Wine for thought: Enjoy each sip !

Wine for thought: Enjoy each sip!

We focus on what and how we eat, often weighing up the nutrional values vs the decadence of our palets and more times than not, rushing to swallow ( ignoring that we´re supposed to chew at least 16/18 times before swallowing). When it comes to drinking, especially wine, we tend to go even further on this rush to swallow, treating each sip as just a refreshing flow from lips to throat and giving little thought to what that flow is trying to communicate to us through our wonderfully sophisticated palates.

Think about that for a moment, a meal which can take a few hours to prepare, chewed and savoured with each bite and a wine, swallowed in a second after years in production and development.

Here at Mallorca Wine Experience we  bring the focus back to not just enjoying the wine, but understanding how and why you might enjoy that wine. We do this by focusing our energy and passion for wine in general by acknowledging  the hard work, time and tradtion that goes in to making it wonderful .

We invite you to try the following, in your own personal wine journey: Try the grape variety you thought you didnt like, but try it from a different region or country to the last one you tried!! Dont like Chardonnay? Try a Chablis from Burgundy or a Solalba from Mallorca.

Use the decanter you bought or where gifted but never use. Try pouring that Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon you thought where to bold and tannic in to it and give it a good swirl then try it, still to robust? come back to it in 30 mns and try again and discover the pleasure of an ever evolving glass.

Glassware!!!! There is no need for oddly shaped, colourful or really high stem glasses, and less so when its for actually enjoying wine. Buy a nice set of 6 classic ( cristal if you like) glasses. The classic design allows the wine to give a good show, with space to swirl and enough of an opening, if like me, you want to get your whole nose in to the glass to properly appreciate the bouquet.

The most important thing to remember, specially when considering what to buy/drink, is to ask questions. Any good wine store employee with even basic wine knowledge will still be able to guide you and the more information you gather, the more informed your decision.

As we say in Spain “a tu salud!”

Wine For Thought: That Everyday Super (  wine market ) Feeling!

Aaaaaaaah the supermarket, the department store, the local ! How well they dazzle us with striplights and big colourful “Special offer” banners. The intriguing 2 for 1 or 3 x 2 on those easy to drink Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs that you already know you love, and even if you dont, you know someone who has told you they only drink New Zealand Sav Blanc so it must be good! And look its 20% off.

So what about the quality of supermarket wines, are they all cheap and bad ? Can you find premium or quality wines on those endless shelves? Do you really need that frozen blueberry cheesecake? No, Yes …….and sure why not! Think about what a Supermarket offers, the bulk mentality and factor in cost vs sale. You end up with this scenario; I buy 100 bottles at $3.50 and sell them at $5.50 and I sell them in one week, thats $200 profit a week or $800 a month, but I also buy 100 bottles of a premium wine at $12 a bottle and sell it at $20, sell 30 a week and make a profit of $240….. but you still have 70 bottles, which is accumulated stock and still leaves you at minus $840 against what you paid for the wine. As a business model that revolves around bulk and fast turn-over it makes sense to have more entry level wines. That being said you can still find great wines on those shelves and not only in the “fine wine” section and all it takes is just a moment to understand what you actually like and what you actually want ( more on this later)

The obvious and sometimes garish marketing behind wines in supermarkets can be very affective at both facilitating but also influencing the wines we buy, so that even if we went in with a wine in mind or the desire to explore something different, we left with that “Special Offer”. But what if you didnt? with mobile phones we have a helpfull yet limited sommelier at our disposal, one who can point out, the finer points of a wine regardless of price and we should not be afraid to simply do a bit of research, as it can quite literally mean the difference between just another bottle and a wine that maybe makes it into our favourites list.

The Fine Wine section!!!: This part of the supermarket can sometimes feel exciting and daunting as its filled with long and fancy sounding names and grape varieties that we maybe havent heard of before, but it can be a wonderful excuse to try something new without having to break the bank. Its very easy to be put off after seeing one or two bottles at the 30 to 50 range when all you wanted was something nice and comforting, but take time to properly go through the wines as the eye has a tendency to be drawn to bigger numbers, we often convince ourselves that all the prices will be similar.

The essence of this blog is just to point out that whilst the majority of bulk…..

Wine For Thought: Oh Brother! Where art thou Berry?

The guilded bottle shop known as the Independent Wine Merchant, a veritable light-house for all wine based desires…… or at least, that’s what it should be.

In most cases what makes these independent wine shops so special, apart from the selection of wines, is the staff. These fine upstanding wine fanatics are usually well trained in the 2 most important aspects of selling wine; 1. They have some form of wine education 2. Customer service ( the desire to share their knowledge in the hopes of making the buying of wine easier for the customer). A large part of an independent shops success is balanced on the reputation they earn and that reputation is earned through great customer service and great wines. If you should have the fortune of having one nearby, try talking to the various wine specialists on hand, perhaps even creating a bond with one who gave you great advice, this will both help you feel at ease when buying wines from them but it will also give them the chance to better understand your likes and dislikes. This dynamic is more important that we sometimes realize! Someone well versed in wines can often take our maybe limited wine knowledge and guide us on to styles or varieties that we wouldn’t normally consider, thus opening our minds to whole new worlds of wine.

Now, let’s talk about the selection! The other important thing that defines these tiny wine cathedrals is the diverse catalogue of wines that they can offer. What stands them apart from the supermarket gang is that, as they purchase with variety in mind and less in bulk, they are much more selective of the types and quality of the wines they offer. Sure they probably sell a Pinot Noir from Chile ( or 2 or 3) just like the supermarket down the road, but you can be sure that whilst 1 might be a crowd pleaser ( the easy drinking around a tenner bottle) the other 2 will be of a different production method or varying degrees of higher quality and the person on hand will be able to explain just how those differences impact the wine. More importantly though is that they will also offer wines that are more unique in style, fancy a white for your roast chicken dinner and want to try something new? Well how about this 24 month American oak aged Semillon/Sauvignon blend from the Chamonix winery in South Africa or this Prensal Blanc/ Chardonnay blend left on its lees and barreled for 12 months from the Binigrau Winery in Mallorca?

Walking in to an Independent wine shop is almost a guarantee for a positive wine shopping experience, I say almost because as with all things in the human world, where some succeed through hard work and dedication to their craft there will always be those who will try to copy the business model and ignore the idea with no investment in to the ….for lack of a better word, dream behind it. You can easily tell the good ones apart though as you will be able to hold interesting and passionate discourse with those who work in a place where such a thing is coveted.

On that dime, make sure to at least give your closest Independent a try and see if they can suggest a good wine to go with these bizarre and informative wine blogs I write.


Wine For Thought: An ORGANIC Feeling!!!

The trend for adding organic to a label grew as quickly as the trend of asking “ is this organic?” a simple exercise in demand meets supply. As the trend grew, two main arguments came up: The first was, is it more expensive just because it says organic? And the other (mostly concerning fruit and vegetables) was, what is the difference between my normal every day banana and the one that says organic on it? Isn’t all fruit organic?

Both are fair questions and with this blog I want to try and address how this trend applies to and affects wine.

Let’s start with a quick lesson in Wine Ethics! The rules for organic certification on a wine are that they be produced without using industrial Fertilizers, Herbicides, Fungicides and Pesticides. All of these products, whilst helpful from a wine producer’s point of view to ensure best yield/ least amount of damage to the crops, are pretty bad from an agricultural point of view. Not only do these chemicals serve their intended purpose but they exceed in them, killing insects that are not harmful to the vines but useful parts of their individual ecosystems, contaminating the soil and the air around them and even leaving trace amounts in the wine, the finished product.

The counter argument, whilst baring less weight is the black and white truth that sometimes nature can be harsh to crops. Plagues can decimate vines, natural fertilizers are sometimes less affective or consistent when applied to acres of land, and fungal infections can taint or ruin vines and grapes.

This being said, a lot of the world’s best winemakers have always played it close to the organic standards of production, maybe falling short on 1 or 2 of the regulations but keeping the focus on ethics and sustainability as part of the winery’s ethos.

The other side of organic wine, the other criteria is not being able to use reverse osmosis as a method of separating solvents or removing excessive alcohol from the wine, the over-use of filtration, the use of flavor additives ….. and the most divisive….the use of Sulphur Dioxide as a stabilizing agent. Divisive because Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites (added Sulphites, not the naturally occurring ones) are great for preserving wine, both the fresher flavours and colours of the wine and tempering/softening harsher aspects. They are also useful for killing potential and present bacteria.

For this reason many Organic or Bio-dynamic minded wine makers will for-go classification, so that they can use the tools they deem most appropriate for their wine, whilst still respecting the overall criteria.

My belief, and that of many people in this business is that the call for “Organic” practices will slowly pass to being a more mainstream mentality, if for nothing else than for the appreciation for sustainability and environmental awareness.

So there you have it, more organic than your organic banana!!


Wine for thought: Can cheap be good? Can expensive be bad?

What is in a wine? and to say a wine, we mean the bells and whistles that come with it! So the question is, how much is the actual liquid inside the bottle?

Well to understand that a bit better, we need a few key factors so lets use the UK as an example. VAT on alcohol and tobacco is 20% in England, so lets say we are talking about a £7  bottle of wine, £7 – 20% = £5.60 , now lets factor in the packaging, lets say £1.50 and duty ( wines between 5.5% up to 15%) £2.22. This leaves us with a whopping 1 pound and 88 pence and then the greedy retailer will want his share, so 1 more pound. And there you have it the liquid in the bottle is worth 88p, less than a can of Coca-Cola.

Why is this so important to factor in, well because that liquid took time to grow, mature, ferment, age and ultimately get bottled so how much elaboration is going to go in to it?, if ultimately you will sell in on for 88p a bottle? Consider the same for a £17 bottle of wine, maybe allow a little bit more for the packaging…let be very generous and add 38p, that still leaves the liquid at £10.50.

Once these things are taken in to consideration, the question arrises, does this mean that a £170 wine is going to have a liquid that reflects £105 of quality? what would this liquid of the gods taste like?  Well yes it would to a degree, at that price, not only are you buying from a well established producer with credentials and reckognised name within the wine world, you are also paying for the best wine makers, highest quality barrels, best curated and situated vineyards etc. So is this a guarantee of quality? Quality yes, but even the best quality wine can be influenced by a bad season, or defective corks or various other external factors that can ultimately taint the work of the more prestigious wine makers. Ultimately it comes down to this, if the liquid in the botlle is worth at least a few pounds after all the other charges and fees, then the wine will stand a chance at being good, and the more that you invest in the liquid the higher the quality of production. That doesnt mean that the scale is rigid in price to quality, there are some phenomenal wines for £20-30and some wines that are disappointing at over £100.

The takeaway from this should be the acknowledgement of the amount of work that goes into making this thing that is loved by so many! the years of trial and error, the harvest, the maintenance of the vines pre-harvest, the whole wine making process and yes, even bottling and shipping and spending on those that truly love the process and the product.

And as always, never be scared to simply ask advice on the wine you choose.


Wine For Thought: Not just a pretty Vase!!

There are many wine gadgets and knick-knacks we pick up or are gifted if one is a wine lover. But the one that gets overlooked quite often is the Decanter! That delicate and ornate wine saving device, left to either collect dust positioned on a shelf in a drinks cabinet or at the back of that one cupboard you use for all the stuff you don’t know what to do with.

If we look at wine as a person, then let’s imagine that person is on a 20 hour International flight. Back cramps, stir crazy and a deep desire to stretch their legs means that all they want when they finally land is the fresh embrace of air and a little movement to feel alive again. That’s where our Decanter comes in to save the day. Regardless of whether your wine is a 14 year old Crozes Hermitage or a 2 year old sauvignon blanc, an 8 year old Barolo or a same year Rosé, even a 10/20 minute lounge in a Decanter can help soften out kinks in your wine. From softening acidic edges to helping coax out the more subtle fruit aromas and helping rid a wine of that “closed” smell it can sometimes develop. Take in to account that the older or bigger (fuller bodied) red wines can from 20 minutes to 2 hours to properly show its best form, this means that you will have to smell and even sample the wine sporadically to gauge where it is in terms of development, take the opportunity when doing this to take notes on how that wine is evolving so that you feel more comfortable with timings next time you buy a similar or same wine.

With Whites and Rosé it is important to note that they oxidize faster, so maximum 30 minutes if it is a really stubborn wine but the 10-20 minute window is kind of where you want to be. Again taking note of how the wine was straight out of the bottle and how it evolves when decanted.

Another important reason to decant wine is to remove sediment. The easiest way to do this is to slow pour the wine in to the decanter with a light or a small candle underneath the neck of the bottle and simply stop pouring the wine when you start to see the sediment. If you want to get up to the last drop of wine you can also pour through a muslin cloth or a coffee filter.

Remember wine fans, treat your wine with love and you will love every sip.

Here´s to you!

Wine For Thought: Wine & Dine !!!

There are  few dinning experiences more nerve – racking than the aproach of the guilded and snooty Sommelier, with the leather-bound wine bible and the shine of golden grapes adorning the lapel . The sensation of inferiority , talking to someone who talks to you about wines as if you should be blessed to here the grape gospel from the lips of a Bordeaux Bishop,a Rhone valley Reverend.Thank Bacchus that this particular stereotype is slowly becoming a thing of the past !

Not the existence of  wine professionals  in restaurants ,but more the arrogance that come with that position.

The truth is ,for those that enjoy the wine ( Im talking to you dear restaurant goer )  there is gray area that consist of generally accepted missinformation and a lack of  understanding of just how profound  the relationship between wine and food is and more importantly how they can elevate and improve or distort each other.

Lets talk about the ” usual ” information ! The most common one being that red=red meat ,white wine = white meat / fish and rose is for picknic and girls ! DEEP BREATH;

Red Wine : OK yes , it is true that the right red wine is the perfect pairing for the right cut of read meat ,be it Ongles steak or a rack of Lamb, the perfect red wine can either enhance the meat or vice-versa make the wine pop. Anything from a  robust Saint Josepf (Syrah,Sira) from the Norten Rhone to a  Palazzo della Torre ( Corvina Veronese ,Rondinella & Sangiovese ) from Verona can play with as an aromatic to enhance the spices and aromas of the elaboration of the meat in case of the former ( Sant Joseph ) or add dimensions and mature fruit to the flavour of the meat like with the latter ( Pallazo de la Torre ) .But what if I told you that you can have red wine with fish and chicken ( I know,I know ,some of you have already been there done that ) or crazier still a cream based curry ?

push the boat further , how about with a dark chocolate dessert ( try with 80% dark chocolate flourless cake or coulant ;))

This is where your Sommelier can be helpfull ,ask him for non – typical pairing ,ask him t0 challenge himself to not only give him a chance to apply the knowelege he has but also to challenge yourself . Very Important Though :Be sure to mention your budget !!! We the wine people tend to forget prices if we asked for something interesting or exeptional.

White Wine :  Look Ma, Im having fish/chicken ,better crack out the whites then .Well sure ……if you happy taking a walk on the mild side , go for it, play it safe !

OR,try this instead :

Smoked Salmon or Salmon en croute? Central Otago Pinot Noir or a dry Cabernet dominant rose .Roast Chicken ? …..well ok cant lie that: a big oaked Chardonay or Viognier isnt amazing with chicken ,but try Cava or Champagne with it and it is also wonderfull ( try them with fish & chips for a surprisingly great combo ) want to throw a red at the roas small game ? will stick to those elegant and fruty Pinot Noir or if you are feeling adventurous ,try a Valpolicella Ripasso to give the wine equivalent of a fruit sauce to the meal . Try and Remember Thought : If you are serving food with an acidic profile ,avoid acidic wines at all cost .Acidity plays really well with salty or fatty or sweet ,but can become your worst enemy when other acid are present in your dish .

When ordering your wine at Le Local Eaterie ,remember that the best information you can give the Sommelier/ Wine waiter is what grape varieties you LIKE so that he/she can best ajust his recommendations,but also avoid closing yourself off to varieties that you do not know very well or that you might think that you do not like because maybe the Sommelier can guide you towards an expression of that grape that you havent tried  and might LOVE .

And more importantly ,that the reason you might not have been so fond of that variety is because you have never tried pared with the correct food . Wine is a journey of a thousand routes and each one changes year after year , but also each route has a way to make the journey more beautifull you just need the right transport

Another great way is to consider asking for wines by the glass ,and the simple reason for it is whilst you might love your Barossa Valley Shiraz ,maybe it isnt the best pairing for your first course Oysters or second course Trout Foam  on a bed of seaweed jelly. In this situation the wine by the glass or by the garafe can be the key , allowing you to a glass of your favorite before and after the meal but being able to pair the subsequent glasses of sommething different to best enjoy the course at hand .

Wine For Thought: Your cellar or mine?

One of the most often questions I get asked is “What’s the right way to store my wine?”

My answer of course is to tell these people to give me their best, most expensive wines and then I change my name and leave town for a year….

Jokes aside, my answer tends to be to ask for more information. What are you storing for?, how long?, what is your cellar like?, do you have a cellar?, what styles of wine do you wish to store? Etc.

The more information you can provide, the better the information you will receive and when it comes to storing certain wines, knowledge means the difference between 8 years invested in a beautiful wine experience or interesting balsamic vinegar.

The Important Factors:

Light:  Wines are like vampires, allergic to an extent to ultraviolet rays. These rays can have an effect on the naturally occurring Riboflavin and Pantothenic acids, causing chemical reactions with the wines amino acids. The result is the production of sulphur which can cause unpleasant taste and aromas in the wine. So keep your wines out of direct or even reflected sunlight.

Temperature: Wines are sensitive to extremes and changes so the key things to keep in mind are, 1. making sure that the storage temp is stable and 2. Make sure it doesn’t go above 22 ºC. When wines rise in temp above 22ºC they start to oxidize, the higher the temp, the faster the oxidization. A cellar at around 14/18 degrees is perfect, if you can guarantee that the temp stays fairly stable

Movement: There are many opinions about how to turn, when to turn, if to turn stored wines “ a quarter turn, counter-clockwise with the neck angled due east” etc.. but the truth is, the best condition for stored wine is lying on its side, making sure the wine is in contact with the cork. If you have that covered ( plus the temp and light factors taken care of ) you won’t have to move it at all, in fact, the wine will be better off if it is just left to repose uninterrupted.

Humidity: Straightforward with this one, kind of going hand in hand with temperature. If your cellar is too dry ( below 55 % )you run the risk of your corks drying out, so avoid a space that has no humidity control. The same is true for the other extreme, too humid ( 85% +) and you run the risk of mold or rot affecting the cork and you are back to square one.

So there you have it, your 1 stop solution for all your Junior wine collector needs! Follow these factors/recommendations and you can be pretty safe knowing that your wine will avoid the “Ah well, at least I can use it for cooking” category.

See you in a few years!!

Wine For Thought: The Experiment!!

Hello one and all, for today’s entry I want to challenge you all to a sensorial, gastronomic and social Challenge/Experiment.

The concept is rather simple, but the execution might be a little tricky, so I am going to do my best to prepare you so that maximum knowledge and fun is had!

What you will need:

A favourite/ go to dish

2 ( or 4 depending on how many people you invite to join ) bottles of wine

At least 1 decanter and appropriate wine glassware

Little note pads and pens, 1 for every participating person

The desire to have fun and park all expectation and fear of ridicule at the door

How does it work?:

Once you have decided on the dish, you will need to choose 1 classic pairing for the dish ( I.E a Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak ) and 1 non conventional pairing ( best to ask your local wine specialist ) that could be anything from a white wine for that steak or a sparkling wine. Some fun examples being roasted Pork Belly with a Californian Pinot Noir and a South-western Australian Viognier.

So now you have the set up….

Whats the game???:

You sit down to the dish having drunk nothing previously, every guest should have a note pad and a pen and a glass of 1 of each of the wines in front of them. The objective is, as the meal starts, everyone takes a moment to understand how each sip of each wine interacts with each bite of the food. Make sure that at the start it is made very clear that there is not a right answer, that taste is subjective and that the fun will be comparing notes at the end of the meal.

Whilst this may all seem to be a reason just to enjoy good food and wine in good company, there is also a subliminal education underneath where you will start to trust you own perceptions and opinions on a wine, based on how the key elements of it interacted with the food and vice-versa

Plus I just gave you a solid reason to use education as a brilliant way of drinking 2 bottles of wine!

You`re Welcome

Wine For Thought:  Chardon-Nay or Chardon-Yay?

Chardonnay is simultaneously one of the most coveted, most dis-liked, most miss-understood and most versatile grape varieties that you can find in the white wine section of your local bottle shop and I would like to take a moment to champion this ambrosia of the gods.

I heard it through the grape vine:

Chardonnay in some markets (mostly UK and US) has suffered from word of mouth and bad social publicity and part of the blame comes from trend shifting and public opinion that can be traced back to the 80´s and the arrival of a new breed of colourful, ripe tropical, buttery Chardonnay that hit the ground running, straight out of Australia. When it first hit shelves, it was celebrated as an exciting and fun version of a classic that was perfect for big lunches, BBQs and picnics in the park with friends, with its funky labels and catchy names, it quickly became a party staple. By the mid to late 90´s however, austerity started to take hold Down Under and paired with the arrival of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as the latest craze, the focus shifted drastically toward cleaner, crisper and ….DRYER ( said with emphasis to mark that it almost became a buzz word without the comprehension of what it means ) wines. As a result of this, those who still enjoyed the big oaky Chards, found themselves ousted for not being “cool” and as is the way with these things, so began the downfall of the oaked Chardonnay ( or so it would seem ).

As it turns out White Burgundy wines came back in to fashion after this whole Dry-naissance and people started to covet Chablis ( the pricier 1er and Grand Crus ), Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet etc etc and  whilst it is true that these wines have elegance, acidity, minerality and freshness to varying degrees……  doesn’t change the fact that they are all Chardonnay and all use oak to different effect. As it turns out, the stigma behind the wine outgrew the actual concept of the wine and so a large part of the casual drinker market, would speak ill of and claim dislike for the very wine they served at dinner parties with such pride in a renowned white wine with such an international profile as an expensive White Burgundy.

Wine For Thought: A quick history lesson!!

It´s all fun and games explaining what wine is, how to approach it in a bar, what language it speaks… but It is also important to understand where it comes from, what it has been through or had to survive to be its best self for us today!!

On that note I will occasionally do short and interesting entries in to this blog about important moments in Wines History. I present to you:

The Methuen Treaty:

From the 13th century onward, the English became one of the principal consumers of Bordeaux ( and other French ) wines. This relationship stayed strong all the way through to 1703.

You see at this time France and England where at War and England chose to ally itself with Portugal in the “ War of The Spanish Succession”  and they did it by helping dissolve the agreement that France had made with Portugal in 1702 to offer Naval protection. They did this by sailing close to Lisbon on a trip to and from Cadiz and to prove that the French couldn’t protect them.

The Treaty had many more implications than the things I will touch upon here, but that doesn’t mean that this aspect wasn’t incredibly important, not only to the modern day European wine market, but also Portugal´s advancement in the industrial race.

You see the basis of the trade aspect stated that all textiles coming from England would be exempt of tax and in exchange all wines exported to England from Portugal would never be taxed higher than the equivalent quantity of wine from France, partially this was done to ensure that England would still import Portuguese wines even when no longer at war with France.

The English weren´t as fond of the robust, less subtle wines of Portugal as they were of French wines, but as an empire built on the concept of status through excess, wine was still highly in demand and this mentality helped boost the value of wine in Portugal.

Around this time ( roughly 30 years before ) The first recorded shipment of “Port” wine was shipped to England. Not to be confused with today´s Port wines, these wines, still born in the Douro like today, where robust Reds that when barreled for shipment were sometimes dosed with brandy as a way to “preserve” the wine.

The next time you crack open a bottle of delicious Portuguese red, or a dry crisp Vinho Verde, remember that the reason we get to do so, is because hundreds of years ago, the rich chose to play a game of Chess that revolved around money, power and wines

All Aboard!!!

Wine For Thought:  Syrah or Shiraz?

Now that is a question with weight!! Much like the wines that carry the name, this question is dark and peppered with half truths and ancient myths and today I will offer you my interpretation of them.

Let’s start with the name:

The Persian city of Shiraz – The Persian Empire was big on wine! The history of it, the evolution of it, cultivating and making it, and Shiraz was a city famed for its red Shiraz wine. Many paintings and etchings can be found of Banquets where the attention is drawn to these dark and luscious Red wines………..The name of these red wines you ask? Why Shiraz wine of course.

On the nose in Sicily – This entry is short but cute, another beautiful but misguided theory is that the Grape comes from the city of Siracusa (Syracuse), brought to France by the Roman Emperor Probus and was named after it “Syrah-Cuse”

Follow the science –  Of course you can’t talk Syrah without mentioning the home of the world’s most prestigious Syrah based wines…… FRANCE  (Côtes du Rhône to be specific).  Paintings and writings tell us the Greeks brought winemaking to the area now known as Marseille around the 4th Century BC. Jump forward to the Romans and after they sailed up the Rhone, they founded the city of Vienne which would go on to produce wines on par with the Italians. This growth and flourish and interest saw a quick Enological evolution in what were to become some of the oldest established vineyards in the world.  DNA studies carried out in 1998 ruled that the origins of the grape are completely native to France and that it is actually a cross between Dureza ( a very dark skinned grape from the Ardèche region ) and Mondeuse Blanche ( a white aromatic variety from the Savoy region ).

The Switch-up

So then why is it called Syrah in some places and Shiraz in others? Well traditionally speaking, the famous AOCs in France don’t allow for varietal labeling, it is assumed that if one buys a wine from a specific AOC , then you already know the varieties it will include. The Rhone Valley predominantly produces Syrah as its main red wine grape and you will find that most old world wine producing countries will call it Syrah, especially if it is a more serious, dry and tannic expression of the wine. Shiraz was born in Australia, the first cuttings taken to Australia in 1831 by the Scotsman James Busby, where labeled with 2 very distinct names, “ Scyras” and “Ciras” some claim these names were meant to reflect the historical Persian city and others that they were just misspellings of the name Syrah. Whatever the reason, those first cuttings were planted in the Royal Botanic Garden and in Hawkes Bay, from there the rest is history.

So there you have it…….. I promise no exams!

To Learn, To Drink, To learn to Drink

Wine for Thought: a Bubbly personality!! Part 1

The sparkling wine, the cheeky glass of bubbles, the fancy stuff, the drink to toast with…Regarded in many countries as a symbol of elegance, wealth and prestige, Champagne has many, many fans worldwide. As do its sister and cousin wines like Cava, Crèmant, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cap Classique, Sekt  and a wealth of others.


all Great the King!! Quite possibly the single most famous sparkling wine in the world, this beverage has garnered a cultural status far beyond its volatile origins (first examples of Champagne were known as The Devils wine because they would spontaneously explode due to poor quality bottles). Champagne is made from the three noble grapes of Champagne; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier but they can also include (rarely) small percentages of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris/Fromenteau, Arbane and Petit Meslier. Some producers prefer Chardonnay dominant styles; Léclapart, Guy Charlemagne, Jaques Selosse etc. Others prefer Pinot Noir dominant styles; Bollinger, Paul Bara, Nicolas Maillart etc. But there are also wealth of famous producers who simply keep to balanced blends depending on the year’s crop.


Unlike the old King Champagne, Cava is more the young smoldering Prince, having received its official D.O status in 1972, this sparkling wine see´s two thirds of its aprox 250 million bottles exported from Spain and sold all over the world. Cava is made in the same method as Champagne (called méthode traditionnelle in Europe and méthode champenoise in the region of Champagne) which is a high marker for quality as it is labour intensive and yet Cava tends to be a lot cheaper than Champagne. The difference lies in the grapes used and the environment/climate the grapes are grown in! Cava is made from the Xarel-lo, Macabeu and parellada grape varieties and are the main and most commonly used in Cava. Other grapes that can be used are Chardonnay and Malvasia. Josep Raventos travelled through Europe in the 1860s to promote the still wines of the Codorniu estate and during his travels he passed through Champagne, which inspired him to apply what he learnt there and by 1872, he had made his first sparkling wine!


Prosecco is both a town and the name of one of the world’s most popular selling sparkling wines, due to its accessibility and price. The vineyards in the region it is made date back a couple of thousand years and have prominence due to the history involving the Romans. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 16th century that the wine “Ribolla” was promoted to “Castellum Nobile Vinum Pucinum” after the castle that was near?…..That´s right, you guessed it, the village of Prosecco! In 1593 an Englishman by the name Fynes Moryson, noted that the wine Pucinum was now known as “Prosecho” and regarded it one of the finest wines in all of Italy. The grape used in its production is now called Glera, but was originally known as the Prosecco grape and in order for it to be considered Prosecco it must be a minimum of 85% Glera and 15% other permitted grapes (Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Bianchetta Trevigiana). This sparkling wine however is not made using Methode Traditionnelle, the Italians use the Charmat-Martinotti method in which the secondary fermentation happens in vats and not in bottles, which makes the process faster and cheaper.

So there you have it, a bite-sized guide to the 3 most “important” Sparkling wines in the world.

I should probably write a second one of these as there are still many other bubbly gems to talk about……so see you in the next one dear reader!

Wine For Thought: A Bubbly personality!! Part 2

And we are back with a second part to this breakdown of the world’s beloved bubbly wines. Last time we addressed the most recognized ones, but that doesn’t mean, by any means, that the ones I will talk about here are inferior in any capacity


Just because Champagne is Champagne doesn’t mean that the rest of Frances famous wine regions don´t bring their A game to the sparkling wine table!! With Crémant it does get a little complicated though as many wine regions produce it and each with their own guidelines/grape varieties/ quality standards. The Crémant producing regions are as follows;

Loire, Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, Bordeaux, Jura and Savoie!

These regions use anything from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Mauzac, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Grolleau, Orbois to name a few

Crémant from Bourgogne is made from Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir and is comparable to Champagne wines but with a finer mousse and a much lower price point. Crémant from Loire has a wonderful freshness to it due to the predominance of Chenin Blanc, making it perfect for fondue or fish and chips or anything nice and fatty.


If ever a wine could call itself elite, it would be Franciacorta. Born in the Province of Brescia, in the heart of Lombardia, this wine is made and aged in a similar way to champagne. The grapes used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc (Pinot Blanc being the stand-in for Pinot Meunier on the French side) and is considered equal to Champagne. Why then, is it not as international or easily found? That’s where the elite part comes in! only 10% of Franciacorta is allowed to be exported, the rest must be kept in Italy by order of a controlling organization called: Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta. They are the same ones that decree that the name “Franciacorta” must never be modified or have anything added to it, when presented on a label. As a style it is comparable to Brut/ Extra Brut as it contains less sugar than your average Champers (around 5 to 7 grams per liter for Franciacorta). It is said the wine was made systematically as of the XIX century and is thanks to the efforts of Guido Berlucchi di Borgonatto whose early experiments gave birth to the concept that would become Franciacorta. In 1967 the first 1500 bottles were produced  and as a result it gained its first DOC, later in 1995 It evolved to DOCG status.


If you are a lover of sparkling wine, then you must add Cap Classique to your list!! Produced in South Africa, this delicious sparkling wine, created by Frans Malan using Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), a technique he developed after visiting Champagne (Essentially Méthode Champenoise). The wines early years reflected Stellenbosch and its character with a focus on the Chenin Blanc grape, as well as Pinot Noir and Pinotage. But nowadays most opt for traditional Champagne grapes in the form of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc. The name Cap Classique comes as homage to the Capes vineyards.

 The Roman Vintage!

The year was 200 BC and the Roman legion gets given the best encouragement you can give a man in a leather skirt! That all Legionnaires are to drink 2 – 3 liters of wine a day for better health!

Skip forward a few years (about 80 more or less) and Rome is in full swing with its wine culture, having carved a way through Europe and establishing Vineyards in every viable area and having destroyed Carthage 20 years prior and in the process burning the libraries of Carthage (But not before ransacking any and all books of interest, including all 26 volumes of Magos Agricultural treatise which contained winemaking techniques far more advanced than what the Romans had), the Romans finally started producing wines on par with the vastly superior Greek wines of the time and in the year 121 BC the vintage was so abundant and such high quality that it was named…….”OPIMIUM VINTAGE” named after Consul Lucius Opimius. Some of the wines from this special vintage were sealed inside large amphora’s and drunk over a century later (probably way past its prime).

The most coveted of the wines to come out of this period and more specifically, out of this magical vintage, was Falernian wine. Falernian wine, grown near present day Napoli on the slopes of Monte Massico was a white wine aged for years in large clay amphorae. In some instances it was aged for decades and there is record of a 160 year old Falernian wine being served to the Roman Emperor in fine crystal goblets, the colour, rich golden amber. Varro once wrote that Falernian wine increases in value with age. So highly regarded was this wine that it became one of the first wines exported to Britain (whilst still under Roman rule).

Wine For Thought: How to read and understand your Nose and Tongue!

There is nothing more nerve-racking than being asked what you are smelling or tasting in a wine, without ever having learned HOW to do it. For some it is a simple game of association and for others a laborious dive into the depths of olfactory comprehension. What I have observed over the years of hosting tastings for people wanting to learn more about wine, is a mix of people either repeating what they have been told to identify in similar wines, people too nervous to put a name to what they smell/taste and people curious to understand how the things they are experiencing, translate in to “a gentle hint of Jasmine” or “moon ripened apricots”

So let’s try to breakdown the how to and see if we can’t help boost that confidence level the next time someone asks you what you get on the nose/palate of that 130 year old Pinot Gris from that one guys bathtub in downtown Chicago.

Le Nose

Acidity – Acidity in the aromas of a wine can enhance key elements and make it easier to classify some of the notes you detect. It can translate in to the word fresh when smelling a white wine and instantly feeling like you wish you were in a park or on a beach. It commonly triggers/evokes comparisons to citric fruits, or aromatics like white pepper, capsicum, ginger. Acidity can also tell us if a wine is very young and that wine will benefit from decanting in the hopes of taming or softening those harsher smells.

Alcohol – This element should need little intro. The smell of alcohol can be both a detriment to a wine and a reassuring presence. It can integrate with the overall nose of the wine or it can conflict and seem harsh and aggressive. Note that a strong smell of alcohol does not always mean a very alcoholic wine but instead could mean that the alcohol is either not well integrated or the other aromas are just not open because of  the wine being very young.

Clean – This can be perceived in two ways, the first being when a wines aromas are very easily readable and are indicative of a specific grape ( Merlot = Cherries and Plums ) and this is normally associated with modern wine making techniques and new world wines. The other “clean” smell is when a wine, simply put, does not have any profound/complex or conflicting aromas and everything seems balanced.

Bouquet – A fancy pants way of saying Aromas

Fruity/Fruitiness – Fruity is polemic word for wine, because in all its glorious simplicity, it is confusing and deceitful!! As an aroma Fruity is just that, the identifiable aromas of the perceivers known fruits (you can’t say to someone gooseberry if they have no idea what one looks/tastes/smells like). This does not mean that at any point the wine has been in contact with these fruits rather that the mix of natural aromas in the wine triggers parts of our olfactory senses and we associate that trigger with its closest approximation.

Le Mouth

Acidity part two – Acidity on the palate is crucial to the balance and character of a wine, especially when dealing with whites or lighter reds that rely on “crisp” or “fresh” characters. Acidity can often be masked by body/viscosity/sugar of a wine and an easy way to see through that veil is to aerate/slurp the wine. Higher acidity translates in to fresher wines, more intense citrus notes or apple/pear. It can also go past a line with that acid starts to feel harsh, but do not fret, try pairing that wine with something fatty and maybe you might discover a perfect match.

Length – This refers to the residual taste of the wine and how long it lingers in the mouth, think of it like an echo of one or some of the characteristics of the wine. A wine can also be described as having a “short” finish in that almost immediately after swallowing the wine, it disappears from the palate leaving little or no trace.

Tannins – Tannins belong to a bitter and astringent group of chemical compounds called Polyphenols and can be found in many different natural things, ranging from Oak bark to red fruits. In wine they add dimension to the body and taste of a wine, leaving a drying or bitter aftertaste which combined with the acidity, sweetness and alcohol can be the very thing that distinguishes that particular wine.

Mouth-feel – Exactly as it sounds, this is the combination of all the things you experience in the mouth, leading you to a conclusion of how the wine “feels” based on your interpretation of the alcohol, tannins, acidity, flavours and sweetness.

This is a basic breakdown of common wine tasting vocabulary but please note that all pallets vary and our interpretation of Acid, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy and Salty isn’t always as clear cut as we are sometimes led to believe. Take your time understanding just your favourite wine/wines first, get comfortable using the terms with someone you know and use them as a secondary opinion. But most of all, have fun.

On that…..light apricot note! Adieu

Wine For Thought: A strange pair!!

The objective today is to challenge the concepts of conventional food & wine pairings by offering alternatives for you to try at home. The pleasure of discovering a new combination for a meal you know and love, allowing you to interpret different sides to it, is a small personal adventure for your mind and palate.

Fish & Chips + Champagne – Obviously this will not be within everyone’s budget and I will offer more affordable alternatives, but first the why you should try this. Fish & Chips is an iconic British meal that is as delicious as it is fried. What makes Champagne so perfect for it is the combination of elevated acidity and citrus notes, especially present in Chardonnay dominant champagnes or the ever wonderful Blanc de Blancs  (champagne made 100% from Chardonnay). Even by adding a squeeze of lemon to your Fish & Chips helps accentuate the citric profile of the champagne which in turn complements the food, while the acidity helps cut straight through the greasy, fattiness of the dish. As an alternative to champagne, see also Cava, Franciacorta, Cap Classique and even English sparkling wine, all of which are made in Methode Tradittionelle.

Roast Chicken + Pinot noir – This may not seem so outlandish to some, but bear in mind that most people pair their wines on the red with red meats/ white with white meats basis. A lighter, more aromatic style of Pinot can compliment well basted chicken, acting as support to the herbs used (think rosemary), whilst the elevated fruit notes and the fresh acidity help keep the mouth watering like a good cranberry sauce. On the other hand, if you go for a more straight lemon and herb roast chicken, try  a big fruit forward Pinot from somewhere like Oregon or Sonoma, the rich and intense dark berries and spices being the spark that unites all the flavours from your meal.

Tacos + Riesling – It´s Taco Tuesday and you are ready to dig in to your spicy, flavor-filled Mexican delight that is the Taco….. but you aren’t really feeling the idea of drinking Coronas today or any other light, refreshing beer! You want something different, something sophisticated! Look no further than a German or Alsatian semi-sweet Riesling (chilled to between 8-9 ºC). Note that semi-sweet can simply be replaced by a fruity Riesling; the important thing is to avoid the classic super dry style. This combo works because the aromatic fruitiness of the Riesling balances with the spice and the heat and the fresh acidity will help to augment the citric notes in the Taco.

Popcorn + Chardonnay – You are probably thinking one of two things…either A) I don’t like Chardonnay dear writer (if this is the case, please visit the blog I wrote on the divinity of Chardonnay and its misrepresentation around the world) or B) How do I sneak a bottle of wine in to the Cinema?? Well, first things first, let’s talk about the kind of Chardonnay we need to drink. 6 months barrel ageing ( American if you want sweeter aromatics and French if you want a more serious fruit character ) but more importantly you want these grapes to have sat on their “Lees” for at least 5 or 6 months to give it what is known as a pastry profile ( buttery, briochy notes ) and a light creamy texture.

Don’t be scared to try new things when it comes to wine and food, dare to try the strange combinations and maybe even write them down and share them!

Bon Appétit!!

Wine For Thought: Fortified and Delicious

As the comforting embrace of autumn gets closer and closer, I felt inspired to breakdown the complex and misunderstood world of fortified wines and their application to real life situations. I will dive into categories, offer a brief history and a guide on classic pairings, so get comfortable and let’s start with:

Sherry (Jerez):

Sherry wines are very much a part of Spanish history, wines having been produced in the Andalucian region since times B.C. During the time of the Moors the wine making traditions evolved and then almost came to a complete halt when towards the end of the Moor occupation, almost all wine production was stopped (wine makers managed to avoid destruction of their vines by claiming that the grapes could be used for making raisins to feed the army). After the crusades, wine production went back to being a priority and by the 15th century Sherry was internationally regarded for its quality and one of the most popular wines in England.

The main grape in Sherry wine is Palomino, but Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel are also used, specifically in sweet Sherries. The 5 most common types of Sherry are:

Amontillado – This Sherry is first aged under flor (a natural film of yeast) and then exposed to oxygen giving it a darker tone than fino, but not as dark as Oloroso. It is a dry sherry with nutty aromas and herbaceous notes that end in a hint of oak. Serve lightly chilled with a roast chicken or a beef consommé.

Fino – The delicate Sherry, Fino is the driest and palest of the classic Sherries and sees all of its ageing done under a cap of flor yeast, preventing oxidization and colour change. Serve chilled and drink within the hour with classic tapas, olives, almonds and fish dishes

Oloroso – Meaning scented in Spanish, is the darkest of the dry Sherries and also the highest in ABV (between 17% – 20%). It is aged under flor and then exposed to air to darken to the desired tone. Olorosos can also be called Creams when they are blended with other sherries, including Pedro Ximenez to obtain a creamier, sweeter wine. Pair Oloroso with olives, dried fruits and figs or red meats and game or good strong cheese after the meal, it is a very versatile wine.

Manzanilla – Similar to Fino, Manzanilla is a very light and pale Sherry made in the Puerto de Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It`s name is said to come from the Manzanilla infusion of the same name because of the similar aromas they both share. Even though it is made in the same way as Fino, the finished product is not and this due to a heavier concentration of Flor and the different soil types in the Port of Sanlúcar. Pair Manzanilla with olives, almonds, seafood and lightly cured meats.

Palo Cortado – Palo is a kind of Sherry that is initially aged like an Amontillado, between 3 to 4 years but then starts to develop more like an Oloroso. This can happen either through the accidental death of the Flor or more traditionally by the killing of the flor through fortification or filtration. The end product is a wine that is stuck in limbo between the richness of Oloroso and the more citric profile of an Amontillado. Only 2% of the grapes destined for Sherry naturally evolve in to Palo Cortado. Serve slightly chilled with light snacks or as an accompaniment to game meats and poultry.

So there you go, you are now a Sherry expert!! Go forth and steal the bottle of Sherry from your granddads cabinet and count yourself amongst the wine lovers of yore.


Wine for Thought: Picked from the vine!

The process of buying wine can be daunting at times and oversimplified at others. Be it grabbing a bottle from a supermarket shelf or asking a wine specialist for a recommendation at your local wine emporium. But none of these things beat ( under the right circumstance) buying straight from a winery.
Buying from a winery is an eye opening experience for most, because you discover the human element behind the wines and if you are luck enough to meet or talk with the owner and or winemaker, you will get to understand just how much work goes in to a well made wine.
One of the most important lessons I ever learnt, on my first ever winery tour (way before the dinosaurs roamed, or at least that’s how it feels now ), is that essentially growing grapes, like any other agricultural endeavour, is not completely controllable. That weather, pests, and a lack of sun (amongst other natural phenomena) are uncontrollable elements that the winemaker is at the mercy of. As such, just the growing becomes a case of hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The harvest and the production are the human elements, and touring a winery will also help you comprehend the amount of work that goes into making grapes into wine. Once the groundwork and the info of the winery has been passed on, you move on to the fun part!!! Buying Wine!!
No one is better suited to selling you wine than the people who made it, and not only will you get the best explanation and guidance over what you want, but you also get better prices and you support the producer directly. I know that not everyone has the luxury of living “near” vineyards or wineries, but maybe try and squeeze one in to your next holiday (making sure to contact them ahead of the visit to know the rules and regulations, cost etc). Nothing will help you connect with wine more than visiting the places it is made.

Happy trails!

Wine for Thought: the Tann-Ins and outs!

The question I get asked most often about red wines is “what are Tannins?” And the answer is……. complicated. At the scientific level Tannins are complex polyphenolic compounds that can be found in many fruits, nuts, leaves, barks and seeds and is basically a defence mechanism to stop small animals, insects, bacteria and fungi from consuming them. In grapes they are found in the skin, the seeds and also the stems, and whilst naturally astringent, are integral to the finish wine. They are integral in defining the texture and the structure of red wines, can have health benefits for the drinker, and can act as a natural antioxidant which is important to the ageing process, but can also be the reason your red is simply undrinkable on it’s own and needs a good hearty meal to show you it’s true colours.
Wines that are light in Tannins include: Gamay, Grenache (cool climate), some Cabernet Francs, pinot noir, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Bobal and some Barbera to name a few.
Medium Tannins:
Tempranillo when aged correctly, Merlot, Valpolicella, Primitivo amongst many others
High Tannins:
Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, Sangiovese, Shiraz from Australia, Mourvedre, Barolo etc.

The thing to keep in mind though, is that the country of origin, weather patterns and the vintage can all impact the level of Tannins in the grapes and some varieties can dance up and down between high and medium or low and medium.
When it comes to food remember this simple rule, the higher the Tannins the more protein and fat you can throw at them to balance.

Enjoy them no matter the level as long as you give them the respect they deserve!!
Good wine and good health

Wine for Thought: The Mouth is a doorway!!

The mouth is a beautifully bizarre device, capable of detecting flavours and textures at the same time, whilst also breaking down parts of those experiences for better understanding.
For today’s blog, I would like, for a moment, for you all to consider that flavour is, to some degree, subjective. We have all heard the word “Peach,” for instance, but we rarely stop to think of the implications of this word. What does a peach taste like? Does it taste the same in every country? Does it taste the same to every person? The answer is, no, it would be impossible. Cold Climate Countries, for instance, tend to have imported peaches, and even though the origin is a country that can produce ripe, juicy, and sweet peaches, the result of young harvesting, freezing and transportation leaves the receiver with a peach that is almost dry, tart and even acidic. There are, of course, a whole rainbow of influences in between states of ripeness, country of origin, weather throughout the season, time of harvest, etc, that also influence the final peach profile. So, how can we classify a taste as concretely with just the name of a fruit? Well, it comes down to markers. Sommeliers train to recognise markers that are given labels to represent them, those label’s are based on the approximation of a common flavour/aroma found in the designated fruit/herb/flower/mineral etc. So let’s make the focus for those who aren’t looking to become Somms but still understand how to enjoy wine on their own terms, and to achieve this, I will walk you through some basic exercises and techniques.

Step 1: Aeration/Wine Slurping.
This step is actually fun once you pass the fact that it can look/sound comical. But the execution of it can quickly become a part of your wine tasting arsenal if done right. The first thing you will do is take a small sip and close your mouth. Feel free to lightly swish the wine at this stage to fully engage the whole mouth. Tilt your head forward 45⁰ more or less, and when you are comfortable and ready, go from your closed mouth position, straight to taking in air slow and steady through lightly pursed lips (imagine whistling, but inward). If you are doing this right, you will hear the air cause the wine to make a bubbling/gurgling noise, if that’s the case, hold it for 6-8 seconds
When you are finished, you will notice that the top of your mouth and the sides of your tongue are detecting both alcohol and acidity acutely and also that the bottom sides of your mouth are watering with saliva.
This is an important step to understanding just how much acidity is hiding under the sugar in the wine.

Step 2: The Tannin Test!!!
This step is also important as it will let us gauge how tannic a wine is. Tannins, like acidity, play a huge part in defining the flavour of a wine and, as such, need the same level of understanding and appreciation. What you have to do is, take another small sip of wine, but this time, using the tip of your tongue, I want you to “paint” the inside of your mouth, all over the inside of your cheeks and behind your lips. Do this repeatedly until you notice the intense desire to swallow! Follow that desire and swallow the wine, leaving the oily, bitter acidity of the tannins to shine brightly. Note: If you are not a fan of tannins in wine, this just might be this single most horrible experience of your wine journey!

Step 3: Temperature is key!
Now, this test is eye-opening when you start to realise how much temperature can affect the perception of taste, making some go from refreshing to volatile, fruity to flabby. So, let’s get the basics out of the way.
White wines with high acidity should be served between 6 and 10 degrees. The higher the acidity, the closer to 6, the lower, closer to 10
White wines that are more aromatic and less acidic should be served between 8 and 12, more aromatic closer to 12.
The issue with white wines is this, the warmer acidity in wine gets, the more volatile that acid gets. The colder aromatic wines get, the less expressive they become. To the point where any white wine served at 5 or below will pretty much smell of just cold and alcohol.Red wines tend to lose their main characteristics below 12 degrees and can lose their bigger fruit notes before that. The lighter, more acidic reds ( Gamay, some Grenache, cool climate pinot noir) can be served lightly chilled for the same reason as the whites, to best represent the acidity in to freshness, but with reds that should be between 10-12 degrees. Alternatively, on the bigger, warmer side, 16-18 is the sweet spot for most aromatic reds. With wines in general, 22 degrees is too hot. At this temperature, wines begin to oxidise in bottle.With these 3 steps, you will have a much deeper understanding of tasting wine and isolating some of its elements. Step 1, for instance, gives you the opportunity to gauge acidity and so you can better work on the citric or fresh or under-ripe elements, whilst also being able to play with balancing the actual acidity of that wine with the right food, as opposed to pairing with the wine on its first impression which masks the acidity through balance.
Step 2 shows you how prominent tannins are, and by taking the time to taste them separately, see the difference in the kinds of tannin, the age or ripeness of them and gain a better understanding of how they fit in to your wine.
Step 3 is where you learn how to get the best flavours from your wine and to truly comprehend the impact of temperature on your taste buds.
It’s a hard job, but it’s fun and will ultimately pay off when you start to truly discover what you like about wines.
Cheers to that

Wine for Thought: Passito – Ripasso!!

Two styles that get thrown about in Italian wine are Passito and Ripasso, and whilst they both include a similar element, the results are both different and delicious. Lets start with Ripasso; Ripasso in Italian means to go over something again, to repeat so to say and such is the way of making Ripasso wines.

While the Ripasso method (called differently in different countries) can be made almost anywhere, no region is as famous for it as Valpolicella. The appellation wines from this beautifull part of Verona are Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Superiore DOC, Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC, Amarone DOCG and Recioto DOCG. To make Ripasso the winemaker will traditionally harvest the grapes between September and October to make Valpolicella wine but the grapes destined for Amarone are picked manually and comence the drying proccess, place in special conditions to start to rasinate . Corvina veronese and corvinone are the main body and character in these wines, rondinella and molinara the more common of the blending or secondary grapes.

Between December and January Amarone is vinified, the partially dried grapes are then fermented for a month more or less. From February to March the Amarone finishes its fermentation cycle and racked or filtered off of its skins and transferred in to a seperate steel tank. The remaining Pomace ( wine skins, pulp etc ) is passed in to a base of Valpolicella wine and thanks to remaining traces of sugar and yeast from the partially dried grapes of the Amarone, a second fermentation takes place, lasting roughly 10 days. This passing of the wine through the already vinified, partially dried grapes of the Amarone is the “going over” that the name ripasso suggests. At this point the wine will finish ageing in oak for 6 months and then aged in bottle until the 2 year release period post harvest in complete. If the wine sees a year or more in barrel, it is considered Ripasso Superiore. So how and why do they dry the grapes? In August the grapes used to make Amarone are carefully selected for ripeness and spend roughly 4 months being dried, sometimes in the sun, others in specially chosen areas above or close to the winery (Fruttaio). The reason this is done is because it allows for a concentration of sugar, flavours and tannins in the grapes, making for a richer wine.

The pomace of the Amarone, after fermentation is still rich in these, plus it is soaked in fermented Amarone. When the Valpolicella is added to this, it develops spicy, sweet and rich characteristics. Passito: Also known as the Appassimento method is the tradition of drying the grapes off the vine, on straw mats or large baskets under the sun, although nowadays more modern materials are used. The grapes can also be dried in prepared rooms called Fruttaio. When laid outside some regions with higher humidity will cover the grapes at night to protect against dew. The drying of grapes to make richer, sweeter wine is a practice that has been in use for over 3000 years, favoured heavily by the Greeks, the passion for this style is still very present in Italy where the Passito style has been part of the wine culture since the Roman times, although it wasnt recognised and defined around Italy until the 19th century These wines are often rich, complex and sweet wines made from aromatic varietals and every wine producing area of Italy that uses the method, creates its own expression. Some of the most popular expressions of Passito are; Passito di Pantelleria – From the Island of Pantelleria (between Scicily and Tunisia), this wine is made from Moscato di Pantelleria and dried in the traditional Passito method.The result is a sweet wine with a robust and aromatic nature that has a perfect hint of acidity to balance. Picolit – This grape from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy has had a strange up and down in terms of international popularity, peaking around the 70s. Today is still widely regarded by those who know and love dessert wines.

It is late harvested and then dried on mats or racks before fermentation. The finished wine is very sweet and generous in Apricot and Peach flavours, along with Honey and Floral notes. Recioto della Valpolicella – Made exclusively in Valpolicella from the same principle grapes as Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso and Valpolicella wine, this sweet red is a Corvina (or Corvinone) blend that also includes Rondinella and can include in smaller quantities Forselina, Negrara, Oseleta and Molinara. This dark and intense sweet red wine is full of rich Cherry, Cacao and Plum notes with hints of spice and a touch of acidity. Vin Santo – From the wonderful region of Tuscany, this traditional Italian dessert wine is traditionally made with Malvasia and Trebbiano, although sometimes even the Tuscan powerhorse, Sangiovese can be used to make a rosé variant. The grapes are rested to dry in the straw wine method, altough they are also sometimes hung in Fruttaios or prepared rooms with warm temperature and low humidity. Though considered a dessert wine, Vin Santo can sometimes be bone dry like a fino sherry or as sweet as a Tokaji.

These wines on the sweeter side have rich raisin and honey notes with hints of Nuttyness. They are enjoyed normally with a plate of Cantuccini biscuits that are also traditional to the region. So there you have it, the drier the grape, the sweeter the wine …..magic A toast to those who are enjoying an Eton Mess with the perfect sweet wine pairing

Wine for Thought: What 愀 Down Under!! Australia,

The land of wine opportunity!!

So much to explore and to talk about when it comes to this wonderous place of viticultural adventure. Australias 3 major regions are South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria South Australia: In Adelaide we can find the AWRI ( Australian Wine Research Institute ), one of the most renowned Institutions in the fields of Vitculture and Enology, sponsored and funded by winemakers and wineries from all over Australia.

Perfectly located in the midsts of some of the most coveted and respected sub-regions. Some of my favourites include; Barossa Valley – Northeast of Adelaide, we find Barossa, easily one of the most well known wine producing regions in the world. The Barossa valley produces some fine wines, but none so highly regarded as the Shiraz wines of Barossa. What makes them so famous is the intensity of colour, nose and flavour that these wines, making them stand-out as some of the biggest wines on the market. McLaren Vale – From Adelaide we head south, down to the Vale, with its warm Mediterranean climate. McLaren Vale is also known for Shiraz, but also produces very high quality Grenache and has also dipped its creative toes into making wonderful Tempranillos and Sangioveses. What stands out for most though are the GSM blends (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre).

These delicious, fruity, aromatic blends excel because the climate offers the perfect growing conditions for all 3 of these varieties, making them reliable and wonderful homages to the legendary wines of CNdP. Clare Valley – To the north of Adelaide we find Clare Valley. Here they grow traditional french grapes in the form of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and yes, also Shiraz. But what Clare Valley is truly known for is its Riesling. Due to the slate and limestone soils combined with cool nights, the Riesling wines from this area are distinctive and highly sought-after. New South Wales: Hunter Valley – in 1830 the first cuttings of Semillon where planted in this region and went on to not only be one of the most iconic wines from Australia but also one of the most unique expressions of Semillon. Starting young with lemon citrus and grassy notes, these wines develop into biscuity, aromatic and sometimes even slightly creamy whites that have confused more than one Sommelier into thinking it a different grape all together.

Byron Bay – Nowadays this hipsters paradise is all about craft beer and spirits, but we should never forget that this delightful sub-region also produces phenomenal Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, like fuller, more velvety versions of Burgundys legendary wines. Victoria: Yarra Valley: Yarra is extensive and counts 80+ vineyards dispersed across its areas. Whilst it produces perfect, restrained french varietals like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, what I like the most are the use of those first 2 grapes to make excellent traditional method sparkling wines.

Mornington Peninsula: Mornington Peninsula counts on cool winds to help produce lighter, more vibrant wines and whilst not a huge region it boasts 9% of Australias total Pinot Noir plantings with more the plantings in the area being Pinot. These wines deliver the heart of a burgundian red with more generous fruit. So there you have it…….Mate! dont muck about and sample what this great continent can offer! Cheers to that

Wine For Thought: If the cap fits!

Ok! Let´s get this out there, the conversation that seems to get wine lovers in a real….”twist”. Does the presence of a screwcap mean bad? cheap? WIll I be judged for baring a wine sans cork?? No, No and maybe? But let´s work on the last one.

The screwcap has some strong pro´s and some curious con´s so let´s start with the con´s!


The glaring one is consumer perception, the part where even you dear reader have either dabbled in or know someone who is, anti-screwcap. This perception holds truest in Europe,  one of the worlds most important and influencial markets, where the concept of cork goes hand in hand with tradition and quality.

Another is the stasis in which a wine that is stored under screwcap seems to exhibit after opening, often needing time and decanting to “wake up” and also the lack of data on long-term storage of wines under cap.

The last one I will go over may seem controversial but it is the simple fact that the New world has largely embraced screw caps and that fact paired with the misplaced disdain for New world wines, seems to reinforce the negative stereotype. Worth noting is that renowned Chateau Rauzan Segla, Chateua Margaux and others have sporadically released some of their best wines under screw cap and are all studying the long term effects. ( See Segla 2009 for comparative cork/screw cap tasting)


The important one. Of all wines bottled under cork 5% are affected by cork taint ( TCA) the numbers for screw cap wines are significantly lower if not almost none existant due to the lack of the materials that can commonly carry the compound ( Corks) and if they do show signs of taint, it´s normally a sign of a much bigger problem that goes back to the winery itself. Screw caps are an almost guarantee of freshness and protection.

The cost of screw caps is generally 2-3 times cheaper than cork, this ultimately gets translated in to the overall price of the bottle, the same delicious wine just less expensive.

The oxygen variable. Screw caps for all intents and purposes are air-tight, this means that the wine does not evolve through micro transactions with oxygen. This also means that the wine you drink is as the wine maker designed it to be. Is this a good thing? well it depends on the wine made, some winemakers design their wines to age in bottle and it is a well practiced art that fails on one simple step, the oxygen variable. It is impossible to know exactly how a wine will develope because you cant always assure the same amount of oxygen filtration through the cork. Screw caps on the otherside dont allow for that interaction and whilst this means the wine can shine at the same level for longer, the lack of any contact can sometimes put the wine to sleep ( not a Con as easily remedied with a decanter and patience).

I present you with the following experiment. Take a wine style that you love and look for the same style but with different closings at around the same price point and try them both, with friends if you fancy as then you can open up an interesting conversation with a glass of wine, just as Bacchus intended.

and with the wine poured, Cheers.

Wine For Thought: The Beating of a Glass Heart!

What to serve your Premier Cru Puligny Montrachet in? A big wine glass? A plastic cup? Your favourite tea mug? a series of ludicrously tiny thimbles from the airport in Moscow?

It all depends on your intention.

If the wine is there to grease the cogs of social interaction, a mere accessory to be waved around and swallowed, then the generic wine glass is all you need. Big enough to contain excitable drinkers in their attempts at swooping wine over and over like a stylistic washing machine.

But if you intend on best enjoying your wine the way it was intended, lets break it down!

The Flute: The most romantic of the glasses, used to symbolise class, love, celebrations and all the other bubbly fun stuff that one normally associates the liquid they contain within those  elegant and long stemmed beauties. But why the flute for sparkling wine/ Champagne? Well you see, its a trick question because Champagne in a flute allows for only the freshest and most dominant characteristics to show, whilst also allowing nucleation to concentrate all those bubbles together. I say trick question because if the objective is to actually the champagne in its entire glory you would be bested suited with a Coupe.

The Copita or Sherry Glass: This adorable little work-horse exists only to transport every bit of the sherrys rich and complex aroma directly to the nose and it does so by having a wider bowl than its neck, meaning the wine can dance  but only has one way to go. Normally the Copita has a short and sturdy stem, to help que a hold on the glass after the 6th sherry.

The Burgundy/ Pinot Noir Glass: The widest and shortes of the red wine glasses. Designed to highlight all of the delicate and the intense aromas in this wonderful variety. Its wide bowl allowing for more oxidisation and better movement ( swooshing) whilst a relatively narrow neck in comparison allows the drinker to concentrate all of that info.  For Chardonnay a very similar glass is used but slightly smaller with a shorter stem.

The Bordeaux Glass: Easily one of the tallest glasses with a large bowl and high only slightly inclined sides, designed to showcase the bold and elegant structures of wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot whilst also giving them space to grow and evolve.

The Shiraz/ The Malbec Glass:  This style is shorter than the Bordeaux with a smaller bowl, designed to focus the harsher and spicier flavours and soften them by letting them through to the palate gradually due to the smaller opening. The bowl is also more tapered than round so as to concentrate the aromas.

THE UNIVERSAL WINE GLASS: Whats not to love? strong and sturdy with elements of all the previous glasses and normally well priced as well as being easier to clean and maintain. No they wont caress the angels tears out of your Pinot Noir, but they will help you enjoy it none the less. A must have for anyone who fancies a nice glass of whatever takes the mood, without the need for a seperate glassware cabinet.

All in all if you are exclusively a red drinker  then invest in a good red wine glass, same if you are a habitual white wine drinker. But if you are just someone who drinks based on a whim, a meal pairing or just the right mood then the universal is all you need.

Whatever glass you choose…

Hold it High!

Wine For Thought: Would a wine, by any other label still be as sweet?

Ah the wine label!! That bastion of much confusion, the guide and deceiver of so many wine lovers.

What is it that they are actually telling us? well lets go through the basics and hopefully make you, at least more comfortable when it comes to choosing.

The Grape/Variety: Pinot Noir? Riesling? G.S.M? Recognising the grape/variety or blend in a wine can greatly help in the decision of what wine you are choosing. Maybe its tried and tested that you like Cabernet Sauvignon and seeing it on a label will sway your choice and that works great if you are dealing new world wines or newer wineries, but say you are dealing with traditional old world wines…. well things get a bit trickier. A lot of old world wines are labelled by region and rely on the consumer knowing exactly what grapes are permitted by law to be grown in that specific region. Take Rioja for example, is always made of Tempranillo and Chablis is 100% Chardonnay, but this information is rarely found anywhere on the label.

The Producer: How much does rep influence the quality of a wine? well, pretty heavily. The wine world is pretty unforgiving when it comes to producers who consistently put out bad wines but are very quick to champion those who put out good ones. The more consistent the quality, the faster that rep grows and so normally a well known producer ( known for good reasons) is a great indicator for a good wine.

The Vintage: This one is both simple and complicated! Simple because the vintage of a wine refers to the year the grapes where harvested, but complicated because the vintage of a wine can vary every year, even as drastically as from one region to another and all because of Mother Nature. An exceptionally warm or cold summer can influence a wine massively and really bad years can sometimes lead to wine makers opting to blend or abandon a specific wine from that vintage.  The thing that makes this complicated is that in order truly enjoy the best vintages you will first need to research which ones where good for the region you want to buy from.

Technicals: Two important things to take in to account on the label are the technical parts of the wine; the Alcohol and the Additives. The alcohol needs no introduction and is a legal requirement on all bottles and whilst alcohol level bares no impact on quality it can be a strong indicator of body. Wines traditionally reach a max of about 15.5% as 16% is normally where you enter the world of fortified wines. Additives on the other hand are not required in all countries to be listed on the label, the most common of which is Sulphur Dioxide ( Sulphites) an anti-oxidant that is used as a preservative in the wine. Sulphur Dioxide is already present in wine as it is a by-product of the fermentation process, but some wine makers opt to add more at various stages of making wine. Another thing that can be found in a wines general make-up are fining agents, used by the wine maker to filter or clarify a wine of impurities. Common fining agents are egg or fish solutions, but are normally visible on a label in the form of the phrase ” not suitable for Vegetarians/Vegans”

Whilst it is easy to buy in to expensive looking or flashy labels, if you invest just a little time in understanding the actual contents of the label, you will have a much better chance of choosing the perfect wine for you…… and if not, never hesitate to speak to your local wine jockey/ Quaff purveyor/Sommelier and pick their brains about the best vintages or blends or regions.

Tchin Tchin!

Wine For Thought: A very good year!!

The Vintage!! So much more than an excuse to sell your grandfathers old coat for way more than its worth. The Vintage of a wine refers to the year the grapes in that wine were harvested. Few wines appear without a vintage on the label, with a few standout examples being Non-Vintage Champagne, some styles of Port and Sherry. The question is, what does the vintage of a wine represent? well lets get philosophical about that answer and ask what makes any year good? Was it the warm summer holiday with the cool ocean breaze? The walks in the park in spring with a loved one, floral and elegant air caressing your skin? Just as with these memories, vines and grapes have similar life experiences and all of those wonderful moments, ultimately shine through in that years vintage! Scorching hot summer? Big, fruity, generous wines. Long and cool Spring? Fresher, more aromatic wines. Too much rain this year? Thin, light wines.

The truest expression of a great vintage is when all of the variables come together, the perfect shoots and budburst at the beginning of season (normally around beginning of spring) with just enough rainfall and sunshine to encourage growth and development, followed through to the perfect harvest where the grapes are at that perfect spot between sweetness and structure. When a winemaker has all of these things come together, they might even classify it a special vintage ( I.E Spain with the gran reserva).

All countries have vintages that stand out, making them almost always safe bets when factoring in a renoud or prominent producer, so lets break the most known regions down ( the best vintages highlighted in bold):

SPAIN – Rioja: 2001/2004/2005/2006/2008/2009/2010/2012/2013/2014

SPAIN – Ribera de Duero: 2004/2005/2006/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014

SPAIN – Galicia ( Albariño): 2018

FRANCE – Bordeaux (Right Bank Pomerol): 1998/2001/2002/2003/2004/2006/2007

FRANCE – Bordeaux (Left Bank Haut Medoc etc): 1998/1999/2000/2001/2002/2003/2004/2006/2007/2008/2012

FRANCE – Burgundy ( Chablis ): 2001/2002/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008

ITALY – Tuscany ( Chianti Classico): 1999/2000/2001/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008/2009

ITALY –  Piedmont ( Barbaresco ): 1995/1996/1997/1998/2000/2004/2005/2007/2009

ITALY – Veneto ( Soave Classico): 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2014/2015/2017/2018

ARGENTINA – Mendoza (Malbec): 2013/2014/2015

AUSTRALIA – Barossa/McLaren Vale (Shiraz): 2002/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2011

AUSTRALIA – Yarra Valley ( Pinot Noir ): 2010/2011/2012

AUSTRALIA – Clare Valley ( Riesling ): 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2011/2013

NEW ZEALAND – Marlborough ( Sauvignon Blanc ): 2016/2017/2018

NEW ZEALAND – Central Otago ( Pinot Noir ): 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014

U.S.A – Napa Valley ( Cabernet Sauvignon ): 2010/2011/2012/2014

U.S.A –  Sonoma ( Pinot Noir ):  2012/2013/2014

U.S.A – Russian River Valley ( Chardonnay ): 2012/2013/2014

There is always a grace period after the release of new vintages to classify them as great, to understand if the initial expression will translate in to a wine that stands the test of time. But established great vintages are an investment, not just to gauge how far the wine will go in terms of evolution but also as a wine that will be enjoyable as soon as you get it home. Also take in to account that great vintages are priced on 3 factors; The vintage itself, if recognised as exceptional. The time it has spent in bottle, if it falls within the positive evolution and peak and the most important for its impact on pricing, availability!! If a wine is known to be great and is an investment both as a wine to drink or lay-down, then it will sell and the more it sells the higher the price due to the demand of that great wine!.

That being said, let party like its ( Insert great vintage here )!


Wine For Thought: Size matters, maybe?

Bottles come in many shapes and sizes but  just to narrow things down…..just a little bit, we will talk about the most common ones.

Bordeaux Bottles –  Tall, high shoulder, normally dark thick glass, recognisable as a bottle of distinction.

Champagne/Burgundy Bottles: Wider body with a longer thinner neck and sloped shoulders, a shape that promises fruity and warm ( unless its Champagne)

German Bottles: Much Taller and thinner, usually clear o light green glass, perfect for showcasing the quality of the white wines within.

Ok, so now we have that out of the way, what about size? isnt a Magnum an Ice-cream? whats the really big one called??

well lets start with the basics.

The 1/2 Bottle: 375ml of quick and easy toasting wine!! why waste a whole bottle when you are just looking to celebrate a quick date in the park or your evil bosses demise? Just over 2 decent glasses of wine.

The Standard Bottle: 750ml The Ice breaker, deal maker, the classic bottle loved around the world for containing the right amount of wine for various situations. 5 decent glasses of wine out every bottle

The Magnum: 1.5Ltrs The double bottle, 10 decent glasses and the bigger bottle can mean that the wine potentially aged better, so not just for looking cool at the dinner table.

The Jeroboam: 3Ltrs- 4 Bottles. 20 decent glasses. We now enter the territory of bottles that are meant for either serving a large table with 1 bottle, or collection to allow long term evolution.

The Rehoboam: 4.5Ltrs – 6 Bottles. 30 decent glasses.

The Methuselah: 6Ltrs – 8 Bottles.  40 decent glasses

The Salmanazar: 9Ltrs – 12 Bottles. 60 decent glasses

The Balhazar: 12Ltrs – 16 Bottles. 80 decent glasses

The Nebuchadnezzar: 15Ltrs – 20 Bottles. 100 decent glasses

Now that we have all the final boss, semi biblical bottle names out of the way, the question is….Why?

The larger the bottle, the less interaction with oxygen, this basically means that the larger the bottle, the longer it takes to evolve and mature as it would say, in a standart bottle (750ml). To have a Balhazar sitting in your cellar is probably a sign of a wine that you like as is or prefer to age it for 100 years ( as well as that you have a strong back to lift it).

Take all this in to account and try and pour a Methuselah after 2 Magnums…..or better yet, really long straws!


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