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Unusual Varieties
Diversity in Wine
Page 15

Gamay Noir Droit
Chateau des Charmes
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Is this the rarest variety on the site?
Gamay Noir Droit was identified some twenty years ago by Ch des Charmes founder Paul-Michel Bosc in a field of Gamay. One single vine was bigger and its shoots grew out differently, growing upright (droit). They propagated it from that single vine and were recently granted international Plant Breeders Rights. They call it 'Canada's first vinifera'. The grapes ripen on average about 10 days before other Gamay Noir with higher sugar levels and greater colouring.
The wine was bright red with a soft fruit intense strawberry flavours.
Chateau des Charmes
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
I was most impressed with Chateau des Charmes. It was the lasy winery we visited, we were heading back towards the airport, on a weeks wine tasting holiday in Ontario in the last week of October 2001. But first we enjoyed a interesting tour followed by a tasting of three wines, the unique Gamay Noir Droit (above) a Chardonnay and an enjoyable classic Aligote, the second grape of Burgundy but rare in Ontario.
But even rarer is Savagnin. I saw it on their intriguing list and asked to taste it. This rare grape's usual home is the Jura region of France where it makes the sherry like vin jaune. Ch des Charmes makes a splendid refreshing dry white that reminded me of Saugignon Blanc. I wish I'd been able to spend longer at the magnificent Ch des Charmes and its superb wines. One big regret that we couldn't carry home any of their wines.

Many thanks to our enthusiastic tour guide Jon Boyle. (Jon, my reply to your email was returned. Please contact me again with a valid email address)

Petite Sirah
L A Cetto
Baja California
It is certain what Petite Sirah is not - its not the famous Syrah/Shiraz but a probably a child, being a crossing of Syrah and Peloursin. However, investigation has shown that many of vines thought to be Petite Sirah in California, where it is mostly found, are in fact other obscure varieties, including Peloursin and Durif. In California winemakers like Paul Draper at Ridge add a small proportion of Petite Sirah to Zinfandel to give extra complexity.
I rather like Petite Sirah, although I have not come across many examples in the UK.
This example is from Baja California in Mexico and is widely available in UK supermarkets. It offers rich jammy pleasures, filling ones mouth with sweet berry bramble flavours which some find overpowering.
Durif, sometimes mistakenly labelled as Petite Sirah in California, has been cultivated for over a century in Rutherglen. It makes a powerful dark wine with layers of deep complex flavours and tannins. This wine was 6 years old when I enjoyed it and I think it would have got even better with another ten years in the bottle. Definitely a dinner wine, lovely stuff!
Mendocino, California
charbono label
A rare California variety, no one sure what it is, maybe the Dolcetto of Italy, or Charbonneau from France.
Parducci's back label says Only with the co-operation of a few old time grape farmers, and their dedication to the older varieties, have we been able to produce this Charbono wine. These almost non-existant, non-irrigated grapes were harvested from very old vines situated on the hilly slopes of Mendocino County.
I drank this one when it was ten years old and found it a powerful flavoursome wine with a dry, slightly dusty edge. It seemed ageless, capable of lasting for several more decades.
Unfortunately Parducci no longer make wine from this variety, and this was the only bottle I had, kindly given me by Jamie (Wine Anorak) Goode.
Caves de Wellenstein
Ancient white grape variety now mostly found in Luxembourg. It's OK well chilled on a hot day, but rather sharp and one dimensional.

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3 March 2002