Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brazil and Its "Equatorial Vines"

Vines At The Equator?
Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh my!!! Now we hear of vines at the equator-----the Brazilian Equator to be precise! But before you start "pooh pawing" this fact lets look at what we are dealing with here. First of all Brazil is huge! Very huge! It is the fifth largest country in the world and covers almost as much land mass as the United States which is only a tiny bit bigger.
That means that this country has an amazing amount of climates even though it is at the Equator. The scene goes from steamy jungle and tropical forest to very high land levels and from dry regions to tempestuous rainy areas to some snow------did I say snow? Yep-----snow! Now it isn't the Canadian Blizzard type of snow but you still see the flakes.
How come? It all has to do with altitude and some of these land levels reach 2000 metres or more. This means that with the right soil or lack of thereof, the conditions may be right for that famed vine Vitis Vinifera to flourish. Brazilian wine, in some ways started much the same as it did in California------those phenomenal Italian immigrants and their propensity for cultivating the fruit of the vine!
1875 and all that!
Vines were planted in Brazil as early as the 16th Century. Monks infused the vines in the 17th.
According to IBRAVIN (Instituto Brasileiro Do Vinho) which is the promotional agency for the Wines of Brazil, Italian immigrants that settled in the state of Rio Grande do Sol started the wine industry in earnest. By 1884 the production grew to over 8 million litres. Expansion continued to other regions and by the 1990's the wine industry saw not only a wider expanse in the production of wine but also a better educated group of producers. Shortly after in 1998, the Brazilian Wine Institute was founded.
Wine Regions
Six Regions are the focus of wine production in Brazil and range from about 200 metres to 1400 metres above sea level. Since Brazil is so vast in both size and geographic diversity, it is not accurate to think of it as a country that consists only of steaming tropical forest and jungle. Brazil has many faces and according to wine, food and travel writer Sheila Puritt , the wine areas of Brazil resemble more of the highlands of Italy.
Here the diversity is still remarkable. One can actually see snow fall in some areas whereas in another, the year may see two harvests as compared to the usual one. The grape varieties are also diverse with many European vinifera varieties grown with great success.
Serra Gaucha
This largest and most important of the wine regions where almost 90 percent of all the wine made in Brazil comes from, is in the North Eastern portion of the Rio Grande do Sul in Southern Brazil. The demography is of German and Italian descent. With an average low/high temperature yield of 11.6 to 21.9 degrees Celsius and ample rainfall making irrigation not necessary, the area is ideal for wine production. Serra Gaucha has the appellation I.G. Vale dos Vinhedos within it. Here everything is "state of the art" for the production of high quality red and white grapes and thus, wine. Here Riesling, Chardonnay, Proseco, Moscato and Malvasia (White) and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc Tennat, Ancellota and Pinot Noir (Red) grown.
Campanha and Serra Sudeste
Actually two regions next to each other border the Country of Uruguay. Though sub tropical in climate, the higher elevations can be quite cool and frosts do occur though snow is rare. The low fertility of the soil, warm summer temperatures and ample rainfall do allow grapes to ripen well and thus the climate is excellent for high quality wine production. Grapes of a similar type to Serra Gaucha are grown with a good amount of Portuguese varieties such as Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional.
Planalto Catarinense
Located North East of the previous regions, this area has varied temperatures and climate which can attain high temperatures and humid conditions in one area and very cold temperatures with frequent snow and frost in others. In the cold areas, temperatures as low as -15 Celsius have been recorded. Their is ample rainfall with cooler climate grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir (Red) Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (White).
Campos de Cima da Serra
Squeezed between Serra Gaucha and Planalto Catarinense, this region is said to be as cold as it is beautiful with frequent winter snow and freezing temperatures. Vines are grown and similar to the Planalto above with Merlot and Cabernet being the primary grapes.
Vale do San Francisco
Located in the northeast part of Brazil is this region stretches from the Sao Francisco River to the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco. While parts of this area get ample rainfall, the valley area that produces wine is semi arid to arid and has had government investment in the irrigation of the land. The warm, dry climate is very beneficial to the vines and grapes----producing healthy grapes with high levels of sugar. One of the truly interesting things about this region is that there are two harvests every year. Cabernet, Syrah, Aragonez (red) and Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Malvasia Bianca and Muscat (white) are grown.

Brazil is fast becoming an international player in the fine wine field and has already established a fine reputation for Sparkling Wines. Serious players now produce some very interesting wines and famous consultants/writers such as Michel Roland and Jancis Robinson have taken an interest. Brazil, known for its beaches, cuisine, rain forest and great cities will now have wine to add to its repertoire.
Wines Of Brazil Luncheon And Media Tasting
I recently travelled to Toronto to attend a wine/food matching dinner at CAJU, a Brazilian restaurant. The wines were many and the food superb. Here's a sample of the fine repast!
Cave Geisse (Serra Gaucha)
Situated at at quite a high altitude in an area somewhat similar in looks to Umbria or Tuscany, the sparkling wines of Cave Geisse are said to be the finest in Brazil---maybe South America.
Cave Geisse Sparkling Brut 2008 (Aperitif)
This wine is made in the Traditional Method (Second Fermentation in original bottle). Wine is a blend 70 % Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Very nice stream of tiny bubbles that last for a long time. Straw yellow colour.
Nose: Baked Bread and yeast with fruit aromas some sweetness.
Palate: Pleasant mouthfeel with very clean, fresh effect on mouth and tongue. Medium bodied with lingering finish.
Cave Geisse Sparkling Nature (Seminar Tasting)
Also made in the Traditional Method with 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, equally small bubbles as its predecessor but has a slight greener tinge and golden colour.
Nose: Yeast and ferment with fresh baked bread, some citrus and fruit.
Palate: Super mouthfeel and great integrity/harmony. Nice acid backbone and finish.
Courmayeur Winery (Serra Gaucha)
This winery was founded in 1976 by Italian immigrants and is under the directorial ship of Gillian Nicoli ni Verzeletti. It is located in the Valle d'Aosta near the city of Garabaldi all within the region of Serra Gaucha.
Courmayeur Sparkling Rose (Aperitif)
Made from 100 % Pinot Noir grapes, this wine is made via the Charmat Method (Secondary Fermentation is done in pressurized containers) but the size of the bubbles and consistency made me believe I was drinking a Traditional wine. The colour is a nice shade of Rose.
Nose: Smoke, toasted bread, fruit (Strawberry/Cherry)
Palate: Nice pleasant mouthfeel with some fruit notes and pleasant acid bite to the finish.
Courmayeur Sparkling Chardonnay Brut (Seminar Tasting)
Although this straw coloured wine is called a Chardonnay, it does have a small percentage of Pinot Noir included. Again Charmat made but seemingly Traditional.
Nose: Fresh bread and yeast ferment. Some melange fruit flavours.
Palate: Immediately pleasing with a nice integrity/harmony of apple/citrus and red fruit flavours. Refreshing acidity making a nice lingering finish.
Cordelier Winery (Serra Gaucha)
This winery was founded in 1987 by Lidio Ziero within the IG subregion of Vale dos Vinhedos. Quite high at 600 metres it is a great example of the terroir, scrupulous low yields and the modern technology used in winemaking.
Cordelier Sparkling Rose (Aperitif)
This 100 % Merlot is quite pleasing to look at. Striking Pink/Red in colour it exhibits small consistent bubbles. While they say 100 % Merlot, I am tasting some Chardonnay also. Charmat Method.
Nose: Red and Dark fruit of medium intensity very fragrant.
Palate: Generous mouthfeel, fruit on palate similar to the nose. Nicely done integration. Nice food wine that can be used as a main course wine with a wide range of foods.
Cordelier Sparkling Brut (Seminar Tasting)
This is a traditional method wine. Very tiny bubbles with a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from the IG district.
Nose: Bread, yeast and toast with butter and tropical fruit (Pineapple, mango, papaya)
Palate: Full in the mouth with nice fruit and citrus flavours plus a pleasant but not overly tough acidity that lingers softly.
Santo Emilio Winery (Planalto Catarinense)
One of the few wines at this tasting that was not from Serra Gaucha. In 2003 the Binotto family purchased the Quintos dos Montes farm with the hopes of making it into a high quality winery. The area that the farm's in is perhaps one of the coldest spots in Brazil (try -15 Celsius) but the vines would have to work hard and that makes for good quality.
Santo Emilio Sparkling Stellato (Lunch)
This sparkling wine started the lunch which initially began with Cassava Cheese Bread, Cheddar Cheese. The wine was quite good with the entree and was enjoyable on its own.
Nose: Berry, Melon notes. Pleasant and went well with the food.
Palate: Pleasant mouthfeel, medium body with some berry flavours.
Santo Emilio Seco Marca Leopoldo (Seminar)
Dark red and seemingly concentrated this is yet another wine from the cool clime of Planalto Catarinense.
Nose: Concentrated with a bouquet of black fruit, vanilla spice/pepper.
Palate: Full in body, rich with jam/fruit flavours, obvious but not overbearing tannins, long finish.
Don Guerino Winery (Serra Gaucha)
Located in the district of Alto Feliz the winery was established in 2000 by the descendants of Valentino Motter who immigrated from Italy in 1880.
Don Guerino Chardonnay (Seminar)
Lemon yellow in colour with a brilliant clear liquid note.
Nose: Floral notes with citrus, apple and pear notes. Some honey nuances.
Palate: Well integrated. Fruit sweetness, citrus and Granny Smith Apple notes. Nice acidity and lingering fruit finish.
Don Guerino Sparkling Moscatel (Lunch, Dessert)
Dom Candido Winery (Serra Gaucha)
One of the original planters (1875) in the Vale dos Vinhedos, the Verduga family from Italy founded their new winery in 2001.
Dom Candido Geracao Marselan (Seminar)
Marselan is a a hybrid mix of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with the colour of the Grenache which also likes warm weather and the style of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Name comes from the Mediterranean village of Marseillan----the point or origin for the variety.
Nose: Red fruit, cloves and herbal spice
Palate: Medium body, nice forward but firm tannins, fruit flavours and persistent spice (clove) finish.
Dom Candido DC Merlot (Lunch, accompanying Grilled Steak, Cassava chips, Collard Greens, Farofa, Pepper Vinaigrette)
Dark violet in colour the wine is 100% Merlot. This reserve wine is aged three months in oak.
Nose: Light vanilla wood, some dark then red (cherry) fruit, mild chocolate and Cassis.
Palate: Medium plus in body, pleasant wine with a pleasant spice finish.
Sanjo Winery (Planalto Catharinense)
This cooperative originally started with 34 fruit growers in 1993. As a diversion from the usual Italian immigrant starting the vineyards, it seems that the growers are of Japanese descent.
The 2002 the first vineyards were planted at different levels of altitude producing very specific wine characteristics.

Sanjo Cabernet Sauvignon Maestrale (Seminar)
This Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the Sao Joaquim area at three different levels of altitude from 1300 metres to 1380 metres. It is then selected and harvested by hand and pressed very carefully. It is then fermented in stainless steel tanks with a maceration period of 12 to 20 days.
The wine is then barrel aged for 10 months. A dark ruby colour.
Nose: Plum, black berry, Cassis, pepper, herbal spice and a hint of vanilla wood.
Palate: Ripe fruit and well integrated. Nice backbone with a full body. Strong tannins that meld well with the palate. Long finish with a touch of vanilla/anise.
Sanjo Cabernet Sauvignon Nubio (Lunch with Grilled Steak as above)
This wine is also 100 % Cabernet Sauvignon and was hand harvested. It was fermented in stainless steel and macerated for 8 to 10 days. 50 % of it was aged in oak for five months and the rest in stainless steel. The result is a complex wine with true varietal flavour and fruit. The resulting wine is a deep red or garnet in colour.
Nose: Violets, ripe red fruit, chocolate and slight wood spice
Palate:Mellow, full with red and black fruit, constructive tannins and nice length with a fruit finish.
Miolo Winery (Serra Gaucha)

The Miolo Winery is Brazil's largest wine exporter with wine projects and vines in five wine regions. While the family has been in the wine business since their ancestor, Giuseppe Miolo came over from Veneto (one of my favourite places) in 1897. The actual Miolo company started in 1989 and has quickly grown to include not only the above projects but also partnerships with several countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Chile and Argentina. Presently the company produces more than 100 labels of wine product.
Miolo Quinta Do Seival Castas Portuguesas (Seminar)
This was one of my choice of favourite wines that I tasted at this event. I have a passion for the Alfrocheiro grape variety and identified it almost immediately. The wine is made from Portuguese varieties Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz and Alfrocheiro. The grapes are manually prepared and both cold macerated (four days) and then macerated for 10 to 15 days. There is a maturation period of 12 months in new French oak. The wine is very dark red colour.
Nose: Ripe fruit both red and dark (almost a melange), chocolate, and licorice.
Palate: Full and concentrated, harmonious and a lengthy finish of fruit.
Miolo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva (Lunch with Steak)
The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Miolo is also hand harvested and selected. It goes through a cold maceration (4 days)
and regular maceration (5-10 days). The wine matures in both French and American oak. The wine has a strong red appearance.
Nose: Cherry and blackberry notes with nuances of Plum and a touch of chocolate.
Palate: Some strong tannins indicating need for aging, otherwise full and round on palate. Finish has tannic touch to it. Definitely a food wine.
Pizzato Winery (Serra Gaucha)
Yet another name from the endless source known as Veneto. This time, one of the original immigrants known as Antonio Pizzato began this company's wine making journey in 1875 thus establishing a 135 year wine making tradition. The present company was founded in 1999.
I contacted Chief Winemaker Fluvio Pizzato regarding the name of his Chardonnay
which was, Chardonnay Safra 2009 SC Fino. He emailed me back saying that "Safra" meant the vintage and that "Fino" meant that the wine was a Vitis Vinifera not another Vitis genus. You learn something new every day-----that's why I love wine!!!
Pizzato DNA 99 Single Vineyard Merlot
DNA 99 is fermented in stainless steel and aged in new French oak for 9 months. The result is a very dark red wine.
Nose: Ripe red and dark fruit, somewhat jammy with coffee and chocolate with vanilla
Palate: Medium to full with more ripe fruit, coffee and chocolate with vanilla/pepper on the finish.
Pizzato Chardonnay (Lunch with Cheese/Mixed Salad)
This wine was fermented in stainless steel and fermented at low temps. Fermentation 15 days plus Malolactic Fermentation. No oak. Pale yellow in colour.
Nose: Clean, fresh, melon, citrus, apple, pear, some floral notes
Taste: Harmonious, nice acidity, some tropical fruit, lingering fresh acidity on finish.
Salton Winery (Serra Gaucha)
Started in 1910 when a group of brothers took over their Italian father's business, this company has flourished and now makes superb wine. Salton is noted for its sparkling wine production both in the making of and selling it. The company is also noted as being very environmentally conscious in its treatment in all aspects of wine production. Special programs to protect nature are in place to make sure that all the environment is protected
Salton Talento (Seminar)
This wine is hand treated in all aspects of viticulture in addition to the harvest and selection of the grapes. The wine is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10 % Tennat. Maceration takes place for 20 days at low temperatures and there is further aging for 12 months in new French Oak. Wine is a deep purple in colour.
Nose: Black and red fruit, vanilla wood, Cassis
Palate: Full, velvety, nice tannic structure, some anise on finish which was quite long.
Salton Brut Reserva Quro (Lunch, Served with dessert)
Lidio Carraro Winery (Serra Gaucha)
Five generations in the wine making family culminated in the founding of this winery i n 1998 with a crop production in 2002.
Lido Carraro Touriga Nacional/Tennat (Seminar----from Serra Do Sudeste)
Nicely coloured wine that is in true form with great Portuguese still wines.
Nose: Floral notes of violets and tropical flowers with undertones of chocolate and raspberry flavours.
Palate: Mature tannins full mouthfeel with a pleasant lingering finish
LidioCarraro Grande Vindima Quorum
One of the ultra premium wines of this winery, it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Tennat varieties. This is a dark wine with obvious complexity.
Nose: Black fruit, red berries with herbal spice and pepper, chocolate and coffee on the undertone.
Palate: Similar to top with ripe tannins and lingering finish.

Each of the entries has already been listed with the wines but for continuence sake here are the meals with the wines that were served with them.
Appetizer: Pao de Quieijo
Cassava cheese bread: cheddar cheese/chorico
Salada Verde
Organic mixed greens, dried berries, roasted pumpkin seeds, passion fruit dressing
Santo Emilio Sparkling Stellalto
Pizzato Chardonnay
Main Entre: Carne
Gri lled striploin steak, cassava chips, collard greens, farofa, pepper vinaigrette
or Peixe
Seared halibut, potato gaiette, red pepper sauce, saffron tomato salsa
or Frango
Lemmon cilantro, grilled chicken breast, Heart of Palm and sweet potato puree
Dom Candido DC Merlot
Miolo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
Sanjo Cabernet Sauvignon Nubio
Lidio Carraro Grande Vindima Quorum
Passion Fruit mousse
or Dark Chocolat Fondant
or Tropical Fruit
Salton Sparkling Brut Reserva Quoro
Don Guerino Sparkling Moscatel

I would like to thank the following people who made this event possible:
Mr. Afonso Cardsoso Brazillian Ambasador Toronto
Ms. Wonja Campos da Nobrega Consul General Adjoint of Brazil
Ms. Angela Circco Rodriges Brazilian Trade Commission
Ms. Andreia Gentilini Milan Export Manager Wines of Brazil

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vines in The Sky

The European Alps
Stretching from the Riviera through South Central Europe is a Mountain Chain of relatively young mountains that most call the Alps. The system is about 800 kms long and 160 km wide.Best known for mountain climbing expeditions and now sports events namely skiing, they offer a wide range of activities ranging from hiking and rock climbing to biking and tennis. During the last 150 years, a number of resorts entertained vacationers world wide. These scenic resorts go hand in hand with the many wine regions that cradle the surrounding hills commonly known as "Pre-Alps" at the foot of this great divide!
Best Of The Alps
Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany lay in the path of the Alps and this includes their resorts. Twelve of the above resorts established a brand group called "Best of the Alps" focusing on their similarity of surroundings, traditions and developmental history. The twelve resorts are: (Austria) Kitzbuhel, Lech Zurs am Arlberg, St. Anton am Arlberg, Seefeld; (Switzerland) St. Moritz, Zermatt, Davos, Grindelwald; (France) Chamonix Mont-Blanc, Megeve; (Germany) Garmisch-Partenkirchen and (Italy) Cortina d'Ampezzo.Though these regions have similarities, so do they have differences and with a backdrop as magnificent as that of the Alps as well as the best vineyards in the world literally at their feet, that is a prescription for amazing fun!
Austria is no stranger to fame, culture and beauteous scenery. Its representation by many of its sons and daughters in the world of medicine, science, literature and music is renowned. It's alpine destinations have been publicized in many movies.
Kitzbuhel, home of the world cup ski races and one of the toughest downhill slope competitions---the Streif slope, has also hosted the Triathlon World Cup and hosts a major tennis tournament in the summer months. Lech-Zurs, is actually two villages that are about 4 km apart. Of the two, Lech is the more diverse since Zurs is usually closed down for the summer months. This "most beautiful village in Europe" (it won a special nomination called "Entente Floral" in 2004) . This area also includes many summer and winter sports such as hiking and snowshoeing. St. Anton am Arlberg is not just one resort! A number of other villages close by all have something going on at any one time so there is much to do and see. There is also a race called the Arlberger Bike Marathon that takes place in August. In the Winter, 28o slopes and over 180 country trails will be a challenge for anyone. Like St. Anton, Seefeld encompasses several other villages and has some unique legendary stories. One can walk through Leutasch view the hiking scenery; view the spectacular view of the Stubbier Alps and also reflect on the "Bell of Peace"---a 10,000 kilogram bell erected in 1997 in Mosern; visit an Alpine Park in Scharnitz; visit Reith and check out the rare Alpine Moor and finally visit the little village of Seefeld which has as its legend the historic church of St. Oswald. The story called the "Legend of the Host' goes this way: During the Communion ceremony a local knight whose temper was only exceeded by his impatience and self importance, forced the priest to give him the biggest portion of the Host (wafer). As soon as it touched his lips, the floor began to melt and take him into it. Only the priest's quick thinking by taking the host out of the knight's mouth stopped the process. The host then turned to blood-----I guess that taught him a lesson!!!! Such areas are full of this folklore but the church is still there to visit. Seefeld has many cafes and interesting places to visit and if you go through the Christmas season, make sure you attend Midnight Mass and celebrate New Year's in style. All you need is Champagne which is available via local stores.
Austrian Wine
Wine and Relaxation go hand in hand and what's better when visiting a resort than enjoying your host country's wine! I would suggest something better than that being visiting the vineyards that are close to the area you are in. Unfortunately, the closest winery would be about three hours away in Graz but if it's summer, why not do a day trip or stay overnight. There is nothing like visiting the closest wineries and bringing the "catch" to the suite. In winter group trips could be arranged of better still, have the wines delivered to the door of the resort.
Wine Regions
Lower Austria has 16 wine regions the four most important being Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal and the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland which makes some luscious sweet wines. There are other regions such as Wienviertel which is the largest wine region and also one of the prettiest but the above four seem to be what many are talking about.Weststeiermark where Gaz is located would seem to be closest to visit from the Austrian resorts.
Grape Varieties
In Austria it seems that Gruner Veltliner is the dominant grape producing many styles of superb wine. Other varieties are (White)Riesling,Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Muller Thurgau, Neuburger. There are others but most are either very rare of isolated.(Red) Mostly indigenous species are found here: Zweigelt, Blaufrankish, Blauer Portugieser, Blauburger, Saint Laurent with Pinot Noir and Merlot rounding out the group. There are other lesser wines which fall in the same category as some of the whites mentioned.
Another country that is known for its majestic beauty and superb resorts is Switzerland. As in Austria and perhaps to a greater extent, Swiss wines are not well known outside of their country and probably that is because many are consumed at home. The wines are therefore underrated and not easily accessible anywhere but in Switzerland. The more people who visit here should seek out and consume! What are not underrated are the Swiss resorts.There are four resorts that come under the "Best of the Alps" banner: St. Moritz, Zermatt, Davos and Grindelwald.
St. Moritz is legendary among resorts. It started the alpine resort winter tourism in the mid 19th Century. Another series of firsts were, the first curling tournament, European Ice Skating Championship and first golf tournament. St. Moritz offers everything from winter sports to horse racing (on the frozen lake) and Polo tournaments, curling and cricket as well as a Gourmet festival----all that plus sun 322 days per year. Zermatt is famed for it mountain. Who has not heard of the Matterhorn? According to the experts, Zermatt's claim to fame is 365 days of snow on the slopes. However, there is much more! An interesting fact is that tourism started when mountain climbers came in droves over the mid 19th Century. Now many tours and hikes use this area for a starting point. One interesting not about this town is that it runs combustion free. Most vehicles run on batteries. Grindelwald had a famous secret agent slip through its skating rink. James Bond on Her Majesty's Secret Service was there. A number of feature films have used this area and town as a backdrop. In addition, there are many things outside of the superb skiing and winter sports. Many culinary delights abound here and there are many foot and toboggan paths to wear away those calories in winter and many foot/hiking and cycle paths in summer. The Eiger Village is also a place to see and many an assault on the mountain starts at this place. Remember Clint Eastwood in the "Eiger Sanction"? Last but not least in the Swiss group is Davos. Davos is famous as being a major resort but it also is renowned for some other issues such as: hosting the Spengler Cup Hockey Tournament, the Swiss Alpine Marathon, a Music Festival and the World Economic Forum. Davos's Expessionalist Museum is also there for guests to view. This is including every summer and winter sport imaginable. Tennis. riding and Paragliding are offered at no extra cost. Apparently the place is so healthy that Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, The Wrecker) who suffered from Tuberculosis stayed there upon doctor's orders. One other thing, in 2011 the World Championship of Velogemel (a Velogemel is Grindelwald's special vehicle that goes down ski slopes at breakneck speeds) celebrates its 100 birthday. Are there any challenge takers????
Swiss Wine Regions
Here vineyards are incredibly steep and many are said to rival the summit of the many mountains not too far from them. While this adds to the scenery, it must be very difficult to keep the vines cropped.
The main regions are Aargau (mainly red), Bern very steep vineyards (mainly white), Geneva (third largest wine region and almost 2000 years of winemaking; red and white wines), Graubunden (mainly red with some good whites), Luzern (mixed red and white; home of William Tell), Neuchatele (white and red ), Ticino (very Merlot and very Italian), Valais (biggest wine region, very steep slopes and many grape varieties), Vaud (again steep terraces with Chassalas the dominant grape), Zurich (red and white from Pinot Noir and Muller Thurgau being dominant).
Grape Varieties
The "main squeeze" of Switzerland seems to be the white Chassalas with Pinot coming in for the reds. It depends who you talk to regarding the Chassalas. Some say give it exalted ratings while others speak "snubbing" about it. The general agreement is that Riesling still makes better wine but that is as everything is concerning wine, a subjective view.
Indigenous species still hold a mark on the wines of Switzerland. The most important seem to be: (red) Humagne Rouge, Cornalin, Bondola (White) Arvine, Completer, Gouais, Reze, Amigne, Himbertscha. A number of hybrids such as Gamaret and Diolinoir are also grown.
France is certainly no stranger to either wine or tourist attractions. The quintessential wine country in the World is also known for its vast attractions to visitors world wide. "The Best of the Alps" has two such attractions which border on a luscious wine producing area.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc needs no introduction as does Megreve. The great Savoie wine growing area below makes this a marvellous triple crown.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc as a commune includes some 16 villages. The town proper is a mecca for skiers and mountain climbers. Being at the foot of Mont Blanc gives it a special drop off place for these sports lovers which can include ice climbers, rock climbers, extreme skiing, paragliding, rafting and canyoning. The varied history of this area includes the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Megreve is another resort which is just west of Chamonix but has a lovely view of Mont Blanc. The town is exceptionally beautiful with wooden chalets, cobbled streets, boutique hotels. The cultural events are many and other activities include: dog sledding, flights over Mont Blanc, spas, antique dealers and horse drawn carriages. The place actually became a tourist hit when the Rothschild family (relatives of the great wine making family in Bordeaux) decided to change their resort location. They opened a hotel at Megreve in 1921 (Ironically just before Philippe de Rothschild took over Chateau Mouton in 1922). An international polo tournament played on snow is held here (Megreve Polo Masters) and a unique golf tournament (Snow Golf Cup) is played here also.
Wines of Savoie
Some of the oldest vineyards in France can be found in the somewhat steep (sometimes over 500 metres) slopes. The terrain is definitely alpine though the temperature can be warm enough not to see snow. I imagine the microclimates are many.
The wines of Savoie are generally consumed by the tourists and sports people who come to the resorts. The wines are mainly white and made from indigenous species that are quite rare mixed with some of the more well known varieties.
Because of its somewhat isolation from other vineyard regions, and the fact that most of the wine is consumed in the same area, the wines are rather unknown and difficult to find anywhere else.
Grape Varieties
(White) Jacquere, Altesse also known as Rousette, Rousanne also known as Bergeron, Chardonnay. (Red) Mondeuse, Gamay, Pinot Noir.
Well known for its great though very underrated wines, Germany also has vines hugging the alpine resort mountains. Bavaria brings up exotic ideas of legend, power and history. It also exudes heartiness in both life and culinary attributes. Then there is the wines of Franconia!
This is where we find Garmisch Partenkirchen. Located at the foot of Mount Zugspitze with its natural boldness of beauty and the lovely decorated homes as well as the very friendly hosts give this resort town a special place in the heart of all those who visit it. Special sights to visit would be The Partnach Gorge where the Partnach River through a narrow gap between limestone cliffs; the castle of Ludwig 2nd of Bavaria and of course the Zugspitze which is the tallest mountain in Germany. Near by Garmisch is Mittenwald and Oberammergau where the Passion Play is produced and the monastery at Ettal.
Wines Of Franconia
Franconia (and Garmisch Partenkirchen) is in Bavaria and whose wine region is centred around the Main River in the central part of this region. Wurzburg is the centre of wine production in the region though there are two other smaller areas of production around Steigerwald and Bamberg.
The wines of Franconia are said to be quite masculine of Germany's wines. This is due to the cool climate of the area with cold winters and warm summers. As with many of the areas that are either not known very well or service resorts, the Franconian wines are consumed largely at home though they present a high quality presence in resort country.
Grape Varieties
White vines consist of almost 80% of the production with the red wines fulfilling the remaining 20 %. The main grapes are as follows: (white) Muller Thurgau, Silvaner, Baccus, Riesling, Kerner, Scheurebe, Pinot Blanc (Red) Domina, Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Regent (American hybrid), Meunier, Blauer Portugeiser.
Italian culture goes as far back as the mist of time! Italian wine goes almost as far and Italian hospitality goes back the farthest of all! The Italian Alps is the last but not least feature of this "Best of the Alps" presentation.
The Six Regions that hug the Alps are: Piedmont with the misty fog that is closely associated with it as well as the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco made from Nebiolo grapes. In fact, Piedmont literally means "foot of the mountain"; Acosta Valley with its huge glaciers and many sporting events; Lombardy with its forests, mountain villages, vineyards, and pretty meadows; Trentino provides unique cultural and historical perspective in a place of unusual and dynamic beauty; Aldo Ridge offers a chance to look at pristine and very protected nature at its best and also take in the character of this most northerly part of Italy; Friuli-Venezia Giulia offers the best in mountain holidays and both summer and winter sports.
For the purpose of this presentation, the major area of concentration is Veneto and the resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Dolomites located within the district. Cortina d'Ampezzo has long been associated with world class skiing events and other Olympic winter sports. Culturally it has been well represented in feature films: For Your Eyes Only (James Bond), The Pink Panther, Cliff Hanger, Trull. Summer activities rival winter ones with hiking and climbing as well as a new bike resort. One claim to fame for Cortina is that it also was the favourite place of actress Audry Hepburn. Another striking feature of this resort is that it is only about two and a half hours away from the vineyards of Veneto and the city of culture called Verona.
Wine Regions
Of the wine regions closest to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Valpolicella (Bordered by Bardolino, Soave and the Po River) is most handily available as its vines "hug" the higher hills known as the Pre-Alps. Its wines are famous world over and often underrated. Here the king of grapes is Amarone made by drying specific grapes for ninety days prior to pressing and fermenting. Regular Valpolicella is made from the same grapes but without the drying process. There are different levels of Valpolicella with Amarone being the highest and most expensive. One form of Valpolicella is called "Ripasso" meaning that Valpolicella wine is refermented over the left over skins of Amarone wine thus adding much in the form of smoothness, power and complexity. Thus it is a form of "re-passing" or "re-doing" the wine making process in order to "improve" an already wonderful product. Some of the greatest wines I have ever tasted come from the vineyards of wineries such as Tommasi, Tedeschi, Zenato, Tenuta San Antonio, Bolla, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Cantina di Negrar, Pasqua, Sartori.
One thing that is going on is that the area is becoming very prominent in the retracing of its heritage. Many wineries in Valpolicella (and Italy for that matter) are returning to their ancient origins by seeking out and redeveloping the ancient and almost extinct/forgotten varieties of the past that were indigenous to the region.
Grape Varieties
The main grapes are Rodinella, Corvina, Molinara (now deregulated). Oseleta is a grape variety that is being revived and used more and more especially in the Tommasi vineyards. Regulations permit the following grapes to be used in certain percentages in the making of Valpolicella: Corvinone, Rossignola, Negara, Barbera, Sangiovese.
Other indigenous and ancient grapes being revived and experimented with are: Turchetta, Corbina, Bressa, Castelrotto, Spigmonte.
Final Say
Those that profit the most at having the very best in the world at your feet---literally---are those who journey to the resorts mentioned here in this article and take advantage of the many activities available to them. "The Best Of The Alps" is actually that and only the best have the greatest to offer.
Where else can one go to Austria and say----"Think that tomorrow I'll hop over to Italy and try some of their wines---or Switzerland; or Germany; or France!!!!! ENJOY!!!!