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Posted by motoman 04/30/2009 @ 12:13

Tags : merlot, wine, food and wine, leisure

News headlines
New 'Merlot Red' Dell Studio XPS 13, 16 added - ZDNet Blogs
“Merlot Red” will now be available as an option on Dell's popular, style-heavy XPS Studio 13 and 16 laptops for customers in the United States and Canada, the company announced today. From the looks of these images, it's bright enough to break out of...
Washington wines comparable at better-than-California prices - Seattle Times
When you generally have to pay dearly to get a quality California merlot, look to Washington's expanding array of choices for comparable quality at cheaper prices. A perennial home run, the current vintage of this delicious merlot is a riot of berry,...
Wine: Washington red blends offer a good variety - Lansing State Journal
Washington wine makers use the traditional grapes from Bordeaux - cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot - plus syrah and occasionally zinfandel or carmenere. That leaves a number of blending options to make outstanding...
Merlots Worth The Money - Forbes
Another item to check off on the list of things you never expect to hear in a lifetime: A maker of expensive Napa cabernet saying he thinks merlot is the most undervalued, under-appreciated wine. Said Napa producer is Jeff Smith, the proprietor of...
Bon vivants on bikes - Sydney Morning Herald
Arriving on Friday night, we enjoy a delectable dinner at the hotel's restaurant Merlot, which features local specialties such as Milawa free-range chicken and Blue Ox berries, overlooking the hotel's own merlot vines. Afterwards we enjoy coffee in the...
Getting closure - The Tribune
Their wine list was unique in that it didn't contain Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or any of the familiar grape varieties. These wines got great reviews from the guests, so I thought you might enjoy them as well. Many are available at area...
Wine of the week: Gnarly Head 2005 Merlot, California - Scranton Times
Gnarly Head starts out with mint, char, and savory aroma and has bright fruit cherry and blueberry flavors and a hint of vanilla and almonds. The wine is aged in both French and American oak barrels for six months and this wine shows a nice integration...
Lake Tahoe boating fee program starts Monday - North Lake Tahoe Bonanza
By Annie Flanzraich The Tahoe Merlot is launched into Lake Tahoe Thursday morning from the ramp at Ski Beach. LAKE TAHOE — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's mandatory boating fees, aimed at keeping invasive species out of Lake Tahoe, begin Monday,...
Wine & cheese in just one stop - Gloucester County Times -
It makes sense to let more New Jersey adults make just one stop to pick up a nice Merlot and the ingredients for dinner. It doesn't necessarily follow that alcohol even beer and wine only should become another throw-it-in-the-cart staple....


Merlot grapes in the Spanish wine region of La Mancha.

Merlot is a red wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin. Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes in Bordeaux wine where it is the most widely planted grape. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world's most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally, with an increasing trend. This put Merlot just behind Cabernet Sauvignon's 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres).

Researchers at University of California, Davis believe that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon. The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area's best. The name comes from the Occitan word "merlot", which means "young blackbird" ("merle" is the French word for several kinds of thrushes, including blackbirds); the naming came either because of the grape's beautiful dark-blue color, or due to blackbirds' fondness for grapes. By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc on the "Left Bank" of the Gironde. After a series of setbacks that includes a severe frost in 1956 and several vintages in the 1960s lost to rot, French authorities in Bordeaux banned new plantings of Merlot vines between 1970 and 1975.

It was first recorded in Italy around Venice under the synonym Bordò in 1855. The grape was introduced to the Swiss, from Bordeaux, sometime in the 19th century and was recorded in the Swiss canton of Ticino between 1905 and 1910. In the 1990s, Merlot saw a upswing of popularity in the United States. Red wine consumption, in general, increased in the US following the airing of the 60 Minutes report on the French Paradox and the potential health benefits of wine and the chemical resveratrol. The popularity of Merlot stemmed in part from the relative ease in pronouncing the wine as well as it softer, fruity profile that it made more approachable to some wine drinkers.

Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The color has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tends to have higher sugar content and lower malic acid. Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous clay. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thin skin increases its susceptibility to rot. If bad weather occurs during flowering, the Merlot vine is prone to develop coulure. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Water stress is important to the vine with it thriving in well drained soil more so than at base of a slope. Pruning is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced. Wine consultant Michel Rolland is a major proponent for reducing the yields of Merlot grapes to improve quality. The age of the vine is also important, with older vines contributing character to the resulting wine.

A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly overripen once it hits its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot. The wine makers of Château Pétrus favor early picking to best maintain the wine's acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging. Others, such as Rolland, favor late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness.

France is home to nearly two thirds of the world's total plantings of Merlot. Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country's 5th most planted grape), California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, and other parts of the United States such as Washington and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.

Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. In 2004, total French plantations stood at 115,000 hectares (280,000 acres). It is most prominent in Southwest France in regions like Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors where it is often blended with Malbec. The largest recent increase in Merlot plantations has occurred in the south of France, such as Languedoc-Roussillon where it is often made as a varietal Vin de Pays wine. Merlot can also be found in significant quantities in Provence, Loire Valley, Savoie, Ardèche, Charente, Corrèze, Drôme, Isère and Vienne.

In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot's role is to add body and softness. Despite accounting for 50-60% of overall plantings in Bordeaux, the grape tends to account for an average of 25% of the blends-especially in the Bordeaux wine regions of Graves and Médoc. Of these Left Bank regions, the commune of St-Estephe uses the highest percentage of Merlot in the blends. However, Merlot is much more prominent on the Right Bank of the Gironde in the regions of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion where it will commonly comprises the majority of the blend. One of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus, is almost all Merlot. In Pomerol, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron-clay soils of the region give Merlot more a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions. It was in Pomerol that the garagiste movement began with small scale production of highly sought after Merlot based wines. In the sandy, clay-limestone based soils of Saint-Emilion, Merlot accounts for around 60% of the blend and is usually blended with Cabernet Franc. In limestone, Merlot tends to develop more perfume notes while in sandy soils the wines are generally softer than Merlot grown in clay dominant soils.

In Italy, a large portion of Merlot is planted in the Friuli wine region where it is made as a varietal or sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. In other parts of Italy, such as Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends. Merlot's low acidity serves as a balance for the higher acidity in many Italian wine grapes with the grape often being used in blends in the Veneto, Alto Adige and Umbria. The Strada del Merlot is a popular tourist route through Merlot wine countries along the Isonzo river. Italian Merlots are often characterized by their light bodies and herbal notes.

In Hungary, Merlot complements Kékfrankos, Kékoportó and Kadarka as a component in Bull's Blood. It is also made into varietal wine known as Egri Médoc Noir which is noted for its balanced acid levels and sweet taste. In the Eastern European countries of Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania, Merlot is often produced as a full bodied wine that can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. In Switzerland, Merlot accounts for nearly 85% of the wine production in Ticino where it is often made in a pale "white Merlot" style. In Spain, winemakers are petitioning authorities to allow Merlot to be a permitted grape in the red wines of the Rioja region. Plantings of Merlot has increased in recent years in the Austrian wine region of Burgenland where vineyards previously growing Welschriesling are being uprooted to make room for more plantings.

In the early history of California wine, the Merlot was used primarily as a 100% varietal wine until wine maker Warren Winiarski encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends. In California, Merlot can range from very fruity simple wines (sometimes referred to by critics as a "red Chardonnay") to more serious, barrel aged examples. It can also be used a primary component in Meritage blends. While Merlot is grown throughout the state, it is particularly prominent in Napa, Monterey and Sonoma County. In Napa, examples from Carneros, Mount Veeder, Oakville and Rutherford tend to show ripe blackberry and black raspberry notes. Sonoma Merlots from Alexander Valley, Carneros and Dry Creek Valley tend to show plum, tea leaf and black cherry notes.

In the 1980s, Merlot helped put the Washington wine industry on the world's wine map. Prior to this period there was a general perception that the climate of Washington State was too cold to produce red wine varietals. Merlots from Leonetti Cellar, Andrew Will, Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste Michelle demonstrated that areas of the Eastern Washington were warm enough for red wine production. Today it is the most widely grown red wine grape in the state and accounts for nearly one fifth of the state's entire production. It is widely planted throughout the Columbia Valley AVA but has earned particular notice from plantings grown in Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills. Washington Merlots are noted for their deep color and balanced acidity. The state's climate lends itself towards long days and hours of sunshine with cool nights that contributes to a significant diurnal temperature variation and produces wines with New World fruitiness and Old World structure. Other US regions producing significant quantities of Merlot include New York State's Long Island AVA, Virgina's Shenandoah Valley AVA and Oregon's Rogue Valley AVA.

In Argentina, Merlot plantings have been increasing in the Mendoza region with the grape showing an affinity to the Tupungato region of the Uco Valley. Argentine Merlots grown in the higher elevations of Tunpungato have shown a balance of ripe fruit, tannic structure and acidty. In New Zealand, plantings of Merlot have increased in the Hawkes Bay area, particularly in Gimblett Gravels where the grape has shown the ability to produce Bordeaux style wine. The grape has been growing in favor among New Zealand producers due to its ability to ripen better, with less green flavors, than Cabernet Sauvignon. Other regions with significant plantings include Auckland and Marlborough. In Australia, some vineyards labeled as "Merlot" were discovered to actually be Cabernet Franc (a similar discovery was made in best vineyards of Californian Merlot producer Duckhorn Vineyards). In South Africa, plantings of Merlot has focused on cooler sites within the Paarl and Stellenbosch regions.

In Chile, Merlot thrives in the Apalta region of Colchagua. It is also grown in significant quantities in Curico, Casablanca and the Maipo Valley. Until the early 1990s, the Chilean wine industry mistakenly sold a large quantity of wine made from the Carmenere grape as Merlot. Following the discovery that many Chilean vineyards thought to be planted with Sauvignon blanc was actually Sauvignonasse, the owners of the Chilean winery Domaine Paul Bruno (who previously worked with Chateau Margaux and Chateau Cos d'Estournal) invited ampelographers to comb through their vineyards to make sure that their wines were properly identified. Genetic studies discovered that much of what had been grown as Merlot was actually Carménère, an old French variety that had gone largely extinct in France due to its poor resistance to phylloxera. While the vines, leaves and grapes look very similar, both grapes produce wines with distinct characteristics – Carménère being more strongly flavored with green pepper notes and Merlot having softer fruit with chocolate notes. The labeling Chilean Merlot is a catch-all to include wine that is made from a blend of indiscriminate amounts of Merlot and Carmenere. With Merlot ripening 3 weeks earlier than Carménère, these wines differ greatly in quality depending on harvesting.

As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, velvety wines with plum flavors. While Merlot wines tend to mature faster than Cabernet Sauvignon, some examples can continue to develop in the bottle for decades. There are three main styles of Merlot-a soft, fruity, smooth wine with very little tannins, a fruity wine with more tannic structure and, finally, a brawny, highly tannic style made in the profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the fruit notes commonly associated with Merlot include cassis, black and red cherries, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry, ollalieberry and plum. Vegetable and earthy notes include black and green olives, cola nut, bell pepper, fennel, humus, leather, mushrooms, rhubarb and tobacco. Floral and herbal notes commonly associated with Merlot include green and black tea, eucalyptus, laurel, mint, oregano, pine, rosemary, sage, sarsaparilla and thyme. When Merlot has spent significant time in oak, the wine may show notes of caramel, chocolate, coconut, coffee bean, dill weed, mocha, molasses, smoke, vanilla and walnut.

White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must to then be fermented. Some producers of White Merlot include Sutter Home Winery, Forest Glen, and Beringer. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s, and should not be confused with wines made from the white mutant of the grape. In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made in the Ticino region but has been considered more a rosé.

In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and Northeastern Italy) share many of the same food pairing affinities with Pinot noir and go well with dishes like salmon, mushroom based dishes and greens like chard and radicchio. Light bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon or prosciutto. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine. The capsaicins of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter.

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Washington wine

The "Merlot craze" of the 1990s prompts dramatic growth in the Washington wine industry in the late 20th century.

Washington wine is wine produced from grape varieties grown in the U.S. state of Washington. Washington ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California. By 2006, the state had over 31,000 acres (130 km2) of vineyards, a harvest of 120,000 short tons (109,000 t) of grapes, and exports going to over 40 countries around the world from the 600 wineries located in the state. While there are some viticultural activities in the cooler, wetter western half of the state, the majority (99%) of wine grape production takes place in the desert-like eastern half. The rain shadow of the Cascade Range leaves the Columbia River Basin with around 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rain fall, making irrigation and water rights of paramount interest to the Washington wine industry. Viticulture in the state is also influenced by long sunlight hours (on average, two more hours a day than in California during the growing season) and consistent temperatures.

The early history of the Washington wine industry can be traced to the introduction of Cinsault grapes by Italian immigrants to the Walla Walla region. In the 1950s and 1960s, the precursors of the state's biggest wineries (Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Winery) were founded. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the wine world discovered a new aspect of Washington wines with each passing decade - starting with Rieslings and Chardonnays in the 1970s, the Merlot craze of the 1980s and the emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the 1990s. Washington has elevan federally-defined American Viticultural Areas mostly located in Eastern Washington. The largest AVA is the Columbia Valley AVA, which extends into a small portion of northern Oregon and also encompasses six of the other Washington AVAs. These include the Walla Walla Valley AVA, the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, the Wahluke Slope AVA, Lake Chelan AVA and the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn also encompasses the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and the Red Mountain AVA. The Columbia Gorge AVA is west of the Columbia Valley AVA. Washington's only AVA located west of the Cascades is the Puget Sound AVA. The Ancient Lakes wine-growing region is currently seeking federal AVA status.

The earliest grape vines planted in Washington State was at Fort Vancouver in 1825 by traders working for the Hudson's Bay Company but it is not known for sure if wine was every produced from these plantings. The first people who were definitely known to produce wine were German and Italian immigrants who planted their wine grapes in Washington during the 1860s & 1870s. Washington was one of the first states to usher in the start of Prohibition, going dry in 1917 and shutting down most of the state's wine production. Some scattered grape growers stayed afloat during this period selling grapes to home winemakers but nearly all the state's commercial wines went out of business. Following the end of Prohibition, Washington's fledgling wine industry was based primarily on fortified sweet wine production made from the Vitis Labrusca variety Concord. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were the most widely recognized producers, making millions of gallons each year of sweet jug wine made from Concord and other other varieties. In the 1950s, the planting of Vitis vinifera saw an increase spearheaded, in part, by the work of Dr. Walter Clore and Washington State University which conducted a series of trials on which grape vines produced the best in various soils and climates of Washington.

The roots of the modern Washington wine industry can been traced to the mid 20th century when a group of professors from the University of Washington turned their home winemaking operation into a commercial endeavor and founded Associated Vintners (later renamed Columbia Winery) and focused on producing premium wines. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were merged into a new winery that would eventually become Chateau Ste Michelle. With the hiring of Andre Tchelistcheff as a consultant, Chateau Ste Michelle and Associated Vintners became the driving force in premium wine production for the early modern Washington wine industry.Grenache was one of the first Vitis vinifera grapes to be successfully vinified with a 1966 Yakima Valley rosé earning mention in wine historian Leon Adams treatise The Wines of America. The 1970s ushered in a period of expansion with early vineyards being planted in the Columbia Gorge, Walla Walla and Red Mountain areas. The 1978 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was featured on the cover of a national wine publication and touted as the best Cabernet of vintage. The 1980s saw further expansion with the opening of large, scale family owned wineries such as Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole N°41, Barnard Griffin and Hogue Cellars that soon won many awards from national and international wine competition. In 1988, Chateau Ste Michelle was named "Best American Winery" and in 1989 five Washington wines made Wine Spectator's "Top 100 list" for the first time.

Following the broadcast in 1991 of the 60 Minutes episode on the so-called "French Paradox", American consumption of red wine saw a dramatic increase. The grape variety Merlot, in particular, proved to be very popular among consumers. The Washington Wine Commission made the marketing of the state's a focus putting Washington in prime position to capitalize on the new "Merlot craze". Plantings of the varietal increase more than five fold and Washington Merlots were featured prominently on restaurant wine list across the country. From there producers went on to experiment with success on varieties and blends as the Washington Wine industry steadily grew. By the beginning of the 21st century, the wine industry was generating more than 2.4 billion dollars annually for the state with wine grape being the fourth most important fruit crop in the state-behind apples, pears and cherries. By 2007 the state had certified its 500th winery. In early 2009, the state's 600th winery opened.

The Cascade Mountain ranges are a defining feature in both the geography and climate of Washington state. It serves as a dividing line between the wet, marine influenced climate of the western part of the state from the drier, desert-like climate of the eastern half. The mountains themselves create a rain shadow over the eastern half by blocking weather fronts holding precipitation from carrying over the mountains and descending onto the Columbia River Basin. This creates the arid desert like conditions with a more continental climate in Eastern Washington and heightens the roles of rivers--most notably the Walla Walla, Yakima, Snake and Columbia River-- in the region's viticulture. In addition to providing vital irrigation sources, the rivers also help to moderate temperatures during the winter which is prone to severe frost and freeze coming from the Artic. In winter, overnight temperatures in the wine growing regions of Eastern Washington can drop to as low as -15°F (-26°C). The sudden drop to these sub-zero temperatures can make the water in a vine's wood canopy quickly freeze which can cause the vine to literally burst open. The severity of these conditions can wreak havoc on a year's harvest, as was the case in the Walla Walla AVA with the big winter freezes of 1996 and 2003.

The geological history of the state can be traced to the movement of glaciers along the edge of the Pacific Northwestern section of the North American Plate that retreated from the area over 16,000 years ago, leaving behind a free-draining gravel bed up to 250 feet (76 m) deep in some places. The Great Missoula Floods at the end of Ice Age created much of the Columbia River basin and brought soil deposits to the region from as far away as modern day Montana. These floods released a torrent waves of water (nearly equal to the amount of water in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie combined) traveling more than 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers) and 500 feet (152 kilometers) high across the Columbia Plateau. These floods carved out the geographical landscape of the region, creating coulees and gravel bars as well as depositing layers of gravels, sands and silt that would eventually mixed with loess and volcanic dust.

Today the topsoil found through the Columbia Valley is mostly sandy and stone-studded on top of basalt-based soil foundation created by persistent lava. These sandy loam vineyard soils create a mostly inhospitable environment for the phylloxera louse to survive which maybe one of the reasons why the phylloxera epidemic has not ravaged the Washington wine industry as it has the Californian and French wine industries in the past. The state's northerly location above the 46th parallel north allows Washington's major wine growing regions to experience 17 hours of sunlight in the summer, two more hours of sunlight during the peak of growing season then what California sees further south. During the growing season Eastern Washington experiences a wide diurnal temperature variation (up to 40ºF (4.4ºC) difference between daytime highs and nighttime lows) which allows the fruit to fully ripening while the cool nights help the vines to shut down, allowing the grape to maintain natural levels of acidity.

Viticulture in Washington State is deeply influenced by the use of irrigation and the water rights associated with suitable vineyard land. Sourced from the major rivers that run through the area, most vineyards in Eastern Washington are irrigated though some vineyards (especially in the slightly wetter Walla Walla Valley near the Blue Mountains), have begun experimenting with dry farming. The ever present threat of severe winter frost has influenced viticultural practices including the adoption of wind machines to churn and circulate air in the vineyard. In the late 20th century, many producers began adapting Russian vine-training techniques for fan-training which promotes better air circulation among the vine so cold air doesn't settle on the vine. Due to the minimal risk exposure to phylloxera, some produces have opted to leave their vines ungrafted on it's original rootstock since an exposed graft union is more vulnerable to frost damage. One benefit of the traditionally cold winters is that the grapevines are allowed to go into full dormancy, which allows the vines to shut down and conserve energy that will be vital at the beginning of the new growth cycle for the vine. The threat of freezing condition is the main viticultural hazard that vine growers need to concern themselves with since the lack of rainfall during the summer and autumn contribute to the dry, arid conditions that allows most of Washington vineyards to be relatively disease free.

Until recently, there has been very little clonal diversity among the grape varieties grown in Washington. This has lead to some critics, such as Hugh Johnson noting a monotone tendency in some Washington wines that limit their quality and subtlety. Along with many other New World wine regions, viticulture in Washington is highly mechanized with nearly 80% of each years harvest being mechanically harvested. To accommodate the machine harvested, vineyard rows are widely spaced and usually trained in bilateral cordons. Harvest typically takes place from late September till the end of October.

While the use of irrigation is disparaged or even prohibited in many premium wine producing regions, its use in Washington is absolutely vital and is a major asset in quality wine production. The average vineyard in Eastern Washington receives around 8 inches annually of rainfall, most of it in the winter months. Without irrigation, agriculture in the region wouldn't be possible. Compared to other wine regions that do not need or practice irrigation, a vineyard manager in Washington State has more control over potential quality of the grapes. By utilizing drip irrigation and controlling the amount of water the vines receive and wine, allows the grower to limit the amount of vigor (and thusly yields) of vine and leverage water stress to produce more concentrated flavors and phenolic compounds in the grape. Growers with often withhold water early during the growing season to control leaf canopy which can have beneficial business aspect by saving money compared to using costly viticultural chores such as sucker pruning, leaf striping and mildew treatment to control and tend to the leaf canopy. Applying controlled amount of water during the ripening period follow veraison encourages the grapes to ripen faster without a reductive lose in quality. One addition benefit of irrigation is frost protection. Following harvest, growers will soak the soil of the vineyard to moisten the soil down to two feet. As temperatures drop, this water can form a protective layer of ice that will give the vine and few extra degrees of protection from freezing temperature that may damage the roots.

Geographically and viticulturally, Washington is divided into section separated by the Cascade Mountain chain. The cooler, wetter Western Washington which includes the population centers of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia is responsible for less than 1% of the state's wine production and is home to one American Viticultural Area (AVA)-the Puget Sound AVA. However, many wineries such as Chateau Ste Michelle, Andrew Will, Quilceda Creek and those located in Woodinville wine country have production facilities and tasting rooms in Western Washington. These wineries will often either own or buy from vineyards in Eastern Washington and have the grapes trucked over to the mountains to their facility. The warmer, drier eastern part of the state is home to the vast Columbia Valley which extends south into Oregon. The Columbia Valley AVA is sub-divided into several smaller AVAs including Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills and Snipes Mountain. West of the Columbia Valley is the Columbia Gorge AVA which, along with the Walla Walla AVA, is also shared with Oregon.

The large Columbia Valley AVA was established in 1984 and covers more than a third of the state and crosses over the border into Oregon. Within this large AVA are several smaller AVAs including the Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Walla Walla and Yakima Valley AVAs. Of the region's 11.5 million acres (4.65 million hectares), nearly 16,670 acres (6750 hectares) were planted as of 2008. The boundaries of the AVA extend south from the Okanagan wilderness and include most of the Columbia River Basin extending east along the Snake River to the Idaho border. Many of the Columbia Valley's vineyards are planted along a broad, semi-arid plateau at altitudes of 1,000-2,000 feet (300-600 meters). The climate of the Columbia, like most of Eastern Washington, is continental though a wide range of microclimates exist. The area sees anywhere from 1,240 to 1,440 degree days Celsius with most of these microclimates falling into classifications of Regions I and II on the Winkler scale of heat summation. On average the Columbia Valley sees over 300 cloudless days a years and experiences no more than 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rainfall.

The Horse Heaven Hills AVA was established in 2005 and is home of some of the state's largest and oldest vineyards. Of the region's 570,000 acres (230,670 hectares), nearly 6,180 acres (2,500 hectares) were planted as of 2008. The boundaries of the AVA follow its namesake hills to the north which forms the southern border of the Yakima Valley and extends southward to the Columbia River. In 1972, the first vineyard planted was planted in this region called Mercer Ranch. Now known as Champoux vineyards, it is one of the most prestigious and sought after grapes in the state with it name appearing on several vineyard designated wines. The vineyard is also home to some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the country. Many of the best vineyards are planted along the right bank of the Columbia River, though some areas are prone to exposure to winds in excess of 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers) at which point vines are at risk of shutting down, metabolically and hindering the ripening process. However the wind also serves to toughen grape skins, which can increase phenols, moderate temperatures and keep the vine's canopy dry which aids in disease control.

The Wahluke Slope AVA was established in 2006 and produces, on average, around 20% of the state's wine grapes. Of the region's 81,000 acres (32,780 hectares), nearly 5,190 acres (2,100 hectare) were planted as of 2008. Located among the foothills south of the Saddle Mountains, the Wahluke Slope is one of the warmest and driest regions in the state. The Columbia River forms the western and southern boundaries of the AVA with the Hanford Reach National Monument bordering the appellation on the east. The vintage characteristics of Wahluke slope is very consistent year to year due to the area's reliably dry, warm climate and uniform coarse gravelly sand soils that drain water well. More than three quarters of the area's production is in red wine grapes-particular Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. As of 2007, more than 50 wineries purchased grapes from the Wahluke Slope with many of them featuring the AVA or one of its 20 vineyards on wine labels.

In April 2009 the Lake Chelan AVA, located around Lake Chelan in the Columbia Valley was approved as an American Viticultural Area. The Columbia Valley may be further sub-divided with regions near Leavenworth, the Wenatchee Valley and along the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains (in a region collectively called the Columbia Cascades) expected to seek federally designation.

The Yakima Valley AVA was established in 1983 and is the oldest agricultural region in the state. The third largest AVA, the area is responsible for more than 40% of the state's entire wine production. Located within the larger Columbia Valley AVA, the Yakima Valley AVA is further sub-divided into the smaller Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills AVAs Of the region's 665,000 acres (269,115 hectares), nearly 11,120 acres (4,500 hectares) were planted as of 2008. Within the larger AVA are vineyard planted in some of the coolest regions in Eastern Washington. The boundaries of the AVA are framed from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the west and follows the path of the Yakima Valley to Red Mountain which shapes its eastern border. The Rattlesnake Hills and Horse Heaven Hills frame the AVA to the north and south, respectively. The Yakima Valley is home to state's highest concentration of wineries.

The Red Mountain AVA was established in 2001 and is the smallest wine regions in Washington. Of the region's 4040 acres (1635 hectares), nearly 740 acres (300 hectares) were planted as of 2008. The vast majority of the AVA is composed of gentle slope made up of sandy loam soil with high calcium content. The area has good air drainage that sees full southern exposure which allows the wine grapes to maintain increased acidity levels and attain optimal ripeness. In recent years Red Mountain has seen an increase of interest in the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Sangiovese. The soils of Red Mountain are low in nutrients with high pH levels. This limits the vigor of the vine producing low yields, small canopy and grape berry sizes 50-60% smaller than the varietal norm. Despite having a reputation as Washington most prestigious and highly sought after AVA, growth in the Red Mountain area was limited by lack of available water rights, needed to establish irrigation. In 2005, the Washington Department of Natural Resources released water rights for 600 acres of land suitable for vineyard development. The new developments is expected to increase the profile of the AVA.

The Rattlesnake Hills AVA was established in 2006 amidst some controversy about whether the terroir of the region was sufficiently different from the greater Yakima Valley AVA. Of the region's 68,500 acres (27,720 hectares), nearly 1,235 acres (500 hectares) were planted as of 2008. The appellation covers the northern expanse of the Yakima Valley and features the highest elevation than the rest of the valley ranging from 850 feet (259 meters) to 3000 feet (924 meters). The temperatures of the region are moderate during the peak growing season but are significantly warmer during the winters than other parts of the Columbia Valley (an average of 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit) which limits the frost danger in the appellation.

The Snipes Mountain AVA was established in 2009. With 4,145 acres (1,677 hectares), it is the second smallest AVA in the state, after Red Mountain.

The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 with its boundaries amended in 2001. Mostly contained within Washington, a portion of this appellation does extend south into Oregon. Of the region's 303,500 acres (122,820 hectares), nearly 1,110 acres (450 hectares) were planted as of 2008. Along with its wine, Walla Walla is known for its sweet onions that is a local food and wine pairing favorite with the Merlot grown in the appellation. The region is generally wetter than the rest of the Columbia Valley, receiving more than 20 inches (50 centimeter) of rain on average each year. The area between the town of Walla Walla east to the Blue Mountains is the wettest with each mile east of the city closer to the mountains seeing an extra inch of ran. The Walla Walla AVA contains contains at least four distinct soil profiles scattered across the valley-slackwater terrace, loess, river gravel and flood plain silt. The majority of Walla Walla's vineyards located on a combination of slackwater terrace and loess. The silt and volcanic ash that makes up the region's loess soils contain remnants from the eruption of Mount Mazama (which also formed the Crater Lake nearly 400 miles away in Oregon).

The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004. Of the region's 179,200 acres (75,520 hectares), nearly 445 acres (180 hectares) were planted as of 2008. Similar to the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla AVAs, this appellation also cross over the border south into Oregon where Pinot noir and Pinot gris. Located along the Columbia River as it bisects the Cascade Range, parts of the AVA fall within a wind tunnel that is a popular tourist destination for wind surfing but can too fierce for viticulture. Most of the vineyards planted on the Washington side of the appellation are located on south facing slopes above the river where it can receive some protection from the winds. Depending on the elevation vineyards in the Columbia Gorge AVA receive anywhere from 18-30 inches (46-76 centimeters) of rain annually.

The Puget Sound AVA is the only wine growing region located in Western Washington. Of the region's 4.75 million acres (1.9 million hectare), only 79 acres (32 hectares) were planted as of 2008-mostly to cold weather varieties like Chasselas, Madeleine Angevine, Pinot gris, Pinot noir and Siegerrebe. Granted AVA status in 1995, the appellation extends from the foothills of the Cascades to the Olympic Peninsula and islands located in Puget Sound. The climate is heavily affected by the marine influences of nearby Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean which contributes to mild temperatures and damp conditions year round. The region is at the extremes of sustainable viticulture with a cooler climate than the Loire Valley yet it sees more sunshine than Bordeaux and is drier in average precipitation than Burgundy. These marginal growing conditions coupled with the limited space in this densely populated region leaves little to offer in terms of suitable land for vineyard plantings. Less than 1% of the state's total wine grape production from the Puget Sound AVA.

The early Washington wine industry focused predominately on white wines but in recent years, lead by the "Merlot-craze" of the 1990s have shifted the focus to the state's red wines. Chardonnay also experienced a boom of interested in the 1990s and along with Riesling are among the most widely planted grape varieties in the state. While the acreage of Riesling has been steadily decline, there has been renewed interest in the grape in recent years that has been bolstered by the joint Eroica venture between Chateau Ste Michelle and German winemaker Ernst Loosen and the investment by Bonny Doon founder's Randall Grahm to open a winery focused solely on Riesling production. Semillon is another white variety that wine experts like Jancis Robinson has noted that the state consistency produces exceptional quality wines from. Merlot was one of the first major vinifera varieties to garner international attention for the state with its distinctive earthiness and structure that can be very different from the softer, plusher styles found in California. However the Merlot vine is very sensitive to frost and after significant damages during major winter freezes in 1996 & 2003, more vintners turned their attention to the hardier Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This lead to interest in Bordeaux-style blends. In the early 21st century, Syrah has emerged on the scene as a major player.

Today there is over 80 grape varieties grown in Washington state, the primary grapes used in the production of wine are from the Vitis vinifera family of grapes. The main grapes used in wine production in Washington include Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Zinfandel. Vineyard acreage planted to red varieties was 17,351 acres (7,022 ha) in 2006. The four most prevalent red varieties were Cabernet Sauvignon at 5,959 acres (2,412 ha), Merlot at 5,853 acres (2,369 ha), Syrah at 2,831 acres (1,146 ha), and Cabernet Franc at 1,157 acres (468 ha). Vineyard acreage planted to white varieties was 13,649 acres (5,524 ha). The four most prevalent white varieties were Chardonnay at 5,992 acres (2,425 ha), Riesling at 4,404 acres (1,782 ha), Sauvignon Blanc at 993 acres (402 ha), and Gewürztraminer at 632 acres (256 ha).

Washington State is also home to plantings of some lesser known Vitis vinifera varieties that are used in wine production for some experimental wines and blending. These include Abouriou, Alicante Bouschet, Aligoté, Auxerrois, Black Cornichon, Black Monukka, Black Muscat, Black Prince, Blauer Portugieser, Calzin, Carignane, Chasselas, Chauche Gris, Clevner Mariafeld, Colombard, Csaba, Ehrenfelser, Feher Szagos, Gamay, Green Hungarian, Lemberger, Madeleine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner, Melon de Bourgogne, Mission, Morio Muscat, Muller-Thurgau, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Canelli, Muscat Ottonel, Palomino, Petite Verdot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Pirovano, Rkatsiteli, Rose of Peru, Salvador, Sauvignon Vert, Scheurebe, Siegerrebe, Sylvaner, Trollinger, and Trousseau. Some notable French hybrid grapes used in wine production include Aurore and Baco Noir.

The wines of Washington State are often characterized by their bright fruit flavors and crisp acidity. In recent years, the state's red wines have leaned towards riper, more fruit forward flavors, noticeable tannins and oak influence with moderately high alcohol levels. Wine experts such as Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson have described quality examples of Washington wines to exhibit fresh acidity, deep coloring, with bright, intense fruit flavors that can usually age in the bottle for at least 8 years before the fruit structure starts to fade. Katherine MacNeil notes that the red wines of Washington, especially the Cabernets and Merlots, often exhibited lush texture with very concentrated berry flavors reminiscent of the wild fruit found in the Pacific Northwest such as blackberries, boysenberries, cherries and raspberries. The state is often described as combing New World fruit with Old World style. Paul Gregutt, wine writer for The Seattle Times and Wine Enthusiast describe Washington wines as maintaining strong purity and typicity of varietal flavors with firm, ripe tannins and bright acidity. Gregutt says Washington wines have the potential to combine the structure and polish of French wines with the ripness and fruit of California wines.

Washington produces a full spectrum of wines ranging from mass-produced to premium boutique wines. It also produces nearly every style of wine including rose, sparkling, fruit, fortified, still and late harvest dessert wines afflicted with Botrytis cinerea. Some years can even produce favorable conditions for ice wine production. In 2006, The Wine Advocate gave two perfect scores of 100 points for Cabernet Sauvignon wines made by Quilceda Creek Vintners using grapes from several Washington AVAs. Only 15 other American wines have ever been scored so highly by The Wine Advocate, all from California. Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Estates (which owns the original Chateau Ste Michelle label as well as several others) is the largest producer in the state, owning more than a third of all vineyard land in Washington.

In his book Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide, Paul Gregutt, a wine writer for the The Seattle Times and Wine Enthusiast, found that there is a common perception that Washington doesn't excel with any particular flagship variety or blend, as is common in most of the world's notable wine regions such as Napa Valley with Cabernet Sauvignon, the Mosel with Riesling, Australia with Shiraz, Chablis with Chardonnay and Pomerol with Merlot-based blends. There is also a perception that Washington wines are more expensive than other New World wine regions despite the fact that the state's two largest producers (Chateau Ste Michelle & Columbia Crest) focus primarily on value wine production. This may be partly due, as Gregutt noted, to the fact that many consumers think that Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest are California wine producers.

Despite producing significantly more wine than neighboring Oregon, Washington wine lags far behind in consumer recognition among the general wine market. Wine experts such as Tom Stevenson speculate that this is because the wine industry in Oregon is uniquely associated with one main varietal-Pinot noir-while Washington has yet to shape an identity around any particular varietal or blend but instead aims to succeed in producing many varietals and blends of high quality. The similarity between the name of the state and the capital of the United States-Washington DC-may also contribute to the wine industry's lower profile. Master of Wine Bob Betz, the former head winemaker of Chateau Ste Michelle who now makes wine under his own label, noted that often in his travels internationally and across the United States he would get asked "which side of the Potomac?" that Washington wine grapes were grown on. According to Betz, a significant challenge to the Washington wine industry is increasing consumer awareness and name recognition of the state's AVAs that appear on wine labels.

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Bordeaux wine

Map of the French provinces (including Bordeaux) assimilated by the Plantagenet-Aquitaine union

A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, although in good vintages, this total can exceed over 900 million, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. 88% of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called 'claret' in Britain), with notable sweet white wines such as Chateau d'Yquem, dry whites, rosé and sparkling wines (Crémant de Bordeaux) all making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by 10,000 producers or châteaux from the grapes of 13,000 grape growers. There are 57 appellations of Bordeaux wine.

The history of wine production seems to have begun sometime after 48 AD, during the Roman occupation of St. Émilion, when the Romans established vineyards to cultivate wine for the soldiers. However, it is only in 71 AD that Pliny recorded the first real evidence of vineyards in Bordeaux. France's first extensive vineyards were established by Rome in around 122 BC in today's Languedoc, the better part of two hundred years earlier.

Although domestically popular, French wine was seldom exported, as the areas covered by vineyards and the volume of wine produced was low. In the 12th century however, the popularity of Bordeaux wines increased dramatically following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Aliénor d’Aquitaine. The marriage made the province of Aquitaine English territory, and thenceforth the majority of Bordeaux was then exported This accounts for the ubiquity of claret in England.

As the popularity of Bordeaux wine increased, the vineyards expanded to accommodate the demands from abroad. Being the land tax beneficiary, Henry II was in favor of this industry, and to increase it further, abolished export taxes to England from the Aquitaine region. In the 13th and 14th century, a code of business practices called the police des vins emerged to give Bordeaux wine a distinct trade advantage over its neighboring regions.

The export of Bordeaux was effectively halted by the outbreak of The Hundred Years' War between France and England in 1337. By the end of the conflict in 1453 France had repossessed the province, thus taking control of wine production in the region.

In 1725, the spread of vineyards throughout Bordeaux was so vast that it was divided into specific areas so that the consumer could tell exactly where each wine was from. The collection of districts was known as the Vignoble de Bordeaux, and bottles were labeled with both the region and the area from which they originated.

From 1875-1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were ruined by Phylloxera infestations. The region's wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock and all Bordeaux vines that survive to this day are a product of this action. This is not to say that all contemporary Bordeaux wines are truly American wines, as rootstock does not affect the production of grapes.

Due to the lucrative nature of this business, other areas in France began growing their own wines and labeling them as Bordeaux products. As profits in the Aquitaine region declined, the vignerons demanded that the government impose a law declaring that only produce from Bordeaux could be labeled with this name. The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) was created for this purpose.

In 1936, the government responded to the appeals from the winemakers and stated that all regions in France had to name their wines by the place in which they had been produced. Labeled with the AOC approved stamp, products were officially confirmed to be from the region that it stated. This law later extended to other goods such as cheese, poultry and vegetables.

The economic problems in the 1970s, in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis marked a difficult period for Bordeaux. A series af scandals coincided with a commercial crisis in Bordeaux. The vintage of 1972 had been overpriced as was 1973 and 1974. And when the market crashed the negociants were stuck with overpriced wine that they could not sell. The early 1980s saw a new trend. Inheritance taxes were doubled in 1981 and on top of the crisis in the 1970s, many families found it increasingly difficult to hang on to their châteaux. Enter domestic and foreign insurance companies, banks and other corporate giants. Some of these companies were looking for a quick profit, others were in it as a long term investment. But the 1980 wasn't all bad. It also saw more great vintages in a single decade than ever before and a new era in other respects. First, wine critics (rather than just official classifications) started to have an influence on demand and prices. The enthusiastic US wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. reviewed the 1982 Bordeaux vintage as the most sumptuous vintage in decades. Not only was this a turning point for Bordeaux wine economically, it also represented the beginning of an American domination of the reviewing of wine, especially Bordeaux.. The result was a broader appeal of Bordeaux wine where the presence of fruit became a much more important factor than previously. It has been claimed that this is the style of wine that Parker prefers and gives high scores to (and they are therefore sometimes called "Parkerized"), while the Pomerol-based winemaking consultant Michel Rolland writes the recipe for how to make these wines.

This critical selection of grapes also resulted in many chateaux introducing second wines, so not to waste good but not optimum quality grapes. It was also the introduction of the en primeur concept where traders alongside critics are invited to Bordeaux six months after harvest, to sample the new wine.

Bordeaux used to have a significant production of white wines, with Entre-deux-Mers, a primarily white wine area. Unlike the style of dry white Bordeaux favoured today, with almost 100% Sauvignon Blanc and a heavy influence of new oak, the traditional Entre-deux-Mers whites had a high proportion of Semillion and were either made in old oak barrels or in steel tanks. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s, these vineyards were converted to red wine production (of Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superieur AOC), and the production of white wine has decreased ever since. Today production of white wine has shrunk to about one tenth of Bordeaux's total production.

The Bordeaux region of France is the second largest wine-growing area in the world with 287,037 acres (1,162 km2) or 116,160 ha's under vine. Only the Languedoc wine region with 617,750 acres (2,500 km2) under vine is larger. Located halfway between the North pole and the equator, there is more vineyard land planted in Bordeaux than in all of Germany and ten times the amount planted in New Zealand.

The major reason for the success of winemaking in the Bordeaux region is the excellent environment for growing vines. The geological foundation of the region is limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium. The Gironde estuary dominates the regions along with its tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, and together irrigate the land and provide an Atlantic Climate, also known as an oceanic climate, for the region.

In Bordeaux the concept of terroir plays a pivotal role in wine production with the top estates aiming to make terroir driven wines that reflect the place they are from, often from grapes collected from a single vineyard. The soil of Bordeaux is composed of gravel, sandy stone, and clay. The region's best vineyards are located on the well drained gravel soils that are frequently found near the Gironde river. An old adage in Bordeaux is the best estates can "see the river" from their vineyard and majority of land that face riverside are occupied by classified estates.

Red Bordeaux, which is traditionally known as claret in the United Kingdom, is generally made from a blend of grapes. Permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. Today Malbec and Carmenere are rarely used, with Château Clerc Milon, a fifth growth Bordeaux, being one of the few to still retain Carmenere vines.

As a very broad generalization, Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux's second-most planted grape variety) dominates the blend in red wines produced in the Médoc and the rest of the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Typical top-quality Chateaux blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Merlot. Merlot (Bordeaux's most-planted grape variety) and to a lesser extent Cabernet Franc (Third most planted variety) tend to predominate in Saint Emilion, Pomerol and the other right bank appellations. These Right Bank blends from top-quality Chateaux are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.

White Bordeaux is predominantly, and exclusively in the case of the sweet Sauternes, made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle - Typical blends are usually 80% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc. As with the reds, white Bordeaux wines are usually blends, most commonly of Sémillon and a smaller proportion of Sauvignon Blanc. Other permitted grape varieties are Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac.

In the late 1960s Sémillon was the most planted grape in Bordeaux. Since then it has been in constant decline although it still is the most common of Bordeaux's white grapes. Sauvignon Blanc's popularity on the other hand has been rising, overtaking Ugni Blanc as the second most planted white Bordeaux grape in the late 1980s and now being grown in an area more than half the size of that of the lower yielding Sémillon.

Wineries all over the world aspire to making wines in a Bordeaux style. In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association to identify wines made in this way. Although most Meritage wines come from California, there are members of the Meritage Association in 18 states and five other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Mexico.

Bordeaux is a relatively humid region. Thus it is a place rife with disease and other problems, compared with many of the worlds other wine regions, such as dry Chile or Australia. Oïdium, mildew, coulure (faliure of the flowers), millerandage (irregular ripening of the grapes), Eutypiose, Esca, Vers de la grappe and Botrytis (can be beneficial - see Sauternes) are the most common diseases or problems that occur.

In Bordeaux, the pruning of the vine happens almost always as cane-pruning (as opposed to spur-pruning). There are two types of cane-pruning: guyot simple and guyot double. The simple way is seen on the right bank, double most often on the left. Related to pruning is the trellising, where vines are dispersed along wires. It has become increasingly popular to raise the height of the trellis to the benefit of the grapes but to the discomfort for the vigneron.

The use of chemicals and fertilizers has dropped in the later decades in Bordeaux. 40 years ago, using fertilizers and different herb- and fungicides was common and made life easier for the manager. However, it also lowered the quality of the grapes. This practice is still taking place in Bordeaux - but less and less so. Chemical fertilizers are now replaced by compost - some don't use any at all - ploughing has replaced many pesticides and deleafing is used instead of fungicides. While a healthier approach to agriculture has certainly come to Bordeaux, the châteaux hasn't adopted the biodynamic trend so popular in many other wine regions though Bordeaux is not entirely unfamiliar with the concept. Instead the lutte raisonnée method is gaining ground.

Bordeaux has seen a rise in the use of green harvesting, where unripe bunches are cut off in the summer in order to channel more sugar etc. into the remaining bunches. While it is a popular process it also has it's opponents such as Jean Gautreau of Château Sociando-Mallet, Gonzague Lurton of Château Durfort-Vivens and Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, claiming that the remaining berries simply grow bigger, the labour that has to do the green harvesting has to be cheap and thus ignorant towards cutting vines and pointing to vintages 1929 and 1947 that were of great yield and great quality and made entirely without green harvest.

In Bordeaux, Hand picking is now common with the more prestigeoux châteaux. But while hand-picking is prefers, some classified châteaux still harvest by machine. Mechanical harvesting also has its advantages such as flexibility, which makes harvesting at night possible; preferable during hot weather. While the harvesting machines today have advanced in technology making it still more interesting, the delicate and selective process of harvesting by hand is still the best way to secure a maximum quality harvest. One thing talking against manual harvesting is the sheer size of vineyards in Bordeaux (not to mention the price of hand-picked harvest) with tens of thousands of hectares needing harvesting within a few weeks. The flatter geography of Bordeaux also allows for mechanical harvesting where the steep slopes of Côte-Rôtie makes machine harvest near-impossible.

In Bordeaux almost all wines are blended wines. Only a few producers make single-variety wines, though the lack of varietal on labels makes that fact almost redundant. The typical blend consists of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (and/or Cabernet Franc) with small additions of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Merlot is favored on the right bank and Cabernet on the left, though Merlot has been increasing on the left bank over the last decade or two. Today winemaking in Bordeaux is a highly controlled process with widespread use of stainless steel vats for fermentation, cooling apparatus and a high degree of hygienic discipline. In 1951 chaptalization became legal (it had likely taken place illegally prior to 1951). The use of chaptalization is common in Bordeaux except in the warmest of vintages and especially on the left bank where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates and ripens later than Merlot.

Today, sorting and destemming are common techniques in Bordeaux and have been for some time. Great lengths are made to advance technology that improves these processes. Technology has also impacted on the crushing on the grapes. From ancient times this process was done by treading the grapes by foot, later with machines that were cheaper and safer, but less gentle with the grapes where breaking the pips was a problem, as they release unwanted tannins into the must. Today some châteaux such as Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte simply don't crush the grapes and let the fermentation begin within each grape (a process widely used in the Beaujolais region).

After the crushing a number of wineries have stopped using pumps and instead raise the grapes by conveyor-belt. This is a more gentle process as it uses gravity to move the grapes rather than a pumping system.

The fermentation usually takes place in stainless steel vats—a technique introduced in the 1960s (lined cement vats were introduced already in the 1920s). The reason for the introduction was hygiene and control over the fermentation process (especially of temperature). During the 1980s some producers began reintroducing wooden fermentation vats. There are pros and cons with all types of vats, and their role in winemaking seems less important than other elements in the process.

There is a widespread use of concentrators in Bordeaux, where a winemaker can remove water from the must. Some producers are opposed to concentration (Christian Moueix of Pétrus, Anthony Barton of Château Leoville-Barton, Philippe Dhalluin of Château Mouton-Rothschild) and others are big fans (Château Pomeaux). While this process can certainly improve a wine in mediocre vintages it is also open to abuse with the result being an over-concentrated and poorly balanced wine.

After fermentation comes the pressing. Bordeaux, along with other regions, have switched from traditional horizontal presses to the pneumatic press, where a bladder is filled with air thus resulting in a more gentle pressing of the wine. A third type of press is the vertical or hydraulic press. This is the most traditional and also a gentle type of press but is a very labour-intensive process.

The modern and very popular method of micro-oxygenation, where microscopic amounts of oxygen are added to the wine during fermentation to stabilize (green) tannins and anthocyanins, has also caught on in Bordeaux. The most prestigious châteaux avoid the procedure preferring to harvest grapes without green tannins. Micro-oxygenation is also used later in the process, during élevage, as a way of avoiding racking and controlling the amount of oxygen applied to the wine (racking leaves for no such control). In this stage however, the prestigious châteaux has fewer reservations. Not all producers are fans of micro-oxygenation during élevage.

In Bordeaux most serious wines undergo barrel-ageing (white wines can be an exception). Usually six months of in barrel is required but some (prestigious) châteaux barrel-age for as much as 18–20 months. The amount of new barrels (usually considered the best) can vary from vintage to vintage, just as the duration of barrel-ageing. Only recently, addition of oak chips (to add an oaky flavor to the wine) has been legalized in Bordeaux. During barrel-ageing the wine needs to be racked in order to clear the wine of the lees. This process is being challenged by some producers as mentioned above. But ageing on the lees can also add some richness to the wine (ageing on lees are common for white wines). This new attitude is also being challenged. Once the producer decides the wine has aged for the right amount of time the selection begins. The winemaker (or his/her team) find the right blend for the vintage. This is released as the châteaux grand vin. Inevitably there will be some wine left—either of inferiour quality or leftovers from the blending. This is usually released as a second-wine (or in some cases even a third-wine). While in theory inferior wine, some châteaux second-wine is of superior quality to other chateaux grand vin and fetches high prices. Increasing the amount of second-wine can be a very conscious decision on the part of a winemaker, as a way of making a more and more superior grand vin - able to compete with the most prestigious wines in tastings.

In Bordeaux the oenologists play a huge role. Many oenologists work as consultants to different châteaux and carry much weight in major decisions regarding the wine. Amongst the most famous oenologists are Emile Peynaud, Jacques Boissenot, Pascal Chantonnet, Olivier Dauga, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Denis Dubourdieu, Jean-Philippe Fort, Gilles Pauquet, Michel Rolland, Stéphane Toutoundji and Christian Veyry.

The vast majority of Bordeaux wine is red, with red wine production out numbering white wine production six to one.

The 1855 classification system was made at the request of Emperor Napoleon III for the Exposition Universelle de Paris. This came to be known as the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, which ranked the wines into five categories according to price. The first growth red wines (four from Médoc and one, Château Haut-Brion, from Graves), are among the most expensive wines in the world.

At the same time, the sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac were classified into three categories, with only Château d'Yquem being classified as a superior first growth.

There is no official classification applied to Pomerol. However some Pomerol wines, notably Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin, are often considered as being equivalent to the first growths of the 1855 classification, and often sell for even higher prices.

Many of the top Bordeaux wines are primarily sold as futures contracts, called selling en primeur. Because of the combination of longevity, fairly large production, and an established reputation, Bordeaux wines tend to be the most common wines at wine auctions.

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Chilean wine

Pedro Lira's 1889 painting of the founding of Santiago by conquistadors. As the Spanish conquered the land they brought grapevines with them.

Chilean wine is wine made in the South American country of Chile. The region has a long viticultural history for a New World wine region dating to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. In the mid-18th century, French wine varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced. In the early 1980s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Chile is now the fourth largest exporter of wines to the United States. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. So far Chile has remained free of phylloxera louse which means that the country's grapevines do not need to be grafted.

European Vitis vinifera vines were brought to Chile by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in the 16th century around 1554. Local legend states that the conquistador Francisco de Aguirre himself planted the first vines. The vines most likely came from established Spanish vineyards planted in Peru which included the "common black grape", as it was known, that Hernán Cortés brought to Mexico in 1520. This grape variety would become the ancestor of the widely planted Pais grape that would be the most widely planted Chilean grape till the 21st century. Jesuit priests cultivated these early vineyards, using the wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. By the late 16th century, the early Chilean historian Alonso de Ovalle described widespread plantings of "the common black grape", Muscatel, Torontel, Albilho and Mollar.

During the Spanish rule, vineyards were restricted in production with the stipulation that the Chilean should purchase the bulk of their wines directly from Spain itself. In 1641, wine imports from Chile and the Viceroyalty of Peru into Spain were banned, severely damaging the wine industry in the colony. The market loss caused the huge surplus of grapes to be made into pisco and aguardiente. The concentration solely on pisco production, nearly eliminated wine production in Peru. For the most part the Chileans ignored these restrictions, preferring their domestic production to the oxidized and vinegary wines that didn't fare well during the long voyages from Spain. They were even so bold as to start exporting some of their wines to neighboring Peru with one such export shipment being captured at sea by the English privateer Francis Drake. When Spain heard of the event rather than being outraged at Drake, an indictment was sent back to Chile with the order to uproot most of their vineyards. This order, too, was mostly ignored.

In the 18th century, Chile was known mostly for its sweet wines made from the Pais and Muscatel grapes. To achieve a high level of sweetness the wines were often boiled which concentrated the grape must. Following his shipwreck off the coast at Cape Horn, Admiral John Byron (Grandfather of the poet Lord Byron) traveled across Chile and came back to England with a glowing review of Chilean Muscatel comparing it favorably to Madeira. The 19th century wine writer André Julien was not as impressed, comparing Chilean wines to a "potion of rhubarb and senna".

Despite being politically linked to Spain, Chile's wine history has been most profoundly influenced by French, particularly Bordeaux, winemaking. Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, wealthy Chilean landowners were influenced by their visits to France and began importing French vines to plant. Don Silvestre Ochagavia Echazareta6 was the first, importing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet franc, Malbec, Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon in 1851. In 1870 Don Maximo Errazuriz founded the first winery dedicated to international varieties. He hired a French oenologist to oversee his vineyard planting and to produce wine in the Bordeaux style. Errázuriz saw potential in Chile and even experimented with the German wine grape Riesling. In events that parallel those of the Rioja wine region, the entrance of phylloxera into the French wine world turned into a positive event for the Chilean wine industry. With vineyards in ruin, many French winemakers traveled to South America, bringing their experience and techniques with them.

Political instability in the 20th century, coupled with bureaucratic regulations and high taxes tempered the growth of the Chilean wine industry. Prior to the 1980s, the vast majority of Chilean wine was considered low quality and mostly consumed domestically. As awareness of Chile's favorable growing conditions for viticulture increased so did foreign investment in Chilean wineries. This period saw many technical advances in winemaking as Chile earned a reputation for reasonably priced premium quality wines. Chile began to export extensively, becoming the third leading exporter, after France and Italy, into the United States by the turn of the 21st century. It has since dropped to fourth in the US, being surpassed by Australia, but focus has switched to developing exports in the world's other major wine markets like the United Kingdom and Japan.

Chile is a long, narrow country that is geographically and climatically dominated by the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile's vineyards are found along an 800 mile stretch of land from Atacama Region to the Bio-Bio Region in the south. The climate is varied with the northern regions being very hot and dry compared to the cooler, wetter regions in the south. In the Valle Central around Santiago, the climate is dry with an average of 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain and little risk of springtime frost. The close proximately to the Dry Andes help create a wide diurnal temperature variation between day and nighttime temperatures. This cool drop in temperature is vital in maintaining the grapes' acidity levels.

Most of Chile's premium wine regions are dependent on irrigation to sustain vineyards, getting the necessary water from melting snow caps in the Andes. In the developing wine regions along the Coastal Ranges and in the far south, there is not a lack in needed rainfall but vineyard owners have to deal with other factors such as the Humboldt Current from the Pacific which can bathe a vineyard with a blanket of cool air. For the rest of Chile's wine regions, the Coastal Ranges serve a buffer from the current and also acts as a rain shadow. The vineyards in these regions are planted on the valley plains of the Andes foothills along a major river such as the Maipo, Rapel and Maule Rivers.

The vineyards of Chile fall between the latitudes of 32 and 38° s which, in the Northern Hemisphere would be the equivalent of southern Spain and North Africa. However the climate in Chile's wine regions is much more temperate than those regions, comparing more closely to California and Bordeaux. Overall, it is classified as a Mediterranean climate with average summer temperatures of 59-64 °F (15-18 °C) and potential highs of 86 °F (30 °C).

Chile's natural boundaries (Pacific Ocean, Andes Mountain, Atacama Desert to the north and Antarctica to the south) has left it relatively isolated from other parts of the world and has served to be beneficial in keeping the phylloxera louse at bay. Because of this many Chilean vineyards do not have to graft their rootstock and incur that added cost of planting. Chilean wineries have stated that this "purity" of their vines is a positive element that can be tasted in the wine but most wine experts agree that the most apparent benefit is the financial aspect. The one wine region that is the exception to this freedom from grafting is Casablanca whose vines are susceptible to attack by nematodes. While phylloxera is not a problem, winemakers do have to worry about other grape diseases and hazards such as downy mildew, which was spread easily by El Niño influences and severely affected the 1997-1998 vintages. Powdery mildew and verticillium wilt can also cause trouble.

There is not much vintage variation due to the reliability of favorable weather with little risk of spring time frost or harvest time rains. The main exception, again, is Casablanca due in part to its closer proximately to the Pacific. For the Chilean wine regions in the Valle Central, the Andes and Coastal Ranges create a rain shadow affect which traps the warm arid air in the region. At night, cool air comes into the area from the Andes which dramatically drops the temperature. This help maintain high levels of acidity to go with the ripe fruit that grapes develop with the long hours of uninterrupted sunshine that they get during the day. The result is a unique profile of flavonoids in the wine which some Chilean wineries claim make Chilean wines higher in resveratrol and antioxidants. Harvest typically begins at the end of February for varieties like Chardonnay with some red wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon being picked in April and Carmenère sometimes staying on the vine into May.

The Andes also provide a ready source of irrigation which was historically done in flood plain style. Chilean vineyard owners would dig canals throughout their vineyards and then flood the entire surface area with water allowing some to seep into the ground and the run off to be funnel away through the canals. This encouraged excessive irrigation and high yields which had a negative effect on quality. During the wine renaissance of the 1980s & 1990s more vineyards converted to drip irrigation system which allowed greater control and helped reduce yields. The soil composition of Chile's vineyards varies from the clay dominated landscapes of Colchagua, which is thus heavily planted with the clay-loving Merlot, to the mixture of loam, limestone and sand found in other regions. In the southern Rapel and parts of Maule, tuffeau soil is present with volcanic soil being found in parts of Curico and Bio-Bio.

Chile has benefited from an influx of foreign investment and winemaking talent that begin in the late 20th century. Flying winemakers introduced new technology and styles that helped Chilean wineries produce more international recognized wine styles. One such improvement was the use of oak. Historically Chilean winemakers had aged their wines in barrels made from rauli beechwood which imparted to the wine a unique taste that many international tasters found unpleasant. Gradually the wineries began to convert to French and American oak or stainless steel tanks for aging.

Chile's wine laws are more similar to the US appellation system than to France's Appellation d'origine contrôlée that most of Europe has based their wine laws on. Chile's system went into effect in 1995 and established the boundaries of the countries wine regions and established regulations for wine labels. There are no restrictions of grape varieties, viticultural practices or winemaking techniques. Wines are required to have at least 75% of a grape variety if its to listed on the label as well as at least 75% from the designated vintage year. To list a particular wine region, 75% is also the minimum requirement of grapes that need to be from that region. Similar to the United States, the term Reserve has no legal definition or meaning.

Over twenty grape varieties are grown in Chile, mainly a mixture of Spanish and French varieties, but many wineries are increasing experimentation in higher numbers. For most of Chile's history, Pais was the most widely planted grape only recently getting passed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red wine varieties include Merlot, Carménère, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignan. White wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon vert, Sémillon, Riesling, Viognier, Torontel, Pedro Ximénez, Gewürztraminer and Muscat of Alexandria.

Chilean winemakers have been developing a distinct style for their Cabernet Sauvignon, producing an easy drinking wine with soft tannins and flavors of mint, black currant, olives and smoke. The country's Chardonnays are less distinctive, following more the stereotypical New World style. While sparkling wines have been made since 1879, they have not yet established a significant place in Chile's wine portfolio.

In the late 20th century as Chilean wines became more popular, wine tasters around the world began to doubt the authenticity of wines labeled Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. The wines lack many of the characteristics and typicity of those grapes. Ampelographers began to study the vines and found that what was considered Merlot was actually the ancient Bordeaux wine grape Carménère that was thought to be extinct. The Sauvignon blanc vines were found to actually be Sauvignonasse, also known as Sauvignon vert, or a mutated Sauvignon blanc/Sémillon cross. In response to these discoveries several Chilean wineries began to import true Merlot and Sauvignon blanc cuttings to where most bottle of wines labeled Merlot and Sauvignon blanc from vintages in the 21st century are very likely to truly be those varieties.

In some international competitions, Chilean wines have ranked very highly. For example, in the Berlin Wine Tasting of 2004, 36 European experts blind tasted wines from two vintages each of eight top wines from France, Italy and Chile. The first and second place wines were two Cabernet-based reds from Chile: Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Sena 2001. The Berlin Wine Tasting of 2005 held in Brazil featured five Chilean wines in the top seven. In the Tokyo Wine Tasting of 2006, Chilean wines won four of the top five rankings.

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Source : Wikipedia