Colour me White – 10 Reasons Why Colour Varies in White Wines

Have you ever wondered why white wine varies in colour?

Some are almost water white, while others can be lemon though to golden amber.  Surely there must be some logic to this?

Of course there is, but there are lots of inter-related factors which affect the colour of white wines.  Let’s have a look at them one by one.  Hold on to your hats, this might get a bit geeky by the end…

1. Oak

Angel_Oak_Tree_in_SC

Oak Tree (credit: DannyBoy7783)

More specifically maturation in new(er) small(er) oak barrels adds colour.  Certain types of wine are more likely to be barrel aged – Californian Chardonnays, for example – so much so, in fact, that you can see the difference before your nose gets anywhere near the glass.

See this post from 2014 for a more detailed discussion on oak.

2. Sweetness

Botritised Aszú Grape berries for Tokaji

Botritised Aszú Grape berries for Tokaji

The sweeter a wine is, the darker it will generally be. If you take a dessert wine (such as Hungary’s famous Tokaji) which comes in varying levels of sweetness, the depth of colour is a good guide to the level of residual sugar.

In fact, even on the basis of a mobile phone snap on twitter, I’ve had people make a good guess as to the number of Puttonyos* of a Tokaji – totes amazeballs, as the kids say nowadays.

(* putts for short, refers to the number of buckets of sweet grape paste added to a vat of fermenting wine)

3. Age

Age

Age

As a general truism, red wine gets paler with age and white wines get darker.  An illustration: the unique red and white wines of Chateau Musar in Lebanon move closer and closer in appearance as they mature in bottle.  Even Champagne goes golden when mature.

If you’ve got a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that looks quite golden though a clear glass bottle, the chances are that it is past its best…

4. Grape

Gewürztraminer

Gewurztraminer

This factor is the one that most people would guess at. Some white grapes have a slightly darker juice than others which affects what you see in your glass. Good examples of this from my favoured region of Alsace are Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.

The Spanish region of Rueda is known for its excellent yet inexpensive whites made from the fairly clear Verdejo grape, but wines of the same vintage do vary in hue. This is down to a certain proportion of Viura in the blend, a permitted grape in Rueda and Rioja plus Catalonia under the name Macabeo. So there you go!

5. Oxygen

Oxygen

Oxygen

Oxygen is both the friend and the enemy of all wine, red, white and all the diverse colours in-between.

a) Oxidised – when exposed to too much oxygen white wines go darker in hue quite quickly. When it happens this can be known as premature oxidation, or premox for short, and has spoiled many a white Burgundy lover’s treasures.

b) Oxidative – this descriptor is used when a wine is deliberately exposed to oxygen, for example with traditional white Rioja.  This style of wine will generally be darker than one in a non-oxidative style.

6. Skin contact

Orange Wine Skin contact

Orange Wine

The biggest fundamental difference between red and white wines is not the colour of the juice when grapes are pressed – with some exceptions, the juice is normally clear. The difference in colour is down to the time that the juice for red wines has in contact with the skins so that colour, flavour and tannin is leached out.

A very short time gives a rosé, an extended period can give an opaque, dense looking wine.

If you use the red wine approach with white grapes you get….orange wine! This is actually a very ancient method of wine making that has become trendy again. It’s arguable that, rather than being a darker type of white wine, orange is actually its own class of wine by itself.

7. Bâtonnage

Bâton

Bâton (the ones for stirring wine look a little different)

This is a fancy French term for stirring with a stick (which sounds somewhat less glamourous).  After fermentation some styles of white wine are left to stand on their lees, i.e. the spent yeast cells which have turned sugar into alcohol. It is particularly useful in Burgundy where it gives a certain creaminess to Chardonnay.

Wines made with lees contact tend to be markedly paler than those fermented in stainless steel and then transferred to cask for barrel maturation because darker pigments are absorbed by the lees.

8. Acidity

Acid

Acid

White wine colour is also affected by the wine’s levels of pH and the amount of acid (usually given as the equivalent in grams of tartaric acid for the chemists out there).  Very simply, more acidity leads to paler white wines.

9. Filtration

charcoal

charcoal

As part of the modern winemaking process, wines are usually filtered before bottling to remove any tiny particles which might give them a cloudy appearance. It depends on the substance used, but some such as charcoal will lighten a wine as tiny coloured particles (as well as some of the flavour) are removed.

10. Sulphur

Sulphur

Sulphur

Sulphur occurs naturally in wine, which is why pretty much every bottle in the shop has the caution “Contains Sulphites”.  Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is added as a preservative agent at different parts of the wine-making process, and in different amounts.  There is a growing movements among artisan and “Natural” winemakers to reduce or even eliminate these additions.

Particularly in tandem with a low pH (i.e. high acidity), high SO2 concentration has a bleaching effect and removes colour from wine.

Of course, it’s difficult to see the effect in isolation as those producers who don’t add sulphur are often the same ones who allow skin contact…

Conclusion

Of course, these factors don’t act in isolation, and it might be several of them in concert which apply to a particular wine. For example, a traditional white Rioja is likely to be made from Viura, barrel matured and made in an oxidative style. Add a few years in the cellar then you will have quite an amber wine.

It’s not possible to point to any of these factors individually, but we can have a damned good guess!

 

A Taste that’s out of this World

Peregrine Winery Central Otago

Peregrine Winery Central Otago

Some parts of Central Otago look like another world – wild doesn’t even start to cover it. Now vying with Martinborough as the best place for Pinot Noir in New Zealand, there’s an amazing variety of landscapes – some more resembling moonscapes in the former gold-mining areas.

It’s rugged, but beautifully rugged, even on an overcast day.

But it’s not just about Pinot – other varieties do well in the cooler climate down here as well. Chardonnay is an obvious one (Felton Road for example) and so is Riesling.  I think it’s fair to say that New Zealand is still finding its feet with Riesling, but there are some increasingly complex, balanced and just plain delicious wines being made.

Peregrine Central Otago

Peregrine Winery

Peregrine Central Otago Riesling 2010

With excellent acidity, this tastes nigh on dry – the 5 g/l of Residual Sugar adds body and balance without being obviously sweet.  It’s a fabulously versatile wine, great on its own on with anything from seafood to Thai.  At almost five years of age there are secondary aroma and flavours starting to develop along side the lemon and lime of its youth.

Peregrine Riesling Central Otago

Peregrine Riesling

Alcohol is 13.0% which gives you a hint that it’s no featherweight, but has enough body and oomph to really stand up for itself.  This is the type of wine I’d like to buy a case of and drink gradually over the years.

Stockists: not yet available in Ireland, but should have a RRP of €27 – €29

 

Here’s my review of Peregrine’s Pinot Noir on The Taste

thetaste.ie

Taste

 

Valentines Wines (VII) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 4)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world.  Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better.  Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine.  A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in!  Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Champagne Marie-Courtin “Résonance” Brut NV by Paddy Murphy (@VineInspiration) of The Vine Inspiration

Champagne Marie-Courtin "Résonance" Brut NV

Champagne Marie-Courtin “Résonance” Brut NV

When I was asked to pick a Valentine’s Day wine, Frankie assured me it didn’t have to be in any way traditional or cheesy.  Still, it’s hard to resist suggesting Champagne for this or indeed any celebratory occasion.

I first tasted Dominique Moreau’s Champagnes a couple of years ago and instantly fell in love (see…I can do cheesy!?).  Dominique’s estate is in the Côte des Bar and named after her grandmother ‘Marie Courtin’.  The vineyards are farmed biodynamically and most of the Champagnes are bottled in an Extra Brut style.

I say most – in reality I thought all her Champagnes were made in this style until I found her Résonance Brut NV (100% Pinot Noir) lurking on the shelves of The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock. If I’m truly honest, it probably does’t thrill me as much as the Extra Brut NV, but even with that caveat it’s worth tracking down this delicious Champagne.

€45.49 from The Organic Supermarket

Valentine’s Wines by Suzi Redmond of Suzi’s Grape Crush

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino

So chatting with friends I usually get asked for any new recommendations for wine, beer or spirits… with valentines up-coming so did the topic of going for pinks or not…

Pinks are always fun and cute for Valentines but after thinking about it I asked what they wanted from their evening, as in light breezy, more seductive or maybe a slight blend…

For wine, if you want to go bright breezy then a good pink bubbly followed by either a more reasonably priced bottle of bubbles or a lovely rose from the Loire should fit the bill.  If a blend of fun and seduction then bubbles (Celtic Whiskey shop has some half bottles on sale for €9.99) followed by an elegant red.

For me nothing says seduction than a northern Italian red especially a Brunello di Montalcino – pure seduction! It does depend on your menu and budget. If cash is a touch tight go for its second wine Rosso di Montalcino which is quite beautiful.

See Suzi’s full post including beers and spirits recommendations here.

Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012 by Loie (@cheapwinecurius) of Cheap Wine Curious

Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012

Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012Love Noir California Pinot Noir 2012

Perfectly situated in the Valentine’s Day wine section, I found this beauty on the bottom shelf. I’m one to plunder the shelves down under so I bought this wine with cupidity. My expectations for this Pinot were as low as the dust bunnies I am accustomed to shooing away in aisle. However, once home Love Noir had some surprises.

What is that saying? Love thy neighbor? In this case, I bumped into a neighbor fleeing from her inlaws. It was opportune as I was a neighbor in search of a drinking buddy. To tip the scales, the in laws were watching the children. My friend’s walk “to get some fresh air” detoured to my kitchen table and we started to discuss today’s tasting.

Very first thing we noted was the lovely labeling. Gold foil on black matte paper was very classé, and you would never believe it was merely $11 and some change.  But haven’t we all been fooled before.  There was no coincidence that a wine with “LOVE” in the name was launched during the Valentine’s Day holiday season. I also caught a bit of naughtiness in how they positioned this wine. This is what I read on the back:

“Deep & Rich In Style
Silky & Smooth In Taste
LOVE NOIR
Obsession. Desire. Passion.
This is Love Noir.”

Really? I thought I was reading the book jacket of a subgenre of romance novels. My faith with this vintage was waning. But I poured anyways.

Color was a dark, red purple. The nose was pomegranate, plum, cedar. There was good structure and I could identify 3 distinct layers; fruit first, balanced acids and smooth tannins second and thirdly a lingering woodsy, berry, oak finish.  Whether aged in barrel or not, there was distinctly oak in the finish and it was pleasant and complimented the bold fruit nicely.

Hey, “every wine has a darker side.” I think I’ve surrendered to the “LOVE NOIR.” The “richness” of this wine was able to “spark intensity and intrigue.”  If I can, I am certain you will “succumb to your urges and experience LOVE NOIR. Love. Changes. Everything.”

I’m not slavish to reading labels, but if you buy this wine, it is the gift with purchase. I rate this wine as a buy again – was quite good for the price and a pleasure to both drink and read aloud even in mixed company!

$11.49 Available at Target (USA)

Stay curious!
Loie

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

My 15 minutes of fame?

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” Andrej Varhola, Jr

This week I had the extremely unexpected (but nice!) surprise to find myself listed as one of Wine Owners’ top 10 most influential UK wine writers and bloggers:

Top 10 UK influencers

Top 10 UK influencers

Among such esteemed company I felt like something of a charlatan, but given that it’s principally based on social media, and I tweet a LOT, there might be a grain of truth in it. Of course the other writers in the top 10 have newspaper columns and have published books, so it’s not as though social media is their main outlet (and if any paper needs a new writer, drop me a line ;) )

Continue reading

Valentines Wines (V) – Romantic, Tacky or Kitsch?

I’m often suspicious of marketing in the wine world, perhaps because my original profession is far from the creative side of things.  In particular, I have wondered if marketing budgets trump wine quality itself – there are a few big brands whose wines I think are just swill – you know the ones I mean.

But are marketing and quality wine mutually exclusive?  Here’s a wine that puts that to the test.  Disclosure: the bottle was kindly supplied by O’Briens

Lanson Rosé NV “Valentine’s” (€54.99, currently €44.99, O’Briens)

Lanson Rosé NV

Lanson Rosé NV – back

This is Lanson’s non-vintage rosé Champagne in special packaging.  I have some colour-blindness, but even I can tell it’s VERY PINK.  It comes with a pen so that you can use it as a Valentine’s message to your spouse / partner / crush.

Lanson Rosé NV - front

Lanson Rosé NV – front

Most readers will be more interested in the contents than the packaging – this is a wine blog after all.  So how is the liquid inside?

Lanson is not yet that well-known on the Irish market but is among the top few in the UK. They block malolactic fermentation in the base wines, so the end product remains very fresh tasting – and it works!  The acidity isn’t fierce, but this remains far more refreshing than some rosés (in particular) which can be insipid.

The assemblage is 32% Chardonnay, 53% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, which shows on the nose as red fruit, and then to taste there’s lots of fresh strawberry and raspberry with a citrus lift.

I’m not a rosé drinker in general, but quality rosé Champagne is really growing on me.

And the packaging – is it Romantic, Tacky or Kitsch?

In my opinion it’s all three, but then so is Valentine’s day!

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

Valentines Wines (IV) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 2)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world. Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better. Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine. A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in! Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 by Tim Milford “Rex Vinorum” (@timmilford) of TimMilford.com

Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella 2009

Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella 2009

If you’re going to do a Valentine’s wine then you can’t really go wrong with Italian.  Surely, the Italians would go for a wine with some “Amore” on this most romantic of days.  So why not try this 2009 Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella?

Available from Mondial Wines for £36. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara; this wine exudes sensuality with characteristic dried fruits (raisins and prunes) on the nose and a smooth, well rounded, balanced body.  At 15.5%, this wine could help get the evening going…!

Southbrook Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Carol (@GinandGriddle) of Gin And Griddle

Carol & hubby drinking rosé on the Southbrook patio

Carol & hubby drinking rosé on the Southbrook patio

A combination of a little unusual & romantic for us, as its a wine region we love, and will be returning to for our 5 year wedding anniversary this June.

A Canadian red, Southbrook’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  We’ve been to Toronto many times and always get out of the city to Niagara on the Lake, Beamsville, the Niagara Escarpment – the fantastic wine region in Ontario.  Some wonderful vineyards & wineries, one of which is Southbrook.

Having tried (and loved) many of Southbrook’s wines while in Canada, we were delighted to find Southbrook’s Cabernet Sauvignon (2012 I think!) in Marks & Spencer’s… Blackcurrant, blackberry & raspberry flavours, very smooth & full bodied made from organic and biodynamically farmed grapes.

Dominio de Tharsys Cava Brut Nature NV by Mags (@magswinetotry) who will be blogging at Mags Wine To Try

Dominio de Tharsys Cava Brut Nature NV

Dominio de Tharsys Cava Brut Nature NV

This fine good value Spanish sparkling wine is made using the Traditional Method has fine bubbles with citrus, apple and pear aromas, On the palate, light and fresh with a cleansing acidity leading to a lingering citrus finish which reminded me of baked lemons.  Lovely as an aperitif and its lively acidity and lemon notes makes it ideal for sharing over a romantic seafood platter with your Valentine.

€18.85, available from Le Caveau 

 

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

Valentines Wines (III) Dolcetto – the Little Sweet One

When most wine fans outside Italy think of Piedmont in the North West they immediately think of Barolo and Barbaresco – the pair that Kerin O’Keefe calls “The King And Queen Of Italian Wine”.  Some of these Nebbiolo-based wines are undoubtedly amazing, but they don’t represent the totality of Piedmont wines.

Gavi and Arneis are among the other white representatives, then Barbera and Dolcetto for the more approachable reds.  Locals drink far more of these than the “big Bs” – most of us are missing out!

Dolcetto is the Italian for “Little Sweet One” – and it certainly is sweeter than the tannic “Little Cloudy One” Nebbiolo.  And given the romantic time of year, quite an apt recommendation for Valentine’s Day.

Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin’ 2013

Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin' 2013

Ciabot Berton Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Rutuin’ 2013

According to their website, the Oberto family can claim to have early origins reaching as far back as 1200.  For many years, vines were grown as part of mixed-use agriculture on their property, with the grapes being sold to vintners rather than being made in wine on the property.

Fast forward to the end of the 1950s, and Luigi Oberto decided to produce his own wine. Initially, some was bottled under his own label and some was sold in bulk.  Over the following years, more and more was sold under the name Oberto and more of the family’s and was turned over to vines.

100% varietal Dolcetto, this wine was made in the family’s modern winery and matured in stainless steel to preserve fresh, fruity flavours.

Bright ruby red in the glass, this has a typical Italian nose of cherries and red berries. The cherries persist onto the palate, joined by cranberry – perhaps it’s the acidity which causes that to spring to mind.  Tannins are present but smooth and well integrated – you have to search for them to find them.  Would be amazing with some local cold meats!

Available from Le Caveau for a steal at €16.95, it currently has 10% off making it €15.25

At Le Caveau’s tasting last year I very much enjoyed Champagne Gobillard 1er Cru NV, and  I note that Gobillard’s Brut Rosé NV is also on promotion for Valentine’s – check it out!

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

  • I – The Tasting Panel
  • II – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 1)
  • III – Dolcetto – the Little Sweet One
  • IV – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 2)
  • V – Romantic, Tacky or Kitsch?
  • VI – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 3)
  • VII – Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 4)

Valentines Wines (VI) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 3)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world.  Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better.  Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine.  A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in!  Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Judeka Insolia ‘Angelica’ 2013 & Nero d’Avola ‘Orlando’ 2013 by Richie Magnier (@motleycruwine) of the motley cru

judeka-insolia-angelicajudeka-nero-davola-orlando

The Judeka wines I tasted late last year in the Wine Workshop would be really good Valentine’s Day bottles.  Their Angelica & Orlando wines are named after the characters in Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love) by Matteo Maria Boiardo.

The Angelica was a lovely, light, fresh, lemon-and-lime wine with some apricot. It was deliciously refreshing, and I couldn’t get over how light, both in colour and texture, it was, but without feeling insipid.

The Orlando differed so much from Nero d’Avolas I’ve had before which tended to be big, hot and spicy.  This was deliciously fresh and light with bright juicy red fruits.  It had nice integrated acidity: enough to be noticed, and to go really well with food, but not too much to be a major factor.  A touch of dustiness and salinity underneath the juicy fruits added a distant allure to an otherwise delightfully appealing wine.

Here is Richie’s full report.

Both are €14.99 from Sheridans’ Cheesemongers (in store and online)

Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 by Liqueur Plate (@LiqueurPlate) of Liqueur Plate

Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010

Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010

I have always regarded Amarone as one of the most sensuous wines I’ve ever tasted.

Intense, full bodied wine where rich feminine flavours of red and black cherries are warmed with cocoa and strengthened by the masculine tobacco and coffee character in this extremely seductive wine.

Let it decant for an hour or two before serving.

€39 Available from most off licences and supermarket nationwide.

Philippe Michel Cremant Du Jura NV by SolicitingFlavours (@SolicitingFlavo) of Soliciting Flavours

Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura NV

Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura NV

From the Aldi website: “Made from 100% Chardonnay this wine has a sophisticated subtlety with stimulating fresh citrus notes and a lovely length.  Perfect for any occasion, with hints of apple and lemon citrus.”

£7.29 UK / €10.49 Ireland

Kicks most prosecco’s arse!

 

The full list of 2015 Valentines Wines posts:

Valentines Wines (II) Bloggers Of The World Unite (episode 1)

One of the best parts about becoming a blogger has been meeting other bloggers from near and far – from literally round the corner to the other side of the world.  Reading their blogs has been interesting in itself, but has also been very helpful in learning how to make my own blog better.  Everyone I have met has been polite, pleasant and generous.

For some time now I had been meaning to try collaborating with some of my fellow bloggers – and then I hit on the idea of asking them to contribute a recommendation for a Valentine’s Day wine.  A cheesy romantic link to V-Day was optional – it could just be a wine that the writer really liked and so would recommend – and just a couple of lines was requested, though some wrote more.

I was bowled over by the reaction – everyone I asked agreed to join in!  Some even gave the background as to why a particular wine was romanic for them.

So sincere thanks to all who contributed!

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 by Joanne Cronin (@dudara) of Stitch and Bear

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013

I’m not a V-day person, but I’ll go for Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc, because a friend served it as the white wine at their wedding which was one of the most beautiful and romantic weddings I’ve attended.

It was a beautiful summer day and it really was the perfect wine for it.

€19.99 Available from O’Briens

Schloss Schonborn Hollenberg Spätburgunder 2011 by Lorcan O’Brien (@theirishwino) of Hibernian Bacchant

Schloss Schonborn Hollenberg Spatburgunder 2011

Schloss Schonborn Hollenberg Spätburgunder 2011

From the O’Briens website: “Aged in oak and treated by the winemaker in a manner similar to 1er Cru Burgundy, this is an accomplished Pinot Noir that merits an hour’s aeration and a roast pheasant.”

Quite simply my favourite wine of the last year.

Ca’ de Noci ‘Sottobosca’ Frizzante Rosso 2011 by Cara Rutherford (@buddhainyrglass) of The Buddha In Your Glass

Ca’ de Noci ‘Sottobosca’ Frizzante Rosso 2011

Ca’ de Noci ‘Sottobosca’ Frizzante Rosso 2011

Crafted by brothers Giovanni and Alberto Masini on their family’s estate near Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. The vineyards are certified organic, and the brothers do not use chemicals in any process of winemaking, including sulphur and additives. Wines are left unfiltered and unfined.

Not for the faint of heart, this will funkafy your Valentines Day. Inky violet red with pink bubbles, black cherry and blackberry flavours ride along a current of vivacious fizz, backed by barn door funky earth notes and a cleansing acidity that harmonises with the fruity, dry finish.

Blend of Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri and Malbo Gentile

  • IGT
  • Estate Bottled
  • 11% Alcohol
  • $16
  • Enjoy now
  • Only 4000 bottles produced
  • Louis/Dressner Selections

 

Also see other Valentine’s Wines posts:

I – The Tasting Panel

Valentines Wines (I) The Tasting Panel

For the first of my posts on Valentine’s Wines I thought I would try something a little bit different from the norm. My wife and I invited her elder brother Andrew and his girlfriend Paula round for dinner to and to try some different wines in advance of Valentine’s Day.

It’s good to hear the opinions of other people – wine tasting can be very social and lots of fun. I heartily recommend you try forming your own tasting panel now and again, with friends from absolute novices to MWs.

Before we get into the wines, here is the delicious meal they accompanied:

Starter:

Cantaloupe Melon drenched in Pineau des Charentes

Main:

Slow Roasted Loin of Pork with a Bramley apple glaze, server with roasted potatoes, julienne carrots and petits pois, roasted root vegetables, apple and citrus jus

Dessert:

Apple Strudel with Cornish Vanilla Ice cream and / or Homemade Vanilla Custard

Cheese:

Selection of: Brie de Meaus, Abbaye du Mont des Cats, Diliskus semi-soft Herbed.

The wines

Disclosure: the wines tasted below were kindly provided by O’Briens, but opinions are entirely our own.

Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV (€20.99, currently €17.99)

Valentine’s connection: who doesn’t like popping the cork on some fizz?

Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV

Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV

The label “Extra Dry” on Prosecco is usually a misnomer – the wine is often on the sweet side. A little sweetness can make Prosecco very easy to drink and is one of the factors behind its current boom in sales. However, Rizzardi’s style is actually dry on the palate. Being a Spumante it had a proper cork and was fully sparkling.

On tasting the main flavours we noted were pip fruit such as Granny Smith’s apple and pear, citrus (even Lemon Sherbet) and a sour sweetness (if that makes any sense) – a bit like the sensation from Sour Squirms sweets.

A little sweetness did come through on the finish once it had warmed up a little in the glass (it was served straight from a domestic fridge).

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 5 [not a fan of fizz]
  • Paula 8 [can I have another glass please?]
  • Jess 4 [found it too dry]
  • Frankie 7 [preferred it to most other Proseccos]

Verdict:

This wine clearly divided opinion on the panel, but that’s no bad thing. Hopefully the comments give you the information to decide whether this Prosecco is for you, or perhaps try a sweeter one.

Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013 (€14.49, currently €12.99, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: say it with (white) flowers

Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013

Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013

Although labelled as a Vin de France, which could come from almost anywhere in France, this was made in the Corbières region of the Languedoc, quite close to the Mediterranean coast.  The name property name “Les Auzines” comes from the Occitan meaning “little leaves from the oak tree”, owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa Corish.

The blend is based on Grenache Gris, with perhaps a dash of Grenache Blanc.  It is classed as an oaked white as 85% was fermented and aged in second and third-use oak barrels, but although it has gained texture and complexity it doesn’t taste typically “oaky”.

Smooth and rich but tangy, it shows flavours of Macadamia nuts, lime, gravel and mineral, fennel, lavender and other herbs – it’s really interesting.  Alcohol is surprisingly modest at 11.5% – it doesn’t feel lacking in any way.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 7 [Nuts and gravel]
  • Paula 8 [Soft and easy-drinking]
  • Jess 7 [A white wine for red wine drinkers]
  • Frankie 8 [what a find!]

Verdict:

Fleurs Blanches was an amazing match for the main course – perhaps helped by the dash of Fleurs Blanches which went in the jus.  O’Briens’ notes reckon that it “bears a closer resemblance to fine Burgundy than to Corbiéres” – I would clarify that by saying it could double for mature fine Burgundy – it’s that good!

Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013 (€22.99, currently €19.99, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: woo your Valentine with a classy, classic white wine.

Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013

Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013

Sancerre was the first wine region famous for varietal Sauvignon Blanc, but as is the way with Appellation-based fame, it is open to use and abuse.  If you’ve ever bought a Sancerre in a French supermarket then you will know that quality can be very variable…

So what to do?  Find a good producer, of course – or a great producer, such as Henri Bourgeois.

Minerality is a buzzword in wine at the moment, but the chalk soils of HB’s vineyards impart a magnificent flint character to his wines.  The very name “Porte de Caillou” means Pebble Gate, so that should give you an idea!

As well as the minerality (liked by one taster to sucking on gravel!), there’s lots and lots of fruit: very green, but ripe, fruit such as gooseberry and grapefruit, plus a little restrained tropical fruit.  There’s lots of acidity but it’s smooth rather than spiky, with more body and texture than you might expect from a Sauvignon.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 8 [An integrated continuum from the nose though to the palate]
  • Paula 7 [Lovely and fresh]
  • Jess 6 [Prefer fruity Sauvignons]
  • Frankie 8 [Classic Sancerre!]

Verdict:

Food friendly Sauvignon that the Kiwis are now trying to emulate.  This shows how Sancerre should be done, and why it became a classic in the first place.

Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007 (€17.49, O’Briens)

Valentine’s connection: an appeal to the finer things in life – and seductive in the glass.

Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007

Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007

Named after the Mediaeval Latin for “New Art” (as in New Technique), this is a blend of 40% Tempranillo (well known in Rioja and elsewhere in Spain), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot (both from Bordeaux).  Its home region of Navarra had non-native (mainly French) varieties planted from the 1980s onwards, so now winemakers have a wide choice of ingredients.

As a Gran Reserva it has spent eighteen months maturing before being bottled – the producer mentions nine months in French oak so I’m guessing a further nine in a larger format of vessel.  Alcohol is punchy but not overblown at 14.0%.

It shows smoke rather than vanilla characters from the oak, followed by red fruit (strawberry) moving into black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry) and a savoury finish.  There’s perhaps an edge of leather and liquorice but they don’t dominate.  Overall the impression is of fruit sweetness, plenty of tannin, well balanced.

Panel Votes:

  • Andrew 8 [My kind of wine, fruit and tannin together]
  • Paula 9 [My favourite wine of the night]
  • Jess 9 [Easy going, smooth, could drink this every day]
  • Frankie 8 [Spain meets Bordeaux, incredible value]

Verdict:

Perfectly poised between (fruit) sweet and (tannin) savoury, this was a big hit with everyone.  It was a good match for the cheese but would also be great with beef, lamb or venison.  Without the renown of Rioja, the winemakers of Navarra have really upped their game.  The only downside to this wine was that a Lussac St-Emilion tasted afterwards was dry and thin in comparison!

More Valentine’s Wines to come!