The Great Grape Alphabet
In continuation of our wine journey here are six varieties beginning with “B”, as we carry on ploughing our way alphabetically and blissfully through the ampelographic wonderland – supported by diverse examples from our wine portfolio.
We see this dark-skinned rara-avis Celtic grape variety in its native western Styria in the Schilcher wines. Schilcher wines are rosés with pale red to straw shades. The true Schilchers from this part of Styria can be identified by the presence of a Lipizzaner stallion on the bottle or cap. Schilcher wines are light, dry and fruity with a distinctive crisp acidity and should be drunk as young as possible. In our portfolio, Wildbacher, grown biodynamically, is 100% responsible for Strohmeier’s beautiful rose-hued Karmin, bonds remarkably well with Zweigelt in his equally energetic TLZ Rot, and is incorporated into Sepp Muster’s modestly-named tripartite blend Rotwein.
Quick definition: Pretty in pink bubbles and just as pretty without bubbles.
Native to the Utiel-Requena region, where it represents about 90% of all vines grown; Bobal derives from the Latin bovale, referring to the shape of a bull’s head. No bull. It certainly seems to thrive at altitude given that the examples we’ve encountered come from vines between 700-1000 metres above sea level. As for the grape itself, it produces wines with evident colour and tannin, but also light in alcohol and with higher than average acidity. We sport a couple of varietal versions. One pure example hails from centenarian vines in Utiel made by Pedro Olivares in his Serie Wild range. Additionally, it features in a blend called Bobastrell, where it gives levity to the more powerful Monastrell. Meanwhile, Partida Creus do a much lighter version with sappy whole-bunch freshness and youthful appeal.
Quick definition: Bobal’s your uncle.
The Bonarda grape, also known as Douce Noir, originated in the Savoie (when it was part of northern Italy). It was brought to California by Italian immigrants where it was called Charbono (from Carbono/Charbonneau in France) and introduced to Argentina by a bunch of other Italians where it became known as Bonarda. Not be confused with Bonarda which the synonym for Croatina.
Quick definition: Not Malbec - possibly everything else!
A grape occasionally found in Liguria where it features not-so-prominently in blends from the Cinque Terre. Our sole flirtation with this grape is a skin-contact blend of various ancient autochthonous rarities, namely A Demua, which means “go and have fun” in the Genovese dialect, an injunction that this wine obeys in spades. A remarkable field blend of five local grape varieties from a hundred-year-old vines: Timorasso, Verdea, Bosco, Moscatella (an old type of Chasselas) and Riesling. Put those grapes in your pipe and smoke them! The pressed grapes are macerated and co-fermented under a submerged cap in large oak casks for one month, whereupon the skins are removed and the wine returned to cask for one year before bottling. This is a true orange wine; amber-gold in colour with a touch of tannin from the grape skins, almost nut-skin-like in appearance and flavour. Remarkable aromas of dried apricot, dried-flowers, pine and fresh almond, a drink to lift the heart and nourish the soul.
Quick definition: Stick in the blender.
A southern French grape variety well adapted to sunny regions and hot soils, Bourboulenc is highly resistant to drought. Due to its slow ripening, it requires a lot of heat and sunlight at the end of its ripening period, and needs the right exposure to reach full ripeness. This grape can yield wines with good body and decent acidity, with what Jancis Robinson calls an attractive smell of iodine – it certainly blends well. Once upon a time we had a pure Bourboulenc from Le Clos des Grillons, but now our selection is confined to walk-on parts in two southern French blends. It features in Chateau de Pibarnon’s white wine as the sidekick for the Clairette “finesse and elegance”, its 30% providing “liveliness and freshness.” It is also present in Clos St Michel’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, alongside Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Roussanne, in a four-grape combination, a wine that conveys all manner of subtle aromatics.
Quick definition: Trips off and on the tongue.
Aka Fer, Mansois and Pinenc for grape synonym-hankerers, and long-time Caves de Pyrene favourite. Growers dabbling with this grape are the Marcillac Mansois-ers, Philippe Teulier and Jean-Luc Matha; Nicolas Carmarans who deals in the fer trade in Aveyron, the Plageoles family who make the winningly-named Bro’cool, and Laurent Cazottes with Champetre Rouge, all rustic simplicity. Difficult not to love unreservedly this sprightly bobbish cherry-red grape which is lithe and sharp and as pure as a nun who’s into serious fun. Slim and wiry wine, the tartness carrying some lovely earthy-slatey fruit and wild spices on board, zipping the light fantastic. The Braucol wines capture the sanguine craggy goodness of the region. Talk about minerals! Shave some granite, grate some iron filings, crush those cherry stones... More purple than a self-indulgent, over-literate blog, Braucol has a freshness that eviscerates confit duck at ten paces, and sports scything natural acids that lend the fruit flavours their cheery-cherry after-bite. Some versions (old viners) age more than indecently and begin to resemble great Cabernet Franc in time.
Quick definition: Fer goodness sake!
Missed part 'A'?! Click here to read on...
So that takes us to next time when we will be exploring part 'C'...stay tuned!
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