Learn about Wine

Small Sips #16: Blending

BLENDS are usually taken to mean blends of different grape varieties, of which classic examples include Bordeaux (Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc), Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinots Noir and Meunier) and the southern Rhône’s ‘GSM’ (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre).

Small Sips #15: Wine Competitions

WOULD A SHINY GOLD MEDAL sway you in the wine aisle? Wineries think so; that's why the globe's most successful wine competitions - Decanter World Wine Awards, International Wine Challenge, International Wine & Spirit Competition - attract many thousands of entries each year.

Small Sips #11: Champagne

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.

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 ..

Small Sips #8: Malbec

MALBEC IS A DARK-SKINNED GRAPE that is most associated with the high-altitude (up to 3,000 metres!), desert vineyards of Argentina's Mendoza region. The variety is in fact originally from southwest France, where it is still widely cultivated today, especially in Cahors.

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.

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.

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.

Grape Focus: Grenache

GRENACHE, the world’s 7th most-planted grape, is an increasingly-fashionable Mediterranean variety that is grown extensively across the wine world's warmer spots, particularly either side of the Pyrenees and in South Australia.

Regional Focus: Rueda

RUEDA, 100km northwest of Madrid, was something of a sleepy backwater until the 1980s when massive Rioja house Marques de Riscal ‘discovered’ and popularised local sleeping beauty grape Verdejo, in the process propelling the region into the spotlight.