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Vin Gris
Gray wine – least appealing way to market a wine and yet, it’s a pretty cool process. So most of the time red wine comes from red grapes, and white wine comes from white grapes – not always, but it’s close enough for grenade range. Vin Gris though, is a white wine that comes from red grapes. You take the red grapes, smash them and then move the liquid quickly before the skins of the grapes have time to start staining the wine red. Theoretically it would seem possible to make it from any red grapes, although wine makers stay away from that and stick to a very limited number of grapes: Moschofilero, a rare Gamay and Champagne made from Pinot Noir.

Old and Greek and Gray all over
Moschofilero is really the true vin gris, both because that’s really what people do with it and because it’s indigenous to Greece who have been making wine arguably longer than anyone in Europe. They didn’t invent wine though – that’s probably the Armenians. Strangely enough though, Moschofilero has gray grapes, rather than red that Vin Gris usually relies on – not entirely sure how this categorization works but apparently it still qualifies as Vin Gris.

Acidic lime and lemon, long finish like vinho verde. Slightly rounder body. Great for summer

Detail Up!
2010 Moschofilero with 12% alc. by Ktima Tselepos from the Mantinia area in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece

Random Googles
* Tselepos, the winery responsible for this Moschofilero citric stud, won 2012 Winery of the Year honors
* Moschofilero – not related to Muscat at all. Pretty opposite in taste from the sweeter Muscats too.
* Greece is confusing, Greek wine moreso – have a look at this overview of grapes with a cool map too

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Piquepoul from Languedoc – not famous or spell-able
Piquepoul is the grape, but Picpoul de Pinet is the wine made from the grape if made exclusively from Piquepoul grapes. At least, that’s the rule in the really southern and untrendy part of France known as Languedoc. But then again, Piquepoul has a long history in the region, dating back to before there were monks and chateaus.

Minor Napoleon Love
Napoleon III loved this wine, but that was way back in the 19th century, and nobody is quite sure what Napoleon III did other than inherit a name. P.S. Was there even a Napoleon II? Ok, thanks wikiworld – there was a Napoleon II, who died of tuberculous at the legal age of 21 after calling his mother “kind but weak” so he doesn’t feature in the Piquepoul tale. Sorry little dude.

Round full body – long clean finish. Some acidity but supporting cast. Fennel smell says bartender. Perfect for barbeques says the well-known importer Kermith Lynch.

Detail Up!
Picpoul de Pinet 2010, imported by Kermit Lynch from Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue in Langedouc, France

Random Googles:
* Picardan, a historical sweet wine from the 17th and 18th centuries, was from Languedoc and Piquepoul was one of the grapes used to blend that sweet, extinct wine.
* Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the expensive wine from the Rhone, has Piquepoul on the list of 13 permitted blending wines. The last time anyone counted, in 2004, about 0.15% of the region planted Piquepoul.
* “Lip-stinger” is the original translation of the grape, referring to the high acidity of the grape in the Mediterranean.

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Confusion and More Confusion
When you name a grape “Melon de Bourgogne” you could at least make sure it is a grape from “Bourgogne.” But no, that’s what you call a grape from the Loire Valley, much to the west and to the north of the Bourgogne/Burgundy region. It’s no surprise then that people just refer to the grape as “melon” but again, confusion reigns. The wine tastes nothing like a melon – this grape is pure citric battery acid.

Memorable Melon – you wish
So, maybe the most famous wine made from this Melon grape would be somehow memorable or related to Melon. Again, no. “Muscadet” is the (somewhat) famous Loire wine that is made from Melon de Bourgogne, and pairs well with oysters and haters of etymology. In summary, (1) Melon de Bourgogne is from the Loire, (2) Melon tastes like limes, and (3) Melon plus oysters is a fantastic combination. Enough to baffle anyone trying to understand the grape.

Like brushing your teeth, this is the complete dental hygiene package. Smells like toothpaste, the kind with extra calcium – in wino lingo, “chalky.” Taste is rigid and acidic with loads of citrus – want to say lime and tangerine mostly. Pretty thin finish but on the clean side, so it really does feel like your teeth are clean, clean with a lime twist.

Detail Up!
2010 Biggio Hamina Deux Melon de Bourgogne from McMinnville in the Willamette Valley, Oregon ($17 at the vineyard)

Random Googles:
* Dutch traders brought the grape from its ancestral Burgunday home to Brittany, the part of the Loire Valley that meets the Atlantic. Yes, it once lived in Burgundy but got banned by Philip the Bold because it produced bad wines and took up permanent residency in the Loire Valley.
* Oregon produces a fair amount of the Melon. They were hoodwinked. Stewart Vineyard brought the plant in during the late 1970s, thinking it was Pinot Blanc and marketed it as such for a number of years. Only later was true Pinot Blanc brought to Oregon.
* Melon is a pretty neutral grape, compared to Palomino (the famous grape of Sherry), which allows winemakers a huge amount of latitude in forming the eventual wine. Sur lie, a production technique of leaving the wine on its dead yeast dating back to at least biblical times (Isaiah 25:6), is often used for Melon wines. Otherwise, do like the Dutch and burn your wine. Because “brandewijn” is literally “burnt wine” in Dutch – we shorten it to “brandy.”

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Grape 68: Arneis

Biodiversity Beginnings
There’s something of a biodiversity movement starting, which might just be the most lasting legacy of foodies the world over. Interest in food, where it comes from, its historical and cultural narrative, is increasingly center stage in mainstream media, even as mainstream media has come to encompass far more than it meant even a decade ago and people spend more time discussing their food values, a concept that simply didn’t exist until recently (exception: Margaret Visser). Along with the food focus comes the desire for exploration, a very human trait that’s easy to identify in such code phrases as the Bering Strait, Magellan and Dr. Livingston I presume. Where once “a tomato” was enough to answer the question of “what’s that vegetable?”, it’s no longer such a simple task of identification. Vocabulary for food has proliferated into a thousand different directions and taken on a fractal life of its own.

Vocab Expansion
Free-range, organic, natural, pesticide-free all show up on the increasingly-lengthy fruit and veggie identification cards at supermarkets. Restaurants that want to signal their upscale classiness sport proper names and link their products to specific geographic sources (Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese from Greensboro, Vermont anyone?), and adjectives – actual adjectives! – now appear before the names of fruits and vegetables. Cherry tomato, beefsteak, cherokee purple, green zebra, black pear, oxacan jewel, purple russian and dozens of others, and that’s just for the tomato.

Smart Biologist Wilson
Really, it seems like a tiny drop in the struggle to preserve biodiversity as economic forces and globalization push to open new markets, exploit new resources and convert the global population into a very interlocked consumer/producer system. E.O. Wilson, a biologist who I had never heard of before last week, has all kinds of great quotes about the importance of biodiversity but the one that stuck with me is this:

The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

Problem with Eons
Not sure exactly how you tackle that problem in one bite but I think he’s right that it’s not a problem that should be talked about in terms of generations, centuries or even tens of thousands of years. Millions of years is the right time frame to be thinking about the problem. And a group of foodies advocating greater choices in their diets won’t be the answer to solving a problem of that magnitude. But the values they advocate can be part of the solution or, probably better said, those values can be part of the turn away from the cause of the problem. More diversity of plants and more acknowledgement of and discussion about the food we eat will hopefully turn more people to find names like Margaret Visser and E.O. Wilson. Worked at least with one blogger.

Detail Up!
2009 Damilano Langhe from Piedmont, Italy

Full body bit of oil smell, little acidity, round, medium body, peach.

Generally though, Arneis is known for its pear and apricot flavors. Two other Arneis bottles are described here by noted oenologist Fringe Wine.

Random Googles:
* Arneis nearly went extinct in the 1970s after several hundred years of growing in Italy’s northwest Piedmont region, and only two producers (Vietti and Bruno Giacosa) still made anything with Arneis during that decade. Since then, it’s come back with limited productions in Australia, California and New Zealand. Really though, Piedmont in Italy is where it’s from and where it’s principally grown.
* Arneis means “little rascal” in Piemontese, an actual language from Italy’s Northwest. Why? Well, it’s really hard to grow apparently.
* Traditionally, Arneis was called “Barolo Bianco” (white barolo) since it was blended with red Nebbiolo grapes into that pricery Barolo wine. Once 100% Nebbiolo grapes became the norm, Arneis lost much of its popularity, which contributed to its near-extinction.

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Thieving Sultana
You’ve eaten Sultana grapes before. Probably stolen them from your local supermarket too. They’re those enormous looking green grapes that children and degenerate adults love to pop into their mouths in the produce section when no one is looking and hopefully no cameras are pointing in your direction. We just call them Thompson Seedless, which is too bad since Sultana sounds way more regal, powerful and exciting.

California’s Most Planted, Least Known Grape
Sultana is far and away the most planted grape in California. One of every three vines in California is Thompson and the next most planted grape (Chardonnay) doesn’t even have half the acreage of Sultana.

California Raisins
And yet, we don’t see bottles of Sultana at our local wine stores, either under Sultana or Thompson Seedless. Why? Turns out Sultana can be made into wine and that wine is fine but pretty insipid if passable. A better use is turning the grapes into raisins. California Raisins – yes, that famous advertising icon begins life as a Sultana grape and ends life as a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Crisp with medium body for a white. Similar to Viognier in body and fruit but really different finish. Think Rkatsiteli on the finish – that’s the pretty obscure rape from Georgia (the country) that one should definitely try if one is ever lucky enough to be in the Finger Lakes at the vineyard of Dr. Frank Konstantin.

Detail Up!
Çankaya white wine by Kavaklidere Vineyard from Anatolia, Turkey. Available in tiny bottles on Turkish Airlines when you ask for the Turkish white wine.

Random Googles:
* Sultana is the father of a wine grape grown in California called Princess. Fitting that Princess is the daughter of Sultana – someone clearly had a lot of fun naming that grape.
* Narince can be thought of as a less oaky Chardonnay from Turkey. Probably impossible to find outside of Turkey but Kavaklidere has a bottle made only from Narince grapes.
* Emir grapes grow in really high altitude, cold parts of Turkey. With scant information on the grape available online, let’s leave it to a random tweet to tell us it has “great great potential.”

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