Wine Facts [Part 2]

Do you know what makes a Meritage wine?  What is the most widely plant grape varietal in the world?  Where do tannins come from?  These and many other questions about wine will be answered here.

 

MERIT IN HERITAGE

• A Meritage wine is made from using white or red classic Bordeaux varietals to make a blend.  This name was created in California in 1988 because many winemakers felt frustrated by the required minimum amount (75%) of a varietal that must go into the bottle for it to be named for that particular grape.  Some winemakers felt they could improve their wine with a blend of grapes.  Many people have a tendency to use what they think would be a French pronunciation of the word “Meritage” by pronouncing its last syllable with a “zh” sound, as in “garage”.  However, the Meritage Alliance states that it should be pronounced to rhyme with “heritage.”

 

LOTS OF GRAPES

• More Americans are drinking red wine (55%) today than white wine (45%).  These percentages have a tendency of going back and forth through the years.  More recent health reports have come out touting the benefits of red wine, so more people drink red.

Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape varietal in California.  The second most is Sauvignon Blanc.  In 1968, Robert Mondavi decided to rename it Fume Blanc in order to get around the negative image that Sauvignon Blanc wine had at the time, thus selling more wine.

• The Grenache grape is best known as the primary grape of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but is not native to France.  This varietal originated from Spain.  It is the world’s most widely planted red wine grape.  The bulk of vines remain mostly in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, or Garnaxta in Catalonia.  Its uncommon ability to produce phenomenal crops without sacrificing the sugar content so essential in winemaking is very appealing to farmers.

Aerén is the most planted wine grape in the world – more than the aforementioned Grenache.  Planted in over one million acres in central Spain, it is used for less than average white wine and good brandy.  And it makes you think that why haven’t more people heard of it…

 

TANNIN MAKES THE WINE GO SMOOTHER

• Tannin comes from the grape skins, grape pits and stems.  It is a natural preservative and is one of the main assets that give wine its longevity.  One other source of tannin is wood, such as the oak barrels in which wines are aged.  Red wines generally have a higher level of tannin than whites because red grapes are usually left to ferment with their skins.

• As wines age, tannins bind together and make the wine taste “smoother”.  The flavors soften and usually take on a smoky, nutty, or dried fruit sensibility, depending on the wine.  Not all wines benefit from aging.  Most wines are made to be drunk within a year or two of their purchase…  But if you at least wait until you get home from the wine store, you’re doing okay.

 

WINE WORDS

• If a California label has a vineyard name on it, 95% of the grapes must come from that specific vineyard, and it must be located within an approved AVA. An American Viticultural Area is a selected wine grape-growing region in the US defined by geography, with borders determined by the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, US Department of the Treasury.

• A winery can use the word “estate” in their name at will.  However, if the words “estate bottled” appear on the label, 100% of the grapes must be grown on the land managed by the winery, the wine must have been completely produced and made on the premises all the way through bottling, and the winery must be in the same AVA as the grapes were grown in.

• In Europe, “reserve” is a legal term with strict rules about aging and quality.  In the U.S., the term legally doesn’t mean anything.  Wineries do use it for their best grapes, or if there is more oak… and others put it on whatever they think they can sell more of. “Special Selection Cellar Reserve Cuvée” could be a rather fancy name for a very cheaply made mass-produced wine.

• The term “vintage” indicates the year the grapes were harvested.  Wine labels are often stamped with “MV” in the place where the vintage year would typically appear when a wine is blended from grapes harvested in more than one vintage year.  Think “Multiple Vintages”.

 

Grapevine Separator

 

Need more wine facts? Check out part 1part 3part 4 and part 5.

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: Wine Facts [Part 1] - Wine Ponder

  2. Bill Knight

    Hey, Steve!
    It is always a pleasure to receive your wine updates. Your mini-wine seminars are very informative and you know me, I understand less than nothing about wines, despite your many attempts to provide me with the most basic knowledge.
    Best regards, Steve… keep writing! Bill

    1. Steve J

      I am glad you are learning something, Bill. The best part about this is the “research” and learning all the time! Stay tuned for more WINE FACTS. There are two more editions coming out soon.
      Cheers,
      Steve

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