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Your Questions

Q

Could you explain exactly what a bush vine is?  Are these vines only common to Australia or are they found elsewhere?

Leigh Ryan, Tamworth, NSW

Modern vineyards are planted in neat, orderly rows, the vines trained on a framework called a trellis and the canes or shoots spread along wires. This helps vineyard work, aids even ripening, and allows for mechanisation if needed.

But traditionally, especially in warm, drought-prone Mediterranean climates, vines were grown as free-standing small bushes, spaced well apart to prevent competition for water. The French call this ancient method of cultivation ‘gobelet’, meaning goblet while English-speaking wine regions call them bush vines. Australian grape-growers especially in areas with a similar warm climate, for example, the Barossa, established vineyards using the bush-vine method.

Vineyard work is labour-intensive and bush vines are increasingly being abandoned in favour of formal trellising systems.

Q

I’ve been enjoying reds made from grenache and have been told white wine is also made from grenache grapes. Do we ever see grenache blanc in Australia and is it a grape worth pursuing?

Mark Burns, Hobart, Tas

Like pinot, grenache comes in three different forms – blanc, rouge and gris – depending on the colour of the skin. Grenache blanc is found in warmer regions such as the Southern Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon and Spain, where it produces richly textured, full-bodied whites. If you’ve drunk white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, chances are it formed part of the blend. It’s definitely worth pursuing these wines; the Thistledown Wine Company make an awesome example (thistledownwines.com).

Q

Why are some sparkling wines labelled ‘traditional method’ and others ‘méthode traditionnelle’. Does a wine have to be from Champagne to use the latter? Also, what is méthode ancestrale?

John Lobin, Gold Coast, Qld

Champagne can only be made by méthode traditionnelle so there is no need to put a description on that region’s wines, but there don’t seem to be any rules so producers in other countries can use either term. In New Zealand, a group of producers have founded Méthode Marlborough, which sounds more glamorous than Marlborough Method I think.

Méthode ancestrale is an ancient way of making sparkling wine. Young wine is bottled while still fermenting (before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol). The fermentation continues in the bottle, trapping the carbon dioxide. The resulting wine is less fizzy than a traditional method sparkling wine but often contains quite a bit of sediment. Exercise care when opening the bottles as they have a tendency to gush and foam in spectacular fashion.  

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