Monday, December 11, 2006

Not Just for Wine Geeks Anymore: Varietals, Appellations, and Appellation America

My new favorite wine site is Appellation America. I discovered them when preparing for my trip to Santa Barbara, and since I've returned I've been able to spend some more time on their site. I noted that Tom Wark at Fermentation also mentioned them in a recent post that drew attention to the invidious and detrimental effect that meaningless wine appellations have on US wines and those of us who consume them. While regulatory bodies seem intent on assigning AVA distinctions willy-nilly, Appellation America is fighting the good and necessary fight to raise varietal and appellation consciousness in America.

Why is this important? Because in good wines--wines that are made primarily in the vineyard and not drastically manipulated during processing with little tea bags full of wood chips and "all natural additives"--the site where grapes are grown effects the varietal characteristics of the wine. And knowledge of varietal characteristics is the #1 way to educate your palate. As you know, varietal characteristics and QPR are my way for evaluating wine so I take them pretty seriously. But even if you don't take them as seriously as I do, learning about varietal characteristics and how appellations shape them can add a great deal to everyone's enjoyment of wine.

Up until now you needed to have a good wine reference collection to read up on varietal characteristics, and a good memory to remember them so that when you drank a pinot noir you could actually recall what one was supposed to taste like.

Enter Appellation America.

Their fantastic site not only walks you through American appellations (AVAs) with real care, they have a wonderful guide to "varietal characters." The one pictured here is for--you guessed it--pinot noir. (reproduced with the kind permission of Appellation America) These catchy and memorable caricature-style sketches convey an awful lot about each grape. In this case, the image conveys the finicky quality of the grape, and the extent to which viticulturalists all over the world want this grape for themselves--but they find it tough going to tame this silky grape goddess. It was hard to pick just one image to include here, because all of them are vivid and engaging. So I encourage you to visit their site, and check them out for yourself. From the enthroned Campanian deity of Anglianico, to the gypsy sorceress Gewurztraminer, through the "ageing rebellious rockstar" Carignagne, and on to the masked Zorro of Zinfandel, once you've seen the pictures and read the descriptions you will be well on the way to learning your varietal characteristics!

Each varietal character page includes a character sketch like the one above, a detailed description of the varietal and its history, and a comprehensive overview of every appellation in North America where the grape is grown. So if you are a fan of Leelanau Peninsula MI gewurztraminer, you can find out more about that AVA with just a click of the mouse.

Please visit Appellation America and check out their resources--it's definitely worth getting to know this site and the valuable work they are doing.

1 comment:

Online Credit Score said...

Ha!Ha! I like the illustration. So cute!