Italian varieties put to the test

Sensory workshop participants compare wines produced here —and there.

By Susan McIver

he sensory workshop, Oddballs and Rarities, held at the 18th Annual Enology and Viticulture Conference featured four lesser-known wine grape varieties.


More than 60 varieties of wine grapes are grown in B.C.

“This workshop is a teaching tool about varieties not widely grown in the Okanagan. By chance all of the ones we’ll taste today originated in Italy,” said workshop organizer Mary McDermott, the winemaker at Township 7 in Penticton.

The featured wines—two whites, Arneis and Trebbiano, and two reds, Teroldega and Sangiovese—were made by Okanagan wineries.

The winemaker at each winery provided the 40 workshop participants with insights into the vines and the wines.

After tasting the Okanagan- produced wines, participants sampled wines of the same variety grown in Italy. “We decided to plant Arneis vines after visiting Italy. It’s a defining Italian wine,” said Chris Tolley, winemaker at Moon Curser.

During the past couple of decades, Arneis has become an important wine of the Roero district of the Italian wine region of Piedmont.

In Italy the vines are grown in sandy soil, similar to those of the Moon Curser vineyards in Osoyoos.

“In general it is an easy vine to deal with and it’s not susceptible to powdery mildew,” Tolley said.

Workshop participants tasted Moon SUSAN MCIVER

Chris Tolley, right, winemaker at Moon Curser, speaks at the sensory workshop. Beside him is Dwight Sick of Stag’s Hollow.

Curser’s first vintage from 2014 and a later 2016 vintage then compared them to a 2015 Matteo Correggia Roero Arneis.

Tolley said he preferred the big style of the 2014 while acknowledging that some people prefer the leaner 2016 vintage. He also said the overall quality of the Italian wine was higher. “If you want an enjoyable and interesting wine, Arneis is a reliable variety to go with,” said Tolley. He makes 300 to 400 cases a year compared to the 48,000 bottles produced annually by Matteo Correggia. “Arneis has zero cache in the general market in B.C. We sell it to people who are interested in unusual varieties,” he said.

Hester Creek’s Old Vines Trebbiano, made from ‘old’ vines planted in 1968 by Joe Busnardo, is proving to be especially popular with wine aficionados looking for the unusual.

“Trebbiano is widely grown in the world. In France it’s known as Ugni Blanc,” said Hester Creek winemaker Mark Hopley.

Due to its high acidity Trebbiano is a quintessential ingredient in both Cognac and Armagnac.

“The vines are vigorous, own-rooted and not very winter-hardy. It’s the last white we harvest every year,” Hopley said.

Trebbiano is not susceptible to rot,

because of the substantial airflow among the large heavy clusters.

“It’s a pretty simple grape. We try to express the land in the wine,” Hopley said.

Hester Creek’s Trebbiano is grown on 2.5 acres on the west side of Oliver’s Golden Mile Bench, where the alluvial soil is well-drained, the days sunny and the evenings cool.

Hopley plans to keep production at 1,200 cases a year because as he said, “We won’t want to water it down by planting more vines.”

His Trebbiano becomes available only in the wine shop in March and is sold out by fall.

“It’s a food-friendly wine. The key is the balance between acid and sugar,” Hopley said.

Arneis is sometimes known was ‘the yellow wine’ because the wine itself is a pale yellow and the vines, berries and blossoms are all yellow. The Italian comparison, Citra Trebbiano d’Abbruzzo, is grown on hillside vineyards, McDermott explained. “It really shows the terroir.” Stag’s Hollow winemaker Dwight Sick gave workshop participants a special treat.

“You’re the first people to taste the first barrel of our Teroldego wine. Taste it with pride,” Sick said. A deeply-coloured red variety, Teroldego is an ancient grape grown

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall-Winter 2017 11

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