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Humagne Rouge - St Laurent - Steel

Humagne Rouge - St Laurent - Steel

Humagne Rouge is a traditional Swiss grape variety grown in Valais. Stylistically, Humagne Rouge wines tend to vary between darker red wines, a bit lighter than Syrah, with rustic and herbal notes over peppery black fruit to an elegant light-red wine, a bit like a well structured Pinot Noir with amazing tannins. This lighter style and what we call the elegance-with-an-edge approach that seeks to balance the two possibilities, are largely responsible for Humagne Rouge's increasing popularity, but the more Syrah-like style still has its adherents.

Humagne Rouge is a late ripening variety and the rustic and herbal notes diminish as the grape reaches phenolic maturity, so the choice of a vineyard site is very important in terms of obtaining the result you want. When discussing Humagne Rouge, Robert Taramarcaz commented that it was the variety where the style of wine being produced in Valais had changed the most in the last 10 years.

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DNA testing recently determined that Humagne Rouge originated in the Val d'Aosta in Italy (just over the St. Bernard pass from Valais) where it was commercially extinct, but has now been replanted under its original name "Cornalin". The original name is used as the botanical name for the grape so Humagne Rouge is (Cornalin). However, the Swiss had reused the "abandoned" name Cornalin in the 1970's as a more marketable name for the grape (Rouge du Pays).

In Switzerland wines called Humagne Rouge and Cornalin are made from different grapes, but a Humagne Rouge from Switzerland and a Cornalin from Italy are made from the same grapes. You may see people distinguish the separate uses of Cornalin as "Cornalin d'Aoste" and "Cornalin du Valais" but the easiest way is to just know whether the wine is from Italy or Switzerland.

Humagne Blanche (Humagne) is, despite the name, unrelated to Humagne Rouge (Cornalin). The grape the Swiss call Cornalin (Rouge du Pays) is one of the parents of Humagne Rouge (Cornalin), the other being unknown and assumed extinct.

With its somewhat low yield, the variety is considered difficult in the vineyard and was not always appreciated. It needs good sites with deep soils. It is sensitive during the flowering period and sensitive to late frost. It brings inconsistent yields.

Like many other grape varieties, the facts behind its origins are not easily confirmed. One theory suggests that cuttings were offered by a grape collector called Saint-Laurent du Var while another that it comes from Alsace, where it was known as Schwarzer. Although it shares its name with a number of French villages, there is nothing to suggest that they had anything to do with the naming of this grape. Most likely is the idea mentioned above that it was named after the patron saint of chefs, whose patronal festival coincides with the traditional day on which the berries change colour. It is one of the first grapes planted at the monastery of Klosterneuburg in their experimental vineyard in 1863.

If you are a fan of Zweigelt, remember that in 1922 Fritz Zweigelt combined the Sankt Laurent grape with Blaüfrankisch to create Zweigelt. It is a very good parent indeed.

It is not however closely related to Pinot. Sankt Laurent is not the same as Pinot Saint-Laurent. Although Sankt Laurent is not Pinot Noir, any more than Carménère is Merlot, there are some similarities to be found. If you like a meatier, gamier Pinot Noir, try this – you will not be disappointed!

ophisticated wine with a lingering finish that continues to delight for ages. It pairs well with most food, especially meats and as many commentators advise, those foods which you shouldn’t really eat like barbeques, cheese and anything fatty.

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