December 23, 2004

What's in YOUR bottle?

Quick! What do these words have in common? Erbaluce, greco, pigato... Drawing a blank? How about these? Sapervi, baga, fer... Still nothing? OK, I'll make it easy: grenache, malbec, gamay.

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Yup, all wine grapes. Just different varieties of vitis vinifera, the European and Middle-Eastern plant whose juicy fruit, when ripe, ferments into wine. For those who might think it's cab or chard, here's news: there are over 10,000 varieties suitable for wine production. The most widely planted, according to Jancis Robinson, MW: airén, garnacha, rkatsiteli, ugni blanc and carignan.

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This isn't esoteric wine-speak, you understand. One of the glories of wine is that leads to pleasure ... and, on occasion, to serious inquiry.

Steve de Long, an architect, has put together a chart showing 184 grape varieties, from the lightest-bodied whites like palomino to the heartiest of reds, like baga, along with their aromatic characteristics, the regions in which they're grown, and the names under which they're usually sold. An accompanying booklet provides cross-references, so you'll learn that the juice inside that bottle of Gavi from Piedmont is from cortese grapes.

The newly released second edition of the 24x36-inch chart, suitable for framing, costs $35 and can be ordered from Steve's website, Go for it ... you won't be sorry.

Posted by Ronald Holden at December 23, 2004 5:36 PM