Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A sign of global warming?

Here we have an Easter wine which is of interest for several reasons: Biltmore Estate "Century" red wine...
Why is it worth posting about?
First, it is pretty tasty quaff...and for something that's being produced in Asheville, North Carolina, that in itself is pretty impressive.

But the even more interesting part is the % alcohol - a whopping 14.2% !
How did this miracle occur? After all, it's not all that usual for East Coast wines to get that high, and the wine is nicely balanced - without heat - so it doesn't seem to be from fruit which was left on the vine for an unnaturally long time to concentrate. Is it a sign of global warming?
No....

There are two clues on the bottle, which along with a tidbit from someone who's been on a tour of the Biltmore Estate provide the answer: it's not (all) grown in North Carolina (though they do have some vines growing there which they vint and blend in)...

The wine is labeled as a "red wine", which means that the producer doesn't have to specify appellation(s) or varietal(s) the wine is made from. The second clue is that the bottle states the wine was "Vinted and bottled by Biltmore Estate Wine Company...", which doesn't claim that they grew the grapes themselves...not that there's anything wrong with that!

The tidbit passed on from the tourists was that one of the guides was cornered on their tour by people who wanted to know where all the grapes were sourced, as it didn't appear they had enough vines to support the production on site. After some squirming, he 'fessed up that they were importing juice cold from California to make some of their wine (again, not that there's anything wrong with that!).

I'm totally OK with this, and I think it represents the good aspects of wine blending: it's smooth and well balanced, flavorful without being too concentrated, and very drinkable. More wines should be produced in this vein - "Red Table Wine" - blended for easy consumption although it has enough tannin to go a few years in the bottle with improvement.
And, even though part of what the Biltmore Estate is "selling" is image and prestige, the wine itself is very good without pretension - it's hard to get too snooty when there's no appellation or varietal in the label.

A hearty "well done" to the winemaking crew back in Asheville.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was with Mondavi, we regularly sold excess wine (often Muscat, if I remember correctly) to these guys for their "Chardonnay". They trucked it all the way across the country.

Phil

April 10, 2007 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Brent Kennedy said...

You are correct, Bernard and the gang do "import" grapes from other areas such as California.

However, your astonishment at such good wine coming from North Carolina is misplaced; NC is rapidly becoming a prime location for v. vinifera, and varietals such as Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and, yes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, do quite well.

April 19, 2007 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read this post.
What is wrong about this is that they should be more explicit about the origin of their fruit. If there is nothing wrong with it, then why hide it?

May 14, 2007 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biltmore Century Red is my favorite "anytime" wine - it's wonderful for the price. Just wish more shops carried it in Maryland!

August 13, 2007 7:45 PM  

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