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Vineyard Trails

Vineyard Trails

By RUPALI DEAN

A lowdown on the world's greatest wine regions



HUNTER VALLEY- AUSTRALIA

 

If you are a good life lover, Hunter Valley- about two hours north from Sydney is just the place for you. It's one of the world's greatest wine regions and is acclaimed for its food and wine experience. The drive encompasses some of the most spectacular and colourful patchwork of vineyards and picture book villages, whose historic churches; stone buildings beckon explorers like me. The vineyards here produce many famous wines that I am sure have graced our tables a time or two, the most popular being the Semillon and Shiraz. Recommendations go all out for a tasting at Brokenwood Wines, a quaint cellar door with lovely wines. I had tasted their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon back home prior to our trip, so when I saw they were located in Hunter Valley I had to stop in to taste all of their creations- it is extremely decandent! I especially loved the '2008 Indigo Vineyard Shiraz,'a much-anticipated vintage, a great young and mediun bodied red wine with great depth and flavour.

 

TRY: The '2008 Indigo Vineyard Shiraz,' a much- anticipated vintage, a great young, and medium bodied red wine with great depth and flavour.

 

 CHEXBRES- SWITZERLAND

 

Wines have been produced in Switzerland since the times of the Roman. What is new is the awareness among the Swiss that their winemakers are producing more than just a few pleasant local tipples. A new concept for international wine lovers and travellers is that Switzerland is an exciting country to visit for its wine scene alone. To get to the area, I took a train to Vevey, which is the birth place of Swiss chocolate, Later I connected from there for the 'wine train' to Chexbres, from where one needs to just head downhill. Chexbres is a lovely town with a big grocery store, lots of cafes, and a few hotels. Though not the biggest wine region in the world, but surely one of the most picturesque, I took the winding paths through the vineyards whilst looking out across Lake Geneva to the Alps beyond. I also visited a number of small wine villages along the way, that have barely changed in centuries. There are actually 32km of trails linking Lausanne and Montreux through the vineyards.

 

DO: A walk through Chexbres, onto the wine trails that looks across Lake Geneva and the Alps.

 

 NIAGARA PENINSULA- CANADA

 

My first taste of Ice Wine dates back to a few years ago, when my cousin who lives in Canada got a bottle for us, which was gorgeous, fantastically fruity flavoured and I instantly became a convert. So when I went visiting them in Toronto I simply had to take a tour to the Ice Wine vineyards as they were just an hour away. The best Ice Wine in the world is made at Niagara peninsula owing to the climate- warm summers and ice-cold winters with great soil for growing grapes! There are over 100 wineries in Lower Ontario, which are well marked and not too far from each other. They reminded me of the South of France and as such produce a lot of Cabernet Franc and Riesling. I made my tour stop at Niagara on the Lake's Inniskillin, the winery that put Canadian ice wine on the map. The tasting itself only lasted 10 minutes, but I discovered a lot more. The grapes are left on the vines through the winter, until as late as January long after the harvest in September and have to be picked at night to ensure that they are still below freezing point. The frozen grapes are then pressed and the water discarded so that what you have is merely a drop of nectar from each grape, which is then fashioned into wine. The result is very concentrated- rich, sweet golden nectar that comes at a pretty price! It takes a lot more grapes to make a bottle of Ice Wine than normal wine; hence the price is so much more. Needless to add I did not leave before having a scrumptious lunch(with wine of course) overlooking the vineyards

 

DO: Taste the Ice Wine at Niagara on the Lake's Inniskillin.

 

 

FRANKEN-GERMANY

 

It is the old capital of Franken and the region's centre of wine production, as also the north starting point of the 'Romantische Strasse' aka the romantic road in Germany. It is home to three of the four largest wineries in Germany. It is home to three of the four largest wineries in Germany, which is not surprising because there were vineyards everywhere! The best part of the tour was the visit to the wine cellars. I also learnt that German Sparkling Wine(often called Sekt) is one of the hidden gems of this country's wine production. Germany  produces 80 percent white wine and the remaining si sred wine,. TRhe most popular red wine is the 'Dornfelder'. However my vote goes all out to the 'Riesling Kabinetthalbtrocken,' a semi- dry white wine. I tried many great Rieslings and thankfully my gums didn't peel back from my teeth as Riesling can be fairly high in its acidity quotient.

 

DO: Sip on a glass or two of the German Sparkling Wine called Sekt


 

CHAMPAGNE- FRANCE

 Many of the Champagne houses offer visits, usually with a glass of Champagne thrown in. Some charge a nominal admission fee. Many cellars are quite spectacular, being set in old former Roman chalk mines, with elaborate bas-reliefs carved into a chalk face, while others are so large you can go round on a little train. I would advise you to try and arrange a tasting of a range of champagnes from a house to get the feel of a house style and to contrast different blends and vintages. For watching grapes being pressed do go in September or October during the harvest and even then, many houses' presses are out in the countryside. You are not obliged to buy Champagne but it is a great idea to get a bottle or two having watched the manufacturing process. Also the houses have souvenir shops with all kinds of Champagne paraphernalia from ashtrays to scarves to champagne buckets and bottle-stoppers. As for me, I carried home a Dom Perignon de 'Moet & Chandon' and 'Comites de Champagne' de Tattinger! Enjoy your holiday in Champagne.

 

DO: Visit in September-October to indulge in grape pressing and to witness the process of wine manufacturing.

 

 

 

LANGUEDOC- ROUSSILLON- FRANCE

 

 If you are a wine lover, you are bound to fall in love with the south of France. It is the world's largest wine-producing region. Languedoc's wine production exceeds that of Bordeaux, of Australia, that of South Africa and Chile combined. Languedoc- Roussillon's wine represents a third of the volume of all French output (in 2006, the region produced 15,750,000 hectolitres of wine, which accounted for 34 percent of total french output). The region comprises some 290,000 hectares of wines, and its annual average production equates to 2,133 million bottles of wine. Statistics are courtesy- www.creme-delanguedoc.com. I even spent a day out with a local wine producer. He took us out to his vineyards to show us the wines, soil and newly formed grapes which would soon be ready for harvest, come September. Of course the days out in the wine county couldn't have been complete without a private tasting of a selection of white, rose and reds from his vineyard. A visit to the Languedoc is incomplete without a stop at the famous town of Carcassonne known for its stunning medieval city and delicious regional speciality. Cassoulet. Bon Voyage!

 

TRIVIA: This is the world's largest wine producing region!

 

BAROSSA VALLEY- SOUTH AUSTRALIA

 

Take a flight to the vines of the Barossa. It's one of the world's greatest wine regions and is acclaimed for the food and wine esperience that it provides. For a Gormet like me I had to visit Barossa( read Garden of Eden) to taste the good life in all its forms. I reached Adelaide aboard Qantas flight from Brisbane and Ralf Hadzic. "Life is a cabernet" was waiting at the airport for me and we drove on to Penfold's. At Penfold's Cellar door I met up Janelle Amos who was my teacher for the wine blending session. Following a walking tour of the winery and wine cellars, I was invited to the Winemakers' Laboratory for a structured tasting through a range of Penfold's wines. After this introduction to wine styles and varieties, it was time to try my hand at making my own wine. With the Lab coat on I felt like a scientist who was going to mix her own wines like a true connoisseur. I was given three wines namely The Bin 138'Grenache,' which is added for its aromatic spicy lift, 'Shiraz,' which is added for its richness and weight and 'Mouvedre,' which infuses the wine with perfume and liquorice characters and is supposed to add complexity. In my first attempt I blended 40 percent (Grenache) + 40 percent (Shiraz) and 20 percent(Mouvedre), second attempt resulted in 60 percent (G) + 30 percent(S) +10 percent (M) and I finally got it right in my third attempt 50 percent (G) + 40 percent (S)+ 10 percent (M). It indeed is a fascinating and satisfying experience-blending to suit your own personal taste, and even more fulfilling to ferry the wine you made home. The first of its kind in the Barossa, the Make Your Own Blend tour is a fun wine education experience for anyone who has draemt of being a winemaker for a day.

 

DO: Create your own blend and ferry the wine you made home.


PENEDES-SPAIN

 

 A trip to Spain would be incomplete without a visit to the local wine region near Barcelona called Penedes. I researched and signed up for a one-day tour of Miguel Torres's vineyard complete with the winery visit and tastings, as well as lunch at 'Mas Rabell,' the family owned restaurant. My visit included not only a tasting of their higher end wines, but also a bottom to top view of their vineyards and viticulture pracices.  Inside, I discovered an atmosphere as inviting as the wines themselves. I gathered on my tour that White Wine production dominates with a variety of traditional grapes in use such as 'Parellada'. With innovative wine making techniques over the last few years, new wines are being created with Chardonnay, Riesling and other noble varietals are coming to the fore as well. (Take home produce is also available from their shop). I could see that the winery is one of the most modern(and biggest) there is. The star of the show was of course the  "Mas La Pana 2005," a lush, spicy wine with density of fruit and smooth tannins. It is very elegant- great with cheese. Truly, it is difficult to understand the history of Spanish wine in the past 50 years without speaking if the family Torres. Miguel has taken his wines and therefore, the wines of Spain to the highest benchmarks of quality to the last corners of the world. 

 

Highlight: Try the "Mas La Pana 2005," a lush, spicy wine with a density of fruit and smooth tannins.

 

 

YARRA VALLEY- AUSTRALIA

 

Located an hour from Melbourne city, here you can explore some of the Wineries and take time to sample some lovely wine. Take a tour of the Domaine Chandon winery, which is linked to Moet and Chandon, their sparkling wine range includes a sparkling Pinot Noir, which is different but tastes great. TarraWarra Estate is a 400-hectare cattle-grazing property; vineyard and bush land reserve on the banks of Victoria's mighty Yarra River. You can also spend time at a Wildlife Park seeing Kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian devils, platypus and other Australian wildlife. On offer at Balgownie Estate, is the ultimate experience for lovers of wine, nature and relaxation. On entry, the oak lined drive takes you to a contemporary designed rammed earth cellar door that houses wine tasting and a restaurant. Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are some great examples of what to expect- and more from the Balgownie Yarra Valley label. The cellar door and restaurant is stylish for both casual and formal dining. Fresh local produce is used to create tantalising dishes influenced by European and Asian cuisine expecially chosen to compliment and enhance the flavours of the Balgownie Estate wines.

 

Highlight: Head to the Balgownie Estate for an ultimate wine tasting experience.

 

 

P0RTO-PORTUGAL

 

Produced exclusively in the Douro Valley, Porto is a sweet, fortified wine that is trypically served with dessert, and can be found at many of the restaurants in town. Ever since 1756, this is the only region in the world with the right to produce Port Wine. It is home to 40,000 to 50,000 hectares cultivated for wine production. It is very interesting to see how Port Wine is made at many of the houses. I took one at the House of Snademan in Porto, the perfect introduction to Port Wine and the making of Port. The tour is professional, educational and highly entertaining. You get to see the different stages of Port in the barrels and get a taste of a Tawny Port and a Ruby Port at the end of the tour. Another thing one must know is that Port Wine is much stronger than other wines, with at least 20 percent alcohol- so of you've planned to take a wine tasting tour, sip your wine slowly!


Highlight: This one is for all the Port Wine lovers.


NASIK-INDIA


India is picking up fast as a wine loving and a wine producing nation. Nasik in Maharasthra in the western part of India is where most of the vineyards are located. One of the most splendid Indian Wines comes from the same. Pause Wines, a premium wine brand that produces some great white wines, red wines and port wines have their vineyards in the greenery of Dindori which is near Nasik. The vineyards are set on an extensive 100 acres of land and get sunlight all throughout the year. The fertile soil of Dindori is one of the best for producing optimum quality grapes for wine. The soil quality is of lateritic type and has tiny gravel in it to make it well drained. The gravel assists the roots of the vines to go deeper into the soil and reach the micronutrients embedded deeper in the rich soil. This helps in making strong vines to produce healthy, sweet and organic grapes. The backwaters of the Karanjwan dam encompass the vineyards from three sides and hence create a cooling environment for the vineyards. The entire virgin land of the vineyards is covered under the right climatic conditions created by the geographical location. The 24x7 water supply provided to the vineyards makes them grow well.

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