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Friday, 4 April 2014

Earth's Extreme Vineyards

Tired of field after field of vines? Claire Adamson takes a look at some of the world’s most-extreme vineyard locations.

1. Rangiora, Tahiti: The exposed crater of an underwater volcano in the South Pacific seems like an unlikely place for a vineyard. Then again, Tahiti is a French overseas territory, and where there are French people, there’s viticulture (there are even vines growing in old minefields in Vietnam). Tahiti’s vineyards lie on coral soils on the small atoll of Rangiora, which sounds crazy but isn’t really: winemaker Dominique Auroy claims these limestone soils are not too far removed from those of Burgundy, France. The climate, on the other hand… let’s just say you probably wouldn’t don a bikini for a trip to a village in the Côte de Beaune.

2. Sable de Carmargue, southern France: The Rhône river is well known for its wines – surely some of the best in France. What is less well known is that the marshy, sandy land where the Rhône meets the Mediterranean is also home to viticulture. This is definitely extreme – instead of roasted, sunbaked slopes, these vineyards sit on the very edge of the ocean, where they are awash in the tide for a month or so every year. The Camargue’s sandy soils meant that the phylloxera louse that devastated the European wine industry had little effect here, and an added bonus of being this close to the sea is the pink clouds of flamingos (and mosquitoes) that prettify the skies.

3. Los Angeles, California: Moraga Vineyard is not your typical Californian vineyard. There is no picturesque drive through acres of rolling countryside, and you will not encounter Miles-and-Jack types in a rustic winery-cum-cellar door. Rather, you will fight the traffic in central LA before you reach the fancy-pants suburb of Bel Air in the Hollywood Hills, where a vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is just nine miles from the Hollywood sign. The owner of the estate is not quite a movie star, but is still pretty Hollywood: media mogul Rupert Murdoch signed the papers in August 2013, shelling out almost $30 million for this small piece of land.

4. Xinjiang, China: Sorry, where? This western Chinese province on the border of Russia is not famous at all. But it does have a claim to fame: it is further from the ocean than anywhere else in the whole world, and some of the most truly continental wine grapes on the planet grow among the mountains here. Xinjiang has been home to wine production for a pretty long time as well – 13th-Century explorer Marco Polo described grape wines from the area in his writings.

5. Salta, Argentina: The vineyards of Bodega Colomé are – in a word – high. At oxygen-gasping heights of nearly 10,000ft (3000m) above sea level in the Andes, these vineyards are thought to be the highest on earth (although vineyards in Nepal could soon give them a run for their money). The cold mountain air is what makes viticulture possible this close to the Equator (far closer than any European wine region), and altitude is often a bragging point for growers. To put this in perspective, the highest vineyards in Europe are in the Swiss region of Visperterminen, at a paltry 3600ft (1100m).

6. Beudon, Switzerland: This small mountainous country, home to Heidi, cuckoo clocks, and gruyère also plays host to some pretty extreme viticulture. The tiny appellation of Beudon, in the Valais region, is essentially a single vineyard clinging to the side of a mountain. During harvest, grapes are ferried out of the vineyard to the valley below via a cable car because no one is brave enough to drive a truck down the steep mountain tracks. No word on whether vineyard workers need to wear harnesses, but I’ll have one, thanks.

Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/