The Great Grape Alphabet
Here are six more varieties, beginning with T as we continue to plough our way alphabetically and blissfully through the ampelographic wonderland, supported by diverse examples from our wine portfolio.
Terret Blanc and Terret Gris
Terret Blanc is a very old white wine grape variety native to the Languedoc, southern France. Along with its sibling Terret Gris, it was once widely used to make dry white wines and base wines for Vermouth (particularly when Piquepoul and Clairette grapes were in short supply). In the late 20th Century, Terret Blanc plantings dwindled in line with declining demand for both Vermouth and aromatically neutral wines. Terret Blanc is just one of several mutations of Terret, which is one of southern France's oldest vine varieties.
Terret from Thierry Navarre is, in fact, old vines Terret Gris planted by his grandparents around 60 years ago. Fermented in vat, aged in used barriques, this is a natural wine, evocative of sunshine and garrigue, quite textured, whilst also maintaining a balancing freshness.
Emmenez-Moi au Bout du Terret (a nod to the Charles Aznavour song) from Clos du Gravillas conveys delightful aromas and flavours evocative of the wild garrigue that surrounds these remote vineyards. Fennels, wild thyme and small apricots and pears on the nose, bitter lemon, almost vermouth notes in the mouth with a herbal-spicy twist at the end.
The Valcabrières is another Terret Gris from 80-year-old gobelet vines. In Occitan it means “the mountain of the goat”, which explains the striking image used for the label of a goat being milked of its wine into a wine glass. Unfiltered, unfined and unsulphured, ambient long temp wild yeast ferments, a wonderful burnished white wine with aromas of wild fennel and ripe citrus which also fill out a palate underscored by a certain mineral saltiness. This wine whilst enchanting those who speak in russet yeas and honest kersey noes, would probably be damned by the zoilist tendency - aka the crustifarians.
Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality, as Goethe observed. Talking of which…
… there’s another white from Faugères (not really white) from Didier Barral in the form of a field blend of Terret Gris and Blanc (80% of the mix) with Viognier and Roussanne making up the rest. The Terret vines are 90 years old, yields are 15hl/ha with a strict triage. Fermentation takes place in cement vats with natural yeasts and a further malolactic in barrels 1/3 new and 2/3s first and second use. The grapes macerate for 3-4 hours in the press with a lot of oxygen. The juice goes brown and then naturally clarifies but retains a rich amber hue. No filtration or fining to leave a mark on this intense dry white with its mix of sherry and honey aromatics followed by vegetal/fennel notes, and incredibly pure ripe citrus-flecked palate. Worth broaching a celebratory lobster or regal turbot for, otherwise carafe it, turn down the lights and let it have its wicked way with you.
Brief description: Old Terret bones make great wine broth
Teroldego takes its name from its traditional method of cultivation, trained on a system of “tirelle” or wire harnesses, an explanation that's more likely, if less pretty, than its legendary association with German dialect for gold of the Tirol. It has recently been discovered to be a full sibling of the Dureza variety from France, which is one of the parents of Syrah. Always exceptional, Teroldego has for long been considered a grape of unique character giving wines with “the body and robustness of a Bordeaux”, being “somewhat rougher” and possessing “strong varietal attributes” and “a little acidity”. These are words used to describe it by a 19th-century wine connoisseur. The Teroldego grape is medium-sized and deep in colour. Its vigorous vines need rigorous pruning. Depending on the year and the weather, the grapes ripen relatively early.
The first written document in which Teroldego is mentioned by name is dated 1383, when one Nicolò da Povo undertook to give a certain Agnes, who lent him money, a ‘tun’ (around 250 gallons) of Teroldego by way of interest. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, Teroldego was grown between Campo Rotaliano and Rovereto. It is spoken of in 16th-century Mezzolombardo when it gained a foothold in Campo Rotaliano. Elsewhere its use has waned.
Elisabetta Foradori has been working for 20 years to rediscover the clonal diversity of the Teroldego grape.
Campo Rotaliano is a well-demarcated geographical area, a sort of recess of the Adige Valley tucked between the mountains. Its history and origin are closely attached to the Noce River, which, over the centuries, has deposited huge quantities of limestone, granite and porphyry debris.
This small plain, depending on the soil composition, distinguishes itself for its various micro-zones bearing various names given by the local vintners. The blending of the different wines of these micro-zones, with their various features, gives the “Foradori” wine.
Elisabetta (and now her son) makes five iterations of Teroldego. One is a blend of sites – Foradori; two are vineyard expressions – Morei and Sgarzon. These are fermented and aged in Spanish tinajas. Then there is Granato which is selection. The wines share a beautiful freshness and have a strong mineral seam running through the fruit. Foradori have dispensed with barrels and working biodynamically and with less sulphur in the wine – the lifted, energetic quality of the wines is testament to this freer approach.
Brief description: Finding Foradori
Terrano wine is primarily grown on the Karst plateau within the Slovene littoral wine region (where it is called Kraški teran) and Italian Carso region (with two main varieties called Terrano del Carso and Carso Rosso (red Carso). The Italian and Slovene parts of the Karst Plateau (Carso and Kras, respectively) are located on either side of the Italian-Slovene border. In this area the Terra Rossa is present in part of the municipalities of Sežana, Komen and Kostanjevica, around the villages of Tomaj and Dutovlje. In Italy, it is present in the area of Monrupino, Sgonico, Duino-Aurisina and in a very limited part of the municipality of Trieste (between Opicina and the Slovenian border). In Croatia, it is found in Western Istria.
Jancis Robinson writes succinctly: Slovenian and Croatian grape sometimes called Refosk (and therefore erroneously confused with Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso). The Slovenians have registered the name Teran for their Kras versions and object to Croatian use of it. In Italy the variety is known as Terrano.
The version from Benjamin Zidarich is a truly paregoric potation, fabulously digestible as if iron-filings had been distilled into the wine and made into a blood-enriching medicine. At 12% it is as bracingly refreshing as a white wine. You can smell the terroir: sea breeze over bloody red soil and karst limestone, whilst the fruit almost chews itself in your mouth, the acidity encourages a good roll-around and a ripe tartness engages and sooths the tongue simultaneously. Red fruits? You bet your sweet bippy. Fragolino, cherries, sloes, bitter raspberries gush effortlessly across the palate. The tannins are so fine they barely seem to exist.
We will hopefully be receiving a Teran from Croatian Istria from Piquentum. This is lithe and fresh with lilting red fruits carried on a line of bright acidity.
Brief description: Bloody gorgeous
Timorasso hailing from the Colli Tortonesi wine region in south east Piemonte, not far from Gavi in fact, is one of the most exciting Italian autochthonous grape varieties to surface in recent years. Having said that not a lot is written about it. This ancient variety was brought from the brink of extinction – the result of replanting vast areas of vineyards by big estates who became fixated with the international grapes and styles. In the 80s and 90s local boy, Walter Massa, led the fight to revive this distinguished grape.
The style of Timorasso resembles a cross between Chablis & Savennières on account of high acidity, rich extract and propensity to develop noble rot, and roots in calcareous soil. Timorasso doesn't benefit from oak ageing, as its purity, freshness and power emerge perfectly without it. Apricots, peaches, lime, and with age a touch of honey and a whisper of nuttiness all contribute to its aromatic profile, while its natural acidity and extract allow it to be drunk young or cellared for up to a decade.
Three non-timorous examples of Timorasso from Les Caves include A Demua, Cascina degli Ulivi ~ Timorasso, Riesling, Verdea, Bosca, Moscatella, a Bellotti field-blend marvel. Take 100 + year old vines and forgotten grapes, co-ferment on skins for thirty days, add nothing and you have this glorious subtle fusion of aromas and flavours. There’s some warm apricot, tangerine, roast butternut squash, and of course, all the exotic spice of the lees.
Ottavio Rube Bianco, Valli Unite~ Cortese & Timorasso is Petit Piemonte, a lovely little wine that punches considerably above its weight. Apples (green and golden), a nice cut of acidity, some almond and sage in there.
The grapes for the Valli Unite Derthona are handpicked in early September from 30% old vines of about 40 years and from 70% ten-year old vines from one of the few remaining plots of Timorasso in Piedmont from heavy, white clay and tuff soils. Vines here receive southern exposure to the sun and yield about 50hlha. Grapes are crushed and de-stemmed before being immediately transferred to the press, which begins after two hours, and lasts about eighteen hours. The wine is fermented in stainless steel at 17°C, with pumpovers and a little stirring, lasting about one month. After fermentation, the wine is transferred off its lees and a small amount of sulphur is added. Rich and phenolic with waxy citrus fruits and hint of vermouth.
Brief description: Potential to impress
Trousseau is a dark-skinned wine grape originally from Jura, but which has made its way over the centuries to vineyards in northwestern Spain and various parts of Portugal. As one might expect of a well-travelled variety with a long history, it goes by various names, the most notable of which are Bastardo (Portugal), Merenzao (Galicia) and Verdejo Negro (Asturias).
The Jura region, in the mountains of eastern France, can call Trousseau its own. The variety is one of Jura's two indigenous grapes (the other is Poulsard), a fact of which winemakers in the town of Arbois are particularly proud. Despite this, the variety is increasingly rare in Jura's vineyards, where it has been losing ground to more-popular international varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Michel Gahier is a Trousseau-o-phile and makes three to four cuvees. The vineyard location undoubtedly contributes to the complexity of the wines. Located in and around the village of Montigny-les-Arsures, just outside of Arbois, the vines are planted on the particular graviers gras soils, perfectly suited to the Trousseau grape. Having been planted over 80 years ago. Grands Vergers is named after the lieu-dit (parcel of land) where the vines grow. This is a very, very good example of a Trousseau wine having the delicacy that we associate with this fragile grape but also an extraordinary depth of flavour and a complexity that is intriguing. The classic Trousseau nose is understated, but emerges in its own good time to convey notes of pomegranate, cherry, autumn leaf and complex spice –almost Burgundy-like – but a bit more angular and masculine. The palate is where the magic happens, as this is one of those wines that just snaps, crackles and pops on the palate. Red fruit galore, floral notes, liquid rock and so much more… We invite you to inspect our Clouzot, or inspect our Clouzot Trousseau, a glou-glou version of this grape.
Domaine Daniel Dugois make a sterling foudre-aged meat-and-potatoes/game-and-gravy style of Trousseau from their old vineyards called Cuvee Grevillière on the red marls of Les Arsures. Ganevat’s Trousseau Sous La Roche Plein Sud comes from young vines planted on grey marls, whole cluster fermented and aged in Burgundy barrels. Cherry red colour, aromas of red fruits and blackcurrants, brisk and breezy on the palate with pronounced acidity and bonny tannins.
Etienne Thibaud’s Trousseau is intense and reductive, Domaine Les Bottes Rouges (Sky My Husband) is whole bunch and semi-carbonic and has quality red fruit character pulsing through it. Domaine La Borde’s Trousseau is called Sous La Roche and walks the line between delicate and structured. Finally, the puckish Trousseau So True from Patrice Beguet, which is very similar to his Poulsard!
Merencao pops up in the Ribeira Sacra in the wines of Adega Cachin and Guimaro. And in wines from Cangas from Nicolas Marcos (Dominio del Urogallo). Cangas? No, nothing to rue – and not yet more Australian outback happy-hoppy grog, but viños from the Asturias region of northern Spain. Think steep slatey, quartz-flecked precipitous terraced vineyards, old vines and autochthonous grapes, vinified singly and in blends. Verdejo Tinto is a quarter (roughly) of the Pesico Tinto, half of the Cadario (the other part being Mencia) and all of the Retortoira. The latter cuvee is a tough hombre, and shows that Trousseau can embrace the darker side with power and intensity.
We have two palely loitering yet steely examples from the States. Chad Stock is working with Trousseau Noir in Oregon in his biodynamically farmed Omero vineyard located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. He does 100% whole bunch fermentation in stainless and then ages in 500 litre puncheons with just a little sulphur at bottling. The wine is gloriously pale, almost pinkish-hued, yet attacks the palate vivaciously, showing delightful tension and marked herbal tannins. Matthew Rorick makes a similarly-styled at Forlorn Hope at his own vineyard in Calaveras County in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The terroir (schist on limestone) gives this wine its spectacular acidity and almost granular character.
Brief description: Trousse is on the loose!
The leading white grape of western Georgia and probably the second most commonly grape after Rkatsiteli, Tsolikouri originates in Kolkheti (ancient Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece). The origins of its name are uncertain although one site has it meaning “my wife’s wine” (sounds dubious to me). The round, yellow-green berry itself is relatively thick-skinned, and thus is resistant to the primary fungal diseases, making it suitable for the more humid climate in western Georgia. A late bloomer (late May) and generous yielder, Tsolikouri matures in the mid-season, usually in the middle of October. Most Tsolikouri plantings are in Imereti and Guria, but it is also planted in Racha-Lechkhumi, Samegrelo, and Adjara.)
When made in the European style, Tsolikouri wines are medium- to full-bodied, slightly oily, with soft acidity and a broad texture, with subtle notes of yellow fruits, melon, mineral, and a light floral lift. It is quite often fermented and/or matured in oak, with great success. Tsolikouri may be blended with the lighter-bodied Tsitska, as Ramaz Nikoladze does in his cellar in Imereti. Ramaz’s version, however, is considerably more structured. his beautiful, amber-coloured white is made — as many of Georgia’s best wines are — in qvevri (large traditional clay vessels buried in the ground). Ramaz Nikoladze produces it from 100-year-old Tsolikouri vines in the Imereti hills of central Georgia, with three months of stem-free skin contact. The wine’s exotic notes of spice, apricots and tea ride with exciting energy to a finely tannic, elegant finale and go just wonderfully with food.
Pheasant’s Tears Tsolikouri is a different iteration, one responding the more delicate, floral notes in the grape. Destemmed and straight into qvevri without skin maceration, this reveals bright, fresh, saline notes with green almond and lychee fruit.
Brief description: Georgian charmer
Image of Thierry Navarre, courtesy of Thierry Navarre.
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