Caroline Says…Wine Not Order Like a Local #2

Some people travel to wine regions on purpose, to explore the viticulture and oenophelia of a region while others find it to be a happy coincidence that their destination makes great wine. This time around we are highlighting two popular destinations that happen to produce some of the world’s best wine and one up-and-coming wine destination. (See Wine Not Order Like a Local Part I here) Cheers!

Tuscany

Tuscany is on one hand the simplest of wine regions (Chianti!) and also the most complicated. The intricate Italian labeling system and all its combined regulations can make what seems easy feel difficult. What is the black rooster all about? What’s a Super Tuscan?! Here’s what you need to know: Sangiovese is the king of grapes here and can be found in a few basic iterations:

Chianti – large region in Tuscany with many sub-regions and styles

  • Chianti Classico – the heart of Chianti, oldest producing area with a black rooster on bottle neck, aged a minimum of 1 year
  • Chianti Riserva – aged minimum of 2 years, can be from anywhere in the region
  • Chianti Gran Selezione – new designation (2013) for top wines of Chianti Classico, aged minimum of 2.5 years

Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – 70% minimum of local strain of Sangiovese with other local reds. Known as “baby Brunello” and a less expensive alternative to the real thing.

Brunello di Montalcino– top wine from the region made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso

Super Tuscan – wine using nontraditional grapes (not all Sangiovese). Can be a blend or a single varietal (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon) grown in Tuscany. Usually more modern in style and full bodied. 

Producers we like:

Badia a Coltibuono, Felsina, Silvio Nardi, Cassanova di Neri, Avignonesi

Mendoza

This is one of the most unusual wine regions in the world as it butts up against the Andes mountains, which act as a rain shadow making these high-altitude vineyards a technical desert. Fortunately for modern winemakers the Incas created irrigation canals that trap the snowmelt and are the basis of the system still in use today. The altitude means that the grapes won’t bake in the hot sun as they can at lower levels, slowing the ripening process making more complex wines without cooked fruit notes and extreme alcohol levels that can occur in hot climates. Malbec is the king grape here, a Southwestern French transplant that has taken the world by storm. As the source for one of the most popular red wines today, this region has become a popular add on to Buenos Aires.

Producers we like:

Achaval Ferrer, Catena Zapata, Domaine Bosquet, Trapiche, Susana Balbo

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

The absolute star of the show in Mexican wine is this 1000 ft. elevation region located about 2 hours south of San Diego on the Baja Peninsula. With a climate similar to much of California (foggy mornings with hot afternoons) and soil similar to the Northern Rhone (granite-rich alluvial soil) it should be no surprise that big red grapes grown here are doing quite well. Expect big, bold red wines with lots of structure (due to the thick skins of grapes grown in hot sun) and surprising minerality. These are the most complex wines being made in Mexico at the moment and this region is becoming a wine tourist destination. With new luxury accommodations starting to open up here, expect to hear more about this region as a vacation destination for wine lovers soon. Lots of blends but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah /Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and some rosés.

Producers we like:

Monte Xanic, Casa de Piedra, Villa Montefiori, Paralelo, Chateau Camou

Caroline Travels the World (drinkin’ wine with the locals)…And So Can You.