Ric’s Vinous Musings & Brain Droppings

"A view on varietals"


One of the distinguishing qualities of many European wine regions is the distinctive character of wines in particular locales. Much of this is the result of centuries of discovering which grape types do best in their particular climates and soil_ generations of testing, learning and borrowing from successes in similar terroir.

Drawing from this handbook the early local viticulture in northwest Michigan focused heavily on the white Vinifera varietals from the colder climates and shorter growing seasons of northern Europe: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and others. I have always wondered, however, why the wineries didn’t follow this logic to the red varietals.

There is some evidence now of a shift in the approach to the red wines. Both Left Foot Charley and Shady Lane have seen success in fuller red wines utilizing the Austrian alpine Blaufrankish grape. Also some test plantings of Austria’s other primary red varietal_ Zweigelt_ along with northern Italian Teraldego and Lagrein vines and others are being explored. A recent conversation with a local winemaker who had just returned from a tour of Northern Italy left him eager to experiment with Schiava grapes (known as Trollinger in Germany and Austria) and other vintners are testing other classic, largely Alpine red varietals, providing numerous other possibilities.

This may require a bit of a learning curve for many American wine drinkers, but also offer an exciting range of solid, distinctive options… it

may also result a unique and alluring niche for Northern Michigan wines, drawing more eager wine drinkers seeking to expand their horizons.

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