I recently went on a discovery trip to Austria, wine-tasting my way around the hills and valleys, as you do. I travelled with strangers from five other independent wine merchants and by day three we were friends. Wine the shared passion. Our journey was south of Vienna, away from the Danube river and the famous wines of Austria; thus, ignoring the legendary terraced vineyards of Wachau and Kamptal and their world renowned Gruner-Veltliner and Riesling dry white wines. Instead we headed for the emerging and up-and-coming wine regions in Burgenland and Styria. In the words of Cat Stevens: “on the road to find out”. But our first port of call was the small town of Rust, and Austria`s Wine Academy, where we were given an in-depth presentation on Austrian wines. It was illuminating and over the next few days we were to discover, to our collective delight, a world of wine we didn’t know existed. “Orange wines”, for example, are produced in every winegrowing region. These are ancestral “Natural” wines produced with minimal human intervention. They could best be described as weird and wonderful. Sparkling wines are plentiful too, pleasingly fresh, produced by the Champagne method. Their reds are savoury, great food wines, the best of them the Blaufraukisch. The sweet wines, many of them intensely sweet, ice wines and botrytised wines, are characterised by their balanced concentration of both natural sugar and acidity. And the dry whites, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (and others), are perhaps best characterised by their minerality. Diverse and of high quality, comparable even to their northern counterparts, what they all had in common is a sense of place for which the Austrians are rightly proud. Before long we will be bringing some of these to Great Horkesley for you to try for yourselves. But I recommend you visit Austria and taste in situ, where you get to feel the chill air in the vineyards at 5-600 metres, meet the charming, very lovely people behind the labels, breath the fresh air, and, of course, where you can take to the hills and sing “the hills are alive” and everyone will think you are perfectly normal! Cheers all.
When learning about wine you take on a whole new language, and over the past months I have tried to cover the essential words and phrases in this blog (feel free to refer back!). Really, though, it`s only by trying them out yourselves that words and meanings have a chance of sticking. I`m reminded of when I changed the starting motor of my first ever car (a Ford Escort), I was told what a Bendix drive is, and its function. I still remember this 37 years later! Therefore, my advice is to get stuck in. Take a good look under the bonnet. Maybe even consider taking a WSET exam. It`s a great way of getting into the drinks industry, too, if you think you might fancy a career in wines and spirits. We at “The Wine Centre” are always on the lookout for good people with WSET training, especially diploma graduates. But even taking wine on as a hobby, it`s a good idea to get to grips with the language. You`ll find the more you know, the better you will understand the subject, the greater the enjoyment and satisfaction.
Today`s concluding word from my wine-speak “series of drivel” is, as it happens, one I struggle even to pronounce: oxidative. A word you will probably come across in the context of making sherry. It refers to controlled oxidation during winemaking. Oxidative aromas and flavours may be described vaguely as nutty and complex, but really the best way to know exactly what an oxidative wine smells and tastes like is to buy a bottle of decent sherry, an Oloroso, Palo Cortado or Amontillado. We have them in the shop, though they are not cheap. Indeed, it`s a time-consuming and expensive process, aging a wine in oak barrels slowly and deliberately in the presence of oxygen, a manifestly transforming process which gives us a wholly unique drinking experience. I`ve heard it described as on a par with the process of dry-aging and curing meats in this respect, where the original product is changed beyond recognition. As it happens, they pair fabulously together. Magnifico!
Our last dinner of the year is always particularly special. Check out our line-up and the menu below. This was a £95 ticket event released for £85 this year, top notch wines together with delicious food by our talented chef, Dominic Carter. Great company too – and the icing on the cake, Guy Nightingale from Louis Latour Agencies. Next dinner will be 28th February, the theme, following our trip to South Africa in January, South African Wines.
Guest speaker: Guy Nightingale
Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter
Gosset Grand Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut, Champagne, France NV., £85.00 – aperitif
An icon special cuvée Champagne made from 100% Pinot Noir and aged for a minimum 9 years on the lees. Only 3000 bottles were produced. Vineyards include Grand Crus Ambonnay, Aÿ & Verzy, and Premier Cru Chigny les Roses Tauxières & Avenay. An elegant, charming style with gold-flecked lustrous appearance, extremely fine mousse and prevailing notes of white peach, patisserie, honey and baked apple. The palate is supple and lively with beeswax and confit citron, and a fresh, extremely long, saline finish.
Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France 2017, £68.99
A classic Puligny-Montrachet from 30-year Chardonnay vines grown on limestone and scree. Cautious, 8-10 months aging in medium-toast French oak (15% new). Underwent secondary malo-lactic fermentation. Aromas of fresh walnuts, white flowers and oak. On the palate nice tension, bracing, fresh, long.
Louis Latour Meursault `Chateau de Blagny` Premier Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France 2017, £68.99
Fine 1er Cru white burgundy from just south of Volnay and Pommard in Cote de Beaune. An exclusive of Maison Louis Latour (monopole), 30-year Chardonnay vines grown high on the stony marl/limestone hillside overlooking Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. Like the Puligny it was matured 8-10 months in medium-toast French oak and underwent “malo”, only more new oak was used for added richness (35%). An exotic, peachy style, richer and rounder than the Puligny.
Vidal-Fleury Condrieu, Rhone Valley 2016, £49.99
Another small batch 3000 bottle wine. This one using 100% small-berry, low-yield Viognier grapes grown on steep granite slopes in Northern Rhone. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation for added complexity and “gras”, then aged 12 months on its lees with regular stirring (“batonnage”). Typically, aromas include apricot, peach, honeysuckle, ginger and spice. A luscious style, yet fresh and persistent.
Louis Latour Aloxe-Corton `Chaillots` 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France 2014, £58.99
This 100% Pinot Noir is grown on the stony limestone and sandy soils of Aloxe-Corton, home village of the Latour family. A mix of red and black fruits combine with intriguing notes of prune, tea-leaf, nutmeg and liquorice in a firm, bold structure with appealing tannins and bright acid backbone. Some real substance here. Another time enjoy this wine with duck!
Banfi Brunello di Montalcini, Tuscany, Italy 2013 £48.99
Generous Brunello produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes in the southern, warm quadrant of this appellation. A soft, ripe style Brunello with aromas of cherries, violets, vanilla and liquorice, and a velvety palate of concentrated, spicy fruits.
Vidal-Fleury Cote Rotie `La Chatillonne`, Rhone Valley, France 2009, £79.00
Returning to northern Rhone with this beautiful blockbuster. 100% Syrah on steep granitic slopes produce this complex and powerful pedigree wine, Black cherry and some red fruits too are delightfully imbued with notes of smoke, tobacco, bacon, spice, jasmine, cola, coffee and chocolate. A heady mix indeed. The palate is meaty, chalky and impactful, finishing long.
Taylor`s Wakefield `The Pioneer` Syrah, Clare Valley, Australia 2013, £85.00
Another 100% Syrah, this one from down under. The iconic “The Pioneer Shiraz” is produced from 40-year vines from specially selected plots within Clare Valley. The wine is deep and satisfying, displaying a complex perfume of red and black fruits, spice, black olive, pepper, balsamic, dark chocolate, coffee and charred oak. The palate is full and generous with refreshing levels of acidity and juicy, silky tannins.
Banfi Florus Moscadello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 2014, £33.99
Finishing with a sweet wine by Banfi, this golden nectar is produced from 100% Moscadello grapes grown at high latitude on the limy clay southern hills of Montalcino. Use of French oak barriques in the aging process adds vanilla spice to apricot, honeysuckle, raisin, honey and almond.
Cognac Frapin `Cigar Blend` XO, £120.00
This evening we finish with a digestive (like Gosset Champagne, Frapin Cognac is Cointreau-owned). This 100% `Grande Champagne` cognac is mahogany in colour with copper highlights. It has notes of dried fruits, walnuts, hazelnuts and vanilla, and is sometimes referred to as having a rancio scent of “aged port”, as well as the eponymous cigar box character. A luxurious palate to accompany a fine cigar! Here at The Wine Centre you can buy both!
Fresh Steamed Salmon Creamy Sorrel Sauce & Gnocchi
Tandoori Chicken Thighs Butter Chicken Curry Sauce
Italian Guazzetto Oxtail Pomme Purre
French Fruit Custard Tart Strawberry & Mint Coulis
Today we consider wine-speak associated with claret (red Bordeaux). In fact, many of the terms could be applied equally to other reds from around the world because there are common denominators, not least the aging process. For example: “Legs”. For some reason these fascinate people. They are the rivulets or tears which run down the glass after swirling. They really don`t mean much, an indicator of alcohol or sugar content, is all, but they also denote substance with the implication of viscosity and richness. As such they may be observed most readily in high-extract monster clarets, even more so in the high-glycerine sweet wines of Bordeaux. “Cigar box”, “tobacco leaf” and “smoke” make good claret tasting notes, but these again can be applied elsewhere. Similar aromas appear in Italy`s Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo. They have much to do with the oak barrels they are matured in. Strangely, the woodsy aromas in themselves tend to emerge as “cedar” in claret, “leather” in Barolo and “vanilla” in Brunello, broad strokes but the tendency is there. These first-rate heavyweights have something else in common: in their youth they share the descriptors “powerful” and “structured”. They are therefore typically rich, full-bodied and tannic, to the point of being chewy. What separates them entirely, aside from their unique terroirs, is their grape varieties: Brunello, 100% Sangiovese, Barolo 100% Nebbiolo. Claret is almost always a blend of grape varieties, the two most significant, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with also rans Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It`s helpful to understand that Cabernet Sauvignon grown on gravel is dominant on the “left bank” (Medoc), while Merlot on clay is King on the “right bank” (Pomerol, Saint-Émilion). Left bank more than right bank claret is notable for its cigar box and cedar characteristics, but also the distinctive “cassis” fruit quality of Cabernet Sauvignon which is liqueur-like (blackcurrants), with typical mineral notes of graphite, chocolate and soy. Right bank claret is plummy with creamy fruits and spices. Both can turn to velvet with age. Two beasts we call claret.
Today we are looking again at wine-speak, the glorious language of wine. I have plucked out a few handy words for readers and will endeavour to interpret them for you. While many words are self-explanatory and just a matter of getting used to applying them to wine, others may be less obvious or less known: “Fleshy”, for example, refers to one`s perception of fruit and extract on the palate – think “plenty of flesh on the bone” – the opposite is watery, stretched and thin (barely any `flesh`). We talk of “mid-palate”. It`s perhaps understood that “palate” refers to the feel and taste sensation when the wine is in the mouth, but did you know “mid-palate” is the term specifically relating to the middle stage of tasting? The first, the “attack”, is when the taster first detects in the mouth the sense of alcohol, tannins, acidity and sweetness (if any); the second “mid-palate” sensation is perceived having sucked air into the wine, and having swished it about in the mouth. The wine, aerated, releases aromas and flavours, signalling to the taster their characteristics. Simultaneously the weight and shape of the wine is registered and noted by the taster: light, medium-bodied, full-bodied, fat, linear, round, thin, dense etc. The “finish” is its echo, the lingering flavours. Here`s another word: “restrained”. It`s perhaps difficult for the layman to appreciate how a wine might be held in check, or perhaps reticent to display itself. It may be down to its youth, simply not emerged yet. What they call “bottle shock” can bring this shyness on, after bottling. “Tight” indicates unreadiness, as does “closed”, usually due to a dominance of tannins in youth. But restrained is generally a more positive descriptor, suggesting the promise of a future, but also elegance and refinement, a self-contained sophistication as it were, even for a wine of mature years: nothing brash about this wine! And besides, decanting may yet coax her out. Cheers all!
Looking forward to tomorrow night`s dinner with Dominic, Poppy and our wonderful paying guests! Here is the line-up for those of you wanting a peek. Menu at the bottom.
Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter
Guest speaker: Poppy de Courcy-Wheeler
Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, Vignerons des Terres Secretes, France £19.99
After a full 2 years on its lees this Crémant is better than most, with a creamy palate & bright, refreshing acidity. Aromas prevail of baked apple, pear and lemon. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay
Macon-Prissé `Les Clochettes`, Burgundy, France 2017, £16.99
A tasty unoaked Chardonnay from the Macon in southern Burgundy. Green apple, melon and honeysuckle. Pleasantly supple and fresh. 100% Chardonnay.
Pouilly Fuissé Vignes Blanches, Domaine Saumaize-Michelin, Burgundy, France 2017, £33.99
Stylish Pouilly Fuissé, open, fresh white peach and pear aromas with hints of brioche. Mineral, rich and full flavoured on the palate with complexity lasting throughout the long-lasting finish. 100% Chardonnay.
Puligny-Montrachet, Sylvain Bzikot, Burgundy, France 2017, £55.99
Sylvain is third generation from Poland, known for his attention to detail and most importantly for the quality of his Puligny. The grapes are from four plots, two bordering 1er Cru vineyards. The immediate, bracing citrus and white flower `lift` gives way to stone fruits and minerality. 100% Chardonnay.
Ventoux Passe Colline, South Rhone, France 2017, £13.99
A vibrant, fragrant and fleshy Rhone red from the Vaucluse, grown on steep, hilly, sand and stone terrain. Grapes include 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir & 10% mix of Carignan, Cinsault & Mourvedre.
Saint Joseph, Domaine du Tunnel, Northern Rhone, France 2015 £46.99
Stunning effort by Stephane Robert and his wife Sandrine. This 100% Syrah is top notch. Aromas of ripe, exuberant blackberries, violets and burnt meaty notes are followed by silky black fruits, chocolate, minerals and herbs. Could be Hermitage.
Gigondas, Domaine la Bouissière, Southern Rhone, France 2017, £29.99
Satisfying depth, vibrancy and spice with stony black fruits, oxtail and black olive at its core. Evolves in the glass: cedar, more spice, dried flowers and black raspberry. 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah. Could be Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Vieux Château Gaubert, Graves, Bordeaux, France 2010, £29.99
Blackcurrants, plums and leather to the fore amid vanilla and spices and hints of truffle, coffee and roasted meat. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50%Merlot
10 year old Tawny Port Quinta de Val da Figueira, Portugal, £27.99
Fine Tawny, one of the best 10-year olds, amber-coloured, complex, silky rich. Berries, nuts, honey, smoke, tea leaf, fig and walnut. Traditional mix of Portuguese grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao and Tinta Amarela.
Grilled Halibut Peach, Pepper and Rocket Salsa
Rich Seafood Chowder
Classic Lamb Osso-Buco Creamy Parmesan Soft polenta
Canadian Maple Syrup Creme Brulée Speculoo Biscuits
September 27th, 2019
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.
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.
Really looking forward to tonights dinner. Check out the lineup of wines and Dom
s 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
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
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!