Category Archives: Varietals

Book Review: What Varietal is That?

Who else has the COVID blues? I’m sure some have it worse than I do. My symptoms are a general melancholy, restlessness, and boredom. One would think that with all the extra time on my hands with shelter-in-place, I’d have more time to devote to this blog, and my social media platforms. However, contributing to my COVID blues is the inability to get out and explore, which results in a lack of content and creativity. How many times can you post a picture of a bottle of wine in the same dining room or boring backyard?   

Fortunately, not long ago I received an email from Darby Higgs, offering me a complimentary copy of his new book, What Varietal is That?  (Also fortunately, we recently moved – yes, mid-COVID – and our new house has a much nicer, park-like backyard, perfect for relaxing with a book and a glass of wine.)

The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are my own. I received no additional compensation.

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What Varietal is That? is an informative and educational book detailing 86 major wine grapes from around the world. It’s a fairly short read, only 127 pages in all, but those pages pack a punch! Darby’s subtitle for the book is “A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Important Wine Grape Varieties”, but don’t let that fool you, or dissuade you if you don’t consider yourself a “beginner.” There are a lot of varieties listed that I’d never heard of! And I’m a proud member of the Wine Century Club, with well over 140 different varieties under my belt…or more accurately, in my belly!  

After a brief introduction, in which he takes on one of the most controversial topics in wine: “varietal” versus “variety”, along with some history and a dabbling into science, Darby gets to the heart of the matter. Starting with white grapes, the author details the country of origin, typical aromas and flavors, and food pairings, along with a description of the wines produced and the history of each grape. Conveniently organized in alphabetical order, the book is a worthwhile reference for wine students of any level. 

What Varietal is That? is available in digital format at Smashwords for just $6.99. You can also order a paper copy from Amazon

If you like What Varietal is That?, and enjoy Australian wines, check out Darby’s other book, Rare Ozzies: A Hundred Rare Australian Wine Varieties. In this one, Darby outlines 100 grapes used in Australian wine production. 

Check these books out and dive right in. You may learn a few things, like I did, and they’ll help you through the rest of the COVID blues summer. 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds 

Review: Kupelwieser Lagrein 2013

I love variety. That is one of the things I like so much about wine. In a lifetime, it is humanly impossible to sample all the variety that exists in the wine world. Two wineries making wine from the same varietal in the same region can produce vastly different results. Beyond winemaking variety, there are the thousands of different varietal grapes out there; many of which the average wine drinker may never hear about. In my wine journey, I strive to seek out, find, and taste those lesser known varietals.

Kupelwieser Lagrein

Recently I purchased and opened my very first Lagrein, the Kupelwieser Lagrein 2013. Until about six months ago, I had never heard of the Lagrein grape, but it has certainly left a lasting impression on me! The funny thing about this wine: it made its way to my “Must Try” list, but I can’t remember how. Somewhere along the line, I must have read a review on Vivino or some other social media site, and thought it sounded good. I’d like to thank whoever it was who posted whatever review it was, because this is a darn good wine!

Lagrein is an Italian varietal, grown in the northeastern Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige. According to wine-searcher.com, Lagrein is likely native to this area. Historical records mention the grape as early as the 16th century. The grape is known for rich, full-bodied wines of deep, dark color. As with many Old World varietals, Lagrein is best when paired with food.

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I found my first experience with Lagrein to be most pleasant. The Kupelwieser Lagrein 2013 carries the Alto Adige DOC designation. True to Old World form, there is bright, lively acidity that makes it great with food. Yet I found it to also have well-structured fruit, providing balance and complexity, and giving it a profile that will please many a New World wine drinker. Here’s my review on Vivino:

 “My first Lagrein. Deep, deep purple color. The aroma is of butter and red fruit. On the palate, ripe raspberry, blackberry, black pepper, cherry, and light oak, followed by a spicy, smoky, medium finish. Medium body, with sharp tannins and bright, lively acidity, making this a great food wine. Exceptional with our Steak Pizzaiola.”

  • Rating: 4.0 stars (88 to 91 points)
  • Price: $18.99 at Total Wine & More

 

If you have never tried a Lagrein, I urge you to head to your local wine shop, pick up a bottle or two, and take a virtual trip to this beautiful region in Northeastern Italy.

Cheers!