Can grapes from other states be used to make wine in Pennsylvania?
Yes indeed, although we like to keep it local! Until a few years ago, PA law stated that PA wine had to be made from grapes grown within 350 miles of the winery. This law was overturned, unfortunately, and now wineries in PA can bring grapes in from anywhere. If the label on a bottle of wine says “Pennsylvania”, that means that at least 75% of the grapes used in production were grown here. But, that means that it’s possible 25% of the grapes used were grown elsewhere. If less than 75% of the grapes were from PA, the label needs to say American or the state in which the grapes were grown.
The “buy local” idea has been gaining in strength lately. With that in mind, it seems very odd to me to sell Pennsylvania wine made from grapes grown in California!
How are the solar panels working out?
In honor of Earth Day this month and the increasing interest in installing alternative energy products due to tax incentives, we thought this a good time to talk about our solar photovoltaic system. We installed an 11 kilowatt solar energy system a few years ago and if you drive around the winery, you will see an entire roof filled with solar panels, also known as photovoltaic modules. When the sun’s energy hits the silicon cells of a module, electrons are stimulated to flow in a circuit. This electricity is in direct current (DC), so it goes to 3 inverters we have installed on the crush pad for inversion into alternating current (AC). Then the electricity goes to the electric panel where it can be distributed throughout the building to power equipment. If the solar electricity is not needed, it travels out to the electrical power grid for someone else to use. About 30% of our electricity needs are met using solar power that we generate ourselves. In addition to the savings resulting from generating our own power, solar energy producers get Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), which are supplied by the energy companies in order to meet government requirements. These SRECs equate into cash at the end of every year. So, financially and environmentally, we are very happy to have our own solar system!
What is a Late Harvest Wine?
Late harvest is a wine term that simply means a wine made from grapes picked toward the end of harvest. The grapes are typically allowed to hang longer than usual so the sugars accumulate, the flavors intensify, and the grapes get very ripe. Late harvest wines are sometimes confused with ice wines which are made from grapes that are allowed to hang even longer until they actually freeze on the vine.
The most popular varieties used to make late harvest wines are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The final two are used to make probably the most famous dessert wine, Sauternes, in France’s Bordeaux region.
Our late harvest Muscat is made with four different Muscat varieties: Muscat blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Muscat of Alexandria, and Orange Muscat. We grow the Muscat Ottonel in our own vineyard and the other three are from Pagoda Hill Vineyard in Oley. We are loving this wine - hope you do too!
What is an appellation?
The government requires a winery to put the geographic origin of the grapes used to make the wine on the label. This is the appellation and it can either be defined by political boundaries, such as the name of a county or a state, or by American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), which are federally-recognized growing regions. Famous AVAs include Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley. Obviously, we use the appellation Pennsylvania on our wine labels, but does that mean that all of the grapes have to be grown in Pennsylvania? Sadly, the answer is No. The government allows up to 25% of the grapes to be grown from outside the state. That means that even though a bottle of wine has the Pennsylvania appellation on the label, it could possibly contain a significant amount of grapes grown in California! Crazy, huh. So how do you know if you are actually getting a locally-grown product? You have to ask the producer.
We at Manatawny are committed to using local fruit. We grow about half of the grapes that we need and the rest are purchased only from vineyards in Pennsylvania, with the majority from local vineyards. The exception is Niagara and Concord grapes which we buy from the Erie, PA area.
What is Gewurztraminer?
Gewurztraminer is a grape variety widely planted in the Alsace region of France, close to the border of Germany. Some of these vines are also planted elsewhere in the world including Germany, the United States, and New Zealand, but the best and most well-known wines are produced in Alsace. Gewurtz means spiced in German and these grapes can definitely have a spicy character reminiscent of cloves and nutmeg. Other characteristics of this wine include floral notes such as roses and lychee nuts. Gewurztraminer wines, similar to Riesling wines, are available in varying degrees of sweetness, from bone dry to very sweet. Pronunciation of the grape variety leaves many people tongue-tied but looks like Guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner. Since Gewurztraminer is such a boldly-flavored wine, it overpowers many foods and is best paired with spicy Asian dishes.
What is Mead?
I think there is some confusion out there about Mead because of the fact that it can be made into both a wine and a beer. Mead is basically an alcoholic beverage fermented by adding water to honey; honey will not ferment without the addition of water because the sugar is too concentrated. If nothing is added after fermentation, you have honey wine. If grain mash and hops are added, and carbonation is performed, you get a beverage more resembling a beer. Mead can be finished dry or sweet or anywhere in between. So, as you can see, there are many different styles of mead!
We make our mead, or honey wine, in a sweet dessert style. Mead seems to be a divisive drink – people either love it or hate it!
What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?
There is actually no difference at all - just two different names for the same grape. Pinot Gris was created from a natural mutation of its ancestor, Pinot Noir. The Pinot family also includes Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier, other natural mutations. Gris is French for gray which refers to the grayish-pink color of these grapes (as opposed to white for blanc and black for noir). The wines produced from Pinot Gris are usually white but can have a pinkish hue from the skins.
The Italians call this grape Pinot Grigio and tend to produce a light, crisp, dry style of wine. In contrast, the Alsatians in France produce Pinot Gris wines that can be rich and sweet. Since we make our wine more similar to the Italian-style, we chose to use the name Pinot Grigio on our version of this classic varietal.
What is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?
The answer is nothing! Syrah is the name of an ancient red grape thought to have its origins in the Middle East. It is widely planted in the Rhone Valley of France which is where it gained its reputation. In the mid-1800s, the Australians started planting Syrah and called the resulting wine Shiraz. So we see Syrah from France and Shiraz from Australia, but what about the United States? Most of the U.S. wine producers call their wine Syrah, but a few use the term Shiraz to show a stylistic difference. Shiraz wines from Australia tend to be fruitier than the often-times smoky, peppery Syrah wines from France.
And, contrary to what you might think, Petite Sirah is an entirely different grape variety rather than a small version of Syrah. Just to make things more confusing…
What is the scoop on Chambourcin?
Chambourcin is a red grape variety that was developed in France by Joannes Seyve and released in 1963. One of the French-American hybrids, its exact parentage is unknown because Seyve died before he could document his achievement. These hybrids were developed in France after many of the French vineyards started declining due to Phylloxera, a root louse that was imported on grapevines from the United States. European vines are now grafted onto naturally-resistant American rootstock to combat phylloxera, but at the time, these new varieties were developed in response to the phylloxera problem. Another purpose in hybridizing was to create varieties that were much more tolerant to fungal diseases. Chambourcin was created to be a disease-resistant, deep-colored red that does well even in cooler climates. Government regulations in France prohibit the blending of hybrid wines with that of traditional, vinifera varieties which has kept Chambourcin from being much more than a table wine consumed locally in France. In addition to France, Chambourcin is also grown in Australia, Canada and the Eastern and Midwestern United States. It is very well-suited to Pennsylvania and you’ll find Chambourcin wines at many Pennsylvania wineries, with styles ranging from dry and oak-aged to off-dry and fruity.
What is the source of the beautiful fabric on your labels and website banners?
The batik fabric background is courtesy of Hoffman Fabrics International. Check them out at www.hoffmanfabrics.com. I do some quilting and have always loved Hoffman's batiks. When we went to redesign our labels, the batik grape fabric kept sticking in my head. I contacted Hoffman and they graciously agreed to let us use the copyrighted designs!
Why shouldn’t I leave wine in my car during the summer?
This may seem like a stupid question, but it happens a lot! As anyone knows from getting into a closed car in the summertime, it doesn’t take very long for temperatures to rise to intolerably hot levels. When wine bottles left in a car get hot, the wine and the gas in the headspace start expanding which can cause wine to leak out around the cork. If the seal between the cork and the bottle is tight, the expansion will force the cork to actually push up out of the bottle. Wine that is exposed to extreme heat is not “bad” in that it can’t hurt you, but it will start to develop some cooked flavors. This also applies to our Sangria pouches by the way; expansion from heat will cause the wine to start leaking at the seams of the pouch. The pressure has to go someplace!