Sunday, May 24, 2020

Oxygen transfer during the oak aging of wine

According to Del Alamo-Sanza and Nevares*, the oak barrel behaves as an interactive vessel with wine, allowing the transfer of substances from the wood to the wine (covered here) and the dynamic transfer of oxygen from the air to the wine.

I cover the transfer of oxygen from air to wine in this post.

Oxygen Transfer Rate
The annual rate of oxygen entry into barrels is the amount of oxygen that enters a barrel full of wine over the course of a year; the unit of measure is mg/L.year. A number of studies over the years (Ribereau-Gayon, 1933; Amerine and Joslyn, 1970; Prillinger, 1965, for example) have defined and refined this measure, but it was Singleton's efforts which sought to establish the oxygen entry point. According to Singleton, oxygen entered the barrel through the dry wood at the top where it is in contact with the headspace.

Vivas and Glories, in a subsequent study, measured oxygen entry into barrels (sourced from Limousin and Centro) full of wine -- wet-wood barrels -- and found that (i) oxygen entry into the wine varied between 20 and 45 g/L for new barrels and 10 mg/L for the 5-year-old barrels. These values have become the accepted oxygen transfer rates for French oak barrels.

In the same study it was found that the oxygen transfer rate was 45 mg/L with a silicone bung and 28 mg/L when the barrel was tightly sealed.

Other later studies have shown that sealing the joints between the staves of full barrels did not prevent oxygen entry into the wine. The conclusion, then, was that oxygen entered the barrel through the wood, joints between the staves, and through the bung; not through the dry wood at the top of the headspace (as had been posited by Singleton). In more recent times, the bung as a source of oxygen entry has seemed to lose prominence with the widespread use of food-grade silicone bungs that allow a tight seal.

The entry of oxygen into the barrel, and its relationship with wine flow into the oakwood, is illustrated in the figure below.

It has been shown that French oak allows more oxygen entry than does American oak. While 50% of American oak's oxygen ingress was through the wood, fully 75% of French wood's ingress was through the same channel. The finer the grain, the greater the oxygen permeation in both species. An oak stave that is 27-mm thick would allow a maximum oxygen transfer rate of 26 ml/L.year.

Oxygen entry through the joints between staves is not uniform along the length of the joint. Rather, it is greater at the middle of the stave, where the pressure is between 0 and 3 bars, and less so at the ends where the pressure ranges between 25 and 30 bars.

The process of topping up the wine barrel has been seen as a source of air entry into the barrel. According to Del Alamo-Sanza and Nevares, however, good management of the barrel-topping process "does not necessarily involve an increase in wine oxygenation."

Oxygen reaching the wine does so both via the wood and the joints between the staves. The oxygen transfer rate of the barrel, then, depends on the wood from which it is constructed as well as the construction process.

Oxygen introduced into the wine reacts with pigments and tannins such that:
  • The red color in wine is stabilized and enhanced
  • Tannins are softened
  • Complex aromas develop
  • Improvement in the mouthfeel and body of the wine is evident.

*This post draws heavily on the work of Del Alamo-Sanza and Nevares (Maria del Alamo-Sanza & Ignacio Nevares (2018) Oak wine barrel as an active vessel: A critical review of past and current knowledge, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 58:16, 2711-2726, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1330250)

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Etna DOC sub-region terroirs (after Benjamin North-Spencer, author, The New Wines of Mount Etna)

I have been conducting InstaGramLive chats with a number of Etna producers and the issue of what constitutes the layer below the top-level Etna DOC, and the terroirs of that next level, kept coming up. Was the next level down broad geographical categories (East, North, etc.) or was it down at the Contrada level? I asked Benjamin North-Spencer to come back to my InstaGramLive platform to provide his perspective as to the construct of the Etna DOC sub-zones and the terroirs associated with each. This post summarizes our discussion.

The sub-regions that Ben described were the Southwest, Southeast, East, Northeast, and North. A summary of his perspectives are contained in the chart following and additional clarifying information is provided in the text following the chart.

This was a hotspot until it fell out of favor during the 1800s.

The current surface that we see on Mt. Etna today is the Mongibello facade, consisting of material 15,000 years old and younger. That material overlays an earlier, much wider, shield volcano that has outcroppings in the extreme north and south of the Etna wine region. The material overlaying the shield volcano ranges from 10 to 100 m in depth and consists of recent volcanics: silica, lapilli (tephra of from 2 to 64 mm in size) rippidu, and bombs/blocks (effluvia greater than 64 mm in size are called bombs when molten and blocks when solid).

Rainfall here, according to my research, amounts to approximately 500 mm/year.

My research shows that rainfall in the region is distributed as follows: between 1.000 and 1.200 mm/yr on the northern, eastern, and southeastern slopes and 500 mm/yr on the southwest slopes. The southeast and eastern slopes are unprotected from the autumn and winter rains but the combination of rapid runoff and early morning sun contribute to their attractiveness as growing regions (especially for whites).

This area has a massive fissure that flows up from the city of Catania to the central craters. According to Ben, there are 35 lateral parasitic craters that feed off the central plumbing. These craters form cones of sand and are endowed with pyroclastic that overlay on themselves. These cones have metal at the top and, as a result of gravitational erosion, a lot more silica and organically rich material at the plateaus. There is a wealth of rich organic material in the areas between the cones, as well as a lot of rich, black volcanic material.

This is a great place to grow grapes: all of the cones; all of the aspects that are presented; all of the different elevations ranging between 400 and 900 m. This is also the area that receives the largest amount of of volcanic sand from the regular eruptions of the volcano. Ben says that we are talking about 1500 lbs of fresh soil each year because of the way the winds spin around the volcano.

The southeast and eastern slopes are unprotected from the autumn and winter rains but the combination of rapid runoff and early morning sun contribute to their attractiveness as growing regions (especially for whites). The Foti Aeris vineyard is located on the east slope and, as explained by Salvo, lies between the mountain and the sea and the warm air from the latter meets with the cold air from the former over Milo with the result being significant rainfall over the entire growing area (My research).

The Valle del Bove, the horseshoe-shaped structure that dominates on this side of the volcano, is, according to Ben, the original shield volcano's crater. This crater blew the top (15,000 years ago, according to Ben; 8,000 and 60,000 years according to other sources) off the mountain and then fell back in on itself. It collected snowfall from the mountain, forming a glacial lake, and decomposing the volcanics that were the core of the seven volcanoes that comprised the Elliptico. The eastern flank of the volcano was involved in a landslide and deposited water and eroded volcanics over the slope where we find Milo located today. These eroded volcanics were distributed over a very steep and plateaued environment.

Milo is the only area within the DOC where Etna Bianco Superiore can be produced.

Wines on the volcano's east are salty. According to Ben, the soils have a high mineral content but, in addition, breezes coming in off the sea are trapped at altitude and the salt moisture they contain come back to earth with the rain. These mineral, saline wines are endowed with incredible acidity and longevity and, if produced well, can age for 15 to 20 years.

The decomposition of volcanic material forms allophane, a type of primordial clay, which is sticky for nutrients and holds water temporarily so that it can be accessed by the vine roots. The allophanes, due to their construct, provide a much greater surface area for nutrient attachment than does other more traditional clays.

Overlying lava flows, most from the Mongibelo volcano. The soils are very fertile due to the rain softening the volcanics and mixing in the organics that fall out of the forests that sit above the DOC areas.

This area is very beautiful, according to Ben; it has a lot of exposure to the Alcantara Valley. It is exposed to the winds from the north that flow in between the volcano and the Nebrodi Mountains and to the Grecale in its southern reaches.

Steep slopes with great exposure to sunshine during the summer and at midday.

We start to see more international varieties here: Syrah, Chardonnay, Nero d' Avola. Softer tannins, more opulent fruit for the Nerello Mascalese here than for the same variety to the north. Also greater tropical notes.

As it relates to climate, my research shows that the Nebrodi Mountains offer some protection to the north slope of Mt Etna but some wind does make it over the top, bringing rain in the autumn and winter and moisture year-round. There are some benefits to this moisture though. The runoff, unlike the case for the runoff on the eastern and southeastern slopes, proceeds downhill at a moderate pace and is absorbed by the lava beneath the soil, This water store then becomes available to the vine roots during the growing season. The major beneficiary of this process is the area between the towns of Solicchiata and Randazzo. The wind from the northeast blows steam from the vents to the southeast creating a shadow which serves to reduce evaporation.

Ben sees the soils of the North as being very young and associated primarily with the current facade (15,000 years old and less). As a result of the youth of the volcanic deposits, the wines have great fruit, great structure, and longevity. The wines also have elegance, better acidity, minerals, and tannins, features that make them collectible. They are also delicious up front.

Ben sees a change in weather as you get up towards Rovitello. There is a dryness in the soil and old vines (100+ years) are planted on their own roots

As you move towards Randazzo, the growers are farming on an outcropping of the ancient volcano. The elevations here are a little lower. Ben says that you can see the interconnectivity between the vines, the old volcanoes, and, maybe, a little bit of limestone that has been pushed up by the tectonic collision between the African and Eurasian plates.

He sees the whites on this side as having a bit more intensity of fruit, more mature fruit, and saline mineral flavors with some tropical notes. The grapes here do not experience as significant a temperature shock as is the case in the previously visited sub-regions.

One of the things that we did not discuss during our conversation  -- but I am sure that Ben would agree is very important -- is the role of altitude in the character of the harvested grape. At 3,350 m (10,991 feet), Mt. Etna is the highest mountain in Sicily.

According to Nesto and di Savino (The World of Sicilian Wine), at the highest elevations for viticulture, the climate on Mt. Etna is similar to North Italy's, becoming more Sicilian as you proceed downslope. As a result, growing environments differ, depending on altitude and aspect.

The chart below shows the impact of altitude on the grape-growing environment. According to Nesto and di Savino, conditions at the highest elevations are particularly helpful for white and Rosato wines and grapes used in their production can be found growing as high as 1300 m (4265 feet). These high-elevation climatic conditions reduce the incidence of vine pests and diseases and naturally limits vine yield. Below 900 m, conditions become more suitable for red wine production.

As I told Ben during our discussion, this was the first time that I had been treated to such a comprehensive discourse on Etna terroir at the sub-DOC level. I found it fascinating.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Friday, May 15, 2020

The contribution of rays and tyloses to the "impermeability" of oak cooperage

Oak's active contribution to the finished wine has been documented extensively and has even received some coverage in this forum. What I have not covered previously is the counterpoint to oak's active contribution -- what I call its passive contribution -- the elements of which are captured in the chart below. I will expand on those elements in this post.

Before getting into the meat of the topic, lets revisit the path from oak tree to wine barrel (shown in the chart below).

In order to make its active, positive contributions to the wine, the oak barrel has to first present as an impervious airtight container and that function is enabled in no small part by oak structures called Rays and Tyloses.

Rays are illustrated in the wood images in the first chart on this page. They are "collections of elongated cells positioned radially along the trunk axis" which serve as the vehicles through which water and nutrients flow between the wood and bark. Compared to other tree families, oak has a high percentage of medullary rays -- between 19% and 32% of oak wood volume is made up of rays -- and this makes it relatively stronger than many other hardwoods.

Staves are split or sawed along the radius causing the wood's rays to run parallel to its broad surface. Wine diffusing into a ray is shunted along that ray and comes to a complete stop because there is no continuation of that path in the neighboring stave. Further, there is no contiguous path of rays from the inside surface to the outside surface of the stave. It is suggested that wine seeking to seep through a barrel wall would have to negotiate a "tortuous" path through at least five large rays. According to Dharmadikari, "Large rays provide a formidable barrier to the diffusion of liquid and make wood relatively impermeable."

The rays provide dimensional stability by allowing minimal shrinkage when the wood dries. The radius of oak shrinks only about 4% from wet to air-dry, making it easier to keep the barrel liquid tight when stored under alternate wet and dry conditions.

According to Jackson, the high proportion of rays gives oak much of its "resiliency and flexibility." Without that resilience, the staves would crack rather than bend, as it does, to form the curved sides of the barrel. The curved sides allow full barrels to be easily rolled.

Each annual ring of the oak tree consists of spring and summer growth with the xylem vessels formed during the spring being larger than those formed during the summer. The pores facilitate the flow of water and nutrients up the tree during the growing season. As the sapwood differentiates into heartwood, these pores become plugged with cellular inner growths called tyloses. "Tyloses development is so extensive in white oak that it effectively renders the wood impervious to the movement of liquids or gases" (Jackson).

Only heartwood is used in the construction of oak staves. So while sapwood is ring porous, allowing liquids to move vertically along its length, tyloses growth cuts off that avenue once the wood transitions to heartwood. Thus, wine in the barrel cannot drain out either the top end or the bottom end of the staves.

According to Jackson, "the combined effects of rays, tyloses, and the placement of the radial plane of the stave tangential to the circumference severely limit the diffusion of air and wine through the wood. With proper construction and presoaking, oak cooperage is essentially an impervious, airtight container."

Maria del Alamo-Sanza & Ignacio Nevares (2018) Oak wine barrel as an active vessel: A critical review of past and current knowledge, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 58:16, 2711-2726, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1330250.
Murli Dharmadikari, Wooden Cooperage,
Ronald S. Jackson, Wine Science: Principles and Applications, 3rd Ed.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mapping the Sparkling Wines of Italy: Puglia

The Salento Peninsula of Puglia is the heel of the thigh-high boot that one can envision when looking at a map of peninsular Italy. Puglia can be divided into north and south by an imaginary line running between Brindisi, on the Adriatic Sea, and Taranto, on its namesake gulf (which separates the heel of the boot from its platform).

The northern and southern portions of the region are culturally, geographically, and climatically different. The north is less flat, has a more temperate climate (it can be cool in some parts of the Murge plateau), and is more aligned with the customs and winemaking processes of central Italy. The south, on the other hand, is flatter, has a Mediterranean climate, and "retains a strong connection with its Greco-Roman past."

Overall, the region can be characterized as having a Mediterranean climate with cooling sea breezes.

Puglia is a major contributor to the Italian agricultural economy with olive trees, wheat fields, and vineyards adorning its surface. It is responsible for 50% of Italy's olive oil production and is second only to Veneto in wine production; that wine has been mostly red and has garnered a reputation for poor quality, suitable only for blending with wines from the regions to its north. As the world has pursued wines of quality, Puglian winemakers have sought to improve the quality of its red wines through technology advancements, yield reduction, and increased attention to indigenous varieties.

While red wine are oh so dominant in the region, two whites merit mention (especially seeing as how we are writing about the sparkling wines of the region): (i) Bombino Bianco is a versatile, high-acid grape with a lean bouquet which "yields excellent classic method sparkling wines;" (ii) Verdeca, an indigenous variety which produces full-bodied wines that had been used primarily in the making of Vermouth, has now been getting a second look as the source of quality white wines.

The sparkling wine map of Puglia is presented below.

Some observations:
  • Fully 75% of the sparkling wine appellations are in the region's more southerly provinces
  • The most intense sparkling wine label versatility occurs in three proximate DOCs: Brindisi, Squinzano, and Salice Salento
  • Those three DOCs have similar varietal sparkling wine labels but Brindisi and Squinzano have higher varietal content requirements than does Salice Salento
  • The Chardonnay grape is the most ubiquitous sparkling wine component.

Puglia is truly red wine country.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Riparbella (Province of Pisa): The outer edges of Super Tuscandom

The Montalcino producer Podere Le Ripi has been hosting a series of Saturday webinars titled "Discover Brunello with Podere Le Ripi," featuring the estate's winemaker, Sebastian Narello, and a guest. The first week's talk featured a neighboring Brunello producer (Castello Tricerchi) but this last week featured a conversation with Ugo Fabbri, Brand Ambassador for the Super Tuscan producer Tenuta Prima Pietra.

As Marina, our host, explained it, Brunello di Montalcino and the Super Tuscans burst on the scene around the same time in the 1970s. They thought it would be a good exercise to trace the steps of the Super Tuscan movement and explore, in our discussion, whether there were any learnings for Brunello di Montalcino from this path.

Ugo began with a history of the Super Tuscan movement and Sebastian filled in some of the details. Then Ugo turned to the story of the founding of Tenuta Prima Pietra. His boss, Massimo Ferragamo, wanted to build a winery in the Super Tuscan zone and went to Bolgheri but was unable to find a property. While in the region, his adviser indicated that Sassicaia was such a success because it was on the highest ground in Bolgheri. So, as Massimo expanded his property search outside of Bolgheri, he had high-elevation as one of his key selection criteria. And so he came upon this 200-ha property on the hill in Riparbella (at that time only 7 ha was devoted to vines) and chose it for his Tuscan dream.

At this time Ugo remoted-in the winemaker from the Pietra Prima property to talk about the estate. She discussed the longer growing season resulting from a combination of the Mediterranean climate, the abundance of light, the constant wind, and the day-night temperature differentials. She mentioned the 500 mm of rain per year which was insufficient in the region and dictated irrigation. Of the 50 hectares of vineyards, 32 ha are currently irrigated.

Ugo also shared some news with us. Tenuta Prima Pietra had banded together with two like-minded wineries (Caiarossa and Duemani) in the area to promote Riparbella as a wine region. Their first initiative towards this end is a cooperative wine called Tresoro. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on each estate. The grapes were vinified and aged at each estate and then sent to Caiarossa for blending and bottling.

I have written extensively on Tuscan Merlots but had not encountered this region, or these wineries, prior to this presentation. My interest was piqued.

Riparbella is located in Val de Cecina (shown in the map below) which "extends along the River Cecina in the south of the Province of Pisa" and also including portions of the provinces of Grosetto, Liivorno, and Sienna. The valley is hilly in the hinterland and mostly flat near the mouth of the river.

Riparbella is located due north of Bolgheri, with the mentioned estates located on high ground in an arc to the north of the actual town.

Location of Riparbella wineries (represented by Caiarossa)
relative to Bolgheri

The area is perfect for grape growing, with plenty of sunlight, a Mediterranean climate, a steady wind blowing in off the sea (modifying the temperatures and ventilating the vines), and significant diurnal temperature variation. These conditions allows for a longer growing season -- allowing the grapes to reach full maturity -- while retaining the acidity required for freshness and aging.

The chart below shows the distribution of the estates and some of their vital statistics.

The leftmost of the three -- Duemani -- is spread over two distinct locations. The estate is owned by Elena Calli and Luca d'Attoma, the latter a highly respected Tuscan winemaker, and was established on the Tuscan coast because the owners wanted to produce wines from their favorite grape varieties (Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot). They decided to farm biodynamically in order to respect and preserve the environment. The stated goal of the estate is "to produce wines that are fine, clean, direct, and delicious with unique and recognizable character."

The Duemani partners found the original 7 ha in 2008 and planted three vineyards on the amphitheatre-like setting: Cabernet Franc at the top; Merlot towards the bottom; and Syrah in a small, goblet-shaped vineyard in the middle of the slope. This rocky, dry-soil vineyard is the heart of the estate.

In 2014 they planted 3 more ha of Cabernet Franc at 383 m. Today they have a total of 12 ha under vine.

The Duemani portfolio is all red wines with the exception of a 100% Rosé Syrah. Two of the remaining wines are 100% Cabernet Franc, one is a Merlot/Cabernet Franc equal parts blend, one a 100% Syrah, and the last a 100% Grenache. Wines are fermented in amphorae, cement vats, conical French oak tanks, and French oak barriques and are aged in similar vessels plus tonneaux.

Tenuta Prima Pietra
The rightmost of the three is Tenuta Prima Pietra, owned by Massimo Ferragamo (who also owns Castiglione di Bosco in Montalcino). Organic farming is at the estate's core in that it "provides the best way to maintain the balance required in a natural vineyard" and allows the vine to be "consistent and sincere, a proud ambassador of the vintage, harvest, the terroir of the estate and the personality of each single varietal."

The composition of the estate's wine mirrors the distribution of cultivars in the vineyard. The grapes are vinified (separately) in steel tanks and then aged (again, separately) in French oak for 18 months before blending prior to bottling.

Caiarossa, the largest of the three estates, is owned by Eric Albhda Jelgersma, who also owns the Bordeaux estates Chateau Giscours and Chateau du Tertre. Biodynamic farming is at this estate's core, as manifested in its cultivation activities (animal and grain manure and fermentation residue, biodynamic preparations, cover crops) and vine-protection initiatives (stimulation of the natural defences of the plant, spray with low doses of sulfur and copper, pesticides based on natural mineral substances, "sexual confusion" to control insect population).

The wine lineup includes a Viognier - Chardonnay blend, a late picked Petit Manseng, a blend that incorporates all of the estates red grapes, a Bordeaux blend plus Syrah, and a Sangiovese wine with small additions of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Discovering this region and these estates was an unforeseen effect of attending the Podere le Ripi talks. They stepped out of the box and showed us something totally new. Kudos to the team.

As for the region and the estates, it will be interesting to see how they grow and evolve. I look forward to going into the area, after things have gotten back to some level of normalcy, and tasting their wines on site.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Emergent Spanish wine regions: Alicante, Empordà, and Jumilla

Pedro Ballesteros Torres, in a 2/2/18 Decanter article on Spanish wine trends, wrote about newly emergent wine regions thus acclaimed based on the aggregated effects of:
  • Developments in viticulture and oenology
  • Climate change
  • A resurgence of the perennial value of indigenous varieties
  • A market eager to reward niche identities.
The regions identified by Torres as emergent are illustrated in the map below.

Emergent Spanish wine regions

I have been providing a brief overview of each of these regions, including the reasons why they are considered emergent. I began the series with a post on the Balearic Islands, Utiel-Requena, and Galicia and continued with a post on Bierzo, the Canary Islands, and Penedès. I continue herein with a post on the wine regions of Alicante, Empordà, and Jumilla.

Alicante was awarded DO status in 1957. It is divided into two major zones and the area between:
  • La Marina -- the northernmost region, sited in the coastal area between the towns of Denia and Calpe. The climate here is Mediterranean with annual rainfall of 500 mm. The soil is limestone and the vines are dedicated to the Moscatel grape.
  • Vinalpo -- the southernmost region. Large, more inland section between the towns of Villena and Pinoso. The climate is continental and dry with rainfall of 300 mm/year. Primarily produces red wines from Monastrell. Iconic red is sweet Fondillon made from overripe grapes in the Rancio style.
  • El Comtat -- the area between the two, both in terms of geography and climate. Produces both dry red and sweet white wines.

DO Alicante (Source:

The soil in the region is limestone, with low levels of organic matter, and alluvial material, with some clay, near the coast.

When the DO was established in 1957, the requirements only allowed for Alicante Bouschet, Monastrell, Moscatel, and Bobal. The Moscatel (La Marina district) made delicious fortified and dessert wines, including the famed Moscatel de Alicante.

Why Alicante as an Emergent Region?
Alicante was once known as a region of bulk production and indifferent quality. However, according to Cellar Tours, a new generation of winemakers has come to understand which varieties fit their territories and, as a result, are producing some excellent blends that are more familiar to the world markets. In addition, these producers are also focusing on elegant and fresh reds,

According to BBR, the renovation of the infrastructure and vineyards in the region have helped rehabilitate Monastrell's reputation as it now produces "fleshy, concentrated, complex wines with intense violet and redcurrant notes."

La Costa Brava, the coastline that runs along Spain's northeastern shore, is best known for its beaches and resorts and less so for the DO Empordà that lies just inland of it. This lack of identity was so palpable that the DO appended the coastline's name to its own in order to elevate its visibility. The name is thus, officially, Empordà-Costa Brava. All of 1826 ha, Empordà is one of Spain's smallest DOs. It gained its classification in 1972.

DO Empordà

The climate in the DO is Mediterranean but the strong Tramontana winds, while aiding in disease- and frost-prevention, can inflict damage on the fruit during the growing season. Average annual rainfall is 600 mm.

The main soil types are sand, slate, and decomposed gravel with the majority being of a sandy texture and with low organic material content. Alluvial soils predominate in the plain while slate and granite predominate in the mountains and mountainsides. Altitudes range from 0 to 260 m.

A majority of vines are in excess of 30-years old and are planted at altitudes of 200m. The bulk of the plantings are Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Tinta, and Cariñena, with a growing presence of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Sixty percent of the region's wines are red, 17% Rosé, 19% white, and 4% dessert.

The area has traditionally been known for a heavy, sweet red wine, made from sun-dried Garnacha grapes, and a Carignan-based Rosé. Recently, however, it has gained a reputation for planting a wide range of local and international varieties and it is their young red wines that are garnering fame for their "expressiveness and surprising quality."

Why Empordà as an Emerging Region?
According to Decanter:
A bunch of young, highly motivated winemakers, fresh from their oenology studies, are busy remaking the ancient terraces and dry stone walls, resurrecting old vines -- principally Garnatxa and Carinyena -- and planting new ones. Their wines have bags of character and a strong sense of place, marked by the Mediterranean and given a good dose of tough love by the Tramontana winds that blast across the mountains from the north stressing and airing the vines in equal measure."
 According to Laura Masramon (
In the 1990s, a group of young wine experts … returned to the farms. Their grandfathers had preserved very old vines, some of which are over a hundred years old. The new generation used these vines and their expertise to create unique, authentic, wine … the young enologists seek to revive the regional varieties to the point of mastering them and understanding them in depth. Thus they obtain wines that express the terroir of the Empordà. They are modern wines but at the same time speak to us of those 2700 years of history.
Jumilla is a 19,000 ha DO in Murcia, a small region on the coast of southeast Spain. Its specialty is wines made from the Monastrell variety (80% of the region's plantings).

Jumilla DO within the broader Murcia wine region. Red oval
highlights Jumilla color scheme (Source: vineyards.som)

The climate here is arid and continental with drought always a threat. When the rains do come, they are very heavy and pose a threat to blossoms and ripening grapes. An elevated central plateau (400 - 800 m elevation) moderates the heat somewhat.

The landscape is composed of wide valleys and plains with sandy or loamy soils prevalent. The volume of lime in the soil is a key aid in moisture retention.

Most grapes are planted on the mountain-enclosed plateau. Ninety-four percent of the grapes are organic.

Why Jumilla as an Emergent Region?
Jumilla has re-invented itself as a producer of modern, fruity red, white, and Rosé wines. Improved vineyard management, and outside investment in new equipment from industry heavyweights in other Spanish regions, have led to a remarkable increase in wine quality. The result is a new generation of "characterful" wines, some organic, and the majority red, in which the rediscovered Monastrell grape is showing promising results in the hands of skilled winemakers.

This post examined Alicante, Empordà, and Jumilla as emergent Spanish wine regions. I will continue this series with the remaining regions in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Mapping the DOC(G) sparkling wines of Italy's Campania region

In my quest to map the sparkling DOC(G) wines of Italy, I have completed overviews of the sparkling wines of North and Central Italy and the southern Italian regions of Abruzzo and Molise. I now turn to the sparkling wines of another south Italy region: Campania.

Campania, the shin of the boot that is Italy, is its third most populous region. And with its 5.8 million people resident in an area covering 13,590 sq. km., it is the country's most densely populated region. But it is famed for factors beyond population. "The region is home to 10 of the 55 UNESCO sites in Italy ..." and its "... rich natural beauty ... makes it highly important in the tourism industry, with the city of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Mount Vesuvius and the islands of Capri and Ischia continuing to be major attractions" (Wikipedia).

Campania is well-suited to the production of high quality wine. Its abundant sunshine, dry and hot summers (with coastal Mediterranean breezes tempering the heat), mild winters, mountainous terrain (allows planting at higher elevations), volcanic soil, lengthy growing season, and own-rooted vines (Phylloxera did not visit) add up to a growing environment that is a winemakers dream.

And this environment supports a number of high-quality white wines (Tom Hyland):
  • Greco di Tufo
    • Very good levels of acidity and excellent aging potential
    • Less aromatic but with a bigger structure
    • Minerality and concentration
    • Does well in the volcanic soil in the mountainous terrain of Avellino
  • Fiano di Avellino
    • One of the most complex and elegant white wines of Italy
    • Aging potential of 10 or more years
    • Does well in the volcanic soil in the mountainous terrain of Avellino
  • Fiano di Salerno
    • More clay and limestone soil; fruit-driven, with less minerality
  • Falanghina and Asprinio
    • Both high-acid wines. 
Grapes that produce high-acid white wines are good candidates for sparkling wines. The chart below shows the appellations which allow sparkling wine within their borders and the grape varieties (and their proportions) utilized in their production. The chart directly following shows the sparkling wines produced in the region, in many cases, utilizing the described grapes grown in the highlighted regions.

Some observations:
  • One of the four DOCGs and nine of the 15 DOCs allow for the production of sparkling wines
  • Most of the Campania appellations are bunched in the upper part of the region as is the allowed sparkling wines
  • With one exception -- Costa d'Amalfi DOC -- no international varieties are used in the production of the region's sparkling wines. Both Chardonnay and Pinot Nero are approved for use in the Costa d'Amalfi Spumante
  • A total of 38 labels are approved over the 10 appellations shown above making for an average of 3.8 labels per appellation. Of course, the bulk of the labels are distributed between Sannio DOC and Vesuvio DOC
  • 15 of the approved labels are Metodo Classico specifications
  • Thirty-one of the approved labels are for varietal sparkling wines with Falanghina, Fiano, and Greco featuring prominently.
The sparkling wines in Greco di Tufo DOCG are made in the traditional manner and stay on the lees for at least 3 years. According to, "These straw yellow wines are intense, herbaceous, floral, and fruity with typical notes of apples, jasmine, thyme, or sage. They are best paired with rich seafood dishes and could go well with lobster or cod ... they are also an excellent aperitif and would be a great match to various appetizers."

Feudi di San Gregorio, one of the leading independent wine producers in Campania, has established a separate label -- DUBL -- under which to market its Spumante wines. This project began in 2004 and was aimed at bringing the classic sparkling wine method to the grapes of the Campanian tradition: Greco, Aglianico, and Falanghina.

Feudi San Gregorio felt that they had the high-quality fruit for such an initiative. The internal areas of the region are ideal for growth of grapes destined for sparkling wines:
  • Diurnal temperature differences would allow grape ripening with acid-retention
  • The ventilation and exposure of the vineyards are ideal
  • Rugged terroir 
  • Volcanic soils.
They did not, however, have the requisite skill. To fill that gap they sought the advice and assistance of Anselme Selosse -- of Jacques Selosse grower-Champagne fame. The wines that resulted were a 100% Greco sparkling wine, a 100% Aglianico sparkling Rosata, and a 100% Falanghina as a Double Brut.

In April 2016, DUBL extended its product portfolio with DUBL Esse, a Dossagio Zero line, with a white sparkling made from the best grapes from the most exciting vineyards in the Tufo area and a Rosata which comes from grapes from the most exciting vineyards in the Taurasi area.

With Campania now in the rearview mirror, I will next look to the sparkling wines of Puglia.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme