Let’s start with clearing the confusion around Blend vs Cross vs Hybrid – Blend is a wine that was made using two or more different grapes, Bordeaux is a great example, when you buy a wine from Bordeaux it is typically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in varying percentages. Then there’s cross, which is slightly specific in winemaking, it can only be made by crossing two plants of the same species, for example Pinot Noir and Cinsault (being the same species) will have a “child” plant Pinotage. And finally, Hybrid, in winemaking can only be a cross of two different species plants. So let’s look at some of the hybrid grapes in more detail.
Introducing Kerner. A hybrid grape from the noble parent, Riesling and the lesser known red grape called Trollinger, Schiava or Vernatsch depending on its regional home - Germany, Italy or South Tyrol.
As a hybrid, we have the desired traits from each parent. According to Jancis Robinson’s "Wine Grapes", it's "qualitatively the most successful modern German cross, versatile, producing Riesling-like wines." Agreed. Formidable structure from its acidic core, there's fragrant citrus, nettles and stone fruit, there's occasional red fruit and depending on vintage, even white pepper. All the while, it shows weight and texture - that lovely mouth-coating feel and a peek of ripeness that's neatly framed with freshness.
Abbazia Di Novacella, a working monastery close to Bolzano in the South Tyrol, has been around since 1150, brings us this Kerner that enjoys long ripening periods and coolness up in the clouds. These vineyards are found at between 1900 to 2900 feet in the northernmost wine growing region in Italy, on the southern side of the Alps.
Along with vineyard positioning, the vines also benefit from the mineral-rich, well-drained soils giving us optimal fruit with concentration, intense aromas and flavour profile. Food? Sushi. It really compliments soy, ginger and stands up to wasabi while flattering the purity of fresh flounder, sea bass and salmon belly.
Here's another anomaly: Rotgipfler. A cross of Traminer (Savagnin to me and you) and Roter Veltiner. Notably found in the Jura, France, the former is a green-skinned grape that, when well-grown and vinified, produces aromatic wines that achieves longevity, gaining weight and complexity as they age. Its counterpart Roter Veltliner is Germanic and quite obscure. Named for its characteristic red-tipped leaves, iIt's a staple varietal that's grown in the Thermenregion of Austria. Aptly named, Thermenregion is known for its deep hot spring coursing deep beneath the vineyards. Warming the roots of the vines is demonstratively beneficial to fussy plants grown by the Reinischs family, particularly Pinot Noir, Saint Laurent and Rotgipfler.
The Reinischs produce organically and deftly crafts wines of staggering standard. Their Rotgipfler is fragrant with lemon peel, stone fruit, melon, and since it's had considerable time on the lees, some oatmeal and almonds. All of this translates brilliantly to the palate, which is so generous and weighty. Food? Anything.