Wine

Have you ever heard of "The Great Wine Blight?"

In the late 1860’s, Philloxera, a small American insect, invaded Europe and almost caused the total demise of winemaking.

All of the vineyards throughout Europe were devastated by this bug, killing everything grape.

The cure for the “Blight” was found to be grafting European vines to the Philloxera resistant American grape vine rootstock, a process that continues to this day.

The change of rootstock brought about the greatest and most argued over wine conundrum ever; were the pre-philloxera wines equal to or better than the post-philloxera wines.

Since the pre-1860’s, vintages are no longer on dealers shelves, the question may never be answered.

But wait!

The wines of two places, Chile and Lodi, California, because philloxera avoids sandy soil, has never had a philloxera invasion and thus the vines there can be grown on their own and original roots.

Just FYI, new grape vines are grown from cuttings and not seeds, so the grapes of today are directly related to vines of centuries ago.

One of the leaders of this original rootstock procedure is Cline Vineyards (clinecellars.com/our-wines) of Lodi, California.

The Cline story does not end it there as they also source their wine grapes from ancient vines that produce fewer, but more wine worthy grapes.

Their Ancient Vine series also stays away from the old favorites in favor of the lighter and more summer friendly Rhone Varieties that are a sure cure for the terrible malady of wine boredom.

Cline 2017 Ancient Vines Mourvedre ($22). A beautiful, deep ruby color greets the eyes and the aroma of strawberries, chocolate, coffee and vanilla rise from the glass when the wine is poured. The flavor reprises the aroma, with chocolate being very prominent. There is however a haunting, almost indefinable, undertone running through the wine imparting a regal elegance to this almost unknown variety. The finish is a compilation of the totally unexpected flavors of fruit, roasted walnuts and yes, chocolate. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to almost every meat dish but will be a hit and an eyebrow raiser when served to guests a wine party.

Cline 2017 Ancient Vines Mourvedre Rosé ($18). Rosé wine is made by removing the color-producing skins immediately after crushing resulting in a light pink colored, easy to drink wine that reflects all of the flavors and aromas found in its red brother but without the tannins and acid often associated with red wines. This wine is perfect for garden parties or just quiet sipping.

Cline 2017 Ancient Vines Carignane ($23). Carignane, often called Kerrigan by the local farmers, often makes a course dark red wine that is mostly used to beef up some of the inexpensive red wines but is almost never seen as an individual variety. The winemakers at Cline Vineyards took a look at this very much misunderstood variety and decided to correct the situation by employing modern wine making and modern science; the results are astounding. The grapes came from vines planted between 1900 and 1940, thus the old vine categorizing. The wine opens with an aroma of coffee, fresh spice and plum. The flavor heads off in a different direction featuring tobacco, summer fruits and plum that trails off to a kaleidoscopic finish. This is a wine to enjoy with the heavier cuts of meat or to spring on your wine loving friends. Either way, the Cline 2017 Ancient Vines Carignane is a very interesting wine.

Cline 2017 Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($20). The wine from these grapes seems to draw its flavor and aroma from the very soul of the grape. This old-vine wine has a deep and multi-layered aroma of peppery spice, coffee and nutmeg. The flavor is a merry-go-round of black pepper, spice, coffee and cocoa and not the usually-strong raspberry often associated with the variety. There are also under flavors achieved by 10 months aging in oak barrels, which impart their own individual characteristics to this wine.

Editor’s note: The prices listed in this column reflect the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Bennet Bodenstein is a wine enthusiast and book author whose column appears in publications throughout the country.

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