In keeping with the subject of the lineage of some of our favorite varieties of wine grapes, I’d like to touch upon the Pinot family. That’s right, all the Pinots are related… which would include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, and more. Each of these is a natural mutatation of Pinot Noir, producing as few grapes in a bunch with different colors and characteristics. These variations were then seed selected to grow vines that exclusively produced full bunches of these new varietals. Then there are the 16 hybrid grapes varieties that are the result of crossing Pinot Noir with Gouais Blanc. This extension of the Pinot family includes two very important varieties. Chardonnay being the source of White Burgundy and one of the most widely planted wine grapes, as well as being the third grape along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in Champagne. The other important “child” variety is Gamay Noir, which is the primary and often the only grape variety in bottles of red Beaujolais.
A few weeks ago, I touched on the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon variety is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. This was actually discovered by geneticists at UC Davis in the early 2000’s using a method called genetic typing. For many of the wines we’ve all come to love, this is really the only way to know their origins, since most of them have been cultivated for hundreds and even thousands of years.
Furthermore, the more mysterious varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, may have simply come from unassisted cross-pollination. It is equally possible that it is the result of the arduous and possibly decades long labor-of-love by a single farmer or family. Which would include interplanting the parent varieties for cross-pollination, seed selecting, culling inferior seedlings, growing the vines to maturity, micro-vinting wine batches from each individual plant, etc. All of this, only to end up with possibly one vine that produces the choice wine, which would then be further propagated. I must say, as a farmer myself, there is a lot of respect and appreciation for such dedication. Essentially, contained in these bottles of delight is the hard work of not just the hard work of the workers and vintners of today, but also the work of viticultutalists from centuries past. Next time (or every time) you pop open a bottle, take a moment to reflect on this… you’ll appreciate it all the more.
There is a wine topic that has been the subject of centuries long debate amongst connoisseurs about whether wine should be filtered or unfiltered. More importantly, though, is that a lack of understanding by the general public has lead many to turn there nose up at unfiltered wines. Rest assured, there is no need to assume that seeing particles or sediment in your wine means that it has gone bad. A vintner’s reason to choose not to filter their wine may range from having a more traditional wine method, to wanting to allow the particulate to impart deeper color and mouth-feel. Filtered wine on the other hand, is done to achieve a level of clarity, stability, and aesthetic appeal. There are two types of methods for this process. There is filtering, which is performed by running the wine through either a micro-filter or an inert substance like clay or diatomaceous earth. The other method is called fining. In the fining process, substances like egg whites or isinglass which bond to particles and weighs them down to the bottom of the vat to be removed.