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Thin-skinned grapes make light wines, great drinking

In the last  blog I wrote about tannins in red wine and those (the tannin averse) who don`t like that chalky, dry feeling. I explained how the drying sensation can disappear when pairing with food. How, with age, they can smooth out, the best of them turning to velvet and silk. Well for the most part I was referring to dark red wines made from relatively thick-skinned high-extract grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon – the sort we call “full-bodied”. Today I want to address the role of the lighter thin-skinned, low-tannin red grape varieties – used to produce light reds. These also have low levels of anthocyanin, the compound found in grape skins which give wine colour, which is why they are light, translucent, and, many of them, of beautiful appearance. In sunlight they can be invitingly bright and lustrous, like a deep-coloured pink rose, or a shining ruby. Moreover, made well, they have flavour intensity and fresh acidity, especially in their youth. The best of these can still be of high quality, and they can still live to great age, virtue of the wine`s acidity, balance and terroir. The great red burgundies are testament to this. They often take years to evolve, before they fully express themselves. And the more serious of these – for drinking in the long term – are not without tannins, in truth. However, others are made for immediate consumption, and still others can be drunk young with scope to develop over just a few years.  Pinot Noir, Gamay and Grenache are “the big three”, offering flavour intensity without body weight or notable tannins. They are wide-ranging in styles. from fresh and juicy to savoury; and they are versatile with food, pairing well with both white and red meats, cold cut meats, smoked foods, cheeses and even with fish!   Pinot Noir, for example, is a textbook match with duck but also tuna.  Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, is perfect with poultry – and fish pie. Grenache – think Mediterranean food – delicious with casseroles, charcuterie, cheeses and yes, fish too, in a spicy red wine sauce.

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Tannins in wine

Tannins are mostly spoken of in the context of red wines, because it`s in red wines they tend to be prominent.   Some white wines may well have tannins, but in most they are barely perceptible. Traces of tannins derived from oak in white wine can add texture, while excessive amounts can be astringent and bitter. Oak tannins may well have a part to play in the texture of red wines too, of course, but the dominant source of tannins in red wine is grape skins, from which colouring is also derived in the form of anthocyanins. Tannins are also found in the stalks and pips, though an excess of these can add an unwelcome bitterness in wine. So, what are they, exactly? They are “polyphenol compounds”, plant matter rich in antioxidants. Besides having health benefits, they facilitate the aging of wine, combining with other molecules over time to create a smoother taste. Young tannic red wines can have a drying sensation on the palate which can take some getting used to, admittedly. I have a few customers who really don`t like the feel, described, variously, as:     chalky, grainy, grippy, aggressive, astringent, harsh, rough and crunchy. It`s what I call the stewed teabag effect. Certainly, young tannic reds can be drying, though this effect is ameliorated when pairing with food, especially red meat. It`s also the case that wine grapes more consistently reach phenolic, physiological ripeness these days, as a result largely of ever improving techniques employed in the vineyard, which makes tannic red wines less drying. One talks more of a tannic wine having structure, in a positive way. Indeed, provided the tannins are ripe and fleshed out with fruit, they can be attractive even when young to all but the most tannin averse. With age, of course, the best of them will turn to velvet and silk, and I`ve never heard anyone complain about velvet or silk!   It`s worthwhile remembering that the aging process softens tannins in red wine – smoothens them out – and it could be a matter of just cellaring.

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Aug 23rd Wine Tasting Dinner

Really looking forward to tonights dinner. Check out the lineup of wines and Doms menu. Cant wait….!

Guest Speaker: Peter Rowe

Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter

Alma Atlántica, `Alba Martín` Albariño,  Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2017,  £16.99

Elegant aromas of white flowers and white peach, pear, apricot and citrus. A rounded and juicy palate is dominated by ripe but delicate tropical fruits, a hint of salinity and a fresh clean finish with balanced acidity. Alma Atlántica means ‘Atlantic Soul’, inspired by wines made in proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

La Giustiniana, `Lugarara` Gavi di Gavi, Piemonte, Italy 2018, £19.99

A fine Gavi di Gavi, `Lugarara` is produced from 100% Cortese grapes from one of Piemonte`s most renown single vineyards. Its trademark zesty fruit quality is enhanced by lime and almond blossom aromas. On the palate it has fresh, mouth-watering acidity with a pleasing concentration of citrus, green apple and white peach fruits.

Crystallum, `Clay Shales` Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde, Walker Bay, S. Africa 2018, £36.99

This region is characterised by a cool climate that results in delayed ripening and a late harvest, creating a wine that has classic flint on the nose with floral, lemon, pear and peach notes. Use of wild yeast and new oak ensure individuality and a sublime richness.

David Moret, Meursault `Sous La Velle`‘Sous La Velle’ Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France 2017, £68.00

`Sous La Velle`is a famous lieu-dit located next to the town of Meursault at 200m altitude. Powerful with beautiful concentration and superb balance, it is characteristic of David Moret’s pure winemaking style. This wine is typical of a good Meursault: powerful, concentrated and round. It has aromas and flavours of Golden Delicious apples, layered citrus and white peach, with typical minerality and wonderful balance. It is a wine that will keep for a long time, developing complex and intense flavours. 100% Chardonnay

Franz Haas, Pinot Nero, Alto-Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy 2017, £33.99

This Pinot Nero comes from the slopes of Pinzano and Gleno in the Montagna area of Alto Adige. The wine is fermented in open-topped vats with frequent punch downs in order to aid extraction. The result is a delightfully fragrant Pinot with black cherry, marzipan and cinnamon perfumes. 100% Pinot Noir

Charles Melton, `Nine Popes` Barossa Valley, Australia 2015, £54.00

Nine Popes is Melton’s nod to the great wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is as rich, powerful and beautifully balanced as the best examples from France. Ancient dry farmed “bush” Grenache vines are one of the Barossa Valley`s richest sources. This wine is co-fermented with a little old vine Shiraz and a tiny parcel of dry grown spicy Mataro, then aged on its lees for 24 months in almost exclusively French oak barriques,

Allegrini `Palazzo della Torre`, Veneto, Italy 2016, £24.99

Palazzo della Torre has enticing aromas of cherry with rich dark chocolate, clove and vanilla notes. Velvety in texture, it is well-balanced and offers ripe, juicy dark fruit, with silky tannins and refreshing acidity. The wine represents Allegrini’s modern take on the “Ripasso” method, made from a portion of grapes circa 30%  dried just for this wine (and not from the Amarone pomace, which is the traditional method). 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy (magnum) 2014, £155.00

Sourced from Classico area hillside vineyards in Veneto, 100% of Allegrini`s Amarone grapes are dried for concentration and depth, providing a rich, powerful wine with characteristic dried cherry and raisin aromas. The palate is velvety rich with notable spices and refined tannins, together with a long, spiced finish. 90% Corvina/Corvinone , 5% Oseleta, 5% Rondinella

Louis Bouillot, `Perle d’Aurore` Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé, France, £28.99

Champagne method pink Crémant. Lovely rose pink in colour, with fine bubbles and a light mousse. Perfumes of blackcurrant and strawberry follow through to ripe fruit on the palate, balanced by a freshness and clean finish with a lingering hint of strawberries. 70% Pinot Noir , 20% Gamay, 10% Chardonnay. Founded 1887

Menu

Citrus Lime, Coriander Shrimp and Avocado Salad Toasted almonds

Chicken Cacciatore with Black Olives and Oregano Freshly Streamed Gnocchi

Spiced Cured Duck Breast with Pan Seared Chicory & Pearl Onions Rich Cherry Reduction

Wine Centre Cheese Platters

Red Berry Fruit Compote with Crème Patissiere Crunchy Nut and Seeded Granola

 

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Tasting wine at home with friends, as opposed to just drinking it

While learning languages, it`s important to speak words out loud. Same with wine-speak. And regurgitating wine words is even more fun when doing so in good company, with other students of wine. Even more so when there is a decent drop of wine between you! Indeed, many a wine society started in just such a way.  Take turns to describe the wine in your own words, each of you. Together, first look at the colour of the wine. Tip the glass, preferably over white paper in a true light, and describe what you see: colour, rim and clarity.  A wine`s colour can have many shades and gradations as it spreads out to the rim. The rim itself is like water, but how precisely and intensely does the colour run to its edge? As for clarity: most wines are “clear”, without cloud or sediment, but some look “lacklustre” others “bright”, even “lustrous”.  Next, smelling or “nosing” the wine – the “aroma” – with a swirl of the glass let each person in your circle describe his and her first impression: red, black, white, blue or stone fruits; floral aromas, such as violets, blossom and acacia; any herbs or spices? Anything else?  Your own words. Can you smell alcohol? An “alcoholic wine” is one with too high an alcohol content, out of balance with its fruit and acidity – you can improve it by chilling it down, usually – nothing worse than an overly warm red, except one which is also high in alcohol! The next stage of the tasting process is, of course, tasting the wine: take a good mouthful and suck a little air through it. How does it taste? Sweet, dry, savoury, salty, bitter, sharp? How does it feel?  Light, full-bodied, rounded, soft, fleshy, velvety, chalky, harsh, unctuous, watery? Consider the “aftertaste”, the flavours left on the palate once the wine is swallowed or spat.  Then, having had a good chat about all of this, turn to google and search the wine in question for a professional`s tasting note.  How do yours compare? Remember there`s no right or wrong, and just have fun. Happy tasting, folks!

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Wet dog in wine, no kidding

It`s perhaps surprising, even bewildering, to think of the vocabulary we use to describe characteristics in wine. I don`t just mean the whole basket of fruit (in anyone`s kitchen, anywhere in the world), I refer to the `strange-and-wonderful` as well, the non-fruit. Just in the last month or so in this column I have mentioned a number of these: butter in wine due to malolactic fermentation; vanilla and spices in wine, from aging in oak; chocolate, mocha, coffee, smoke in wine, from charred barrels; chalk, graphite, iron and slate in wine, from soil; even, from native yeasts, funky farmyard, sweaty-saddle and mushroom aromas; and those rather more attractive esters derived from yeast-autolysis, giving us, in Champagne, for example, dreamy aromas of brioche, fresh-bread and biscuit. Those other curious `tertiary` aromas, as well, from bottle-age: honey, orchard, forest floor (in mature red burgundy: “sous-bois”), game, animal, earth. And here`s some more for you: the smell of petrol, in mature Riesling; tobacco or cigar box, in claret; and how about wet dog? Okay, that one`s a wine fault (a corked wine), like rotten eggs (reductive wine). All these words, and I have barely scratched the surface, such is the vocabulary of wine.  Not a language designed to keep outsiders out by clouding wine in mystery, as some would argue, rather, one we can enjoy and use to converse, a rich tapestry of words and phrases to communicate wine`s complex characteristics. It`s also true, by the way, that we can add our own words to the vocabulary. It`s not a strictly defined list. Wine is personal, sensory and subjective. I recall a member of staff smelling peanut butter once in a Pinot Gris from Alsace. I can`t say I did, but so what? It was her tasting note. It`s also true that tasting notes can be overly flowery and colourful at times. And why shouldn’t they be? Wine is complex, is it not? You can choose to write simple tasting notes if you like. Or, you can dig deep, let your imagination rip, and get wordy. It`s your choice. Cheers everyone.

 

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Graham`s 1994 Vintage Port, 25 years in the making

Hosts: Anthony & Janet Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter

Cantina di Soliera Lambrusco di Sorbara Rosso Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy. Usual RSP £11.99. Promo price: £9.99

A bright, pale-cherry colour, this Italian beauty has a fresh, bright and floral nose of strawberry, redcurrant and violet. On the palate it has appealing sour cherry and bramble fruit characters, balanced by juicy acidity and a light bead of effervescence. The Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes are sourced from sandy-clay vineyards north of Modena.  ABV 11%.

100% Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes.

Domaine du Pré Semelé Sancerre, Loire, France 2018, £21.99

A classic well-balanced Sancerre with ripe gooseberry fruit and zesty acidity. Soils are primarily the classic ‘Terres Blanches’ (clay-chalk) and `Caillottes` (limestones), giving the wines a ripe fruit character. A classic with mussels and goat`s cheese, this evening with Salmon en Papillote

Signos de Origen La Vinilla Estate, Casablanca Valley, Chile 2016, £16.99

An award-winning organic white wine produced in Chile`s beautiful Casablanca Valley. The wine is a blend of 72% Chardonnay, 12% Viognier, 10% Marsanne and 6% Roussanne grapes. Characterised by its subtly rich and creamy savoury quality, the wine has complex notes of white peach, apricot, butter, almond and walnut.

Kovács Nimród Battonage Chardonnay, Eger, Hungary 2015  £23.99

Eger in Hungary is located on a similar latitude as Burgundy and this can be compared to a first-class burgundy at near half the price. “Battonage” refers to the Burgundy tradition of stirring the lees, which adds to the wine a yeasty complexity. Using a combination of French and Hungarian oak, this is a buttery, toasty wine produced from 100% Chardonnay. Its oak characters are complemented by lemon, pear and pineapple fruit.

Prà Morandina Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy 2018, £19.99

A fine, fragrant Valpolicella, light and airy with poise and grace. Red fruits, of raspberries and cherries, mingle with herbs, sage, anis & thyme, with a hint of oak. A sappy and delicate, yet intensely flavoured, low yield wine. The palate has a bitter plum twist and taut balancing acidity. Grapes: 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella.

Boutinot, Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Coteaux Schisteux’ 2015 £16.99

High up the ‘slopes of schiste’ in the rugged mountainous terroir of Séguret lies a single vineyard so predominantly planted with Grenache Noir (intermingled only here and there with some Syrah) that the resulting wine – Les Coteaux Schisteux – comes close to being one of the purest expressions of cracked black pepper Grenache Noir in the southern Rhône valley. After 22 months in French oak the wine offers a further layer, of mature notes mingled with vanilla and oak spices, on a broad, savoury palate. 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.

 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2017, £18.99

An award-winning red with great purity of expression. This is 100% Grenache, or Garnacha, from 60-year vines grown in Campo de Borja at an altitude of 600-700 metres. Yields are small and concentrated. The wine is a compote of luscious strawberries, blackberries, cherries and raspberries, amid Provençal herbs and violets, with vanilla, leather and even caramel from aging in French oak. This is recommended to accompany red meats, but the wine`s fruit quality also makes it an ideal cheese wine. Robert Parker 91 points.

 Prà Morandina Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Veneto, Italy 2016  £29.99

The superiore is higher in alcohol and weight than the earlier Prà Morandina and it`s a Ripasso wine to boot, having used a proportion of dried grapes to concentrate the flavours, a term called “appassimento” meaning drying. The wine, suitable to partner roasted red meats, is sufficiently concentrated to go with the cheeses. The wine is velvety with lifted aromas of red berry, fig & plum. Spices and Alpine herbs mix with bramble, orange peel and bitter cherry. 18 months in oak delivers a classy red, probably the best of its kind.

Graham’s, Port, Douro Valley, Portugal, 1994 Not for sale

Reminiscent of the 1970 in structure and profile, made up of a high proportion of grapes from the flagship vineyard Quinta dos Malvedos which gives the port its classic elegance, floral and black fruit hallmarks. 1994 was the last monumentally outstanding vintage of the twentieth century, producing classic wines with longevity, elegance and style. Aromas of blackcurrants, mulberry and eucalyptus are to the fore.

Castelvetro Chiarli “Pignoletto” Spumante Extra Dry, Modena, Emilia Romagna, £17.99

Pignoletto derives from “pigna” (pine cone), on account of the vine`s small, tight grape clusters. It`s also the name of the local wine and a nearby village. Confusingly, locals call the grape Alionzina and DNA indicates the grape is related to the Umbrian grape Grechetto, but `Marketing` likes Pignoletto and it`s here to stay, potentially being the new Prosecco. The sparkling wine is aromatic and refreshing with notes of green apples, lemon and limes.

Discounted prices for orders received this evening in red.

Menu

Salmon en Papillote Garlic and Lemon Butter

Creamy Tuscan Chicken Thighs with Crisp Pastry Disc and Toasted Pine Nuts

Rolled Lamb Breast in a Rich Red Wine, Pearl Onion and Thyme Sauce with Grilled Baby Courgettes & Baby Aubergines

Cheese Platter

Raspberry & Strawberry Eton Mess Cheesecake

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The Art of the Cooper

The use of oak barrels in winemaking is curiously not much talked about outside winemaker and cooper circles. In the industry most of us sweep it all away, preferring to talk about the vineyard – the terroir, the grapes. At most we talk about the wine`s duration in barrel, a steer to its oak-aged style. We might even reference the extent to which new oak has been used: “The newer the oak, the more it gives, until finally it is spent and useful only as a holding vessel”. Today, however, I will expand briefly on cooperage itself. First, the basics: Winemakers choose the type of oak barrels according to the wine they want to make. Oak hewn from the northerly flank of a forest might have tight grains due to slow growth, as compared to the more open-grained, faster growing oak trees on the forest`s south side. The first, as a barrel, ensures a wine matures slowly, imparting its tannins and flavour compounds to the wine slowing, barely even, smoothening it out over the years without excess. The open-grained barrel gives far more, far quicker. The oak changes the wine fundamentally, contributing first and foremost vanilla and spices. Coopers offer a range of barrels with differing properties, and they offer a variety of charring options as well: light-toast, medium-toast, heavy-toast. The more toasting there is, the bigger the flavours it imparts, of chocolate, mocha, coffee, smoke and toast. And the choices are far more nuanced now days, with winemakers and coopers often working closely together to achieve the best possible wines.  But there is another element, facilitated by oak and key to wine`s aging development, and that`s wine`s slow interaction with air: evaporation and oxygenation.  Oak`s porous nature concentrates wine, while softening the tannins. It`s not the only wood used in winemaking, but it`s the best, the most widely used and the most expensive. Next time you smell vanilla or toast in your wine, spare a thought for the unsung hero of winemaking: the cooper.

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A wonderful evening 12/07/2019

Thanks Brad for being a fantastic customer over the years. We hope you enjoyed last night as much as we did …  my thanks also to Dominic and The Food Station for yet another  delicious gourmet dinner.

Hosts: Anthony & Janet Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter

On behalf of

Mantis Cars Limited

Cantina di Soliera Lambrusco di Sorbara Rosso Frizzante, Emilia Romagna. Usual RSP £11.99. July/Aug promo price: £9.99

A bright, pale-cherry colour, this Italian beauty has a fresh, bright and floral nose of strawberry, redcurrant and violet. On the palate it has appealing sour cherry and bramble fruit characters, balanced by juicy acidity and a light bead of effervescence. The Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes are sourced from sandy-clay vineyards north of Modena.  ABV 11%.

100% Lambrusco di Sorbara grapes.

Petit Chablis Domaine de la Motte 2017, £16.99

Domaine de la Motte is a 25- hectare family-run winery handed down from father to son since 1950.  Completely un-oaked and produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes, this wine has a gorgeous ripe lemon aroma and a well-balanced zesty palate with a long citrussy finish, displaying elegance and finesse. ABV 12.5%.

Signos de Origen La Vinilla Estate, Casablanca Valley 2016, £16.99

An award-winning organic white wine produced in Chile`s beautiful Casablanca Valley. The wine is a blend of 72% Chardonnay, 12% Viognier, 10% Marsanne and 6% Roussanne grapes. Characterised by its subtly rich and creamy savoury quality, the wine has complex notes of white peach, apricot, butter, almond and walnut.

Kovács Nimród Battonage Chardonnay, Eger, Hungary 2015  £23.99

Eger in Hungary is located on a similar latitude as Burgundy and this can be compared to a first-class burgundy at near half the price. “Battonage” refers to the Burgundy tradition of stirring the lees, which adds to the wine a yeasty complexity. Using a combination of French and Hungarian oak, this is a buttery, toasty wine produced from 100% Chardonnay. Its oak characters are complemented by lemon, pear and pineapple fruit.

Prà Morandina Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy 2018, £19.99

A fine, fragrant Valpolicella, light and airy with poise and grace. Red fruits, of raspberries and cherries, mingle with herbs, sage, anis & thyme, with a hint of oak. A sappy and delicate, yet intensely flavoured, low yield wine. The palate has a bitter plum twist and taut balancing acidity. Grapes: 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella.

Boutinot, Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Coteaux Schisteux’ 2015 £16.99

High up the ‘slopes of schiste’ in the rugged mountainous terroir of Séguret lies a single vineyard so predominantly planted with Grenache Noir (intermingled only here and there with some Syrah) that the resulting wine – Les Coteaux Schisteux – comes close to being one of the purest expressions of cracked black pepper Grenache Noir in the southern Rhône valley. After 22 months in French oak the wine offers a further layer, of mature notes mingled with vanilla and oak spices, on a broad, savoury palate. 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah.

 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2017, £18.99

An award-winning red with great purity of expression. This is 100% Grenache, or Garnacha, from 60-year vines grown in Campo de Borja at an altitude of 600-700 metres. Yields are small and concentrated. The wine is a compote of luscious strawberries, blackberries, cherries and raspberries, amid Provençal herbs and violets, with vanilla, leather and even caramel from aging in French oak. This is recommended to accompany red meats, but the wine`s fruit quality also makes it an ideal cheese wine. Robert Parker 91 points.

Prà Morandina Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Veneto, Italy 2016  £29.99

The superiore is higher in alcohol and weight than the earlier Prà Morandina and it`s a Ripasso wine to boot, having used a proportion of dried grapes to concentrate the flavours, a term called “appassimento” meaning drying. The wine, suitable to partner roasted red meats, is sufficiently concentrated to go with the cheeses. The wine is velvety with lifted aromas of red berry, fig & plum. Spices and Alpine herbs mix with bramble, orange peel and bitter cherry. 18 months in oak delivers a classy red, probably the best of its kind.

Montresor Prosecco Spumante `Extra Dry`, Verona, Italy, £13.99

Lovely Prosecco with delicate aromas of green apple and white flower. The palate is ripe and appealing with orchard fruit characters and a fresh and persistent fizz. Produced from 100%  Glera grapes grown across Valpolicella and Lake Garda using indigenous yeasts to preserve the natural fruit aromas. Cantina Giacomo Montresor was established in 1892.

Menu

Zesty Lime, Dill, Prawn and Crab Salad in a Crispy Tortilla Bowl

Creamy Parmesan, Garlic and Spinach Chicken Thighs with a Poppy Seed and Parmesan Crisp

Rolled Lamb Breast in a Rich Red Wine, Pearl Onion and Thyme Sauce with Grilled Baby Courgettes & Aubergines

Cheese Platter

Speculoos and Raspberry Cheesecake with a Lotus Biscuit Crumb

 

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Malolactic fermentation

A well-utilised word in wine-speak is malolactic fermentation (“Malo”), a winemaking term which more-or-less also describes a style of white wine. The term is most commonly associated with the Chardonnay grape. So, what is it, exactly?  It is when malic acid (think crisp, sour green apples) is converted into lactic acid (milk, cream, butter), a bacteria-induced fermentation which happens concurrently or following alcoholic fermentation, a completely natural process which reduces acidity in wine.  In red wine production it is par for the course, with almost all red wines allowed to undergo the process as part of its natural cycle, before aging, racking and bottling. However, in white wine production winemakers either choose to encourage the fermentation, typically by an inoculation of desirable bacteria, or they stop it completely. Those who choose to prevent malolactic fermentation do so because they want to maintain the wine`s acidity levels and freshness. A great many of these are produced in steel tanks. Those who favour the process do so to soften the wine and add complexity, and they usually, but not always, choose oak barrels for the purpose. The resultant wine is softened by “Malo” and develops a buttery flavour which works especially well with oak-aged Chardonnays.  The wines, notably, have a textural quality and buttery richness. In practice, a great many Chardonnays are a blend of barrels (sometimes tanks as well) of which some have undergone malolactic fermentation, and others have not. Much of the winemaker`s skill is in blending these together, achieving the sought-after fresh, buttery and complex styles we love to drink with seafood and creamy pastas.  Incidentally, since most finished wine in bottle has seen at least some oak, typically 6-12 months, the same wines would also be expected to display at least some of the characteristics associated with aging in oak. Chief among these, in Chardonnays, is vanilla and toast.  It is perhaps not surprising that many a tasting note refers to buttered toast.

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Wines with Minerality and a Sense of Place

A well utilised word in wine-speak is `minerality`, an earth reference.  `Mineral` in wine can be apparent from youth to old age and refers to different elements in the ground. Chablis, which is cool-climate Chardonnay, is grown on Kimmeridgian limestone soil, made up with calcareous-rich decomposed sea shells. The crisp white wine is famously excellent with oysters because of its chalk, shell, pebble and flint characteristics. Left bank Bordeaux, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, is grown on gravel, often displaying an interesting lead pencil (graphite) character. In Northern Rhone, where Syrah is grown on rocky granite, the mineral flavour is described as granitic. Dry Riesling grown on the steep slopes of Germany`s Mosel river has a steely, mineral flavour defined as schist, or slate. And in red burgundy, the mineral element is mostly iron oxide.  Often soils are mixed and minerals diverse – the exact aroma difficult to pin-point – hence the generic term minerality used as a tasting note. My next word is less clear for this purpose: terroir. Because the term terroir doesn’t smell or taste of anything, exactly. What it means to describe is a wine`s sense of place, encompassing the influences of its location: the soil, climate (cool, warm, dry, wet), prevailing winds, altitude, etc. The winemaker will take all this in – the environment – and seek to harness the prevailing conditions to best effect, to produce the best possible wine. If he is successful, a good wine taster, with knowledge of the vineyard, will be able to taste the wine `blind` and pin-point it to the region, perhaps even the vineyard. The taster will somehow be transported there, guided by his or her sensory antennae: recognition of the grape or grapes, the style of wine, its relative ripeness, cool or warm climate, looking for tell-tale, defining features, homing in, drawing on  memory recall and experience. Sometimes, if necessary,  the taster will work through a process of elimination:  noting what it`s definitely NOT…  not Cabernet, not Shiraz, etc . Sometimes the tasting process works like a guided missile, other times it misfires. This could be down to the taster, of course.  He or she may well be professionally qualified, but  wine is  complex with thousands of grapes and differing terroirs around the world; impossible to know everything, no matter how good a taster you are.  It just may be the taster  doesn`t  know of this particular wine.  Or  he or she  may  simply not recognise it, on this occasion.   Besides it`s easy enough to go down a blind alleyway.  Early in the process you get transported to the wrong place, and its impossible to find your way after that. I`ve done it lots of times.  But also,  it`s just possible that the wine lacks a notable terroir, that the wine is  without a sense of place.  Actually, there`s an awful lot of wine around which lacks terroir, which gives all the more importance and value to those with it. Cheers all.