Wine School

Small Sips #11: Champagne

The C-word Okay, let’s be clear: sparkling wine can be any old fizz, but Champagne is always a particular sparkling wine made in a certain way and that can come only from the legally-delimited Champagne region of northern France. (Now, that should keep the Champagne lawyers happy.) How it’s made Surprisingly for a wine that’s …

Small Sips #10: Ageing Wine

ONE OF WINE’S ENDURING MYTHS is that all wines improve with time; in fact the overwhelming majority of wines sold today are best drunk within a year or two of harvest! The reason for ageing wine is to give time for harsh tannins or acidity to mellow, and to allow complex, ‘tertiary’ aromas and flavours …

Customer Questions #7: Is there cream in ‘Cream Sherry’?

Lactose-intolerant oenophiles will be happy to hear they can enjoy a chilled glass of vinous ‘Cream’ without keeling over – it is dairy free! This Sherry style – whose defining trait is its sweetness – was christened in a moment of inspiration by a nineteenth-century noblewoman who was attending a tasting. —————————————– …

Customer Questions #6: Does this need to be decanted?

SOME ADVISE DECANTING EVERYTHING right down to the simplest white, but that’s probably overkill. Decant if: (a) The wine is ancient… to separate it from its sediment; (b) It’s a very young, ‘big’ red… allowing it to ‘breathe’ can soften its tannins and encourage it to be more expressive; or (c) It’s a cheapie screwcapped …

Regional Focus: Bordeaux

HOME TO 10,000 GROWERS farming 120,000 hectares, Bordeaux’s 57 appellations churn out everything from weedy dishwater to the world’s most lionized, weepingly-expensive wines. Pretty much the entire production is of Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) quality, making it the largest producer of AOP wine in France. At almost ninety per cent of output, Bordeaux is overwhelmingly …

Regional Focus: The Languedoc

THE LANGUEDOC, France’s most ‘new world’ wine region, is a massive, diverse expanse, arcing from Montpellier southwest around the Gulf of Lyon towards the Spanish border. One quarter of France’s vines grow here, a figure that used to be even higher not so many years ago when the Languedoc was basically one huge plonk factory. …

Grape focus: Sauvignon Blanc

SAUVIGNON BLANC, the world’s eight most-planted grape, hails originally from Bordeaux and the Loire but is today cultivated in every country that makes wine. Famous regions that specialise in it include Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Bordeaux, Casablanca (Chile), Friuli (Italy) and the Adelaide Hills. But it is New Zealand’s Marlborough that has set a benchmark for Sauvignon, even …

Curious Small Sips #7: Solera System

NEW RHONE SUPPLIER SAINT COSME’S ‘LITTLE JAMES’ GRENACHE (whose jaunty label appears below) is unique in that – unlike the vast majority of table wines – it is not the product of one harvest but is instead a blend of wines from a number of years. This is done through the use of the traditional solera …

Curious Small Sips #6: Crianza

CRIANZA is a general Spanish wine term relating to the maturation of a wine prior to its sale. But it also has a locally-defined meaning: in Rioja, for example, a red Crianza must legally spend at least one year in oak barrel (generally not new) plus a year in bottle. In terms of style, Crianzas …

Country Focus: Portugal

PORTUGAL IS A REFRESHINGLY EXOTIC ‘mainstream’ wine producer: hardly anyone has heard of its regions, with one notable exception; mention of its extensively-used native grapes – 200 are in use – prompts blank-faced head scratching in all but the most devoted oenophiles; and its big wine brands number just two: pink, sugary, espumosos (lightly sparkling) …