Geeky Grape Girl (G3) – Part 2 Answers

It’s Friday, so it must be answer day to the geeky grapes question! I’m happy to report that at least one person attempted to answer the questions, which I received via email! And the individual even gave me the reference of the website they were using to find the answers. Hey, doesn’t matter how they were found, I was happy to receive some answers! I’m also happy to report this individual did really well in the research and other than a few details, got them all right! If you are a regular reader, you know I kind of work in themes, and this week is no exception! All of these wines from this weeks quiz come from the islands of Italy – Sardinia and Sicily. So do you want to know the answers?

Carignano – a red grape grown on the island of Sardinia. We know this grape as Carignan in France and Carineña in Spain. This is known as a traditional grape (as opposed to a native grape) as it arrived in the country via the Spanish. It’s also known as Uva di Spagna (grape of Spain), and wines from old vine carignano can be interesting indeed – velvety, fleshy fruit with soft tannins.


Frappato grapes

Frappato – a red grape from Sicily, this grape is more known as a blending grape in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria blend (with Nero d’Avola). A maximum of 40% can be used in this blend to help soften the wine. In fact, the more frappato put into Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the lighter and more fragrant it will be. On its own though, this is a lovely pale wine, with lower alcohol (around 12/5% abv) brimming with floral notes of violets, fresh fruits of strawberry and cherry, and some dried herbs. I’m a big fan of frappato, and recently got my wish and now have some on the store shelves!

Nero D’Avola – also a red grape from Sicily, although it’s found in Calabria too (the toe of the boot). For centuries this grape was known as Calabrese, but everyone in the world, including Italians, know this grape much better as nero d’avola. As stated above, it is the main grape in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria blend, but makes powerful wines on its own. It is the second most common cultivar grown on the island of Sicily, everywhere except the northeast corner, and seventh most common in all of Italy. Good nero d’avolas will have dark cherry fruit, some tar, earth and tomato leaf aromas and flavours.

Nasco – a white grape from Sardinia, the name means “musky” which characterizes the


Nasco grapes

wines aroma. Lots of strong herbal notes as well, this grape can also be used to make good quality sweet wines, of which I have tasted
both versions of (dry and sweet). Many growers of this grape believe that it’s one of the oldest varieties of Sardinia, and potentially the best.

Monica – a red grape from Sardinia, the name alone is pretty enough to make me want to try it (which I have). One of the most abundant grapes in Sardinia, a pure monica is meant to be drunk young and fresh. It is a simple wine, yet lovely with red berry aromas and flavors along with hints of tobacco and smoke.


Monica grapes


Grillo grapes

Grillo – a white grape from Sicily, many may be familiar with Marsala, but not really know about it! Grillo is actually the main grape used in marsala wine (along with cataratto and ansonica).What is interesting about this grape is that it is considered only of Sicily’s highest quality varieties, although its existence on the island seems relatively recent (after the eighteenth century, which for Italy in all its oldness, is indeed recent!) For fans of sauvignon blanc, give grillo a try! It will have a lemony, grapefruit, herbal crispness reminiscent of the sauvignon blanc grape many of us are familiar with.


Vermentino grapes

Vermentino – a white grape from Sardinia, and grown well in Tuscany, but can also be found in Liguria, Umbria, Abruzzo, Lazio and Sicily. Some might know this grape as pigato, or favorita, or rolle (France). In fact, is this grape actually a true Italian native grape, or is it a traditional grape, traveling to the country from elewhere? So, in a way, I guess this was a bit of a trick, and although this grape is found mostly in the southern part of Italy, the largest acreage under vine is in Sardinia. (Side: my next set of testing wines is this grape, one wine from Sardinia and one wine from Tuscany. My goal is to see if I can tell the difference between the two.) I love a good vermentino, and certainly don’t drink enough of it! It has lovely stone fruit notes of peach and apricot, along with some sweet floral notes and ripe golden delicious apple (my favourite apple btw…). Some vermentino can also be aged on the lees (those dead yeast cells that get stirred up into the wine), which always adds a creamy texture to the wine. Added lees will give more tropical fruit notes to a vermentino, and there are even ones blended with chardonnay that will really hit you with a creamy texture. Because this grape is grown by the sea,  most always, a saline tang will be prevalent on the finish. And just to confuse you even further, there is also a red grape called vermentino nera, which is extremely rare, but out there nonetheless!

I hope you learned something about these grapes, and for the next edition of G3…look for the theme, and that will surely aid you in taking a stab at guessing where they are from! See you next week. Salute!

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Geeky Grape Girl (G3) – Part 2

Ok, so maybe last week’s grape quiz was more difficult than I had thought. I will put grapes-doodlegrapes in this week that (I think) are more recognizable (along with perhaps some of the more geeky ones? Yes, you CAN use Google, Wiki or whatever means available to you to find an answer, because that’s how we learn! All in the name of fun, I want to know the colour of the grape and where it is from! Give it a go! What have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing, and some serious bragging rights if you get even one of them correct! Also, I want to know if you have tasted any of these! So here we go:

Carignano – colour and region(s)

Frappato – colour and region(s)

Nero D’Avola – colour and region(s)

Nasco – colour and region(s)

Monica – colour and region(s)

Grillo – colour and region(s)

Vermentino – colour and region(s)

Have fun and I will post the answers on Friday! Salute!


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Geeky Grape Girl (G3) – Part 1 Answers

OK, so perhaps this was too difficult, or maybe folks felt that it had to be done completely without assistance. Not true. In fact, I would expect one to ask a friend, neighbour, countryman, wine store manager, fellow wine lover,  Mr G. or even Wiki to seek out the answers. I don’t consider any of that cheating!  How else is one to learn about something? Or maybe you don’t care about geeky grapes or where they come from in Italy or what colour they are!  That’s ok too!  Remember that I said it’s not something to stress over, simply for fun. So with that, here are the answers!

The grapes are all in fact, white. While some Italian grape names give us clues as to what colour it is, some do not at all!

Vernaccia di Oristano– actually, this is one from a group of grapes. There are four white and two red in this group, and this is one of the white ones. This particular Vernaccia is from Sardinia, which can be made in a fortified style, that can be secco (dry) or dolce (sweet), however there are traditionally dry versions out there, although I’ve never tasted one.



Albarola – this grape is found in both Tuscany and Liguria (where the Cinque Terre is) and is sometimes confused with Trebbiano Toscano. This is a grape that is useful in blends for dry wines, but it also makes a rare passito wine, which would also be sweet. This grape I have not tasted either.

Biancolella – one of the grapes of the Campanian island of



Ischia. One will often find this grape in a blend with its Ischian partner Forastera, in a wine called Ischia Bianco. By itself though, it will have lots of fresh herbs, spearmint, grapefruit flavours along with that saline tang so prevalent of grapes growing on an island. I really liked both Biancolella and Forastera when I tried them, but preferred the former in flavour to the latter.

Capprettone – also from Campania, but on the mainland, with the grapes growing nearby and even on the Vesuvius volcano. Because this grape is so high in acid, it can be naturally suitable for making sparkling wine. By itself, it will have lots of lemony citrus flavours along with that high minerality component (volcanic soil will do that)!


Coda di Volpe

Coda di Volpe – Campania seems to be the theme of these grapes, although not intentionally! But, this grape can also be found in Puglia and Sicily. The name of this grape means tail of the fox, because that’s what the shape of the grapes look like – long and maybe a bit ‘bushy’! Typically, we see this blended with Greco or Fiano, but by itself, it’s very steely and minerally. A friend of mine described it as “licking a stainless steel fridge”. Hmm, not that I suggest you do that, but if it helps identify a wine…go for it!

Grechetto – Maybe you’ve heard of Orvieto wine?



Well, the main grape of that wine is…Grechetto! It’s mainly found in Umbria, but can also be found in Abruzzo, Lazio and Emilia-Romagna. It’s light bodied with high acidity and aromas and flavours of flowers and chamomile.

Of the above grapes, I have tasted three of them. Perhaps this is my year to seek out the wines made with Capprettone, Albarola and Vernaccia di Oristano!

I hope you have learned just a tiny bit more about native Italian grapes! Stay tuned for the next post of G3, and I hope some of you actually take a stab on guessing at least the colour of the grapes! Salute!

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Geeky Grape Girl (G3) – Part 1

What does one do when Writer’s Block hits really hard and swift? In my case, it’s have-a- little-quiz-about-Italian-wine-grapes-to-fill-the-time post! I’ve started the fast and furious studies on Italian wine grapes in anticipation of my return to Verona in April to re-sit the VIA (Vinitaly International Academy) course and write the exam for Italian Wine Expert.

With all the time spent with my nose in the books, writing a blog has been perhaps the last thing on my mind. So rather than readers lose interest, I’ll have short posts with a few grapes for you to “sip” on.  The goal for you is to tell me where in Italy it is grown (and it might be more than one region) and if it’s red or white. It’s not very hard, and it’s not meant to be something to stress over!  Some of them will be more prevalent, but some might be really obscure. And if you’ve tasted the wine made from the grape, I’d like to know that too! I’ll post the answers on Friday! Believe it or not, testing you, also helps me learn, so it really is a two-way street (and perhaps a bit selfish on my part?) 🙂

So here we go:

Vernaccia di Oristano- color and region(s)

Albarola – color and region(s)

Biancolella – color and region(s)

Capprettone – color and region(s)

Coda di Volpe – color and region(s)

Grechetto – color and region(s)

Remember, don’t stress!  This is only meant to be fun! I’ll post the answers on Friday! Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing yours!  Salute!


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An evening with Christian Voeux


Engaging Christian Voeux in conversation about his wines. Photo courtesy of Valerie Albrecht, Enotri Wine Marketing

I love a good well-made wine. Sometimes those can be found in a large production winery with high distribution, however most times, I find myself appreciating, wanting and selling family owned, small vineyard, sustainable wines that I never mind drinking myself. I often wax poetic about Italian wines (I always will), but French wines make me a little giddy too. I’m a big fan of the Rhone Valley especially. Last night, right here at our very own Ernest’s Culinary School at NAIT, the students did an amazing job (once again) of pairing foods to go with the wines of Domaine de L’Amauve from the Southern Rhone.

seguret-horizontalI’ve written about this before. In fact, Christian has been to the market before, and I’m always so pleased to be able to spend time with him and discuss his philosophy on making wine.  Coming from a family of both grape growers and winemakers, Christian is passionate about making wine as naturally as possible. Nothing should be rushed, and nothing forced. He uses natural yeasts and never forces malolactic fermentation. It must happen on its own (all part of organic farming). Add in the excellent price tag and the flavours, it’s plenty more reason to love these wines.

With only 10 ha of vines in the village of Seguret, next to Gigondas and close to Chateauneuf-du-pape, Christian’s wine production is not large. His ultimate goal is to have Seguret recognized as a cru, along with the above regions. And here in Alberta, we get about 60% of that production! Lucky us!


photo courtesy of Harjeet Medhwan, Ernest’s Dining Room, NAIT

2015 Domaine de l’Amauve La Daurèle Vin Blanc- the only white of the evening, a blend of grenache blanc, clairette, viognier and ugni blanc, it paired splendidly with the tomato fish bisque. Boatloads of white blossom and poached pear aromas with a round mouth creaminess, with that ugni blanc inside, to give it a fresh, acidic lift. A seriously lovely white wine that I cannot wait to drink more of!


photo courtesy of Harjeet Medhwan, Ernest’s Dining Room, NAIT

2015 Domaine de l’Amauve Vins de Pays de Vaucluse – A grenache/syrah blend, it is light in colour, bursting with raspberries, cherries and hints of spice from the syrah underneath. The alcohol in the grenache was tempered nicely when paired with the lamb provençale. In fact, it was pretty much a match made in heaven! I would say this was my favourite dish of the night!


photo courtesy of Harjeet Medhwan, Ernest’s Dining Room, NAIT

2014 Seguret Côtes du Rhône Villages  Domaine de l’Amauve Les MerriliesThe hit of the evening to be sure! Grenache/syrah blend again, but a single vineyard, longer ageing; with bigger, more refined tannins. Lots of black fruit (Blackberries, black cherry)  in this one (as opposed to the red fruit) in the Vin de Pays with clove, pepper and black tea. Matched with the venison loin, chestnut pureé, earthy vegetables and potato medallions, it really was a stunning dish, and the wine paired perfectly! In fact, these wines went over so well that the orders came pouring in, and one will now have to wait for vintage 2015 of this wine! And from what I remember, another three grapes in the next vintage! Expect some added mourvèdre, carignan and cinsaut. You’ll have to wait until May though…Santé!



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