Q. Names the wines that topped a 1978 blind tasting in Paris, where the top growths of Bordeaux and Burgundy were pitted against the best wines of California.
A. Stag's Leap Cellars (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Chateau Montelena (Chardonnay). Both wines were from Napa Valley, California. The tasters, incidentally, were mainly French.
Q. Name the Hollywood film-maker and winner of five Oscars who owns a famous Napa Valley winery, which also has a museum with a collection of his movie memorabilia?
A. Francis Ford Coppola, whose big-ticket films include The Godfather .
Q. Napa Valley is America's best-known wine region, yet it contributes a very small percentage of California's wine production. What is the percentage?
A. Napa Valley accounts for 4% of California's wine production and 11% of its vineyards.
Q. When did the world-famous wine producer, Robert Mondavi, establish his winery, which became responsible for Napa Valley's rise to fame and glory?
A. 1966. Today, there are at least 800 wineries in California producing 94% of American wine. Besides Mondavi, Ernest & Julio Gallo, Beringer Blass and Constellation Brands are the big names in the Californian wine business. E&J Gallo accounts for 30% of the wine produced in the US.
Q. What is the percentage of the American population that consumes 80% of its wine?
A. 8%. America, incidentally, the world's third largest wine consuming nation after France and Italy.
Q. What was the original profession of Warren Winiarski, the man who made Stag's Leap an international gold standard for excellence?
A. He was a political scientist in Chicago before he left for California and took up a lowly job as a cellarhand at Mondavi.
Q. An immunologist caught the wine bug in the 1970s and went on to produce a great Californian label called Ravenswood, which passed into the hands of Constellation Brands in 2001. Who is he?
A. Joel Peterson. He continues to lead Ravenswood, even after its takeover by Constellation Brands.
Q. In the American wine industry, what does the abbreviation AVA stand for?
A. American Viticultural Area. America has over 100 AVAs.
Q. Which American state is now regarded internationally as a bastion of Pinot Noir?
A. Oregon. It was the visionary American wine-maker, David Lett, who stood up against received wisdom and eventually became responsible for the worldwide recognition of the cold American state as the Burgundy (Pinot Noir's original home in France) of the New World. The grape variety recently made headlines for featuring prominently in the critically acclaimed movie, Sideways .
Q. Which is the grape variety that goes into California's blush wines?
Q. What is the name of the tiny, yellow louse that nearly destroyed Old World's wine industry in the late 1800s?
A. Phylloxera Vastatrix, which was accidentally introduced into southern France on imported American vines in the 1860s.
Q. Name the French botanist who was the first to identify the louse responsible for the phylloxera outbreak.
A. Jules-Emile Planchon, who also deduced that American vines seemed to have a natural resistance to this parasite.
Q. How was the Old World's wine industry revived after the blight phylloxera nearly wiped it out?
A. The industry was revived by the development of phylloxera-resistant vines as a result of the collaborative efforts of the French botanist, Jules-Emile Planchon, and American entomologist Charles Riley. Their solution to the blight was to graft together American roots that were phylloxera-resistant and the fruit-bearing shoots of European vines.
Q. Name the country in the Southern Hemisphere that wasn't affected by phylloxera.
A. Chile. As a result, it is the only country in the world whose wine industry is based almost entirely on the original stock of European vines wiped out by the louse in their mother continent.
Q. When did France introduce its strict AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) system?
A. 1935. AOC rules govern every aspect of the wine business in France, from dictating the choice of grape varieties and methods of growing them to controlling yields, setting minimum alcohol levels and laying down stringent wine-making rules.
Q. What is terroir (pronounced tay-ro-ah )?
A. The French word terroir , which literally means ‘soil', refers to the unique combination of climate, topography and soil type that shapes the character of the vines that grow in a vineyard and the grapes that they yield. The wine made from these grapes reflects these characteristics.
Q. Why are some vineyards ringed by tall trees, like the cypress?
A. Many vineyards are situated on a landscape without a dominant natural feature. They are, as a result, exposed to the elements of nature. Rows of trees bordering such vineyards act as windbreaks.
Q. What are the two broad climatic types that the world's wine-producing regions are divided into?
A. Maritime and Continental. The maritime climate is defined by proximity to a large body of water, such as an ocean. The vineyards are located on lower altitudes and are exposed to higher rainfall throughout the year. The high relative humidity can lead to fungal problems in leaves and grapes.
Areas with continental climate, which frequently are at higher elevations and have lower average temperatures than coastal zones, are characterised by big temperature variations, from day to night and from season to season. These extremes are beneficial because the cooler nights slow down grape development and a longer growing season often yields riper and more flavourful fruit. Frost, however, is a significant danger in continental settings.
Q. Why is the direction that slopes with vineyards face so important in the Northern Hemisphere?
A. In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing slopes get more sun and are warmer than those facing the north. The reverse is true in the Southern Hemisphere. Slopes promote air circulation – warm air rises and cold air descends along the face of a hillside. They also facilitate soil drainage, which helps control vine vigour, or leaf growth.
Q. Why is excessive leaf growth bad for wine?
A. Excessive leaf growth inhibits the ripening of grapes, which is bad for the expression of their fruity characteristics in wine.
Q. Why is rich soil bad for wine?
A. Rich soil can lead to excessive leaf growth and mediocre fruit. Soil with low fertility, therefore, is better. Soil structure is considered to be even more important than chemical make-up, with good drainage being the essential trait. When the vines have to work that bit harder to survive, grapes tend to develop more refined flavours.
Q. When are wine grapes harvested in the Northern Hemisphere? And in the Southern Hemisphere?
A. September/October in the Northern Hemisphere; March/April are the months favoured in the Southern Hemisphere.
Q. Why is temperature control important during fermentation?
A. During the fermentation process, a large amount of heat is produced when yeasts, either found naturally in grape skins or the cultured variety, convert the sugar in the grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If uncontrolled, the heat may boil off flavours. Stainless steel vats have gained popularity precisely because they make the task of temperature control easier.
Q. What advantages do stainless steel vats offer to winemakers?
A. These new generation fermentation vats have inbuilt cooling mechanisms that allow temperatures to be carefully controlled. The stainless steel vats tend to emphasise the bright, fruity characteristics of a wine, particularly if the tanks are sealed to exclude oxygen. Because oak is porous a certain amount of oxidation is inevitable. New oak imparts spicy or vanilla overtones in a wine, which is why oak chips or staves are sometimes placed in stainless steel tanks to achieve similar characteristics.
Q. What is maceration?
A. It is the contact that occurs between the must (grape juice) and the grape skins during, and after, fermentation. It is responsible for freeing colour from red grapes and releasing tannins and flavour compounds.
Q. What is remontage?
A. This process, which is part of maceration, maximizes extraction of colour and flavour. It can involve drawing fermenting red wine from the bottom of the tank and pumping it over the skins floating on top.
Q. What is chaptalisation?
A. It is the practice of adding sugar to fermenting must to raise alcohol levels. It is resorted to when the grapes are insufficiently ripe.
Q. What is malolactic fermentation?
A. It is the process which occurs after the first alcoholic fermentation. Winemakers create the right conditions for certain bacteria to convert malic acids (also found in apples) into lactic acids (as in milk), softening the taste or mouth feel of the wine. It can occur in oak barrels and is encouraged in virtually all red wines.
Q. What are fining and filtering?
A. These processes help produce wine that is clear in appearance and stable in the bottle. Fining removes tiny proteins using an agent like egg whites or bentonite clay to bind with the suspended particles and cause them to fall to the bottom of the cask. Filtration focuses on removing solid deposits from wine.
Q. What is racking?
A. As a wine matures, sediments form naturally. These particles can create undesirable flavours in the wine. Racking, which may follow fining, involves draining or pumping out the wine into a clean vessel, where it continues to mature.
CHILE & ARGENTINA
Q. When was the Carmenere, Chile's distinctive wine grape variety, re-discovered?
A. 1994. Till then, Carmenere was regarded as a variant of the Merlot, though the shape of its leaf was different and the grape ripened two weeks later. Recent DNA tests have, however, shown that Carmenere is derived from cuttings of Grand Vidure vines taken from Bordeaux in the late1800s. Phylloxera virtually wiped out the Bordeaux Grand Vidure. About 7% of Chile's planted area is devoted entirely to Carmenere.
Q. What was the development in mass transportation that was responsible for Mendoza's rise as Argentina's premier wine-producing region?
A. The building of the railway line from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, which was extended to San Juan. This opened the market for Mendoza's wine and led to a massive expansion in vineyard area. Mendoza, incidentally, was (and remains) a desert, but parts of it were turned into an oasis because of the diversion of mountain-fed rivers through irrigation canals. These canals had been designed by the Incas over 700 years ago and then extended by the indigenous Huape Indians over the centuries.
Q. Malbec is the grape variety that has made Argentina famous among wine aficionados. What was its original home?
A. Southwest France, where it is known as Cot. Versatile. Immigrant workers may have brought the grape to Argentina in the late 1800s.
Q. Which is Chile's largest wine company? What's the name of its most prestigious wine?
A. Concha y Toro. The company was founded in 1883 and today it owns over 3,500 hectares of vineyards in Chile's principal growing regions. Don Melchor is Concha y Toro's most prestigious brand.
Q. What is the name of the joint project between Concha y Toro and the top Bordeaux producer, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, owner of the label Mouton Rothschild?
Q. Why was Chile not affected by the phylloxera blight that swept through Europe in the late 19 th century?
A. Chile wasn't affected by phylloxera because of its geographical isolation. It is cut off behind the Andes mountains and is sandwiched between the Atacama desert in the north and the Antarctic's polar caps in the south. As a result, the country still has a stock of the original European vines that were wiped away by the blight.
Q. Name the valley that is considered the traditional heart of the Chilean wine industry.
A. Maipo Valley.
Q. What is considered to be Chile's most fashionable wine region? Name three top wines that come from this region and are sold in India.
A. Colchagua Valley, which is a 30km-wide corridor from the Andes to the Pacific. The three wine brands are Casa Lapostolle, Caliterra and Vina Montes.
Q. Name the Chilean wine company where grapes are de-stemmed by hand, not by mechanical de-stemmers.
A. Capa Lapostolle.
Q. Which Chilean wine company produces the labels Folly and Alpha M?
A. Vina Montes.