a hectare of Chardonnay producing vineyard in the Côte d’Or is around $1.7 million per hectare and Premier Cru vineyards planted to Pinot Noir, land costs an average of $720,000 per hectrare. In France as a whole in 2014 an average price for an AOP vineyard was $144,000 (€136,400) a hectare. According to SAFER, (Société d'aménagement foncier et d'établissement rural) there were 9,400 sales of vineyards in 2014, up by 9.7% from 2013.

Important Burgundy wine villages

Gevrey Chambertin

Grand Crus: Le Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mazis-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Griottes-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin

Premiers Crus: Combe au Moine, les Cazetiers, Estournelles St Jacques, Clos St Jacques, Aux Combottes 

Morey St. Denis

Grand Crus: Clos.St-Denis, Bonnes Mares, Clos de la Roche, Clos des Lambrays, Clos de Tart

Premier Crus: Les Ruchots, La Bussière, La Faconnières

Chambolle Musigny

Grand Crus: Musigny, Bonnes Mares

Premiers Crus: Les Amoureuses, Les Beaux-Bruns, Les Cras, Les Fuées, Les Véroilles


Grand Cru: Clos du Vougeot

Vosne Romanée

Premier Crus: Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée Saint-Vivant, La Romanée, La Grande Rue

Premiers Crus: Aux Raignots, Les Chaumes, Les Suchots, Aux Brûlées, Les Beaux Monts, Combe Brûlée

Flagey-Echézeaux (sold under name of Vosne Romanée)

Grands Crus: Echézeaux, Grands-Echézeaux

Nuits St Georges

Premier Crus: Les Cailles, Les Vaucrains, Les St Georges, Aux Murgers, Aux Boudots


Premier Crus: Les Lavières, Aux Vergelesses, Les Narbantons, Les Grands Liards, Les Perrières, Les Fourneux


Premiers Crus: Clos des Mouches, Les Greves, Les Perrières, Clos du Roi, Les Cras, Les Bressandes


Premiers Crus: Epenots, Les Jarollières, Fremiers, Les Charmots, Les Combes, Les Pézerolles


Premier Crus: Champans, Les Caillerets, Les Angles, Clos des Chênes, Clos de la Pousse d'Or, Les Pluchots, La Gigotte

Decoding Burgundy wine

Red wines from Burgundy are dominated by the Pinot Noir grape with its light colour, medium body, low levels of tannin, high acidity giving freshness and a deep, earthy nose with a characteristic cherry, raspberry aroma. As the wine develops autumnal aromas increase with a smell reminiscent of woodland undergrowth which can develop further to game notes. A top Burgundy Pinot will have a lovely nose and serving the wine at around 14-17°C will maximise the aroma, too warm and the quality of the experience will be compromised. Many wine drinkers serve Pinot Noir based wine far too warm which stifles the aromas and true flavours of the best wines.

Côte de Nuit red wines are generally more tannic than Côte de Beaune's giving them more body and making them "heavier" or more  "masculine" in character . The wines from Nuits-St-Georges are the most tannic meaning that a degree of maturing is needed to soften them and give them the necessary texture.

Chambolle-Musigny wines are very light but are highly fragranced. Vosne Romanée wines attract huge prices because of their ability to give a velvety palate which means that they have a soft, textured finish and a powerful nose.

The best examples of Burgundy reds avoid the trademarks of poorly produced Pinot Noir. Bad Burgundy lacks body and fruit notes with an over expression of harsh tannin and is likely caused by the wine producer attempting to increase yields which causes under ripening of the grape (so called green grapes). The best Burgundy red's have a low vineyard yield of 35-40 hl/ha. 

White Burgundy uses the Chardonnay grape with the most famous example being Chablis in the northern part of the region with its cooler climate vineyards producing their trademark refreshing, mineral, stony flavours. In contrast the most southern region, Mâconnais, has a warmer climate than Chablis and is able to produce more rich, fruity whites with higher levels of alcohol with a great example being the Pouilly-Fuissé appellatio. This shouldn't be confused with Pouilly-Fumé, which is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée for the dry white wine produced around Pouilly-sur-Loire in the Loire area.

Description of Burgundy styles by appellation

Chablis - Chardonnay based whites with a fresh style and mineral rather than fruity notes. With relatively harsh winters, spring frosts and hot summers somewhat moderated by the river Serein, and with the dominant soil being Kemmeridgian limestone like the Champagne region this unique terroir is responsible for the distinctive Chablis crispness.

Gevrey-Chambertin - robust, rich style Pinot Noir's with good balance and elegance from the best examples

Morey St Denis - Like Gevrey but a little less rich

Chambolle-Musigny - Highly fragranced Pinot Noir with a lighter style than Gevrey Chambertin

Vosne Romanée - Described as the the silkiest, most fragranced red of the area

Marsannay - Light Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plus rose

Nuits-St-Georges - The Southern part of the village has powerful Pinot's with firm tannin structures and are described as more masculine, the Northern part are softer.

Savigny-les-Beaune - Pinot Noir with a light touch with less fragrance than say a Gevrey.

Beaune - Balanced Pinot Noir's that are described as easy drinking then many examples from the Côte de Nuits. Whites are filled with floral aromas as well as apple and pear. 

Volnay - Light style red's with a smooth palate

Pommard - Closer to the Côte de Nuits style with more intensity than a Beaune with plenty of tannins  and a pronounced structure

Mersault - Rich chardonnay based whites with buttery notes

Puligny-Montrachet - Floral and mineral whites with Chablis like freshness

Chassagne-Montrachet - Rustic style reds, delicate whites

Mâconnais - rich, more alcoholic whites with citrus peel, honey and herby notes but with a good structure and freshness

Burgundy Vintage report

  • 2014 - A very mild spring, mid-August to harvest was perfect but hail in late June destroyed at least a third of the grapes in Meursault and Pommard with some vineyards losing almost all their crop. However, harvesting in September took place in almost perfect conditions though final yields were down on the best years in many appellations though with ripe grapes a real bonus. In conclusion better than the recent poor years but far from the best.
  • 2013 - A cold spring delayed flowering and led to uneven ripening. Hail (particularly in the Côte de Beaune) and summer downpours impacted growers, but good weather in September allowed a small crop of balanced fruit with good potential. Quality is very uneven so careful selection is critical with the vintage often showing examples which may be delicate, some would describe as elegant but others as green, lacking nose, under ripe and insubstantial. Certainly not the best year in Burgundy by a long way.
  • 2012 - A wet summer across Europe produced difficult conditions for wine producers in France, with mildew and rot issues with conditions across Burgundy very mixed and unpredictable. Hail, a cool start to the year, very got days in summer and plenty of thunderstorm meant very low volumes of variable quality but on the whole results were good if not spectacular.
  • 2011 - Fairly poor quality with plenty of rot as the weather disappointed with storms, hail and changeable temperatures.  Pinot Noir quality can be good but careful selection is needed and quantities were small. Whites can be extra fresh and mineral.
  • 2010 - A cold and wet year but despite low yields ripening of grapes was good with some solid days of sunshine. Some very good quality - especially in the Côte de Nuits - but volumes up to a third lower than average. Delicate, perfumed reds with silky tannins and taut, expressive whites.
  • 2009 - A great growing season in Burgundy with no hail damage, dry weather and consistent warmth. Low acidity and ripe tannins producing lovely Pinot Noir,  similar to 1990 and 2005. Very consistent across Burgundy with lower quality vineyards still producing very good Pinot Noir, so a good year to find wines from less popular growers.
  • 2008 - A poor year for Burgundy with a wet cold summer as well as hail producing low yields and low quality on the whole but a good burst of sunshine in late September sunshine saved the vintage.  High acidity remains the hallmark of this vintage with a good degree of freshness in the whites and reds. Purity rather than structure is key to 2008 so careful selection is needed.
  • 2007 - A rainy summer led to rot and an early harvest but with the Côte de Nuits fairing best.  Medium to good quality on the whites with fairly light reds.
  • 2006 - Poor summer with vine health problems produced wines which at their best are very pure and expressive and at their worst just a bit too austere for comfort. But on the whole a well balanced vintage with medium body and fruit, ripe tannins. Good to very good quality is possible.
  • 2005 - A very good vintage with a sunny summer producing a near normal crop of good quality grapes. The best vintage since 1978 with low yields and intense, elegant reds and whites.
  • 2004 - Large vintage of far from flashy but pretty serviceable and certainly good value wines. Relatively light and crisp, for early drinking though the best may surprise in the long run.
  • 2003 - A small proportion of monumental wines from old vines were produced this heatwave year, but generally the frail Pinot Noir grape suffered raisining and made some very unusual wines indeed, some of which provide good, luscious drinking at about five years old but dry tannins are expected to make their presence increasingly felt.
  • 2002 - Good vintage. Summer was not especially hot, though it was reasonably dry. Sugar levels were boosted in September but some grapes were adversely affected by scattered rains then. Sugar levels were quite respectable in the end and most wines showed their charms at an early stage.
  • 2001 - Wet summer with some heat spikes. As for red Bordeaux from this vintage, a gentle hand was needed in the winery to retain delicacy and not emphasize the already notable tannins. Quite varied quality. Wines from low-yielding grapes will provide exciting long-term drinking but others are gawky. August hail in Volnay.
  • 2000 - A difficult vintage for growers, with rain and rot during harvest. Rather soft, easy wines that were more successful in the Côte de Nuits than in much of the Côte de Beaune. Useful early drinking but showing signs of losing fruit by 2008.
bbr vintage guide.PNG

Berry Bros http://www.bbr.com/vintage-chart

Burgundy Wine Maps

For wine maps of the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Mâconnais and Chablis go to http://www.fermentedgrape.com/wine-maps/2015/10/26/burgundy-wine-maps

Examples of good Burgundy producers


  • Domaine William Fèvre, Jean-Marc Brocard


  • Bruno Clair, Sylvain Pataille


  • Jean-Marie Fourier, Drouhin-Laroze, Armand Rousseau, Denis Bachelet, Denis Mortet, Maume, Alain Burguet


  • Dujac


  • Ghislaine Barthod, Georges Roumier


  • Jean Grivot, François Lamarche, Sylvain Cathiard


  • Robert Chevillon, Henri Gouges


  • Bonneau de Martray, Rémi Rollin


  • Tollot-Beaut


  • Camus-Bruchon


  • Domaine de Bellene, Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard Père et Fils, Louis Jadot


  • Comte Armand


  • De Montille, Henri Boillot


  • Henri Prudhon


  • François and Antoine Jobard, Pierre Morey and Morey-Blanc, Jean-Phillipe Fichet, Coche-Bizouard


  • Olivier Leflaive, Domaine Leflaive, Etienne Sauzet, Château de Puligny


  • Jean-Noel Gagnard


  • Jean-Marc Vincent


  • Co-Op de Buxy


  • Jean-François Gonon, Mallory and Benjamin Talmard


  • André Bonhomme, Guillemot-Michel


  • Jacques and Nathalie Saumaize, Château des Rontets, Château de Beauregard, Domaine de la Soufrandise, Domaine Cordier

A guide to Australian wine

History of Australian Wine

Grape vines first arrived in Australia with the first British Navy fleet in 1788. Heat and humidity were a problem for initial plantings at Sydney Cove, although relatively large vineyards were planted near Parramatta in 1805 by Gregory Blaxland and near Camden in 1820 by William Macarthur. 

James Busby, potentially described as the "Father of Australian wine", became involved in viticulture in  around 1825 and in 1831 he went to Europe and collected 650 varieties of grape vines. Fortunately 362 survived the long journey back to Australia aboard ship and were planted in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. A duplicate collection was planted at his Hunter Valley estate and subsequent cuttings were distributed around New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Many of Australia’s old vines can trace their history to the original Busby collection 

The Hunter Valley was the first commercial wine producing region in Australia, with Wyndham Estate being established in 1828. By the 1840’s wine production was being conducted by Italians in Riverina, the Swiss in Victoria, Dalmatians in Western Australia and Lutheran Germans in South Australia, particularly the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Commercial grape production was happening in most states by 1850 and by 1854 the first wine export of 6,291 to the United Kingdom had been formally recorded.

The disease, phylloxera, impacted some states in the late 1870’s and a few active pockets remain but many areas in Australia are phylloxera free and have very old, ungrafted vines.

 Famous Australian Wineries

Australia is the world's fourth largest exporter of wine with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being the dominant red grapes, and Chardonnay the most widely grown white grape.

The country's most famous premium wine is probably Penfolds Grange but wines from Henschke, Torbreck and Tahbilk and many others have also had much international critical acclaim.

The 1955 Penfolds Grange vintage was submitted to competitions beginning in 1962 and the 1971 vintage won first prize in Syrah/Shiraz at the Wine Olympics in Paris. Robert Parker has written that Grange "has replaced Bordeaux's Pétrus as the world's most exotic and concentrated wine".

penfold grange.jpg

Australian Wine Production

The main wine producing regions of Australia are in the cooler south east of the country but there are about 60 wine producing areas around the country. Vineyards in South Australia (e.g. Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra), Victoria (e.g. Swan Hill, Yarra Valley, Rutherglen) and New South Wales (e.g. Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Riverina) produce most of Australia's wine. But Tasmania, Queensland (e.g. South Burnett, Stanthorpe) and Western Australia (e.g. Margaret River, Swan District) also also growing in importance and stature.

It is not unusual to find a  vineyard almost anywhere in Australia, even Alice Springs had a winery, in the parched red centre of the country called Chateau Hornsby! Chateau Hornsby is no more (previously the only winery in the state), but founders John and Shirley Crayford established Red Centre Wines on the Stuart Highway, 180km north of Alice Springs with plantings of shiraz, ruby cabernet, riesling and chardonnay, but specialised in mango wines. As of July 2015 Crayford was reported as being forced to sell Red Centre Farm due to health reasons.

Australian wines major production areas and best varieties by region:

South East (New South Wales and Victoria)

Victoria wine regions

  • Alpine Valleys
  • Beechworth
  • Goulburn Valley
  • Grampians
  • Heathcote wine region
  • Henty
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Pyrenees
  • Rutherglen
  • Strathbogie Wine Region
  • Yarra Valley
  • King Valley

Heathcote Wine Region, Victoria

The Heathcote region in Victoria is around half an hour by car from Melbourne. It has deep red, water retaining soils rich in minerals known as Cambrian earths and is famous for its Shiraz but also produces some very good Cabernet Sauvignon. These reds are intense and bold, with good depth of flavour.

The region sits on the north side of the Great Dividing Range at elevations between 160m and 320m. Rainfall is evenly distributed between the seasons and the temperature is temperate, with cooling winds from the south.

Grampians Wine Region, Victoria

The Grampians region is synonymous with the Grampians National Park and it is home to Great Western, Australia's best-known sparkling wine brand. Geographically is it between the Grampians Range and Serra Range to the west and the Pyrenees Range.  The region itself is not high at around 350 metres.

Vineyards are planted on slopes receiving plenty of sunshine for their late ripening varieties, with Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz being the major grapes . Ondenc (found predominantly in the Gaillac region of southwest France) and Chasselas (widely grown in the cantons of Switzerland where it has several regional synonym names, the main one being Fendant in the Valais canton. It is considered an ideal pairing for raclette or fondue), white varieties particularly suited to the cool climate.

Pyrenees Wine Region, Victoria

The Pyrenees Region is in the west of Victoria with a temperate climate, with the majority of vineyards in the area near Redbank, Avoca and Moonambel. Soils are acidic, sandy loams with quartz grains. Vineyards were planted as early as 1848 and since the 1970's the region has been a significant producer of full-bodied red wines based on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.

Yarra Valley Wine Region, Victoria

The Yarra Valley is around a one hour drive from Melbourne and is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production, though Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Marsanne and Riesling are also produced in this area.

Wine production started in 1837 when William, James and Donald Ryrie established a cattle property called Yering Station and planted a vineyard on the site, the first recorded one in Victoria.

The valley is surrounded by the Great Dividing Range east, Plenty Ranges west and Dandenongs to the south. Most wineries and vineyards are centred round the towns of Lilydal, Coldstream, Healesville and Yarra Glen.

The soils are acidic with grey-brown loam in the South of the region and red volcanic soil in the North and West. The climate is relatively rainy and cool, though during the summer there can be very hot days and even drought conditions.

New South Wales wine regions

  • Hunter Valley
  • Mudgee
  • Orange
  • Riverina
  • New England
  • Southern Highlands
  • Shoalhaven Coast

Hunter Valley Wine Region, NSW

Hunter valley, NSW vineyard

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is most famous for Semillion but also produces Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is divided into the Upper and Lower Hunter Valley but the majority of the Hunter Valley's most prestigious vineyards are located on the southern valley and foothills of the Brokenback range (part of the Great Dividing Range).

The first major planting in the Hunter Valley came in 1825 when James Busby, widely considered the father of Australian wine, purchased vineyard land between the settlements of Branxton and Singleton and named it Kirkton after his Scottish birthplace near Edinburgh. In 1831, Busby traveled extensively throughout Europe and South Africa, collected cuttings from over 500 vineyards, including six cuttings of Syrah from the Hermitage hill in the Rhône. When he returned, many of these cuttings were planted in the Hunter Valley at the Kirkton estate now owned by his brother-in-law William Kelman.

The area is one of Australia's hottest and wettest wine regions and with mountains to the west and north the Hunter Valley acts as a funnel, pulling cool ocean breezes into the area. In the summer, the average daily temperature regularly exceeds 21.1 °C (70.0 °F) while during the winter the temperature averages around 4.4 °C (39.9 °F). During the growing season the Hunter Valley receives an average of seven hours of sunshine a day, but with the cloud cover coming in off the ocean the sunlight is slightly diffused which gives the vines some protection from heat stress. 

Orange Wine Region, NSW

The Orange wine region is located on the slopes of Mount Canobolas (an extinct Volcano) between the Cowra and Mudgee areas in the Central Ranges Zone. It is Australia’s highest grape growing region with vines growing up to 1100 metres and is particularly known for its Chardonnay.

South Australia Wine Regions

south aus.png
  • Barossa
  • Southern Fleurieu
  • Adelaide Hills
  • Clare Valley
  • Coonawarra
  • Eden Valley
  • Langhorne Creek
  • McLaren Vale
  • Padthaway
  • Riverland
  • Wrattonbully

Adelaide Hills Wine Region, South Australia

The Adelaide Hills wine region is on the eastern edge of Adelaide (about a 30 minute drive from the city) within the Mount Lofty ranges. It is a long established wine area with a relatively high number of wineries interspersed with apple and pear orchards and dairy farms. 

The Adelaide Hills forms a narrow corridor 70 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide and the elevation varies from around 400 metres at Macclesfield, to 600 metres at Piccadilly and 700 metres at Mt Lofty. The area is bordered to the north by the Barossa and Eden Valleys and with McLaren Vale to the South.

Due to its altitude this wine region is  much cooler than areas like McLaren Vale and Barossa - on average 4°C cooler during the day and 8°C at night. Annual rainfall can vary between 700 mm and 1250 mm per year. These cool nights, dry summers and autumn ripening conditions produce grapes with a characteristic regional character.

Grapes were planted as early as 1839, but it was not until 1979 that the area's interest in vineyards was revived. Since then the Adelaide Hills has built a reputation as one of Australia's most exciting cool climate regions with more than 95 producers and over 4000 hectares of vineyards.

Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are particularly well suited to the cool conditions of the region and produce some of Australia's best examples but very good Shiraz, Riesling, Merlot, Semillon and Pinot Noir are being produced on suitably well chosen sites. The wet and cool spring, and dry summers allows the fruit to mature slowly with greater intensity.

Within this region are two sub-regions, Lenswood and the Piccadilly Valley. Lenswood has an average temperature in January of just over 25 degrees Centigrade, and 11 degrees in the peak winter months during the day and 2 degrees at night. The best wines from Lenswood are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Piccadilly Valley is on the elevated eastern slopes of Mount Lofty and often experiences mists and as a result of high humidity and the cold . The growing period is long leading to a later harvest. The area is known for sparkling wines.

Coonawarra Wine Region, South Australia

Coonawarra is on the Limestone Coast of South Australia, that is known for the Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced on its "terra rossa" soil. In fact the Cabernet's have the reputation as being the best in the country and are now internationally recognised for their quality.

Coonawara's wine making history dates back to the 1890's and Coonawarra is an Aboriginal word meaning "Honeysuckle rise". It is about 236 miles southeast of Adelaide close to the border with Victoria. The climate is Mediterranean-like with cooling maritime influences off the Southern Ocean which is around 40 miles away. Rainfall is low, 585 mm annually, especially during the growing season (2 cm or so), resulting in the need for irrigation.

Coonawarra's terra rossa soil is one of the most famous terroirs in the New World, covering an area of just 15 km x 2 km north of Penola. It lies on a shallow limestone ridge, raising it above the swampy land either side . Terra rossa is red-brown topsoil laid over a thin layer of calcrete (calcium carbonate) sitting on a white limestone base. It is the oldest and most fertile soil on the Limestone Coast

Coonawarra is most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon but Shiraz, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc are also planted.

Clare Valley Wine Region, South Australia

The Clare Valley is one of Australia's oldest wine regions, best known for Riesling wines and has around 40 wineries. It is situated in the mid-north of South Australia, 75 miles north of Adelaide. The valley runs north-south.

Wines are planted in the valley from 400-500 metres (1300 to 1600 feet) with the the cool to cold nights and hot summer days. The higher altitude, compared to other wine regions in South Australia, ensures cool nights even during the heat of summer allowing the fruit to ripen more evenly and slowly. Rainfall is predominantly in Winter to Spring (June - September) with an annual average of around 630 mm.

The most important white variety is Riesling and the main red’s grown are Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz but Chardonnay, Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Grenache are all produced. The Watervale and Polish River within the area produce some of the best whites in Australia with a characteristic acidity. 

Eden Valley Wine Region, South Australia

The Eden Valley is a cool climate area elevated at between 400 and 600 metres in the Barossa Range, part of the Mount Lofty Range and it is notable for its Riesling and Shiraz. The Eden Valley region is actually not a valley but takes its name from the town of Eden Valley.   The area has one sub-region, High Eden in the south and to the East is the Barossa Valley. Although the number of wineries is relatively small the influence of the region on Australian wine making is considerable since the grapes are used by premium wine makers in other parts of the country.

High Eden is at higher altitude and is hence one of the cooler areas making particularly good Rieslings. Unlike Barrosa Shiraz, the cooler climate means the wines are a little softer and with less sugar and less alcohol. Eden also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Gris.

Barossa Valley Wine Region, South Australia

The Barossa Valley is 35 miles northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. The region has become known for its Barossa Shiraz, a full bodied red wine with blackberry, plum, rich chocolate and spice notes. The generally hot climate of the Barossa Valley usually means that the grapes become ripe very easily with high levels of sugars and low levels of acids. American Oak is used extensively in winemaking in the region.

Many Shiraz vines in the Barossa Valley are several decades old, with some vineyards planted with old vines that are 100-150 years old. Other grape varieties grown in the Barossa include Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay and Semillon. However, the region is best known for Shiraz.

The Barossa Valley shows a mixture of micro climates with temperatures varying from very warm on the valley floors to steadily cooler at higher altitudes on the hillsides and further south in the valley. Despite its reputation as a "warm climate region", main of the Barossa Valley's vineyards are not that different from the maritime climate of the  Margaret River Valley in Western Australia.  Mean average temperatures during the crucial ripening month of January are around 21°C). Rainfall during the growing season averages less than 2cm which means that  irrigation is often used. The exception is many of the old vine vineyards on the slightly cooler western side of the valley which can do without irrigation.

Langhorne Creek Wine Region, South Australia

The Langhorne Creek Region is just south of Adelaide with Lake Alexandria, Australia’s largest freshwater lake, marking its southern edge. The climate is is relatively cool as a result of the influence of the lake and it has relatively low rainfall

The area is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz but other varieties include Merlot, Chardonnay and Verdelho (Verdelho is a white wine grape grown throughout Portugal, though most associated with the island of Madeira, and also gives its name to one of the four main types of Madeira wine).

McLaren Vale Wine Region, South Australia

McLaren Vale is a wine region around 22 miles south of Adelaide in South Australia. Grapes were first planted in the region in 1838 and some vines more than 100 years old are still producing and today there are more than 90 wineries in McLaren Vale.  

Different soil types can be found in this region, including terra rossa soils (similar to Coonawarra), light loam over clay, rendzina soils, soldolic, and Bay of Biscay soils. The soil type is generally quite poor with much of it sandy with a clay base which helps concentrate flavours in the region's grapes. Drip irrigation helps deliver precious water where nature is lacking, although about 20% of the regions fruit is retained as "dry-grown" to encourage more intense flavours to develop.

McLaren Vale has a Mediterranean climate with four clear seasons. With a dry warm summer, the area has dry weather from December through to March or April.

Most vineyards are found on gently undulating land at about 100 m above sea level. In the foothills of the Mt Lofty Ranges to the east, elevation rises to 320 m. In the north around Blewitt Springs elevation is around 200 m. The region rarely experiences frost or drought due to its close proximity to the sea. Its proximity to the Mount Lofty Ranges sees the cool winds fall down from the hills in the late evening and early morning, chilling the grapes to retain crisp acidity and structure. Good winter rainfall (580-700mm) and low relative humidity ensure consistency of ripening and premium quality fruit. McLaren Vale is considered one of the safest wine growing regions in Australia with a notable absence of rot or frost & hail damage.

Notable for producing Shiraz, the grape is by far the most important variety for the region, accounting for about 50% of production and the thin soils, low water and hot climate produce a intense yet smooth flavour of raspberries, olives and dark chocolate with deep purple colours. Shiraz is the flagship of the region, said by some to be the best in the world, though of course those who are fans of French Rhône valley wine or even Barossa Valley reds may dispute that. Other major varieties grown in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Chardonnay .

McLaren Vale Wine Region Sub Regions:

The area is split into several sub regions:

Blewitt Springs - This area is the furthest from the sea and has the highest altitude, sandy soil, most rain and coolest winters.

McLaren Vale - The town of McLaren Vale is the traditional home of grape growing and winemaking the soil is rich in calcium and is slightly alkaline where the soil meets the parent rock. Vineyards on the hill tops are world famous for Shiraz, which produce a very concentrated flavour and colour. The low hills catch the afternoon summer sunshine, guaranteeing that the fruit is ripened.

Seaview - Heading north from the main street of McLaren Vale leads to a line of steep hills. The soils in this region are highly variable from red earth clay on limestone to sand on marly limestone to grey loam on clay. The common factor is the thin layer of topsoil, which is among the poorest in the region resulting frequently in low yields and low vigour but very concentrated, complex wines. Hill tops in the Seaview sub-region experience warm nights and cool afternoon sea breezes while valleys experience cold air drainage off the range as it flows towards the sea at night. Vines on the hilltops generally ripen early and produce peppery spicy bold wines, while vines in the valleys ripen considerably later producing wines with bold ripe dark plum characters.

McLaren Flat - Lies on the flat land to the east of the town of McLaren Vale. The area has more clay above the subsoil than McLaren Vale, however there are some patches of sand similar to that found in Blewitt Springs. McLaren Flat is home to the best white wine Chardonnay in the area. The ‘gully wind’ flows down from the high hills further to the east even on the hottest nights helping to cool the fruit.

Willunga - South from McLaren Vale is the historic town of Willunga. This area is known as the Willunga Plains. The soils in this area are Gilgai or grey clay over limestone with pockets of red earth on limestone. The cold air drains across the flats to the sea, resulting in wines that are consistently good with herbaceous characters and Cabernet like tannins in Shiraz. Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc are also made.

Sellicks Foothills - Sellicks is farthest point south of the region directly overlooking the ocean beaches. The foothills extend the length of the base of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges. The strip of soil here, mostly red loam, has been eroded from the ranges. It is thin soil and conducive to small grape crops. During summer strong gully breezes hit the vines at night and high winds cause the fruit that remains to produce very intense wines. The vineyards further north do not experience the warming effect from the sea and because of this tend to have a later ripening period with many vineyards producing wine similar to Willunga which the area borders.

Padthaway Wine Region, South Australia

Padthaway is on the Limestone Coast, adjacent to Coonawarra (100 Km to the North) but slightly warmer, an area which produces some good Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Its wines are often richer and fleshier than its neighour Coonawarra with minty notes. 

Most of the vineyards are on flat ground except on the region's eastern boundary where vines grow on the gently undulating wooded slopes of the West Naracoorte Ridge.

South West Australia

Western Australia wine regions

  • Greater Perth
  • Perth Hills
  • Peel
  • Swan Valley
  • South Western Australia
  • Blackwood Valley
  • Geographe
  • Great Southern
  • Albany
  • Denmark
  • Frankland River
  • Mount Barker
  • Porongurup
  • Manjimup
  • Margaret River
  • Pemberton
SW aussie.jpg

Margaret River Wine Region, Western Australia

The Margaret River wine region to the south of Western Australia, receives its temperate climate from the cooling influence of the Indian Ocean. It has the lowest mean annual temperature range, of only 7.6 degrees centigrade, and high rainfall of 1160 millimetres. The low diurnal and seasonal temperature range means an unusually even accumulation of warmth. The land is undulating with maximum elevation at 90m and the soils are gravelly, sandy loams.

The region is best known for clean, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Margaret river Cabernet's are probably just behind Coonawarra in terms of quality but if there is a gap it is small. Many of the vineyards are 2-3 miles from the ocean meaning that the climate is ideal for making European style wines which is a wonderful match with the superb cuisine in the area, especially the sea food. 

As well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Merlot, Sémillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Semilion are being produced at a high standard.

The majority of the 50 or so vineyards and wineries are in Wilyabrup sub-region near the coastline and south of the Margaret River in Wallcliffe sub-region. Other sun-regions are Yallingup in the north, Karridale in the south and Treeton and Carbunup in the north-west.

Great Southern Wine Region, Western Australia

The Great Southern is Australia's largest wine region is a rectangle 200 kilometers from east to west and over 100 kilometers from north to south. It has five nominated subregions for wine:

Great Southern Wine Subregions


Porongurup is just East of Mount Barker. The climate is Mediterranean with cool to mild winters and warm, sunny summers. While conditions are cooler and more humid higher up in the ranges with occasional snow on the taller peaks for short periods during winter and spring. The soils are ancient, deep karri loams derived from weathered granite. The Porongurups is strongly indicated for all high quality white wine varieties such as Riesling, Traminer, Chardonnay, and red wine varieties such as Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Mount Barker

It is generally regarded as the most important subregion of the Great Southern. Average ripening period sunshine hours at Mount Barker together with the whole season measure of sunshine hours are nearly identical with those of Bordeaux. Situated in the middle of the Great Southern, with strong continental aspects together with marri soils and lateritic gravely and sandy loams provided from the granite rock backdrop the region is suited to Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir.


Albany’s climate is maritime, strongly influenced by the Southern Ocean; the standard description is that it is Mediterranean, with wet, cool winters and warm, dry summers. Diurnal temperature range is minimal, and moderate humidity in summer assists ripening by reducing stress on the vines. Soil types of the region are either lateritic gravelly, sandy loams or sandy loams derived directly from granite and gneissic rocks.


Denmark  is slightly cooler and wetter than Albany but similar in many ways.

Frankland River

Frankland River is situated in the northwestern corner of the region, its western boundary touching the eastern side of Manjimup. It is the most northerly, inland subregion of Great Southern, still Mediterranean in terms of dominant winter-spring rainfall, but with greater inland influence. The soils are chiefly derived from lateric gravelly sandy loams or sandy loams derived from granite or gneissic rocks, and so are typically rich, red in color and of uniform depth with some areas carrying marri and karri loams. The climatic influences for the area favor medium-bodied, Bordeaux style red varieties, and with the excellent adaptation of slightly earlier-maturing Shiraz

Tasmania Wine Region

tasmania wine.jpg

Tasmania primarily grows grapes suited to cooler climates - Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc, with some smaller plantings of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The majority of Tasmania's vineyards are located near the cities of Launceston in the north and Hobart in the south. Most of the area of Tasmania is well suited for the production of dry, aromatic white wines but the warmer Coal River Valley and Freycinet Peninsula are starting to distinguish themselves with red wines.

Tasmania is the only state registered as a single Australian Geographical Indication but the style of the wines varies tremendously with over 1500 hectares growing grapes.

Tasmania wine Subregions: 

North West - near Devonport

Spread northwest from Devonport and including the coastal towns of Stanley and Burnie and Cradle Mountain this is a higher altitude area than others. This gives challenges to wine makers with plenty of snow in winter and annual rainfall of 10.7 cm. The pinot noir and chardonnay grapes seem to have good potential here.

Notable wine - Barringwood Park Vineyard Pinot Noir

Tamar Valley - along the valley north of Launceston

North of Launceston and crossed by the Tamar River, this is Tasmania's most reliable wine region growing a wide range of products including sparkling, pinot noir, chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. The region has an annual rain fall of 6.6 cm 

Notable wine - Waterton Shiraz, Velo Dominique Sparkling and Pinot Noir, Holm Oak, Stoney Rise, Tamar Ridge, Pirie Tasmania, Goaty Hill Vineyard, Moores Hill, Grey Sands

North East Pipers River

This is a big area for sparkling wine as well as pinot gris with high humidity and 8.5 cm of rain annually. 

Notable wine - Apogee Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Bay of Fires, Delamere Vineyard, Sinapius, Jansz, Pipers Brook, Clover Hill

East Coast

Runs from the Bay of Fires in the north to Buckland in the south, this region has a strong pedigree for Pinot Noir, sparkling wines and riesling due to its maritime climate and west to southwest prevailing winds. There is annual rainfall of around 6cm with frost a big obstacle for wine making. The East coat is definitely an area with big opportunities as well as challenges. 

Notable wine - Freycinet Vineyards Pinot Noir, Radenti Sparkling, sauvignon blanc, riesling, Spring Vale, Aspley Gorge and Cape Bernier

Coal River

The Coal River Valley lies northeast of Hobart, between Cambridge and Richmond. This is a cool, dry area with frost a big issue especially in the southern part of the area. The soils are very diverse with plenty of stones from buckshot to ironstone to red loam and shale. The Pinot Noir grape seems to done well in this region with finessed examples on sites which are carefully chosen. There are also good Chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc based wines being produced.

Notable wines - Parish Vineyard, Domaine A cabernet sauvignon (Bordeaux style)blends, Tolpuddle Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (owned by Shaw + Smith of Adelaide Hills fame), Pressing Matters, Glaetzer Dixon Family Winemakers and Heemskerk 

Derwent Valley

This region is northwest of Hobart with the Derwent River moderating the cliamte and so curtailing frost and extremes of temperature and rainfall is around 5.5 cm per year. This means that Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling all do well in the Valley.

Notable wine - Moorilla Syrah, Stefano Lubiana Wines Sparkling and Pinot Noir (Terremoto Pinor Noir with no sulphur or other additives)

Huon Valley

This area is southwest of Hobart and is very cool with over 7cm of rainfall each year.  There is a big focus on Pinot Noir with Chardonnay the second favoured grape but it is a challenging and mainly undiscovered area. 

Notable wine - Home Hill Pinot Noir, Chatto Pinor Noir, Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir

Australian Wine Vintage Reports


2014 proved to be a great year for Australian  wine producers with many regions having a perfect growing season, the conditions described by many as some of the best in living memory. But there was a cold and rainy spring in many regions which impacted on flowering and fruit set, reducing yield for some and frost also an issue. Then in mid-February there was heavy rain, followed by very hot temperatures in March accompanied by bush fires. 

The 2014 vintage is one of flavoursome, fragranced, modest alcoholic wines in the case of reds.

South Australia

The cold wet spring, caused very poor fruit set and low yield with the following period of hot weather followed by heavy rain in mid-February. After this, mild weather resulted in moderate alcohol, fragrant red wines (especially Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon).


Yields 40% lower than normal were common and they were lower again in vineyards impacted by October's frosts. But the whites have a good aroma and reds showing good depth of flavour and colour.

New South Wales

The Hunter Valley had probably the best year since 1965. A hot spring and early summer was followed by a very mild and dry January and February. Shiraz grapes benefited from the conditions strongly with Chardonnay showing cool-climate characters, and high-quality Semillon richer and more full-flavoured than normal.

Western Australia

The 2014 vintage in Margaret River was characterised by a metre by heavy rain in winter followed by a dry and very warm summer. Cold and strong southerly winds hits the yield of whites such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon in some vineyards but higher than average acidity levels in the Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc helped produce fresh, balanced wines.


Northern Tasmania did well in 2014 with little frost and wet weather during the early part of the growing season. Cool conditions meant that harvesting took place in March and April, rather than February, as in recent years. The result was excellent quality pinot noir, riesling and chardonnay.

South Australia 2007-2013 vintage report


New South Wales Vintage Report 2007-2013


Victoria Vintage Report 2007-2013

Western Australia Vintage Report 2007-2013


Tasmania Vintage Report 2007-2013


Recommended Australian Wines

Drunk by Fermented Grape with winemaker details and tasting notes

Heathcote wines

Greenstone Vineyard Shiraz 2012, Heathcote, Australia

McLaren Vale wines

Penny's Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia

Primo Estate Shale Stone Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale, Australia

Primo Estate Il Briccone 2013 Shiraz, Sangiovese, McLaren Vale, Australia

JOSEPH Moda, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia

REVISITED - The Good Doctor's Tonic 2010, McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills, Australia Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Tannat

Dandelion Vineyards Pride of the Fleurieu Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia

Pieri Azzardo 2009 Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, Australia

Barossa Valley wines

The Willows Vineyard Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley, Australia

Haan Merlot prestige 2009, Barossa Valley, Australia

Ben Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz 2010, Barossa, Australia

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa, Shiraz, 2011, Australia

St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2008, Barossa, SE Australia

Clare Valley Wines

Eldredge RL Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Clare Valley, South Australia

Adelaide Hills Wines

Shaw + Smith Shiraz Adelaide Hills 2012

Yarra Valley Wines

Oakridge 864 Shiraz 2005, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Yering Station Pinot Noir Reserve 2010, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yering Station 2007 Yarra Valley Heathcote Shiraz Viognier, Victoria, Australia

Rutherglen Wines

Campbells Muscat 2011, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia

Jen Pfeiffer The Diamond Shiraz 2011

Strathbogie Ranges Wine

Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2009, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Australia

Tahbilk Shiraz 2006 Victoria Australia

Orange wines

Philip Shaw The Idiot Shiraz 2010, Koomooloo, Orange, New South Wales, Australia

Other wines

Balnaves, The Tally, cab sauv 2005, Coonawarra

Bass Philip, Pinot noir Reserve 2004, Victoria, gippsland

Battle of Bosworth, white boar, 2004, McLaren Vale, Shiraz, Amarone style ***

Brokenwood, Graveyard Shiraz 1991, hunter valley, NSW, Shiraz

Charles Melton, nine popes, 2004, Barossa, Grenache 54%, Shiraz 44%, Mourvèdre 2% worked under Lehmann **** Australia premier Rhone style red also 02, 06

Chris Ringland, three rivers Shiraz, 1999, Barosss, Shiraz

Clonakilla, Shiraz/Viognier 2006, Canberra, Shiraz 94%, Viognier 6%***

Coldstream hills, reserve Pinot noir, 2005, Yarra valley established by James Halliday and his wife, Yarra recognised for some of best Pinot and Chardonnay in aus02, 04 ***

Coriole, Lloyd reserve Shiraz 1994, Mclaren vale, ***

Cullen, Diana Madeline cab sauv merlot 2001, Margaret river, cab sauv 75%, merlot 25% driest vintage for 126 years ***

D'arenberg, dead arm Shiraz 2003, Mclaren vale ***

Domaine A, Cabernet sauv 2000, Tasmania, coal river, cab sauv, merlot, p Verdot, c franc***

Giaconda, Warner vineyard, Shiraz 2002, Victoria, beech worth , Shiraz £££ ***

Grant Burge, Meshach Shiraz, 2002, Barossa ££££ ***

Greenock creek. Roennfeldt road Shiraz, 1998, Barossa*** £££££

Hardys Eileen hardy Shiraz 2001, south aus, 98, 00, 04*** £££

Henschke, Hill of Grace, 1998, Eden. Valley, Shirazsecond to penfolds grange in Aussie wine hierarchy*** £££££

Jasper hill, Emily's paddock, Shiraz 2007, Victoria, heathcote, Shiraz 90-95% , c franc 5-10%*** £££

Jim Barry, The Armagh, Shiraz 2001, south Australia , Clare valley £££ ***

Katnook Estate, Odyssey, cab sauv 2002, south Australia, Coonawarra*** 01, 04,05 £££

Majella The Malleea Cabernet/Shiraz 1998, Coonawarra£££ ***

Moss wood, cab sauv 2001, Western Australia , Margaret river, c sauv, p Verdot, c franc , merlot *** £££

Mount Langi Ghiran, Shiraz, 2003, Victoria , grampians *** £££

Mount Mary, quintet Cabernet, Victoria, Yarra Valley, c sauv 50 %, c franc 30 %, others 20 %

Parker, Coonawarra estate terra rosa first growth, cab sauv, merlot *** £££  98, 99, 01, 04, 05

Penfolds Bin 95 grange 1971, Shiraz 87%, cab sauv 13 % 96,98, 04, 05, south Australia ***. £££££

Penfolds Bin 707 cab sauv 2004, south Australia ££££&. ***

Penley estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Coonawarra, cab sauv***.£££

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 1998, south Australia , Barossa, Shiraz ££ ***

Rockford basket press Shiraz 2004, south Australia , Barossa valley £££ *** quintessential handmade wine!

St. Hallett, old block Shiraz 2001, south Australia, Barossa valley . Exceptional value for money ££ ***

Stonier estate, reserve Pinot noir, mornington peninsula 2003, *** £££££, 88, 89, 90, 95, 96, 98, 99, 00,04, , 05

Tapanappa whalebone vineyard, Cabernet/Shiraz 2004, wrattonbully, c sauv, Shiraz, c franc *** £££ 03, 05

Torbreck, runrig Shiraz 1998, Barossa valley, Shiraz, Viognier*** £££££, 93, 94,95, 06,97, 98, , 99

Trinity hill, homage Syrah 2006, Hawkes bay, gimblett gravels, Syrah, Viognier *** £££ 02,04

Turkey flat, Shiraz 2004, Barossa valley, oldest vineyard on Barossa£££ ***

Vasse Felix, heytesbury cab sauv. 2004, Margaret river, cab sauv 95%, Shiraz 5% *** £££

Wendouree Shiraz 2000, Clare valley

Wild duck creek, duck muck 2004, heathcote, Shiraz alcohol 17% !!*** £££££

Wynn's Coonawarra estate John Riddoch cab sauv 2004, south Australia , Coonawarra *** £££ 97,98,95, 06

Yalumba the Octavius 1998. South Australia , Barossa , Shiraz*** £££

Yarra Yering, dry red wine no.1, 1990, Yarra valley, c sauv , merlot, Malbec , p Verdot £££ ***

Mount Pleasant 1946 vines Lovedale Semillon , Hunter Valley

Crawford River Riesling Henty

Leeuwin Estate Art Series, Chardonnay, Margaret River

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay, Margaret River

Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, Beechworth

Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir, Geelong

Main Ridge Estate Half Acre, Pinot Noir

Mount Mary Vineyard Quintet, Yarra Valley

Howard Park, Abercrombie, Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Australia

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

Balnaves Coonawarra "The Tally" Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

Cullen Diana Madeline, Margaret River

Voyager estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Margaret River

Torbreck Runrig, Barossa Valley

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, Hunter Valley

Jim Barry, The Armagh Shiraz, Clare Valley

Penfolds Grange, South Australia

Henschke Hill of Grace, Eden Valley


A guide to Austrian Wine

Overview of Austrian Wine Production

Austria is a small country by wine-making standards, it accounts for less than 1% of a total world wine production with 46,000 hectares planted overall. Nevertheless, in terms of quality and value Austrian wine is notable versus its more famous competitors in Europe such as Burgundy and Italy.

There are several reasons  for this: history, climate, terroir and one of the strictest and newest wine regulatory regimes in the world following the 1985 diethylene glycol scandal when several Austrian wineries were found to be adulterating wine with this toxic substance. 

Still, if you do not live in Austria, Germany or Switzerland (or do not have friends  who live there ),  it is quite unlikely that you have come across Austrian wine since only a fraction of it is currently being exported (with more than 90% into other EU states).

A blind tasting of international wines carried out on 30 October 2002, organised by the fine wine dealer and collector Jan-Erik Paulson, and hosted by Jancis Robinson MW and Tim Atkin MW, highlighted the quality of its Grüner Veltliner grape. Austrian Chardonnays and Grüner Veltliners were compared to some of the world’s most prestigious Chardonnays from Burgundy, California, and Australia.The tasting panel featured participants such as the wine writer Steven Spurrier, of Judgement of Paris fame.

Seven of the first ten places were occupied by Austrian wines, with Knoll, Bründlmayer (2x), Velich, Prager, Loimer, and Freie Weingärtner Wachau, beating Louis Latour and Baron Thénard (Burgundy), Gaja (Italy) and Mondavi (California), The highest-rated Chardonnay of the tasting, placed third, was the Chardonnay Tiglat 1997 by Velich (Burgenland, Austria).

First place in the tasting was awarded to a 1990 Grüner Veltliner "Vinothekfüllung" Smaragd, Knoll (Wachau, Austria) with an average rating of 18.09 points, followed by a 1997 Grüner Veltliner "Ried Lamm", Bründlmayer (Kamptal, Austria) with 17.78 points. The first non-Austrian wine in the rating was a 1998 Byron Chardonnay, Nielson Vineyards, Mondavi (California) in fifth place. All three categories of wines tasted were won by Austrian wines.

History of Austrian Wine

Archeologists have confirmed that people had been planting grapes in Austria since before the Roman Empire and with its arrival the wine growing became even more organised. After the fall of the Roman Empire, most of the current wine growing regions in Austria were abandoned and only with the arrival of the Cistercian monks, the Burgundian viticulture methods were reintroduced and enhanced. The Austrian wine making industry thrived first under the Babenberg and then Habsburg rule with its peak in the 16th Century, when the total wine growing area was three times more than nowadays. Following this there  was a short decline in the 17th Century due to the siege of the Turks, but Maria Theresia and her son Josef II revived wine production again.

The 1985 diethylene glycol scandal

In 1985 the huge scandal with the illegal additive diethylene glycol (a primary ingredient in anti freeze) made the Austrian wine making industry instantly infamous, however in a long run it served a very good purpose.

The scandal involved several Austrian wineries which illegally adulterated their wines to make them appear sweeter and more full-bodied in the style of late harvest wines. The practice was uncovered by German wine analysis labs who performed quality tests on wines sold in Germany. The first wine discovered to contain DEG was a 1983 Rüster Auslese from a supermarket in Stuttgart, analysed on June 27, 1985 and a 1981 Welschriesling Beerenauslese from Burgenland was found to contain 48 grams per litre of diethylene glycol meaning that one bottle could have been lethal or irreversibly damage the kidney, liver and brain. Many of the adulterated wines were found to originate in Wagram in Lower Austria, where a consulting wine chemist was prosecuted. 

On July 9th 1985, the Federal Ministry of Health in Bonn issued an official health warning against the consumption of Austrian wines, and the news quickly spread around the world.

At the time Germany was the most important export market for Austrian wine with the wines of a similar style to those produced by Germany itself, notably semi-sweet and sweet white wines, but sold at a lower price.  Some Austrian exporters had entered into long-term contracts with supermarket chains to supply large quantities of wine at a specified quality and in poor vintages much of the grape harvest did not reach sufficient ripeness levels. This meant that the wines would be less sweet and more acidic than desired and this led some unscrupulius wine producers to modify the wines. By using diethylene glycol, it was possible to alter both sweetness and the body of the wine. .

As a result over 27 million litres of wine (36 million bottles) were destroyed by the German authorities by pouring it into the ovens of a cement plant as a cooling agent instead of water.

In the months that followed the discovery of the adulteration, several wine makers and dealers were arrested by the Austrian police and the first prison sentence, of one and a half years, followed in October 1985. One of the convicted Wagram winemakers, Karl Grill, proprietor of Firma Gebrüder Grill, committed suicide after being sentenced to a prison sentence.

The short-term effect of the scandal was a complete collapse of Austrian wine exports and a huge dent in the reputation of the Austrian wine industry as well as in Germany similar in scale to the VW diesel engine emissions scandal uncovered in 2015.  it took the Austrian wine industry over a decade to recover. Much stricter wine laws were also enacted by Austria on August 29, 1985 which is now one of the strictest standards in the world and since then a term “Qualitätswein” or “Quality wine” is applied to all wines produced in Austria. But it took the Austrian wine industry many years to recover (2001 wine exports recovered to pre-1985 levels) and it still has an impact on the reputation of the country's production despite it happening over 20 years ago.

Austrian grape varieties

Officially there are 35 grape varieties which can be grown in Austria: 22 white wine  varieties and 13 red wine varieties. Volume wise, 2/3 is presented by white and 1/3 for red. 

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner accounts for approximately half of the white grape variety volume but other important varieties to mention are: Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gelber Muskateller, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and indigenous grape varieties like Rotgipfler and Zierfandler.

Grüner Veltliner has been recognised to be a white grape capable of producing wines with a great richness, complexity and ageing potential equalled only by by top class Chardonnay and Riesling wines.  Grüner Veltliner has similar aromas but can often show more fruit and freshness than Chardonnay.

Zweigelt is the most well known Austrian red grape variety and it accounts for almost 50% of the total red wine production. At the same time Blaufränkisch, St.Laurent, Blauer Burgunder (Pinot Noir), Blauburger and Blauer Portugieser are also important to mention. 

“Qualitätswein” is produced from the grapes grown in three federal states of Austria: Niederösterreich, Burgenland and Steiermark and they are defined as wine growing regions.

Austrian Wine Producing Regions

Vienna with its 612 hectares is a standalone region with its flagship Gemischter Satz, a new trendy wine produced from a variety of grapes, which are grown, harvested and fermented together.

Niederösterreich is the largest wine growing region and it includes the following eight specific wine growing sub-regions:

  •  Wachau
  •  Kremstal
  •  Kamptal
  •  Traisental
  •  Wagram
  •  Weinviertel
  •  Thermenregion
  •  Carnuntum

The first six sub-regions are predominantly white wine producing areas with a focus on Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Weissburgunder.

Pinot Noir, Thermenregion vineyard, Austria

Although, Thermenregion is mainly a white wine producing sub-region focusing on indigenous Rotgipfler and Zierfandler it is also famous for the red Burgundy style wines and this is where excellent Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent  (St. Laurent) wines come from. 

Carnuntum, which is situated next to Burgenland and Pannonian plains, enjoys a lot of sunshine hence the focus here is on the red wines predominantly made of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch. 

Burgenland is a home of full-bodied red wines thanks to long and hot Pannonian summers. There are four sub-regions:

  •  Neusiedlersee
  •  Mittelburgenland
  •  Leithaberg / Neusiedlersee-Hügelland
  •  Eisenberg / Südburgenland

Neusiedlersee is the largest sub-region in Burgenland and the one which boasts the many top wine producers, several of which are internationally recognised and awarded.  Zweigelt is a key grape variety in this region.

Mittelburgenland is a Blaufränkischland and the vast majority of wines produced there are based on this grape variety.  Leithaberg / Neusiedlersee-Hügelland offers good selection of white (Weissburgunder, Chardonnay), Red (Blaufränkisch) and sweet wines (Ruster Ausbruch is the most well known out of all). 

Rust is a key city in this area as it is famous for its Ruster Ausbruch, a sweet, concentrated wine produced from grapes affected by noble rot (Botrytis cinerea) as a result of the areas climatic conditions. Rust was granted the status of Freistadt (free city) by Emperor Leopold I in 1681, partly because of his wife's love of the local sweet wines. 28,000 litres of Ruster Ausbruch as well as gold had to be handed over to acquire the status. 

The fungus penetrates the outer wax layer of the grapes and induces a shrivelling and concentration of taste and aromas of the finished wine. Cover vegetation balances the relatively high temperatures  of the Pannonian climate, whilst well ventilated leaf canopies and autumn fogs from the Neusiedlersee ensure that the grapes dry quickly after rainfall which means ideal conditions for the development of noble rot. 

Late ripening white wine varietals with good acidity  and high susceptibility to Botrytis are ideally suited to the production of Ruster Ausbruch, including  Welschriesling, white pinot, Furmint and Yellow Muscat. The grapes have to be carefully picked by hand to ensure quality and gentle treatment, a process knwon as "breaking out". A must weight of at least 30 degrees KMW at harvest is required for Ruster Ausbruch and the finished wine has a optimal alcohol content of 12%. Wines that have passed through a panel of blind tasting can bear the label, "Cercle Ruster Ausbruch", with the Ruster wine Charta signed in December 2005 by leading producers in the area.

Südburgenland is the smallest region however it also offers a good selection of white and red wines and also local sparkling speciality called Uhudler (made of Isabella grapes, which are permitted to grow only in this region).

Steiermark is undoubtedly the most beautiful region and the one, which offers one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in Europe if not the world. It consists of the following three sub-regions: 

  •  Vulkanland Steiermark
  •  Südsteiermark
  •  Weststeieremark

The first one is not only the home for Traminer, which is a regional speciality, but also for Burgundy style white wines like Grauburgubder (Pinot Gris), Weissburgunder (Pinot Banc) and Chardonnay. In addition to the wine growing industry this is the Spa and hot springs paradise. 

Südsteiermark with its’ rolling hills and fine weather is reminiscent of Tuscany, however the focus here is on aromatic grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Gelber Muskateller. Other white grape varieties like Welshriesling,  Chardonnay (called here Morillon).

Westeiermark is a Schilcher (Blauer Wildbacher) region. This is very old grape variety is a great source for zesty sparkling Roséwein.

Recommended Austrian Wines

Some of my personal favourites from Austria:

  • Familie Johanneshof Reinisch, Thermenregion - Merlot Dornfeld, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Grillenhügel, Pinot Noir Holzspur, Premiere (a red young wine cuvée), Riesling , Rotgipfler, Rotgipfler Satzing, Rotgipfler Auslese, Sauvignon Blanc, St. Laurent, St. Laurent Frauenfeld, St. Laurent Holzspur, Sparkling Pinot Noir Brut, Steingarten (a red wine cuvée), Zierfandler Spiegel, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Frauenfeld
  • Schneider winery, Tattendorf - Excellent St.Laurent, Pinot Noir
  •  Weingut Familie Auer, Tattendorf - Excellent Reserve St.Laurent, Pinot Noir

Falstaff Rotweingala

The Falstaff Rotweingala in Hofburg is focused on the top wine producers and each of them sends 3 of his top red wines, which are then assessed by Falstaff committee in advance and then selected for the wine tasting. At the 2015 event there were 121 winemakers invited to attend the event with 350 wines.

Among the top winemakers were the wineries Netzl, Kollwentz, Gernot and Heike Heinrich, Preisinger, Scheiblhofer, Werner Achs, Umathum. In the Falstaff awards for the top Austrian Wines 1st place went to Netzl winery from Göttlesbrunn. Franz Netzl and daughter Christina, run one of the most prestigious wineries in Carnuntum Weibauregion and their Cuvée Anna-Christina 2013. Second place went to Kreutzer and winemaker Albert Gesellmann with his Bela Rex 2013 Cuvée. Third place went to Winzerhof Ronald Kiss from Jois for the Gamay Jungenberg 2013. 

Some highlighted wines from the event:

  • Leopold Aumann (https://www.aumann.at/de) from Tribuswinkel. This is one of the best winemakers in Thermenregion and his Merlot Classic 2013 (Price €9.60!) was excellent. His Badnerberg 2012 (Sankt Laurent and Merlot) were very good, but at considerably higher price of €31.
  • Weingut Amsee (http://www.wein-amsee.at) from Gols. Cabernet Sauvignon Alter Satz 2012 (€39) and Blaufränkisch v36 2012 (€34) were both excellent. The Cabernet was kept for 36 months in new barrique and Blaufränkisch in a mix of new and old.
  • Weingut Juris (http://www.juris.at/en/weingut/) from Gols, chief winemaker (Axel Stiegelmar) has consistently good wines year after year. The Ina'mera 2011 (€28, cuvee of Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) is recommended with the 2012 and 2013 vintages are also great. The Pinot Noir Hochreit 2013 and Pinor Noir Breitenteil 2013 (both €31 Euros each), Pinot Noir Setzluss and Haide at the same price. All four Pinot Noirs are named after particular vineyard the grapes are harvested from. 2013 vintage is not yet released, but 2012 available and he has a nice wooden box with those 4 different wines (http://shop.juris.at/de/weine/pinot-noir-lagen/pinot-noir-2012-lagen-holzkiste.html), The Pinot Noir Breitenteil 2012 was ranked third in Austria last year in the grape category and Ina'mera 2012 also third in the Cuvee category.
  • Weingut Johann Gisperg (http://www.weingut-gisperg.at) from Teesdorf . Very good St. Laurent and Pinot Noir year after year and the price/quality is top notch. The St. Laurent Reserve 2013 (€15.70) and new cuvee Contrast 2012 €16.5 (SL, Rösler, Zweigelt, Merlot) are also recommended. The Pinot Noir Reserve (€16.5) and St. Laurent Reserve are highly recommended as Johnann is one of the best Burgundermachers in Austria.
  • Weingut Dopler (http://www.tattendorf.at/dopler/) from Tattendorf. Another Burgundermacher. His SL Reserve 2012 (€17) was a winner last year in the St. Laurent category and it is still available for sale. His Pinot Noir Reserve (€17) and Cuvee Lindberg (€19.50, PN+SL) are also very nice.
  • Weingut Kerniger (http://www.keringer.at/Deutsch/Frame%20Weingut.htm) from Mönchhof. The Grande Cuvee 2013 (€12.5, cuvee of Zweigelt and Rathay), Cabernet Sauvignon "100 days" 2013 €16 and his flagman Massiv 2012 (€32, cuvee of BF, Rathay, ZW and CS. this wine has won multiple awards). 
  • Rotweingut Maria Kerschbaum (http://www.weingut-kerschbaum.at/htm/home/start.php) from Horitschon, Mittelburgenland - the Blaufränkischland.  Both Blaufränkisch are mind-blowing: Blaufränkisch David's Show Reserve 2012 €20.9, Blaufränkisch Reserve Dürrau 2012 €24.2. The cuvee K11 Grand Reserve Kerschbaum 2011 €36 was also super.
  • Winzerhof Kiss (http://www.winzerhof-kiss.at) from Jois. This winemaker has always been consistently good, but in the last few years he has started to pick up the trophies - one after another. This year he presented Renommee 2013 (€14, cuvee of ZW and CS), CS Neuberg 2013 € 23 and Blaufränkisch Jungenberg 2013 €25. CS Neuberg is a winner of CS category for 2 years in a row and Blaufränkisch Jungenberg is a winner in the category BF this year. All wines are excellent although still young and will benefit from ageing of at least 1 year in a cellar. He also has a very nice BF DAC Leithaberg 2013, which is a smaller brother of Jungenberg and quite enjoyable been now and costs €15.
  • HST - Hannes Steurer (http://www.hannessteurer.at/sortiment) from Jois. All 3 wines have excellent price/quality ratio. Renommee (€14, ZW+CS), HST 2013 (€13, ZW+BF) and CS M1 2013 €22.
  • Stiegelmar (http://www.stiegelmar.com/en) from Gols. One of the favourites amongst non-Burgundermachers (along with Juris - another Stiegelmar). The Cabernet Sauvignon Kalbskopf 2013 €18.1, Stiegelmar 2012 (€19.4, ZW+BF+CS) and Zweigelt Ungerberg 2012 €34 are excellent.

A guide to Bordeaux wine

The Bordeaux Wine region and its appellations

Bordeaux is the most famous wine region of France, being situated in the West of France with the city of Bordeaux at its heart. It is characterised by wines from the Left bank and right bank, separated by the Garonne river. The maritime climate means subdued winters and long warm summers, perfect conditions for growing grapes and the region is very large with 120,000ha of vineyards (four times the size of Burgundy) and includes over 10,000 wine producers.

From 1875–1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were destroyed by Phylloxera infestations and the wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock.

Left Bank and Right Bank Bordeaux Wine Region

The "left bank" of the Bordeaux wine region spans from the area called Médoc to the north of the city of Bordeaux and Graves to the south of Bordeaux, the right bank is separated from the city. The most important areas are Haut-Médoc (southern part of Médoc) and Pessac-Leognan at the north tip of the Graves. The latter produces the best white wines in Bordeaux.

The most important area on the "right bank" is Libournais, named after the historic town of Libourne (the best appellations within it are Saint-Émilion and Pomerol):

  • Saint-Émilion AOC
  • Montagne-Saint-Émilion AOC
  • Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion AOC
  • Lussac-Saint-Émilion AOC
  • Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion AOC
  • Pomerol AOC
  • Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC
  • Fronsac AOC
  • Canon-Fronsac AOC
  • Côtes-de-Castillon AOC (now merged into Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC)
  • Premières-Côtes-de-Franc AOC (now merged into Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC) 

The "Left Bank", comprising the wine regions of the Médoc, Pessac-Léognan and Graves are planted predominantly with Cabernet Sauvignon, which does well on the gravelly soils. It is blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and sometimes Petit Verdot. The highlights of the Médoc are the four communes of St Estèphe (blackcurrant concentration); classical, cedar wood and cigar-box Pauillac; rich and fruity St Julien and elegant, fragrant Margaux.

On the "Right Bank", most famously in St- Émilion and Pomerol, the Merlot grape dominates, sometimes with cabernet franc. The soils are more mixed, with gravel and clay. Styles vary more in St-Emilion, depending on the predominance of sand in the lower lying slopes, or limestone on the hillsides and plateau.

What is claret?

Nearly 90% of Bordeaux wine is red, and has in the past been called "claret". This name was used to differentiate the lighter coloured wines of the coastal region from the deeper  wines from inland regions.

Before “claret” was the nickname for Bordeaux wines, it meant “clear,” “pale” or “light-coloured” wine (“claret” being derived from the Latin word for “clear”). The first references to “claret” as dark red Bordeaux wines were in the 18th century by the British. 

The word claret is now is used as a generic term to refer to Bordeaux wines or Bordeaux style blends from elsewhere and the associated dark red colour.

Bordeaux châteaux

By the 18th century, individual properties, known as châteaux, were becoming known for the quality of their wines and in 1855, those of the Médoc (plus Haut Brion, a property commended by Samuel Pepys as early as 1663) were classified into five levels of classed growths. Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion were cited as First Growths, to whose ranks Mouton Rothschild was elevated by presidential decree in 1973. Beneath the growths there are numerous châteaux known as Crus Bourgeois and less well known "petits châteaux" which produce wines at more affordable prices.

Bordeaux sweet wines

The other distinctive style of Bordeaux wine is sweet dessert, especially from the district of Sauternes, making some of the most outstanding sweet white wines in the world (from the likes of Châteaux d'Yquem, Rieussec and Climens). The foggy autumn mornings along the banks of the Garonne River near Sauternes and neighbouring Barsac enable the noble rot, botrytis cinerea, to form on the skins of the grapes, which can still ripen in the afternoon sun as late as the end of October or early November.The Sémillon grape is predominantly used but Sauvignon Blanc and a Muscadelle are also planted.

There are many inexpensive dry white wines, predominatly Sauvignon rayher than Sémillon from regions such as Entre Deux Mers and the Graves, with just a handful of outstanding properties located in Pessac-Léognan. Most famous of the great dry whites are Châteaux Haut Brion, Laville Haut Brion and Domaine de Chevalier.

The En Primeur System

The best and most highly priced wines of Bordeaux are sold "en primeur" in the late spring following the harvest, 18 months to two years before the wines are ready for shipment. The top  Châteaux offer their wines through a system of Bordeaux négociants (brokers) who sell on to importers round the world.

Merchants and trade organisations will taste barrel samples of wine that is often only 6–8 months old. In the case of Bordeaux, where the final wine is often a blend of several grape varieties, the winemaker will try to craft an approximate blend to sample. The composition of the final wine may differ from the sample depending on how each barrel matures during the aging process. Based on the initial sample, the wines will be giving a preliminary "score" or wine rating based on the expected quality of the wine once it is bottled, released and has had time to mature.

An en primeur wine gives the owner the right to receive the respective bottles of wines once the producer has completed the maturing phase of the wine. Wine bought en primeur is often directly placed into custom-free storage holding, 'in bond' free from VAT and other taxes until it is released for eventual sale.

Bordeaux AOCs Appellation d'origine contrôlée

There are 57 AOCs (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) in Bordeaux, which can be broadly grouped into seven categories

  • Médoc
  • Red Graves & Pessac-Léognan
  • Saint-Emilion, Pomerol & Fronsac
  • Red wines from the Côtes
  • Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieur
  • Dry White Wines
  • Sweet White Wines

The Médoc appellations are:

  • Médoc AOC
  • Haut-Médoc AOC
  • Saint-Estèphe AOC
  • Pauillac AOC
  • Saint-Julien AOC
  • Listrac-Médoc AOC
  • Moulis-en-Médoc AOC
  • Margaux AOC

Château Margaux

The Saint-Emilion, Pomerol & Fronsac appelations are:

  • Saint-Émilion 
  • Montagne-Saint-Émilion 
  • Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion
  • Lussac-St. Emilion
  • Puisseguin St. Emilion
  • Lalande de Pomerol
  • Fronsac


Red Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs are classified simply into these groups.

The Red wines from the Côtes appellations are:

  • Premières Côtes de Blaye
  • Côtes de Bourg
  • Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
  • Côtes de Castillon
  • Graves-de-Vayres
  • Côtes de Francs

Bordeaux Dry White wines appellations are:

  • Bordeaux Blanc
  • Entre-Deux-Mers
  • Graves
  • Crémant de Bordeaux
  • Pessac-Léognan
  • Premières Côtes de Blaye
  • Blaye
  • Graves-de-Vayres
  • Côtes de Bourg
  • Côtes de Blaye
  • Côtes des Francs

Bordeaux Sweet wine appellations are:

  • Sauternes
  • Sainte-Croix-du-Mont
  • Loupiac
  • Barsac
  • Cadillac
  • Cérons

Bordeaux wine blends

The majority of Bordeaux is blended with six red grapes and six white grapes being allowed by the various appellations in the region. The main red grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. White wine is generally based on Sauvignon blanc or Semilon. 

Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blend in the Médoc, elsewhere it tends to be Merlot, whilst three quarters of the production of the right bank is Merlot. The top Château's tend to have the highest proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends.

Classification of Bordeaux wine and the Growth hierarchy

First Growth:

The 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris resulted in the unique classification system for Bordeaux known the "Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855", a list of the top ranked wines, named the Grand Crus Classés (Great Classified Growths). The system set out the most prized and hence most expensive Château of the Bordeaux area.

Within the Grand Cru Classé list, wines were further ranked and placed in one of five divisions. Those considered to be best wines were assigned the highest rank of Premier Cru or "first growth wines". Four wines were chosen - Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Margaux and Château Haut-Brion. Of all the 61 great classified wines, 60 came from the Médoc region, with one being the premier cru Château Haut-Brion, produced in Graves.

The 1855 list remained unchanged until 1973 when Mouton Rothschild was promoted to Premier Cru status and in 1988 Château Haut-Brion was changed in appellation from Graves to Pessac-Leognan due to the urbanisation of areas surrounding Bordeaux.

Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux:

Château Lafite Rothschild Médoc (Pauillac)

Château Margaux Médoc (Margaux)

Château Latour Médoc (Pauillac)

Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan

Château Mouton-Rothschild Médoc (Pauillac)

Rating of recent Bordeaux Vintages

bordeaux vintage.PNG

Bordeaux's best recent vintages have been 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010. So called "vintages of the century".

  • 2014
  • Exceptionally cool and wet July and August put this year's Bordeaux to be on track to be the worst since the poor 1992 vintage. But fortunately for winemakers, the 2014 vintage was saved by an unusually dry, warm September and October that (just about) ripened the grapes though autumn concentration resulted in relatively high-acid wines. Good sunshine in early June ensured good flowering and September was the hottest month since 1961 and the sunshine persisted until late October.
  • Reds have fragrance, medium body and supple tannins but there is still debate about long term cellaring of this vintage with its fresh acidity and tannic structure. Stick to the leading producers with the best terroirs given the tricky conditions. Poorer wines exhibit excess acidity and are on the thin side or are too dry, over oaked or over extracted. The left bank wineries produced more consistent product than the right with cabernet sauvignon wines benefitting from the hot September more than Merlot dominated  and with more rain in the likes of St-Emilion than the Medoc. 

The cool summer meant that whites had good fresh acidity.

In summary 2014 was a good vintage but not a great one (similar to 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012).

  • 2013
  • A universally poor vintage, beset by uneven ripening and dilution. Rot forced relatively early picking. Even at their best, the wines are pretty light – though perhaps a benefit of this is lower alcohol levels, as compared with some of the 15% bruisers of recent years. The best of a bad lot can be found in Pomerol, St-Julien and St-Estèphe.
  •  2012
  • Tricky across many European wine regions, and none more so than Bordeaux. Generally speaking, it was a wet, late year with a hot mid-summer. Bad weather in October compromised quality at the crucial moment, meaning that the earlier-ripening Merlot-based reds were less adversely affected. Making good Cabernet-based wine was achievable, but only by those who had the resources for micro-management in the vineyard. Top properties made small quantities of outstanding wines but most have a lack of depth and persistence.
  • 2011

Generalisations are difficult in this variable year, but there is agreement that quality was back down to earth after the excitement of 2009 and 2010, with lower alcohol and generally higher tannins too. A forgettable year.

  • 2010
  • Another stellar vintage, with higher tannin and more freshness than 2009 but comparable intensity. More appealing to classical palates.
  • 2009
  • 'Vintage of the decade/century'? This growing season seemed to have it all. A long, fine, warm summer but, crucially, with refreshing nights to help retain acidity. Dramatically ripe, voluptuous wines, especially on the left bank.
  • 2008
  • Another ungenerous summer saved by some better weather at the end of the season. Yet again, those properties at the top of the tree managed to field enough good fruit to salvage some pretty impressive grand vin but life was increasingly tough lower down the food chain.
  • 2007
  • An extremely difficult year for growers, with rampant mildew, not enough sun, too much rain until September. Thanks to an arsenal of modern techniques, not least rigorous selection, those who could afford it managed to make attractive wines for relatively early drinking but high prices left the primeur market as flat as a pancake.
  • 2006
  • This stop-start vintage suffered inevitably by comparison with 2005, although it produced some well-made wines which looked even better in comparison with the 2007s. Drought and high temperatures were the dominant characteristics until the end of July but August was unusually cool and wet and harvest was interrupted by rain. Pauillac and Pomerol seemed to perform best in a year that can taste pretty crisp.
  • 2005
  • Textbook perfection in all respects other than price. Best kept for many a year. Quite marked tannins.

High quality Bordeaux Producers

Château Laroque St Emilion GCC (grand cru classé)

chateau laroque.jpg

Located on the hill tops surrounding St Christophe des Bardes northeast of Saint Emilion, Laroque is the largest estate in the appelation. The vineyards were first laid out in the 18th century by the Marquis de Rochefort-Lavie and the estate remained in the same ownership until 1935 when the great depression took hold. At this point it was bought by the Beaumartin family and it has remained under this ownership until the present day.

The vineyard consists of 61ha all on contiguous plots which is unique in St-Emilion, with 27ha being used for Laroque whilst the remainder is sold as Château Peymouton or the estate's second wine Les Tours de Laroque. 

Until 1996's reclassification of St-Emilion, the whole vineyard was Grand Cru, with the 27ha Laroque being grand cru classé. Although well known due its history, Laroque, remained in the middle tier of the appellation until Xavier Beaumartin took over as owner in 2004.  

The estate's blend is predominately Merlot based and the wine is aged in oak barrels for 12 months. In the best years it is packed with ripe and plummy fruit supported by a framework of supple tannins and balanced acidity.

Château La Pointe Pomerol

la pointe.jpg

Château La Pointe with 23ha is tjhe fourth largest estate in Pomerol after Nenin, Gazin and La Sales and is regarded as a reliable, middle of the road Pomerol that can trace its roots back to 1845.

It was originally owned by the Chaperon family who was responsible for building the elegant Directoire-style château. In the 1868 edition of Charles Cocks' Bordeaux et ses vins, Edouard Féret lists La Pointe as among the finest growths in Pomerol and goes on to say that the wines "are noteworthy for their finesse, bouquet and beautiful colour." The property has been owned by the d'Arfeuille family since 1941 and has been owned and managed by Stéphane d'Arfeuille since 1975. In 2007 the estate was sold to the Generali France Insurance Company and is now under the stewardship of Eric Monneret. 

The property is located in the south-western part of the Pomerol appellation.  Its vineyards are situated close to the village of Catusseau on the outskirts of Libourne. It consists of 21 hectares of vineyards planted with 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats and the wine is matured in small oak barriques (33% new) for 15-18 months.The soil is sandy gravel with a little clay but without the iron found elsewhere in the appellation. 

The wines produced are of consistent quality and good value for Bordeaux.

Château de La  Dauphine, Fronsac


The appellations of Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac historically had a strong reputation prior to the arrival of phylloxera in the late 19th century. They may have been surpassed in recent years by the likes of St-Emilion but they still produce consistent and desirable wines with robust elegance. 

The Château La Dauphine's estate dates back to 1670. In 1709 it was sold to Jean Olivier, a financial advisor to Louis XIV and has remained in the Olivier family for over 300 years. In the 1960's the De Brem family took over the estate who owned the Canon De Brem in Canon-Fronsac regularly producing excellent wines in both appellations. In 1985, La Dauphine was sold to Christian Moueix of Ets J-P Moueix and then to Jean Halley in 2000 the present owner. 

La Dauphine's acreage covers 40 hectares with a southerly exposure with clay-silty sand on the bottom of the vineyard, limestone and clay in the middle and limestone on the plateau with the production now entirely organic. 

Château de Lamarque, Haut-Médoc


Lamarque's estate has been around since the 15th century with the castle overlooking the Gironde Estuary having its origins in the 11th century being subject to attacks by the English during the 100 years war. In 1839 the estate passed into the control of the Comte de Fumel, former owner of Margaux. 

With 38 hectares the Château de Lamarque's main vineyards are close to Moulis, with Poujeaux, Chasse-Spleen and Maucaillou as neighbours, with another plot opposite Malescasse to the South on the way to Alcins. 

Château Biac, Cadillac, Côtes de Bordeaux


Château Biac's estate lies above the River Garonne with vines being planted since the 14th century. The Château was sold to the Bassal family in the early 19th century and under their tenure it was named first growth of the now defunct Langoiran appellation. The Bassal's sold out in the 1950's and after changing hands three times it came to the Asseily family in 2006.


The vineyard is small at 9 hectares but has exceptional exposure to sun with the highest elevation on the right bank of the River Garonne. The shell shape of the vineyard channels cooling winds from the river helping to prevent over ripening in the summer and curtailing the impact of frost in the cooler months. 

The soil on the estate is a mixture of pure gravel to pure clay on a chalky/limestone base.

Château de Cérons, Cérons


Château de Cérons has a striking 17th century building in the Bordeaux Chartreuse style and it is located just north of Barsac on the River Garonne. It was awarded its own appellation in 1936 covering the villages of Podensac and Illats in addition to Cérons itself.

The current owners are the Perromat family and the winery is notable for its sweet wines with the microclimate of the nearby Ciron River allowing the development of botrytis cinerea (noble rot) as in the Sauternes area. 

Notable Bordeaux Wines and Vintages

Château Angelus 2000 Premier Grand Cru , St-Emilion, merlot 50% Cabernet Franc 50%


Château Angélus, until 1990 known as Château L'Angélus, or simply L'Angélus, is from the appellation Saint-Émilion, since 2012 ranked Premier grand cru classé (A) in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located on the Right Bank of the Bordeaux wine region, in the commune of Saint-Émilion in the department Gironde.

Château Ausone 2003, St- Emilion, cab franc 55% merlot 45%, also 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005


Château Ausone is from the Saint-Émilion appellation, one of only four wines, along with Château Angélus, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Pavie to be ranked Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located on the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region in the Gironde department, close to the town of Saint-Émilion. The winery also produces a second wine named Chapelle d'Ausone.

Château Beau-Sejour Becot 2002 Premier Grand Cru, St-Emilion, merlot 70% cabernet franc 24% Cabernet Sauvignon  6%, also 2000, 2001, 2003


Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, formerly Château Beauséjour-Dr-Fagouet, is a Bordeaux wine from the appellation Saint-Émilion, ranked Premier grand cru classé B in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located in the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region in the commune of Saint-Émilion, in the department Gironde. The estate also produces the second wine Tournelle de Beau-Séjour Bécot, as well as the "Vin de garage", La Gomerie.

Château Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse 1990, St-Emilion, merlot 60%, Cabernet franc 25%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%


Château Beauséjour, formerly fully titled Château Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse, is a Bordeaux wine from the appellation Saint-Émilion, ranked Premier grand cru classé B in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located in the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region in the commune of Saint-Émilion, in the department Gironde. The estate also produces the second wine Croix de Beauséjour.

Château Belair, 1995, St-Emilion, merlot 80% cabernet franc 20% (Premier grand cru classé B). Note: Château Bélair-Monange, named until 2007 Château Belair


Château Bélair-Monange, named until 2007 Château Belair, is a Bordeaux wine producer from the appellation Saint-Émilion, ranked Premier grand cru classé B in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located in the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region in the commune of Saint-Émilion, in the department Gironde. The estate was considered a leading producer of Saint-Émilion for most of the 19th century.

Château Berliquet 2001, St-Emilion, merlot 75% Cabernet Franc 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%


Grand Cru Classé Saint-Emilion Bordeaux, right bank Appellation.

Château Branaire-Ducru, 2005, St Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, merlot 22%, others 8%


Château Branaire-Ducru is situated on the opposite side of the road from Château Beychevelle in the south of the St-Julien appellation. Patrick Maroteaux has owned the property since 1988. The proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend is even higher than that in the vineyards - 80-85% in most years, which is one of the highest in the Médoc. Branaire-Ducru is classified as a 4ème Cru Classé.

Château Brane-Cantenac 2000, Margaux, Merlot 55%, Cabernet Sauv 42%, Cabernet Franc 3%


A second growth from Margaux in the in Médoc.

Château Brown 2004, Pessac-Leognan, Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, merlot 43%, Petit Verdot 2%


A third growth Margaux.

Château  Calon-Segur 2003, St Estephe, Cabernet Sauvignon 60% merlot 40%


Château Calon-Ségur is  the most northerly of all the Médoc Grand-Crus Classé. The former owner, Marquis de Ségur, though he owned such Estates as Lafite and Latour, he declared "My heart belongs to Calon". For the last century it has been owned by the Gasqueton family.

Calon-Ségur's 74-hectare vineyard, which is partly enclosed by a wall, is located just to the north of the village of St-Estèphe. The vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 20%, Cabernet Franc 15%) lie on up to 5 metre deep gravel beds mixed with sand and, in parts, limestone and clay. Calon-Ségur has hit form with notable successes in 1995 and 1996 and 2000. At its best, Calon-Ségur produces meaty and concentrated wines displaying excellent depth of fruit and superb length. It is classified as a 3ème Cru Classé.

Château Canon, 2000, St-Emilion, merlot 75%, Cabernet Franc 25%


Château canon-la-gaffeliere 2005, st emilion, merlot 55%, c franc 40% c sauv 5%

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière is from the appellation Saint-Émilion, ranked Premier Grand cru classé in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located in the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region. The estate also produces the second wine Côte Mignon La Gaffelière, and is closely involved with the production of the "Vin de garage" La Mondotte.

Château Cheval Blanc 1998, st emilion, merlot 55%, Cabernet franc 45%

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Château Cheval Blanc is located in Saint-Emilion in the immediate vicinity of Pomerol . Apart from Château Ausone is the only winery in the appellation Saint Emilion with the highest classification Premier Grand Cru Classé A.

Château Cheval Blanc is owned by the family Arnault and Frère . In 1998 the family acquired via the Investment Company Raspail Investissement the estate.

Château Cos d'estournel, Saint-Estèphe , 2002, Cabernet Sauvignon 58%, merlot 38%, others 4%


Château Cos d'Estournel is in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Château Cos d'Estournel produces the eponymous grand vin, the second wine since the 1994 vintage, Les Pagodes de Cos from the estate's younger vines, as well as Château Marbuzet from fruit of nearby plots. The property is adjacent to Château Lafite-Rothschild in the neighboring commune of Pauillac.

Château D'angludet 2001, Margaux, Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit Verdot ****


Château d`Angludet is a Cru Bourgeois property that now regularly produces wines of grand cru classé quality. D'Angludet is located in the Margaux appellation and its vineyards are situated at the 3-way intersection of the Cantenac, Arsac and Labarde communes.

The late Peter Sichel purchased d'Angludet in 1961 and it became his home for the next 37 years. D'Angludet's 32 hectares of vineyards are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Merlot (35%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (2%). 

Château de Pez, 2001, Saint-Estèphe , Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, merlot 44%, others 11%


Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, or Château Ormes de Pez, (French for The Elms of Pez) is a winery in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Bordeaux wine region of France, near the hamlet of Pez. The wine produced here was classified as one of 9 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels in the 2003 listing. Though this classification is currently annulled, it is expected to be revived by the 2009 vintage, but without use of the quality divisions such as "exceptionnel".

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, St Julien, cabernet Sauvignon 65%, merlot 25%, c. Franc 10% 2000


Château Ducru-Beaucaillou is a winery in the Saint-Julien appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. Its wines were classified as one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Château Durfort-Vivens, Margaux, Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 23%, Cabernet Franc 12%  2004***


Château Durfort-Vivens is a winery in the Margaux appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. While the 1855 classification is still legally in effect, more modern classifications have been performed to reconcile changes over time. In The Liv-ex Bordeaux Classification, in which quality of Bordeaux red wine is determined by demand in terms of price, Château Durfort-Vivens is listed as a Fifth Growth. 

Château Falfas, Le chevalier, Côtes de Bourg, Merlot 55%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, others 15% 2000


The Cotes de Bourg region just across the river from the Medoc, nearly directly across the water from Margaux is home to some good and reasonably priced Bordeaux wines. The Château  Falfas estate takes its name from the head of a local parliament back in the late 1600s.  Today it's owned by Veronique Cochranand the Falfas vineyards have been farmed biodynamically since 1988.

The 20 hectare estate is planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Malbec. Their key wine is called "Le Chevalier", translated as the Knight.

Château Figeac, St-Emilion, 2001, Cabernet Franc 35%, c sauv 35%, merlot 30%


Château Figeac is one of the leading St. Emilion estates and its wine, with its high Cabernet content, has often been described as the most Médoc-like in St-Emilionand is classified as a 1er Grand Cru Classé (B).

Since 2010 Figeac has been managed by Comte Eric d’Aramon and his wife Laure. It is located in the north-west of the appellation with its vineyards adjoining those of Cheval Blanc. Its 40 hectares of vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon 35%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 35%) lie on a deep, Médoc-like gravel topsoil ('Graves') over a flinty, iron-rich subsoil. 

Château Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac, Merlot 45%, Cabernet Sauvignon 45 %, Cabernet Franc 10% 2005

Château Fourcas-Hosten is located in the small village of Listrac. Since 2006 it is owned by brothers Renaud and Laurent Momméja. Currently, 36ha of vineyards are in production on 47ha that make up the property. New plantations are already scheduled, step by step, until 2018.

The estate consists of 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. In their youth, the wines of Château Fourcas Hosten have volume and a beautiful structure. With time power and elegance develop. 

Château Gazin, Pomerol, 2004, merlot 90%, Cabernet Sauvignon 17 %, Cabernet franc 3% ***. Located next to Petrus.


Château Gazin is located on the Right Bank of the Bordeaux wine region, in the commune of Pomerol in the department Gironde adjacent to the renowned Petrus. As all wine produced in this appellation, Château Gazin is unclassified, but the estate has since the 1840s been estimated among the great growths of Pomerol. The château also produces a second wine named l'Hospitalet de Gazin.

Château Giscours, Margaux, 1970, Cabernet Sauvugnon 53%, merlot 42%, others 5 %


Château Giscours is a winery in the Margaux appellation of the Bordeaux region of France, in the commune of Labarde. The wine produced here was classified as one of fourteen Troisièmes Crus (Third Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 2000, Pauillac, Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, Merlot 25%, Cabernet franc 5% *** also 1990, 1995, 1996, 2005

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Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste is located inPauillac, Bordeaux and is a 5ème Grand Cru Classé. The name Grand-Puy, already mentioned in documents from the Middle Ages, comes from the ancient term "puy” which means "hillock, small height”. True to its name, the vineyard sits on outcrops with a terroir similar to that of the Médoc's first growths. From Since the 16th century the property remained attached to a single family from generation to generation, in a direct line through marriage until 1920, before connecting with another family in 1978—the Borie.

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2000 is the perfect chance to taste a great Bordeaux vintage without the price premium of more expensive left bank growths with the present owner François-Xavier Borie doing great things with this 5th growth Pauillac château and their wines carry a hint of crème de cassis, which is the château's trademark characteristic in top vintages.

Château Gruaud-Larose, St Julien, 2005, Cabernet Sauvignon 57%, merlot 31%, others 12% *** (1982, 2009)


Château Gruaud-Larose based  in the St. Julien appellation has a reputation for lack of consistency and for Bordeaux wine lovers who appreciate the wines of Gruaud Larose, that lack of consistency helps keep prices down.

The property was first owned by a knight known as Joseph Stanislas Gruaud. Two more members of the Gruaud family were also important factors in the birth of Gruaud Larose, one was a judge, the other was a priest. They owned numerous Bordeaux vineyards which they eventually joined together to create a 116 hectare Bordeaux wine estate called Fond Bedeau. 

In 1778, the Chevalier de Gruaud passed away and management of the estate fell to his son-in-law, Joseph Sebastian de La Rose. La Rose added his name to the estate which became Gruaud Larose. He also gave his name to another massive Bordeaux estate, Chateau Larose Trintaudon.

In 1812, when the family was forced to sell Gruaud Larose to cover their debts, Pierre Balguerie, Baron Jean Auguste Sarget and David Verdonnet purchased the property together. David Verdonnet passed away shortly after. His share of the Left Bank estate was divided by the two remaining partners. For almost half a century, Gruaud Larose was co-managed by both families.

Shortly after the official 1855 Classification of the Medoc, Gruaud Larose was split up again in 1867. One half remained with Baron Sarget. This was called Chateau Gruaud Larose Sarget. Sarget is responsible for constructing the chateau on the property that is still in use today. The other half remained with the Bethmann descendants and was known as Chateau Gruaud Larose Faure.

By the time the 20th century rolled around, both properties remained separated. This all changed when the Cordier family purchase Gruaud Larose. The Sarget portion was obtained in 1917 and in 1935, the Faure portion was purchased which allowed the Cordier family to recreate the original estate.

In 1997 Gruaud Larose was purchased by Jacques Merlaut. Jacques Merlaut owns numerous other Bordeaux vineyards under the name of the Taillan Group including; Chateau La Gurgue, Chateau Haut Bages Liberal, Chateau Citran, Chateau Ferriere  and Chateau Chasse Spleen among others.

The 82 hectare St. Julien vineyard of Gruaud Larose is planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. The vineyard of Gruaud Larose is unique as it’s one of the largest vineyards in Bordeaux that is in one single block. The vineyard has not changed since it was created in 1781. Therefore, it is exactly the same today as it was when it was classified as a Second Growth int he 1855 Classification of the Medoc. The vineyards occupy the highest point of elevation on the St. Julien plateau.

Chateau Gruaud Larose has a terroir that is mostly gravel, with quartz, clay and sand based soils. The vines average 46 years of age. Most of the work in the vineyards is done with organic farming techniques. They use no insecticides, pesticides or herbicides.

There is a second wine which made its debut in 1986, Sarget de Gruaud Larose. The reduction in the amount of Chateau Gruaud Larose and the increase in what is placed into the second wine have led to a better quality wine. 

The best vintages for Chateau Gruaud Larose are: 2010, 2009, 2000, 1990, 1986, 1982, 1961, 1959 and 1945.

Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Leognan, c sauv 65%, merlot 25%, c franc 10%

Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1989, c sauv 45%, merlot 37%, c franc 18%

Château Haut-Marbuzet, st Estephe , 1999, merlot 50%, c sauv 40%, c franc 10% ***

Château Hosanna, Pomerol, Merlot 70%, c franc 30%

Château Leoville-Barton, st Julien, 2000, c sauv 72%, merlot 20%, c franc 8% *** also 01, 03,05

Château Leoville-Las Cases, 1996, St Julien, c sauv 65%, merlot 20%,   Others 15%

Château Leoviille-Poyferre, 2004, St Julien, c sauv 65%, merlot 25%, others 10% ***

Château L'Eglise-Clinet, 2002, Pomerol, merlot 75%, c franc 20%, Malbec 5%

Château L'Evangile, 2004, Pomerol, merlot 70 %, c franc 30% ***

Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, Merlot 80 %, c franc 20%, 2004 ***

Château La Dominique, 2001, st emilion, Merlot 86%, c franc 12%, c sauv 2 %

Château a Fleur-Petrus, 1998, Pomerol, merlot 90%, c franc 10 % very Expensive but good ***

Château La Gomerie, 2003, st emilion, merlot

Château La Mission Haut-Brion, 1982, Pessac-Leognan, c sauv 48%, Merlot 45%, c

Franc 7 %

Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, c sauv 83%, merlot 7%, others  10 %, 1996

Château Lafleur, 2004, Pomerol, Merlot 50%, cab franc 50 %

Château Lagrange, st Julien, 2000, c sauv 65%, merlot 28%, p Verdot 7 %***

Château Latour 2003, Pauillac, c. Sauv 81%, merlot 18% , p Verdot 1%

Château Latour-a-Pomerol, 1961, Pomerol, merlot, cab franc

Château le Bon Pasteur, 2005, Pomerol, merlot 80%, cab sauv 20%*** also 2000, 2001

Château les carmes-haut-Brion, 1998, Pessac-Leognan, merlot 55%, c franc 30%, c sauv 15% ***

Château lynch- bages, 1989, Pauillac , c sauv 73%, merlot 15%,, others 12%

Château Magdelaine 1990, st emilion, merlot 95%, cab franc 5 %

Château Margaux, 2004, Margaux, c sauv 78%, merlot 18%, p Verdot 4 %

Château Montaiguillon, 2004, Montagne st emilion, merlot.60%, c franc 20%, c sauv 20 % ***

Château Montrose, 2003, st Estephe , c sauv 65%, merlot 25%, c franc 10%

Château Mouton Rothschild, 1945, Pauillac, c sauv 85%, merlot 8%, c franc 7 %

Château almer, 1961, Margaux, c sauv 47%, merlot 47%, c franc 6%

Château Pape-Clement, 2000, Pessac-Leognan, cab sauv 60%, merlot 40%, also 98, 2002, 2005

Château Pavie, st emilion, 2003, merlot 70%, c franc 20%, c sauv. 10% Contoversial amongst critics some hating, Parker loving

Château Pavie-Macquin, 1999, st emilion, merlot 70%, c franc 25%, c sauv 5%

Château Petit-Villsge,  2000,  Pomerol, merlot 75%, c sauv 17%, c franc 8 % ***

Château Pichon-Longuevills Baron, 2004, Pauillac , c sauv, merlot, c franc, p Verdot

Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 1982, Pauillac, c sauv 45%, merlot 35%, others 20%

Château Pontet-Canet, 2004, Pauillac, c sauv 62%, merlot 32%, others 6%*** needs ageing

Château Ponjeaux, Moulis, 2005, c sauv 50%, merlot 40%, others 10%***

Château Providence, 2005, Pomerol, merlot 95%, cab franc 5 % ***

Château rauzan-segla, 2000, Margaux, c sauv 54%, merlot 41%, others 5% *** owned by wertheimers of Chanel

Château Roc de Cambes, 1995, Cotes de bourg, merlot 70%, c sauv 25%, Malbec 5%***

Château Sociando-Mallet, St Seurin, 2005, c sauv 55%, merlot 40%, c franc 5 %*** rebel owner Jean Gauntreau

Château Talbot, 2000, st Julien, c sauv 66%, merlot 26%, others 8%. One of largest vineyards in medoc *** also 90, 96, 04, 05

Château tertre-roteboeuf, 2001, st emilion, merlot 85%, cab franc 15%

Château troplong~Mondot. St emilion, merlot 90%, c franc 5%, c sauv 5%, 1998 ***

Château Trotanoy, 2005, Pomerol, merlot 90%, cab franc 10% next best Pomerol After Petrus

Château Valandraud, 2005, st emilion, merlot, c franc, c sauv, Malbec

Clos de l'oratoire, 1998, st emilion, merlot 90%, c sauv 5%, c franc 5% ***

Domaine de Chevalier, 1995, Pessac-Leognan, c sauv, merlot, c franc, p Verdot ***

Domaine de l'A, cotes de Castillon, 2001, merlot, can franc. C sauv ***

La Mondotte, 2000, st emilion , merlot, cab franc£££££ ***

Le dome, 1998, st emilion, cab franc 75%, merlot 25%*** £££££

Le Pin, 2001, Pomerol, merlot 92%, cab franc 8%

Petrus, 1989, Pomerol, merlot 95 %, 5. % 00, 01, 03, 05, 06 £££££ ***

Vieux chateau certan, 2000, Pomerol , merlot 70%, c franc 20%, c sauv 10%*** ££££

A guide to Italian wine

Overview of Italian wine

Italy is the world's second largest producer of wine after France. There are four classifications of Italian wine:

  • Vino da Tavola (VDT) -A basic, table wine, made for local consumption.
  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) Wine from a specific region within Italy. This appellation was created in 1992 for wines that were considered to be of higher quality than simple table wines, but which did not conform to the strict wine laws for their region. Before the IGT was created, "Super Tuscan" wines such as Tignanello were labeled Vino da Tavola.
  • QWPSR: Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) & Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) - DOC and DOCG wines are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more carefully controlled and defined. The DOC system began in 1963.  The main difference between a DOC and a DOCG is that a DOCG must pass a blind quality taste test in addition to conforming to the strict legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the area in question. After the introduction of new wine laws in 1992 by the Italian government, clear rules were made regarding requirements for DOCG entry. For example, alcohol levels and grapes per hectare. 

Italian White wine Grapes

  • Arneis - A crisp and floral variety from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.
  • Catarratto - Common in Sicily - this is the most widely planted white variety in Salaparuta.
  • Fiano - Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
  • Garganega - The main grape variety for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It's a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.
  • Malvasia Bianca - Another white variety that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.
  • Moscato - Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d'Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino Alto-Adige.
  • Nuragus - An ancient Phoenician variety found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.
  • Pigato - A heavily acidic variety from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.
  • Pinot Grigio - A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterised by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers' hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.
  • Ribolla Gialla - A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.
  • Tocai Friulano - A variety distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.
  • Trebbiano - This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.
  • Verdicchio - This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.
  • Vermentino - This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.
  • Passerina - mainly derives from Passerina grapes (it may even be produced purely with these), plus a minimum percentage of other white grapes and may be still, sparkling or passito. In its still version, one appreciates the acidic profile, which is typical of these grapes, as well as the delicate aromas.
  • Pecorino doc - is the most outstanding one among the Piceno DOC wines: the rediscovery of this vine enabled the particular unique features of the wine that was only produced purely in the past to be revealed locally and then to the general public.
  • Falerio - DOC Falerio dei Colli Ascolani was instituted in 1975 and later modified in 1994. The regulation was subsequently replaced in 1997 and later regulated again in 2003. Its name is bound to the historic origins of the Piceno region and derives from Faleria, an ancient Roman city, called Falerone today.
  • Other important white grapes include Carricante, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falanghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia.
  • Non-native varieties that the Italians plant include Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Petite Arvine, Riesling, and many others.

Italian Red Wine Grapes

  • Aglianico - Considered the "noble varietal of the south," it is primarily grown in Basilicata and Campania. The name is derived from Hellenic so probably comes from Greece and is thick skinned and spicy producing rustic and powerful wines in many cases.
  • Barbera - The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy, notably around the towns of Asti and Alba, and Pavia. The wines of Barbera were once simply "what you drank while waiting for the Barolo to be ready."  The wine making standards are now much higher than in the past and aged Barbera gets the name "Barbera Superiore" and sometimes aged in French barriques becoming "Barbera Barricato". The wine has a dark colour, cherry fruit aromas and nose balanced by food friendly acidity.
  • Corvina - Along with the varietals rondinella and molinara, this is the principal grape which makes the famous wines of the Veneto region: Valpolicella and Amarone. Valpolicella wine has dark cherry fruit and spice. After the grapes undergo passito (a drying process), the wine is then called Amarone, and is high in alcohol (16% and up) and full of raisin, prune, and syrupy fruits.  Amarone is an unusual style of wine since it is traditionally dried on mats in lofts for 4 months after harvest, using a process called appassimento. The gapes lose up to a third of their water and the sugar level rises giving the wine significantly more concentration. The largest producer is Masi and in December 2009, there was celebration when the acclaimed Amarone di Valpolicella was finally awarded its long-sought after DOCG status. 
  • Dolcetto - A grape that grows alongside Barbera and Nebbiolo in Piedmont, its name means "little sweet one"", referring not to the taste of the wine, but the ease in which it grows and makes great wines, suitable for everyday drinking. Flavours of wild blackberries and herbs exude are characteristic for the  wine.
  • Malvasia Nera - Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.
  • Montepulciano - The grape of this name is not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano; it is most widely planted on the opposite coast in Abruzzo. Its wines develop silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin. More recently, producers have been creating a richer and deeper coloured version of the wine.
  • Nebbiolo - The most noble of Italy's varieties. The name (meaning "little fog") refers to the autumn fog that blankets most of Piedmont where Nebbiolo is mainly grown, and where it achieves the most successful results. A difficult grape variety to cultivate, it produces the most renowned Barolo and Barbaresco, made in province of Cuneo, along with the lesser-known Sforzato, Inferno and Sassella made in Valtellina, Ghemme and Gattinara, made in Vercelli's province. The wines are known for their elegance and power with a bouquet of wild mushroom, truffle, roses, and tar. Traditionally produced Barolo can be aged for fifty years-plus, and is regarded by many wine enthusiasts as the greatest wine of Italy.
  • Negroamaro - The name literally means "black and bitter". A widely planted grape with its concentration in the region of Puglia, it is the backbone of the Salice Salentino: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.
  • Nero d'Avola - Almost unheard of outside of Sicily until recently, this native varietal of Sicily has gained attention for its plummy fruit and balanced acidity & tannins. The quality of Nero d'Avola has improved markedly over the last few years.
  • Primitivo - A red grape planted found in southern Italy, most notably in Puglia. Primitivo is robust and rustic, with spicy black fruit notes, and thrives in very warm climates, where it can achieve very high alcohol levels.
  • Sagrantino - A native to Umbria, it is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it (either blended with Sangiovese as Rosso di Montefalco or as a pure Sagrantino) are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic fruit and heavy tannins, these wines are at their best after some cellaring.
  • Sangiovese - Italy's claim to fame, the pride of Tuscany. Traditionally made, the wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. It produces Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. Sangiovese is also the main grape in many of the acclaimed, modern-styled "Super-Tuscans", where it is blended with Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) and typically aged in French oak barrels, resulting a wine primed for the international market in the style of a typical California cabernet: oaky, high-alcohol, and a ripe, jammy, fruit-forward profile.
  • Rosso Piceno - The prestigious Rosso Piceno DOC, instituted by the Regulation in 1968 and later modified in 1997 and in 2005, was the first DOC wine to be produced on this land. The history of this wine is age-old and its name dates back to the pre-Roman Piceno population.
  • Rosso Piceno Superiore - he Rosso Piceno Superiore labelled wine is produced in a limited area (just 13 municipalities are authorised) in the province of Ascoli Piceno and differs from Rosso Piceno in view of its additional refinement in wood, which gives the wine even richer and more variegated sensations and aromas, often turning it into a meditation gem.
  • Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia.
  • "International" varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are also widely grown.

Regional Italian Wine - Piedmont


Piemonte wine is the range of Italian wines made in the province of Piedmont in the northwestern corner of Italy. Whilst Turin is the capital of Piedmont, the majority of the region's winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of Piedmont around the towns of Alba (in Cuneo), Asti and Alessandria. 

The best-known wines from the region include Barolo and Barbaresco which are made from the Nebbiolo grape. These wines are ideal for cellaring and a well-aged Barolo for instance may leave a feeling of drinking velvet because the tannins are polished and integrated more and more into the wine. As the wine matures the colour becomes more brownish and rust-red.

Barbera is the most widely-planted grape in the region, but Nebbiolo and Dolcetto account for a significant portion of the area's red wine production as well. With white wines, Moscato is the most prominent with its sparkling and frizzante style wines including Asti . Other notable white wines include styles made from the Cortese grape in Gavi as well as blends of Cortese with Arneis and Favorita from Colli Tortonesi and Alto Monferrato. The Brachetto is another variety used for making sweet and sparkling red wines.

Wine made using the Barbera grape is often fruity and delicate with less tannin than wine made from the Nebbiolo grape. Dolcetto on the other side, is not as the name indicates sweet (dolce is Italian for sweet). The grape gives fresh and dry red wines with some tannin. The wines made on the Dolcetto grape should be consumed young.

The Piemonte wine region is divided into five sub-regions:

  • Canavese - includes the areas around Turin such as Carema and Caluso
  • Colline Novarese - includes the province of Novara
  • Coste della Sesia - includes the area around Vercelli
  • Langhe - includes the hill country around the city of Alba and the Roero.
  • Monferrato - includes the areas around Asti and Alessandria

Piedmont DOC/DOCG

Piedmont produces more DOC/G wines by volume than any other Italian wine region with nearly 84% of all the areas wine production falling under a DOC/G designation. The area has no Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification, in contrast to Tuscany where IGT wines or Super Tuscans make up a significant portion of that region's wine production.

The Piedmont region has 45 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and 12 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).

The 12 DOCG wines in Piedmont are:

  • Asti, Barbaresco, Barbera d'Asti, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Barolo, Acqui, Dogliani, Ovada, Gattinara, Gavi, Ghemme and Roero

Some varietal style wines are made in the Piedmont region with the name of the grape and town both appearing on the label. Some DOC examples include Barbera d'Alba, Barbera d'Asti, and Dolcetto di Dogliani made entirely from the Barbera and Dolcetto grape respectively.


In 1980, the wines of the Barolo region became one of the first Italian wines to receive DOCG status. Produced to the southwest of the town of Alba in the hills of the Langhe, Barolo uses the Nebbiolo grape with pronounced fruit and tannin. The soil of this area is a composition of clay and marl which helps to lessen the naturally high acidity of Nebbiolo. The Tanaro river flows through the heart of Barolo country and serves as a tempering influence on the region's summertime heat till harvest time in late October/mid November. A small wine region, extending over 7 miles in length and 5 miles at its widest point, Barolo produces about 500,000 cases of wine annually. Nearly 87% of the zone productions comes from vineyards in five communities:

  • Barolo
  • Castiglione Falletto - deep powerful, full bodied wines
  • Serralunga d'Alba - powerful but finessed
  • La Morra - most subtle Barolo's and difficult to differentiate from Barbaresco
  • Monforte d'Alba - hilltop town in centre of vineyards on steep hillsides

Wines from the Central Valley of La Morra and Barolo tend to be very perfumed and velvety with less tannins than other Barolo's. The soil of the Central Valley itself is more clay based with increased levels of magnesium oxide and manganese. The wines from the Serralunga Valley are more full bodied and tannic and require aging of 12–15 years before they peak. The soil of the Serralunga is heavy in sand, iron, limestone, phosphorus and potassium.

Barolo DOCG rules require ageing for a minimum of  3 years, two of which must be in wooden barrels. Reserva wines must be aged for 5 years. An unusually long growing season means the Nebbiolo grape is not easy to grow.


Being produced from the same grape as Barolo and less than 10 miles apart, there are a lot of similarities that Barbaresco has with it neighboring wines but the slight maritime influence of the Tanaro river helps produce distinctive wines. On the whole less tannic than Barolo, Barbaresco tend to be more elegant and approachable in their youth. The Barbaresco DOCG regulation stipulates wines with minimum alcohol content of 12.5% and 2 years minimum aging in the winery for standard labels and 4 years minimum for riservas wines. Being an even smaller zone then Barolo, producers in the region produce a little more than 200,000 cases annually. The majority of Barbaresco production takes place in 3 communities.

  • Barbaresco
  • Treiso
  • Neive

The soils in the Barbaresco zone are more uniform across the region which tends to produce a more consistent profile with the wines then what could be achieved across the widely different areas of Barolo.

Moscato d'Asti

The white wines made from the Moscato Bianco (also known as Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) are most noted for their frizzante and sparkling spumante styles but some still wines are produced as well. Located northeast of Alba, the wines from the Asti region are known for their delicate light bodies, low alcohol content and slightly sweet nature.[10] Like many sparkling wines, Asti are not vintage dated even though a majority of the grapes might all come from the same vintage year. The wines are typically at their peak between 1 and 2 years from their release.

Other wines

The Barbera grape is the most widely planted variety in all of the Piedmont and makes a juicy, muscular red wine that is not as tannic as Barolo and Barbaresco. It is grown in nearly every major wine making region of the Piedmont but seems to do best near the towns of Alba and Asti. Some producers are experimenting with blending Barbera with Nebbiolo to combine the former's fruitiness with the latter's structure. The light fruitiness of wines from the Dolcetto grape has caused some wine writers to describe it as the Italian version of Beaujolais. The wines are somewhat spicy with little acid and tannins. They are able to be drunk relatively young and tend to be the every day drinking wines of the locals.

Up until the 1980s, when the wines of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia began to receive notice, the white wines of the Gavi region were reported as the best expression of dry Italian wine. Made primarily from the Cortese grape, these wines are noted for their dry, crisp acidity with citrus and mineral notes. The white wines made from the Arneis grape tend to be dry, vibrant and full body with notes of pears and apricots. Produced in the hills of the Roero to the northwest of Alba, the name Arneis means "rascal" in Piedmontese.

Regional Italian Wine - Tuscany


In Tuscany, many best wines are known by the completely undefined category of "Super Tuscan", a wine that may or may not meet criteria for DOC (demoninazione di origine controllata), but sold at a higher price under the IGT Toscana label (indicazione geografica tipica)

The Tuscany DOC regions are Chianti, Vino nobile de Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino. Chianti and Montepulciano allow other grapes to be blended with Sangiovese . Brunello described as having savoury aromas and flavours notes of tobacco and leather 

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello is the name of the local Sangiovese variety that is grown around the village of Montalcino. Located south of the Chianti Classico zone, the Montalcino range is drier and warmer than Chianti. Monte Amiata shields the area from the winds coming from the southeast. Many of the area's vineyards are located on the hillsides leading up towards the mountain to elevations of around 1,640 ft (500 m) though some vineyards can be found in lower-lying areas. The wines of northern and eastern regions tend to ripen more slowly and produce more perfumed and lighter wines. The southern and western regions are warmer, and the resulting wines tend to be richer and more intense.

The Brunello variety of Sangiovese does particularly well in this region, ripening easily and producing consistetntwines of deep colour, extract, richness with full bodies and good balance of tannins. In the mid-19th century, a local farmer named Clemente Santi is believed to have isolated the Brunello clone and planted it in this region. His grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi helped to popularize Brunello di Montalcino in the later half of the 19th century. In the 1980's, it was the first wine to earn the DOCG classification. Today there are about two hundred growers in the Montalcino region producing about 333,000 cases of Brunello di Montalcino a year

Brunello di Montalcino wines are required to be aged for at least four years prior to being released, with Riserva wines needing five years. Brunellos tend to be very tight and tannic in their youth, needing at least a decade or two before they start to soften with wines from excellent vintages having the potential to do well past 50 years. In 1984, the Montalcino region was granted the DOC designation of Rosso di Montalcino. Often called "Baby Brunellos", these wines are typically made from the same grapes, vineyards and style as the regular Brunello di Montalcino but are not aged as long. While similar to Brunellos in flavour and aromas, these wines are often lighter in body and more approachable in their youth.


Carmignano was the first Tuscan DOCG to sanction the use of blending Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured) with Sangiovese.

Noted for the quality of its wines since the Middle Ages, Carmignano was identified by Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany as one of the superior wine producing areas of Tuscany and granted special legal status in 1716. In the 18th century, the producers of the Carmignano region developed a tradition of blending Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, long before the practice became popularized by the "Super Tuscan" of the late 20th century.  In 1975, the region was awarded Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status and subsequently promoted to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1990 (retroactive to the 1988 vintage). Today Carmignano has approximately 270 acres (110 ha) planted.


Also see Fermented Grape Review of the Chianti Region. Click here.

Located in the central region of Tuscany, the Chianti zone is Tuscanys' largest classified wine region and produces over eight million cases a year. In addition to producing the well known red Chianti wine, the Chianti zone also produces white, other Rosso reds and Vin Santo. The region is split into two DOCG- Chianti and Chianti Classico. The Chianti Classico zone covers the area between Florence and Siena, which is the original Chianti region, and where some of the best expressions of Chianti wine are produced. The larger Chianti DOCG zone is further divided in six DOC sub-zones and areas in the western part of the province of Pisa, the Florentine hills north of Chianti Classico in the province of Florence, the Siena hills south of the city in the province of Siena, the province of Arezzo and the area around the communes of Rufina and Pistoia.

Since 1996, Chianti is permitted to include as little as 75% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, up to 10% of the white wine grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano and up to 15% of any other red wine grape grown in the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This variety of grapes and usage is one reason why Chianti can vary widely from producer to producer. The use of white grapes in the blend can alter the style of Chianti by softening the wines with a higher percentage of white grapes, typically indicating that the wine is meant to be drunk younger and not aged for long. In general, Chianti Classicos are described as medium-bodied wines with firm, dry tannins. The characteristic aroma is cherry but it can also carry nutty and floral notes as well.

The Chianti Classico region covers approximately 100 square miles (260 km2) and includes the communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda as well as parts of five other neighboring communes. The terroir of the Classico zone varies throughout the region depending on the vineyards' altitude, soil type and distance from the Arno River. The soils of the northern communes, such as Greve, are richer in clay deposits while those in the southern communes, like Gaiole, are harder and stonier. Riserva Chianti is aged for at least 27 months, some of it in oak, and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%. Wines from the Chianti DOCG can carry the name of one of the six sub-zones or just the Chianti designation. The Chianti Superiore designation refers to wines produced in the provinces of Florence and Siena but not in the Classico zone.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a white wine made from the Vernaccia grape in the areas around San Gimignano. In 1966, it was the first wine to receive a DOC designation. This wine style has been made in the area for over seven centuries and is considered Tuscany's best white wine. It is dry, full bodied with earthy notes of honey and minerals. In some styles it can made to emphasize the fruit more and some producers have experimented with aging or fermenting the wine in oak barrels in order to give the wine a sense of creaminess or toastiness.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano received its DOCG status shortly after Brunello di Montalcino, in 1980. The DOCG covers the red wine of the Montepulciano area. The wine received its name in the 17th century, when it was the favourite wine of the Tuscan nobility. Located in the southeastern region of Tuscany, the climate of the region is strongly influenced by the sea. The variety of Sangiovese in Montepulciano is known as Prugnolo Gentile and is required to account for at least 80% of the wine. Traditionally Canaiolo and Mammolo make up the remaining part of the blend but some producers have begun to experiment with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The wines are required to age two years prior to release, with an additional year if it is to be a riserva. The recent use of French oak barrels has increased the body and intensity of the wines which are noted for their plummy fruit, almond notes and smooth tannins.

A guide to New Zealand wine

About New Zealand wine

New Zealand is now a major wine producing country, with the body representing the industry (New Zealand Winegrowers) currently having approximately 850 grower members and 700 winery members. The growth has been dramatic with some 382 wineries back in 2001. The country has established itself firmly on the global wine production map with a distinctive New Zealand style with some very high quality producers. New Zealand wine is exported to more than 90 countries and wine exports are currently valued at NZ$1.32 billion ($0.9 billion) per annum with 445,000 tonnes of grapes harvested in 2014. The 2014 crop was up 29% on the harvest in 2013 but the 2015 vintage size totalled 326,000 tonnes - down 27% on the record 2014 vintage.

Malborough is the largest growing area in New Zealand, with 19,000 hectares, representing around half of total production with Hawke's Bay in second place with around 5000 hectares and 15% of total production.

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most widely planted grapes with Sauvignon Blanc being the largest New Zealand grape by far with 72% of the total harvest in 2014. Pinot Noir increased production 15% to 36,500 tonnes whilst Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Merlot all increased production 7-8% on the back of strong demand.

Sauvignon Blanc from the Malborough region and Pinot Noir from Central Otago and Wairarapa have the greatest concentration of high quality wine producers.

The country is split into two parts; the "North Island" and "South Island", both producing very distinct wines and both would be described as maritime in nature. 

The North Island is a very wet place to grow grapes, with the exception of Wairarapa near Wellington and Waiheke Island about an hour off the coast of Auckland. It is generally warmer than the South Island, but both are impacted by the prevailing western winds and icy currents from Antarctica. Cyclonic rain storms move in from the East during the Autumn from the Pacific hitting areas like Hawkes Bay and Gisborne.

The soils in the North Island are on the whole very fertile but poorly draining, encouraging large crops of grapes which can struggle to ripen as well as a thick leaf growth that again hinders ripening. A wine makers nightmare if the  autumn storms and heavy rain hit! Heavy leaf growth can also reduce air movement and with damp this can cause rot (botrytis).

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

When people think New Zealand wine, they think about the distinctive flavours of the country's white wines and specifically Sauvignon Blanc from Malborough. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc typically has asparagus, gooseberry and green flavours which come from compounds called methoxypyrazines.

Whilst Villa Maria and Cloudy Bay are probably the country's most well known white wine brands using grapes from the Malborough region, the Brancott Vineyard (owned by Brancott Estate, previously called Montana and now owned by Pernod Ricard) actually planted the first Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough in 1975 and released the first vintage in 1979. A controversial decision at the time as many suggested that the South Island was too cold to grow wine grapes. 

Villa Maria was founded by Sir George Fistonich in 1961, leasing a 5ha plot of land on Kirkbride Road in Mangere, Auckland from his parents. The company is still a family-owned and operated business.

Cloudy Bay is an iconic NZ wine brand. It was established in 1985 by David Hohnen, the founder of Margaret River winery Cape Mentelle Vineyards and its 140 hectares (350 acres) of vineyards are located at three sites in Marlborough, including areas close to the bay for which they are named. In 2003 Cloudy Bay Vineyards was bought by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy) through its champagne house Veuve Clicquot and since then there has been some criticism that though production has hugely expanded, quality is not at the same level as in the pre-LVMH era. 

Kevin Judd, the winemaker at Cloudy Bay for over two decades,  launched Greywacke in 2010 as a 'négociant' operation, borrowing winery space and using fruit he buys from long-standing friends and associates, all coming from mature vineyards within the central Wairau Plains and the Southern Valleys of Marlborough. Greywacke's Sauvignon Blanc is better value than Cloudy Bay yet retains its high quality and produces excellent wines.

New Zealand Pinot Noir

Central Otago New Zealand vineyard

Pinot Noir is now grown in several areas of New Zealand including Malborough, Central Otago, Wairarapa, Canterbury/Waipara and Nelson. Generally speaking New Zealand Pinot Noir has more fruity notes, higher aromatic intensity and sometimes higher alcohol compared with Burgundy Pinot Noir.

The South Island's cool climate is well suited to the tricky grape and Central Otago has established itself as a key producing region. The nearest comparison in Pinot Noir style to Wairarapa is Russian River in California, whereas Central Otago is more similar to Oregon wines though with lower acidity levels and generally higher aromatics. Wairarapa Pinot has the aroma and flavour of black cherries, whereas Central Otago, South Island Pinot often has stronger strawberry aromas but still has a black fruit focus (black cherry and damson plum). Wairarapa Pinot Noir is therefore similar to St.Laurent produced in the Thermenregion of Austria. 

In terms of Pinot Noir the following wineries are recognised as some of the finest examples of world class production: Ata Rangi, Bald Hills, Bell Hill, Burnt Spur, Burn Cottage, Churton, Craggy Range, Escarpment, Felton Road, Gibbston Valley, Grasshopper Rock, Greywacke, Julicher Estate, Martinborough Vineyards, Ma Maison, Mt. Difficulty, Mount Edward, Neudorf, Pegasus Bay, Pyramid Valley, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Schubert, Seresin Estate, Surveyor Thomson, Two Paddocks, Valli, and Wooing Tree.

New Zealand Organic Wine

Many New Zealand wine producers have embraced organic and even biodynamic production with a desire to reduce chemical intervention in the vineyard and winery. As of vintage 2015, approximately 6% of NZ vineyard land was certified organic, and more growers are in the process of adopting organic practices. Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) is a grower-led organisation dedicated to supporting and encouraging the production of high quality, organic and biodynamically grown wines.

The following OWNZ member wineries produce wines solely from certified organic or biodynamic grapes:

* Artisan Wines, * Aurum Wines, * Churton, * Covell Estate, * Clos Henri, * Carrick, * Fancrest Estate, * Felton Road, * Fromm, * Hans Herzog Estate, * Huia, * Kaimira, * Konrad Wines, * Middleditch, * Millton Vineyards and Winery, * Mount Edward, * Muddy Water, * Murdoch, * Northburn, * Quartz Reef, * Richmond Plains, * Rock Ferry, * Seresin Estate, * Schubert Wines, * Soderberg Vidak - Dry Hills, * Sunset Valley Vineyard, * Takamatua Valley Vineyard, * Terrace Edge, * Te Whare Ra, * Turanga Creek, * Urlar, * Vynfields, * Walnut Block Wines, * World's End Wines

The following wineries produce some wines from fully certified organic vineyards, and have the rest of their vineyard land under conversion to organics. For details, check with winery:

* The Darling, * Red Deer Wine, * Stonecroft, * Te Mania, * Woollaston Estate

The following wineries produce some wines from organic vineyards. Please note that some of these are large wineries which only produce a few wines from organic grapes. For details, check with winery:

* Babich, * Dog Point, * Framingham, * Gibbston Valley Wines, * Greenhough, * Kahurangi Estate, * Loveblock, * Mahi Wines, * Matua * Mission Estate, * Odyssey, * Peregrine, * Pernod Ricard New Zealand, * Villa Maria Estate, * Vidal Wines, * Wither Hills

The following OWNZ member wineries have all or some of their vineyards in conversion to organics. These vineyards have all adhered to organic methods for at least one or two years. 

* Black Estate, * Greystone Wines, * Neudorf, * Ohui Vineyard, * Ormond Estate, * Saltings Estate, * Schubert Wines

The key New Zealand wine regions

Auckland Wine Region


Auckland is home to a large, established and varied wine Region. Vines were first planted in Northland in 1819, four hours to the North of Auckland City. It is is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Most of the top wineries in the area, use grapes brought in from other areas due to the difficulties in cultivating quality product on the heavy clay soils and high humidity during to it being sandwiched between the Tasman Sea and Pacific. 

Just off the coast is the exciting wine area of Waiheke Island which unlike the mainland has a warm, dry maritime climate with relatively free draining and infertile soils - perfect for superb wines. 

Canterbury Wine Region

The Canterbury wine region was one of the last to be developed for wine production with the first vineyard opened in 1977. The fastest growing area is the Waipara sub-region, 40 km north of Christchurch, where the Teviotdale range of hills protects the grapes from the sea breezes and increases the temperature by a few degrees compared to the area around Canterbury.

It has Christchurch within in and is dominated by the  Canterbury plains, which which span from the Southern mountain ranges of New Zealand to the east coast of the South Island. The soils of the region are stony and alluvial, whilst the climate is hot and dry in summer, and cold in the winter.

The area is best known for Pinot Noir and Riesling and the latter particularly in Waipara.

Central Otago Wine Region

Central Otago is the world’s southern most wine producing region and has Queenstown at is centre, situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. It lies at latitude 45 degrees south on the same parallel as the Northern Rhone valley and Bordeaux. The region has several large mountain ranges including The Remarkables, Hector Mountains, Cairnmuir Mountains, Pisa and Criffel ranges, Mount Cadrona and the Dustan Mountains. 

The climate has hot and dry summers and cold, snowy winters. Between December and February, the number of cloudless days with temperatures over 20 degrees centigrade and peaking at 30 degrees is very high.  Hot days means that the grapes ripen well, whilst cold nights cause high acidity, great for Pinot Noir in particular. The landscape is absolutely beautiful but also remarkably barren in places, quite a challenge if you're a winemaker. When wine production first started in the area by pioneers like Gibbston Valley Wines and Black ridge many naysayers said that the area was "too cold, too remote, too barren, too warm". But thirty years on the early producers have proven the critics wrong with superb wines.


The soil structure is unique compared with the other wine growing areas in that  it has silt loam with heavy mineral deposits. 

The area is particularly renowned for its Pinot Noir with silky smoothness, herb character (thyme and rosemary) and high fruit intensity, particularly cherry and damson plum. There are less red berry notes than other parts of the world where Pinot Noir is grown. Compared with Burgundy the wines are often bolder, softer, fleshier and more accessible and tend to be better value for money. 

Central Otago sub-regions

Central Otago is split into several distinct sub-regions each with their own particular terroir.

  • Alexandra - The most southerly sub-region, with a dry climate and marked diurnal temperature variations which tends to produce very perfumed and finely structured wines.
  • Bannockburn - With a north facing ridge which is the driest area in New Zealand, it is warm, has varied soil types and is probably the most well known sub-region. It is home to many of the most highly regarded wineries including Felton Road and Mt Difficulty. 
  • Bendigo - Medium and high elevation terraces, stony soils and north facing slopes mean that the vines capture the sun ensuring a more powerful style than other sub-regions. But the cooler nights in Central Otago mean that Bendigo wines have good aromatics and varietal character.
  • Cromwell Basin - The  area borders the northern edge of Lake Dunstan and is adjacent to the Pisa and Lowburn sub-regions. The influence of the lake means that the wines are generally ripe and aromatic as the water ensures that temperature fluctuations are less marked than other areas and moisture is retained.
  • Gibbston - This sub-region is at high altitude and cooler which means later grape ripening and crisper wines with a more aromatic/herby note but having elegance and delicacy.
  • Wanaka - The most northerly and temperate of Central Otago's sub-regions with more rain and experiencing the influence of Lake Wanaka reducing the risk of frost and extreme temperature changes. Pinot Noir produced in this area is more pronounced in its fruit than other sub-regions because of the more temperate climate with elegance and expressive aromas and flavours.

Best vintages - 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007 (very good)


Central Otago pinot noir style versus Burgundy


Gisborne Wine Region

Gisborne is New Zealand’s fourth largest wine region and is situated on the most easterly point of the North Island. It has high sunshine levels but can be hit by storms impacting the quality of vintages year to year. The main grape grown is Chardonnay, but Riesling, Chenin Blan and Gewürztraminer are also grown. To the west of Gisborne, and separated by mountains is the Bay of Plenty. Historically the excessive fertility has made the production of high quality grape varieties difficult in most areas, due to dense foliage and dense crops that produce poorly ripened grapes.  Gisborne has also very high rainfall in February to April, a problem for red wine production. Production in less fertile sites has helped overcome some of these challenges.

Hawke's Bay Wine Region

Hawke’s Bay is the country’s second largest wine producing region and is located on the east coast of the North Island and to the south of Gisborne. It is the country’s key wine and food tourism destination and is home to many of New Zealand’s best known wineries. It experiences lots and lots of sunshine and a temperate climate. Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape variety but Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc are also produced.  It is the premiere area for Bordeaux blend reds and has developed a reputation for quality Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

In 2001, a group of wineries and growers came together to form their own appellation based on the 1730 acre area of gravelly soil, the so called "Gimblett Gravels" which now produces some of the areas best wines. If Gimblett Gravels is stated on the label, 95 per cent of the grapes in the wine must be from there. 

Marlborough Wine Region

Marlborough is the country’s largest wine producing region and is at the Northern most point of the South Island with the city of Blenheim at the centre of wine production.

The region is best known for Sauvignon Blanc (a third of production) but also produces Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.

The region has similarity to Hawke’s Bay with a relatively cool climate, good sunshine and free draining alluvial soil.  It is said to be one of the best places in the world to grow grapes and up to the 1970's wine production was minimal. Its most famous product, Cloudy bay, was first produced in 1985. 

It has a long slow ripening season, getting similar overall heat to Burgundy but the average daily temperature is lower as the ripening season goes on until May with the benefit of relatively cold nights helping to produce acidity . 

Nelson Wine Region

Nelson is south of Marlborough, and is a relatively small wine region. Nelson vineyards focus on Pinot Noir. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling and Pinot Noir. It has a reputation as having the best climate in New Zealand with large amounts of annual sunshine. The Moutere Hills are an area of particular interest. The soils being mainly clay loam, Nelson is cooler than Marlborough and gets more rain in the autumn. 

Wairarapa Wine Region

Wairarapa is close to New Zealand's capital, Wellington City with the town of Martinborough at the centre of the wine region. It is right at the Southerly tip of the North Island. The climate is similar to Marlborough, with high sunshine hours, little rain and cooling breezes at night. The area has a strong reputation for Pinot Noir given its relatively cool climate. Subtle differences are seen in the wines from the south (which includes Martinborough), which has more maritime influences, to those grown further north.

Martinborough has become one of New Zealand's premier wine regions in spite of its small size with one of the longest growing seasons in the country and shielded from the harshest elements by high mountains,  meaning it is protected from both the summer and autumn rains which plague other areas. It often experiences windier conditions and a cool climate with a long dry autumnal period. The land by the river flats is heavy clay, but a series of river terraces to the north east around Martinborough have shallow, gravelly silt over deep, free draining gravel. This produces perfect conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

New Zealand wine vintage reports

  • 2015 - The 2015 New Zealand grape harvest has been completed with grape growers and winemakers across the country incredibly pleased with the quality and flavours. With a very good summer which provided excellent conditions for ripening grapes across the country quality is strong but the vintage size totalled 326,000 tonnes - down 27% on the record 2014 vintage. Despite the excellent summer, the cool spring weather contributed to the marked reduction in the crop.
  • 2014 - A pretty good year across New Zealand, particularly in Hawke’s Bay. Marlborough had its largest ever vintage with quality good across the board.
  • 2013 - Excellent wine growing conditions in the North Island, especially Hawke's Bay, with a warm summer and weather largely good across the country.
  • 2012 - A very cold year, one of the coolest on record with resultant low yields across NZ.  Sauvignon Blancs lost their classic tropical fruit notes and were notable for lime and lemon characteristics.
  • 2011 - A good year with a warm summer and high yields. 
  • 2010 - Sauvignon Blanc based wines were extra concentrated and Pinot Noir showed firm tannins and strong aromas. Increased wine flavour concentration was at the expense of yield.
  • 2009 - Good dry and warm conditions across New Zealand making wines of exceptional balance, particularly reds from Martinborough and Hawke's Bay.
  • 2008 - A poor year, a lot of wet weather and cool temperatures. Grape rot evident with low yields.

Recommended New Zealand wineries

Rippon Estate

Felton Road

Burn Cottage

Surveyor Thomson

Grasshopper Rock

Rock Ferry Wines

Pyramid Valley

Clos Henri

Villa Maria

Wine tasting in New Zealand

See the comprehensive article on top spots to visit on a wine tasting trip to New Zealand at 

A guide to Oregon Wine (United States)

Background and history of Oregon wine

Oregon has been pretty successful in recent years in producing cult wines, grown by winemakers obsessed with nurturing the vines as nature intended. These "hippy" wine makers have succeeded in making Oregon one of the top Pinot Noir producing areas, held in the same esteem as Burgundy and Central Otago in New Zealand. People like Maggie Harrison at Antica Terra in the Willamette Valley have worked hard to produce wines which express Oregon's unique terroir in the face of challenging climatic conditions. But the history of wine making is Oregon is relatively recent when compared with Western Europe.  

Wine has been produced in Oregon since the area was first settled in the 1840's, with the first plantings of vines in around 1847. Valley View was the first recorded winery in Oregon and it was established by Peter Britt in the late 1850s in Jacksonville. However things really took off in terms of volume production in the 1960's following decades of inactivity once Prohibition had come to an end in the United States in 1933. 

By 1970, there were five commercial wineries, with 14 hectares of vineyards, including Pinot Noir plantings in the Willamette Valley, a region thought to be too cold to be suitable for the production of grapes for wine. In the 1970's, more winemakers migrated to the state and started to organise themselves in a more serious way. In the 1979 Gault-Millau (a French Food and Wine Magazine) French Wine Olympiades, the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir came third out of over 300 top wines including Premier Cru Burgundy Pinot Noir.

During the 1980's several AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) were established in the state and in the early 1990's, when the Oregon wine industry was threatened by Phylloxera winemakers quickly turned to the use of resistant rootstocks to prevent any serious damage. By 2005, there were 314 wineries and 519 vineyards in operation in Oregon and by 2009, the number of wineries in the state had increased to 453 and today it remains the third largest wine producer in the United States after California and Washington State.

Wine production in Oregon

Oregon law requires that wines produced in the state must be identified by the grape variety from which it was made, and for most varietals it must contain at least 90% of that variety. The exceptions to the 90% law are the following varietals: Red and White Bordeaux varietals, Red and White Rhône varietals, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Tannat. For these wines, they follow the Federal guidelines of 75%.

Oregon is most famous for its Pinot noir based wines particularly from the Willamette Valley area and these are gaining a worldwide reputation for their quality. In addition, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, and Syrah are grown.

The state features many small wineries which produce less than 5,000 cases per year and the majority grow their own grapes and make their own wines, making Oregon truly boutique in its wine production. Apart from King Estate, Montinore Vineyards and Burgundy's Domaine Drouhin in the Willamette Valley wineries are small and family run.

Compared to California, Oregon has a distinct climate that can be cool and cloudy, especially in the area where most of the state's wineries are in operation, the Willamette Valley south of Portland.  Northerly vineyards near the coast have maritime influences particularly from the fogs that roll in from the Pacific Ocean, producing delicate, finessed wines. But in the Willamette Valley, low rainfall can be an issue even though the state is generally wet and heat stress can be an issue when the summer is particularly hot.

Alhough like Bordeaux, Oregon is on the 45th parallel like Bordeaux, the majority of production does not follow the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from that region of France but rather the Pinot Noir of Burgundy.However, the southern part of the state, the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys are warm enough to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon and are producing some good wines with this grape as well as many other European varieties. 

For Oregon's wine makers sufficient ripening is the constant challenge as well as battling rot from the moist conditions. Harvesting can take place anytime between September and November in Oregon depending on how good the summer was. It is a real labour of love to produce wine in this state as it is never a case of just planting and producing great wines, the winemaker needs to carefully work with nature and it is great to see so many organic and biodynamic producers despite the challenges.

For many years Oregon growers depended on American and Swiss clones of Pinot Noir which tended to produce wines that were either too rich or lean. The big leap forward was taken in the late 1990's when more recently planted Burgundian clones (known here as Dijon clones) began to grow, resulting in more depth of flavour, some savoury notes and better structured wines able to be cellared. 

Oregon wine producing areas

There are now eighteen AVA's in Oregon in total but many are sub regions of more major AVA's.

  • Applegate Valley : is a sub-appellation of the larger Rogue Valley AVA in Southern Oregon. It stretches 50 miles north from the California border to the Rogue River just west of Grants Pass.
  • Chehalem Mountains: is a sub-appellation of the existing Willamette Valley region. This viticultural area is 19 miles southwest of Portland and 45 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Columbia Gorge: lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge , a dramatic river corridor that straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington.
  • Columbia Valley: is a very large producing region with 11 million acres of land in total.
  • Dundee Hills: is a sub-appellation within the Willamette Valley located 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.
  • Elkton Oregon: is located in Douglas County, Oregon. It is situated 33 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the west.
  • Eola-Amity Hills:  is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA located just west-northwest of Salem, Oregon’s state capitol.
  • McMinnville: is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA that sits just west of the city of McMinnville, approximately 40 miles southwest of Portland.
  • Red Hill Douglas County: is a sub-appellation of the Umpqua Valley AVA near the small town of Yoncalla, which lies about 30 miles north of Roseburg and parallels Interstate 5.
  • Ribbon Ridge: is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA that is contained within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA.
  • The Rocks District: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is situated in the Walla Walla Valley in northeastern Oregon 25 miles northeast of Pendleton and 5 miles south of Walla Walla, WA. Oregon's newest AVA, being established in 2015.
  • Rogue Valley: is the southernmost wine growing region in Oregon.
  • Snake River Valley: is an AVA that spans from Southeastern Oregon into Southwestern Idaho. The total area is approximately 8,000 square miles.
  • Southern Oregon: it exists in the southwest portion of the state and encompasses Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, Red Hill Douglas County, and Applegate Valley appellations.
  • Umpqua Valley: it sits between the Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Range to the east, with the Willamette Valley AVA to the north and the Rogue Valley AVA to the south.
  • Walla Walla Valley: is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north, and the Columbia River westward.
  • Willamette Valley: is 150 miles long and up to 60 miles wide making it Oregon’s largest AVA.
  • Yamhill-Carlton

But to simplify matters there are three major wine producing regions in Oregon. The number of regions and sub-regions is somewhat confusing!

  • Willamette Valley AVA - Oregon's largest AVA
  • Southern Oregon AVA (created by the merging of the Rogue Valley and the Umpqua Valley AVA's). 
  • Columbia Gorge AVA (covers both Oregon and Washington State)

Oregon AVA's in depth

The Willamette Valley AVA

Grape growing began in this area of Oregon in 1966 and in 1983 the Willamette Valley AVA was officially established. 

The Willamette Valley AVA covers an area from the Columbia River in the north to just south of Eugene in the south, where the Willamette Valley ends; and from the Oregon Coast Range in the West to the Cascade Mountains in the East. At 5,200 square miles (13,500 km2), 150 miles long and up to 60 miles wide it is the largest AVA in the state. It is named after the river that flows through it. 

To acknowledge the uniqueness of certain smaller growing hillsides inside the valley, AVA designation was requested for six areas in the northern valley, which contain sixty per-cent of the currently planted acreage of the Willamette Valley. All these new AVAs have minimum elevations around 200 feet; some also have a maximum of 1000 feet.

David Lett and Eyrie Vineyards -  Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir 1975

Modern wine making in the Willamette Valley started in the 1960's when David Lett, Charles Coury and Dick Erath planted Pinot Noir and small amounts of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling in the area.  

Things really started to change for Oregon wine's reputation when David Lett entered his 1975 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir in the 1979 Gault-Millau (a French Food and Wine Magazine) French Wine Olympiades. Lett originally intended to become a dentist, but fortunately decided to study viticulture instead at University of California, Davis, one of the world's top colleges in the field. After studying he worked in Switzerland, Burgundy and Alsace and finally set up in Oregon and fellow wine makers said he was mad even trying to go Pinot Noir because of the difficulties in ripening the grapes and the climatic challenges.

But Lett persevered despite the "can't be done" naysayers and amazingly the Gault-Millau was and won third prize out of a total of 330 wines and against France’s best producers. Lett made sure that the world started to take notice of Oregon as a serious wine region of the world.  

Flabbergasted by the result, the French re-ran the competition in 1980 in a Robert Drouhin-sponsored French blind tasting and included some of Burgundy's best Pinot Noir's and this time the Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir came second, just behind a Drouhin Premier Cru Chambolle-Musigny 1959. The result reconfirmed the high rating of Lett's Oregon Pinot Noir.

In 1987 Burgundy's famous negotiant family, the  Drouhins, acquired 100 acres of land for vineyards and a winery in the Dundee Hills. Robert Drouhin had made several visits to Oregon and Véronique Drouhin, who worked harvest in Oregon in 1986 with three wineries, was appointed winemaker for the new venture. They made their first wine in 1988 from purchased grapes in a leased facility. 

This was followed in 2013 by a second Burgundy producer/negotiant, Maison Louis Jadot, which  purchased the Resonance Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, marking only the second time a French negociant has purchased land in Oregon (Maison Joseph Drouhin was first, in 1987). 

Climate: The Willamette Valley is relatively mild throughout the year, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Whilst the area is relatively wet, most of the rainfall occurs in the winter, not during the main growing season. This temperate climate, combined with coastal maritime influences, make the gentle growing conditions within the Valley ideal for cool climate grapes, including Pinot Noir. The Valley enjoys more daylight hours during the growing season than in any other area of the state. During this longer growing season, the Willamette Valley enjoys warm days and cool nights, a diurnal temperature swing that allows the wine grapes to develop their flavour and complexity while retaining their natural acidity.

Not all parts of the Valley are suitable for viticulture, and most wineries and vineyards are found west of the Willamette River, with the largest concentration in Yamhill County.

Soils: The Willamette Valley is an old volcanic and sedimentary seabed that has been overlaid with gravel, silt, rock and boulders brought by the Missoula Floods from Montana and Washington between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. The most common of the volcanic type is red Jory soil, which is found above 300 feet elevation (as it had escaped the Missoula Floods deposits) and is between four and six feet deep and provides excellent drainage for superior quality wine grapes. Anything below 300 feet elevation is primarily sedimentary-based soil.

Topography: The Willamette Valley is protected by the Coast Range to the west, the Cascades to the east and a series of hill chains to the north. Its namesake, the Willamette River, runs through its heart. The largest concentration of vineyards are located to the west of this river, on the leeward slopes of the Coast Range, or among the valleys created by the river’s tributaries. While most of the region’s vineyards reside a few hundred feet above sea level, parts of the Willamette Valley do reach much higher. The Chehalem Mountains are the highest mountains in the Valley with their tallest point, Bald Peak, rising 1,633 feet above sea level.

The Willamette River Valley AVA

The Willamette Valley AVA is best known for its Pinot Noir, but it  also produces large amounts of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Sémillon, and Zinfandel grapes are also grown, but in far smaller quantities.

The region is divided into six sub regional AVAs:

  • Chehalem Mountains AVA

The Chehalem Mountains AVA was established in 2006 and is a single uplifted landmass southwest of Portland in the northern Willamette Valley, extending 20 miles in length and 5 miles in breadth, stretching from southeast to northwest. It is 19 miles southwest of Portland and 45 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.

It includes several discrete spurs, mountains and ridges, such as Ribbon Ridge and Parrott Mountain. The highest point within the Willamette Valley is the Chehalem Mountains’ Bald Peak (at 1,633 feet) which affects weather for the AVA and for adjoining grape growing hillsides. 

Wine history:  Chehalem Mountains’ winegrowing history dates back to 1968 when UC Davis refugee Dick Erath purchased 49 acres on Dopp Road in Yamhill County. He aptly called the property Chehalem Mountain Vineyard. By the mid to late 1970's, there was a patchwork of vineyards in the area, including those owned by such modern wine pioneers as the Adelsheims and the Ponzis. 

Climate:  Chehalem Mountains’ elevation goes from 200 to 1,633 feet, resulting in varied annual precipitation (37 inches at the lowest point and 60 inches at the highest) as well as the greatest variation in temperature within the Willamette Valley. These variations can result in three-week differences in the ripening of Pinot noir grapes.

Soils:  Chehalem Mountains has a combination of Columbia River basalt, ocean sedimentation and wind-blown loess derivation soil types.

Topography:  Chehalem Mountains is a single landmass made up of several hilltops, ridges and spurs that is uplifted from the Willamette Valley floor. The appellation includes all land in the area above the 200-foot elevation. They are the highest mountains in the Willamette Valley with their tallest point, Bald Peak, at 1,633 feet above sea level.

McMinnville AVA

McMinnville is contained within the Willamette Valley AVA, sitting just west of the city of McMinnville, approximately 40 miles southwest of Portland and extending 20 miles south-southwest.

Wine history: McMinnville has a long farming history that dates back to the mid-1800s when berry fields, tree fruits and livestock dominated. All that began to change when, in 1970, one of Oregon’s winemaking pioneers, David Lett, bought an old turkey processing plant in McMinnville to house his winery. Soon after, winegrowers began planting vineyards and establishing wineries in the area and, in 1987, McMinnville held the very first International Pinot Noir Celebration. Held every July since, it’s a wildly popular three-day event where winemakers and enthusiasts from all over the world congregate for Pinot noir tastings, winery tours, and seminars. The McMinnville AVA was established in 2005. Today, the area continues to sprout more wineries and tasting rooms.

Climate: McMinnville sits in a protective weather shadow of the Coast Range. As a result, the primarily east- and south-facing vineyards receive less rainfall (just 33 inches annually, as compared to 40 inches in Eola-Amity Hills) than sites just 12 miles to the east. Those vineyards situated on the more southerly facing sites take advantage of the cooling winds from the Van Duzer Corridor, a break in the coast range that allows cool Pacific Ocean air to flow through, thus dropping evening temperatures in the region, which helps to keep grape acids firm. Compared to surrounding areas, McMinnville is, on average, warmer and drier, consisting of higher elevation vineyards (up to 1,000 feet) that are resistant to frost.

Soils: The soils are typically uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays. As compared to other appellations in the Willamette Valley, these soils are uniquely shallow for winegrowing with low total available moisture.

Topography: McMinnville’s elevation levels range from 200 to 1,000 feet, and the area encompasses the east and southeast slopes of the Coast Range foothills. Geologically, the most distinctive feature in this area is the Nestucca Formation, a 2,000-foot-thick bedrock formation that extends west of the city of McMinnville to the slopes of the Coast Range. This formation contains intrusions of marine basalts, which affect the region’s ground water composition, resulting in grapes with unique flavor and development characteristics.

  • Dundee Hills AVA

The first grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted in the Dundee Hills and the AVA was established in November 2005. It remains the most densely planted locale in the valley and state. Within the 12,500 acres of this almost exclusively basaltic landmass that runs north-south and overlooks the Willamette River to the south and the Chehalem Valley to the north, more than 1,700 acres of grapes are planted in approximately 50 vineyards. It is approximately 30 miles to the southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, with protection from the ocean climate provided by the higher Coast Range of mountains.

The Dundee Hills offer spectacular views, including Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson’s snowy peaks.

Wine history: Winemaker David Lett planted the first Pinot noir in the Dundee Hills in 1965, naming it The Eyrie Vineyard and which soon gained international acclaim. Soon after, Dick Erath, the Sokol Blosser family and other winemakers cleared south-facing slopes to plant many of Oregon’s first vineyards. 

Climate: The Dundee Hills area is effectively an island protected from great climatic variations by surrounding geographic features. The Coast Range to the west lessens the effects of the Pacific Ocean’s heavy rains and windstorms, causing a rain shadow over the Dundee Hills area. The region receives just 30 to 45 inches of annual precipitation, most of which falls in the winter months outside of the growing season. Because of their slope and elevation, Dundee Hills vineyards benefit from warmer nights and less frost and fog than the adjacent valley floors.

Soils: Dundee Hills is known for its rich, red volcanic Jory soil, which was formed from ancient volcanic basalt and consists of silt, clay and loam soils. They typically reach a depth of 4 to 6 feet and provide excellent drainage for superior quality wine grapes. 

Topography: The Dundee Hills viticultural region consists of a single, continuous landmass that rises above the surrounding Willamette Valley floor and is defined by the 200-foot contour line to the AVA’s highest peak of 1,067 feet. The area comprises a north-south spine with ridges, as well as small valleys on its east, south and west sides. Dundee Hills is part of a North Willamette Valley hill chain that developed as a result of intense volcanic activity and the collision of the Pacific and North American plates. Dundee Hills is typically volcanic over sedimentary sandstone.

  • Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Established in 2006 and adjacent to the Willamette River and located just west-northwest of Salem, Oregon’s state capitol. The Eola-Amity Hills are composed of the Eola Hills, on the 45th parallel on the southern end and the Amity Hills on the northern spur, constituting almost 40,000 acres on which more than 1,300 acres of grapes are planted.

 Wine history: The agricultural history of this area near Salem dates back to the mid-1850s, though it wasn’t until the 1970s that winemakers started to discover the area as having ideal growing conditions for high-quality wine grapes. It was around this time that a few modern pioneers, including Don Byard of Hidden Springs, planted a patchwork of vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills. 

Climate: The Eola-Amity Hills region enjoys a temperate climate of warm summers and mild winters, and 40 inches of annual rain, most of which falls outside of the growing season. Average maximum temperatures are 62 degrees Fahrenheit in April and 83 degrees Fahrenheit in July, which contribute to the ideal conditions for the cool-climate grape varieties that dominate the Eola-Amity Hills. The climate in this region is greatly influenced by its position due east of the Van Duzer Corridor, which provides a break in the coast range that allows cool Pacific Ocean air to flow through. This decreases temperatures in the region dramatically, especially during late summer afternoons, helping to keep grape acids firm.

Soil: The soils in the Eola-Amity Hills predominantly contain volcanic basalt from ancient lava flows as well as marine sedimentary rocks and alluvial deposits at the lower elevations of the ridge. This combination results in a relatively shallow, rocky set of well-drained soils, which typically produce small grapes with great concentration.

Topography: The Eola Hills, and its northern extension, the Amity Hills, are part of a North Willamette Valley hill chain that developed out of intense volcanic activity and the collision of the Pacific and North American plates. The main ridge of the Eola Hills runs north-south and has numerous lateral ridges on both sides that run east-west. The majority of the region’s vineyard sites exist at elevations between 250 to 700 feet.

  • McMinnville AVA

The McMinnville AVA was founded in 2005 and with nearly 40,500 acres sits due west of Yamhill County’s seat, the city of McMinnville. It extends approximately 20 miles south-southwest toward the mouth of the Van Duzer corridor, Oregon’s lowest coast range pass to the Pacific Ocean. Encompassing the land above 200 feet and below 1,000 feet in elevation on the east and southeast slopes of these foothills of the coast-range mountains, the soils are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays and a base of uplifting basalt. The soils are uniquely shallow for winegrowing. The planted slopes sit in the protecting weather shadow of the Coast Range mountains, and rainfall is lower than on sites to the east. The primarily east- and south-facing sites take advantage of the drying winds from the Van Duzer corridor. Approximately 600 acres are currently planted here.

  • Ribbon Ridge AVA

Ribbon Ridge, established in 2005,  is a very regular spur of ocean sediment uplift off the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains, containing a relatively uniform 5 1/4 square miles (3,350 acres) of land. Approximately 500 acres are currently planted on the ridge, within 20 vineyards. The AVA is distinguished by uniform, unique ocean sedimentary soils and a geography that is protected climatically by the larger landmasses surrounding it. Paucity of aquifers forces most vineyards to be dry farmed. Ribbon Ridge is contained within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA.

  • Yamhill-Carlton District AVA

Yamhill-Carlton was established in 2005 and is North of McMinnville, the foothills of the Coast Range to create an AVA of nearly 60,000 acres. It is located 35 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the area includes the towns of Carlton and Yamhill. 

Low ridges surround the two communities in a horseshoe shape, with the North Yamhill River coursing through nurseries, grain fields, orchards and more than 1,200 acres of vineyard. The Coast Range to the west soars to nearly 3,500 feet (1,200m) establishing a rain shadow over the entire district.

 Wine history: Once primarily known for tree-fruit orchards, nurseries, livestock, wheat fields and logging, the area now known as Yamhill-Carlton has a relatively recent wine history. In 1974, pioneers Pat and Joe Campbell started Elk Cove Vineyards, which produced the first commercial wine in the Yamhill-Carlton area at a time when other areas of the North Willamette Valley were just starting to be planted. 

Climate: Yamhill-Carlton is protected by high elevation areas to the west (Coast Range), north (Chehalem Mountains) and east (Dundee Hills), which results in less rain than surrounding areas and moderate growing conditions perfectly suited for cool-climate grapes, including the area’s signature variety, Pinot noir.

Soils: Yamhill-Carlton is comprised of coarse-grained, ancient marine sedimentary soils over sandstone and siltstone that all drain quickly, making them ideal for viticulture. Grapes grown in such soil often result in wines lower in acid than those made from grapes grown in basaltic or wind-blown soils.

Topography: Yamhill-Carlton vineyards grow on sites with elevations between 200 and 1,000 feet, avoiding low valley frost and high elevation temperatures unsuitable for effective ripening. Geographically, this area is bounded by the Coast Range to the west, the Chehalem Mountains to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east.

Southern Oregon AVA

The Southern Oregon AVA is an AVA which was formed as a result of a combination between the Rogue Valley AVA (which contains the Applegate Valley AVA sub region) and the Umpqua Valley AVA in 2004 (A small strip of connecting territory is included in the Southern Oregon AVA to make it a continuous region but this strip passes through mountains regions not suitable for vineyards.) 

It lies in the southwest portion of the state, stretching 125 miles south of Eugene to the California border, and 60 miles at its widest between the Cascade Mountain Range to the east and the Coast Range to the west. It encompasses Applegate Valley, Elkton Oregon, Red Hill Douglas County, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley appellations. 

Wine history: Southern Oregon has the oldest history of grape growing in the state. It dates back to 1852 with an early area settler named Peter Britt, who operated a winery in Jacksonville. Post-Prohibition winemaking started in 1961 when vintner Richard Sommer migrated from University of California at Davis and founded Hillcrest Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley. Impressed with the diversity of growing conditions in this area, other winemakers began planting roots in the 1970s, resulting in a patchwork of vineyards growing both cool- and warm-climate varieties. Today, this winegrowing region continues to grow and turn out a great variety of high-quality wines. The appellation became official in 2004.

Climate: While this region provides the warmest growing conditions in Oregon, there exist cool microclimates within its varied hillsides and valleys that enable Southern Oregon to successfully grow both cool- and warm-climate varieties. This area receives significantly less rainfall than other viticultural areas in Oregon (40 percent less than the Willamette Valley) and is generally a warm, sunny, arid climate.

Soils: Southern Oregon’s soils are varied and complex, though generally derived from bedrock, specifically from the 200 million year old Klamath Mountains to the west, which are comprised of sedimentary rocks.

Topography: The Southern Oregon appellation contains a varied, mountainous topography with vineyards typically situated in high mountain valleys at elevations between 1,000 to 2,000 feet. The lofty southern coastal mountains provide a barrier to the west, blocking marine air and casting a rain shadow to the area’s south and east.

Umpqua Valley AVA

The Umpqua Valley AVA contains the drainage basin of the Umpqua River, excluding mountainous regions and has a warmer climate than the Willamette Valley, but is cooler than the Rogue Valley to the south. It is the oldest post-prohibition wine region in Oregon and is named after the legendary fishing river that runs nearby. The appellation stretches 65 miles from north to south, and is 25 miles from east to west.

Grapes grown here include Tempranillo, Baco noir, Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and a host of lesser known Vitis vinifera.

The region includes two sub-AVAs, the Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon AVA, a single vineyard AVA, as well as the Elkton, Oregon AVA, which was established in early 2013.

Wine history: The Umpqua Valley’s winegrowing history dates back to the 1880s when German immigrants who had worked for the Beringer Bros., the oldest continuously operating vineyard in Napa, planted the first wine grape vineyard in the Valley. Post-Prohibition, Richard Sommer established Hillcrest Vineyards near Roseburg in 1961. He was the first to plant Pinot noir in Oregon despite being told by his UC Davis cohorts that it was impossible to successfully grow wine grapes in Oregon. Obviously, they were wrong. Just eight years later, in 1969, Paul Bjelland of Bjelland Vineyards founded the Oregon Winegrowers Association in the Umpqua Valley. During the 1970s, new wineries opened, including Henry Estate Winery, whose winemaker Scott Henry developed a now world-famous trellis system, which increases grape yield, among other benefits. The Umpqua Valley appellation continues to evolve as new winemakers discover the area, bringing with them a passion for innovation and world-class wine. The Umpqua Valley appellation became official in 1984.

Climate: One of Oregon’s more diverse climates, the Umpqua Valley can successfully grow both cool and warm varieties. It’s comprised of three distinct climatic sub-zones:  1) The northern area around the town of Elkton enjoys a cool, marine-influenced climate. It receives around 50 inches of annual rainfall, making irrigation unnecessary. Pinot noir and other cool-climate varieties thrive here. 2) The central area to the northwest of Roseburg has a transitional, or intermediate, climate where both cool and warm varieties do quite well.  3) The area south of Roseburg is warmer and more arid, similar to Rogue and Applegate Valleys to the south, making irrigation necessary. Warm-climate varieties, including Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot thrive here.

Soils: Umpqua Valley soils are as varied as the climate. Generally, they are derived from a mix of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic rock, though more than 150 soil types have been identified in the region. The valley floor levels have mostly deep alluvial or heavy clay materials, while the hillsides and bench locations have mixed alluvial, silt or clay structures-all typically excellent for winegrowing.

Topography: The complex topography of the Umpqua Valley is a result of the collision of three mountain ranges of varying age and structure: the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range and the Cascades. Many say the area should not be thought of as a single valley but, rather, more accurately “The Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua” because it is made up of a series of interconnecting small mountain ranges and valleys.

Elkton Oregon AVA

The Elkton Oregon AVA is located in Douglas County, Oregon. It is situated 33 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Cascade Range is located to the west, with the Willamette Valley AVA to the north and Rogue Valley AVA to the south. It is wholly within the Umpqua Valley AVA, which in turn lies within the larger Southern Oregon AVA. Named for the town of Elkton, the AVA covers approximately 11 percent of the Umpqua Valley AVA. Elkton Oregon is the northernmost and lowest elevation region in the Umpqua Valley.

Wine history: Winegrowing in Elkton dates back to the early 1970s when Ken Thomason began planting cool climate whites and Pinot noir. The first winery was established in 2000. Currently, there are four licensed wineries and 12 commercial vineyards totaling 96.5 planted acres.

Climate: Elkton Oregon is the coolest and wettest region within the larger Umpqua Valley and produces different varieties and different wine styles than the rest of the larger AVA. The northern area around the town of Elkton enjoys a cool, marine-influenced climate. Elkton Oregon has a cooler, but milder and longer growing season than the rest of the Umpqua Valley and receives much more rain annually, about 50 inches. Pinot noir and other cool-climate varieties thrive here.

Soils: Elkton Oregon is dominated by the coastal mountain geology, lying over a mix of sedimentary, volcanic and metamorphic rock units from the middle Eocene. The National Resource Conservation Service mapped more than 50 different soil series or complexes in Elkton Oregon. These soils are predominately residual clay and/or silt loam soil or small to large cobble-dominated alluvial deposits from the Yamhill and Tyee formation and the river terrace building of the meandering Umpqua River.

Topography: Elkton Oregon contains a wide range of terrain that is dissected by the broader meanders of the Umpqua River. The majority of the AVA falls below the 1,000-foot contour and includes the river bottom land (elevation 130-160 feet), river terraces (or benchlands) and foot hills near the river (elevation 130-160 feet).

Rogue Valley AVA

The Rogue Valley AVA, founded in 2001, is the southernmost wine growing region in Oregon and is the warmest and driest  It is made up of three adjacent river valleys (Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois Valleys) that extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains along the California border north to the Rogue River. Most wineries in the region are found along one of these three tributaries, rather than along the Rogue River itself. It is 70 miles wide by 60 miles long and encompasses the Applegate Valley AVA.

There are currently 32 wineries with only 1,100 acres (4 km2) planted.

Wine history: Rogue Valley’s wine history dates back to the 1840s when European immigrants began planting grapes and eventually bottling wines. In 1852, an early settler named Peter Britt joined in on the grape growing adventure, though it wasn’t until 1873 that he opened Valley View Winery – Oregon’s first official winery. Valley View closed in 1907 (though its name was resurrected by the Wisnovsky family in 1972), then Prohibition began. It wasn’t until after an Oregon State University professor planted an experimental vineyard here in 1968 that winemakers rediscovered Rogue Valley.

Climate: Rogue Valley is made up of three distinct valleys with progressively warmer microclimates, enabling the region to successfully grow both cool- and warm-climate grape varieties. To the west, the region is affected by mountain and ocean influences, making it suitable for some cool-weather varieties, including Pinot noir. Farther east, Rogue Valley has the highest elevations (nearly 2,000 feet) of Oregon’s winegrowing regions, but it is also the warmest and the driest, making it well-suited for warm-weather varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon blanc.

Soils: Rogue Valley soil types are many and varied, including mixes of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic derived soils ranging from sandy loam to hard clay. 

Topography: Vineyards here are typically at elevations of 1,200 to 2,000 feet and are planted on hillsides rather than valley floor. Rogue Valley’s diverse landscape is derived from the convergence of three mountain ranges of varying ages and structure: the Klamath Mountains, the Coastal Range and the Cascades. This region includes the Rogue River and its tributaries: the Applegate, Illinois and Bear Creek rivers.

Applegate Valley AVA

Applegate Valley is contained within the larger Rogue Valley AVA in Southern Oregon and was formed in 2001. It stretches 50 miles north from the California border to the Rogue River just west of Grants Pass.

Wine history: Applegate Valley’s wine history began in 1852 when an early area settler named Peter Britt planted wine grapes. In 1873, he opened Valley View Winery, Oregon’s first official winery. Valley View closed in 1907; then Prohibition hit. It wasn’t until the 1970s, after modern pioneers began discovering the neighboring areas’ quality wine growing conditions, that Applegate Valley experienced a resurgence of winemaking. It began with a few family-run wineries that planted their roots and opened their doors. 

Climate: Applegate Valley has a moderate climate that generally enjoys a warm, dry (just 25.2 inches of annual rain) growing season with hot days and cool nights perfect for warm-climate varieties.

Soils: Applegate Valley’s soil types are typically granite in origin, and most of the area’s vineyards are planted on stream terraces or alluvial fans, providing deep, well-drained soils that are ideal for high-quality wine grapes.

Topography: Applegate Valley is surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountains, which were created by up-thrusts of the ocean floor as a plate forced its way under the continental shelf. The Siskiyou National Forest borders the Applegate Valley to the west and the Rogue River National Forest to the east. Vineyards are typically grown at higher elevations up to 2,000 feet.

Red Hill Douglas County AVA

Red Hill Douglas County is contained within the Umpqua Valley AVA, near the small town of Yoncalla, which lies about 30 miles north of Roseburg and parallels Interstate 5.

Wine history: The Applegate and Scott families, pioneers of Southern Oregon, settled at the foot of Red Hill in the mid-1800s. Jesse Applegate planted Douglas County’s first established vineyard in Yoncalla in 1876. Red Hill Douglas County appellation was approved in 2005.

Climate: Red Hill Douglas County has a relatively mild climate, with daytime averages of 75 degrees F during growing season (as opposed to regions farther south that can experience highs of 105 degrees F). The marine influence reaching this area also provides a wetter climate than the surrounding Umpqua Valley area. Thanks to its higher elevation, the area generally enjoys a frost-free growing season.

Soils: Red Hill Douglas County is dominated by iron-rich, red volcanic Jory soils, which were formed from ancient volcanic basalt and consist of silt, clay and loam soils. They are mostly deep, well-drained to the 15-foot depth, and considered premier wine grape growing soils.

Topography: Elevation in this area ranges from the 800-foot contour line to 1,200 feet, the maximum elevation for quality grape production in the Red Hill Douglas County region. Geologically, Red Hill is part of the Umpqua Formation, which is composed of basalts similar to the volcanic rocks on the Pacific Ocean floor. It has many rising domes that give it an undulating appearance.

Columbia Gorge AVA

The Columbia Gorge AVA lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge and straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington.It is 60 miles east of Portland. The AVA is comprised of Hood River and Wasco counties in Oregon, and Skamania and Klickitat counties in Washington. 

The AVA includes both the Columbia Gorge AVA and part of the Columbia Valley AVA. 

Because of the region's climate it grows a wide variety of grapes such as Syrah, Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, Riesling, and Sangiovese. There are over 40 wineries situated here.

Wine history: Grape growing in the Columbia Gorge area dates back to the 1880's when the Jewitt family, who founded the town of White Salmon, WA, planted American vines they had brought with them from Illinois. Other pioneer families followed suit and today some of their original vines are still alive and have withstood sub-zero temperatures. It wasn’t until the 1970s that post-Prohibition pioneers started experimenting with wine grape vineyards on the south-facing slopes of the Underwood Mountain in Washington. The Columbia Gorge appellation became official in 2004.

Climate: Within the wine growing region, the climate in the Columbia Gorge appellation changes drastically. To the west is a cooler, marine-influenced climate where it rains 36 inches per year; to the east is a continental high desert climate with just 10 inches of annual rainfall. This extreme variance of climate means this area can successfully grow a wide range of classical varieties.

Soils: The Columbia Gorge wine region’s soils are generally silty loams collected over time from floods, volcanic activity and landslides.

Topography: The Columbia River Gorge is a narrow, winding river valley whose walls range from steep volcanic rock faces to more gentle-sloped, terraced benchlands that are typically well suited for grape growing. The Gorge is the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountain Range. From north to south there are two iconic geographical features: Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, both part of the central Cascade Mountain range.

Columbia Valley AVA

 The Columbia Valley AVA is a very large growing region with 11 million acres of land in total. Most of the Columbia Valley lies in Washington State, with a small section in Oregon stretching from The Dalles to Milton-Freewater. The region is 185 miles wide and 200 miles long.

Wine history: On the Oregon side, the Columbia Valley wine history dates back to the early 1900s, when settlers planted the area’s first vineyard on a steep, southward-sloping hill near the small town of The Dalles. These Zinfandel vines, which are now more than 100 years old, still produce wine grapes at what is today known as The Pines 1852 Vineyard, whose vintner revitalized the land in the early 1980s. Around that time, as the Washington side of the Columbia Valley appellation began to flourish with large-scale wineries, reputable winemakers started tagging the small Oregon side as an excellent location for high-quality wine grapes. The appellation became official in 1984.

Climate: The Columbia Valley has a largely continental high desert climate. The hot days promote slow, even ripening, while the cool nights ensure that grapes retain their natural acidity. The area receives just 6 to 8 inches of annual rainfall, making supplemental irrigation a necessity throughout the region.

Soils: Roughly 15,000 years ago a series of tremendous Ice Age floods (dubbed the Missoula Floods) deposited silt and sand over the area. These deposited sediments, along with wind-blown loess sediment, make up the area’s present-day soils, which are well drained and ideal for grapevines.

Topography: The Columbia Valley is a huge area covering 11 million acres. Mostly, the Columbia Valley lies on the Columbia River Plateau and encompasses the valleys formed by the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Walla Walla, Snake and Yakima rivers. Mountain ranges border the Columbia Valley region on the west and north, while the Columbia River acts roughly as a boundary to the south, and the Snake River near Idaho acts as the border to the east.

Walla Walla Valley AVA

Parts of NE Oregon (in the vicinity of Milton-Freewater) are part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which was first set up in 1984. This AVA, which is part of the Columbia Valley AVA, lies primarily within Washington state and is about 250 miles east of Portland. The area is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north and the Columbia River westward.This region has nearly 100 wineries and 1,200 acres (5 km2) planted.

Wines grown in the valley include Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Sangiovese and a few exotic varietals including Counoise,Carmenère, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo and Barbera.

Wine history: It’s believed that winegrowing in the Walla Walla Valley dates back to the 1920s, although the modern day wine industry began in the 1970s when childhood friends Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Rick Small of Woodward Canyon began conducting enological experiments in Rick’s garage. They soon began growing grapes in the Valley, and subsequently founded their wineries in 1977 (Leonetti Cellar) and 1981 (Woodward Canyon). L’Ecole No 41 was established soon after, in 1983. The Walla Walla Valley was officially designated as an AVA in 1984, but it took another decade for the growth spurt to begin.  At the turn of the millennium more than 50 wineries called the Valley home, and today that number has grown to more than 100. Additionally, the Walla Walla Valley has one sub AVA, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.

Climate: The Walla Walla Valley is ideal for grape growing, as the dry July and August heat provides a vibrant core of ripeness in the berries, while the chill of September nights assures the acidic backbone necessary for creating top flight wines. Annual rainfall figures triple from a sparse seven inches at the western end of the valley to a lush 22 inches along the foothills of the Blue Mountains to the east.

Soils: There are four distinct soil terroirs in the Walla Walla Valley: loess (wind-deposited silt) overlying Missoula flood sediments, thick loess overlying basalt bedrock, basalt cobblestone gravels and very thin loess on basalt bedrock.

Topography: The Walla Walla Valley is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north, and the Columbia River westward. Elevations across the valley soar between 400 feet and 2,000 feet above sea level.

The Rocks District AVA

Location: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is situated in the Walla Walla Valley in northeastern Oregon, 25 miles northeast of Pendleton, OR and 5 miles south of Walla Walla, WA. The AVA derives its name from the extremely rocky soils that underlie a region just north of the small town of Milton-Freewater. With an area of only 5.9 square miles, The Rocks District is the second smallest AVA in Oregon. The Rocks District is wholly contained within both Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley AVAs. It is Oregon's newest AVA, being officially recognised in 2015 and being the state's 18th AVA.

Wine history: Wine grape production in The Rocks District was initiated by Italian emigrants who first arrived in the area in the 1860s. By the early 1880s the region was producing thousands of gallons of wine, mostly for consumption by miners in the gold fields of northern Idaho. A series of very cold winters in the late 1880s, combined with the end of the gold rush, forced the farmers to turn most of their vineyards into orchards. However, many farmers maintained small vineyards and continued to produce limited quantities of wine for family and friends. Isolated wild vines that are the remnants of these small family vineyards can still be found in The Rocks District. The modern era of wine production began in 1996 when Frenchman Christophe Baron rediscovered the area, noting the similarity of its soils to those of the famous French wine region of Chateauneuf du Pape. The wines Baron produced from his vineyards received instant acclaim from critics, who noted their sumptuous aromas and unique flavor profile. Baron attributed these very special qualities to the rocky terroir of his vineyards. Other vineyards were soon planted by winemakers hoping to capture the unique terroir of the region that had come to be known as “the rocks.” By 2012, the cobbly soils near Milton-Freewater hosted more than 200 acres of vineyards.

Climate: The Rocks District receives an average of 15 inches of annual precipitation, which is insufficient for agriculture, so the vines are irrigated from wells and with water from the Walla Walla River, derived from snowmelt from the adjacent Blue Mountains. Most days during the growing season are sunny and clear with very low humidity, so large daily temperature variations are common. During summers, the region often experiences 5-10 days with temperatures exceeding 100°.

Soils: The unique soils of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater are its defining characteristic. They consist of pebbles and cobbles of basalt (a dark volcanic rock) in a matrix of sand and silt. The rock soil is extremely well drained, encouraging the vines to root deeply, and the dark rocks efficiently transfer heat into the soils and radiate heat to the ripening grapes. The Rocks District is the only AVA in the United States whose boundaries were determined by a single land form and a single soil series.

Topography: The Rocks District occupies a very gently sloping alluvial fan that was deposited by the Walla Walla River where it exits the foothills of the Blue Mountains and enters the broad flat floor of the Walla Walla Valley. Elevations range from 800 to 1000 ft.

Snake River Valley AVA

A new viticultural area along the Snake River was established in 2007 and its total area is approximately 8,000 square miles. Mainly covering Idaho, the area also covers two large counties in Eastern Oregon, Baker County and Malheur County. The region's climate is unique among AVAs in Oregon; the average temperature is relatively cool and rainfall is low, creating a shorter growing season.

Current production is led by hardy grapes such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay. The climate also lends itself extremely well to the production of ice wine. However, the AVA is quite large and warmer microclimates within the area can also support different types of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Wine history: Approved in April 2007, Snake River Valley AVA is thinly populated with wineries and vineyards in Oregon, yet it features the largest density of vineyards and wineries in Idaho. The area encompasses more than 8,000 square miles at latitudes comparable to many famous wine regions around the world (43°- 46°). Formed more than four million years ago, the Snake River Valley overlays the ancient Lake Idaho bed, which creates its natural boundaries.

Climate: From a purely geographical standpoint, the Snake River Valley offers ideal growing conditions. Wine grapes thrive in this distinctly four-season climate. The characteristic cold winters, which might at first seem a disadvantage, are in fact quite conducive, allowing vines to go dormant, to rest and conserve important carbohydrates for the coming season, while ridding the plants of bugs and discouraging disease. The region’s summer combination of cold nights and warm days serves to balance grape acids and sugars favorably. In the 30-40 degree F diurnal temperature variations typical of this higher elevation – swings from 1 to 65 degrees are common – sugars remain high, nurtured during the long days by the abundant sunshine, while acids are maintained at favorable levels by comparatively cool evenings. These natural acids, important for the wines’ taste and longevity, can be difficult to maintain in, for example, the warmer California climate. Adequate sugar, on the other hand, is often the obstacle in Oregon, where early rains absorbed by the grapes and vines in the final stages of ripening dilute the fruits’ natural levels of sugar. Because such potentially ruinous precipitation is also responsible for assorted other agricultural woes, including mold and rot, the Snake River Valley’s lack of rainfall is considered a plus; here, water is one element that can be controlled by the grower through irrigation, according to calculated timing.

Soils: The Snake River Valley is a distinctive grape growing region whose ancient volcanic sediment has bestowed fertile, well-draining soils that give growers better control throughout the grape-growing process. More importantly, this soil contributes to a unique terroir that, in the hands of talented winemakers, consistently delivers premium wines that are as memorable as they are delicious.

Topography: Located on the same latitude as Oregon’s Umpqua Valley AVA, the Snake River Valley has a more drastic diurnal temperature variation than other appellations in the Pacific Northwest due to the high elevation of most of the region’s vineyards. At elevations of 2,500 feet (760 m) to 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level, the region is also more than 400 miles (640 km) from the tempering effects of the Pacific Ocean.

Recommended Oregon wineries and wines

Well known wineries include Adelsheim, Antica Terra, Archery Summit, Bethel Heights, Bergstrom, Brickhouse (an organic producer), Cristom, Chehalem, Domaine Serene, Eyrie Vineyards, Ken Wright Cellars, Hamacher, Knudsen, Lemelson, Ponzi, Sokol Blosser and Tualatin.

Recommended wines

Antica Terra Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA, 2008


Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Hamacher Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Wineries to visit in Oregon

1. The Eyrie Vineyards: David Lett, who died in 2008, is considered one of the founding Fathers of the Oregon wine industry planting his Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley in 1965. His Eyrie Vineyards 1975 South Block Pinot Noir won third place in the 1979 Wine Olympics. 

Jason Lett now carries on his father's legacy with organically-certified vineyard principles and minimal intervention in the wine-making processThe Eyrie Vineyards' hours are 12- 5pm. daily, with a $15 tasting fee. 935 NE 10th Ave., McMinnville; (503) 472-6315; eyrievineyards.com.

2. Ponzi Vineyards: The Ponzi's like the Lett's were Oregon wine pioneers with Maria and Luisa Ponzi now running the winery.

See the state-of-the-art, gravity-flow winery and sample Ponzi wines as you visit each stage of production for $30 per person (by reservation only). Open 11 am to 5:30 pm daily. 19500 SW Mountain Home Road, Sherwood; (503) 628-1227; ponziwines.com.

3. Sokol Blosser: Founded by Susan Sokol Blosser,  and now run by her son Alex, the winemaker and Alison.

There is a hill top tasting room with nice views which is open  10 am to 4 pm daily. Tasting fee is $15 or complimentary for Cellar Club members. 5000 Sokol Blosser Lane, Dayton; (503) 864-2282; sokolblosser.com.

4. Argyle Winery: Oregon's top sparkling wine producer

Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with a new tasting room just opened. Vistors have a choice of three different tasting flights at $15 each. 691 Highway 99W; (503) 538-8520; argylewinery.com.

5. Brooks Wines: Jimi Brooks built Brooks Wines on his passion for Riesling and biodynamic farming but died suddenly in 2004, just as the grapes were about ready to be harvested. Fellow wine makers in the area helped to harvest the grapes, press and produce the 2004 vintage. The winery is now run by Janie Brooks Heuck.

The new tasting room has great views from the deck on a clear day from Mount St. Helens to Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson along the ridge of the Cascade Mountain Range. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Several tasting flights are available for $15 each. 21101 SE Cherry Blossom Lane,Amity; (503) 435-1278; brookswine.com.

A guide to Russian River Valley Wine (California, United States)

About Russian River Valley AVA, Calfornia, United States

The Russian River Valley AVA, located in Sonoma County in Northern California is a renowned area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production, making some of the best in the world.

During the 1830’s, the Russian settlers ventured southeast from Fort Ross in search of more temperate agricultural regions. Outposts were established in the areas of Sebastopol, Graton and Freestone. Wine grapes planted at Fort Ross on the Sonoma coast, and subsequent vineyards started by the settlers throughout Sonoma County, took place well before the Gold Rush of 1849. It is believed that those early plantings at Fort Ross were the first in Sonoma County. The Russians left around 1841 and it was the migration of subsequent settlers, many from wine-producing European countries which was the foundation for the wine industry within the Russian River Valley.

By 1876 viticulture was well established in the Russian River Valley. It is recorded that the region produced in excess of 500,000 gallons of wine, with about 7,000 vine acres planted. Larger wineries began to flourish, including The Santa Rosa Wine Company established in 1876, Martini & Prati Winery in 1880, Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1882 and Foppiano Winery in 1896.During Prohibition, the Russian River Valley saw drastic changes and an overall decline in wine production. Many of the wineries that surfaced during the late 1800s and early 1900s did not survive the severe restrictions placed on all alcohol production and consumption.From 1920 to1933 wine production was severely limited, forcing many wineries out of business. Those who wanted to continue to make wine legally were forced to produce only 200 gallons of non-intoxicating cider or fruit juice per year for household use; though some were brazen enough to disregard the production regulation. Prohibition ended in1933 with the repeal of the 18th Amendment; however, by then less than 50 wineries remained within Sonoma County.

The current era in Russian River Valley winemaking began in the 1960’s when Bob Sisson, the University of California Farm Advisor for Sonoma County, began urging local growers to turn their focus toward cool climate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

In 1983 the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) became an approved viticultural area. As of October 11, 2005 the expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA formally became law according to a ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This expansion increased the AVA total acreage by 30,200 acres to 126,600 by recognizing previously overlooked portions of the fog regions. Presently the Russian River AVA is over 150 square miles, which includes over 15,000 total acres planted to premium wine grape vineyards. In late 2011 the Russian River Valley viticultural area was expanded south and southeast by 14,044 acres to 169,029 acres, an increase of 9% to include land just west of Rohnert Park and Cotati.



Sub-regions of Russian River Valley

Middle Reach


Middle Reach is the most northerly part of the AVA close to Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley. It is home to some of the appellation's oldest vines and includes recommended wines such as:

  • J. Rochioli Vineyard Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2012
  • Flax Vineyard of Merry Edwards Winery
  • Bucher Vineyard 2012 Three Sixty Pinot Noir
  • Bacigalupi Vineyards
  • Allen Vineyard
  • Williams Selyem Estate vineyards 2013 Westside Road Neighbours Pinot Noir 2013

Fogs keep temperatures down in this geographical area making it perfect for Pinot Noir production with the fog density at its maximum in the summer allowing grapes to retain acidity at ripening. The wines from this subregion are very much about their texture and length with less defined aromatics. Acidity is not the defining feature and they tend to be expansive on the palate. Pinot Noir's are dark with firm tannins, meaty & lush characteristics, ripe with a full body. Because temperatures are on the moderate side, the grapes take time to develop and the wines are described as having "cola spice, dark fruit, earthier, darker and richer, lusher notes on the palate, with an acid backbone".

Laguna Ridge

The Laguna Ridge is an area to the South of Middle Reach, near Forestville, sometimes called the "Golden Triangle". The area is a relatively narrow strip of land with well draining sandy Goldridge and Altamont soils with some Franciscan at the northern tip. It is near the Lagunda de Santa Rosa where water collects during the winter months. 

Recommended wines:

  • Ramey 2012 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay
  • Paul Hobbs 2012 Pinot Noir
  • Merry Edwards 2012 Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir
  • Dehlinger winery
  • Lynmar estate
  • Joseph Swan vineyards

The Pinot Noir from Laguna Ridge is known for its mouthfeel and moderate acidity with strong notes of strawberry, mixed berry with a brambly, exotic spice character. The wines are not as rich as Middle Reach on the palate but are still very lush, with the Pinot Noir being defined by their "high quality tannins and there's a lot of cocoa in Coppersmith. They're blackberry focused like walking through a field of blackberries, with a leafy smell".

Santa Rosa Plain

santa rosa

The Santa Rosa plain is close to the town of Santa Rosa on the east side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, including Olivet Road and Pinet Olivet area. 

Recommended wines:

  • Donum Estate Grown Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
  • Carlisle 2012 Saltone Vineyard Zinfandel
  • Davis Bynum 2012 Jane's Vineyard Clone 667 Pinot Noir
  • Barbieri Ranch
  • Fanucchi Vineyards
  • Montafi Ranch (formerly Tom Feeney)
  • Papera Ranch
  • Parsons vineyard
  • Saitone Ranch

The Santa Rosa Plain is where most of the Russian River Valley's oldest plantings of Zinfandel exist and are particularly heavy in acidity and robust fruit in this sub-region."In Dry Creek, Zinfandel seems to be all about Cherry. In Sonoma County its blackberry but in Santa Rosa it's about raspberry, boysenberry and mulberry with more spice". The fruit profile of Zinfandel changes as you move North with Carlisle near Healdsburg having cherry and raspberry notes.

Pinot Noirs show more fruit expression than Leguna Ridge e.g. Martinelli Winery. 

Green Valley 

green valley

Green Valley is the only Russian River Valley sub region recognised as an AVA in itself  (granted 1983) with the appellation centred on the towns of Graton and Occidental, south of Forestville and north of Sebastopol. It is officially known as Green Valley of Russian River Valley. The area is at a higher elevation than other parts of Russian River with Goldridge soils and heavy forestation. Cooling winds from the Pacific Ocean are a consistent feature and the northern part of the valley is warmer than the southern. Many of the vineyards are sheltered by the hills helping to control temperatures and those sites higher up are more significantly affected by the breezes.

Recommended wines:

  • Dutton Goldfield 2013 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir
  • Gary Farreell 2012 Hallberg Vineyard Clone 777 Oak Tank whole cluster Pinot Noir
  • Cellars 33 2013 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir


The Pinot Noir's are "crisp in aromatics, luxurious mouthfeel, precise and clean, nicely textured, with a firmness and tension to the wines that often exhibit a little anise".

Sebastopol Hills

Sebastopol Hills is Russian River's coolest sub region and runs around the town of Sebastopol, overlapping into Green Valley. It is sometimes known as the West Sonoma Coast.

Recommended wines:

  • Patz & Hall Burnside Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
  • Lynmar Freestone Pinot Noir 2012
  • Chasseur 2012 Syrah
  • Littorai wines
  • Burnside Road Vineyard
  • Meredith Estate Vineyard

"The grapes definitely have a cool climate character, blue fruit, blue flowers, very elegant and a high acidity".


A guide to Chianti Wine (Tuscany, Italy)

The Chianti Wine Region

Located in the central region of Tuscany, the Chianti zone is Tuscany's largest classified wine region and produces over eight million cases a year. In addition to producing the well known red Chianti wine, the Chianti zone also produces white, other Rosso reds and Vin Santo.

The area was first outlined in 1716, lying between the provinces of Florence and Siena and made up of the town of Gaiole, Radda and Castellina. Later Greve and parts of the communes of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, Barberino Val D'Elsa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and SanCasciano in Val di Pesa would be added.

In 1932 Chianti was increased in size further to include vineyards to the north of Florence and west to Pisa, east to Arezzo and south to Siena.

The region is split into two DOCG - Chianti and Chianti Classico. Wine producers in the original Chianti were allowed to use the word "Classico" on their bottles.

Chianti Classico zone covers the area between Florence and Siena, which is the original Chianti region, and where some of the best expressions of Chianti wine are produced. The larger Chianti DOCG zone is further divided in to six DOC sub-zones and areas in the western part of the province of Pisa, the Florentine hills north of Chianti Classico in the province of Florence, the Siena Hills south of the city in the province of Siena, the province of Arezzo and the area around the communes of Rufina and Pistoia.

Sangiovese Grapes

Permitted grapes in Chianti Wine

Chianti has a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, up to 10% of the white wine grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano and up to 15% of any other red wine grape grown in the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. In Chianti Classico the wine must be at least 80% Sangiovese. 

The remaining 30% and 20% respectively of the wines can be grown locally or using international grapes. Native grapes Colorino and Canaiolo Nero are regaining their popularity in Tuscany. The latter performs the role that Merlot used to have contributing fruitiness that softens Sangiovese's tannins and acidity. Colorino adds colour to the lighter Sangiovese. 

This variety of grapes and usage is one reason why Chianti can vary widely from producer to producer. The use of white grapes in the blend can alter the style of Chianti by softening the wines with a higher percentage of white grapes, typically indicating that the wine is meant to be drunk younger and not aged for long. 

Chianti Terroir

The terroir of the Classico zone varies throughout the region depending on the vineyards' altitude, soil type and distance from the Arno River. The soils of the northern communes, such as Greve, are richer in clay deposits while those in the southern communes, like Gaiole, are harder and stonier. Chianti is fairly mountainous with hills rising dramatically in certain communes. The altitude ranges from 260 metres at Vicchiomaggio to 450 metres in Fontodi.

Decoding Chianti (Stylistic differences between different regions of Chianti)

In general, Chianti Classico's are described as medium-bodied wines with firm, dry tannins. The characteristic aroma is cherry but it can also carry nutty and floral notes as well.

The Chianti Superiore designation refers to wines produced in the provinces of Florence and Siena but not in the Classico zone. 

If the wine label reads just Chianti then it is a blend of grapes from vineyards within the larger area than Classico. This area is divided into seven sub-zones and if the grapes are grown and made in one of these then the name can be added to the label.

The wines made in Colline Pisani (hilly area around Pisa), Colli Aretini (hills around Arezzo), Colli Senesi, Colli Florentini, Chianti Montalbano and Chianti Montespertoli tend to be lighter in style than Chianti Classico.

Chianti Rufina is north east of Florence is the smallest but probably the most famous sub region outside the Classico area. The wines combine the elegance of Radda in Chianti Classico with the intense, concentrated style of the lower part of Greve. 

The wines produced in Radda, Gaiole, Castellina and Castelnuovo Berardenga are robust and muscular in stye with very good ageing potential. The red wine from Radda is very perfumed and Gaiole Chianti is seen as the region's most elegant wine. 

Chianti Style Guide

In Chianti Classico different styles of wine can be made:

  • Annata
  • Riserva
  • Gran Riserva
  • Gran selezione

Annata is the early release wine, one year after harvest and arguably the estate's most important wine and usually typifies the quality of the producer. Within this category there are oaked and unoaked varieties with no legal need to barrel age. The best Annata wines are medium bodied, have good fruit structure, refreshing acidity and go very well with meats in particular.

Riserva wines age for a minimum of 2 years and are usually more concentrated, complex and are better suited for cellaring than Annata's and benefit from at least 5 years additional ageing. They are considerably more expensive on average than the former category and tend to have pronounced tannins, with robust & concentrated fruits similar in style to right bank Bordeaux's. 

Gran Selezione is the newest classification and the new top category of wine, introduced in 2014. There is a requirement for a minimum 80% Sangiovese and the grapes must be grown only in the winery estate itself and must be from its top selection or a single vineyard. It must also have the capacity to age at least 30 months before it is released. 

Chianti vintages

  • 2014 - The summer was cooler and wetter than usual, meaning low volumes and few wines of outstanding quality.
  • 2013 - Rainy start to the growing season and a relatively cool summer but September rescued the vintage with near perfect weather. Balanced and fragrant. An unusually slow ripening period thanks to cool spring conditions and below-average August temperatures.
  • 2012 - A tricky year for Chianti growers with plenty of cool weather. Annatas after three years are fresh, riservas should start opening from 2017 with a long lifespan in the cellar expected.
  • 2011 - Another challenging year for producers with an early harvest on the whole. Aromas and flavours are ripe, drinking well in 2015 and riservas are approachable in style and enjoyable. Not the most sophisticated vintage
  • 2010 - Wines have higher acidity, complex aromas and smooth tannins because of difficult maturation. Cellar until 2018-2020.
  • 2009 -  A very good vintage, almost comparable to 2004, with a long, hot, rain free summer and cool nights and rain in September. Record rainfall at winter followed by lots of heat in the summer, with cool nights to retain aromatic qualities. Some producers suffered dehydration due to the heat but on the whole quality was excellent. . Excellent balance, purity from the top producers. 
  • 2008 - The grapes were picked late meaning that the wines are very aromatic and despite changeable weather the style for this year is even and rounded. Riservas are structured, sturdy and complex. An impressive vintage. 
  • 2007 -  Very good vintage with good acidity, high alcohol and smooth tannins with consistent ripening. Riservas will age well into the 2020's. 
  • 2006 - A fine vintage with near perfect grape growing conditions with very balanced wines. Perfect to open in 2016

Recommended Chianti Wines

If you're feeling wealthy some Gran Selezione's worth considering are:

  • Rocca di Montegrossi, San Marcellino, Gran Selezione, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2010
  • Il Molino di Grace, Il Margone, Gran Selezione, Greve, Chianti Classico 2011
  • Castello di Monsanto, Il Poggio, Gran Selezione, Barberino Val d'Elsa, Chianti Classico 2010


  • Poggiotondo, Vigna delle Conchiglie, Riserva, Chianti, 2009
  • Casal Reserva, Chianti 2005
  • Querciabella, Riserva, Greve, Chianti Classico 2011
  • Selvapiana, Bucerchiale, Riserva, Rufina, Chianti 2013
  • Bibbiano, Montornello, Riserva Castellina, Chianti Classico 2012
  • La Porta di Vertine, Riserva, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2010
  • Castell di Volpaia, Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 and Coltassala, Chianti Classico Riserva 2010


  • Castell'in Villa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico 2010
  • Castello di Ama, Vigneto Bellavista Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2011
  • Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2012
  • Riecine, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2012
  • Poggerino, Radda, Chianti Classico 2012
  • Castello Vicchiomaggio, Greve, Chianti Classico 2013
  • Isole e Olena, Barberina Val d'Elsa, Chianti Classico 2012
  • La Porta di Vertine, Riserva, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2010
  • Riecene, Gaiole, Chianti Classico 2012

A guide to Chilean Wine

Background and history of Chilean wine

Chile's wine producing aspirations started in the mid-16th century with Catholic missionaries and European immigrants planting vineyards mainly for religious purposes. Cabernet Sauvignon began to be planted in the mid-19th century as well as Pinot Noir, Carmenère, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes. Most recently, Chile has began to produce notable wines using Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah as examples. The country's wines are often good value but quality varies tremendously and choosing carefully is key particularly for tricky grapes likes Pinot Noir. Chile is not the easiest place to plant vineyards because of its climate.

Cabernet Sauvignon based wines are made to a very high standard in areas such as Maipo near Santiago (particularly Macul, Pirque and Puente Alto), Colchagua, Maule and the area around the Andean foothills in the east of the country, where high altitudes moderate high daytime temperatures and the soils are reminiscent of the Médoc in Bordeaux.

Chilean Syrah has a distinctive taste profile depending on where it is grown, the regional diversity is in fact quite striking. Limari Syrah produces generous wines with blackberry, blue berry and floral notes with smoothness. The Elqui Valley produces syrah with a Northern Rhone likle quality with peppery as well as fruity notes. Coastal producers from the likes of Casablanca, with the big fruit and herbs to Maipo's firm structure to Rapel's lush features.

Chilean wine regions

Coquimbo Regions

  • Elqui Valley
  • Limarí Valley
  • Choapa Valley

Aconcagua Regions

  • Aconcagua Valley
  • Casablanca Valley
  • San Antonio Valley

Central Valley Regions

  • Maipo Valley
  • Cachapoal Valley
  • Curicó Valley
  • Maule Valley

Southern Regions

  • Itata Valley
  • Bío-Bío Valley
  • Malleco Valley

Denomination of Origin: Elqui Valley

Region: CoquimboSub-Region: Elqui

Complementary Area: Andes

Currently Chile’s northernmost commercially viable wine-producing valley, located 530 km (330 mi) north of Santiago at the southern edge of the Atacama Desert with vineyards up to 2000 metres above sea level. The area has a desert-like climate with < 70 mm (2.8 in) of rain per year. Dry, rocky terrain in steep valleys is cooled by strong winds from the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains.

Soils: clay, silt, and chalk.

Known for : cool-climate Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

Denomination of Origin: Limarí Valley

Region: Coquimbo  Sub-Region: Limarí

Complementary Areas: Costa, Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

Located 470 km (290 mi) north of Santiago with the Pacific Ocean’s cooling Camanchaca fog coming into the valley from the west each morning and retreats as the sun rises over the Andes in the afternoon. With less than 4 inches of rainfall per year, drip irrigation is used. Desert-like climate: 95 mm (4 in) of rain per year. Semi-arid region with cool coastal influences and good minerality in the soil.

Soils: clay, silt, and chalk.

Known for: cool-climate Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh wines with a distinct mineral edge.

Denomination of Origin: Choapa

Region: Coquimbo  Sub-Region: Choapa

Complementary Area: Andes

Located 400 km (250 mi) north of Santiago at Chile’s narrowest point, where there is no distinction between the Andes and the Coastal Mountains. This small valley consists of two areas, Illapel and Salamanca. Neither have wineries in place as yet, but vineyards planted on rocky piedmont soils are producing limited quantities of high quality Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with high acidity and low pH. Desert-like climate. 100 mm (4.5 in) of rain per year. High luminosity.

Soils: clay, silt, and chalk.

Known for: Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Denomination of Origin: Aconcagua

Region: Aconcagua  Sub-Region: Aconcagua

Complementary Area: Entre Cordilleras

Located 65 km (40 mi) north of Santiago. At 22,828 feet (6,956 meters), Mt. Aconcagua, is the highest mountain in the Americas. Red grapes have long grown in the interior, but new coastal plantations are proving the valley’s potential for white wines as well. Mediterranean climate: 215 mm (8.5 in) of rain per year.

Soils: clay and sandy to the east; granite and clay to the west.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenere, and coastal Sauvignon Blanc.

Denomination of Origin: CASABLANCA

Region: Aconcagua  Sub-Region: Casablanca

Complementary Area: Costa

Located 75 km (47 mi) northwest of Santiago, the Casablanca Valley was first planted to vine in the mid-1980's and became Chile’s first cool-climate coastal region. Cool Mediterranean climate with pronounced maritime influence. 540 mm (21.2 in) of rain per year.

Soils: clay and sandy soils.

Known for: Proximity to the ocean creates cool foggy mornings ideal for top quality Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Denomination of Origin: San Antonio

Region: AconcaguaSub-Region: San AntonioIncludes zone: Leyda

Complementary Area: Costa

Located 100 km (62 mi) west of Santiago, very close to the sea, south of Casablanca. This is a relatively new wine region with vines as close as 2.5 miles (4 km) from the sea. San Antonio is a sub-region of the Aconcagua Valley and is divided into four sectors: Leyda, Lo Abarca, Rosario, and Malvilla. Cool climate strongly influenced by the ocean encourages slow-ripening. 350 mm (13.8 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Primarily granite and clay on rolling hills produce grapes with great acidity and minerality.

Known for: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

Denomination of Origin: Maipo

Region: Central ValleySub-Region: Maipo

Complementary Areas: Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

The closest wine region to the city of Santiago with vineyards stretching eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast to form three distinct sectors of the Maipo Valley best known for its well-balanced red wines. Alto Maipo reaches into the foothills and produces some of Chile’s leading Cabernets. Central Maipo is one of the country’s oldest and most diverse productive regions, and Coastal Maipo—a relative newcomer—benefits from the cool maritime influence between the Coastal Mountains.

Alto Maipo

Rising into the Andean foothills, the Alto Maipo section ranges from roughly 1,300 to 2,600 feet (400 to 800 meters) above sea level and is highly influenced by the mountains themselves. The rising sun must scale the Argentine side of the peaks before first morning light reaches the vines on its western—Chilean—slopes. The afternoon sun and the cool mountains breezes  at night create a oscillation between daytime and night-time temperatures.

Central Maipo

The rocky alluvial soils that border the course of the Maipo River along its way from the Andes to the coast, red varietals grow well in this warm-but-not-hot region that spreads out due south of Santiago. It sees less rainfall than its higher altitude neighbor to the west.

Pacific Maipo

The relatively few vineyards found in the vicinity of the Maipo River as it approaches the Coastal Range, southwest of Santiago, tend to be tucked up against some of the smaller, low-lying hills that rise between the Andes and the Coastal Range. This protects them from a more direct maritime influence. This area is separated from the San Antonio Region to the west by the political (rather than geographical) border that divides the Metropolitan Region from the country’s V Region of Valparaíso.

Mediterranean climate. 315 mm (12.4 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Sandy and gravel to the east, more clay to the west.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Syrah.

Denomination of Origin: Cachapoal

Region: Central Valley  Sub-Region: Rapel Zone: Cachapoal

Complementary Areas: Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

Located 85 km (53 mi) south of Santiago, the Rapel Valley is Chile’s agricultural heartland and further divided into two winegrowing sectors. Cachapoal, the northernmost, is known primarily for red grapes. Cachapoal Alto stretches eastward into the Andean foothills and produces elegant, well-balanced Cabernets and red blends. Farther west toward the Coastal Mountains, the Peumo sector receives just enough cool maritime influence to create a warm, but not hot climate ideal for the area’s renowned, full-bodied, fruit-forward Carmenere. Mediterranean climate. 340 mm (13.4 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Gravel and sandy soils to the east. Clay to the west.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Carmenere.

Denomination of Origin: Curicó

Region: Central Valley  Sub-Region: Curicó Includes zones: Teno, Lontué

Complementary Areas: Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

Located 200 kms south of Santiago. Diversity is king in Curicó, where more than 30 varieties of wine grapes have grown since the mid-1800s, and winegrowing is its primary industry. Curicó’s modern winemaking history began when Spanish producer Miguel Torres began his first New World endeavor here in the 1970's. Shielded from the ocean influence by a coastal range of hills. Mediterranean climate. 650mm/27.4 in of rain per year.

Soils: clay, sand, decomposed granite.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc.

Denomination of Origin: Maule

Region: Central ValleySub-Region: Maule Includes Zones: Claro, Loncomilla, Tutuvén

Complementary Areas: Entre Cordilleras, Andes

Located 250 km (155 mi) south of Santiago, is the largest and one of the oldest wine producing areas of Chile. Old-bush, dry-farmed vineyards are now producing exciting, naturally balanced field blends of Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and other yet to be identified varieties. Newer plantations include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenere with bright acidity and juicy fruit. Mediterranean climate. 735 mm (28.9 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Alluvial soils, clay and sand.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, and old-vine Carignan.

Denomination of Origin: Itata

Region: Southern RegionsSub-Region: Itata

Complementary Areas: Costa, Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

The northernmost sector of the 3-valley ‘Southern Region,’ it features some of the earliest vineyards in Chile. The area is located 400 km (250 mi) south of Santiago. Mediterranean climate. 1,100 mm (43.3 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Alluvial soils, clay and sand.

Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

Denomination of Origin: Bío Bío

Region: Southern RegionsSub-Region: Bío Bío

Complementary Areas: Entre-Cordilleras, Andes.

Located 500 km (310 mi) south of Santiago. Warm days and cold nights make for a long ripening season, but the Bio Bio’s higher rainfall, strong winds, and broader extremes make for more challenging conditions than those of Chile’s more northerly regions. Winegrowing here requires more patience, skill, and nerve than in other valleys. Moderate Mediterranean climate. 1,275 mm (50.2 in) of rain per year. Average rainfall is among highest of all Chilean wine valleys, although winds prevent humidity. Conditions similar to northern France.

Soils: Alluvial soils, clay and sand.

Known for: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Denomination of Origin: Malleco

Region: Southern RegionsSub-Region: Malleco

Complementary Areas: Entre-Cordilleras, Andes

Located 640 km (400 mi) south of Santiago, Malleco is currently Chile’s southernmost appellation, although experimental vineyards have been planted much further south in Osorno. The area has proven exceptional for Chardonnay and experimentation with Pinot Noir proves promising, although high rainfall and a shorter growing season make the area risky for most other varieties. Modified Mediterranean climate. 1300 mm (51.2 in) of rain per year.

Soils: Alluvial soils, clay and sand.

Known for: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Chilean Vintage Report

The vintage report for Chile for the last few years shows the weather is a big factor for wine producers with problems such as frost and dehydration an ever present risk.

  • 2014 - Frost caused a lot of damage to Chilean wine growers with crops dropping by up to 70%, but what remained made very good quality wine. Wines in 2014 were complex and concentrated even if in low quantities. 
  • 2013 - The Carmenère grape benefitted from some cool weather is especially promising. Early ripeners such as Sauvignon Blanc were less good, with unripe characteristics.
  • 2012 - The La Niña weather system meant that grapes of excellent quality at harvest time with decent yields.
  • 2011 - Another cool year, with many whites showing very low alcohol levels. Careful selection can find balanced wines similar in style to 2010. 
  • 2010 - The year of the Chilean earthquake but with a late harvest it allowed wine makers to recover. A coolish year, best suited to varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
  • 2009 - Warmer weather meant that Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay flourished but some red varieties suffered from dehydration, particularly Merlot, causing high alcohol levels to excessive levels in some cases. 
  • 2008 - A very cold and long winter, caused plenty of frost damage then a hot summer followed with little rain and drought conditions.. Lack of water and too much heat caused dehydration especially in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • 2007 - A slightly lower yield harvest with Whites having good natural balance and Reds were lighter in alcohol than average, with high acidity giving a particularly fresh style. 

Recommended Chilean wines

Seña Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. Valle de Aconcagua (Biodynamic vineyards)

Seña is an iconic Chilean wine and as a result pretty expensive. In 1995 Eduardo Chadwick pioneered a joint venture with Robert Mondavi to create a world-class Chilean wine. Chadwick searched alongside Mondavi for four long years before finding the ideal terroir in Chile’s Valle de Aconcagua. A world class wine indeed for special occasions!

Falernia Syrah Reserva, Elqui Valley, 2011

Falernia Syrah Reserva, Elqui Valley, 2011

See the review of the wine at http://fermented-grape.com/wines-i-am-drinking/2015/9/4/via-falernia-syrah-reserva-2010-elqui-valley-chile

This is a big syrah with lots of fruit, pepper and floral notes. Very rich and spicy with a hint of mint and dark chocolate.

Ventisquero, Kalfu Sumpai Syrah 2013, Leyda San Antonio

Ventisquero, Kalfu Sumpai Syrah 2013, Leyda San Antonio

Herby and fruity notes dominate with hints of chocolate. Fresh and easy drinking.

Matetic, EQ Syrah 2011, Rosario, San Antonio (Biodynamic)

matetic syrah san antonio

A biodynamic wine from San Antonio with a rich, fleshy and elegant palate. Dark red and rich with big fruit and pepper with a juicy finish. Recommended.

Casas del Bosque, Pequenas Producciones Syrah 2013, Casablanca

Casas del Bosque, Pequenas Producciones Syrah 2013, Casablanca

Rich, fruity and smoky with great savoury notes.

San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Syrah 2011, Elqui

San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Syrah 2011, Elqui

A big Syrah in the style of a Côte-Rôtie from France's Rhône Valley.  Plenty of fruit, spice, pepper and savoury notes. One to be enjoyed with food.

Tamaya Riserva Syrah 2013, Limari

Tamaya Riserva Syrah 2013, Limari

Since Limari is 470 km north of Santiago it is a semi-arid region with the benefit of the  cooling Camanchaca fog coming into the valley with cool coastal influences it means the style of the wines is very different to Southern Chilean wines (Northern California style climate but drier).

This Tamaya is not expensive but has very interesting savoury, floral and chewy profile with rich fruits and a smooth palate. 

Casa Marin Miramar Syrah 2013, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley

casa marin miramar syrah

I am a big fan of Casa Marín (excellent Sauvignon Blanc), which is a boutique cool climate winery located in Lo Abarca – part of the San Antonio Valley – just 4 km from the Pacific coast. 

The full bodied wine's cool climate characteristics express themselves with a rich acidity, yet balanced by fruit and fine tannins. Quite expensive but worth the premium.

Clos des Fous, Pucalán Arenaria Pinot Noir 2012, Aconcagua Costa

Clos des Fous, Pucalán Arenaria Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Costa, 2012

Clos des Fous (translated from French as an enclosure of the insane) is the creation of four friends who, fed up with criticism of Chilean wine as being boring and winemaker driven, decided to focus on making wines which would first and foremost express true terroir. The three key individuals are the highly respected Chilean terroir specialist, Pedro Parra, winemaker François Massoc and viticulturalist Paco Leyton. 

The Clos des Fous, Pucalán Arenaria Pinot Noir is made from grapes from the 4ha Pucalán vineyard(first planted with Dijon clones in 2007) - a cool, coastal site just 7 km from the ocean on terracotta-coloured, hard-compacted sand.

Unoaked with Intense red fruit aromas with an earthy, mineral palate with the true nature of Pinot Noir displayed at its best in this early release

Vinedos Organicos Emiliana, Coyam, Central Valley (Biodyanmic)

Emiliana’s Organic wines are certified by IMO of Switzerland with their super premium Coyam's certified by the German company DEMETER, the only valid certifying body in the world for overseeing biodynamic agro-ecological products.

The 2011 vintage is a blend of 38% Syrah, 31% Carmenere, 19% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Mourvedre, 1% Malbec

Deep purple in the glass with berry and tobacco aromas with cherry and strawberry on the palate. Very elegant and a long finish. 

Santa Rita, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Maipo

The Santa Rita has a lovely label for a start, this is a well balanced Cabernet.

William Fèvre Espino Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Pirque, Maipo Valle

A strong nose of cherry and red currant with a smooth, herby palate. A fresh, drinkable style.  

Aquitania Sol de Sol Chardonnay 2010, Traiguen, Malleco

Malleco is 700km south of Santiago, is a cool climate area with plenty of rain. n Patricio Tapia’s wine guide, Descorchados 2014, this is rated the best Chardonnay in Chile.  Aquitania has a remarkable pedigree. In 1990 Bruno Prats of Cos d’Estournel and Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux, in partnership with Chilean oenologist Felipe de Solminihac, bought vineyards in the Quebrada de Macul, at the foot of the Andes on the eastern side of Santiago, and immediately began planting Bordeaux varieties. In 2003 they were joined by Ghislain de Montgolfier, then president of Bollinger, in 2003.

Deep fruit(apple, yellow plums) with hints of oak and savoury notes, mineral with a fresh acidity. Very long finish.


Antiyal  Maipo valley, Carmenere, merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah

Casa Lapostolle, Clos Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Apalta, Merlot, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon

Concha y Toro, Maipo Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 86%, Carmenere 14%

Domaine Paul Bruno, Vina Aquitania Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 90%, Merlot10% *** ££££

Matetic, EQ Pinot noir 2005, Aconcagua, San Antonio££ ***

Montes Folly Santa Cruz, Colchagua, Syrah Chiles first ultra premium Syrah*** ££££ 00, 01, 02, 03, 04

Vina Casablanca Neblus, Aconcagua, Casablanca valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, Carmenere *** ££

Vina Cousino Macul, Antiguas Reservas Cabernet  Sauvignon, Maipo valley ££ ***

Vina el Principal , Maipo valley ,  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc £ ***

Vina Haras de Pirque, Haras Character Syrah , 2004, Syrah 85%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15% £ ***

Vina Santa Rita, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo valley ££££ ***

A guide to Loire Valley wine

An overview of Loire Valley Wine


Loire valley wine regions

The Loire Valley wine region is split into several areas, each with its own characteristic grapes, appellations and styles

  • Pays Nantais
  • Anjou
  • Saumur
  • Touraine
  • Central-Loire

The Loire includes the wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. In between are the regions of Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray.

Loire valley wine in detail


The Pays Nantais, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, near the city of Nantes is best known for Muscadel produced from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. It is the largest white wine appellation in France.

Some  producers , Domaine de l'Ecu,  Vignerons du Pallet, Guilbaud Frères and Le Fief Guerin have started using using oak and dramatically reducing yields to increase complexity of Muscadet.

Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu is a more floral style of wine from the west of the region while Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire is lighter

Some recommended producers: Domaine de l’Écu, Pierre Luneau-Papin, the Vignerons du Pallet, Guilbaud Frères and Le Fief Guerin.


  • Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire
  • Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu
  • Muscadet Sevre et Maine
  • Coteaux d’Ancenis
  • Muscadet


Anjou, the name of the region around the city of Angers produces many of the Loire Valley’s best sweet wines Bonnezeaux, Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume, all made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It also produces the very sweet Rosé d'Anjou (excessively so in most cases), Savennières, a dry style Chenin Blanc, the red Anjou (made fromCabernet Franc ) as well as the off-dry Rosé d'Anjou.


  • Anjou
  • Anjou Coteaux de la Loire
  • Anjou Mousseux
  • Anjou Villages
  • Anjou Villages Brissac
  • Cabernet d’Anjou
  • Bonnezeaux
  • Coteaux de l'Aubance
  • Coteaux du Layon
  • Coteaux du Layon Villages
  • Coteaux du Loir
  • Crémant de Loire (Anjou)
  • Jasnières
  • Savennières
  • Sweet Wines of Anjou
  • Quarts de Chaume
  • Rosé d’Anjou
  • Rosé de Loire


Saumur is a large area of sparking wine production and also Saumur-Champigny, one of the Loire Valley's best known Cabernet Franc based red wines.


  • Cabernet de Saumur
  • Coteaux de Saumur
  • Saumur
  • Saumur Blanc
  • Saumur Brut
  • Samur Brut Rose
  • Saumur-Champigny
  • Crémant de Loire (Saumur)


Touraine includes many famous appellations, including  Vouvray, made from Chenin Blanc and Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgeuil, made from Cabernet Franc. The Touraine appellation also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Malbec (locally known as côt) based wines.

White versions in the area can be made from any or all of four grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc is the most common), Reds and rosés may be a blend of Gamay (the most common), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt (Malbec), Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and two local vine varieties Pineau d'Aunis and Grolleau. There is also Touraine Primeur which can be compared to Beaujolais Nouveau.

The districts of Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau and Mesland amongst others are allowed to name their wines under the Touraine appellation and there is Cheverny and Valençay, two small areas which are seperate to the appellation Touraine, with the former producing good Sauvignon Blanc based wines.

Some recommended producers: Philippe Alliet, Yannick Amirault, Bernard Baudry, Pierre-Jacques Druet, Charles Joguet, Henry Marionnet, Olga and Jean-Maurice Raffault.

Vouvray wines are labelled sec (dry), sec tendre (off dry) and demi-sec (medium dry). Quality-conscious producers include Jacky Blot at Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Domaine Delétang, Foreau of Clos Naudin, Fouquet of Domaine des Aubuisières and Domaine Huet of Le Haut Lieu in Vouvray.


  • Bourgueil
  • Chinon
  • Crémant de Loire (Touraine)
  • Montlouis-sur-Loire
  • St Nicolas de Bourgueil
  • Touraine
  • Touraine Cot
  • Touraine Amboise
  • Touraine Azay-le Rideau
  • Touraine Mesland
  • Touraine Mousseux
  • Touraine Noble Joué
  • Vouvray


Central-Loire is the original home of Sauvignon Blanc and of Sancerre as well as Pouilly-Fumé, Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Reuilly. The region also produces reds and rosé from Pinot Noirin Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, and Chateaumeillant.


  • Menetou-Salon
  • Pouilly-Fumé
  • Quincy
  • Reuilly
  • Sancerre
  • Chateaumeillant
  • Coteaux du Giennois

Loire valley grapes and wine styles

The Loire region is dominated by four major grape varieties—Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc.

There is no such thing as a heavy or high alcohol Loire wine, so the region's wines are very different to say the Rhône valley or Languedoc-Roussillon which often have more of a robust style.

Whilst the majority of production in the Loire is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes, there are red wines made (especially around the Chinon region) from Cabernet franc. In addition rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced. With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after the Champagne region.

Because the region is relatively Northerly the grapes sometimes struggle to ripen, particularly in poor summer so Loire wines have relatively high acidity.



The most famous area for Sauvignon blanc in Sancerre, the spiritual homeland of the grape, but across the river is Pouilly-Fumé, whose wines are also renowned and tend to be richer in style due to the clay in the soil. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are relatively restrained, most being matured in oak, compared to say new Zealand varieties which are more likely to be produced in stainless steel barrels (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc typically showing tropical fruit notes and aromas whilst Loire varieties which tend to be lighter in style, more mineral in tone with higher acidity).


Sancerre whites are known for their purity, exuberance and brightness, going well with food and also as an apéritif. The best Sancerre's and Pouilly-Fumé's have a good balance of minerality Fruit and acidity with the latter probably needing more ageing to bring out their best. The best examples are fresh with citrus and meadow aromas, a palate showing grapefruit and gooseberry with acidity and minerality in check but evident.

Sancerre's best communes include Bué, Ménétréol and Chavignol.

Recommended producers: Château de Tracy, Domaine Henri Bourgeois, Domaine Masson-Blondelet, Domaine Michel Redde, Domaine Vacheron, Henri Bourgeois, François Cotat, Lucien Crochet, Gitton, Joseph Mellot, Henry Pellé, Vincent Pinard.

Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou-Salon are districts to the west of Sancerre with a similar style to both Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé but arguably of consistantly higher quality and lower prices.

Recommended producers: Claude Lafond, Jean-Michel Sorbe, Pierre Clément, Gérard Boulay, Henri Bourgeois, François Cotat, Lucien Crochet, Domaine Didier Dagueneau, Gitton, Alphonse Mellot, Henry Pellé, Vincent Pinard, Château de Tracy, Domaine Vacheron.


The Loire Valley's Chenin Blanc wines are well known and respected but show significant differences in style depending on the characteristics of the vintage.


Vouvray, in the central part of Touraine and Anjou, to the west are the two key regions for Chenin Blanc production in addition to Coteaux du Layon, Saumur and Savennières. 

Dessert wines and demi-sec or medium-sweet come from the Coteaux du Layon appellation with noble rot (botrytis) based wines come from Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume in Coteaux du Layon.

Appellations as Coteaux de l'Aubance, Coteaux du Layon and, especially, the particularly well-favoured enclaves Chaume, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux within it, can produce great sweet white wines. Some ultra-sweet Sélection de Grains Nobles wines are also made.

Savennières is Anjou's small but famous dry white Chenin Blanc appellation. Nicolas Joly at Coulée de Serrant is one of France's biggest promoters of biodynamism and the appellation's best-known producer. 

Some favourite producers: Domaine de Bablut, Domaine des Baumard, Pascal Cailleau, Château de Chamboureau, Philippe Delesvaux, Château de Fesles, Domaine des Forges, Christian Papin at Domaine de Haute Perche, Claude Papin at Château Pierre-Bise and Vincent Ogereau.


The dry wines of the Savennières area producers wine which are arguably the purest expression of Chenin Blanc having in general very high minerality and initial austerity needing cellaring to bring out the best. It has three appellations—Savennières, Savennières Roches-aux-Moines, and Coulée de Serrant on the north bank of the Loire.

In Saumur, the same méthode traditionelle as Champagne is used for making its Saumur and Crémant de Loire. The method may be the same but Chenin Blanc grapes which dominate Crémant de Loire has a very different profile to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used in Champagne. Bouvet-Ladubay (Taittinger), Gratien & Meyer (Alfred Gratien) and Langlois-Château (Bollinger) are notable Crémant producers.

Saumur is also known for  the red wine Saumur-Champigny, using Cabernet Franc,  a fragrant, smooth wine. Filliatreau, Foucault Frères and Ch de Hureau are some of the better producers.


The Melon de Bourgogne grape, originally from Burgundy but no longer grown, dominates the Muscadet vineyards in the South and West of the Loire, producing crisp, fruity wines which are a perfect partner with sea food dishes due to their lemon and grapefruit flavours.  A richer style, occasionally aged in oak, with spicy vanilla characteristics is also produced which is suitable for cellaring.The best wines are described as having “steely minerality and freshness, concentration without being heavy and having too much ripe fruit".

muscadet sevre et maine

Recommended appellations include Muscadet, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu.

The most commonly known Muscadet's comes from the region of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine with the wines bottled sur lie being kept on its lees (the yeast cells left after fermentation) producing a light tingling on the tongue with added crispness.

Recommended  producers:  Domaine de l’Ecu, Domaine Gadais Père et Fils, Domaine Landron, Domaine Luneau-Papin, Sauvion.



The medieval town of Chinon, south of Tours, is the centre of the Loire's Cabernet Franc production with vineyards planted on the slopes above the river Vienne making a unique micro climate. To the north, the vineyards border Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, to the west, they border Saumur-Champigny. 

Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than the related grape Cabernet Sauvignon which is useful since the Loire is cooler than say Bordeaux meaning that the harvest can ripen sufficiently.

The wines have strong aromas  of spice and violets with raspberry and black currant fruit with firm (silky) tannins.

There are four appellations producing Cabernet Franc in the Loire 

  • Saumur-Champigny  - a lighter style with berry and blackcurrant dominating the palate.
  • Bourgueil - Produces wines very similar in style to Saint-Nicolas-de- Bourgueil with plenty of tannins and so requires ageing to bring out their best but the best have spicy and berry notes
  • Saint-Nicolas-de- Bourgueil- the smallest of the four appellations
  • Chinon - the largest of the appellations. Chinon’s wines whilst having high tannins and acidity have a distinctive smoothness.

Notable Chinon producers:

Couly-Dutheil and Domaine Charles Joguet particularly recommended.

  • Philippe Alliet                  
  • Bernard Baudry                                    
  • Château de Coulaine                              
  • Couly-Dutheil (for specific cuvées only)
  • Domaine Charles Joguet (for specific cuvées only)
  • Domaine de Noiré                            
  • Philippe Pichard, Domaine de la Chapelle    
  • Wilfred Rousse                                     
  • Domaine de la Semellerie                       
  • Bruno Sourdais
  • Domaine des Roches Neuves
  • Domaine Yannick Amirault.

Plus also (second tier):

  • Vincent Bellivier                                   
  • Pierre & Bertrand Couly                          
  • Domaine Dozon                                    
  • Fabrice Gasnier                                   
  • Nicolas Grosbois                                    
  • Alain & Jérôme Lenoir, Caves Les Roches  
  • Domaine de la Noblaie                           
  • Domaine Des Pallus                              
  • Domaine de la Roche-Honneur              
  • Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault              
  • Pierre Sourdais        

Loire Valley Vintages

  • 2014 - A good year though low yields, particularly for the Cabernet Franc based reds. Some excellent whites made from Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
  • 2013 - Vines in Vouvray and Montlouis were destroyed by hail in June. Apart from the troubles in this area, it was a good vintage with good acidity for white wines. However low temperatures in August and September meant many reds were left a little lean/green.
  • 2012 - A great year for Muscadet and good for Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. A poor start to year meant delayed flowering for Cabernet Franc and growers left the vines for longer to ripen the fruit but rains late in the year affected quality. 
  • 2011 - A bad year on the whole with Muscadet and Touraine suffering rot and fungus. Chenin Blanc based wines had a much better year, with Anjou and Coteaux du Layon producing decent wines.
  • 2010 - A good year for Muscadet and excellent for Sauvignon Blanc based wines. Rain in September caused some rot in the Cabernet Franc based reds but a good end to the month allowed the grapes to ripen fully., Chenin Blancs were best in Cotreux du Layon.
  • 2009 - A great vintage with super quality Muscadet and Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. Yields were slightly reduced in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé due to hail in Quincy, Reuilly and Coteaux du Giennois. Cabernet Franc reds were fully ripe and good quality.

A guide to South African Wine

About South African Wine

South Africa is the world’s seventh largest wine producer with Chenin Blanc being the most widely planted grape but with significant Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc cultivation. The country also has its own grape variety, Pinotage. This was created by Professor Perold in 1925 at Stellenbosch University, crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault, in an attempt to create a hardier Pinot variety.

The country’s vineyards are mainly situated in the Western Cape near the coast in the area around Cape Town. Vineyards are often influenced by their geographical proximity to the Atlantic or Indian Oceans with Cape Point,  Constantia, Durbanville, Elgin, Elim and Walker Bay having a maritime climate. Alternatively cooler climate wines can be produced at higher altitudes in parts of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Cederberg. Hotter climates and therefore different wine styles exist in Wellington, Paarl, Worcester, Tulbagh and Swartland and lower altitude parts of Stellenbosch.

Production areas in the Cape area is divided into regions, districts and wards. There are six main regions in the geographical unit of the Western Cape – Breede River Valley, Cape South Coast, Coastal Region, Klein Karoo, Olifants River and Boberg . Another four geographical units exist: KwaZulu-Natal; Northern Cape (which includes the production areas Hartswater, Douglas, Central Orange River and Rietrivier FS); Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Wine production areas of South Africa


The Bot River ward is the gateway to Walker Bay and encompasses the Bot River village and valley, stretching from the Bot River lagoon up into the foothills of the Groenlandberg and Babylonstoren mountain ranges, and bordering the Kogelberg Biosphere. The area is renowned for its cool maritime microclimate, which is influenced by its proximity to the lagoon and Walker Bay – cooling afternoon winds blow up the valley off the sea. Soils are mainly homogenous Bokkeveld shale (predominantly Glen Rosa and Klapmuts) and Table Mountain sandstone. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz and other Rhône varietals fare particularly well here. 


The Breedekloof district is characterised by vineyards which flourish on alluvial valley soils with adequate drainage as they rest on a bed of river stones. It covers a large proportion of the Breede River Valley and its tributaries. There are marked variations between the soils and mesoclimates in the different river valleys. This district incorporates the Goudini and Slanghoek wards. 


Most of these maritime vineyards are situated in the ward of Elim near Africa's southernmost point, Cape Agulhas. The entire picturesque village of Elim, a Moravian mission settlement founded in 1824, is a national monument. Strong, cooling winds are prevalent in summer, ensuring a very cool ripening season, perfect for Sauvignon Blanc and also promising for Semillon and Shiraz. 


These maritime vineyards, some of them a mere kilometre from the sea, are situated on the western fringe of the narrow Cape Peninsula. This cool-climate district is recognised for its Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. 


On the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range and its world-renowned floral kingdom lies the historic Constantia valley, the cradle of winemaking in the Cape. The valley was the site of Simon van der Stel's 17th-century wine farm and the origin of the Constantia dessert wines which became famous throughout Europe during the 18th century. Rooted in ancient soils, the vineyards climb up the east-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg, where the vines benefit from the cool sea breezes blowing in from False Bay. The ward receives about 1 000mm of rain annually, making irrigation unnecessary, and has a mean February temperature of 20.6°C.


The Darling district incorporates the Groenekloof ward, which benefits from being one of the closest to the cooling Atlantic and is known forf its Sauvignon Blanc, the variety which initially spearheaded the viticultural progress of this area. 


The vineyards of Durbanville, like those of Constantia, lie very close to Cape Town and border on the northern suburbs. Several estates and wineries, situated mainly on the rolling hill slopes with their various aspects and altitudes, continue to make a wide variety of wine styles. Some of the vineyards grow at altitudes as high as 380 metres above sea level. Wines from this ward attracting attention are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep soils, cooling sea breezes, night-time mists and close proximity to the ocean are a feature of this area.


Only an hour east of Cape Town, the high-lying cool-climate Elgin district, cradled in the ancient sandstone Hottentots Holland mountains, was traditionally an apple-growing region. Now award-winning wine showing exceptional fruit and elegance are produced here, with Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz doing particularly well in this later-ripening, cooler terroir.


The district of Franschhoek, the 'gourmet capital' of the Cape as a result of its French Huguenot influence. The Franschhoek valley lies to the southeast of Paarl and is enclosed on three sides by mountains: the Groot Drakenstein and Franschhoek mountains which meet at the top of the valley and the Klein Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountains, found further down towards Paarl. 


This semi-arid, elongated region stretches from Montagu, via higher-lying Barrydale towards Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and the Langkloof. It's known for relative extremes when it comes to soils and climate. Viticulture takes place mainly in kloofs, valleys and riverine sites in a rugged mountainous landscape. Muscat varieties flourish here and the area is known for its sweet wines. 


This geographical unit stretches from Greytown to Oribi Flats and the Midlands, where altitudes are up to 1 500 metres, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.


The most northerly winegrowing area in the Cape, it's also the fourth largest, totalling in excess of 17 000 hectares, which stretch in close proximity to the Orange River. Predominantly a white grape area, reds are being increasingly planted. The wine grape varieties grown here are Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Muscadel (both red and white) and Muscat d'Alexandrie.


This region stretches in a belt from north to south along the broad valley of the Olifants River. The summers in this valley range from relatively warm to cool compared with some of South Africa's other wine areas and rainfall is low. Soils vary from sandy to red clay loams. With careful canopy management, which ensures grapes are shaded by the vines' leaves, combined with modern winemaking techniques, the Olifants River is proving to be a source of quality, affordable wines. The region incorporates the wards of Koekenaap, Vredendal and Spruitdrift as well as Bamboes Bay on the West Coast, which is becoming known for its Sauvignon Blanc.

The predominantly citrus-producing Citrusdal valley lies in the southern reaches of the Olifants River valley. The soils are mainly sandy alluvial soils from the surrounding Table Mountain sandstone mountains in the southern part of the valley up until Clanwilliam. Irrigation is obtained from the Clanwilliam dam where the water is of an excellent quality. The area incorporates the higher-lying ward of Piekenierskloof.


Newer viticultural areas have opened up in the southerly Overberg district, with award-winning wines emerging from the Klein River ward near Stanford.


The Paarl wine district lies to the north of Stellenbosch, and is bordered by the town of Wellington to the north-east, and the mountains of the Groot and Klein Drakenstein and Franschhoek ranges to the south-east. The Berg River, flanked by the majestic Groot Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountains, runs through Paarl and is the life-giving artery of this wine-producing area. The valley land requires supplementary irrigation in the hot growing season before the harvest, but vineyards on the eastern slopes, having better water retention, frequently need none at all.

A large variety of grapes are grown in Paarl, of which Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc have the best potential. The Paarl district includes the wards of Simonsberg-Paarl, on the prime foothills of the Simonsberg, and Voor Paardeberg.


A newer ward north of Durbanville, Philadelphia also benefits from cooling Atlantic influences. The hilly terrain of this area means some of the vineyards are higher than usual, up to 260m above sea level. This facilitates a significant difference in day-night temperature and results in slower ripening. 


The cool coastal climate – vineyards are some three kilometres from the sea – and high carbon content of the soils are proving ideal for Sauvignon Blanc.


Dubbed the 'valley of vines and roses', the Robertson district's lime-rich soils make the area eminently suitable for racehorse stud farming and also, of course, winegrowing. Situated in the Breede River valley, the river is the lifeblood of this lower rainfall region. Although summer temperatures can be high, cooling south-easterly winds channel moisture-laden air into the valley.

Robertson is renowned for the quality of its wines and while traditionally considered white wine territory and known mainly for its Chardonnays and more recently for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, it is also the source of some of the Cape's finest red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the distinctive fortified dessert wines for which it was originally famed continue to be produced. The district of Robertson incorporates several wards, including Bonnievale.


The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terroirs make this a sought-after viticultural area. The area is known for the quality of its blended reds.

 The intensively farmed Stellenbosch district has been divided up into several smaller viticultural pockets including Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch.


Traditionally a grain-producing area, in summer the Swartland district is marked by green pockets of vineyards clambering up the foothills of the mountains (Piketberg, Porterville, Riebeek, Perdeberg) and along the banks of the Berg River. In the past, the region was planted mainly to bushvines but trellising is increasingly being adopted due to advances in management strategies and quality considerations.

The Swartland literally translated means ‘the black land’ and the area takes its name from the indigenous renosterbos (rhino bush) which still turns the landscape a dark colour at certain times of the year. The district was traditionally a source of robust, full-bodied red wines and high quality, fortified wines.


Surrounded on three sides by the Groot Winterhoek, Witsenberg and Obiekwaberg mountains, the vineyards of the Tulbagh district grow alongside orchards and fields of wheat. Soils in the valley are extremely variable. The area is characterised by extreme differences in day and night temperatures. Mountainous terrain creates numerous different mesoclimates which can be used to great advantage.

Unique to the valley's geographical composition is the 'cold trap', a phenomenon which occurs as a result of the encapsulating mountains, shaped like a horseshoe, with Tulbagh situated at the north of the 'bowl'. Within this bowl, once a prehistoric lake, the cold air of the previous night lies undisturbed. With no air movement from the sides, this cold bubble is trapped under the warming air above as the sun makes its way from east to west. The result is relatively cool average daily temperatures.


This district, surrounding the seaside town of Hermanus, is reputed for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines which emanate from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – this encompasses the wards of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Sunday’s Glen and Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (see separate entry for the Bot River ward). The area is also being noticed for the outstanding and consistent quality of its Pinotage. Fine examples of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz are also being produced here. The cool climate is the sought-after attribute in this area where vineyards benefit from persistent cooling winds from the nearby ocean. The soils – predominantly weathered shales – and terroir are also ideal for cool-climate loving varieties.


The Worcester district, in conjunction with the Breedekloof district, is the largest in terms of winegrowing area and volume, with the historical town of Worcester the hub of the valley. With around 19 560 ha planted, it accounts for nearly 20% of the national vineyards and produces close on 27% of South Africa's total volume of wine and spirits. It's also the most important brandy producing area and home to the KWV Brandy Cellar, the largest of its kind in the world. 


The area is 45 minutes from Cape Town, stretching over alluvial terraces towards the Swartland's rolling hills and wheat fields, while others are found in the foothills of the towering Hawequa mountains, where folds and valleys create unique mesoclimates. 

Recommended South African wines to try


The most elegant syrah based South African wines are from Constantia, Elgin, Cederberg, Malgas, Cape Agulhas. But there are some excellent examples from Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Paarl, Franschhoek, Wellington and Swartland though with a richer, fruitier style.

Waterkloof, Circumstance Syrah 2012, Stellenbosch

waterkloof circumstance

A cool site, biodynamic vineyard overlooking False bay. This is a single site, 100% whole bunches.

Mullineux Syrah 2013, Swartland


The entry point wine from the Mullineux winery, with four single vineyard releases.

Sijnn Syrah 2012, Malgas

Sijnn Syrah 2012

This cool climate wine produced by David Trafford comes from a remote vineyard near the Brede River.  

Saronsberg Shiraz 2013, Tulbagh

Saronsberg Shiraz 2013

Located at the base of the mountain after which it is named, Saronsberg wine was formed late in 2002 when Waveren and Welgegund – two farm portions of the historic Twee Jonge Gezellen were purchased and combined to create a unique location . 90% new oak and a bigger Shiraz style.

Eagle's Nest Shiraz 2012, Constantia

Eagle's Nest Shiraz 2012

Located at the top of the Constantia neck, in a white wine area and produced by Stuart Botha. Big, interesting and refreshing.

A guide to Rioja and Ribera del Duero (Spain) wines

Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world after France and Italy. Most of of the country's wine production is from grapes such as Tempranillo, Bobal, Albariño, Garnacha (Grenache), Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Cariñena and Monastrell (Mourvedre).

The most widely planted grape is the white wine grape Airén, prized for its hardiness and resistance to drop. It is found throughout central Spain and for many years served as the base for Spanish brandy. Wines made from this grape can be very alcoholic and prone to oxidation. The red wine grape Tempranillo is the second most widely planted grape variety, recently eclipsing Garnacha in plantings in 2004. It is known throughout Spain under a variety of synonyms that may appear on Spanish wine labels-including Cencibel, Tinto Fino and Ull de Llebre. Both Tempranillo and Garnacha are used to make the full-bodied red wines associated with the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Penedès with Garnacha being the main grape of the Priorat region. In the Levante region, Monastrell and Bobal have significant plantings, being used for both dark red wines and dry rosé.

In the northwest, the white wine varieties of Albariño and Verdejo are popular plantings in the Rías Baixas and Rueda respectively. In the Cava producing regions of Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, the principal grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo are used for sparkling wine production as well as still white wines. In the southern Sherry and Malaga producing regions of Andalucia, the principal grapes are Palomino and Pedro Ximénez. As the Spanish wine industry becomes more modern, there has been a larger presence of international grape varieties appearing in both blends and varietal forms-most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. Other Spanish grape varieties that have significant plantings include Cariñena, Godello, Graciano, Mencia, Loureira, and Treixadura.

Major Spanish wine regions include the Rioja and Ribera del Duero which is known for their Tempranillo production; Jerez, the home of the fortified wine Sherry; Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which includes the Cava and still wine producing regions of the Penedès as well the Priorat

Spanish wine laws created the Denominación de Origen (DO) system in 1932 and were later revised in 1970. As of 2009, there were 77 Quality Wine areas across Spain. In addition there is Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa or DOQ in Catalan) status for DOs that have a consistent track record for quality. The higher quality DOCa category has been awarded to Rioja (1991) and Priorat (2001). It requires lower yields and more rigorous selection of grapes.

Each DO has a Consejo Regulador, which acts as a governing control body that enforces the DO regulations and standards involving viticultural and winemaking practices. These regulations govern everything from the types of grapes that are permitted to be planted, the maximum yields that can be harvested, the minimum length of time that the wine must be aged and what type of information is required to appear on the wine label. Wineries that are seeking to have their wine sold under DO or DOC status must submit their wines to the Consejo Regulador laboratory and tasting panel for testing and evaluation. Wines that have been granted DO/DOC status will feature the regional stamp of the Consejo Regulador on the label.

The DO system is varied in its robustness, so the use of the term in itself has limited meaning and the name of the particular PO is considered much more important. 

Following Spain's acceptance into the EU,  a five-tier classification system was introduced that is administered by each autonomous region. Non-autonomous areas or wine regions whose boundaries overlap with other autonomous communities (such as Cava, Rioja and Jumilla) are administered by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen (INDO) based in Madrid. The five-tier classifications, are:

  • Vino de Mesa (VdM) - These are wines that are the equivalent of most country's table wines and are made from unclassified vineyards or grapes that have been declassified through "illegal" blending. Similar to the Italian Super Tuscans from the late 20th century, some Spanish winemakers will intentionally declassify their wines so that they have greater flexibility in blending and winemaking methods.
  • Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT) - This level is similar to France's vin de pays system, normally corresponding to the larger comunidad autonóma geographical regions and will appear on the label with these broader geographical designations like Andalucia, Castilla La Mancha and Levante.
  • Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada (VCPRD) - This level is similar to France's Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) system and is considered a stepping stone towards DO status.
  • Denominación de Origen (Denominació d'Origen in Catalan - DO)- This level is for the mainstream quality-wine regions which are regulated by the Consejo Regulador who is also responsible for marketing the wines of that DO.
  • Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa/DOQ - Denominació d'Origen Qualificada in Catalan)- This designation, which is similar to Italy's Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation, is for regions with a track record of consistent quality and is meant to be a step above DO level. Rioja was the first region afforded this designation in 1991 and was followed by Priorat in 2003, and Ribera del Duero in 2008.
  • Additionally there is the Denominación de Pago (DO de Pago) designation for individual single-estates with an international reputation.

Spanish wines are often labeled according to the amount of ageing the wine has received. When the label says vino joven ("young wine") or sin crianza, the wines will have undergone very little, if any, wood ageing. Depending on the producer, some of these wines will be meant to be consumed very young - often within a year of their release. Others will benefit from some time ageing in the bottle. For the vintage year (vendimia or cosecha) to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year's harvest. The three most common ageing designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.

Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.

Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years ageing, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak.

Ribera del Duero region



Ribera del Duero is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) located in the country's northern plateau and is one of eleven 'quality wine' regions within the autonomous community of Castile and León. The region is characterised by a largely flat, rocky terrain and is centred on the town of Aranda de Duero, although the most famous vineyards surround Peñafiel and Roa de Duero to the west, where the regional regulatory council or Consejo Regulador for the denominación is based. It is about a third of the size of the Rioja wine region. 

Ribera del Duero is home to the world-famous and highly-prized Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera wines and is dedicated almost entirely to the production of red wine from the Tempranillo grape.

The Denominación de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero was founded on July 21, 1982 by an organization of wine producers and growers who were determined to promote the quality of their wines and enforce regulatory standards

Wines produced in the Ribera del Duero DO derive almost exclusively from red grapes. The Albillo grape is the only white variety grown, white wines being mostly destined for local consumption. The vast majority of production is dedicated to Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo which is very popular in the northern half of the Spanish peninsula. The much smaller quantities of Garnacha (grenache wines) Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot are mostly grown to blend with the Fino, although the famous Tinto Pesquera, grown by Alejandro Fernández in Pesquera de Duero, is a 100% Tempranillo varietal wine. This was controversial to say the least, as the (possibly even more famous) Vega Sicilia wines traditionally followed the accepted blending with Merlot, Cabernet etc. popular in the neighbouring Rioja region.

The combination of higher elevations, cooler climate and higher variations in daytime temperatures can give Ribera wines more colour, body and structure than Rioja. 

The best wines from the region come from the so called "golden mile" between Tudela de Duero (West of Vega Sicilia), Pesquera and Peñafiel. Vega Sicilia, the star of Spanish wine, uses Tempranillo as the main part of the blend (80%), together with  cabernet sauvignon and some Malbec and Merlot. The wine has been called "Unico" with 6-7 years in oak, before bottling and with a 3 year wait for release. A second wine called Valbuena has Merlot not Cabernet Sauvignon in addition to the Tempranillo. Vega Sicilia was famous before the DO Ribera del Duero was created in 1982, but the winery decided to use the denomination. Other notable vineyards include Bodegas Pesquera with their top wine called Janus, a Gran Reserva and Abadia Retuerta which calls itself "El Pago de la Mille de Oro" (the vineyard of the golden mile). The Abadia vineyards are outside the DO Ribera del Duero as they are are in Sardon de Duero as so are labelled as Vino De la Tierra de Castilla y Leon. 




Rioja is a wine, with DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) status named after La Rioja, in Spain.Though production is regulated by the Consejo Regulador which includes producers and growers, it is skewed to large producers whose concerns are not primarily quality in some cases. The 300 votes on the Regulador are divided according to size of production and the older, quality focused producers, have fewer than 10 votes. 

Rioja is made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. 

Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single zone wines. Rioja is mainly associated with red wine, but around 6% of production is white, mostly from Viura with some Malvasia and white grenache. Fruitiness comes from Tempranillo dominated Rioja Alta; acidity comes from the more elevated Rioja Alavesa and colour/body come from Grenache dominated Rioja Baja.

Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro river, La Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region which has a moderating effect on the climate. They also protect the vineyards from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. The region is also home to the Oja river (Rio Oja), believed to have given the region its name. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level. The area is subdivided into three regions - Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. La Rioja Alavesa and la Rioja Alta, located closer to the mountains, are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. La Rioja Baja to the southeast is drier and warmer

The three principal regions of La Rioja are Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja with each area producing its own unique expression of Rioja wine.

Rioja Alta

Located on the western edge of the region and at higher elevations than the other areas, the Rioja Alta is known more for its "old world" style of wine. A higher elevation equates to a shorter growing season, which in turn produces unripe fruit flavors and a wine that is lighter on the palate.

Rioja Alavesa

Despite sharing a similar climate as the Alta region, the Rioja Alavesa produces wines with a fuller body and higher acidity. Vineyards in the area have a low vine density with large spacing between rows. This is due to the relatively poor conditions of the soil with the vines needing more distance from each other and less competition for the nutrients in the surrounding soil.

Rioja Baja

Unlike the more continental climate of the Alta and Alavesa, the Rioja Baja is strongly influenced by a Mediterranean climate which makes this area the warmest and driest of the Rioja. A number of the vineyards are actually located in nearby Navarra and the wine produced from those grapes belongs to the Rioja appellation. Unlike the typically pale colour Rioja wine, Baja wines are very deeply coloured and can be highly alcoholic with some wines at 18% alcohol by volume. The wines typically do not have much acidity or aroma and are generally used as blending components with wines from other parts of the Rioja.

Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).

Among the Tintos, the best-known and most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine with Tempranillo contributing the main flavors and aging potential to the wine; Garnacha adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavors and Graciano adding additional aromas. Some estates, Marques de Riscal most notably, have received special dispensation to include Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, due to historical inclusion of that grape in their wine that predates the formation of the Consejo Regulador.

With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (also known as Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. In the white wines the Viura contributes mild fruitness, acidity and some aroma to the blend with Garnacha Blanca adding body and Malvasía adding aroma. Rosados are mostly derived from Garnacha grapes. Some of the most sought after grapes come from the limestone/sandstone based "old vine" vineyards in the Alavesa and Alta regions. The 40 year plus old vines are prized due to their low yields and more concentrated flavors. A unique DO regulation stipulates that the cost of the grapes used to make Rioja must exceed by at least 200% the national average of wine grapes used in all Spanish wines.

A Tinto Rioja

A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. First introduced in the early 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers, the use of oak and the pronounced vanilla flavors in the wines has been a virtual trademark of the region though some modern winemakers are experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak. Originally French oak was used but as the cost of the barrels increased many bodegas began to buy American oak planks and fashion them into barrels at Spanish cooperages in a style more closely resembling the French method. This included hand splitting the wood, rather than sawing, and allowing the planks time to dry and "season" in the outdoors versus drying in the kiln. In recent times, more bodegas have begun using French oak and many will age wines in both American and French oak for blending purposes.

In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15–20 years or even more before their release. One notable example of this the Marqués de Murrieta which released its 1942 vintage gran reserva in 1983 after 41 years of aging. Today most bodegas have shifted their winemaking focus to wines that are ready to drink sooner with the top wines typically aging for 4–8 years prior to release though some traditionalists still age longer. The typical bodega owns anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 oak barrels.

The use of oak in white wine has declined significantly in recent times when before the norm was traditionally 2–5 years in oak. This created slightly oxidized wines with flavors of caramel, coffee, and roasted nuts that did not appeal to a large market of consumers with some of the more negative examples showing characteristics of rubber and petrol flavors. Today the focus of white wine makers has been to enhance the vibrancy and fruit flavors of the wine.

Some winemakers utilize a derivative of carbonic maceration in which whole clusters are placed in large open vats allowed to ferment inside the individual grape berries, without the addition of yeast, for a few days before they are crushed.

Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel. A crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak. Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year. Also produced are wines in a semi-crianza style, those that have had a couple of months oak influence but not enough to be called a full crianza. The designation of crianza, Reserva etc. might not always appear on the front label but may appear on a neck or back label in the form of a stamp designation known as Consejo. Oak is consistent in Rioja. Most at the Crianza level are matured in American oak bringing vanilla notes.

A guide to U.S. wine

Background to American wine and the AVA system

The majority of America’s wine production is in California but the Oregon and Washington State areas are now establishing themselves firmly as quality producing regions. Excellent Pinot Noir based wines are being made as a result of their cooler, European-like climates and geology/terroir.

Statistics for the US Wine Industry in 2014:

  • Revenues for US Wine Sales = $37.6 billion (Wine Institute, 5/19/15); up 1% YOY
  • Total  cases shipped: 375 million (Frederickson,2015)
  • Percentage from California = 60% ($24.6 billion in revenues, up 6.7% from 2013)
  • U.S. is the largest wine consuming nation since 2010 (Wine Institute, 2015)
  • Number of U.S. Wineries in 2014: 8287 (Gordon, 2015)
  • Largest Wine Producing States in Order of Volume: California, Washington State, Oregon, New York, Virginia
  • US Wine Consumption per Capita: 12 litres (Wine Market Council, 2015)

The United States AVA system

An AVA or American Viticultural Area is a "designated wine grape growing region distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the United States Department of the Treasury".

An exception is Oregon with a requirement that wines produced in the area must be identified by the grape variety from which it was made, and for most varietals it must contain at least 90% of that variety.

The TTB generally defines AVA's at the request of wineries and other parties making the system less robust than other countries, notably France.

Unlike most European wine appellations of origin, an AVA specifies only a geographical location from which at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must have been grown. The US system of AVAs is therefore more similar to the Italian Indicazione Geografica Tipica than other European appellation of origin systems. American Viticultural Area designations do not limit the type of grapes grown, the method of vinification, or the crop yield. Some of those factors may, however, be used by the applicant to justify uniqueness of place when proposing a new AVA.

Californian Wine

California in common with other new world wine producers like Australia and South Africa is known for its big reds and full bodied whites with plenty of alcohol, and concentrated fruit flavours. But the state produces a myriad of quality wine, many from boutique producers in areas like Napa, Sonoma and Russian River Valley. Strong domestic production and a rising US dollar has made quality wine from California increasingly premium priced, particularly when comparing cabernet sauvignon or Pinot Noir wines with competition from producers in countries like Argentina, Chile and New Zealand. As Californian prices have risen, American wine lovers have increasingly began to look at the emerging Oregon and Washington State regions as their first choice, particularly for Pinot Noir.

Red wine production is focused on Zinfandel (the only country where it is grown and related to Primitivo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. White wine production is focused on the Chardonnay grape.

Of recent years, 2009 was an excellent year for Pinot Noir with almost perfect growing conditions - a mild winter and not excessively hot summer. 

The North – Napa Valley and Sonoma


The Napa Valley, to the North of San Fransisco is the heart of the North Californian wine industry and is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. The most famous AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) in Napa include:

  • Rutherford e.g.Rubicon estate owned by Francis ford Coppola
  • Stags Leap
  • Howell Mountain
  • Carneros (partly in Sonoma)
  • St Helena
  • Oakville

Sonoma, with its position adjacent to the Pacific Ocean benefits from lower temperatures and the Russian River area has become particularly famous for excellent Pinot Noir. Dry creek and Geyserville are known for good Zinfandel's.

California's best and most subtle Pinot Noir area is informally known as the West Sonoma coast - the western edge of the Sonoma Coast AVA, including the Annapolis, Freestone, Occidental, Sebastapol Hilld and Fort Ross-Sea View areas. The more temperate climate in this region means that the grapes are not subject to extremes of heat as they can be in other areas of California. 

The best AVAs in Sonoma are:

  • Russian River Valley
  • Alexander valley
  • Sonoma Valley
  • Carneros
  • Glen

South of San Francisco

To the south of the city are the Santa Clara Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains then on to Carmel Valley, Paso Robles , Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and Edna Valley. Historically, none of these areas produced wine in the same league as Napa or Sonoma, but the Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz mountains, Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, is increasingly being recognised for their quality as are those from the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County.

Washington and Oregon

pacific-northwest-map USA.jpg

Heading towards Canada and North of California are Washington State and Oregon with cooler temperatures and generally more difficult grape growing conditions due to their climates.

Despite the challenges for wine makers, Oregon is producing some excellent Pinot Noir particularly in the Williamette Valley area, which is gaining a reputation as one of the world's best areas for the grape. The region also produces significant amounts of Pinot Gris.

Oregon wines are marketed as varietals with state law requiring that wines produced in the area must be identified by the grape variety from which it was made, and for most varietals it must contain at least 90% of that variety. The exceptions to the 90% law are the following varietals: Red and White Bordeaux varietals, Red and White Rhône varietals, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Tannat. For these wines, they follow the Federal guidelines of 75%. Oregon law forbids use of use of place names on bottles, except as appellations of origin. 

Willamette Valley, Oregon


The Willamette Valley AVA, close to Portland and 350 km (220 miles) south of the city of Seattle, is the wine growing region which encompasses the Willamette Valley. It stretches from the Columbia River in the north to just south of Eugene in the south, where the Willamette Valley ends; and from the Oregon Coast Range in the West to the Cascade Mountains in the East. At 5,200 square miles (13,500 km2), it is the largest AVA in the state, and contains most of the state's wineries.

The climate of Willamette Valley is mild year-round, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers and extreme temperatures are uncommon. Most rainfall occurs outside the growing season and the valley gets relatively little snow.

Though Wiliamette is most famous for its Pinot Noir, it also produces large amounts of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The region also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Sémillon, and Zinfandel grapes, but in smaller quantities.

The region is divided into four subordinate AVAs: Dundee Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, and the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA.

Further detailed information on U.S. wine regions