Primoz Roglic took the wine in today’s stage! The Tour de France stage ended in the Alps, specifically at the foothills of the Col d’Izoard. This region is a mere hop, skip, and jump away from one of Italy’s most famous regions, northwest Italy, a place where Piedmont calls home. The region of Piedmont is diverse, made so by channels of mountain ranges, divisive rivers, variations in soil types, and distinctly varying climates within. The most famous region known for producing the grape Nebbiolo is Barolo, and even within this small region, there marked differences in soil types, from the calcerous marl soils known as Tortonian in the west to sandstone soils known as Helvetian in the east. Barolo’s northerly neighbor and Nebbiolo competitor is Barbaresco where calcerous clay dominates the soils. With the geographical elevations constantly changing within the Piemonte region, it’s hard to generalize the climate experienced, overall. For example, the vineyard elevation in Barbaresco vary from 500 to 1150 feet, whereas Barolo tops that be another 165 feet. Also, there’s more water in Barolo thanks to the tributaries of the Tanaro, the Talloria dell’Annunziata and Talloria di Castiglione. The battle for the best Nebbiolo doesn’t end in Barolo and Barbaresco, but the quality experiences a major shift when moving to the other regions in Piemonte known to produce this grape: Valtellina, Carema in Valle d’Aosta, and of course, Nebbiolo d’Alba. Much like great Burgundies, Barolos vary vineyard site to vineyard site, and thanks to more open minded winemaking techniques incorporating both traditional and newer concepts, we no longer are forced to wait 20 years for a Barolo to mature enough to drink, if it ever would mature at all. In September, we are featuring a tasting of Gaja wines, from Barbaresco. In the World Atlas Of Wine 7th edition by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, Gaja was mentioned, specifically, in the section of Barbaresco. Here is what these two wine experts had to say about Gaja:
“Barbaresco once played understudy to the much more famous Barolo, until Angelo Gaja, in a dazzling Missoni sweater, strode onto the world stage as Italy’s wine prophet and unstoppable promoter. Gaja has no inhibitions; his wines, whether classic Nebbiolo, experimental Cabernet, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc, or Barbera are treated like first-growth claret, state their case, and cost a fortune. Bruno Giacosa had shown in the 1960s that Barbaresco could have the intensity (if not always the sheer physical weight) of Barolo, but it was Gaja who modernized the message, importing new barriques and new ideas without apparently a second thought in this most traditional of regions.”
Sign up for our wine class on Gaja here:
DC Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-gaja-wine-tasting-with-heather-shapiro-mid-atlantic-regional-manager-tickets-32174980232
VA Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/va-gaja-wine-tasting-with-bo-montegomery-market-specialist-tickets-32175000292
In October, we are featuring a wine class all about Northern Italy, including a dedication to the wines of PIemonte, Barbaresco, and Barolo. In December, we are featuring a class on Central and Southern Italy. Please join us!
Sign up for the masterclass on Northern Italy here:
DC Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-northern-italian-wines-including-barolo-barbaresco-tickets-36368049816
VA Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/va-northern-italian-wines-including-barolo-barbaresco-tickets-36368405881
Sign up for the masterclass on Central and Southern Italy here:
DC Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-central-southern-italy-tasting-and-class-tickets-36367965564
VA Location https://www.eventbrite.com/e/va-central-southern-italy-tasting-and-class-tickets-36368366764
Yesterday, the Stage 9 of Le Tour de France in the Alps of France, specifically the Jura region, brought a lot of excitement to the riders. The Stage condensed three haute category climbs in the Jura route: Mont du Chat, Col de la Biche, and Grand Colombier. The climbs weren’t the only difficult part of the race. The descents proved to be as intense, with two major accidents occurring. The first crash had Englishman, Geraint Thomas, breaking his collarbone and the second victim was Australian, Richie Porte, who was propelled head first into a stone wall. The drama didn’t end until the riders crossed the finish line with the pronounced winner, Rigoberto Urán, taking the lead on a bike with only two working gears. It was not a fun day. What else is not fun? Harvesting grapes on the steep slopes of the French Alps, ‘steep’ being from 60 percent inclines and up. Cultivating and harvesting grapes on these types of hillsides is an elaborate, expensive, and dangerous process. Due to the technical terrain, machines and tractors typically used in winemaking to cut, spray, and harvest cannot stay level at such a gradient. The manual labor required for one hectare of vineyards on slopes this steep can require up to 1500 hours of labor. To give contrast, on flat lands, such as Virginia, with the use of tractors and automated harvesting vehicles, the manual labor hours may be only 180 for one hectare. The workers for steep slopes need to not only know how to harvest, but need to be incredibly physically fit as the techniques used are akin to that of rock climbing. So, if making wine on such steep slopes is so costly, why do it? The grapes produced on steep slopes are of great quality! After all, some of the best vineyards are in mountainous areas, for example: the Mosel, Rheingau, Rhone, Cote d’Or, Alto Adige, Piedmont, Tuscany, Duoro, and Mendoza. Nationally, mountain or hill vineyard sites are highly sought after, from Shenandoah to Napa, everyone wants a little elevation for their vines. There are a couple of reasons why: there is less top soil due to millions of years of erosion forcing the vines to dig deep into the ground in search of water, while searching for water the vines pick up extra nutrients from organisms in the soils, the steep slopes offer great drainage meaning the grapes are not saturated or lose concentration, the altitude is more moderate and offers a slow ripening period lending the benefit of longer hang time on the vine which creates greater opportunity for the accumulation of acids and flavor, the fewer nutrients in the soils cause the vineyards to struggle and produce fewer bunches on the vine creating fewer berries and smaller individual berries, grapes produced are smaller in size so the volume of juice within the berry is more intense, and grapes have a high skin to juice ratio due to this smaller size offering firm structure and complexity. Definitely seek out wines from hilly regions of the world to experience wine produced with a lot of hard work and love.
Region descriptions written by Cork & Fork Staff
What an exciting finish for the 7th Stage of the Le Tour de France today! In the last sprint of the race, Marcel Kittel dropped in behind Edvald Boasson Hagen. Kittel and Hagen came together for a photo finish after Kittel gave a final push. After a surprisingly brief debate, the jury called Kittel as the winner! This stage finish will certainly go down as a famous event of this year's tour, but not nearly as famous as the wines of the region in which they completed the stage: Nuits St George, a region known for premier class Pinot Noirs within Burgundy. The region of Burgundy is a highly prized province in France made up of several distinct wine producing regions, including the Cote d’Or. The Cote d’Or is regarded by some as being the richest and most important region, outranking Cote de Beaune, Cote de Nuits, Chablis, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, and Beaujolais. The vineyard plots in Burgundy are highly fragmented, a result of Napoleon dividing the large land holdings of the church, further complicated by French inheritance laws and hefty inheritance taxes that often cause families to sell vineyard plots. The owners of small allocations of vineyards may find themselves traveling from vineyard to vineyard to visit their small parcels of vines, sometimes not harvesting enough to bottle and selling grapes to cooperatives. The region as a whole in Cote d’Or holds a wine producing secret in the hill – a source for exceptional quality of grapes produced. Modern day geologists flock to the region to analyze the soils in hopes of discovering the key to the region’s success, the studies come up with little results. These curious scientists are not the only ones who have meticulously studied the region! The Cistercian and Benedictine monks were studying the Cote d’Or back in the 12th century, distinguishing one cru from another and exploring their potential in the process. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the incredible quality of the region was well recognized, enough so to benefit from investments from the the dukes of Burgundy, Valois, who encouraged the region to focus on producing quality wines, and since then, the region has benefited from an emphasis on supreme wines, attracting global attention for centuries. There are four crus in Cote d’Or: Grands Crus, Premieres Crus, Appellation Communale, and Bourgogne. The Grands Crus classification has 31 plots, the Premieres Crus has 635! Learn more through our weekend wine tastings and week day masterclasses.
The excitement for Le Tour de France continues as Bauke Mollema takes his first ever Tour stage win! The race ended in Culoz, classified in the Ain department in France, a small village in the heart of the Bugey AOC where vines were first planted by the Romans, then the monks in the 16th century. This AOC sits at the southern end of the Jura mountain chain and has Jura/Burgundy to the north, Savoie to the east, Rhone to the south, and Beaujolais to the west. The Rhone river loops around the area, giving the region plenty of moisture. It was given VDQS status in 1958 and became an appellation in 2009. The vines in the area suffered greatly with the invasion of phylloxera in 1875, setting the region's winemaking economy back quite a few decades. Historically, Bugey was a part of Burgundy and today is often confused as being part of Savoie or Jura. The designations in this 500 hectare AOC are numerous and are made up by 63 provinces within: AOC Bugey, AOC Bugey Manicle (100% Chard for white, 100% Pinot Noir for red), AOC Bugey Montagnieu (100% Mondeuse noir for red, 70% Altesse for sparkling since 2009), AOC Roussette de Bugey (100% Altesse), AOC Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu, AOC Roussette de Bugey Virieu-le-Grand, AOC Bugey Musseux ou Petillant, AOC Bugey Mousseux ou Petillant Cerdon, AOC Bugey Mousseux ou Petillant Montagnieu, and AOC Bugey Mousseux ou Petillant Blanc or Rose. The soils in the area are generally calcareous, with ammonites and other fossilized sea mollusks. There are sections of Jurassic clay limestone bedrock, too. The climate is semi-continental with hot, wet summers and cold winter. As a whole, the wines are elegant, aromatic, with high acid and low alcohol. There are a few exceptions, but whites generally must contain 50% Chardonnay with permitted accessory grapes being Aligote, Altesse, Jacquere, Pinot Gris, Mondeuse blanche. Roses must be 50% Gamay or Pinot Noir with accessory grapes Mondeuse Noir, Pinot Gris, and Poulsard. The reds must be made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, or Mondeuse Noir. The Sparkling wines must be 70% Chardonnay or Jacquere, with accessory grapes Mondeuse Blanche, Pinot Gris, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Mondeuse noir and Poulsard. For those seeking out interesting, elegant wines, this region is for you! For more information on our wine classes and tastings, visit us on our website to see our current listings of events!
Stage 6 of the Le Tour de France was taken by cyclist Marcel Kittel. The cyclists passed just outside of the legendary winemaking regions of Burgundy, ending close to the Chablis corner. Tomorrow, they will finish in the Nuits St George corner of Burgundy. Chablis, located in the northern section of Burgundy, is a white wine production area, located closer to Champagne than to Burgundy. The climate in Chablis is semi-continental with hot, sunny summers and cold, long winters with, at times, deep frosts mixed in for good measure, as experienced in April of this year, 2017. This unpredictable weather makes winemaking in the Chablis region a source of constant worry, but when things come together just right, the end result is magical, making the wines of Chablis highly sought after for drinkers and collectors alike. The best soils in Chablis host the grands crus along on stretch of south west facing slopes. The soils here are calcareous clay. Over time the best clay type has been established as being Kimmeridgian, but this is only opinion based, after all, the upper Jurassic origin is the same between Kimmeridgian and Portlandian. The wines from Chablis are fermented in stainless steel with the use of oak barrels making a comeback. Winemakers are generally aware of how too much oak used on the lean, austere intensity of Chardonnay may ruin the wine. The main grape grown in Chablis is Chardonnay. There are also plantings of Aligote, Cesar, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Beurot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Liebault, Sauvignon Blanc, Sacy, and Tressot. The cyclists finished in the Cote de Nuits, a narrow strip of vines stretching from Dijon to north of Beaune, and home to Nuits St George, an essentially red wine area with the few whites produced being of exceptional quality. Nuits St George holds 22 of Burgundy’s 23 red grands crus and is known globally for the premier source for Pinot Noir. This climate is semi-continental with extended, frigid winters, and hot, sunny summers. Hail is the greatest threat to the physical integrity of the precious vines, with heavy rains falling a close second, potentially damaging the quality of the wine by creating a watery and mildew ridden crop. The Nuits St George AOC produces wines with splendid color, a rich bouquet layered with spicy notes, and a vibrant fruit flavor which is nicely accented by a vanilla under layer. The varietals grown in this area are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Liebault, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. The soils are sandy-limestone covered by chalky scree mixed with marl and clay particles. Some vineyards at higher elevation have red clay.
A glorious day for Australian cyclist Michael Matthews! Being from Canberra, Michael knows wine! Near Australia's capital of Canberra is a cluster of vineyards classified as being in the New South Wales territory. The vines in this area were planted in 1971 by research doctors John Kirk of Clonakilla and Edgar Riek of Lake George. John's son pioneered Australia's now famous Shiraz/Viognier blend modelled on the enormous wines of Cote-Rotie. In this Canberra District, some of... the higher vines can be quite cool and produce elegantly styled Pinot Noirs. Back to Le Tour de France! Today the cyclists made their way from Toulouse to Rodez, passing through the historic wine producing region, Gaillac. There is evidence proving Gaillac to be the first viticultural center of Gaul in the 1st century AD. The monks revived production in the 10th century and during this time the English were enthusiastic consumers of the wines from this region. The wine economy from Gaillac suffered as a result of enemy invasions, Christian crusades, religious wars, Bordeaux merchant restrictions, and the devastating phylloxera, which caused the region to plant other crops than vines. The region makes powerful wines from rich local varieties such as Mauzac, Lien de l'El, Muscadelle, Ondenc, Sauvignon Blanc, Duras, Fer, and Gamay. Wine lovers seek out Gaillac doux, Gaillac Molleux, Gaillac Liquoreux, and Method Gaillacoise from the region. The soils here are gravelly clay and limestone..
For the month of July, we present wine tastings in collaboration with the Tour de France! For the entire month, we will taste wines from the major wine producing regions the cyclists of the Tour de France pass through on their four week long journey during the most epic endurance cycling events in the world.
During this first weekend, we celebrate the first stages of the race by pouring for you wines from Moselle, Alsace, and Chablis.
These weekend events are casual, fun tastings with a select variation of wines to sample. The goal is for you to find a delicious bottle to take home and enjoy while relaxing after a long week!
Italian, Fabio Aru, takes stage 5 in the Le Tour de France! Today the cyclists experienced their first mountain stage in the Vosges mountains of Alsace, France. The region of Alsace is generally known to be a historically well-disputed region between France and Germany, with the Rhine river serving as a divider. It's common to find the residents of this area speaking both German and French with fluency. This translates also to winery names, too. The climate in Alsace is mild, with cold but sunny weather being the norm. The sun is intense due to the altitude, making Alsace to be one of France's driest wine regions. The Vosges mountains do their part in making this region dry, as they prevent western winds laden with marine humidity from blowing on the area. The Vosges mountains soils include gneiss, granite, vulcanite, and sandstone, with the vineyards being planted on soils of clay, limestone, volcanic sediments, schist, quartz, sandstone, and chalk. Wines produced in Alsace are made by traditional purists, with focus remaining on the proper management of the vines. Grapes grown in this enchanting region are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and the three Pinots. Pinot Noir, indeed, is also grown, and two wines are produced from it: an interesting red wine from 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes and a sparkling blend of red and white grapes: the renowned Crémant d'Alsace. Small amounts of Chardonnay and Auxerrois grape varieties are also grown, and they are by law allowed to be used to produce Crémant only.. To learn more about French wines, we recommend you join us for our weekend tasting or the "Take a Chance on France" masterclass!
Today the riders in Le Tour de France finished close to the Spanish border, in Peyragudes with young Frenchman Romain Bardet taking the glory for the stage. Across the French-Spanish border, Rioja rests not too far from the boundary line. This well-recognized wine region is divided into three sections, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, and Rioja Baja. It was colonized by the wine drinking Romans and historical evidence shows vine maintenance was part of their lives in the northern s...ection of La Rioja. When the Moors were dominant here, winemaking maintained a part of the economic system, but it was under the Christian rule at the end of the 15th century when winemaking regained major popularity and strength. As vine loving monks settled the northern section of Spain, they built monasteries to serve pilgrims along the route of Santiago de Compostela, and this geographical expansion helped the wine region grow and flourish. In fact, wine was such a large part of life, the first wine laws of Rioja date back to this period. The isolated physical placement of Rioja kept the wines from gaining international traction, but this all changed in the 17th century when methods of communication improved and Bilbao became a more valued trading center. The winemaking aspect of the region finally organized with the establishment of the first commercial Bodega in 1850, created in response to the demand for wines in Spanish colonies located in what is now South America, Central America, and North America. The true popularity of wines from Rioja came as a result of difficult periods for winemakers in France due to powdery mildew and phylloxera. In response to their viticultural crisis, the Bordeaux wine merchants crossed the Pyrenees to source wine from Rioja, creating a boom in the industry which lasted through to 1901. At this time, Rioja suffered a crippling hit from their own invasion of phylloxera. The wine economy recovered from this invasion in stages, reaching full momentum only in the 1960s. The red grape of choice, Tempranillo, is known to respond well to the clay and limestone soils. Other varietals of note are Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, as well as Malvasia and Viura for the whites. The classification system used is four tier: joven for young wines meant for early consumption, crianza for wines with two years ageing, reserva for wines with three years ageing, and gran reserve for wines with five years of age before release. The river in Rioja is the Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries. This water source winds between the Sierra Cantabrica and Sierra Demanda, with its tributaries facilitating the growth of vineyards in the region.
Marcel Kittel takes another stage in the 11th day of racing. Cyclists are making their way through the Le Tour de France with the half way point nearing! South west France is where they are today, bouncing between Bergerac, Bordeaux, and Cahors. On their way down to the finish line, they passed by the famous region of Monbazillac, seeing along the way some of the most famous noble rot (Botrytis cinerea) producing vines in the world, after Sauternes. The region of Monbazillac ...is known for sweet wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. The AOC was created in 1936 and consists of 2000 hectares of vines with around 200 growers/producers. This number was diminished greatly after the destructive invasion of phylloxera. Sauternes AOC, only 60 miles away, holds the reputation as being king of the noble rot, but the wines of Monbazillac come a close second. Both Sauternes and Monbazillac are labor intensive wine producing regions, as is with any area handling noble rot grapes. The process requires multiple pickings over a two week window to ensure the selection of the best grapes and in Monbazillac, all the harvests are done by hand, as mechanical harvesting was banned in the mid 1990s. The oceanic influences in Sauternes are funneled along the river valley, providing high levels of humidity in form of mist or dew. While the mist rests, the humidity increases the chance of noble rot in the grape bunches. It lingers until it is burned off in the afternoon sun. In Monbazillac, the positioning of the land traps the humidity along the river and stays longer, giving even more chance for the noble rot to develop. The increased humidity creates less concentrated wines than those of Sauternes, but what the wines lack in concentration, they make up with incredible aromatics of exotic fruits and nuts. The soils in Monbazillac are deep clay, molasse clay, and limestone, soils first tilled with vines by Monks from the Loire Valley in the 11th century. By 1550, the area was a flourishing wine producing region making money by selling their wines to the Dutch and Germans since the Bordeaux merchants refused to allow the "inferior" wines of Monbazillac to be sent through to England. We support the wines from this small region and hope you will, too.
Frenchman, Lilian Calmejane, swept through the finish line of Le Tour de France in Stage 8 with more than 30 seconds against the closest rider behind him. Yet again, another wonderful reason to celebrate the Tour with a selection of French wines featured during our weekend tastings! The Stage today ran parallel to the Jura region of France, a winemaking region well known among seasoned wine lovers and at times approached with trepidation by others. The Jura is a picturesque wine producing region somewhat shrunken in size as a result of Phylloxera and mildew invasions at the end of the 19th century. What the region lost in viticultural plantings, today they make up with unique, globally recognized wines. The region is best known for two styles of wines, vin de paille and vin jaune. The region also makes a small amount of noteworthy Cremant du Jura, a traditional method sparkling wine. What does traditional method mean? Find the answer below! Back to the Jura! The primary grape in the region is Savignin, a grape that produces fresh, light table wines when given the opportunity. Savignin from Jura, however, typically will hold a somewhat oxidative essence, due to, most times, being blended with excess vin jaune. Vin jaune is not to be confused with Orange Wine, as they are two different styles. Vin Jaune is made from well ripened grapes that are left in Burgundy barrels for excess of 6 years to ferment naturally with the yeast flor. The vin de paille is sweet wine made from Savignin, Chardonnay, and/or Poulsard grapes, picked early and dried until raisin like. The raisin grapes are then crushed to ferment for two or three years before achieving the result of a sweet wine ready to age for decades. Needless to say, the wines from this region are unique and worth exploring!
Now, to traditional method! After harvesting, the grapes undergo fermentation as used with still wines. The separate tanks are then blended. The blended wine is put into bottles with liqueur de tirage, a mixture of sugar and yeast, necessary to start the secondary fermentation. The bottle is stored horizontally in the cellar during the secondary fermentation, when the carbon dioxide in the bottle creates the effervescence in the wine. After the fermentation process is complete, the wine sits on the lees for as long as the winemaker deems appropriate, or in some areas, for as long as the region deems acceptable for the classification of the wine. When the wines are finished ageing, they go through the riddling process that gently pushes the lees towards the neck of the bottle. Once at the neck, the wines will be disgorged, this is when the top inch of the bottle is frozen, and the plug of ice, containing the lees, is removed. Immediately after, the bottle is topped with liqueur d’expedition, a mixture of base wine and sugar. The sugar is added to balance the high acidity of the wine, reaching the desired level of the wine! And there you go, you’re now an expert on traditional method sparkling wine! Congratulations!
Frenchman Arnaud Démare takes Stage 4 in the Le Tour de France, making Cork and Fork's French wine tasting this weekend even more celebratory! Today, during Stage 4, the cyclists passed through the Département de Meurthe-et-Moselle in north eastern France on the border with Germany. Both the river and the wine are called "Mosel" in Germany, but once the border is crossed to France, the correct spelling becomes "Moselle". The wines from this area are not meant for cellaring and drink well upon purchase. Many of the wineries in this area are organic or biodynamic due to the lack of threats to the vines. The climate leans to the cooler side with maximum temperatures in the summer reaching the mid to high 70s. White varietals grown in the Moselle are Auxerrois, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. Red varietals grown in the Moselle are Gamay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. Gamay is limited by law to a maximum of 30 percent of the surface area of Moselle. Learn more about this region and other regions the cyclists explore during our weekend tastings!
Today was yet another happy day for the French as their fellow countryman Warren Barguil took stage 13, on a short but intense section of Le Tour de France in the Pyrenees, the most south western corner of France. Happy Bastille Day, indeed! Their route took them a mere hop and skip away from a historically famous wine producing region of France: Cabardes. The Cabardes AOC, classified since 1999, is an off the beaten path appellation north of Carcassonne. The best reds from this area achieve elegant fruit with a style reminiscent of Bordeaux, somewhat unusual for this southern region of France. The grape varietals most commonly found in the area are Cabs Franc and Sauvignon, Merlot, Cot, Fer Servadou and to a lesser extent, Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsaut. The soils vary in the region from wet, deep soils to hot, shallow soils. Like sections of the Rhone, the region has constant wind circulation, allowing farmers the luxury of avoiding the use of chemicals to control vineyard pests. Wine writer, Jancis Robinson, wrote of the region, “The small, pretty and distinctive wine region…Cabardès just north of Carcassonne." The city of Carcassonne is a UNESCO world heritage site in the form of a walled medieval city. In 3500 BC, Neolithic settlements were in the Carcassonne region. In 6th century BC, the Celts settled the area, with ceramics and other objects found on site. 118 BC the Romans colonized the area and Carcassonne becomes the capital of “Colonia Julia Carcaso.” At the beginning of the 5th century, the Visigoths invade and capture the area, followed by the Saracens who settled briefly before King Pepin le Bref regained control. That’s a lot of history for such a little area!
In Le Tour de France today, Australia's Michael Matthews claimed his second stage win and the third one for Sunweb after his team pulled the bunch almost all day to keep Marcel Kittel behind. The stage finish was in Romans-sur-Isère, north of the eastern portion of Languedoc where terroir driven wines of great quality and value are produced. The name Languedoc comes from when the inhabitants spoke Occitan, in which "oc" rather than "oil" was the word for "yes", hence "langue d'oc." The three sections of Languedoc are Aude, Herault, and Gard, all three regions are classified as having Mediterranean climates; their long and dry summers counteracted by the cooling breezes of the Atlantic, especially around the western hills of Carcassonne where the cooler climate creates wines with finer acidity. The wines, when made by individuals and not in one of the 300 cooperatives in the area, have great Bordelaise structure and Rhone characteristics. Languedoc's wine making history is long and full of heart ache, starting in 125 BC when the Romans planted vines in the Narbo colony, today's Narbonne. The region benefited from the Roman transportation from the Aude into the Garonne to reach Roman troops in the Acquitane. Roman emperor, Domitian, soon put a stop to the booming Languedoc wine economy forcing the region into a stalled state until the Languedoc Monks revived the wine industry. Today, the only Abbey creating wine is the Abbaye de Valmagne. In 1666, production increased with the establishment of the Dutch Wine Trade and construction of the port of Sete which facilitated transportation of sweet Clairette and Picquepoul to England and the Netherlands. The region benefited from increased trade once the transportation avenues opened directly to Lyon and Bordeaux in the 1800s. Unfortunately, phylloxera hit just as Languedoc was establishing a name for itself as a modern-day wine producing region. Knowing the region had great potential, the inhabitants worked without rest until a solution to phylloxera was created, making the Languedoc the first region in France to be fully reconstituted after the devastation of the louse. Languedoc threw itself into full production, becoming the supplier of 44% total of wine production for the country. Soon, the region was over farming the vines and the wines were thin and watery, causing the French farmers to source wine from Algeria to create more robust products. This fraud caused a taint to the reputation of the wines and coupled with the social crisis of 1907, the wine region was once again devastated. The winemakers and land owners took to the streets in violent protest, a system of rebellion recently seen in Languedoc as the riots in the 2000s proved. When the winemakers are left in peace to make their wines, they benefit from a variety of soil types: rocky foothills of Montagne Noir, limestone massifs, schist, clay, purple clay, marls, and sandstone. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignane are widely planted, producing great wines, especially in the vines of higher elevations. Other varietals well-liked in the area are Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Rolle, Viognier, Clairette, and Picpoul. The last two produce Clairette de Languedoc and Picpoul de Pinet, both embraced by the AOC as they reflect Languedoc tradition. Winemakers from Burgundy and Australia started flocking to the region once the ACs of Corbieres, Minervois, and Coteaux du Languedoc were established in 1985. Only Coteaux de Languedoc was elevated to AOC status. This region is worth exploring! As mentioned, they're a great value and the winemakers in the area could use our support! To learn more about wine from Cork & Fork visit us for a tasting, listed here: www.corkandfork.co (Les Vins AOC du Languedoc)
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Another day, another stage in Le Tour de France with Marcel Kittel taking the glory for the day as he crossed the finish line in Bergerac in the Dordogne departement. Bergerac is located in south west France and, until recently, was regarded as the backwards neighbor to the sophisticated Bordeaux region. Being not too far apart, Bordeaux and Bergerac share many of the same grapes, Cabs, Merlot, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Bergerac region holds strength in red wines, pr...edominately Merlot and Cabs. Within the Bergerac zone are more specific sub-zones, each identified with a style of wine they work well with, such as Montravel for red, dry, and sweet wines, Monbazillac for sweet wines from vineyards that also produce Bergerac, Pécharmant for reds only, and Saussignac for sweet wines. The region was targeted by Romans as a wine making region, and before the Romans, monks made wine on the hills of Bergerac in the Middle Ages. Wines made in cooperatives from Bergerac can be acidic with enormous tannin, but since the small-producers embraced hand harvesting instead of machine harvesting along with good quality oak barrels, wines from vignerons acquire balance. The Bordelais may never think their neighbor is producing good wine, but we think otherwise.
With today being a rest day at the Le Tour de France, we bring our focus home to the state of Virginia! The Virginia wine industry continues to grow, with average prices per ton for vinifera varietals coming in at a little under $2500 per. The most popular vinifera varietals in 2016, based on tons produced, are Cabernet Franc with 929, Chardonnay with 760, Merlot with 620, Vidal Blanc with 546, Cabernet Sauvignon with 533, Petit Verdot with 495, and Viognier with 435. Where are all these grapes coming from? Within the five wine producing regions in Virginia, Loudoun County in Northern Virginia produces the most tonnage of all counties, coming through at 1,385 tons for 2016. The Northern Virginia district comes through with 2,710 total tons but is overshadowed, albeit only slightly, by their neighbor to the south, Central Virginia, where the annual total for 2016 was 2,744 tons. Based on production numbers alone, the most widely planted counties in Virginia are Loudoun, Albemarle, Orange, and Nelson. Other counties in the western, eastern, and southern regions of Virginia are planting smaller amounts with the reason perhaps being alternative, lower-maintenance crop dominance or lack of general interest in the concept of grape production from land owners. Chardonnay is the most widely planted varietal in Virginia, weighing in with the second most amount of tonnage. The varietal does well in the various geographical regions of Virginia, from well-drained, sandy loam bojac soil sections of the Eastern Shore to loamy clay overlying limestone shale sections of Northern Virginia. It responds well with about 5 tons per acre being produced with an average harvest. There are minimal risks with Chardonnay in Virginia, despite its cold sensitivities and first bud losses, it is ready to produce balanced grapes. Vineyards with adequate canopy management avoid the risk of botrytis and further effective vineyard management keeps the other threats of grapevine yellow and powdery mildew at bay. The fertile Cabernet Franc produces the most amount of grapes with fewer crop bearing acres than Chardonnay. As this proves, it offers great yields, but that’s not its only positive. The varietal is relatively cold injury and rot resistant, but off-sets these positives with a couple of negatives: the excessive canopies require higher maintenance in the vines, leaf roll is a common threat for the vines, and the varietal is known to suffer from Bunch Stem Necrosis. Vineyard managers have a good handle on vine management for the varietal, as the production numbers demonstrate. Field experts declared varieties Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Touriga Nacional, Fer Servadou, and Tannat to be planted with caution in the state, as these varietals do well in fewer locations than the most recommended vines of Chardonnay, Viognier, Muscat Ottonel, Malvasia Bianca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Vidal, Chardonel, Traminette, Chambourcin, and Norton. Varietals recommended to be avoided in Virginia, according to these professionals, are Gewurztraminer, Nebbiolo, Riesling, Sangiovese, Seyval, and Pinot Noir. As always, these declarations are to be taken with a grain of salt. As we have seen, there are great bottlings on the Virginia wine market today made with some of these grapes. Proper soil analysis, excellent vineyard management, good weather blessings, and winemaking knowledge all play an enormous role in the final production of a wine, regardless of the varietal. To learn more or simply to taste wine, visit us for a masterclass or wine tasting. Dates and times listed here www.corkandfork.co (References:http://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/463/463-019/463-019_pdf.pdf andhttps://www.virginiawine.org/grape-reports)