Posts Tagged ‘wine century club’

Pleasures of Obscure: Enjoying the Journey

February 6, 2020 2 comments

Many moons ago I got bit by the bug of collecting the … grape experiences. Back in 2007 or so, I discovered The Wine Century Club. The word “century” here is used for its exact meaning – a 100. In order to become a member of the Wine Century Club, one has to fill up the application and specify how many grape varieties he or she had tried – as soon as you hit the 100, you can send the application to the designated email address, and your membership certificate will be mailed to you.

The club works on the complete honor system, but there is a legend that if you will lie on your application, your palate will be cursed forever – I don’t know if anyone tried to play the system, but I definitely don’t want my palate to be cursed, so I never tried.

When I started this blog back in 2010, I was at the 200 grapes level – so-called Doppel. I carefully documented my journey to the 300 mark (a Treble Member) under the category of Treble Journey. Since that time I managed to reach the 500 level (called Pentavini) back in February of 2016 (exactly 4 years ago) – and this was the last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club – however, I continued documenting my “rare grape” discoveries throughout the posts (that is yet another category in here), and I still hope to reach the 600 mark (called Hexavini) in my lifetime, even though the process became considerably slower at this point. There are more than 1,300 grapes used in the winemaking today, but it doesn’t mean that wines made out of those grapes are readily available, easy to find, and inexpensive.

While reaching the highest possible number of grapes tasted is the goal, my main joy is in the journey itself. There are multiple fun aspects of that journey. First, you get to drink unique and different wines. When taking a sip of Kharkuna or Prunelart, you have no preconceived notions. You can’t say “ohh, it doesn’t taste like Cabernet”, because it is not Cabernet. You now have to decide if you like or don’t like this specific wine in your glass – you have nothing to compare it to and be disappointed by comparison (“ohh, this $30 Cabernet tastes like crap compared to $20 bottle I had last week”) – you have to make a simple, binary decision – 1. I like it. 2. I don’t like it.

Secondly, you get to play a part of the wine sleuth – you need to find information about the grape, you need to find out if Ull de Liebre is a new grape for you, or if it is simply another name for Tempranillo, and you need to verify and compare your sources – lots and lots of fun, I’m telling you.

Ultimately, the list of grapes you tasted is yours and only yours, and you have to make some decisions – for example, will you count clones or not? Is Sangiovese Grosso the same as Sangiovese? Is Ink de Toro identical to Tempranillo, or should it be considered a different grape? What are you going to do about all of the Pinot Noir clones, which many producers, especially the ones in Oregon, love to tell you about? The journey of every grape geek is unique and different – and fun.

As I mentioned before, my last post on the subject of The Wine Century Club was 4 years ago. At that time, my “grape count” which you can see on the top of the blog, was standing at 518. During these four years, I managed to add another 37 varieties, now reaching the 555 total.

Here is another interesting tidbit for you. Only a month ago, I managed to finally complete the original (!) Wine Century Club table, by adding Arvine Grosso (original table, which you can find on the top of the page here,  had 184 varieties listed and had both Arvine and Petite Arvine) to the roster, so this was one of the triggers to this post.

I’m honestly not a hurry, I really enjoy this journey. I have another 3-4 wines made out of unique grape varieties, waiting to be open. Will I ever reach 600? I can’t tell. But I can tell you that I’m thoroughly enjoying each and every rare grape encounter – yes, you can call me a grape geek.

In case you are wondering, below is a full list of all 37 new rare grapes added to the collection over the past 4 years. Have you ever been bitten by the grape bug? Cheers!

Read more…


August 18, 2015 26 comments

century_club_seal_smallHere 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!

Wednesday’s Meritage: #MWWC19 Theme, Stumbling Upon and more

August 12, 2015 5 comments

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with the theme for the new round of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #19 (#MWWC19 for short). The winner of the previous round, Traveling Wine Chick, have chosen the theme, and it is (drum roll, please) … “Choice”. This theme sounds a lot simpler than many of the recent ones, such as “Crisis” or “Serendipity”, but there lies the challenge of making such a regular word a main element of the blog post. Well, good luck to all, and for all rules and regulations, please consult this post – most important is the submission deadline, which is September 14th, so you have enough time to get your creative juices flowing.

Vineyard and The Sky

Just for your viewing enjoyment – a picture from the recent trip to the vineyard – more details later

Next I want to mention that Wine Bloggers Conference 2015 (WBC15 for short) will be starting on Thursday, August 13th, and it is taking place in the Finger Lakes region. Lately, Finger Lakes wineries had been producing the wines of notice, moving past excellent whites into the world of reds. I’m sure that all the attendees will be into a treat and will find quite a few surprises, such as Saperavi wines – I heard that they are delicious, and wineries have a hard time to keep them around (sell out very quickly). I will not be attending, but I wish to all the bloggers to have a great time and taste a lot of great wines. And I’m really curious what the location of WBC16 will be – I hope it will be the Texas, as Texas wines are nothing short of phenomenal and it is time for the people to get to know them.

Now, let’s talk about an interesting subject – promotion of your blog. When it comes to the blogging, most of us write because we enjoy it – but we also want to be found and our writing to be enjoyed by others, and that is what “blog promotion” is all about. I recently came across an interesting article called 30 ways to promote your blog posts, which contains wealth of great advice. Among other tools, I saw a mention of Stumble Upon, which I heard before, but never used. I checked with some of Connecticut bloggers on Facebook, and many people find Stumble Upon a great tool, so I decided to add this capability for the blog post sharing. I learned that used to offer the Stumble Upon sharing button, but not anymore – but then I came across this post which provides detailed instructions on how Stumble Upon button can be added. Without talking about promotion, I found lots of interesting articles with the help of StumbleUpon – here is one example for you – “22 Foods You’ve Probably Been Eating The Wrong Way Until Now“. If you use Stumble Upon, I would like to know what is your take on it. And by the way, I don’t know if you are aware of the two pages I have in this blog, under the menu of Resources – one of them is called Best Blogging Tips and second one is Technical Tips for Bloggers – I use those pages to collect interesting articles and “how to” as it relates to the blogging – check them out.

Last for today, really a local update – I made changes to the page called Grapes of the World, to properly reflect all the grapes I tasted  so far in my Wine Century Club journey. Why is that important? Will tell you very soon.

And we are done here – the glass is empty – but the refill is on the way. Until the next time – cheers!

Spotting Rare Grapes

March 28, 2013 7 comments

It’s being a while since I talked about new additions to my “grape collection”. No, I didn’t stop looking for the new grapes (I think this will go on forever), I just couldn’t get around posting about the new grape discoveries.

Actually, one of the “pushers” for this post to come out was the fact that subject of Wine Century Club became very popular in my close “blogosphere”, the blogs I’m reading on more or less the regular basis. Oliver of The Wine Getter just crossed his first hundred grapes – here is the post where he explains what makes him going with the Wine Century Club. Here is account of another blogger, GourmetVicariously – she is undertaking the Wine Century Challenge in Australia, and you follow check on her progress here.

So for my own update, I finally submitted my Quattro application, and I’m inching little by little closer to the Pentavini status. As I didn’t post on this subject for a while, today’s update includes 22 grapes, a lot of them came through after the VinItaly and Gambero Rosso tastings I recently attended. Below you will see some pictures of the wine labels, and the names of the grapes and the wines follow right after. Another challenge for me will be to update my grapes of the world table, but I will worry about it later. This same table might be a good resource for you in terms of searching of the new wines and the grapes. Also, if you are using Pinterest, please make sure to check the Wine Centurions shared pinboard,  and feel free to join in and start contributing the rare grapes information. Also, if we are talking about resources for the aspiring Wine Centurions, here is the link to all the Wine Century Club posts in this blog, hope you will find it helpful.

Here are the labels:

And the grapes:

Groslot – Sparkling Brut Rose Bouvet ‘Excellence’ NV Bouvet-Ladubay

Carricante – 2010 Planeta Carricante, Sicilia IGT, Italy

Le Crescent – Boyden Valley Winery Cowtipper, Vermont

Rougeon – Palaia Joyful Pink, Hudson Valley, New York

Prensal – 2010 Binigrau Nounat Vi de la Terra Mallorca, Spain

Marquette – 2010 Lincoln Park Vineyard Maquette, Vermont

Turbiana – 2009 Lugana Superiore Il Rintocco

Malvasia di Candia Aromatica – 2011 Lusenti C.P. Malvasia Frizzante Emiliana

Caberlot – 2009 Podere Il Carnasciale Caberlot

Trebbiano Spoletino – 2010 Tabarrini Adarmando

Verdiso – Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Jeio NV

Cesanese di Affile – 2010 Casale della Ioria Cesanese del Piglio Camponovo

Malvasia Puntinata – 2011 L’Olivella Frascati Superiore Racemo

Bellone – L’Olivella Frascati Superiore Racemo

Cesanese – 2008 L’Olivella Lazio Rosso “>”

Durello – Lessini Durello DOC Spumante 36 Mesi

Lambrusca di Sorbara – 2011 Chiarli 1860 Lambrusco di Sorbara del Fondatore

Lambrusca Grasparossa – 2011 Chiarli 1860 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Vign. Enrico Cialdini

Ginestra – 2010 Marisa Cuomo Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco Fiorduva

Fenile – 2010 Marisa Cuomo Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco Fiorduva

Ripoli – 2010 Marisa Cuomo Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco Fiorduva

Perricone – 2010 Firriato Ribeca, Sicily

If you are not going through the Wine Century club challenge yet, you should really consider doing that, and if you are already living through your obsession – good luck in your journey and remember to have fun! Cheers!

Study of Grapes, 152 at a Time

July 31, 2012 6 comments

How do you experience 152 grape varieties, all at the same time? Easy. You get a bottle of Giribaldi Cento Uve wine and … voilà!

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
Cornalin Prosecco B
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
Grand total for the new grapes – 67. I think it is a pretty good leap in my grape counting adventure.

What is left to tell you? The tasting notes, of course. Considering that this wine is very close to Barolo (uses the same main grape, Nebbiolo), we decanted the wine prior to the tasting for about 3 hours. The wine showed considerable dry, very balanced, good tannins, sour cherries (we are going nicely alongside of typical Barolo, right?) and the showing flowery undertones after the sip – not your typical Barolo anymore. I guess those 151 grapes affect the taste, at least a little bit. All in all, this was a very nice wine. Drinkability: 8.

That’s all for now, folks. Consider starting your own grape adventure – the fun is all yours. Cheers!

Wine Century Club 7th Anniversary – Celebrating Grape Geeks Around The World

June 13, 2012 1 comment

As you already know from my previous post, last Saturday grape geeks all over the world celebrated 7th Anniversary of the Wine Century Club. Based on the current count, total of 179 different grape varieties were tasted by people participated in the festivities. This number can and will be adjusted based on some people reporting at the later time. You can find detailed report here.

Celebrating this kind of events needs a company (how many bottles can I open otherwise?), so I was lucky enough to be invited to the friends’ house for dinner, so we had an opportunity to drink a few bottles of wine. In no particular order, here are some notes for the wines we tried.

Let me start with 2004 Heretat Mont-Rubi Durona from Spain (13.5% ABV) – I got this wine from Wine Till Sold Out, and I really wanted to try it for a while, especially due to the fact that I never had one of the grapes in this wine, Sumoll. This red wine is a blend of 30% Sumoll, 20% Cariñena, 20% Garnacha, 20% Syrah and 10% Merlot. It had a very interesting herbal nose of sage and may be some oregano ( lightly hinted), and some nice red fruit on the palate, medium body, well balanced with pronounced tannins – I think it can still age for a while. Drinkability – 7+.

To tell you the truth, we actually started dinner from this light and simple NV Rosati Prosecco DOC (11% ABV) – it was rather a typical Prosecco, soft and round on the palate, with good acidity, drinkable but not exiting or thought provoking (Drinkability: 7-). This wine was of course made out of Prosecco grapes, which are also known as Glera.

What can be better on a hot summer day than … yes, you are correct – Rose? Not much. Rose as a category is a perfect summer wine, enough refreshing but also having a substance which some of the white wines are lacking. This 2011 Sauska Villanyi Rose from Hungary (12.5% ABV) is a blend of 35% Blaufrankisch, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah and 7% Pinot Noir. This wine had lots of cranberries both on the nose and the palate, medium body, very refreshing acidity – yes, just perfect match for the summer day. Drinkability: 7+

The next wine was 2009 Calina Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle del Maule, Chile (13.5% ABV). This wine was somewhat typical of Cabernet Savignon, with the green notes and hint of black currant. It was soft and drinkable, however after being open for a while, the wine developed quite a bit of sweetness, which is definitely not the best characteristic in my book of wines. Drinkability: 7-

Last, but not least was 2008 Tohani Domain Princiar Tamaioasa Romaneasca, Romania (11.5% ABV). To tell you the truth, I bought this wine just for the new grape, Tamaioasa Romaneasca, as in a lot of cases sweet wine of unknown pedigree are cloyingly sweet. This wine was definitely a great surprise – hint of white peaches on the nose, fresh and delicious white fruit on the palate, good acidity, very balanced – definitely great wine for the money ($11.99). Drinkability: 8-.

We also had NV Ramos Pinto Collector port, which was outstanding – reasonably (not overly) sweet with the hint of smokiness – definitely a very good port. The reason I don’t mention it in the same way as all other wines is that I was unable to find the exact grape composition for this wine, outside of the statement that indigenous Portuguese grape varieties had being used.

This is it for now, folks. 12 different grapes, 2 new grapes for my grape count (Sumoll and Tamaioasa Romaneasca). Journey continues – hop on! Cheers!

Start Your Grape Adventure Today – Wine Century Club Turns 7!

June 8, 2012 1 comment

Any of you who followed this blog for a some time probably noticed a substantial number of posts on the subject of unusual grapes (and you probably even noticed a Grape Count right on top of the blog page, which currently stands – for a while, I have to admit – at 372.

I caught this bug, called Wine Century Club some time in 2008 by looking through someone’s web site. The name “century” actually has nothing to do with time – in order to become a member of a club you are supposed to try 100 grapes ( not independently – any kinds of blends are totally fine) – this is where the “century” is coming into a play, and then download and fill up an application marking the grapes you tasted, and then submit filled application back to the club. Club operates totally on the honor system – nobody will be asking for a proof of you actually having those grapes and wines – however, rumor has it that if you will lie in your application, your palate will be cursed forever…

I submitted my application at the end of 2008, and then in January 2009 I received my membership certificate. At that time there were 529 members in the club and there was only one single level of membership. Today, the club has 1,158 members and 5 levels of membership (there is an addition of Doppel, Treble, Quattro and Pentavini levels which are awarded after trying 200, 300, 400 and 500 different grapes, respectively).

What makes me so excited about the Wine Century Club? In a few words, it is sense of discovery, adventure and experience. You discover new tastes, you look for new wines. Sometimes, you get to play a grape detective. Is this grape indigenous? Is this another name for the same grape, like Tempranillo and Tinto Fino, for instance? Or sometimes it is simply “what are the grapes in this wine? I don’t read in this language…”. And then you get to experience new wines, educate your palate a little more, and extend your sense of taste – all in all, there is a lot of “good” in this simple grape hunt.

Tomorrow, June 9th, club members around the world will be celebrating 7th Anniversary. You can ( and should!) join the celebration too. All it takes is going to the wine store and asking for the bottle of wine made out the most unusual grape you never heard of before. And – voila, you get to experience new wine – and may be you will be even like it!

You might even decide to join the club – in this case, you can find a lot of helpful information at the Membership page of the Wine Century Club. Feel free to also use my table which lists all the grapes and many of the relevant wines I have tried to the date.

If you are already a member, join the celebration tomorrow. If you are not the member yet, join the celebration first, and then you can become a member. And whatever you do, have fun with your wines! Cheers!


Across: Grape, Starts With “O”, 6 letters

April 15, 2012 4 comments

We like puzzles. We like those little challenges, which are innocent but give us a sense of fight, achievement and winning. Here is a little puzzle for you – let’s see how well do you know grapes. Please name a grape which starts with ”O”, 6 letters. I will give you couple of minutes, take your time. Done? What it is? I’m sure some of you could’ve known it, but I honestly think that majority would not.

I don’t want you to feel discouraged. There are about 8,000 different grapes in the world (or more), and about 1,600 of them are used in winemaking, so chances of knowing all of them by a one person are slim to none. Okay, so what is my point, you ask?

The whole point of this little puzzle exercise was to show you an opportunity. An opportunity for an exciting journey and discovery of new experiences. This is an easy journey, which doesn’t require months of planning and tons of special equipment. You can start it any day by joining Wine Century Club. You can download an application, check-mark at least 100 grapes you tasted in your life (doesn’t have to be single grape wines – all blends are perfectly ok), and voila – you can become a member.

I started this journey about 4 years ago. It was relatively simple to get to the first hundred grapes. By the time I received the certificate, I found out that the club now has a new level – Doppel, which requires tasting of 200 grapes. New challenge, great! I started a new journey which was not as simple, and … yes, you got it right – by the time I got to the 200 grapes mark, Treble and Quattro levels appeared! I got to the Treble mark last year, and it was quite hard – had to start including clones in order to get there. But – if you are a ”life traveler”, your arrival to a specific place only means an opportunity to start going to the next destination – so I kept on going.

Just to make myself clear – the point of all this “wine century” journey is not collecting accolades or feeling unique and special. Not at all. The whole point of this journey is a discovery. I can’t tell you how many amazing wines I tried along the way – if you are looking to expand your “grape universe” and collect new experiences – this is definitely what you can achieve with this exercise of purposefully seeking new grapes and unknown bottles.

Trying to reach the ”Quattro” I decided that this shouldn’t be set as a hard task, definitely should be enjoyed more and taken easier than before. I don’t call it a ”quattro journey”, I do very limited updates, and only keep the total grape counter, which you can see at the top of the page if you’re reading this post on the web site.

Nevertheless, it seems to be a good time to provide and update and change the grape counter, as I tasted a number of new wines (read: grapes), at Michael Skurnik tasting and not. First, an answer to the puzzle. The name of the grape which starts with ”O” and consists of 6 letters is Ortega – it is used in Germany and produces wines similar to Riesling. Overall, here are 10 new grapes to add the list:

Resi2010 Chanton Weine Resi  Visp Wallis AOC, Switzerland

Vidiano2010 Alexakis Vidiano, Greece

Malagousia2010 Alpha Estate Axia White, Greece

Clairette Rose2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ‘Cuvée Speciale Vieilles Clairettes’

Doña Blanca2009 Godelia Bierzo Blanco, Spain

BacchusChâteau de Briat Armagnac, ‘Hors d’Age’ NV

Folle BlancheChâteau de Briat Armagnac, ‘Hors d’Age’ NV

Ortega2006 Anselmann Trockenbeerenauslese Ortega. Pfalz, Germany

Ojaleshi 2005 Marani Ojaleshi, Georgia

Agraman2009 Barkan Classic Merlot Agraman, Israel

And here are some pictures for you:

In case you want a head start on the project, I decided to share the list of grapes and reference wines  –  you can find a full table here. Note – if “reference wine” is empty next to the grape, it means I didn’t try that grape yet (example: Picpoul Noir). Conversely, if you got a suggestion for me as to where I can find an appropriate wine, I will be very appreciative…

That’s all for now, folks. Look for that unknown bottle on the shelf – who knows, you might find your best wine experience ever. Cheers!

Wines of United States

February 29, 2012 5 comments

When you run a wine tasting, one of the great ways to keep people engaged all the time is to ask questions – trivia type and not. One of the simple warmup questions I like to ask the audience is “What do you think, how many states make the wine in the US? This sounds simple enough and goes into the “your guess is as good as mine” category. People usually start with some random number (trying to put sense into it, though), and sometime someone will say “all 50” – often just as a joke. Actually, it is the correct answer – for w while, all 50 states produce some wines.

So did you ever think of exploring and experiencing the wines of all 50 states? I’m sure you had California, Oregon, Washington and New York wines, but what about the other 46 states? Last week in Florida, I came across Lakeridge Winery Southern Red Premium Table Wine produced in Clermont, Florida.  This wine allowed me to add one more grape to the grape count – Muscadin. And this wine prompted this blog post and the table which I would like to share with you, which lists my experiences with the grapes and wines of all United States to the date:


Tasted Wine

Visited Winery













Pineapple wine






Truro Vineyards, Nashoba Winery
New Hampshire
New Jersey


New Mexico


New York



Fingerlakes, LI, Hudson
North Carolina
North Dakota





Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota





Chrysalis, Williamsburg Winery


West Virginia

What is your experience with wines from 50 states? Can you count and share? It is definitely a fun exercise and might bring back some good memories while you are at it. Happy counting! Cheers!

Counting Grapes, One at a Time

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m really glad I discovered Wine Century Club about four years ago. Ever since that happened, I’m on the lookout for the new grapes. What is so special about it? Once you get outside of the traditional circle of about 50 grapes, each new grape comes with its own unique personality. Once you cross 200 varieties, the process of finding new grapes becomes complicated, and once you cross 300, it is even trickier (just to put things in perspective, upcoming Jancis Robinson’s book lists more than 1,300 grape varieties used in the wine making). Nevertheless, search is well worth it, because what you find is unique and different.

Grape number 355 is Lafnetscha from Switzerland, courtesy of my friend Patrick. I would like to point out that this white wine was very hard to find even in Switzerland (he had to special-order it), as plantings of the grape are extremely limited.

This 2010 Chanton Visp Lafnetscha, AOC Wallis was an excellent wine. Very round and gentle with nice vegetable profile (not herbaceous and not fruity). Cucumbers and zucchini on the palate, good balancing acidity. I can only wish I had more than one bottle of it…

Next in line is Resi, another unique grape from Switzerland – but for now, this bottle just waits to be open. I’m well on the path to the 360 varieties, but I expect that finding those additional 40 grapes needed to reach Quattro level, will not be straightforward. Any ideas and suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

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