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asturias, chile, dão, itata, portugal, slovenia, spain -

In a wine world dominated by the same grape varieties made in more or less the same way, it’s always exciting to discover something different. More unusual, esoteric varieties are often connected to the history of a region, made by experimental mavericks, and stand out for the individuality of the wines. Take, for instance, Fran Ascencio and his Urogallo winery (named after a spectacular looking local bird) in Asturias in northern Spain. Asturias is a cool, wet, beautiful region, between Basque Country and Galicia, rising from the Atlantic Ocean into the Cantabrian mountains. It’s most famous for its cider as...

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alentejo, field blends, portugal -

After phylloxera, Prohibition, and the Second World War, California wine was in a sorry state and needed reviving. There were a handful of growers and producers, especially in Napa Valley, determined to make quality wine and get California back on the map. There was also an influential wine writer called Frank Shoonmacker, who was frustrated by the insistence of many producers labeling their wines as "Chablis," "Sauternes," "Champagne," or "Burgundy" (which sadly still happens to a limited extent). Producers did this to make their wines seem more European and higher quality, neither of which was true. So he came up...

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california, castilla, chardonnay, Friulano, grüner veltliner, malvar, marlborough, new zealand, ribolla gialla, spain -

blackpoolmatt's wine club likes to find unusual wines that you're not going to easily find in most retail outlets and as there are so many producers around the world making wines from unlikely grape varieties there are lots of choices. Producers make wine from lesser-known varieties to stand out from the crowd (how much Chardonnay does the world need?), but also because they feel different grape varieties can express a sense of place in various ways. This can happen in two ways: returning to grape varieties which have been neglected but long planted in the region, which is how Rías...

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alcohol, bugey, côte roannaise, itata, nebbiolo, rheingau, savoie, valtellina, washington -

A couple of years ago, I tasted a wine from Napa which shall remain nameless and which had a relentlessly high alcohol of 15.8%. Not only did this level of alcohol cause the wine to be out of balance, it's dangerously high: a glass, let alone a bottle, would get you drunk. The wine was borne out of the trend in the late 1990s and 2000s for high-alcohol wines. The grapes are left on the vine for a long time to build up sugar levels, in the belief that it results in more flavor in the wine. Some producers and...

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A few years ago I was talking to Liz Bokisch who with her Catalan/German husband Markus runs the Bokisch winery in Lodi, California. In the 1990s, they pioneered plantings of Spanish/Portuguese grape varieties in the region. They make a single-varietal Graciano, which is originally from Rioja, and I asked her about the variety. She practically swooned as she eugolized about what she called her favorite variety, but then sighed, “But it’s so, so difficult to work with.” And that’s why Graciano by the late 1970s in its native Rioja was almost extinct. It was only because Spain in general returned to...

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