This Summer’s BBQ Wines #7 and #8

Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social

Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social

A few weeks ago I was the guest of thetaste.ie at Fade St Social where Colly Murray from RetroVino was showcasing the wines from Quinta da Alorna.  Representing Alorna was André Almeida, a true gentleman, who explained some of the philosophy behind each wine.  The talented chefs at Fade St Social prepared a dish to match each wine.  You can read a great report from the evening on the blog of my friend Laura.

I was very impressed with the wines overall, and will give a more in-depth report on the estate in the coming weeks.  What did strike me was that the wines were very good value, and were versatile enough to be enjoyed on their own or with food.  In other words, they would be great for a barbecue!  Here are the “entry level” white and red:

Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Quinta da Alorna Branco 2013

Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013

This white is a blend of two indigenous Portuguese grapes:

Arinto is known for its high acidity and citrus aromas and flavours.  It’s also grown extensively in Bucelas (so much so that it is sometimes known as Arinto de Bucelas) and in Vinho Verde, where it is often blended with Alvarinho and Loureiro.

Arinto grapes

Arinto grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Fernão Pires has a more spicy aromatic character, often with exotic fruity notes.  As well as Tejo it is also grown in Bairrada, sometimes under the pseudonym Maria Gomes.

The two grapes are pressed and vinified separately at low temperature (12ºC) in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness.  The two varieties are then blended, cold stabilised and clarified before bottling.

What this gives is a wine which can pair well with lots of different dishes, as different aromas and flavours from the wine are highlighted by the food.  Seafood is well complemented by the lemon and lime of the Arinto and its cutting acidity.  Asian and more expressive dishes are well matched by the exotic fruit of the Fernão Pires.  Chili and lime marinated prawns on the barbecue would be perfection!

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012

Not to be outdone, this red is a blend of three indigenous Portuguese grapes: Touriga Nacional (30%), Castelão (35%), Trincadeira (35%)

Touriga Nacional is of course most famous in Port, and now “light” Douro wines, though it’s not the most widely planted grape in the Douro region.  Often floral.

Touriga Nacional grapes

Touriga Nacional grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Castelão’s name is derived from the Portuguese term for parakeet.  It is high in tannin so is often a component in a blend rather than a varietal.

Trincadeira is another Port grape, also known as Tinta Amarela.  It produces dark full-bodied and rich wines, with aromas of black fruit, herbs and flowers.

Production methods were fairly similar to the Branco above, with the exception that fermentation took place at 23ºC to help extract colour, flavour and tannin.

This wine is another great example where a blend can be more than the sum of its parts. The tannins are soft and gentle, there are wonderful floral aromas on the nose, and lovely plum and berry on the palate.  Just perfect for barbecued beef, or a juicy steak from one of Dylan McGrath’s restaurants!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #6

The first grape that many people (especially my friend Ciaran) suggest for a barbecue red is Malbec, particularly the fruit-driven style Malbecs that come out of Argentina.  Others take a different view and insist that Cabernet is King, and the extra tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon is required to tame a protein feast.

Who’s right?

Mendoza Vineyards

Mendoza Vineyards

Well of course neither are wrong – it’s personal preference after all – but there is a way to keep both parties happy – a Malbec Cabernet blend, the best of both worlds:

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013 (€12.99, Aldi Wine)

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

This is a foray upmarket for Aldi, the discount Supermarket chain.  Now that we are gradually emerging from the depths of despair recession, wine drinkers are gradually willing to spend a little more, but still keeping an eye on value for money.

Aldi recently launched their Lot Wines collection, premium wines with a limited production of 25,000 – 35,000 bottles per wine.  That might still sound a lot, but in the context of the number of outlets they have in Ireland and the UK (at least) then it’s actually not that many.  Each wine in the series has its own label designed by artists local to the producing region and a tag with information about the consulting winemaker for each one. Each bottle is individually numbered which adds to the premium look and feel.

Mendoza wine region

Mendoza wine region

For Lot #01 the man with the plan was José ‘Pepe’ Galante, head winemaker at Bodégas Salentein. Most of the grapes are sourced from higher altitude sites in the Uco Valley subregion of Mendoza – the altitude gives cooler growing conditions enabling the vines to produce grapes with ripe flavours and a balance of acidity and sugar (sites further east at lower altitude might be too warm and produce jammy wines).  The grapes are hand-picked from selected parcels and matured after fermentation for twelve months in oak.

As well as the two hero grapes, there’s also a dash of Petit Verdot in here (less than 15% otherwise it would be on the front label).  As in Bordeaux, it’s added for seasoning and a bit of extra backbone – as a grape it’s very high in tannin.

So how does the wine taste?

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This wine has lots and lots of fruit, plum and damson from the Malbec intertwined with blackcurrant and blackberry from the Cabernet.  But it’s no fruit bomb, the tannin and acidity keep it well balanced.  It’s smooth to drink, but not so smooth that the taste jades after a glass or two.  The oak is there but accompanies rather than dominates the fruit, adding vanilla and spice notes.

I shared this bottle with French and Irish friends at a barbecue and it was very well received – one French lady almost falling off her chair in delight!

Disclosure: Sample was provided, but opinions are entirely my own (and Sabrina’s)

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #5

In the summer months, such as they are on the Emerald Isle, drinkers tend to leave their bigger red wines to one side apart from when firing up the barbie and devouring half a cow.

If you’re a determined red wine drinker, what should you be looking for on the warmer days?  I put it to you that Pinot Noir might well be the answer.  I will make my case:

Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

  • It’s lower in tannin so can pair with poultry and meaty fish (such as tuna steaks) as well as red meat.
  • Among black grapes it’s relatively high in acidity which makes it refreshing.
  • It’s lighter in body and can take a light chill – 30 minutes in a domestic fridge before bringing out to the patio will add some zip!
  • You can choose a savoury edge from the old world (esp Burgundy or Germany) or a fruitier style from the New World depending on your fancy.
  • Miles drank Pinot Noir in the cult wine film Sideways.

You know it makes sense!

Here’s a Pinot Noir that I recently test drove at a barbecue and really enjoyed:

Byron Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2012 (€25.49, O’Briens)

Byron Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2012

Byron Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2012

Santa Barbara County is the original home of quality cool climate Pinot in the States, and  is indeed where Miles and Jack from Sideways went to try some delicious wine.

Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County

If you’re not familiar with the area you might not place it as an American wine at first; there’s minerality on the palate and a lightness of touch that can be missing from some US wines.  The winemaker’s notes state that it spent 8 months ageing in 100% small French oak barrels, but the oak is already well integrated and does not jarr.

Redcurrant, red and black cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit compete for your attention.  Although very smooth and approachable, there’s a serious side to this wine – the acidity and savoury notes give it some gravitas.

Although this delicious Pinot Noir would be great for a drink outdoors at a BBQ, to be honest it would be a treat in any season and setting!

Disclosure: Sample was provided, but opinions are entirely my own

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

The Kaleidoscope of Wine – how’s your palette?

Kaleidoscope (Credit: wolfepaw)

Kaleidoscope (Credit: wolfepaw)

Being a bit of a geek (in wine, but other things as well) and possibly with a few ADHD tendencies, I’m a sucker for patterns and lists.  On my recent holiday in Portugal I started jotting down the different colours associated with wine, whether often used in descriptions, grape names or something else, and came up with A LIST.

Now, this is only from my own thoughts, so I’ve very happy to add any suggestions that you may have (leave a comment or send a Twitter message).

And did I mention I’m partially colourblind?  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…

So, in alphabetical order…

Amber

Mtsvane Amber Wine

Mtsvane Amber Wine

  • A WSET term for a deep dark gold colour, often apt for aged / oaked / sweet wines.
  • Georgian Amber Wine is made in the traditional way in clay pots (a bit like amphorae) called Quevris which are buried underground.

Black

Black Wine of Cahors

Black Wine of Cahors

  • As a general rule, the grapes that make red wine are black, not red.
  • Some always have black as part of their name – e.g. Pinot Noir – where there are different versions of the grape in different colours.
  • Some black grapes don’t usually need the suffix “Noir” as they are far better known than their siblings, unless a comparison is being made – e.g. Grenache is assumed to be the black version (as opposed to Blanc or Gris), but sometimes it is annotated as Grenache Noir.
  • The famous Black wine of Cahors which is a deep, dark, opaque Malbec blend.
  • The definition of Black Wine according to the motto of the Domaine Le Bout du Lieu: “If you can see your fingers through the glass, it’s not a Cahors.”
  • Pinot Meunier is sometimes known as Schwarzriesling – literally “Black Riesling” – in Germany!

Blue

Blaufränkish grapes

Blaufränkish grapes

  • Blau is of course German for “blue”, so this variety commonly found in Austria is a blue Frankish grape, evoking Charlemagne and his empire.
  • In Hungary the grape is known as Kékfrankos, which has the same literal meaning but sounds like a Greek ailment.

Blush

Blush

Blush

  • A term used to describe Californian rosé, especially the sweetish stuff made from Zinfandel.
  • What any self-respecting wino does when drinking the above wine (miaow!)

Brick

Brick red

Brick red

  • Obviously a shade of red, it’s usually connected to older red wines

Burgundy

Burgundy shirt

Burgundy shirt

  • For some reason Burgundy as a colour only ever refers to the region’s red rather than white wines.
  •  Quite well established as a colour outside of the wine world…I bet few garment wearers think of Pinot Noir…

Champagne

Champagne Aston Martin

Champagne Aston Martin Virage

  • The oft litigious organisation that represents Champagne, the CIVC, don’t like Champagne being used as a colour when not directly connected to one of their member’s products.
  • However, it’s probably too late, the cat is out of the bag for describing a silvery-goldy colour – and to be honest, should they really complain if it’s an Aston Martin?

Claret

Aston Villa Claret & Sky shirt

Aston Villa Claret & Sky shirt

Neil Back covered in Claret

Neil Back covered in Claret

  • The well known term for red Bordeaux wine.
  • However, the term actually originates from Clairette, a dark rosé style wine still made in Bordeaux (and was actually how most Bordeaux looked back in the day).
  • Now often used to mean wine- (or blood-) coloured.

Garnet

Garnet stones

Garnet stones

  • A WSET approved term for a mid shade of red, in between Ruby (another gemstone) and Tawny.

Gold

Burgundy's Côte d'Or

Burgundy’s Côte d’Or

  • Mature and / or sweet white wine is often described as gold, particularly Tokaji.
  • Burgundy’s heartland subregion of the Côte d’Or is literally the “Slope of Gold”.

Green

Vinho Verde Map (Credit: Quentin Sadler)

Vinho Verde Map (Credit: Quentin Sadler)

  • While “green wine” might not sound that pleasant a concept, it is of course the literal translation of Vinho Verde from northern Portugal.
  • By extension, used as a term for certain flavours which either invoke youth or the taste of something green (e.g. asparagus in Sauvignon Blanc)

Grey

AOC Côtes de Toul

AOC Côtes de Toul

  • Mid coloured grapes such as Pinot Gris (yay!) or the Italian equivalent Pinot Grigio (boo!)
  • Vin Gris (literally “Grey Wine”) is the term used for a white(ish) wine made from black grapes.
  • Often has a little more colour than a Blanc de Noirs, e.g. the Gamay-based AOC Côtes de Toul from Lorraine.

Orange

Orange Apple Festival

Orange Apple Festival

  • Quite a trendy type of wine at the moment, basically making a wine from white grapes using red wine methods, particularly lots of contact between the juice and the skins – different but interesting.
  • Orange Muscat is a variant of the ancient but popular Muscat family
  • Also a wine growing town in New South Wales, Australia, whose symbol is an apple – go figure!
  • In fairness, orchard regions are often good for making wine.

Pink

Pink wine

Pink wine

  • David Bird (author of Understanding Wine Technology) makes a valid point asking why we use the term rosé in English when we say red and white quite happily instead of rouge and blanc.

Purple

Moscatel Roxo (purple-pink muscat) grape variety. Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal. Portugal (credit Mauricio Abreu)

Moscatel Roxo (purple-pink muscat) grape variety. Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal. Portugal (credit Mauricio Abreu)

  • While reading a book on Port I came across a new colour category of grape: Roxo
  • Many grapes – and actually many wines – look quite purple, but Portugal is the first country I have seen to actually have a recognised term for it.

Red

Red Red Wine

Red Red Wine

  • Obviously the huge category of red wine as a whole.
  • Tinta / Tinto, the Portuguese and Spanish words for red (when applied to wine) is used for many grape varieties and their pseudonyms, including Tinto Aragon and Tinta Cão.
  • One of the few grapes in French to have red in its name is Rouge du Pays, also known as Cornalin du Valais or Cornalin.
  • However, without Red Wine would faux-reggae band UB40 have been so popular? Everything has its downsides…

Ruby

Niepoort Ruby Port

Niepoort Ruby Port

  • A bright shade of red, usually signifying a young wine.
  • A style of Port, often the least expensive, bottle young and so retains a bright red colour.
  • The grape Ruby Cabernet is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, though usually included in cheap fruity blends.

Tawny

Taylor's Aged Tawny port

Taylor’s Aged Tawny port

  • A light shade of red, tending to brown, usually signifying an older but not necessarily fully mature wine
  • A style of Port which has usually been aged in wood rather than bottle, with colour fading over time.

White

German White Grapes (Credit: shweta_1712)

German White Grapes (Credit: shweta_1712)

  • White wine, of course, which covers a multitude of grapes and styles
  • White grapes (well many of them are of course more green than white) particularly those whose name includes white (in English or any other language) to distinguish them from darker coloured siblings, e.g. Pinot Blanc / Pinot Bianco / Weissburgunder.

Yellow

Vin Jaune

Vin Jaune

  • Of course the Jura’s famous “Vin Jaune” (literally “yellow wine”) leaps to mind here.
  • Ribolla Gialla (thanks Jim) is the yellow version of Ribolla, generally found in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy and over the border into Slovenia.

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #3 – and #4!

Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne

A white for summer barbecues – though to be honest there’s no bad time to drink this tasty, versatile wine. Crisp, dry and fruity, it’s great for quaffing on its own or with lighter food. It has more going on that virtually any other wine you can get for the same price.

Where is Gascogne?

Gascony is in South west France, and is now generally thought of as the area below Bordeaux. As a larger historical region it included Bordeaux’s Medoc peninsula and the Basque Country of the Pyrenees. Culturally, it was the literary home of d’Artagnan (perhaps Dogtanian as well, I’m not sure) and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Beverage wise its most famous product is Armagnac, the other quality grape brandy which is lesser known than Cognac. But now its undistilled wines are increasingly popular.

Here are a couple I’ve tried and enjoyed recently:

Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€14.99, Honest 2 Goodness)

Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne

Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014

This is a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc (proportions not given) and weighs in at a very lunch-friendly 11.5% abv.  For a Vin de Pays it has remarkable concentration, with lemon and grapefruit keeping it fresh and some tropical notes adding another dimension.  There’s no sign of oak – and nor should there be, the fruit is allowed to express itself.

Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 (€6.99, Aldi)

Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014

Venturer IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014

No the price is not a misprint / typo / mistake!  Again this is a very fruity, easy-drinking style of wine.  It has far more character that you’ve a right to expect for this price tag – and it comes with a handy screwcap so there’s no synthetic cork you normally get with less expensive wine.

The blend is 80% Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng giving citrus and a touch of melon.  At this price you can fill your fridge!

Background info

The region’s viticultural borders now align with those of Armagnac, across the three departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne.  In the Gers the production volumes are approximately: 91% white, 8% red and 1% rosé wine. This is very atypical for the southwest of France, because in neighbouring departments mainly red wine is produced (e.g. Madiran).  Around three quarters of production is exported.

The white grapes of Côtes de Gascogne are:

Colombard is the mainstay of the area, sometimes seen in cheaper blends from California, South Africa and Australia, but at its best here

Ugni Blanc is used for Armagnac production, and even more so for Cognac production (the other side of Bordeaux).  It also features in Italy under the name Trebbiano (yuck!)

Petit and Gros Manseng are traditional grapes of SW France, particularly Saint-Mont and Jurancon.

Muscadelle, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are of course the three white grapes permitted in white Bordeaux wine.

Len de l’El (aka Cavalier, prominent in AC Gaillac) is a rarity.

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

Celebrating Bastille Day: Champagne Drappier

They say a picture call tell a thousand words. This might be true, but I’d say a glass of wine could tell even more.

Earlier this year I was invited by my friends at The Corkscrew Wine Merchants to attend a tasting of Champagne Drappier at Saison Restaurant in Dublin.  My account of the event is in the new Issue 7 of Glass of Bubbly Magazine:

Glass of Bubbly Magazine Issue 7 (front cover)

Glass of Bubbly Magazine Issue 7 (front cover)

Here’s a sneak peek at the Drappier article:

Drappier Article in Glass of Bubbly Magazine

Drappier Article in Glass of Bubbly Magazine

Whilst tasting through some of Drappier’s fabulous range, it struck me that some of their choices are actually commercially quite risky.  Producing the Brut Zero Sans Souffre (neither dosage nor SO2 added) depends upon a fastidious approach to quality, including an almost draconian approach to hygiene.

The grapes have to be perfectly ripe, but not overripe, so that fruit flavours can shine without the addition of sugar.

The grapes have to be perfectly healthy so that there is minimal chance of spoilage which sulphur would normally prevent. Only own estate fruit is used for this Cuvée

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) is allowed to proceed so that the acidity is softened and has less need of sugar for balance.

Extended lees ageing gives the Champagne character, but also helps to preserve it for longer and also lessens the impact of no dosage.

All of these factors have to be in perfect tension. Here is my first attempt at an infographic capturing this relationship.

Drappier Brut Zero Sans Souffre

Drappier Brut Zero Sans Souffre

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #2

On we roll with a summer, of sorts, here in Ireland.  Here’s an outstanding bottle of wine from Sweeney’s in Glasnevin, that I tried recently which calls, nay demands, a barbecue.

Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

Michel Caze Vieille AC Saint Chinian 2012

Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

As is the norm for the Languedoc this is a blend, but only has two components – Syrah and Grenache – which are both considered well suited to the area.  (Carignan is also still grown in the area and can be very average if overcropped).

Michel Cazevieille created Origine 1922 as a homage to his grandfather Paul who set up in Cazedarnes at the beginning of the 20th century.  Since then the family has gradually expanded their holdings so that today they have 22 hectares of vines across plateaus and clay / limestone hills.

Lots of deep black fruit framed with a touch of tannin and spice, and a smokey character that would pair so well with barbecue marinades.  The alcohol is quite high at 14.5%, though not uncommon for such a southerly location, but it comes across as richness rather than heat.  It’s a well balanced wine.

If you’re not familiar with Saint Chinian (there are so many Saint- wines in France that confusion sometimes reigns), it’s in the central part of the Languedoc, an arc stretching from just above the Spanish border on the eastern side of the Pyrenees, around the Mediterranean past Montpellier:

Map of Languedoc wine regions (from wine-pages.com)

Map of Languedoc wine regions (from wine-pages.com)

And the best bit about this wine?  It’s only €12.99, what a bargain!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

 

Essential Wine Accessories (that won’t break the bank) – Part 3

If you’re a budding wine drinker (or you know one) looking to ensure you have the most essential wine accessories, but without laying out big bucks, this is the right guide for you.

PART 3 – Something to drink the wine out of – glasses

Although you could drink wine out of almost any kind of drinking vessel, glass is pretty much the best material for your …erm… glass known to man. Coffee mugs and polystyrene cups can hold liquid, but nothing beats the real thing. So, now we’ve established the material, it’s time for a fairly fundamental statement:

The type of glass you use makes a significant difference to how a wine smells and tastes.

As you’re reading a wine blog I’m assuming that this is of some importance to you.  Here is a summary of the important characteristics of a good wine glass:

Format

A proper wine glass needs to have a stem by which it can be held.  This ensures that any chilled white wine isn’t heated up too quickly by a grasping hand and the bowl isn’t smudged with fingerprints (which makes examining the wine much more difficult).  Of course, if you want to put it down on a flat surface then it will also need a foot to rest on.

Thickness

It’s far more pleasant to drink from a thin wine glass than something which could double as a coffee mug.  A cleaner edge means that you have precise control over how much you pour into your cakehole – which is a good thing, surely.

Clarity

The glass should be transparent, not coloured, and not etched. Being able to see the wine properly is an important part of evaluation and appreciation.

Shape

A good glass needs a wide bowl with a narrower rim so that the aromas are gathered within the glass rather than evaporating out into the ether.  It also means that when the glass is swirled to get the wine in contact with air, the wine stays in the glass…

Volume

Swirlability also depends (in tandem with shape above) on the capacity of the glass – it’s a lots easier with a bigger glass.  Many wines, particularly reds and / or oaked wines, need space in the glass to breathe, so they are better if the glass isn’t too full.  A bigger glass means a reasonable pour without filling it too high.

Let’s start by naming and shaming a few different types which you should avoid if looking to acquire some glasses:

1. Paris Goblet

Paris Goblet

Paris Goblet

The standard vessel of many French restaurants – those without at least a Bib Gourmand at least. They fulfil the very basic task of holding wine, but don’t hold enough and no good for swirling.

2. Tumbler

Tumbler (not the Batman version)

Tumbler (not the Batman version)

What am I, a fecking peasant? Tumbler’s are fine for water and water of life, but not for wine.

3. Champagne Flute

Champagne Flutes

Champagne Flutes

Traditional Champagne flutes are dead.  Flutes might look pretty, but they aren’t that great for anything other than basic Prosecco or Moët. Anything I serve at home with a high Pinot content or significant ageing gets put into a white wine glass as a minimum, or even a (larger) red wine glass.

Now, I do have a few Riedel flutes, and they’re are wider than most, so they’re not too bad for the basic stuff.

4. Champagne Coupe

Champagne Coupe

Champagne Coupe

Supposedly made in the shape of a famous French woman’s breast (though the story varies), the coupe is great for making Champagne towers, but not for drinking the stuff – the aromas dissipate too quickly and so do the bubbles.

5. Cut Crystal

John Rocha Waterford Crystal

John Rocha Waterford Crystal

Waterford crystal by John Rocha.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s really pleasing on the eye, worth of display in a cabinet, but it’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to appreciating wine.  The lip is too thick, the pattern interferes with examining the wine and the lack of a decent bowl shape means if you swirl a wine you’ll probably end up wearing some of it.

6. INAO/ISO tasting glass

ISO Tasting Glass

ISO Tasting Glass

This might be a surprise for some, but although “official” tasting glasses are de rigeur on most wine course and at some trade tastings, they’re actually too small for many wines. As an example, when I was tasting a subtly oaked white Louis Jadot Burgundy earlier this year, the oak was over-emphasised by the ISO glass.

At bigger pro-events the tasting glass of choice is usually the Riedel Vinum Chianti Classico/Riesling, a significantly larger glass.

So, if you are on a budget, what sort of glass should you go for?

There are several high quality glass manufacturers, and many of them make different ranges which get more and more wine-specific and correspondingly more and more expensive!

But if you’re on a budget these are out of reach.  I would suggest you could do with something cheap and cheerful such as this:

Tesco wine glass

Tesco wine glass

Even better would be something with a taller bowl, such as this:

Tesco finest wine glass

Tesco finest wine glass

If you drink quite a lot of white wine as well as red, then it’s worth getting some slightly smaller ones for white so that the wine doesn’t warm up too much – important for sweeter wines, for example.

Riedel Sommelier and Zalto glasses belong in another post entirely…

Part 1 looked at something to open bottles with

Part 2 looked at something to pour the wine into

In Praise of Co-operatives – Part 1 – Setting the Scene

The greatest wines on earth aren’t made by co-operatives. Whether your preference is for Claret, Barolo, Burgundy or Champagne, co-operatives aren’t ranked in the upper echelons of each region’s producers.

Way down the quality scale, a lot of ordinary wine is made by co-operatives – owned by a multitude of producers who can’t afford their own vinification and maturation space and equipment – who make wine to suit growers’ yields and production decisions rather than quality.

Cave de Turckheim

Cave de Turckheim

It’s often the lower common denominator type of wine – it follows the DO / DOC / AOC regulations and is somewhat faithful to variety and terroir, but it’s just a bit ordinary. Dilute, but rarely bad. Humdrum. Boring! (There, I said it!)

Acknowledging all of the above, this series aims to highlight the better co-operatives…those which, if they don’t hit the heights, certainly make wines in the top quartile of quality, that are both interesting and value for money.  The better co-operatives are becoming increasingly skilled not just at wine-making but also at marketing specific bottlings designed to look and taste every bit as distinctive as the individually produced competition.

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne

The worst co-operatives play almost exclusively with subsidies and politics. Co-operatives are at their strongest in areas where wine’s selling price is relatively low and where the average size of individual holdings is small, although co-operatives are also quite significant in Champagne and there are several in the Médoc, for example. The majority of wine co-operatives were formed in the early 1930s in the immediate aftermath of the Depression.

As you will see, most of the co-operatives covered in this series are in Europe, specifically France.

The former is down to ownership patterns, particularly those jurisdictions that have Napoleonic inheritance laws (splitting properties equally between children of each generation). With a growing population this can result in vignerons (and other farmers of course) owning smaller and smaller land holdings to the point where, unless the land is in one of the very best appellations, there isn’t sufficient economic scale to justify making, bottling and maturing wine on the property.

Le Mesnil sur Oger, Champagne

Le Mesnil sur Oger, Champagne

This leaves a “grape farmer” with restricted choices – sell his or her grapes to a négociant or join a co-operative. The first usually carries lower risk, though certainly lower income. The second has the potential for a little more control and a share in the surplus.

And why will this series focus on France? The simple reason is that I am far more familiar with French wine than that of any other European country!

Some of the forthcoming articles in the series:

Part 2 – La Chablisienne (Chablis)
Part 3 – Cave de Turckheim (Alsace)
Part 4 – Le Mesnil (Champagne)

 

 

 

 

Essential Wine Accessories (that won’t break the bank) – Part 2

If you’re a budding wine drinker (or you know one) looking to ensure you have the most essential wine accessories, but without laying out big bucks, this is the right guide for you.

PART 2 – Something to pour the wine into – decanter

Posh decanter

Posh decanter

Decanters are a statement and the centrepiece of every wine aficionado’s dining table. Showing off aside, there are two main reasons to decant a wine:

1. To separate the wine from its sediment

If a wine – particularly red wine – is mature, it might well have developed some sediment. It’s perfectly harmless, but can taste unpleasantly crunchy, and looks quite unsightly.

Sediment is usually the sign of a well-made wine that hasn’t been fined or filtered too much; these techniques remove tiny solid particles that might eventually fall out as sediment, but they also take out some of the flavour compounds which made a wine so enjoyable.

Vintage port is a great example of a wine that throws a sediment.  It’s usually bottled quite young and not opened until after a few decades.  Look at this contraption:

Port Decanting Cradle

Port Decanting Cradle

Turning the handle slowly tilts the bottle, and hopefully the sediment is visible from the light of the candle, so you can pour the wine but stop it just before the sludge.

Sediment is far less common with white wine, and usually comes in the form of white crystals.  Again these are natural and not harmful – they are tartrate crystals, and their occurrence is often due to a positive quality decision by the winemaker.

2. To let the wine breathe

Here are two statements for you to evaluate, true or false:

A: Virtually every wine will benefit from some time to breathe

B: Simply opening a bottle is a perfectly fine way of letting the wine breathe

Whaddya think?

Well it is all down to opinion, but I reckon that A = True and B = False

As a general rule, the younger the wine the more time it needs to breathe properly.  This allows chemicals in the wine to react with oxygen in the air and hence aromas and flavours are unlocked.  Tannins taste softer, so young red wines really do benefit.

And as for just opening a bottle of wine to let it breathe, so little of the wine comes into contact with air that the effect is almost negligible over a few hours.  If you don’t have any sort of decanting device to hand, then just pour a glass and that will speed things up!

A word of caution for older wines – if fully decanted, which might well be desirable if they have thrown a sediment, they will go out of condition if left for too long.  I have experienced something similar at vertical tastings where wines have been poured out well in advance of tasting, and some from the last millennium were already deteriorating.

So, if you are on a budget, what sort of decanter should you go for?

I would argue that a simple glass jug will do a fine job, without costing the earth.  So how about this:

Ikea Vanlig Pitcher

Ikea Vanlig Pitcher

Less than 5 Euros/Pounds/Dollars etc – and stackable!

Now, if you want to take a bottle of wine to a dinner party or BYO restaurant, but also want to decant it to show it at its best, what do you do?  Double decanting is the answer!  So you’ve poured the wine into your glass jug / decanter, and want to get it back into the bottle without spilling.

The budget wine accessory you’re looking for is a Stainless steel funnel:

Stainless Steel Funnel

Stainless Steel Funnel

Part 1 looked at something to open bottles with

Part 3 will look at something to drink the wine out of…