My journey continues - Printable Version

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- bskough - 04-12-2010 03:48 PM

Good day wineboard. I'm looking forward to the day I feel confident enough to post somewhere other than the novice board. It will be a while yet.

I would like to thank the many posters who have commented on my other posts and given me suggestions of things to try.

Some of your suggestions that I have tried are:

Primotivo: I've had a couple and I enjoyed them all. They didn't blow me away, but that could be for various reasons.

Ripasso: I had a hard time finding a ripasso, but I was sure glad I did. I really enjoyed the one I had.

Pinotage: Lord have mercy on my soul! I found one after much searching and I wish I hadn't. I won't say anything else.

I'm still working on trying some of the other suggestions: Bandol, Bierzo, Jumilla, and Chateauneuf du pape, etc.

This leads me to a new question I hope some of you can help me with. As I've talked to some folks and read some things on the wineboard I have become confused about European wines. I know some of the suggestions I posted in the above paragraph are not varietals, but regions. I have searched for certain wines, particularly Italian wines I am searching for, and I get very confused by the labels. I don't know what is the varietal and what is the region or if maybe one or the other isn't included on the label.

For instance I was searching for an amarone at Trader Joe's the other day. The person working there wasn't much of a help. After much time reading the label I was pretty sure, and later confirmed, that the wine was an amarone and that Valipocella (sp?) was indeed the region it came from and not the varietal.

Is there a way to figure this out simply or am I in for a world of confusion forever? I don't see this in any of the American or South American wines I buy. Heck I don't see this in any wines I buy except those from Europe. If anyone can help me with any of this I would really appreciate it.

Thanks again gentlemen and any ladies who are a part of the board. I appreciate all of you sharing your expertise with me.

- Innkeeper - 04-12-2010 04:37 PM

The problem is that most European wines that are named after regions are blends of grapes. The ancient reason is that people were proud of their regions. The modern reason is because of the blends. The two wines you mention are the names of two wines from Verona. They are made from essentially the same grapes. The difference is the grapes for Amarone are laid out in the sun to be practically made into raisins before fermenting. The principal grape in both is Corvina.

There is no trick to this at all. When dealing with European wines you have to simply learn which grape or grapes are in each wine. There are books and internet sites to help you with this.

One country that makes it easy is Spain. The Spanish usually print somewhere on the label (front or back) what grapes are in the wine.

- VouvrayHead - 04-12-2010 05:30 PM

Ad to confuse things even further, the Ripasso you liked is a hybrid of sorts between Valpolicella and Amarone [img][/img]
You just have to learn them... It's not that hard if the interest is there.

I like Oz Clarke's introductory book... can't remember the name off-hand.

Glad you enjoyed the Ripasso; sorry 'bout the Pinotage [img][/img]

- andrawes76 - 04-12-2010 06:06 PM

Agreed with the Innkeeper and VouvrayHead. France is pretty confusing to the layman, and I recommend that you do not entertain Germany until the last possible minute (kidding). German wines are very difficult to understand.

So to add to the info that these two members gave you, French wines and most European wines are also heavily regulated by the government under a classification system which allows them to be considered a "grand cru" or "rioja" wine, for example. These rules can range anywhere from the blend of grapes used to create the wines to the amount of time that they spend in the oak barrels. One thing I recommend is that you try looking on YouTube for some videos on wine tastings per region so that you get the understanding beginning from the terroire or land from which they come from. This way you understand why French pinot noir differs heavily from American pinot noir. When it comes down to it, wines are heavily influenced by:

location of the wine region
grape varietal

The bottom two can be debated somewhat...

Initially from your post below, it sounds as if you liked something about the primitivo you tasted but perhaps it was a bit old world for you. You may want to try the zinfandel wines from the Dry Creek Valley to see two styles and compare.

So to add to the confusion you sometimes have two different names for the same grape, but it differs by style (old world, dusty) or new world (fruit forward), or by geography...

Northern Italian wines from Piedmont are too acidic for me, in particular partly because their main component is the nebbiolo grape which naturally produces acidic wines that are perfect with food but astringent if you drink them solo...

[This message has been edited by Personal Wine (edited 04-12-2010).]

- hotwine - 04-12-2010 06:52 PM

I highly recommend a good book, such as the Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine; it's about $40 and well worth the price.

Also recommend you visit a good wine shop instead of a discounter like Trader Joe's. A discounter is fine when you have enough experience to identify the good stuff when you see it, but it's a lousy place to try to learn about European wines.

Get a good book, read-read-read, make notes, take the notes to a good wine shop where the staff knows what the hell they're talking about, and say "I'd like to buy one of these, please." Do that a few times, make notes about what you like and don't like, and take those notes to a discounter to help you search for bargains on the ones you like. Repeat, for the next 40 years or so.

- bskough - 04-13-2010 12:45 AM


This is incredible. Thank you for your replies. I really appreciate it. There is so much I have to learn.

I guess I just have to keep spending time at it. I'll let you know how things go.

Thanks again.

- wondersofwine - 04-13-2010 08:48 AM

And I would say don't avoid German wines (if you like white wines at all.) They aren't that difficult. Riesling is the premier grape in Germany so go for Rieslings. The label starts with the village with an er on the end to make it an adjective, so a wine from Piesport is a Piesporter, a wine from Wehlen is a Wehlener, etc. Then you usually have the vineyard or broader growing are such as Piesporter Goldtropchen (which means Golden Drop) or Wehlener Sonnenuhr (Sundial--the vineyard has a famous sundial in its midst). The variety of grape will be named (Riesling, Scheurebe, Spatburgunder which is Pinot Noir grape) unlike on most French or Italian labels. The degree of sugar in the grape when harvested is indicated by the heading Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, going from minimal amounts of sugar to higher amounts. If the wine is vinified to consume the sugar in fermentation and leave a dry wine, it will probably say Trocken on the label (dry.) Sometimes it will say Halbtrocken (half dry or off dry.) Kabinett and Spatlese wines can often accompany a main course (fish, veal, chicken, etc.) At Auslese and above, the wines are more suitable as dessert wines or to be sipped on their own. The growing region also appears on the label--Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Pfalz, Rheinhessen, Nahe, etc. My favorite wine region is the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but I also appreciate certain wines from Rheingau, Rheinpfalz, Nahe and Rheinhessen.

- andrawes76 - 04-13-2010 10:04 AM

WOW, I promise that I don't mean to avoid German wines... but reading you post got me dizzy.

- zatara_eads - 04-14-2010 06:01 PM

I think to give suggestions it's really hard to know what you'll like If we don't really know your tastes, but for me there are 2 really cool types of wine: Chinon and Priorat.

Chinon are Cab-Franc based from Loire and I love them. Really Old-World and they taste a little dirty. j'aime

Priorat is a killer region in Spain that I liken to Pomeral...and the prices tend to be in the same ball-park too. But they're Carminere and Granacha based and super cool. If you can find them.

These are both not easy to find, but not necessarily hard to find, if you do some digging I think you'll find some really awesome, little known stuff. Hope that helped a little...

- VouvrayHead - 04-14-2010 06:28 PM

Bskough: Based on your older comments, you won't care for Chinon--though you can find good examples to try for less than $20.
Priorat may be worth a spin (though can be quite pricey)

- bskough - 04-14-2010 08:34 PM

You're all incredible. I've nerded out pretty hard in the few months I've been drinking wine and people think I know a lot (seriously). Then I come on here and get blown away.

Thank you all again. I eat this stuff up so always pass along information. I'll use it all eventually.

- Thomas - 04-15-2010 08:56 AM

Re, Priorat reds: they are Garnacha and Carinena (not Carmenere) based, but over the past few years a great deal of them include more and more Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Syrah in the blend and less Carinena. They have gotten truly expensive.

They also grow white grapes in Priorat (Macabeo, Chenin Blanco, and Pedro Ximinez) but I have yet to taste a white wine from the region.

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 04-16-2010).]

- zatara_eads - 04-15-2010 01:04 PM

@ foodie

Thanks for correcting me. I always say Carminere when I mean Carinena. It's some weird tic or something...who knows. Provence roses are killer too. If you're in to light wines and minerality. I love that stuff.

- Thomas - 04-16-2010 08:29 AM


Don't worry about it. I used to say Vignoles when I meant Viognier, and since hardly anyone knew what a Vignoles is, the stares my way were filled with pity.

- Kcwhippet - 04-16-2010 08:57 AM

I know what a Vignoles is. Can you say Anthony Road? I've also seen it as Ravat.

- TheEngineer - 04-16-2010 10:47 AM

Just wait to you get to the Basque (Irouguy) and Greek wines [img][/img]

- VouvrayHead - 04-16-2010 05:45 PM

Vignoles: A staple of Augusta's nearly decent dry whites!
I wonder if it's grown anywhere other than FL and Augusta?

- Thomas - 04-16-2010 07:05 PM

Good question, vouvrayhead. I wonder, too.

- Thomas - 04-16-2010 08:02 PM


Vignoles was originally named Ravat 51.

That's because the hybridizer whose name was Ravat produced a large number of hybrids, each was named after him followed by a number. Why Ravat 51 was changed to Vignoles by the TTB is beyond my scope.

- VouvrayHead - 04-16-2010 08:09 PM

I think Vignoles has a nose that's vaguely reminiscent of Viognier (very floral--but not as good as Viognier). I wonder if they wanted it to sound like Viognier?