As many of you know, I got the bug of The Wine Century Club for the endless quest to try wines made from as many different grapes as possible – yes, you can call me a grape geek, I don’t have an issue with that.
Back in August of last year I wrote a post about reaching the 500 grapes milestone and submitting my application for Pentavini level at The Wine Century club. Two days ago, I got a suspiciously promising envelope in the mail, and there it was:
Well, it is nice to get an acknowledgement for your geekiness in the form of this cool paper; it also reinforces desire to continue the quest. You can see my grape count in the right column of this blog page – yes, I got a long way to go to get to the next level, but it is a fun journey. At this point, The Wine Century Club doesn’t have a designation for the 600 grapes level – but it doesn’t make the process any less fun.
To look at things seriously, this is nothing more than a form of an adult fun, just another way to collect the experiences. There is no need to congratulate with this achievement, really. But I will be happy to be a source of encouragement for all the grape aficionados out there; if you want to leave comment, tell me about your own journey in the Wine Century Club quest, no matter how many grapes you tried so far. Grape geeks, rejoice! Cheers!
Here we are – another post about stats, right??? Before you click away, can I ask for a minute to explain myself? 500 has nothing to do with views, followers or any other blog statistics, no, not at all. These 500 has a bit more interesting meaning (dare I suggest so). It is actually not even 500 but 517 to be precise (but I think 500 looks cool in the title), and if you didn’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about the grape counter which appears in the right column of this blog, and it is also related to The Wine Century Club.
This post is well overdue – I submitted my Pentavini application back in March (didn’t hear anything yet). I was planning to write a few more posts explaining in greater detail how I finally got to cross the 500 grapes boundary before I would write this very post. One post was supposed to be about a great Hungarian wine tasting last June (2014) where I picked up 5 new grapes – that post never happened, unfortunately.
Finally I gave up on trying to catch up on all the “shoulda, coulda”, and moved right to this post.
When I started the Wine Century Club journey about 8 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine that I will get hooked on it so well; even when I crossed 300 grapes mark, I didn’t see it possible to get to the 500. Nevertheless, here I am, at 517, and I’m sure there will be more.
I know that many of my readers are participating in The Wine Century Club. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, you can find all information here. The Wine Century Club is a free and open “self-guiding” group of “grape enthusiasts” (yes, you call us geeks) – people who obsess themselves with looking for and tasting as many grapes as possible – and of course having fun while doing that.
The grape hunting becomes an obsession when you scour the back label, producer web site and everything else possible on Internet to find information about the grapes used to make that bottle of wine. Once you figure out the grapes (if you are lucky enough to do it for the given wine and given vintage), your job is not done – you still have to figure out if you didn’t have already the same grape under a different name (simple example – Grenache and Garnacha), or may be this is still the same grape, only with a slightly different spelling. Once all the checks pass successfully, you can add the grape to you collection.
Today it is a lot easier to “collect the grapes”, compare to the time when I just started with the Century Club. Information is more readily available, and also there are lots more grapes which were almost extinct, but now reborn, replanted and becoming tasty differentiators for the winemakers. And more often than not, these obscure wines are a pleasure to drink. They often offer surprising depth of flavor and nuances which make this grape journey really a pleasant experience. I had wines made from Pigato, Pugnitello, Coda di Volpe, Bobal, Trepat, Listan Negro and many others, and they were delicious – what else do you need from a bottle of wine?
If you will get hooked on this Wine Century geekiness, you should know that there are some shortcuts you can take. Well, there is one shortcut which is legal – Giribaldi Cento Uve wine from Piedmont in Italy, which is made out of 152 varietals (though 50% of grapes in that wine are Nebbiolo, and the other 51% comprise 151 varietals) – however, you need to have at least the first level (100 grapes) to make this shortcut legal. I did took it, and you can read about it here.
Second shortcut exists, but it is illegal (The Wine Century Club rules prohibit using of it). Another Italian wine, Vino Della Pace Cantina Produttori Cormòns Vino Blanco, is made out of the whopping 855 varietals. This wine is produced from the experimental vineyard called The Vineyard of the World, where all those 855 (or more) varietals are growing together. Most of the information about this wine is available only in Italian, but if interested, search for it by the name, you will be able to find some bits and pieces (here is one reference for you). If you are curious to see the list of grapes, I got it for you here – you can count on your own. I have a bottle of this wine, but as usual, I don’t know what would be the right moment to open it (hopeless, I know).
Last piece of advice in case you will embrace this fun journey or you are already in, but stumbling: pay attention. Yes, pay attention to the back labels and wine descriptions. During recent Provence tasting I found out that there is a grape called Tibouren which is very often used in Provence Rosé – I would guess that I had it before, but never paid attention to. Another example – Turley Petite Sirah Library Vineyard. This particular wine is a treasure trove for the grape hunters. Here are the grapes which can be found in that bottle: Red – Petite Syrah, Peloursin, Cinsault, Syrah, Mission, Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir, Carignan, Grenache, and Zinfandel; White – Muscat Alexandria, Muscadelle, Burger, and Green Hungarian. 14 different grapes in one bottle of wine, and many of them are very rare – not bad for a bottle of wine. And by the way, Turley Petite Sirah Library Vineyard is one delicious wine.
In case you might find it helpful, I recently updated the page which contains information about all the grapes I tried for The Wine Century journey, together with the names of the wines which I had. I have to admit that there are still 3 grapes from the original table (the one which I downloaded when I just started with the Wine Century Club) which I still was unable to try – Arvine Grosso, Irsai Oliver and Plavac Mali – they are extremely hard to find in the US. Well, the journey is not over…
What can I leave you with? Go get a bottle of wine made from the grapes which you never had before – there is a good chance you will enjoy it. The grape journey is one of the most fun journeys you can take – let’s drink to the never ending pleasures of discovery! Cheers!
When I saw a big sturdy envelope yesterday in the mail, my first thought was “is that the…” – and yes, it was – my Quatro certificate from The Wine Century Club!
Yes, I know that I tasted over 400 grapes, but somehow getting this piece of paper felt very good. And while I was thinking about the next level, the coveted 500, or Pentavini as it is called in The Wine Century Club, I didn’t feel encouraged – now I do. Thus you should expect to see more posts about obscure grapes and wines on this pages. But this is what makes it fun!
Join The Wine Century Club and start your journey now – you can thank me later! Cheers!
As you probably know, I’m an enthusiastic member of the Wine Century Club – a virtual club dedicated to the grape adventures. I already talked too many times about virtues of the Wine Century Club, thus I’m not going to bore you with those details again. Instead, let me focus on only one, dare I say it, sacred bottle of wine – 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Langhe DOC.
What makes this wine “sacred”? It is made out of 50% Nebbiolo and the other 50% containing additional 151 (!) varieties, so it can really help you to advance in the quest for higher levels of The Wine Century Club membership (except that it doesn’t count towards the first level of membership with 100 varieties). The wine is almost impossible to find in US – except one wine shop in Colorado which actually carries it (if you are interested, the wine is available from The Vineyard Wine Shop, 303-355-8324). When I called the store to order this wine, gentleman who answered the phone, Matt, said that he is quite convinced that they don’t have any wine under such name – after checking his computer, he was surprised more than me by actually finding it. At $60 + $20 for the shipping, this was definitely worth the experience.
Interestingly enough, finding this wine and drinking it was the easiest part – the tough (seriously tough) part was figuring out what grapes I already tasted and what grapes I can actually add to my list. As this is one of the coolest parts of Wine Century Club membership ( figuring out what is what in the grape world), let me explain it with appropriate level of details.
To begin with, the web site for this wine states that it contains 152 varieties. The list of grapes is nowhere to be found on the winemaker’s web site. The only place on internet where you can find the list is at the Indian Wine Academy. Well, list is a list, you say, right? Yes, but not precisely. As I need to properly account for all the grapes I already tasted, I need to go through that list very carefully, line by line. As soon as I started going through the list, I noticed duplications (same grapes listed twice, like Gamay, for instance) – I called it a red flag and decided that the right thing to do is to contact Giribaldi, the winemaker. After 2 or 3 of my e-mails went unanswered, I decided that it is a time to … get an audience support? No, call a friend! And as I happened to have a good friend in Italy, Corrado, I asked him to help me to get to the correct list. This was not easy, but after a few conversations with the winery, he was able to get full description of the wine, including the list of grapes.
Yay? Nope. The list of grapes was … identical to the one published on the site of the Indian Wine Academy! Fine. From here on, I had to figure it out myself. I converted the list to the Excel file, and sorted it alphabetically. Then I had to figure out how to get from 156 varieties listed to the 152 which we know this wine has. It later downed on me that 156 varieties include Nebbiolo and 4 Nebbiolo clones , therefore if we will take all 5 Nebbiolo varieties from consideration we will get to the target number of 151. Whew. Tired of me yet? No? Let’s continue.
Next step was to remove obvious duplicates, then go through the list again. For every grape I didn’t know, I used Internet resources to verify that such a grape exists (i.e., referenced at least once on one or more sites). Here is the good list of references in case you ever need to conduct a search on grape etymology (Italian grapes, if you will):
After all the cleanup, removing duplicates, fixing the spelling and checking the references, I got to the final list of 138 grapes (don’t ask me where the 14 went – let’s keep it a grape mystery), out of which I was unable to find any references for the grape called Michele Pagliari – therefore I’m keeping it on the list, but not counting towards the new grapes. In case you want to see a transition here is an excel file for you – note that is has multiple spreadsheets inside starting from full list. Here is the list of those final 138 grapes.
Legend: letter N next to the grape stands for Nero (red), B is for Bianche (white), Rs is for Rose. Showing in Bold are the grapes which I count as new grapes for my grape count.
|Aglianico N||Michele Pagliari N|
|Albarola N||Montepulciano N|
|Albarossa N||Moscato bianco B|
|Aleatico N.||Moscato giallo B|
|Alicante Bouschet N||Moscato nero di Acqui N|
|Ancellotta N.||Moscato Rosa Rs|
|Arneis B||Muller Thurgau B|
|Avanà N||Nascetta B|
|Avarengo N||Nebbiolo N.|
|Baco Nero N||Nebbiolo ( Bolla) N|
|Barbera bianca B.||Nebbiolo ( Rosè) N|
|Barbera N.||Nebbiolo (Lampia) N|
|Becuet N.||Nebbiolo (Michet)N|
|Bianchetta Tevigiano B||Negrette N|
|Bianchetta Veronese B||Neretta cuneese N.|
|Bombino Bianco B||Neretto di Bairo N|
|Bombino Nero N||Nero Buono N|
|Bonarda Piemontese N||Nero d’Ala N|
|Bosco Nero N||Nero d’Avola N|
|Brachetto N.||Neyret N|
|Bracciola N||Pampanuto N|
|Brunello N||Pecorino N|
|Bussanello B||Pelaverga (di Pagno) N|
|Cabernet Franc N||Pelaverga N|
|Cabernet Sauvignon N||Pelaverga piccolo N|
|Canaiolo B.||Petit Arvine N|
|Canina N||Petit Verdot N|
|Cannonau N||Pigato B|
|Carica l’Asino N||Pignola Nera N|
|Carignano N||Pinot bianco B|
|Catarratto comune B||Pinot Grigio G|
|Catarratto Nero N||Pinot Nero N|
|Chardonnay B.||Plassa N|
|Chatus N||Pollera 1 N|
|Ciliegiolo N.||Portugieser N|
|Colorino Nero N||Primitivo N|
|Cornarea N||Quagliano N|
|Cortese B||Raboso Veronese N|
|Corvina Nera N||Rebo Nero N|
|Croatina N||Refosco da Peduncolo Rosso N|
|Crovassa N||Riesling B|
|Dolcetto N||Riesling italico B|
|Doux d’Henry N||Riesling Renano B|
|Durasa N||Rossese bianco B|
|Durasca (Dolcetto di Boca) N||Rossese N|
|Enantio N||Ruché N|
|Erbaluce B||Sangiovese N|
|Favorita B||Sauvignon Blanc B|
|Franconia N (Blaufränkisch)||Schiava Gentile N|
|Freisa di Chieri N||Schiava grossa N|
|Freisa di Nizza N||Schiava N|
|Gamay N.||Sylvaner Verde B|
|Gargiulo N||Syrah N|
|Grechetto N||Teroldego Nero N|
|Grignolino N||Timorasso B|
|Grillo B||Tocai Friulano B|
|Incrocio Manzoni N||Tocai Rosso N|
|Lambrusca di Alessandria N||Torbato B|
|Lambrusco Maestri N||Traminer aromatico Rs|
|Lumassina N||Trebbiano Toscano B|
|Maiolica N||Uva di Troia N|
|Malvasia di Casorzo N||Uva rara N|
|Malvasia di Schierano N||Uvalino N|
|Malvasia Istriana N||Veltlimer Fruhrot N|
|Malvasia nera lunga N||Verduzzo Trevigiano B|
|Manzoni bianco B||Vermentino B|
|Marzemino N||Vespolina N|
|Merlot N||Zweigelt N|
Can you guess from the title alone what this post will be all about? If you are not new on this blog, I’m sure you got it figured out, and if you didn’t spend much time here before, you can check this post, it will give you a hint. Yes, you got it right – I got to 300 different grapes, and now can officially apply for the Treble level at the Wine Century club! For anyone interested in seeing the copy of that application, you can find it here: Application_WineCentury_Treble.
This “Treble Journey” was interesting. It required complete focus: entering the wine store, you are on the mission. You are not looking for a nice bottle of reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon – instead, you are looking for the wine from most obscure place (of course it is also located in the corner of the store you’ve never being to before), hoping it is made out of grape you didn’t try yet.
Reaching this 300 grapes level was big and often simply a communal effort. My friend Patrick was finding and bringing wines from Switzerland. My friend Zak, owner of Cost Less Wines and Liquors, was going after all of his suppliers asking for rare grape recommendations. I had to spend a lot of time trying to find unusual wines on the budget, sometimes bringing them from across the country or half way from across the world (for instance, Emerald Riesling, which grows only in Israel). A lot of time went also into “grape research”, making sure that grape is unique or at least an officially recognized clone, and not just a different name for the grape already accounted for.
Anyway, here I am. 301. The grapes which helped to cross into the treble world were Findling (swiss clone of Muller-Thurgau), Coda di Volpe (Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio), Pigato and Pugnitello:
Both Findling and Lacryma Christi were nice wine (which is not always the rule when you are going after rare grapes), but the great thing was that Treble Journey finished in style, thanks to Pigato and Pugnitello wines. This 2009 Punta Crena Pigato Vigneto Ca da Rena from Liguria in Italy was one of the very best white wines I ever had – full body, great balance of fruit and acidity, with fruit taking back seat and letting polished roundness to shine – outstanding (Drinkability: 9). And 2006 San Felice Pugnitello from Tuscany was also outstanding, earthy and pungent, very balanced with long finish (Drinkability: 9-).
Well, the Treble Journey is over. Am I done with this [tedious] process of grape discoveries? I don’t think so. The next level called Quattro, and it requires… yep, 400 grapes! Anyone cares to join? Let’s go!
When I restarted this crazy “grape quest” in May of 2010, I had no idea that I will be able to move from about 210 grapes to almost 300 in 7 month. But it’s actually happening – after this report, I will be 3 grapes away from 300. And those 3 additional wines (grapes) are simply waiting for its moment, quietly resting in the cellar. Looking back, yes, I had to use some clones, but in any case I was able to advance here without use of a secret weapon, the wine with 152 grape varieties in it!
Last big group of new grapes was largely based on varieties from Georgia. This latest group consists of 3 grapes from Italy, one from Hungary and one from Israel. Another interesting detail is that 4 out of 5 are part of the main application table – I really hope that main table will be complete one day!
Schiava – 2009 Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige DOC, Italy – nice soft red wine, medium body, has a little gaminess.
Ruche – 2005 La Mondianese Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, Italy – Nice, gamey wine, very earthy and well balanced.
Erbaluce – 2008 La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso DOC, Italy – very acidic while cold, and showing some fruit when warms up, but not very distinguishable overall
Portugieser – 2008 Gere Villany Portugieser, Hungary – Again, gamey wine, very tight initially. Opened up after two days, became quite drinkable. Will beneft from a few years in the cellar.
Emerald Riesling – 2009 Teperberg Terra Emerald Riesling, Israel. It is not the fiurst time I write about Teperberg wines. This Emerald Riesling was a bit sharp on the edges and a bit dryer than you would expect from “semi-dry white wine”, but it was drinkable nevertheless.
The Treble Journey is nearing it’s finishing line. Will there be a Quattro Journey? Well, you will be the first to know…
Previously, we discussed how expectations affect the taste of wine (you can read about it here and here). Sometimes, it is probably better to have no expectations at all! You don’t get upset, and you don’t get too excited if you simply have no expectations at all and just take life events one by one as they come up – oops, let’s stop this philosophical spur, I might not dig out of that hole or get beaten up.
Let’s talk about wine, for which I had no expectations whatsoever. On the Treble Journey road, you come across many different wines. Some of them make you regret you ever touched the bottle, and some of them make you feel really happy you did. This wine, Le Cousin Rouge from Anjou region in France, made out of the grape called Grolleau, definitely belongs to the second category.
The reason? This wine is unique and different. Not because it is bio-dynamic wine – this is great, but not enough. It is simply different from majority of the wines I ever had, and has very unusual flavor profile. In one of the earlier posts, I called the wine I had a liquid steak ( and I said it was the most unusual). I didn’t know that the “unusual” wine will have competition – and it does, as I would like to call this Grolleau wine a liquid salami. Yes, you read it correctly. It has such a balance of acidity, earthiness and pungent feeling it leaves on the palate that I can only compare it with nice Italian salami. You don’t have to believe me – just find this bottle of wine, try it and let me know what do you think.
And of course the great thing is that I’m inching forward towards that 300 number, which gets closer and closer. I’m glad to make such discoveries along my Treble Journey – and I wish to your palate many happy experiences!
When I restarted my Wine Century Club crazy grape adventure in the May of this year, I had no idea how long will it take to get from about 200 grapes (was not so easy to get even there, trust me) to the 300 grapes, which are required to achieve Treble level.
I started documenting the journey from Doppel to the Treble level with one of the very first posts in this blog. On July 20th, I was talking about grape number 240. It is middle December now, and I’m crossing into the last ten. The last advance, from #283 to the #291 was mostly made due to the Georgian wines, where a lot of authentic grapes are used. So in no particular order, the latest group includes the following grapes:
Kisi – from very nice white wine Marani Kondoli Mtsvane Kisi 2008, Georgia
Mujuretuli – red grape used in the famous Georgian wine called Khvanchkara
Aladasturi – red grape used in another Georgian wine, Alaverdi Me and You 2002, Kakheti – nice and round wine
Tsolikauri – white grape used in Georgian wine called Tvishi (Teliani Valley Tvishi 2005) – the wine was surprisingly good, with a hint of sweetness, good fruit and acidity
Tsitska and Chinebuli – white grapes used in the Bagrationi sparking wine I wrote about in my previous post.
In addition to these Georgian grapes, two more wines added 3 grapes:
Picolit and Malvasia Istriana – used in white Italian wine Jermann Vintage Tunina 2006. This was one of the most unusual white wines I ever tried, full bodied, with the tart fruit expression and pronounced sense of place.
Roter Veltliner – white grape from Austria (wine was called Ecker Roter Veltliner 2008). I’m not sure I would be able to distinguish Roter Veltliner from Gruner Veltliner, but at the same time I never tried…
All together that brings us to the number 291. And to put the final target within the reach, more wines are waiting to be tried, which will add Coda di Volpe, Erbaluce, Portugieser, Ruche, Grolleau, Schiava and Pigato – you do the math.
So the fun journey continues, and I will make sure to report on it. As they say on the radio, stay tuned…
Clones are looked at somewhat skeptical when it comes to wines – simply because in some cases, the origin of the grape is not easy to establish, and then all sorts of claims can be associated with particular characteristics of the grape. Well, when you on the hunch to get to the Treble level, even the clones will help – especially if they are certified by UC Davis.
This Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of two clones of Sauvignon Blanc: Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué clone. It is a beautiful wine, combining finesse, the grassiness of traditional Sancerre and fruit-forward style of California wines, perfectly balanced. This is one of the very few California Sauvignon Blanc wines which I actually enjoy, as in general my preferences are on Loire and New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. I will put drinkability rating on this wine as 8+, and these are the two new grapes.
Then come two more wines, which are adding two more grapes, both grapes being in the main Wine Century Club application table from the beginning. One is Petite Arvine, a grape from Switzerland, which is hard to find in US. I got the wine directly from Switzerland with the help of my friend Patrick, and it was 2009 Valiciana Petite Arvine du Valais – simple and herbaceous, working well as aperitif.
And the last grape for this update was Garnacha Peluda, also known as Ladoner Pelut, or Grey Grenache. And even as Wikipedia simply lists all of the clones of Grenache as one and the same grape, as we are counting clones, this is perfectly suitable grape to be counted by itself. It was a part of the blend in wine called 2007 Sexto Terra Alta from Spain – an interesting wine with some dark fruit notes showing up after the wine breathes for a while – it would be an interesting wine to try in 3-4 years.
That’s all for now – and more to follow, as the wine adventures never stop…