Saturday, May 14, 2011

Valdiguie? What's That You Say?

While waiting for the next round of the playoffs, I thought I'd try a varietal that I'd run across and had never heard of before. Valdiguie is red grape primarily grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France; however, tonight's wine is from Californian producer, J. Lohr.

The Valgiduie varietal was commercially propagated in France in 1874 but its actual origin is unclear. It has apparently been grown in California for some years as "Napa Gamay" as Californian growers believed it to be Gamay Noir. It was only around 1980, when researchers at U.C. Davis determined that the grape had been previously mis-identified, that steps started to be taken to correctly label the wines being produced. The name "Napa Gamay" was only banned in the U.S. in 1999 and use of the name "Gamay Beaujolais" was finally prohibited in the U.S. in 2007.

801. 2009 J. Lohr Wildflower Valdiguie (Monterey County - California)

J. Lohr is one of the few wineries that produces a 100% varietal wine from Valdiguie grapes. Their earlier assumption that they were working with Gamay is evident from the winery's use of carbonic maceration in the production of this wine. The procedure differs from standard fermentation in that whole clusters of grapes are placed in a fermenter, that is rich is carbon dioxide, before the grapes are pressed and where the gas rich environment causes the grape juice to start to ferment while it is still in the actual grape skins. It is only after that initial fermentation, which can last a couple of weeks, that the grapes are pressed and the resulting juice is then used to produce the wine.

One of the most notable effects of the procedure is that the wines produced are standardly fruitier and lower in tannins and they often referred to as candy-like (bubble-gum is one note used that can regularly be found). Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau wines are the wines most commonly associated with the procedure.

J. Lohr only used carbonic maceration on 15% of the grapes destined for this vintage; however, both Boo and I noticed the overt fruitiness of the wine - before I later read
that the procedure had been used. Neither one of us found the resulting profile to be that enjoyable and our first impression was that we wouldn't spend much time going out of our way to find any more Valdiguie wines. Even having learned of the carbonic maceration, I don't know that I'd quickly reach for another bottle.

It might not be that easy to find more straight varietal wines though - even if we'd wanted to. The grape isn't grown much for winemaking purposes. The vine's high productivity isn't seen to lend itself to the making of quality wine and there aren't too many growers willing to spend the additional effort needed for green harvesting the abundant growth. In southern France the grapes are often used to manufacture commercial alcohol.

I'm not going to worry too much about finding more of the wine though. The best thing about finding the bottle was that I get to add another varietal to my application for the Wine Century Club. I think this means I'm getting close with 92 varietals under my belt. It's probably not the best of signs when that's the best thing that I can say about a wine.

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