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From California to Spain, three wines that defy stereotypes, and the winemakers behind them

Certain wines suffer from stereotyping. Cava, Spain's best known sparkling wine, is being tarnished with an inferior reputation as consumers flock to Italian prosecco, which, thanks to clever marketing, has become trendy among young drinkers. Likewise, there is more to Californian wines than them being the rich, opulent fruit bombs many oenophiles expect.

California winemaker on standing out in a male-dominated industry

Some intrepid winemakers are trying to break these stereotypes. For those looking to challenge their palate, here are a few suggestions.

The Colet family can trace their agri­cultural roots in Penedes back to 1783. Current winemaker Sergi Colet studied oenology at university and gained practical experience in Reims, France. In 2004, the winery was one of the first to leave the Cava DO (Denominacion de Origen) and its sparkling wines are now made under the Penedes DO, with a "Classic Penedes" identity, meaning the grapes must be organic and sourced from within the region. This allows Colet to experiment with more grape varieties in its sparkling wine than would be allowed under the Cava DO. Colet wine is made by the traditional method, with second fermentation in the bottle, and undergoes bottle ageing for 18 months.

Wine tasting: Pares Balta from northeast Spain

"Vatua" is an expression of surprise in Catalan, and the name is intended to reflect the sense of wonder one gets when tasting this wine. It is unique, with the heady aromatics of gewurztraminer, but is bone dry on the palate, making it a good food wine.

A blend of 45 per cent moscatell (muscat), 45 per cent parellada and 10 per cent gewurztraminer.

Fragrant rose petal with tropical and citrus fruit. Medium body, dry, with crisp acidity and a clean finish. Approachable and extremely refreshing.

Founder James Kutch was a stock trader with Merrill Lynch before he ditched Wall Street to make wine. Kutch's love for red burgundy turned into an obsession with cool-climate pinot noir. After identifying his ideal vineyard sites in California using Google Maps, he then persuaded the growers to sell him the grapes.

"We attempt to pursue a minimalist philosophy, trying to provide the purest expression of pinot noir from a particular place and time, taking care not to over-manipu­late our wines in the cellar," Kutch says.

Try these hard-to-find wines from new grapes or unusual regions

In the cellar, the fruit is moved by gravity instead of by pumps and machines, which is a gentler, less interventionist way of handling the wine. Indigenous yeast is used for primary fermentation. Minimal additives are used and the wine is aged in French oak, with 20 per cent new oak, for about 16 months before bottling.

The 2014 Sonoma wine is made with fruit sourced from multiple sites. It represents the Kutch entry-level wine and is more fruit forward and approach­able in youth.

Fresh, vibrant red fruit with some stalky notes. Lighter bodied, elegant with crisp acidity and firm tannins. A pure expression of pinot noir that is drinking well in its youth.

Family-owned Sobon Estate is located in Amador County, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Shirley and Leon Sobon bought the former D'Agostini Winery, California's third-oldest, to mark their 30th wedding anniversary, in 1989. The Rocky Top is a single-vineyard zinfandel planted in the 19th century. With an elevation of about 900 metres, the cooler nighttime temperatures preserve fruit acidity. The grapes are dry-farmed, to increase the concentration of the fruit.

California winemaker on standing out in a male-dominated industry

In the cellar, minimum amounts of sulphur are added to preserve the freshness and colour of the wine. Wines are aged for 18 months in a mix of American and French oak, of which 30 per cent is new.

Ripe black fruit, some blueberries, mulberries and spicy notes. Medium bodied with ripe fruit framed by crisp acidity and soft tannins. An elegant zinfandel.

The wines are available from

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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