Enth Degree May 2006

News and Notes from the World of Wine.

The Enth Degree – May 2006

Central Otago vintners respond to region’s phylloxera scares


Central Otago is one of the world’s most exciting new wine regions, its Pinot Noir attracting the attention of wine aficionados everywhere. It’s a young wine region, but is one with a flood of plantings. In 1995, about 114 acres were under vine. In 2006, that figure is 2,845 acres.

Not surprisingly, the demand for grafted vines exceeds supply and at one time there was a two-year wait. But have recent appearances of the dreaded phylloxera aphid alarmed New Zealanders? Not so much.

"Not to worry," said the affected growers with a typical Kiwi attitude. After all, ungrafted vines would produce a crop much earlier. The phylloxera aphid posed a potential problem, but it was unknown in the region’s abrasive, schist-derived soils. But because phylloxera was discovered in New Zealand in 1895 and had spread from the North Island to the South Island after Marlborough was planted in the 1970s, the Central Otago Winegrowers Association drew up a set of phylloxera prevention protocols, anyway. In January 2002, that set changed to "spread prevention" protocols when phylloxera was discovered in an Alexandra vineyard. The affected vines were removed and the soil was treated, yet a further infestation occurred on a neighboring vineyard in December 2004. A third infestation in a vineyard north of Lowburn, some distance away, was discovered in January 2006.

So what impact is phylloxera likely to have on Central Otago production, where only 65 percent of the region’s Pinot Noir is on grafted vines? Evidently not much, according to some of the region’s experts.

"The death of the vine is slow and painful, but a vineyard with phylloxera can stay in production for up to 10 years," says Jeff Sinnott of Amisfield Wines.

"The spread of phylloxera is slow. There are new vines coming into production, and replanting with new clones is going on all the time," says Roger Gibson of Lowburn Ferry Vineyard.

"There will be no effect on pricing and virtually no effect on production," says Blair Walter of Felton Road Wines.

"It’s obviously a serious concern to some, but significant to the region? I don’t think so," says Grant Taylor of Gibbston Valley Wines. "The impact of frost in 2004 and the poor fruit set in 2005 reduced yields by 60 percent. Phylloxera in Central Otago can never come close to doing that."
Sue Courtney


The 30th anniversary of the famous 1976 Paris tasting will be recreated on May 24 as the "Tasting that Changed the Wine World: The Judgement of Paris." Two panels of wine experts will meet simultaneously, one in Buckinghamshire, the other in Napa Valley. · Terlato Wine Group has named Steve Fennell as winemaker at Sanford Winery. · Ishi has created Chocotherapy and Vinotherapy facials. The Chocotherapy includes highlights like a skin cleansing with frothy chocolate and vanilla milkshake. The Vinotherapy treatment utilizes sun-ripened Chianti grapes and grape must thermal mud. www.ishiuk.com · Bedell Cellars has announced Trent Preszler as COO and John Irving Levenberg as winemaker. · Taiwanese drunk drivers: pay or play. In an attempt to curb crime, the government hits drunk drivers with a fine—or mandatory mahjong playing. The new law gives offenders the choice to take civil service, in this case playing mahjong with the elderly, over paying fines or serving a jail sentence. · Hugh Davies, president of Schramsberg Vineyards and J. Davies Vineyards, has been elected president of the board of directors of the Napa Valley Vintners. · California State Senator Carole Migden introduced a bill that would designate Zinfandel as California’s official state wine. (This doesn’t bode well for her Cab-ernet constituents.) · Jeff Cohn of Rosenblum Cellars, who formerly held the position of vice president of winemaking, is now consulting winemaker.
—Samara D. Genee

From Apples into Wine


Ever since Ontario’s Inniskillin won the 1989 VinExpo Grand Prix d’Honneur, the global wine event’s highest accolade, the world has become very familiar with the unctuous decadence that is Canadian Vidal and Riesling ice wine. Now there’s apple ice wine.

If that phrase rings a trifle less than true, well, it’s because apples are more commonly associated with cider, not wine. But as film director-turned-cider maker François Pouliot of Québec’s pioneering La Face Cachée de la Pomme explains, cidre de glace just doesn’t translate all that well in the United States and other Anglo markets. And so ice cider became apple ice wine, with all the luxury and indulgence that phrase entails.

In truth, the parallel is more than just semantics. Unlike the rough country beverage known as applejack, in which fermented cider is made more potent through freezing, Neige, the cidery’s flagship apple ice wine, is made by fermenting juice that has been naturally concentrated by six weeks spent repeatedly freezing, melting and refreezing in the bitter cold of a Québec winter, just as with traditional ice wine. In fact, aside from the genus of fruit, of course, the principal difference between the two forms of ice wine is that ice wine grapes are left to freeze on the vine, while the apples must be harvested and juiced before the cold becomes too extreme, primarily because the Spartan and Macintosh apples Pouliot uses for Neige will fall from the tree if left to freeze.

Although many members of Les Cidriculteurs du Québec, the provincial association of artisanal cider producers, now make ice ciders, it was Pouliot who pioneered the idea in 1994 on an orchard he purchased for a hobby. Knowledgeable about ice wine and inspired by the sight of local apple trees that would keep their fruit even through winter, he decided to pick and press the frozen apples and in so doing gave birth to a unique new beverage. His first significant production of Neige, meaning "snow," was a mere 1,800 bottles in 1998. The latest harvest is expected to yield 200,000 bottles, which Pouliot will sell in more than 15 countries.

With notes of baked apple, tropical fruit, vanilla bean and gentle spice, Neige is an ideal partner to blue cheeses, particularly stilton, milk chocolate and, of course, apple pie. For a truly transcendent cidre de glace experience, however, pair a glass or two of Neige with a dish of foie gras and caramelized apple slices. It’s a taste sensation that may have you forgetting all about that other ice wine.
—Stephen Beaumont


Destination: Venice

Italy’s city of canals cooks up some of the Boot’s best food.

Not too long ago, an old travelers’ adage


dictated that it was hard to get a good meal in Venice. But thanks to Venetians’ own rediscovery of their dazzling culinary tradition, Venice is experiencing a restaurateurs’ renaissance. Equally as exciting is the city’s enthusiastic embrace of the wines made just beyond its watery confines: Prosecco, Soave and Amarone.

The truth is, Venice always had excellent food and wine in its DNA. The city is home to the almost extinct but now widely popular bacari wine bars. These are hole-in-the-wall watering holes at which locals can throw back a quick glass of wine and munch on aged cheeses or slices of salami to take the edge off afternoon appetites. Another local cocktail found in bacari and beyond is the spritz (white wine or Prosecco, a shot of orange bitter with a twist of lemon and a green olive at the bottom of the glass). At dusk, this surreal city comes alive with the cheerful clinking of spritz tumblers.

Hands-down the most picturesque and oldest bacaro is Cantina do Mori, located near the Rialto Bridge. Copper pans hang low from the ceiling and locals huddle near the front counter. You can order bottled wine, or a glass from one of the large wine jugs at the back. Nearby is another popular bacaro called Osteria All’Arco, where locals crowd the bar and the outdoor tables to enjoy fish and vegetable-topped crostini, baccalà and other finger foods. A new bacaro, also near Rialto, is All’Alba Osteria Blues Bar, where traditional snacks are accompanied by a festive atmosphere and jazz sottofondo. Although you can order spritz at almost any bar, any time of day, one particularly attractive bar with shaded outside tables is Al Prosecco, on the beautiful Campo San Giacomo dall’Orio. (Cantina Do Mori, San Polo 429 (Rialto Bridge), tel: +39 041 5225401; Osteria All’Arco, San Polo 436, tel: +39 041 5205666; All’Alba Osteria Blues Bar, San Marco 4582/A, tel: +39 340 6837949; Al Prosecco, Santa Croce 1503, Campo San Giacomo dall’Orio, tel: +39 041 5240222.)

Traditional Venetian cuisine borrows from far-away lands and relies on top-shelf ingredients: Fegato alla Veneziana is veal liver cooked in white wine and buttered onions; and bigoli in salsa is thick, spaghetti-like pasta topped with anchovies and caramelized onions. Although the menu changes regularly, these specialties and more can be had at Osteria Enoteca San Marco, near San Marco’s square. Run by four wine-wise Venetians, the eatery’s walls are covered in winery paraphernalia, and the menu boasts one of the best frittura mista in town. Vino Vino, near La Fenice, is an informal wine bar and restaurant with some 350 wines on its list. You can eat here or go next door to the Antico Martini for formal Venetian dining. For a romantic dinner at a tiny eatery with just six tables, book in advance at the adorable Osteria del Sacro e Profano near Rialto. Al Bacareto on Piazza San Marco is a family-run restaurant rumored to make the best bigoli in salsa in town. All’Aciugheta ("little anchovy") may be the world’s only anchovy bar: The tiny fish is fried in balls, stewed, broiled and served raw. Owner Gianni Bonaccorsi also organizes wine and anchovy pairing events. (Osteria Enoteca San Marco, Frezzeria, San Marco 1610, tel: +39 041 5285242; Vino Vino, San Marco 2007A, Ponte delle Veste, tel: +39 041 241 7688; Antico Martini, San Marco 1983, tel: +39 041 5237027; Osteria del Sacro e Profano, San Polo 502, tel: +39 041 5201931; Al Bacareto, San Marco 3447, Calle delle Botteghe, tel: +39 041 5289336; All’Aciugheta, Castello 4357, Campo Santi Filippo e Giacomo, tel: +39 041 5224292).

For souvenir bottles to bring back home, Enoteca Millevini near Rialto has the best selection of Veneto wines and can ship them. For accommodation, two of Venice’s most historic and luxurious hotels are the ultra-famous Gritti Palace and Danieli. Both are particularly attractive to wine lovers: The Gritti Palace has a stunning terrace facing the Grand Canal and the Danieli has both a rooftop terrace and lobby-level cocktail area with rose-colored marble and opulent Byzantine beauty. (Enoteca Millevini, San Marco 5362, tel: +39 041 5206090; Hotel Gritti Palace, San Marco 2467, Campo Maria del Giglio, tel: +39 041 794611; Hotel Danieli, Castello 4196, Riva degli Schiavoni, tel: +39 041 5226480).
—Monica Larner

Published on May 1, 2006