Priorat Wine Region of Spain

Created in 1954, Priorat — named after the 12th century Carthusian Priorato de Scala Dei, the Priory of the Stairway of God, under the auspices of which winemaking began in the region — is one of the highest-esteemed denominations in all of Spain.

  • Vineyards. Vineyards sit at high altitudes, ranging from 100-800 meters, with the best on steep slopes at the higher end of this range.
  • Climate. The climate is dry and warm. Although the elevation brings cooler evenings, this is moderated by heat emanating from the soils and the stabilizing influence of the Mediterranean (only 30 kilometers away).
Map of Spain's wine regions

Map of Spain’s wine regions. Priorat is located in Catalunya in the northeast corner of Spain.

Soils types in Priorat

There are two soil types in Priorat, each of which produces a different style of wine:

  • The denomination is famous for its llicorella soils: volcanic in origin, they consist chiefly of slate, with small levels of mica; these soils stress the vines and conserve heat for optimal grape ripening, producing big wines with bold fruit and intense flavors, with soft, approachable tannins, even when young; they even impart a mineral edge to the resulting wines. Wines from these soils dominate production.
  • At the highest elevations, however, the soils change to red clay; the resulting wines are lighter and more delicate, often with intoxicating aromas.

Both soils exist over a schist foundation, which provides a porous enough material for vines to penetrate for stored rainwater reserves and minerals.

Priorat: Red Wines

Red wines are based chiefly on garnacha and cariñena:

  • The primary grape in Priorat red wine blends is low-yielding old-vine garnacha, which accounts for nearly 40% of vineyard planted area. It produces wines with bold, nuanced fruit, laced with a distinctive mineral (slate) edge. The grape’s thin skins impart minimal tannins, so they must be introduced by vinifying with stems or aging in small oak barrels (225 liters).
  • The aromatic cariñena brings a blueberry, violet nose and dark color.

Although Priorat has gotten a reputation for over-oaking its wines and relying on non-indigenous varieties to enhance the garnacha base, leading winemakers are increasingly returning to more traditional styles of winemaking to bring out the best in their prized garnacha: vinifying in cement tanks; aging in larger barrels; using native yeasts; avoiding destemming; and decreasing the percentage of cabernet sauvignon and syrah in the blend (restoring cariñenato secondary importance).

Overall, they are special wines; although they can lean toward the pricey side, they are worth it for a splurge.

Priorat: White Wines

Although reds are clearly its focus, Priorat does produce a small amount (under 5% of total production) of high quality white wines based on two traditional Catalunyan varieties: garnacha blanca and macabeo.

More information about the Priorat wine region

 

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Barbera: An Italian Red Grape Grown in Piedmont, Italy

Thin-skinned barbera is the most widely-planted grape variety in Piedmont and the fourth most popular in Italy after sangiovese, catarratto and trebbiano toscano. While wines are made in a range of styles, they generally offer low tannins, very high acidity and sharp, often sour cherry and red fruit flavors complemented by earthy overtones.

Barbera’s trademark high acidity makes it pair exceptionally well with food, particularly rich and hearty fare.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

About the Italian region of Piedmont (Piemonte)

Piedmont is definitely the Italian region most prized by wine collectors as overall quality and consistency is very high. While the stratospheric prices of world-class Barolo and Barbaresco wines might keep them out of reach, there are many nebbiolo bargains to be had, particularly outside of the core Langhe zone in below-the-radar denominations north of the Po river. Further, we encourage you explore the complete landscape of red wines where there are many exciting options: the light freisa, the food-friendly barbera and the fruit-forward dolcetto.

Although vastly unappreciated, Piedmont is also home to impressive white wines that hit attractive price points. Look to arneis, erbaluce, nascetta and timorasso for something new.

Italian Wine iPhone & iPad App

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Wine from Spain: Carinena (Carignan)

Known as carignan in France, the cariñena grape variety (aka mazuelo and samsó) thrives in warm climates, which are required to bring this late-ripening variety to maturity. It is best known for being a small contributor to the great garnacha-based wines of Catalunya’s Priorat and Montsant DOs; in its supporting role, cariñena adds good acidity, dark coloration and a boost of tannins, coupled with bright, unmistakable blueberry and violet notes. That said, while its traditional role has been as a blending grape, it is just starting to be used on its own to make respectable single-varietal wines.

Map of Spain's wine regions

Map of Spain’s wine regions

Carinena…a grape or an appellation?

Carinena is both a grape and an appellation!

Created in 1932, the longstanding Cariñena DO is located southwest of Zaragoza on the border of Calatayud.

  • Vineyards. Vineyards sit in a rolling plain that straddles the Ebro river at 400-800 meters in elevation.
  • Soils. Soils are comprised primarily of limestone, slate and quartz.
  • Climate. The climate is dry and continental, with large fluctuations between day and night temperatures.

Red Wines

Cariñena offers some of the best red values in all of Spain.

  • Red wines are dominated by garnacha. They are executed very well, exhibiting strong aromatics and flavors of blackberries and plums. As in neighbors Calatayud and Campo de Borja, old vines (30-50 years old) are in abundant supply and are responsible for the denomination’s best wines. Overall, Calatayud’s garnachas are perhaps a bit more delicate than those of neighboring Campo de Borja, given the lower mix of clay in the soil.
  • Interestingly, the grape variety that gives its name to the denomination accounts for less than 10% of plantings.
  • Tempranillo-based wines are on the rise, often blended with garnacha for some punch.
  • Rosés are also dependable and made to high quality standards.

Although wines have historically been joven in style, there are some nice crianzas being produced.

White Wines

The dominant white variety is viura (the local name for macabeo), made in a fuller-bodied style.

More Information

 

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Cannonau: Italian Red Wine Grape from Sardegna

Better known throughout the world as garnacha or grenache, thick-skinned, late-ripening cannonau yields big, brawny wines in Sardinia. Typically low in acidity and tannins, they offer rich flavors of dark fruit (raspberries and cherries), coffee, licorice and chocolate, often with trademark notes of herb and spice. To put Sardinia’s cannonaus into perspective: they share greater similarities with versions from Spain’s Catalunya than those of France’s southern Rhône, favoring fruit over earth and higher alcohol (often around 15%), characteristics likely attributable to the warmer temperatures.

Very flexible reds, they offer exceptional price-value. Cannonau also makes excellent full-bodied dry rosés.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

Where to find the best Cannonau wines

For the highest quality varietal wines, look for the following Cannonau di Sardegna DOC sub-areas:

  • Capo Ferrato
  • Jerzu
  • Oliena

About the Italian region of Sardegna

Anchored off Italy’s west coast, the island of Sardinia offers some distinctive wines — led by the bold cannonau and the flavorful vermentino — at compelling prices. Even familiar grapes — many of which have Spanish origins — take on a unique character as a result of the bright Sardinian sunshine and fierce north-blowing sirocco winds that originate in the Sahara. While wines can sometimes lack polish, they more than make up for any deficiencies by delivering a sense of place. It is a great region for the adventurous wine drinker.

Italian Wine iPhone & iPad App

 
Learn about the wines of Italy with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Italy’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Carmenere: Chilean Red Wine

Carmenère is Chile’s fifth largest production fine grape variety, comprising 10% of red grape vineyard planted area and 7% of total. Originally from France’s Bordeaux, this late-ripening variety performs exceptionally well in Chile’s dry, warm climates, as it requires these conditions to reach full ripeness. Further, since carmenère production has faded in France, Chile is virtually the sole source of wines made from this special grape.

Carmenère is definitely one of our favorites. At its best, it delivers smooth full-bodied wines, packed with huge fruit and savory, spicy notes; flavors include herbs, bell pepper, smoke, coffee, blackcurrants, leather, and tobacco. Acidity levels are low and it is best consumed young. While there are certainly varietally-produced versions, carmenère-based wines often incorporate small amounts of other grape varieties — cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot — to provide structure and acidity.

Map of Chile’s wine regions

Map of Chile’s wine regions

Best regions for carmenere

Look for these regions to find the best expressions of Carmenere.

  • Cachapoal (Peumo sub-area)
  • Colchagua (Apalta sub-area)
  • Maipo (Isla de Maipo sub-area)
  • Maule (Cauquenes and Empedradosub-areas).

Chile Wine iPhone & iPad App

Learn about the wines of Chile with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Chile’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Wines from the Etna DOC (Sicily, Italy)

Sicily, the land of abundant sun, good food, and a rich culture infused with Byzantine and Arabic influences, continues to see growth in tourism and exports. Although Sicilian wines can be inconsistent at times, winemaking is improving at a breakneck pace with prices remaining generally reasonable.

The Etna DOC — located in eastern Sicily on the slopes of the Etna volcano — is one of Sicily’s top denominations.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

Red Wines

The Etna DOC zone is one of the premier areas (along with the Faro DOC) for the nerello mascalese red grape. The Etna DOC is located in eastern Sicily on the high elevation (1000+ meters) slopes of the Etna volcano; wines are derived from a minimum of 80% of the variety.

Genetically connected to frappato, gaglioppo and sangiovese, thin-skinned, late-ripening nerello mascalese offers a more elegant, reserved style of Sicilian red. Wines are light colored with approachable ripe red fruit flavors, pleasant spice and soft tannins. Highly expressive of terroir, they present a trademark mineral earthiness, likely reflecting the volcanic soils around Mount Etna in which the grapes are grown. Wines come at attractive price points and are certainly worth trying, particularly if you are a fan of northern Piedmont’s lighter nebbiolos, Cru Beaujolais or the Loire Valley’s cabernet francs.

White Wines

While possible best known its gentle nerello mascalese reds, the Etna DOC is also the home of tasty whites based primarily on a blend of the indigenous carricante and catarratto grape varieties.

Bottles marked as standard Etna bianco contain a minimum of 60% carricante; those marked as superiore have a minimum of 80% carricante. Given thick-skinned, late-ripening carricante’s leading position in the blend, they are delicate wines that display high levels of acidity, making them ideal an partner for simply prepared seafood. They reveal flavors of green apple, orange, lemon, honey and mineral, sometimes with anise and saline notes.

Italian Wine iPhone & iPad App


Learn about the wines of Italy with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Italy’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Best Values for Red Burgundy: Appellation Suggestions

On the heals of back-to-back excellent vintages of 2009 and 2010, the “second-tier” appellations have produced some exciting wines that begin to enter the realm of affordable, a term that is rarely associated with red Burgundy. We’ve listed below a few of our favorite appellations in Burgundy that (outside of Beaujolais) are offering the best price-to-value ratios.

Map of Burgundy's Wine Regions

Map of Burgundy’s Appellations & Crus

Best Burgundy’s appellations and crus

  • Auxey-Duresses (Côte de Beaune). Like those of Monthélie to its north, the wines of Auxey-Duresses offer hints of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristic of those of its famous neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. Although some of the Premiers Crus can develop bigger profiles, wines are typically medium-bodied with red fruit-biased flavor profiles. To take the comparison further: While the Premiers Crus of Auxey-Duresses often do not consistently rival those of neighboring Monthélie (they can lack the polish), its basic Village wine (labeled simply as Auxey-Duresses) often surpass those of its neighbor; accordingly, this is an appellation in which to seek out its basic Village wines (branded simply as ‘Auxey-Duresses’). We advocate a ‘Village strategy’ in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Duresses, Les Breterins, *La Chapelle, Climat du Val, *Clos du Val, *Les Duresses, Les Ecusseaux, Les Grands-Champs, and Reugne.
  • Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Beaune’s Premiers Crus are medium-bodied and approachable; tannins and earthy elements are held in check, allowing their bright aromatics and soft, red cherry fruit characters to stand front-and-center. To put the wines of Beaune into stylistic perspective, they sit between those of its more famous neighbors to the south, Pommard and Volnay: Pommard’s wines are bigger and more concentrated, while those of Volnay are more refined and delicate. The basic Village Beaune wines are lighter and more straightforward than the Premiers Crus; they are grown on flatter plots where clay levels are slightly higher. The Premiers Crus should be given five years to age; the Village wines, however, are ready for immediate consumption. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Aigrots, Les Avaux, Le Bas de Teurons, Beaux-Fougets, Bellisand, Blanche Fleur, Les Boucherottes, *Les Bressandes, *Les Cent Vignes, Champs Pimont, Les Chouacheux, Clos de la Feguine, Clos des Avaux, *Le Clos des Mouches, Le Clos de la Mousse, *Clos du Roi, Clos des Ursules, Aux Coucherias, *Aux Cras, A l’Ecu, *Les Epenottes, *Les Feves, En Genet, *Les Greves, Sur les Greves, Les Longues, *Les Marconnets, La Mignotte, Montee-Rouge, Les Montrevenots, En l’Orme, Les Perrieres, Pertuisots, Les Reversees, Les Seurey, *Les Sizies, *Les Teurons, Tielandry (Clos Landry), Les Toussaints, Les Tuvilains, and *Les Vignes Franches.
  • Blagny (Côte de Beaune). Blagny reds are generally aggressive wines, packed with flavors of game and earth. Although less so than those of Pommard, they are nevertheless powerful wines. Further, as they are generally well made and relatively little known, they represent particularly good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : *La Piece sous le Bois, La Jeunelotte, and *Sous le Dos d’Ane (These crus can be can be called ‘Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru’ if white and ‘Blagny Premiers Crus’ if red.). Sous le Puits, La Garenne, Hameau de Blagny, and Le Trezin (These crus can be called ‘Puligny-Montrachet’ if white, yet only basic ‘Blagny’ if red.).
  • Chorey-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Chorey-lès-Beaune is known for straightforward, easy-drinking, everyday wines that have pleasant, fruity profiles; they are light-bodied, yet with noticeable tannins. We recommend looking to this appellation in the best vintages for very good values (some of the lowest price points in Burgundy). These wines should be drunk within five years of the vintage. Most of the village’s wines are actually sold as ‘Côte de Beaune Villages’, rather than as Chorey-lès-Beaune. There are no Premiers Crus vineyards, but a few select climats (named vineyards) produce high quality wines (favorites are marked with asterisks): Les Beaumonts, Les Bons Ores, *Les Champs-Longs, Aux Clous, Les Crais, *Piece du Chapitre, Poirier-Malchaussee, and Les Ratosses.
  • Fixin (Côte de Nuits). These pinot noir-based wines display good red and black fruits — leaning slightly more toward the latter — with distinctive gamey and earthy notes. Fixin’s wines are often called ‘sauvage’, meaning that they are powerful and tannic, and therefore require some aging in order to soften up; this is quite a change from the appellation’s neighbor to the north, Marsannay. Fixin is a particularly good area to look for good values in Burgundy, particularly in quality vintages, when the favorable conditions round out characteristic rough edges. While Clos du Chapitre and Clos de la Perriere (marked with asterisks below) are generally regarded as the best Premiers Crus, they are quite powerful in their youths and require aging. That said, if you are looking for something to drink young, lean toward the more delicate Premiers Crus: Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets. The non-Premiers Crus vineyards are also meaningful contributors to the affordable wines of Côte de Nuits-Villages; these are also worth being on the lookout for. Premiers Crus vineyards : *Les Arvelets, *Clos du Chapitre, Clos Napoleon, *Clos de la Perriere, and *Les Hervelets.
  • Givry (Côte Chalonnaise). Givry’s pinot noir-based reds strike a balance between those of its neighbors to its north, Rully and Mercurey: They are a bit more intense and full bodied than Rully’s light reds, yet hold back from the bold, earthy profile characteristic of those from Mercurey. That said, these medium-bodied wines have a persistent quality and intense aromatics; as you might expect, they favor the red side of the spectrum, display brisk acidity, and have an earthy, peppery finish. The wines are also typically good values. Of all the appellations in the Cote Chalonnaise (which includes Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny), Givry gets our vote for the consistently best wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Berges, Bois Cheveaux, Bois Gauthier, Clos de la Barraude, Clos du Cellier aux Moines, Clos Charle, Clos du Cras Long, Clos Jus, Clos Marceaux, Clos St-Paul, Clos St-Pierre, Clos Salomon, Clos de la Servoisine, Clos du Vernoy, Grands Pretants, Les Grandes Vignes, Marole, Petit Marole, Petits Pretants, Vaux, En Vignes Rouges, and Le Vigron.
  • Maranges (Côte de Beaune). The appellation’s heavy clay soils serve to yield wines of great power that possess a characteristic earthiness. In their youth, Maranges’ wines pack quite a punch and typically require years of bottle aging to soften them up. That said, wines are made to a high quality standard and represent good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Bourg, *Le Clos de la Boutiere, *Le Clos des Loyeres, Le Clos des Rois, *Les Clos Roussots, La Crois aux Moines, *La Fussiere (aka Fuissiere), Les Loyeres, En Marange, Maranges, Les Plantes de Maranages, and Aux Roueres.
  • Marsannay (Côte de Nuits). Reds based exclusively on pinot noir lead the charge in Marsannay, accounting for two-thirds of total production. Compared to the wines from its better known neighbors to its south, Marsannay reds are relatively simple affairs, tasty but not overly layered or complex: they are medium-bodied and low in tannins, with notes favoring the red fruit (cherry, raspberry, and strawberry) over black fruits, often with an inkling of earth and game. Marsannay is actually best known for its high quality and attractively-priced roses, which account for 15% of total production; they are juicy wines, reminiscent of strawberries and peaches. Marsannay is unique in that it is the only Village-level appellation that is allowed to produce a rosé under its own designation; all other Burgundy rosés are restricted to the regional appellation Bourgogne. These pinot-based pinks are some of the tastiest, food-friendly versions available and get our vote. There are no Grands Crus or Premiers Crus vineyards in this appellation, only about 20 lieux-dits (named vineyards).
  • Mercurey (Côte Chalonnaise). Mercurey is a good source of value-priced, red Burgundy. Due to higher clay and iron levels in its soils and slightly warmer temperatures, Mercurey’s reds are fuller bodied, deeper in color and possess greater aging potential than other appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise. Stylistically, they tend to be rather earthy wines, with their cherry fruit flavors often taking a back seat to those of wet soil, stone, and mineral; further, while there are some excellent winemakers, there is some inconsistency in this appellation, owing chiefly to its large size. We advise only opting for red wines from Mercurey in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : La Bondue, Les Byots, La Cailloute, *Champs Martins, La Chassiere, *Clos des Barraults, Clos Chateau de Montaigu, *Clos l’Eveque, Clos-des-Fourneaux, Clos des Grands Voyens, Clos-Marcilly, *Clos-des-Montagus, Clos des Myglands, Clos de Paradis, *Clos-du-Roi, Clos Tonnerre, *Clos Voyens (Les Voyens), Les Combins, Les Crets, Les Croichots, Les Fourneaux, Grand Clos Fortoul, Grifferes, Le Levriere, La Mission, Les Montaigus, Les Naugues, Les Puillets, Les Ruelles, Les Saumonts, Sazenay, Les Vasees, and *Les Velley.
  • Monthélie (Côte de Beaune). The wines of Monthélie share much of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristics of those of its well-regarded neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. That said, overall they are impressive, sophisticated wines, particularly for the price; they exhibit medium-bodied profiles and red fruit-biased flavor profiles, with subtle notes of underbrush, earth and spice. Overall, Monthélie is a little known appellation producing consistently good quality wines; as a result, we believe it is a highly recommendable source for very good red Burgundy values; seek out wines from Premiers Crus vineyards (particularly those we have highlighted with asterisks below). Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Cas Rougeot, *Les Champs Fulliot, Le Chateau-Gaillard, Le Clos Gauthey, Les Duresses, *Le Meix Bataille, Les Riottes, La Taupine, *Sur La Velle, *Les Vignes Rondes, and Le Village.
  • Pernand-Vergelesses (Côte de Beaune). The red wines of Pernand-Vergelesses have seen great improvement, and as they are relatively unknown, offer good values. Most resembling those of neighbor Savigny-lès-Beaune, they are bigger wines than others in the Côte de Beaune; further, they are more polished, exhibiting less earthy rusticity and more bright fruit. The iron-heavy soils create wines that are medium- to full-bodied, with concentrated flavors of black fruits (think blackberries and black cherry); the Premiers Crus have more polish than the Village level wines. We recommend looking to these wines as excellent values; however, these wines should generally only be sought out in high quality vintages; in less favorable vintages winemakers can have difficulties bringing pinot noir to optimal ripeness (yielding less attractive, green, herbal flavors), due to the less than favorable northeasterly exposure of most of the vineyards. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Basses Vergelesses, En Caradeux, Clos Berthier, Clos Le Village, Creux de la Net, Les Fichots, Ile des Hautes Vergelesses, *Ile des Vergelesses, Sous Fretille, and Les Vergelesses.
  • Saint-Aubin (Côte de Beaune). Stylistically, the reds of Saint-Aubin resemble those of neighboring Chassagne-Montrachet, however they are lighter, have a bit more acidity, and display a greater bias toward the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum (think cherries, raspberries, and strawberries). These are very pleasant and well-made reds that should appeal to price-sensitive wine lovers (aren’t we all?) seeking a relatively lighter-bodied style of red Burgundy. We advise seeking these wines out, particularly in high quality vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Vermarin a l’Est, *Les Castets, Les Champlots, Le Charmois, La Chateniere, Ez Champs, Les Combes au Sud, Les Cortons, Derriere Chez Edouard, Derriere La Tour, Echaille, En Creot, En Vollon a l’Est, *Les Frionnes, Le Bas de Gamay a l’Est, Sur Gamay, Marinot, En Montceau, Les Murgers des Dents de Chien, Les Perrieres, Les Petangerets, Les Puits, En la Ranche, En Remilly, *Sous Roche Dumay, *Sur le Sentier du Clou, Les Travers de Marinot, Vignes-Moingeon, and Le Village.
  • Savigny-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Overall, the reds of Savigny-lès-Beaune are a relatively light style, with a seductive aromatic profile, offering notes of violet and red berry fruit, often with some earthy flavor notes. While all wines generally share the prior character, those on the Pernand-Vergelesses side are medium-bodied, intense, fruity, and can be drunk younger; those on the Beaune side are fuller-bodied, earthier, and require aging to soften up their more aggressive profiles. In our opinion, Savigny-lès-Beaune is an excellent appellation from which to seek out very good red Burgundy values, particularly from the northern portion; production levels are high (which keeps a lid on pricing), but quality levels are consistently good.To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Northeast side (towards Pernand-Vergelesses) : Basses Vergelesses, *Batailliere, Les Charnieres, Aux Clous, La Dominode, *Aux Fourneaux, *Aux Gravains, *Aux Guettes, *Les Lavieres, Petits Godeaux, Les Rouvrettes, *Aux Serpentieres, Les Talmettes, *Aux Vergelesses, and Les Vergelesses. Southwest side (towards Beaune) : *La Dominode, Les Hauts Jarrons, Les Jarrons, Les Marconnets, Les Narbantons, Les Peuillets, Redrescul, and Les Rouvrettes.
  • Santenay (Côte de Beaune). Although wines are more sophisticated and restrained in the highlighted Premiers Crus, Santenay’s medium-bodied reds tend to be powerful and spicy, with tannins that are abrupt in youth; flavors favor the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum, e.g., cherries and strawberries. While the distinctive earth and mineral component characteristic of Santenay’s wines can overpower the fruit in some cases, this is typically not the case. These wines are good values and are appealing options for those who find a sophisticated, earthier style red appealing. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Beauregard, Beaurepaire, Le Chainey, *Le Clos Faubard, *Le Clos de Mouches, *Le Clos de Tavannes, *La Comme, Comme Dessus, Les Fourneaux, Le Grand Clos Rousseau, *Les Gravieres, La Maladiere, *Passetemps, and Le Petit Clos Rousseau.

 

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Beaujolais’ Chiroubles AOC: Great Wines, Superb Values

Beaujolais, the largest and southernmost region in Burgundy, lies roughly midway between Burgundy’s famed Côte d’Or and the Northern Rhône Valley.   For the most part, Beaujolais wines — 99% of which are based on the red gamay grape variety — are light to medium bodied, high in acidity, low in tannins, and deliver big, up-front red fruit flavors. They have a high capacity for soil and site expression, which makes for an exciting range of flavors and styles across the region. While most Beaujolais is made for immediate drinking and best served with a light chill, some of the region’s ten best village cru producers offer fuller-bodied, more structured styles.

The ten elite crus (villages). There are ten villages in Beaujolais whose wines stand above all others; they have been afforded cru status and account for roughly 25% of total production. The Cru Beaujolais villages include (listed by the style of wine they produce, from lightest bodied to fullest bodied): Chiroubles, St-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent.

Map of Beaujolais

Map of Beaujolais

We wanted to profile one of our favorites of these Cru Beaujolais appellations for you: Chiroubles.  This appellation offers some of the best price-value wines in the market today.

Chiroubles is positioned mid-way along the strip of hilly land in northern Beaujolais that is home to these ten select villages; soils are primarily of rough granite. Chiroubles is situated at the highest elevation of the Beaujolais crus (400 meters); the resulting relative coolness afforded by this higher elevation affords them a characteristic delicacy. These lighter-bodied wines have an expansive bouquet (violet, orange blossom, and peony are often referenced); they are fruit-forward (think raspberry), yet sophisticated, often with delicate notes of game, stone, currant, and tea that add complexity. Wines are designed for immediate drinking. This appellation gets our vote for the best of lighter style Beaujolais.


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Learn about the wines of France with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of France’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

A Wine to try: Bonarda from Italy

The bonarda (aka croatina) grape variety offers great wine values in Italy
Bonarda is the local name for the croatina grape in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna and bears no relation to the bonarda grape varieties found in Argentina and Piedmont. The mid- to late-ripening grape delivers wines with dark color, gushing fruit, low acidity and soft tannins, often resembling montepulciano or dolcetto in expression.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

Where to find bonarda wines

In Lombardy

The bonarda grape achieves its highest levels in Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese DOC (and the Casteggio DOC sub-area), located in the foothills of the Apennines mountains on limestone-rich clay soils. In wines alternatively labelled as Oltrepò Pavese Rosso, Sangue di Giuda or Buttafuoco, it is mixed chiefly with barbera and typically remains over 50%; it is also made into varietally-labelled wines in which it makes up at least 85% (riserva wines are aged for a minimum of 24 months). They often represent very good price-value. Look for it also in the blends of the San Colombano al Lambro / San Colombano DOC.

In Emilia-Romagna

Bonarda delivers exceptional results — dark, fruity and low in acidity — in the sandy clay soils of Emilia-Romagna’s Colli Piacentini DOC, where it is made into varietally-labelled wines (minimum 85% croatina). It also makes up a portion of blends, typically taking a secondary position to barbera or pinot nero, in the Colli Piacentini’s Gutturnio and Novello sub-areas.

Italian Wine iPhone & iPad App

Learn about the wines of Italy with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Italy’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Italy’s Valtellina Wines: Chiavennasca (aka Nebbiolo)

Italy’s Valtellina denomination, based in the region of Lombardia, offers some great, under-appreciated value wines. Although they do not quite reach the same heights as in Piedmont, nebbiolo-based wines from Lombardy are impressive and worth trying. If you are a lover of nebbiolo, this zone is worth exploring!

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

About the Valtellina

  • The Valtellina. The best area for chiavannasca, the Valtellina zone located in the mountainous northern reaches of the region, along the Adda river in the province of Sondrio, where rocky clay-based soils prevail.
  • Classifications. The denomination’s basic wines — labelled as Rosso di Valtellina DOC — are made from a minimum of 80% nebbiolo and aged for six months in wood barrels. The premier wines — labelled as Valtellina Superiore DOCG% — are made from grapes grown on the premier plots within the same geographic area, comprised of at least 90% nebbiolo and aged for a minimum of 24 months (12 in oak barrels).
  • Versus nebbiolo from Piedmont. As compared to those from Piedmont, Valtellina nebbiolos lack the same dark fruit punch due to the modestly cooler temperatures that make it challenging for this very late-maturing variety to reach optimal ripeness. What they lack in power and harmony, however, they make up for in finesse, aroma and earthy concentration. Further, they typically hit more attractive price points, which makes them worth checking out.

While all Valtellina wines are of generally high quality, look for the following five Valtellina Superiore DOCG sub-areas for the best experience:

  • Grumello. Fruit forward and aromatic with notes of almonds due to small amounts of the local brugnola grape in the blend.
  • Inferno. Most powerful, concentrated and austere versions.
  • Maroggia. Lowest production with medium- to full-bodied, fruity versions.
  • Sassella. Viewed as the best of the Valtellina, richer and fuller-bodied versions requiring 3-5 years of aging.
  • Valgella. The most delicate, floral-perfumed expressions of nebbiolo.

What about Sforzato

Made from a minimum of 90% nebbiolo grapes, sforzato wines (aka Valtellina Sfursat) are unique to Lombardy’s Valtellina. Following a similar process to that used with the Veneto’s Amarone, they are made by drying out the grapes until they are raisins and their sugars are concentrated. Since all of the sugar is allowed to convert to alcohol, the resulting wine is totally dry; this results in high alcohol levels, usually around 14%. As with Amarone, the final result is a rich, almost syrupy, wine with low acid levels. While slightly less mouth filling, sforzato wines deliver a greater level of spiciness. Look for them in the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG.

About the nebbiolo grape (chiavennasca)

Nebbiolo, known locally in Lombardia as chiavennasca, produces the most sophisticated red wines in Italy.

  • Trademark characteristics. The light-colored wines are characterized by large amounts of acidity and tannin, which typically require many years of bottle aging to balance and integrate. Despite their power, nebbiolo-based wines are never dense, jammy or distinctly fruity. Showcasing powerful aromas redolent of red cherries, roses and truffles, they also have notes of eucalyptus, violets, pine needle, herbs, mushrooms and cinnamon spice. As the wines age, they take on darker notes of tar, tobacco, leather and earth.
  • Name origin. The name nebbiolo is derived from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. The grape’s fog association could be derived from one of two possibilities: the fog that typically settles over the area of the Langhe in October or the characteristic white-colored coating that appears on the skin of the grape late in the growing season. The grape is also known by the following names: chiavennasca (Lombardy’s Valtellina), picotendro (Valle d’Aosta) and spanna (northern Piedmont).

Italian Wine iPhone & iPad App

Learn about the wines of Italy with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Italy’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.