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Wine Tourism in Spain

Is Spanish Wine Country the Next Big Thing?

By Wine No Comments

Wine tourism in Spain is not easy. Unlike a lot of other wine regions, most wineries in Spanish Wine Country do not post visiting hours and open their doors to just anyone driving down the road seeking to visit.

Instead, visitors to Spanish wine regions generally have to make advance reservations, which is not easy to do for independent travelers who don’t necessarily know which wineries they wish to visit or even how to speak the local language.

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How Merlot Saved Carmenere From Extinction By Mistake

How Merlot Saved Carmenere From Extinction … By Mistake

By Wine No Comments

Carmenere, one of Chile’s most popular wine varietals, was once very close to extinction.  Originally, Carmenere was grown in Bordeaux, France and used in some of the great Bordeaux red blends.  In the late 1800’s, phylloxera, a microscopic aphid, destroyed a majority of the wine grapes in France. This period was known as the Great French Wine Blight, though it eventually made it’s way across Europe and even Australia and New Zealand. It was thought that all Carmenere vines had completely died during this time.

Before the phylloxera destruction, the Chilean wine industry began to take off.  Back then, if you were starting a vineyard, the natural source for vines was France.  Chilean wineries began planting a mix of Bordeaux vines, including Merlot and Carmenere.  Merlot and Carmenere look very similar so over the centuries the identity of the Carmenere vines was lost and forgotten and lumped in with the Merlot. Even though every other major wine region at the time was affected by phylloxera in some way, Chile remained the only major wine producing country that completely evaded the bug, most likely due to it being surrounded by the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that someone noticed that the “Chilean Merlot” had a stronger and spicier taste than other Merlots that were grown in other regions. Using DNA mapping, a professor at University of Montpellier’s School of Oenology (a world-renown wine school) identified it as the long-lost Carmenere.

After the discovery, Chileans embraced their “new found” varietal so much that it is now considered the national grape.

Undurraga Terroir Hunters

The Emergence of the Terroir Hunter in Chile & Argentina

By Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

On a recent trip through Chile last November, I had the pleasure of touring the stunning grounds of Viña Undurraga.  During the tour, the guide introduced me to a new term that I have quickly fallen in love with – Terroir Hunter. Basically, a Terroir Hunter is someone that seeks out premium veins of soil to help optimize the growth of specific varietals of grapes in previously unexplored areas.  Undurraga is one of the leading vineyards employing this type of practice and has even dedicated a whole line of wines under the TH (Terroir Hunter) label.

According to Undurraga, “T.H. is an innovative project in Chilean winemaking. After more than a century of producing wine, Chile is reinventing its viticulture, taking more risks, getting off the beaten track and emphasizing its diversity of climate, soil and topography. A country almost 5,000 kilometres long with abrupt topography ranging from sea level to mountains as high as 6,000 metres has potentially many more wine production areas than those that have historically been cultivated, which are located mostly in mid-Chile’s central valley. In fact, over the last decade, a small number of winemakers have ventured beyond the traditional areas. T.H. seeks to be the leader in this quest to explore new winemaking regions.”

Check out Undurraga’s video explaining their TH program.

Focusing on the terroir is certainly not a new practice for the rest of the world’s wine regions, but it is quite groundbreaking for South America. Over the past ten years or so, there has been a big shift in thinking, from caring mostly about the ease of farming and quantity of production to the terroir and ultimately the quality of the wine.  Eric Asimov of The New York Times recently wrote about the same shift occurring in Argentina in his article To Move Beyond Malbec, Look Below the Surface.  One potential reason for the slow adoption of this practice may be the complex nature of Chile and Argentina’s soil.  “The process has been a challenge because the soils of Mendoza are incredibly complicated… The soils change radically from one row of vines to the next, sometimes over a matter of meters.”

As a consumer, it will be interesting to see how the wines from this region transform over the next few years as the Terroir Hunters track down untouched pockets of exquisite terroir right under their noses.

Washington Wine Tour

Sipping with Sarah – Washington Wine Country Tour

By Wine No Comments

Sarah Wolcott, the creator and guide of the upcoming Washington Wine Country Taste Vacations Tour, discusses Prosser and the Yakima Valley while enjoying a delicious 2014 Chinook Wines Chardonnay.

Sipping with Sarah – Washington Wine Country Tour

Chinook Wines is one of the eight different wineries that we will be visiting on the Washington Wine Country tour, occurring September 27 – 30, 2015. This tour visits Walla Walla, Prosser, and Benton City, including numerous AVAs. There are currently 3 spots left on this tour – book your trip today!

The Wine Wrangler header

Wine Touring in Paso Robles

By Wine No Comments

I was recently in Paso Robles, California running our Wine Tourism Conference. This conference, now in its fifth year, gathers approximately 200 wine and tourism industry leaders from throughout North America and beyond to learn about the current state of wine tourism.

Meeting industry leaders at this conference is one of the many ways the events side of our business contributes to the tours side of our companies – for both Taste Vacations and Zephyr Adventures. Not only do we learn about what is hot and new in the world of wine (and food and beer) tourism but we meet people who help us provide unique, intimate experiences on our wine tours or help us create brand new tour itineraries.

Paso Robles is one of the cutest small wine towns in the country. The town of 30,000 is situated between LA and San Francisco, about 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, and is considered part of the Central Coast region of California. Paso (as many locals call it) has a cute main plaza, excellent restaurants, and fantastic wineries in the area.

We don’t yet run a tour in the Central Coast region but if you find yourself in the Paso Robles area, I can strongly recommend doing a little wine touring with The Wine Wrangler. Coy Barnes, the owner, is an ex-teacher turned wine educator who is competent, organized, and friendly – just want you want from a tour company.

Coy spoke at the Wine Tourism Conference and I had a chance to sit down to lunch with him. It is always a pleasure meeting attendees at our conferences but Coy and I, naturally, had a lot in common. The beauty of taking a day tour with Coy or one of his guides is they select the wineries to visit – with 170 in the region, it helps to have expert advice – and handle all the driving.

So until we at Taste Vacations create a Central Coast trip, look to Coy and The Wine Wrangler for your wine touring in the Paso Robles area!