Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jancis and "Wine Grapes" to the Rescue

Being the wine geek that I am, I suppose it's only natural that the tome that is Wine Grapes would show up under our Christmas tree this year. The 1200 page - and very heavy - resource was published last year by authors Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. The book is billed as a quick guide to 1368 grape varieties found in the world today - from the most important to the nearly extinct. Want to discover what's the story behind that grape you've never heard of or from where the heck it originates? The hope is that Wine Grapes will turn out to be as good of a starting point as any.

Tonight's bottle was chosen as a test case. I certainly didn't know anything about Vranac at the start of the evening - except that I assumed it was going to score me another grape for my Wine Century Club tally.

Lo and behold, Vranac was there - right between Voskeat and Vugava. Hey, hey.

1337. 2007 Plantaze - Crnogorski Vranac (Montenegro)

I'm kinda behind on my posts; so, I think I'll just crib an example of what you'll find in the book. "Vranac, meaning 'strong black' or 'black stallion,' is the most important indigenous variety of the region that includes today's Montenegro, part of Serbia and southern Croatia, where it has allegedly been cultivated since the Middle Ages."

The book continues with varietal wines are "deeply coloured, full-bodied, tannic, high in alcohol and become more complex with age."

It was interesting to note that Plantaze is one of the producers named by the authors in this entry.  The winery saw its start as a part of an "agricultural-industrial plant" in 1963. The plant was the pre-cursor for the winery and was transformed over 60's, 70's and early 80's. The winery's website states that, by 2009, it was operating the "largest vineyard in Europe" and it was producing 4 million bottles of wine - including a sparkling wine and an award winning Chardonnay.

I never know what to anticipate when I open one of these "unknown" wines. Admittedly, I pick them off the shelf largely for the novelty aspect. It's an added bonus when they're surprisingly tasty - as this one was. I doubt I'll buy it by the case or serve it at a business function or cocktail party but, for an introduction to the grape and to Montenegran wines, it was a decent quaff.

As an added note - and thanks to Wine Grapes - I certainly never would have know that Vranac is common mistaken with Tribidrag. I'm going to have to try and remember that fact should I ever run across a wine made with Tribidrag (which Wine Grapes tells me is also known as Zinfandel). That's for sure.

All in all, I say this is a Christmas present that might see some regular use in the years to come.

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