First, I want to mention why this wine blog is called what it is, Appellations Ten. I wanted a name that reminded of where our wonderful wine comes from. I also wanted the name that had relevance with what I plan to bring to my readers. Wine, of course, but from where?
An appellation is an area, specifically and legally defined and protected, where wine grapes are grown. The French term, appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), means just that, a controlled place of origin for grapes, and also for certain other food products.
I am using the term appellation a little bit differently here. Napa Valley, where I live, is commonly called an appellation. The actual term is AVA (American Viticultural Area). Within the Napa Valley are 16, at last count, sub- appellations. These are smaller areas with distinctive characteristics of soil, microclimates, and terrain.
My appellations are much, much larger. I call them appellations because I want them to connote wine growing areas, which is what they actually are. They could just as easily be called super-appellations. Where these super-appellations are located, and the logic behind their definition will become clear in the posts that discuss each one individually. See “appellations” in Categories. My ten super-appellations make up the entire wine growing world!
The Appellations Ten
California, Oregon, and Washington
Chile and Argentina
Iberian Peninsula – Spain and Portugal
Germany and Austria
East-Central Europe, and Russia
Rest of world
It is true that some appellations are blessed with outstanding terroir. But remember that vintners have labored there over the decades, and sometimes over centuries to create infrastructure and experience, to select by trial and error the most suitable grape clones for their terroir, and to evolve winemaking techniques that permit the resulting wine to reach stellar heights. As modern technology advances and communication increases, start-up wineries and new vintners have managed to introduce excellent wines, sometimes from areas lesser-known, and relatively quickly. I say more power to all good vintners! Please do bring on the lessor-seen grape varieties to the international marketplace.
About me, Michael Rockich
My introduction to table wine was in France. I spent a year employed in southwest France, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I became fluent in the language. There, I was exposed to wines from Bordeaux including Sauternes and Barsac, Languedoc, Corbières, the “black” wine of Cahors, some Tavel rosé, and wines from the Rhône valley. Back in USA I drank wine occasionally, but it was obvious that wine did not permeate the culture as it did in France.
Two instances in my life in the same time frame served as a motivator. One was a small dinner party where some First Growth Bordeaux was served including a 1961 Château Margaux, as well as Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. The other was a wine tasting where the Grand Cru wines of Domaine de la Romanée–Conti were poured Including Richebourg , Grands Échezeaux, Romanée–Cont, and many more. Most of us will not drink these wines every night, and in fact may never drink them due to their enormous cost. But they can and did serve as an object lesson to me as what is possible in wine. I desired to further my wine education and drinking habits. I began taking wine tasting courses, and a bit later, viticulture and winemaking courses.
I made “home wine” a few times with friends, but did not care for the bottle washing chores. A friend offered me the opportunity to make “home wine” at their friend’s ranch in Carneros, adjoining southern Napa Valley, with 220 acres of vines in the ground. With the professional crusher and press there, I thought bottle washing would somehow disappear. Wrong! Even though we employed 55 gallon oak barrels, those bottles and the washing chores seemed to be a fixture in home winemaking. My tenure as a home winemaker was therefore only interim. Perhaps too bad, as we produced some Syrah and Pinot Noir that I enjoyed.
I always take notes about wines that I drink and taste just for my own edification. At events, trade tastings, and elsewhere I taste a significant number of wines every year. I thought “If I am writing things down, why not make my experiences available to others?” Someone might take some small thing from my efforts – awareness of a wine, or an event. If an individual discovers just one wine that they enjoy which otherwise might have gone unnoticed, then I have assisted and succeeded in a small way.
Wines are where you find them, and wine and food events of all types are an excellent platform for discovery. Numerous wines to taste are poured in the span of a few hours at good events. I will be describing the events that I find worthwhile.
I will endeavor to bring quality wines to the attention of my readers. Many of these wines will not be cheap. They will be expensive, that is just the nature of things at this time. However, the wine marketplace is changing remarkably, and more economical, quality wines are appearing and receiving attention. I will especially try to discover wines that perform exceptionally well on price.
Which wines? Red or white? Red wines go so well with food, and some of the greatest wines in the world are red, but some of the most beautiful are white! And not to forget their fabulously delicious and beguiling companions – dessert, rosé, and sparkling wines.
Uniqueness is one of the traits that I value highly. The courage to break the mold and take the untrodden path can be rewarding for both the consumer and the maker.
Tradition is another trait that admire. Recognizing what works best, maintaining those practices, and slowly perfecting over time safeguards our future and maintains our vinous heritage.
There is room for both uniqueness and tradition. Unique paths do not necessarily end successfully, and can be costly. But progress can be a destination here.
Samples for review are welcome. Information would be helpful about the vintage, viticulture, winemaking, cellaring, levels of acid and alcohol, vineyard, terroir, and appellation. Every effort to evaluate and post tasting notes for all samples will be made. Please include contact email, telephone, and name in the event further information is needed.