Independent state of mind

Flagship wines 18.07.13

Flagship wines 18.07.13 - Credit: Archant

WHEN thinking about American Independence Day the default setting is July 4 with celebrations to celebrate the national holiday in the United States in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

Argentinians also celebrate their Day of Independence on July 9 – marking the anniversary of the day in 1816 when Congress was inaugurated in Tucuman representing independence of the United Provinces of South America.

Argentinian wines have gained a reputation for their style, quality and character and may be more appealing to consumers because of their perceived value for money, and will be sought out to celebrate Argentinian Independence Day. However, American wines, mainly Californian, are also drunk at parties and dinners timed to celebrate US Independence Day. Look beyond the well-known brands including Gallo, Blossom Hill and Sutter Home with their ubiquitous wines found on most supermarket shelves and you’ll find a world of characterful wines.

California is the home to the largest proportion of US vineyards with lovely full flavoured wines made from very ripe fruit grown on the West Coast. The key here is to prevent over-ripening of grapes to ensure that there is enough acidity in the whites and tannin in the reds to provide structure to the wines so they are not just a glass of soupy liquid.

Hahn Estates are a great example of contemporary wine making in California with 1,000 acres of vines in six vineyards including land in the Santa Lucia Highlands near Monterey Bay where ocean breezes have a cooling effect enabling the subtleties of flavour of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay for their Hahn Estate and Cycles Gladiator Ranges.

Another name to conjure with is Marmesa whose wineries are based in San Louis Obispo and cooling sea breezes are also effective here though their styles of wine are softer and richer than the Hahn Estates wines. They still retain structure and great varietal character with perfumed peppery, plummy Cerro Romauldo Syrah, with aging potential and an aromatic elegant yet complex Hollister Peak Chardonnay in the Edna Valley. Very different to the big mouthfilling Napa Valley Wines.

Washington State is home to Chateau Ste Michelle among other wineries making delicious wines heading north from California near Seattle. Here, the climate is cooler and the sun no longer burns off the early morning sea mists with such ferocity. It gives wineries an opportunity to produce elegant mineral white wines where ripe fruit is balanced with fresh acidity especially obvious in the Riesling and Pinot Gris based wines. Reds, too are more structured with less obvious strawberry notes in the Cabernet Sauvignons which retain more European blackcurrant, spice and tannin in balance.

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New York State, Niagara Falls and many other regions have established wine production but few of their wines make it to the UK, not least because of small production ensuring that prices are too high once transport and excise duty are added. This is an issue for US wines as a group and a reason why the quality wines, some of which are highlighted here, are overshadowed by the big-brand owning guns despite their innate quality and style.