Unusual Wines
Diversity in Wine

S ome wines are just unusual, they do not fit easily into the classifications used on this site of varietal, place or label.
But they find a home here.

Rose Petal Wine Lurgashall Winery
Rose Petal label
    This is an English 'country wine', made and flavoured with rose petals. It was sold to benefit the Royal National Rose Society. The Society was founded in 1876 to promote the growing of roses. Now a registered charity to encourage, improve and extend the science, art and practice of the cultivation and conservation of roses

     The Society'r flagship gardens - the “Gardens of the Rose” in Chiswell Green,Hertfordshire has stunning displays of tens of thousands of roses, both old and new, complemented by companion plants and are open to the general public.

     And although they are just a few minutes from my home, I have never once visited them.

     So what about the 'wine', bought by friends? It was pale translucent pink, with a faint taste of roses. Semi sweet and otherwise rather bland it should please newcomers to wine.

    Petals from rose varieties Paul Shirville, Rosemary Harkness, Fragrant Cloud and Alec's red were used.

Vin Glace Made in England
Does a wine have to come from a bottle? Look again at this label. The oak aged premium Cabernet/Shiraz blend here comes from an ice-cream tub. This is an adult sorbet made with wine. It contains 38% wine and has 4.2% alcohol. It is a wonderful berry red colour and does smell of wine. I love it. I'd guess the wine comes from Australia, but as the label says, it was mis en pot Hill Station Ltd. There is a matching Chardonnay sorbet. Appellation Delicieuse Controllee indeed.
Ridge ATP Dry Creek, Sonoma
Ridge's label is a design classic that hasn't changed for over 25 years. They give plenty of information and their reputation was built on Zinfandel, one of my favourite red varieties.
I first came across it in California in the late seventies but my most lasting memory of Ridge was in Chicago in 1997 with Margaret where we picked a ten year old Ridge Zinfandel, which was superb, from the restaurants enormous wine list , then we we ordered one from the vintage 20 years, and the 1977 Zinfandel was soft and sweet with tremendous fruit, but starting to dry at the edges. A perfect food with wine.
So whats unusual about the wine whose label is above? Ridge have an experimental programme where they make very small batches of wine, to small for normal distribution. These are only sold on subscription to local Ridge fans who sign up for the 'advance tasting programme' (ATP). As I live outside the US I am not eligible to join. The above wine is one of the ATP wines.

I never expected to taste an ATP wine. But to my amazement I found this bottle last year in The Grape Market, Austin's premier wine outlet. Apparently they obtained it from a subscriber. Whatever - it was an amazing wine. I took it to a London 'offline' - ad hoc meeting of frequenters of Robin Garr's WLDG web wine discussion board.

Chicago is a enjoyable and attactive city. I hope to return soon and dine at Margarets favourite restaurant again - Del Rio, 228 Green Bay Road, Highwood, IL, tel: 847-432-4608 and ask to browse Dennis's, the wine steward and general manager, huge winelist. But I think I'll go for the Ridge again to accompany their tender tasty New York strip.

Eiswein & Ice Wine
Germany & Canada
German Eiswein label Canadian Ice Wine label
Eiswein (ice wine) is an expensive rarity. In Europe it is made mostly in Germany (with a little in Austria). To make ice wine the grapes must freeze on the vine and be picked and pressed while still frozen. Any water in the grape is frozen, while the sugar rich juice of the grape remains liquid. Thus only the unctious thick sticky-sweet concentrated essence escapes the press. That essence is fermented to make an intensely sweet wine.

Only one year in four offers the conditions for making eiswein. It is a gamble for the winery to leave grapes on the wine, long past normal picking time in the hop that they will survive rot and birds and the winter will cold enough to freeze them. Not every grape variety is suitable - late ripening ones with thick skins, such as Riesling are preferred.

In Canada's Ontario wine region winters consistently offer the conditions for making ice wine. After the vineyard has stayed under -8 degrees celsius for a minimum of three days and nights the autorities give permission for picking. As well as Riesling, the other major varieties used in Ontario is Vidal, and I also enjoyed a beautiful pink tinged ice wine made from Cabernet Franc.

In some areas ripe grapes are picked and then frozen in deep freezers. This shortcut is not accepted by EU wine laws, or Ontario's VQA laws as making true ice wine.

Ice wine is sold in 37.5cl and 20cl bottles and a high price reflects the effort used to make this magical rare wine.

Moutard Pere & Fils
Cepage Arbane
"today the whole (champagne) vineyard is planted with three, Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay" - Oxford Companion to Wine

All the reference guides I have say that Champagne can be made from only these three varieties. But its isn't so. In July 2002 I visited Francis Boulard at his winery in Reims to taste - and buy - his luscious wines. Francis knows of my interest in unusual varieties and started by pouring me a glass of this wine. He asked me to guess what it was. I could only say it was made from white grapes, but it tasted unlike any 'blanc de blanc' I'd previously tasted, being even softer, like a vanilla mousse. It was made from Arbane, a variety I'd never previously heard of.

Over thirty years ago French wine laws limited the vines that could be planted in Champagne to three varieties - Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay - but vineyards that had older traditional varieties were allowed to continue making Champagne with them.

This is a varietal Arbane from old vines (vieilles vignes). It tastes wonderful, so soft and delicate, like feathery powder snow with a refreshing peppery uplift.

Many thanks to M. Francis Boulard, owner/winemaker of Raymond Boulard Champagne in Reims.

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8 October 2006