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Tempranillo is, beyond any doubt, the greatest red wine grape of Spain. It thrives and produces stupendous wines throughout the country, but most notably in Ribera del Duero, Rioja, and Toro. Its origin is likely the Rioja.Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word temprano, meaning “early”, which alludes to its tendency to ripen early compared to certain other winegrapes.
Syrah is certainly an ancient variety. While its native home is somewhat disputed most historians believe the vine originated in France’s northern Rhone Valley. In fact, recorded history indicates grape vines were cultivated for wine production there as early as 79 A.D. and the Rhone valley still produces Syrah wines of exceptional quality.
Malbec is native to southwest France, specifically the Cahors and Bergerac regions, where it is still cultivated with some success. Bordeaux vignerons traditionally used Malbec to soften their Cabernet Sauvignon and it is still used in small quantities for that purpose.
Merlot is native to the eastern Bordeaux area of France where it is the main ingredient in the wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion. It plays a smaller, but important blending role in the Medoc regions of Pauillac, Margaux, St. Julien and St. Estephe where it’s soft, velvety tannins are used to tame the brutish Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grenache is known as Grenache noir in France and Garnacha Tinta in Spain. This varietal occupies more worldwide acreage than any other variety. While evidence confirms its Spanish ancestry, Grenache is perhaps most famous for its use in the great red wines of Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in southern France, and in Provence roses and Navarra rosados. It was also one of the first varieties to be planted in Australia in the 19th century.
Albariño is arguable Spain’s single greatest white varietal. This exciting vine is native to the Iberian Peninsula’s lush northwestern corner, specifically the Rias Baixas area of Spain, where it was traditionally trained overhead on stone-pillared wire pergolas. The soils are generally grey alluvial deposits overlying granite with quartz shards which sparkle upon exposure making the earth glitter.
Viognier’s true origin is somewhat obscure and shadowed in mystery. Some legends hold that the vines traveled north through the Rhone valley in the same Roman legionnaire bags as the Syrah. Others mention Dalmatia as its origin and the Emperor Probus’ galley being looted by local bandits conveniently near the village of Condrieu in the northern Rhone. Regardless, most historians concede that this noble grape has been cultivated in the northern area of France’s Rhone valley for likely over 2000 years.
Graciano is a tricky varietal that is also native to Spain, where it grows alongside the Tempranillo and Garnacha in Rioja. It is used primarily for blending as it contributes aromatic spice, tobacco, and licorice notes as well as vibrant acidity. While not traditionally bottled as an individual varietal, plantings in both its native land and abroad are on the rise.
Petite Verdot has traditionally been a blending grape used in Bordeaux and abroad to add color, depth, and perfumed aromatics to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has generally fallen out of favor in most of France, except in Margaux, due to its very late ripening, even later than Cabernet. Many producers around the globe are now exploring this grape for varietal production as well as potential blending.
Dolcetto is a rather obscure Italian varietal, translated from the Italian as “little sweet one”, native to Piemonte in northwestern Italy. Interestingly, Dolcetto is somewhat unique in that it is rarely blended. This early- to mid-ripening varietal typically produces wine of medium-light to medium-full body with moderate acidity that is best consumed within three years of the vintage.
Port Varietals We cultivate five traditional Portuguese varietals for use in our Port program: Bastardo, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional. These varietals are planted at strategic locations to take full advantage of Fault Line Vineyard’s complex soils, slopes, and exposures to optimize and synchronize ripening. They typically produce a wine that is medium-full to very full bodied with moderate to relatively high acidity and medium to very long-term aging potential.
Tannat is native to the Basque region in southwestern France where it is usually the main component of blends in the Madiran region. Elsewhere, the varietal is creating interest in Uruguay. It usually produces a medium-full to very full-bodied wine with moderate to high acidity and medium-long to long-term aging potential.
Cabernet franc is probably native to the Bordeaux area of France. In a land where it once reigned supreme, this parent (with Sauvignon Blanc) of Cabernet Sauvignon has now mostly become a blending varietal. However, a few Chateaus still use significant portions of this perfumed, mineral-laden wine. Cabernet franc still reigns supreme in the Loire where it is bottled, usually without blending, as Chinon and Bourgueil.
This varietal typically produces wine of medium to medium-full body with moderate acidity and medium to medium-long aging capacity.
Mourvedre is a grape most notably associated with France’s southern Rhone valley. Surprisingly, the grape is actually Spanish in origin from either Valencia or Cataluña. It routinely produces medium-full to very full-bodied wines with moderate to relatively high acidity and medium to long-term aging potential.
Nebbiolo is considered by many to be Italy’s single greatest wine varietal. It achieves eminence in its native Piemonte areas of Barolo and Barbaresco in northwestern Italy, but is notoriously difficult to cultivate and requires immense patience once bottled to reveal its true personality. The finest examples are typically medium- to very full-bodied with moderate to relatively high acidity and medium to very long-term aging potential.
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