Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A look back at the 10 most-frequently-read posts on this blog in 2017

As you know, this is an information-centric blog. In 2017, I crafted informational sets around (i) the Langhe, Napa, Tuscany, Virginia, and Mt Etna wine regions, (ii) viticultural issues, and (iii) winemaking techniques and technologies.Herein I hearken back to the 10 most widely read posts during the course of the year. Barolo and Mt Etna each had three topics in the top 10 while winemaking techniques had two. Vitticulture and winery-acquisition learnings each placed one topic in the top 10.

10. Pre-Phylloxera vines and albarello training in Mt Etna viticulture
As was the case for Algeria and Spain, Phylloxera did eventually invade Etna but the impact was most felt at altitudes of 400 m and below where sedimentary sols dominated. According to Nesto and di Savino (The World of Sicilian Wine), the decimated vineyards at those altitudes were replaced with citrus fruit trees and new vineyards were planted at higher altitudes where the soils had greater proportions of lava rock and volcanic sand and were resistant to the depradations of the aphid. According to the authors, these new vineyards joined an existing belt of vineyards resident on the northern slope between Solicchiata and Randazzo. The remnants of that belt of vineyards are today's pre-Phylloxera vineyards of which Ian D'Agata speaks so highly.

Follow this link to read the full post.

9. Soils of the Barolo Zone
In order to provide a full context for the discussion of the soils of the Barolo zone, I initially discussed the formation of the basement rocks, then followed that up with posts on the Tertiary Piedmont Basin, with one post each devoted to the Oligocene - Miocene deposit sequence and the Messinian Salinity Crisis and its deposits. This post on the soils of the Barolo Zone culminates the series and can be read in full by following this link.

8. The top-rated Barolo crus: Brunate, Cerequio, and Rocche di Castiglione
Beginning with the work of Renato Ratti in the 1970s, and continuing through cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti, and the more recent efforts of Antonio Galloni, there have been lauded efforts to classify and rank the vineyards of the Barolo region. Alfonso Cevola, in a 2015 article, compared the highest levels of these three Barolo classification schemes in order to determine the degree of alignment at the top. Cevola found that there was unanimous agreement that three crus were among the very best in the region: Brunate, Cerequio, and Rocche di Castiglione. The characteristics of these crus are presented in this post which can be read in full by following this link.

7. A summary of the various dry white wine styles
In this series I examined the winemaker's challenge in navigating between the twin evils of reduction and oxidation in the construction of white wines; both faults but both having desirable characteristics as you move further away from the edges. The below chart illustrates the dry white wine styles that have been covered in this series. Below the chart are short descriptors of each of the styles along with links to the posts in which they are detailed.

6. Learnings from the recent spate of actual and rumored sales of prestigious French and Italian wine estates
Announcements -- or rumors -- of the sales of prominent French and Italian wine estates seem to be hitting with increasing regularity. In this post I highlight some of the things learned as a result of this spate of activity. 

Follow this link to read the post in full.

5. Barrel-fermented and -aged white wines
Oak was the primary fermentation vehicle prior to the post-war inroads made by stainless steel tanks, inroads driven by the latter's perceived advantages:
  • Provides an anaerobic environment
  • Easier to clean, thus reducing the risk of bacterial contamination
  • Increased durability
  • Allowed fermentation temperature control
    • White wines could be fermented cool and thus preserve floral and fruity aromas
    • Cooler fermentation temperatures lowered the risk of off-flavor production
  • Allowed control of fermentation rate.
With all of these advantages arrayed against it, oak had to have some overriding benefits for winemakers to continue using it as a vehicle. And it did. According to Ibern-Gomez, et al*., "Fermentation in oak barrels leads to wines with much more complex sensory properties, largely attributed to the phenols extracted from oak wood."

I examined these substances and their impacts on barrel-fermented wine.

Follow this link to read the full post.

4. Salvo Foti, the pillar of tradition in Mt Etna winegrowing
In their seminal work on Sicilian wine (The World of Sicilian Wine), Nesto and di Savino describe the title subject thusly: "Salvo Foti stands out, by himself, as Sicily's greatest homegrown consulting enologist ..." who "... more than any other person, ... has fostered an awareness of (Etna's) unique wine culture."

Salvo Foti with Lidia Rizzo, Contrada Caselle
According to Nesto and di Savino, Foti's grandparents owned vineyards on the slopes of Etna. Salvo gained a technical degree in enology on the 1980s and began consulting work with a number of producers in Sicily. He continued his studies and eventually received a specialized degree in enology from the University of Catania. When Giuseppe Benanti made the commitment to the production of high-quality wine on Etna, he turned to the young Foti to work with him on the needed experiments. Foti was Benanti's enologist until they parted ways in 2011.

Follow this link to read the full post.

3. Mt Etna Wine Estates: Marc de Grazia's Tenuta Delle Terre Nere
The estate is owned by Marc de Grazia of Barolo Boys fame. Marc came to Mt Etna in the early 2000s and was energized by the potential that he saw. According to Brandon Tokash, my good friend and the repository of Mt Etna institutional knowledge, "Marc started bottling under his own label of Terre Nere with the 2002 vintage, a small production vinified and bottled at Benanti. 2003 was a bigger bottling though still at Benanti. 2004 was the first vintage actually bottled at Marco' estate.

Follow this link to read the full post.

2. Esca grapevine trunk disease (GTD) and the role of the Guyot-Poussard pruning system in combating it
Grapevine pruning, arguably one of the most important viticultural practices, is employed during the vine's dormant phase and, when done properly, structures the plant such that there is balance between vegetative and reproductive growth. It is generally held that a balanced vine will allow for adequate yields and good quality fruit, assuming no deficiency in the other grape-growing parameters.

One of the characteristics of traditional pruning systems is numerous large pruning wounds in the grapevine trunk with the potential for (i) intrusion of desiccated material into the interior of the trunk -- and the interruption of sap flow therein -- and (ii) serving as the infection pathway for grapevine trunk disease (GTD) fungi (Infowine). Esca is one of the most feared of these GTDs.

Follow this link to read the full post

1. The 18 greatest vineyards in the Barolo zone
Three of the foremost Barolo vineyard experts -- Renato Ratti, Alessandro Masnaghetti, and Antonio Galloni -- have each taken a shot at classifying the crus in the Barolo zone (I have shared the frameworks of the individual schemes in a prior post.). By taking the top-rated crus under their individual classification schemes, I have arrived at a list of the best Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barolo zone (and, hence, in the world). These 18 vineyards are shown graphically on the Barolo Zone map below and are summarized in the full post.

Follow this link to read the full post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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