Unusual Varietals
Diversity in Wine
Page 6


Napa Gamay California
This is the last vintage of grapes from these vines. After picking, the vines were grubbed up. And since the variety is no longer listed on Sutter Homes web-site, presumably replaced with a more mainstream variety. But isn't Gamay famous? Yes, but Napa Gamay is not related to the Gamay of Beaujolais fame. It is in fact the Valdeguié variety. A workhorse variety grown in France to attract grants from the EU who promptly turns it into industrial alcohol.
However it is easier to be wise after the event with DNA testing. The Californians thought they had a noble grape and they treated it as such. Sutter Home used it to make a very pleasant dinner wine which I'd buy again. If I could.


Visit the Sutter Home web-site
Grüner Veltliner Austria
The major variety of Austria, but grown nowhere outside central Europe. And as Austrian wines are not as widely available as perhaps they should be, Grüner Veltliner is also doomed to obscurity.
Note how the shipper tries to hide the wines origins with a label as unlike a normal Austrian one as possible.
St George
(Agiorgitiko)
Nemea
Greece
Agiorgitiko is a native variety widely grown in Nemea. Say its name and you'll understand why it is often anglified - as on this label - to St George. A local nickname for it is blood of Hercules.
It produces an intense fruit-driven wine. Sometimes it is made sweet, but this wine was a delicious dry dinner wine.
Pinotage South Africa
Pinotage is cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault created in 1925 by Professor Perold at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The intention was to combine the quality of the difficult northern Pinot Noir with the easy prolific southern Cinsault (known then in South Africa as Hermitage).
When a Pinotage won the best wine category at the 1960 Cape wine show planting started in earnest. But without an old world model the winemakers confused drinkers by making the wine in several styles. The trend for fashionable named varietals started a decline, recently reversed by a combination of drinkers getting bored with Merlot and Cabernet and looking for new tastes and wine makers getting the measure of Pinotage by fermenting it at higher temperatures and ageing it in oak bring out its uniquely fruity and spicy characteristics.
Pinotage is made commercially in South Africa, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, California and Canada.
The label shows a Pinotage leaf with the distinctive tooth shaped gap between the first two lobes. This wine is from Beyers Truter's own winery; Beyers has championed Pinotage by making spectacular prize winners as wine maker for Kanonkop winery.


Pinotage has its own fan club, visit the Pinotage Club

Palomino
California
Palomino's claim to fame is as the grape of Sherry. It is grown outside Spain to make fortified wines and sometimes used in a table wine blend. Here is a rare example of it as a varietal wine, from Contra Costa County near San Francisico. Unfortunately this was the last vintage made. The vineyard owner pulled up his vines for a housing development. The winery gave the wine a humorous subtitle "Fleur de Hoof" as a take-off from the Palomino breed of horse. There are also lingering Palomino vines in the Livermore Valley wine, presumably being used in blends.
Many thanks to Patrick McGinnis for the label and information.
Berlinka
Israel
Berlinka is a South African varietal, brought to Israel by Dov Levy Neumand, the winemaker at the tiny winery of Tekoa. Unfortunately, the wine is disappointing in the extreme. It is, however, both organically raised and kosher and has thus picked up a following in Israel.
Rogov's tasting notes, published in HaAretz Newspaper 5 March 1998 and the International Herald Tribune 19 Feb 98 read:
Tekoa, Berlinka, 1996: Made, as it was last year, primarily from grapes usually thought of as eating grapes, this low tannin, medium bodied wine has too low a bouquet and flavors that are best categorized as "confused". Despite its lack of charm, the wine has its followers, some of whom are pleased because the wine is made organically, and others who simply enjoy being different. Although the wine is drinkable, I wonder why anyone would bother. Depending on where you find it, NIS 55 - 80. Score75.

Many thanks to Colin Winston in the US for the label and to Daniel Rogov of www.stratsplace.com/rogov for the above information on the variety.

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16 January 2000
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