Writer: Chik Brenneman

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To understand Montepulciano the grape, you also have to understand the difference with Montepulciano the place. Chik Brenneman takes you on a tour of eastern Tuscany, Italy in this issue.

Versatile Viognier

It was not long ago that Viognier was almost an extinct grape varietal. Luckily for wine fans, both grape growers and winemakers have learned some tricks to unlock this grape’s true potential.

High Acids, Low Tannins: Barbera

Barbera is a favorite among winemakers because its high acidity makes it a useful grape for blending and also a unique varietal wine. Get tips to make your own Barbera wines at home.

Pinotage: The Red Grape of South Africa

Pinotage is the most recognized — though not the most widely grown — South African red wine grape.

La Crescent: Cold-Climate Hybrid

Looking for a cold-hardy white to grow in a colder northern clime? Meet the University of Minnesota’s La Crescent.

Syrah: Versatile, bold and colorful

Australia recognizes Syrah as Shiraz. It is presumed that the name stuck as the cuttings that were brought to the country in the 1830s by James Busby were identified with the names Ciras and Scryas, making it difficult to research the origins of the name, given the Iranian connection . . .

Chenin Blanc: The taste of terroir

Viticulturists in the Loire Valley tend to describe its flavor as an expression of the terroir of the land.

Wine Blending Partners

Blending accomplishes several goals in winemaking. It can be done to improve flavor, mouthfeel, cover a defect, balance the chemical profile, adjust the alcohol content, emulate a commercial wine you enjoy or

Cabernet Sauvignon: The king of red wine grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for making some of the world’s most robust red wines.


Alsace vineyards are tucked into the predominantly east facing slopes of the Vosges Mountains . . .

Cabernet Franc: The “other” Cabernet king

Cabernet Franc is thought to have originated in Southwest France, specifically in Libournais.

Wines Two Ways: Oaked and Unoaked

To Oak, or not to Oak, a phrase I took from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and changed the words around a little. But going a step further and delving into the tools that

Pinot Gris/Grigio The name says it all, or does it?

Unknown to the science at the time, these genetic mutations were first noticed hundreds of years ago in Burgundy, France, where the mutants grew side by side, and sometimes within the same plant as Pinot Noir.

Chambourcin: A vigorous, dark hybrid

. . . (Chambourcin) does get a little more respect than other hybrids because of its ability to improve color in other wines without taking away from the other grapes’ varietal character . . .

Torrontés: An alternative to the common whites

I was particularly drawn to Torrontés because of the Muscat-like flavors, but another reason was because of the challenge it presents from a winemaking perspective . . .

Sangiovese: The king of Tuscany

Grapes in Tuscany are a way of life, and Sangiovese, the red workhorse of Tuscany through the millennia, is as noble as they get — well, depending who you talk to.

Pinot Blanc: A grape with an identity crisis

Pinot Blanc — one of the offspring of Pinot Noir — is waiting for its 15 minutes of fame to come around.

Marechal Foch

Marechal Foch is a cold-climate red grape that has dispersed plantings in the Midwest, Northeast, and Canada.

Muscadine: A taste of the South

Muscadine is a grape variety from the South that is used in many culinary recipes, but also makes a fine wine.

Petit Verdot: The forgotten Bordeaux blend grape

Petit Verdot is one of the “big five” grapes that make up a Bordeaux blend. Learn more about this red blender.

Vidal Blanc

Vidal Blanc was originally develloped for Cognac production in the cold maritime regions of western France. Today it is a go-to grape in the US Northeast and Midwest as well as Canada. Plus, a recipe for Vidal icewine.

Albariño/Alvarinho: The wine of Galicia

Albariño/Alvarinho is the grape of the Spanish region of Galacia, and it’s catching on in the States too.

Zinfandel Wine Case Study

You’ve heard over and over the importance of taking notes during winemaking. But what do you do with those findings? Follow along with the process of professional winemaker to find out.

Müller-Thurgau: Germany’s other white grape

Prior to giving way to Riesling at the turn of the century, Müller-Thurgau was the most prominent white grape in Germany. It is still very popular as an everyday drinking wine enjoyed young.

The Many Shades of Muscat

Muscat is a complex family of grapes with a distinctive aroma tying them all together. There are hundreds of Muscat varieties, both white and red, which are used to make all styles of wine.

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