By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
Herb gardeners have been grouping plants into categories, probably, forever. Consider culinary, medicinal, dye, tea, aromatherapy. Even the medieval poison garden. So, why not a wine garden?
Klaus Reif created one in 2007. His Reif Estate Winery in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario worked with the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture to create a Wine Sensory Garden. The garden uses plants — many of them herbs — to express the colors, aromas and flavors of wine.
The idea is genius really. As the winery indicates:
“Like wine, a garden is the sum of its parts, with color, texture and aroma, the principle components. The characteristics of flowers and herbs enable people to better understand and appreciate the wine experience.”
The 1,000-square-foot garden is divided into four quadrants. Themes and characteristics include
Cabernet and Merlot Garden – Medium to full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are often described as deep burgundy. The wines produced from these grapes show aromas that remind us of blackberry, black currant, chocolate, cedar and licorice. Common flavor profiles are fennel, oregano and black pepper. Among the herbs chosen for this garden are Sweet Cicely, Chocolate Mint, Oregano and Patchouli.
Chardonnay and Ice Wine Garden – Full-bodied whites such as Chardonnay, Late Harvest and Icewine tend to have a rich, golden color. That’s reflected in the garden with golden foliage and yellow flowers. Typical aromas in Chardonnay include apple and lemon, while Vidal Icewine is described as having melon, honey and apricot-like flavors. Some of the herbs featured are Pineapple Sage, Apple Mint, Lemon Balm and Honey Melon Sage.
Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc Garden – Light, aromatic white wines show a light straw color and are best appreciated in their youth when they exhibit fresh fruit aromas and flavors. Sauvignon Blanc reminds us of lemon, lime, coriander and grapefruit. Meanwhile, Gewürztraminer is described as “spicy.” Plantings in this garden include Apricot- and Nutmeg-scented Geraniums, Grapefruit Mint, Coriander and Lemon Thyme.
Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir Garden – Light to medium-bodied red wines are generally light burgundy to purple in color. They are often described as having berry-like aromas as well as floral characteristics like lavender and rose petal. Gamay Noir is the lightest red and has distinctive cherry and pepper traits. Pinot Noir produces a wine with earthy aromas of rosemary and cinnamon. Herbs in this garden include Strawberry- and Rose-Scented Geraniums, Lavender and Rosemary.
Pressed to choose a favorite herb, Winemaker Roberto DiDomenico selects oregano because– he’s Italian and it reminds him of his favorite grape variety – Cabernet Sauvignon.
What herbs would be in your wine garden?