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The Grapevine

A blog from the team at Great Western Wine

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Carrick Sauvignon Blanc, Central Otago 2012

    Carrick Sauvignon Blanc Central Otago 2012

    Aromas of fresh peas and fenugreek leaves mix with a brilliant sense of minerality. Drinking deliciously right now: over recent months, it's acquired a silky, ample texture - well balanced by acidity, but with none of the aggression of young Sauvignon. Long finish, laden with scents of growing things - okra and tomato plants. Wonderful!

    £15.95

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • It's barbecue season - so what are the right wines?

    Barbecue season is well and truly upon us, and we Brits are stalwarts – once that Webber is out in the garden neither rain, nor wind will stop us enjoying our summer barbies - even huddled under umbrellas, there’s something about those smokey, char-grilled aromas, simple, thrown together feasts, and relaxed style of entertaining that we all love… and let’s face it ladies, it’s the easiest way, and often the only way, to get your man to do the cooking.

    The days of simply chucking a sausage and a burger on the barbecue are long gone, although these two all-time favourites will always feature, and are perennial favourites. Today, it’s all about marinades, spices, rubs, salsas, salads, and all manner of chargrilled vegetables on the side.  But the essence of a barbecue is still the same – relaxed, fun, convivial, and sociable.

    What to drink? Well, beer will always be pretty near the top of the list, but wine is up there too, and with a myriad of different styles to choose from, the wine selection in itself, can become a bit of a headache.

    Here are some simple tips:

    - Wine is the supporting act for barbecues not the star of the show – don’t bring out your best bottles, or invest in highly expensive wines for the occasion, they won’t be appreciated.

    - Pick fresh, fruity, wines – zesty, citrusy whites, and bright, fruity reds – go easy on oaky wines, and avoid anything with heavy tannins.

    - Try a Rose – pink wines are fantastic barbecue wines – they’re versatile and very food friendly.

    - Balance the style of the wine with the flavours of the food – e.g. pick wines that will match the different marinades and cope with the strong flavours of the smokey barbecue and spices (in the same way that cool, fruity chutneys balance the heat of the spice in Indian dishes).

    - Keep the whites on ice, and slightly chill red wines, to bring out the fresh, fruity flavours – if you’re running out of space, fill big buckets with ice and water and put the bottles in there.

    - Invest in a few wine cooler sleeves – they keep wine chilled for much longer.

    - Opt for screw-capped bottles.  It makes life much easier when you are trying to barbecue and open bottles.

    Now down to the wines; generally speaking, as good all-rounders, go for mouthwatering, zesty whites with a bit of oomph – Sauvignon Blanc, un-oaked Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and southern Italian whites.  For reds, stick to two styles – lighter, juicier, cherry fruit-stashed wines such as Montepulciano, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Tempranillo; or opt for rich, but soft, velvety sunshine reds, with lots of ripeness, such as Shiraz, Zinfandel and Merlot.

    Of course, it depends on what you’re cooking:

    Classic

    Heartland Spice Trader, Langhorne Creek Limestone Coast

    Classic steak, burgers and sausages – you won’t go far wrong here with bold, spicy, fruit-stashed reds, such as the spicy Heartland Spice Trader or similar velvety Shiraz-style wines.  Alternatively go for a lighter option, served slightly chilled.  The unusual, and little-known Braucol, Vigne Lourac, Cotes de Tarn, with its bright, cherry and herb-stashed flavours would work well.

    Fish

    Seafood and white fish -  keep it simple, whether it’s prawns, seabass or other – brush with oil, sprinkle with all styles of fresh herbs that you have to hand, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and finely chopped red chilli, for a touch of spice.

    Domaine Roquemolière, Picpoul de PinetOr season lightly, chargrill and serve with a punchy salsa verde.  Zesty, crisp, refreshing whites, such as the searingly fresh, fennel-scented Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de la Roquemoliere or the citrus and peach-stashed Sicilian Planeta La Segreta.

    Tuna and salmon - here are a couple of my favourite recipes, that take no time, yet make all the difference to flavours:

    Chargrilled Tuna
    4 tuna steaks
    Olive Oil
    Lots of Lemon juice
    3 garlic cloves
    Fresh parsley, dill and basil

    Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour over the tuna. Leave for 12 hours, then char-grill for 3 minutes each side. Very simple, very effective, very delicious.

    Barbecued salmon steaks with pistou

    4 salmon steaks
    bunch of basil leaves
    2 oz pine nuts
    2 garlic cloves
    Extra Virgin olive oil

    Whizz the basil, pine nuts and garlic with just enough olive oil to make a paste. Add seasoning. Put the salmon steaks on individual pieces of tinfoil, and top with the pistou paste. Wrap up and grill for 10 mins.

    With these recipes, I invariably opt for Southern French Rose, with its crisp, lively, bone dry strawberry flavours – it’s the epitome of summer even if the weather is shocking.  Stick to pale, peachy pink roses, full of strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry scents and flavours – 2 of my favourites are the Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cotes de Provence, and the beguiling Sicilian delight that is Planeta Rose.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru Classé

    Thai

    Thai prawns, or chicken – once again, marinades and barbecues mean simple preparation.  Mix up some crushed garlic, chopped ginger, a couple of sticks of lemongrass, one chopped red chilli, chopped fresh coriander, with the zest and juice of 3 limes, a splash of fish sauce, a hint of rice wine vinegar and some olive oil, and you’ve got the flavours of the Orient all ready to go.  Throw in some coconut milk for an extra layer of flavour.

    The Frost Pocket Sauvignon BlancHere you need bright, tongue-tingling zesty whites, and a Sauvignon Blanc, such as Frost Pocket, is always a good bet, as the intense crispness and tropical fruit character match the zingy flavours of the marinade.  The lime-drenched scents and flavours of Riesling wines also work well, as does one of my current favourites, the Austrian, nectarine and ginger-infused Machherndl Gruner Veltliner – spicy, yet dry and fresh as a daisy.

    Mediterranean

    Mediterranean cooking is simple – fresh meat, herbs, lemon, olive oil, and a riot of colourful vegetables – match these dishes with southern Italian and Spanish whites, or venture to the New World, for some super-fresh wine flavours.

    Leyda Chardonnay Reserva Leyda ValleyChicken with herbs and spicy mayonnaise -  a simple solution for last minute guests; sprinkle chicken thighs and drumsticks with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh thyme and oil ; serve with  ice-cold, fresh, lively, unoaked , or lightly oaked Chardonnay – the baked apple, peach and cream infused Leyda Chardonnay Resesrva, with its mouthwatering citrus finish would be a perfect match.  If you’re looking for a red, chill down a bottle of the bright, fresh, joyously fruity El Mago Garnacha, full of juicy berry fruit and wild herbs

    Texas/Jamaican/ Caribean

    Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel CaliforniaSpicy chicken – Barbecue sauce, and spicy, ketchup- inspired sauces are great favourites -  with these sweet, vinegar, chilli and sugar-spiked marinades, you need soft, fruity, velvety reds, or bold, fleshy whites.  The Californians know which wines work well with this type of food – Opt for the succulent, apricot and pineapple scented Bogle Viognier, which has enough natural sweetness to cope with these full-on flavours, or it’s red partner, the velvety, blackberry and sweetly spiced Bogle Zinfandel.

    These will also work equally well with ribs and Texas rub steaks, and this simple recipe for chicken.

    Spatchcocked barbecue chicken

    I free-range chicken (or use chicken thighs and drumsticks)
    2 pots natural yoghourt
    50ml hot sauce (sold in most supermarkets)
    1 finely chopped red chilli
    Sea salt flakes
    Zest and juice of 2 lemons
    Freshly chopped parsley and thyme

    Spatchcock the chicken (or get your butcher to do it), then press it down into a large ovenproof dish.  Mix up the marinade ingredients, pour over and rub in well.  Leave to marinade for 6-12 hours before barbecuing.

    J. Lohr 'Wildflower' Valdiguie Pulled Pork – one of the hot trends at the moment, there are lots of wines that will go with this, but opt for a fresh, and more lightweight red, with plenty of juicy fruit, low tannins, and a lively freshness.  Impress guests with the unusual, but very moreish and enchantingly fresh J Lohr, Valdiguie from California, which is jam-packed with zestily fresh berry fruit. Chill it down for best effect.

    Indian 

    Viña Falernia Carmenere Reserva, Elqui ValleyIndian spices, and tandoori or tikka marinades work brilliantly for barbecued meats, but are a bit more of a challenge for wines. This is where aromatic, spicy Rieslings come into their own, and soft, juicy reds, such as Leyda Pinot Noir Reserva, or even the rich, but velvety soft Falernia Carmenere Syrah, full of luscious, super-ripe blackberry and mocha flavours would work well.

    However, why not ring the changes? One of my favourite wine matches for spicy Indian food is a punchy, characterful Rose wine.  Skillogalee Handpicked Cabernet Malbec Rose is spot on here – intense, bold, and richly fruity, but dry.  Chill it down and see how well it works.  Try this with a simple, Indian-spiced marinade for lamb:

    Indian-spiced lamb skewers  

    1 lb lamb steaks, cubed
    4 oz plain yogurt
    1 oz fresh ginger, grated
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    ½ tsp chilli powder
    1 chopped fresh chilli
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp garam masala
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tbsp freshly chopped thyme
    Salt and pepper

    Mix all the marinade ingredients together, then mix with the lamb.  Marinade for up to 12 hours. Soak bamboo skewers, then thread on the lamb, place on oiled racks on the barbecue, and hey presto, just cook!

    Middle Eastern

    Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc StellenboschI love the warm, exotic scents of Moroccan, Lebanese and North African spiced dishes – with less heat, or overt punchiness than Indian or Oriental marinades, they have a beguiling, aromatic warmth and softness.  Cinnamon, harissa, cumin, and Ras-al-hanout are all staples, and work beautifully with spicy, yet fresh whites, such as Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin and The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne.

    Soft, yet full-bodied reds from Southern Italy and the New World are also ideal partners.  Try Ken Forrester Renegade, full of bold, Rhone-style flavours, or the delicious 12 e mezzo negroamaro from Puglia.  Both would work well with one of my favourite Moroccan spice-infused recipes for meltingly tender lamb.

    Moroccan lamb steaks – I road tested this last weekend, and it was a real hit

    4 lamb steaks
    25g smoked paprika
    1 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
    2 tsp ground cumin
    3 crushed garlic cloves
    1 tsp harissa paste
    2 tsp ras al hanout
    50ml red wine vinegar
    Olive oil to coat

    This is another easy one.  Simply mix all the marinade ingredients, and rub into the lamb steaks.  Leave to marinade overnight, and hey presto, the lamb is ready to hit the coals – keep it pink, so don’t overcook.

    Vegetarian

    Some of my favourite barbecued food is vegetarian, and there’s a wealth to choose from at this time of year.  Throw away the recipe book, and just experiment with different vegetables.

    Sprinkle glossy aubergines and red peppers with oil and seasoning, and chargrill for maximum flavour, then add lemon juice and herbs. Do the same with tomatoes.

    Eidosela Albariño Rias BaixasCourgettes are in season right now; one of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook them on the barbecue, is to wrap the whole courgette in foil, adding a crushed clove of garlic, some lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and herbs; add a pinch of crushed coriander seeds for an edge of spice.  Pop on the barbecue for 15 minutes, and they will be deliciously soft.

    I like to serve barbecued vegetables with crumbled feta, or goat’s cheese.  This style of food calls for fresh, vibrant, Spanish and Italian whites.  You won’t go far wrong with  Eidesola Albarinho Rias Baixas, or the crisp, lemon balm scented Vermentino Tenuta Belguardo.

    Whichever dishes and wines you choose, keep it simple, keep it fun.  No rules, just a few suggestions. Enjoy!

    By Angela Mount

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: Dry Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2013

    Dry Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2013

    Dry Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle 2013

    Produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle, the founding winery of Washington State, this cool climate Riesling is made in a crisp, dry, refreshing style with mouth-watering acidity and an elegant finish. According to the winemaker, the inviting citrus aromas and flavours of ripe apricot are a winner when served alongside a platter of freshly shucked oysters.

    Regular price: £9.95 Special Price: £8.76

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

    Prices valid 08.07.15 - 27.07.15

  • Holiday wine made easy...

    According to consumer research by a number of travel companies, over 45% of us are planning a holiday in the UK this summer, with the South-West of England sharing the top popularity spot with Scotland.  Hotel bookings are down, with more and more of us opting to go self-catering. The popularity of holiday cottages, camping and glamping is on the up, as we choose to enjoy our summers on native shores and rural escapes, regardless of the weather.

    All well and good, but self-catering holidays take a bit of planning, whether you’re heading to the Cornish coastline, the Yorkshire Moors, or the Highlands. Apart from the obvious – tents, wellies, trekking boots, surf-boards - lots of us are packing up our cars with rations and staples for a week or two, especially if we’re heading to remote areas.  Local village shops are useful for a pint of milk, or a loaf of bread, but too many of us end up meandering along 10 miles of narrow, twisting lanes to find a decent supermarket, to stock up supplies to feed the family.

    From a wine perspective, it’s even worse! After a long drive, and the general upheaval of unloading the car and settling in, it’s chill-out time, and there is little more needed than a relaxing glass of wine... except the nearest village shop is shut and the closest supermarket is 10 miles away.  It should be an unwritten rule that any packing checklist for a self-catering holiday would include ‘wine for arrival’, but somehow that gets overlooked… and even if you do have a shop close by, it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether you’ll find anything decent or not.

    Holiday Cottage CaseStep forward the Great Western Wine ‘Holiday Cottage Case an ingenious little idea, devised to take one extra layer of stress out of holiday planning.  Twelve bottles; holiday themed; to be picked up from the shop before you travel, if you happen to be local to Bath, or, even better, to be ordered and delivered to your home, or ideally, your holiday address. At £100 for the 12, that works out at a very reasonable £8.33 per bottle, for some very decent wines, so one thing less to worry about - wine sorted.

    Summer holidays aren’t about serious wine, they’re about wine to enjoy, with family, with friends, and not take too seriously.  Wine is the support act, not the star, on these occasions.  Keep it fun, keep it light.  If you’re holidaying with friends, this is a great idea to get you through the first couple of days; if you’re having a family holiday and looking forward to relaxing once the kids have gone to bed, there’s a summery style wine in this mix, which will suit most moods, and will keep you in wine for the week.

    Prosecco Stelle d'Italia BrutSo here’s the deal – 2 bottles of each wine, to suit pretty much every holiday occasion. Kick off the shoes and relax with the first sundowner of the holidays in the form of a refreshing glass of Le Stelle D’Italia Prosecco, served well chilled, either on its own, or as a cocktail base.  Fresh, fruity and gently crisp, it’s a friendly glass of bubbles to help take that first inch of stress out of the shoulders. Mix it with fresh orange, cranberry juice, or any manner of other juices to lighten and freshen.

    Yealands Estate, Reserve Sauvignon BlancYealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is a bit of a no-brainer in this holiday case.  From one of New Zealand’s most pioneering and award-winning wineries, this passion fruit and gooseberry-stashed white is mouthwateringly crisp, with a squeaky-clean lime juice zestiness.  It ticks all the boxes – flavoursome, lively, zesty, and above all, refreshing.  Really versatile, it works well with lunchtime salads, as an aperitif, and is perfect with a platter of the freshest local seafood, and garlic and chilli-spiced barbecued prawns. And if you can’t be bothered to cook, and fancy a take-away on the beach, it’s the perfect wine for good old fish and chips.  If you love this wine, and happen to be staying in Cornwall, you’ll also find it snuggled on the wine list of Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant.

    The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne, Originals, d'ArenbergThere’s another, slightly richer and spicier white wine in this holiday mixed case, which would be perfect as an easy, evening barbecue white – The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2013.  Named after fossils found in the vineyards of Australian wine producer D’Arenberg, it’s a ripe, gently-spiced dry white, based on a Rhone blend of Viognier and Marsanne; bursting with warm, smooth, nectarine and peach-drenched flavours, it has a lovely fragrance of Mediterranean fruit and fresh ginger. Smooth and enticing, it has a richness of flavours, balanced with a delicious streak of citrusy acidity.  This is a great barbecue white, as it will cope with just about any spice, or herb-infused marinated fish or meat.

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseA sholiday wouldn’t be complete without a bottle of two of perfectly chilled Rosé – and nothing shrieks summer more than Cotes de Provence. La Vidaubanaise Cotes de Provence 2014 is one of my favourites, and in my mind, one of the best value Southern French pinks out there. It’s delicately pale in its gentle peachy hue, and is full of sunshine flavours of strawberries, raspberries and freshly-cut herbs, laced with a streak of lemon juice. Chill it right down, keep it on ice, then stash it in the cool-box for a summer picnic treat, or crack open a bottle after a day on the beach.  If you’re cooking tuna, prawns or salmon, this is spot on.  For Provence Rosé you want to be drinking the freshest 2014 vintage now, at its best, and this one does the job. If you run out of this one, and happen to be in Truro, head for the Rising Sun, and you’ll find lots more of it on ice!

    Leyda Pinot Noir Las Brisas Leyda ValleyRed wines are an important part of holiday drinking too, but lighter, fresher reds need to be the order of the day. There’s no better time in the year to drink Pinot Noir, as it’s soft, supple fruitiness and low tannins work perfectly with the summer trend.  Viña Leyda Pinot Noir Las Brisas 2012 is a great choice for holidays – chill it down to bring out the best juiciness of this wine, and serve with lunchtime platters of charcuterie and cheese. It’s exuberant and juicy, with beguiling scents of violets and raspberries, and is jam-packed with ripe cherry, and summer pudding berry fruits. Soft, velvety, and deliciously fresh. It would also work beautifully with oriental or Indian spiced barbecue chicken and lamb – again , served lightly chilled. This is a great Summer favourite at the Greenbank in Falmouth.

    Vallobera Pago Malarina RiojaThe final gem in this holiday case is the bright and youthful Vallobera Pago Malarina Rioja 2012 – Rioja is always a popular holiday favourite and extremely versatile. This one’s very modern in style, with far less oak ageing than traditional Rioja, which means that it keeps its freshness and vibrant fruitiness. Bursting with opulent, but soft strawberry and cherry fruit, it has hints of vanilla, and a smooth velvety style, which makes for the ultimate in relaxed evening drinking, with a slab of local cheese, or with steak, burgers, sausages and lamb.

    My final tips? Invest in a couple of wine chiller sleeves, and stash them in the freezer as soon as you arrive at your destination. You can chill wines quickly in the freezer, but keep an eye on the clock and only do so for 15  minutes or so (never put sparkling wines in the freezer – it will only end in tears, shards of glass all over the ice cream and a horrible mess to clear).  Take a ball of string to the beach, or to that riverside picnic for emergencies – tie the string securely around the top of the bottle, and to an overhanging tree or rock, and let it cool in the river current, or the waves. Finally Summer wine drinking is all about fun – chill your reds; if you want to add ice cubes to white or Rose, that’s fine, it will dilute the wine slightly, but there’s nothing wrong in that; and yes, it’s absolutely fine to drink summer wines out of plastic glasses, plastic cups, or even paper cups if things get desperate. No rules. Summertime. Holidays. Enjoy.

    By Angela Mount

  • Alan's Wine of the Week - Braucol, Domaine Vigné-Lourac

    Braucol, Domaine Vigné-Lourac

    Vigne Lourac Braucol Vin de Pays des Cotes du Tarn 2013

    Sumptuous plummy perfume. Ripe, almost squishy, blackberries in the mouth. Forward and easy to like; velevety tannin. Good, simple, honest enjoyment.

    Regular price: £8.95 Special Price: £7.88

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

    Prices valid 08.07.15 - 27.07.15

  • Understanding wine jargon - hot, cold, new, old - what does it all mean?

    Wine tastings, wine notes, wine columns and winemaker speeches are continuously peppered with phrases such as “New World’, ‘Old World’, ‘cool climate’, ‘altitude’, ‘hot climate’, and such like.  But what do these technical – sounding words really mean when it comes to wine?

    Let’s begin with the difference between Old World and New World, which are terms that have evolved over the last 30 years or so.  In a nutshell, ‘Old World’, refers largely to Europe, to the wine-producing countries, which have made wine, and also sold wine in the UK, for centuries – we can’t quite refer to this as ‘northern hemisphere’, since this would include California and USA wine regions, which are technically ‘New World’.

    Just over 35 years ago, there were a few dribbles of wine from Australia and California hitting our shelves.  Relatively speaking, South Africa was still struggling with apartheid restrictions, and South America was an exotic, remote-sounding land.  Then the Aussies hit our shores, or rather our wine shelves, with energy, force and a totally new way of looking at wine.

    In the early days of the Australian wine invasion, which was later followed by California, Chile, South Africa and then Argentina, suddenly, choosing wine became easier. The wines had names you could pronounce (at that time Jacobs Creek dominated); they were labeled with the name of the grape variety, so you knew what style you were choosing. Far more straightforward than centuries of old –fashioned European wine regulations, which meant that labels were confusing, providing little easily-understandable information -  labels weren't (and still aren't) allowed to state that Chablis actually comes from the Chardonnay grape, and that Sancerre is made from Sauvignon Blanc.

    This, in a nutshell is how we split and define Old World and New World wines, which brings me neatly onto how we define ‘cool climate’ and ‘hot climate’.  Back in the early days of the influx of ‘New World’ wines, this was relatively simple, at a very basic level; it’s hot in Australia, California, Chile and South Africa; it’s colder in Europe. And that was how the very early days of describing New World wines, was like – Australian wines were sunshine in a glass; fruit bomb flavours, golden colours for white, rich, velvety, spicy reds – a very broad generalisation, but true. ‘Hot climate’ wines were also likely to be headier, and higher in alcohol.

    Thirty years on, the situation is rather different, as the world has explored and discovered different regions, and hidden corners within all these countries – the difference between the sultry, sun-baked vineyards of the Barossa Valley, lying about an hour north of Adelaide, and the craggy, windswept cliffs of Mornington Peninsula, 800km south, close to Melbourne, can be as varied as the contrast in climate between the French Riviera, and a blustery day on the Norfolk coast.

    Alsace, a cooler wine making region in France

    Generally cool climate regions are at the more extremes of the wine producing world – so Champagne, Alsace, Germany, Burgundy, but also New Zealand’s Central Otago, Chile’s Patagonia, and South Africa’s Elim areas, would qualify.  But it can also get a little more complicated than that, when you throw altitude into the equation.  Vineyard sites that are high above sea level, close to the mountains, or adjacent to the oceans will generally have fresher temperatures, colder nights, and therefore longer growing seasons – one of the classic examples of this are the vineyards of Vina Falernia, which are situated about as far north in Chile as they grow vines, nudging into desert territory, and with cacti plants sprinkled alongside vineyards; yet because the vineyards are so high up, and so close to the cooling breezes of the Pacific ocean, they can still produce, gentle, crisp, lighter styles of wine.

    So, cutting to the chase, what are the benefits of cool versus hot climate and, which grapes are most at home in each of these environments? It’s all about how grapes ripen, and the balance of sugars and acids in the grapes’ composition. Basic science has taught even primary school children, that plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, to produce energy; sunshine ripens grapes. In sunlight the sugars (energy) from the vines go straight to the grapes, which means they ripen more quickly and are also likely to produce fuller, higher alcohol level wines, as sugars convert to alcohol during the fermentation process.

    This is great stuff for red grapes, with lots of tannin and concentration – they need sun and warmth to convert the acids to ripe, sweet flavours, and this process will happen more swiftly in a hotter environment.  However, the other element in the equation is acidity – a vine uses acidity to breathe as well, and in heat the acidity levels in a grape will therefore drop, whilst the grape continues to accumulate sugar.  This is where it can all go wrong, as it’s the precarious balance between ripeness, sugars, and acidity is the key to a great quality wine – this is where the viticulturist and winemakers’ skills really come into full force… to tread that knife-edge to ensure the optimum balance between the two. It’s then down to the further skills of the winemaker to ensure that the grapes are picked at precisely the right time and fermented at just the right temperature to get the very best out of them.

    In cool climate regions, there’s a longer growing season, so that the grapes can fully mature at a slower, and less extreme pace; it’s also easier to keep that vital balance between the two key components of acidity and sugar.  Take Argentina for example – in the hot, relatively flat vineyards of some Mendoza regions, the sturdy Malbec ripens to perfection, offering big, gutsy, super-ripe fruit flavours.  However up in the foothills of the mountains, in an area called Tupungato, they are producing fabulous wines from the Cabernet Franc grape, a more delicate grape, that thrives in the relative coolness of the Loire Valley; and deep south in Patagonia, Pinot Noir and lighter style Cabernets are thriving.

    Confused?  Generally speaking, ‘cool climate’ wines have more restraint, higher acidity and freshness and often lower alcohol levels – they have an elegance, and a nervy edge. Sicily is an interesting example – for years the world-famous Planeta family have been showcasing stellar wines from their vineyards in western Sicily, a hot sunny area, where they manage to make super-fresh styles, by careful harvesting and fermentation.  Now, they’re experimenting with grapes grown high up on the slopes of Mount Etna, where the cooler nighttime temperatures will lead to fresher, livelier styles.

    As a simple rule of thumb, many red grapes need lots of heat, lots of sunshine to ripen properly; plant Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec in the northern extremes of wine producing regions, where you get freezing cold winters, and relatively cool summers, and you’re going to end up with thin, green, sappy and acidic wines.  Similarly take the more temperamental, high-maintenance Riesling and Pinot Noir grapes, who crave the cooler climate, and plant them in blazing heat, and you’ll end up with a load of sugary, dull, and flabby grape juice, with just about all varietal character destroyed.

    Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir Mornington PeninsulaSauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, are three grape varieties that love fresher climates and this is where they thrive.  The cool, continental climate of world-famous Marlborough, on New Zealand’s south Island, such as the appropriately named Frost Pocket Sauvignon Blanc, is a clear case in point; similarly from the most southerly vineyards in the world, Carrick Unravelled Pinot Noir, is a sublime example of Pinot Noir at its best, as is the world famous Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir, from Mornington Peninsula.  Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de PierreThe Loire produces the delicately delicious Sauvignon De Touraine Saint Pierre, whilst the scenic, high hills of Austria and Germany turn out world class Rieslings, such as Knipser Johannishof Riesling and Machherdnl Gruner Veltliner.

    Cooler parts of Australia are also famous for their cool climate Riesling, such as Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley, from where hails the super-fresh, lime zest fragrant Skillogalee Riesling.

    Chardonnay is a bit of a chameleon and can cope better than some grapes in the heat, although it’s at its best in cooler conditions, where the pure flavours of the grape really shine – try Limoux Chardonnay, produced in the airy hills high above the hot Languedoc region, or Chardonnay in its coolest guise, in the form of Chablis.  In conjunction with the thin-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it produces highly acidic still wines

    Bogle Viognier Clarksburg CaliforniaViognier and Chenin Blanc are two white grapes that work well in warmer climates, but are also very versatile.  Viognier’s natural home is the Rhone valley, where temperatures soar in Summer – it’s a fleshy, bold-flavoured and fruity wine, which also thrives well in California (try Bogle Viognier) and Australia, whilst Chenin blanc is an underrated maverick, with high natural acidity and sugar levels, which make it equally at home in the relatively cool Loire Valley, and also the hot, interior of South Africa’s Stellenbosch region.  This is a star grape that manages to balance flavour and natural acidity pretty well, as seen in the Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc, and some glorious late harvested sweet Chenins in the Loire.

    Omero Pinot Noir Willamette ValleyAs for reds, the thin-skinned and delicately perfumed, lighter Pinot Noir and Gamay prefer cooler climates.  The home of Pinot Noir is Burgundy, and it is simultaneously producing world class wines in the very far south of the Southern Hemisphere, as well as in the cooler regions of Western America, such as the Omero Pinot Noir from Oregon, and similar styles from Washington State.

    Just as some of us cope less well with the current heatwave, so it is with grapes. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre thrive in the heat of the Southern Rhone and throughout Australia and other Southern Hemisphere hot spots, and frequently need that heat and sunshine to get them fully ripe – as does Malbec.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, those great Bordeaux stalwarts work equally well in New World countries, but, carefully made, produce their absolute best in the relatively cool region of Bordeaux.  Then again, it’s all down to the weather conditions each year, and this varies far more in Europe.

    It’s a bit of a minefield; but it needn’t be.  Cooler, higher regions produce fresher, elegant, more restrained wines, with good acid balance.  Red grapes that need sunshine and heat cope with the blast of high temperatures with relative ease – it’s then down to the skill of the winemaker to keep that perfect balance, between opulence, richness, high alcohol levels, yet some restraint and freshness.

    The landscape of where grapes are grown, and in which climate is continually changing, as viticulturists and winemakers experiment... and we’re the lucky ones who get to taste and enjoy the benefits of all these new ventures.

     By Angela Mount

  • Stag's Leap on Sunday Brunch

     SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 2011

    Sunday 5th July: To celebrate American Independence day, Karina Elias, beverage director at Grosvenor House Hotel picks 3 bottles to change your perception of American wines.

  • Shades of Rosé

    Glance at a shelf full of pink wines, and you’ll see a startling, and potentially confusing diversity of colours, from the palest shade of onion-skin to neon Barbie pink. The range of Rosé hues is as widely varied as a tonal paint palette from Farrow & Ball, which doesn't make the job of choosing your weekend pink tipple any easier – unlike paint, you can’t really buy a sample pot, try it out at home and go back for the bigger size (although I’m reliably informed, that there will be lots of Rosés to taste in the Great Western Wine shop this weekend).

    So how do you choose? What are the different styles? And what do the colours mean? More importantly, what do they taste like?

    Firstly, a snapshot summary of how pink wine is made – most Rosé wine is made from red grapes; the grape skins are left to soak into the grape juice after the crushing for a controlled amount of time, during which the colour leaches out of the skin and into the juice. The colour and style of a Rose wine depends on five things:

    -         the type and quality of the grape
    -         the length of time that the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice
    -         the temperature of the wine vat
    -         the region
    -         the winemaker’s skill

    Whilst there seems a general pattern that paler coloured pinks come from cool regions, and the darker, cerised-hued ones from hotter regions, this assumption doesn’t always hold true. Take the sun-soaked, hazily-hot, dusty world of Southern Italy and Sicily – it’s hot there; seriously hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees mid summer.  Yet they produce Rosés of very different styles …

    Planeta, RoséSicily’s leading wine producer makes a delicate, peach and tea-rose hued pink Planeta Rosé 2014, from Syrah and Nero d’Avola grapes, which is silky, crisply dry and bursting with bright cranberry and redcurrant fruit; in contrast, just over a narrow strip of the Ionian sea,  the Candido ‘Le Pozzelle’ Salice Salentino 2014 is  bright pomegranate and dark coral in colour, with ripe, raspberry and red cherry flavours. Both equally delicious, but very different.

    The easiest way of understanding Rose is to look at them by style...

     

    Sparkling Rosé

    Cantina Cleto Chiarli, Rose Brut

    This is the exception to the rule that pink wines are made from red grapes. Many of them are, but with Champagne in particular, Rosé can be made by adding up to 15% of red wine, in Champagne’s case, Pinot Noir.

    But for easy, Summer drinking and entertaining, you don’t need to splash out on Champagne. One of the freshest, best value pink fizzes around at the moment is an Italian sparkler not from the Prosecco-famous north west, but from the north east. Cleto Chiarli Rose Brut NV, is a perky, strawberry-hued and scented fizz, made from the local Grasparossa grape and a dollop of Pinot Noir – fresh, bright, and juicy, it’s zesty, delicate and infused with gentle strawberry fruit.

    Light Pinks

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseLight Rosés are those that have the most delicate colour – they are often from cooler regions, such as the Loire, but also are typical of southern France – Côtes de Provence Rosé is now iconic as ‘the Rosé for Summer’, and is a breath of sunshine and holiday memories.  Served icy cold, with its tremulously pale peach colour, it comes in various guises; easily recognizable by Provence Rosé’s  trademark hourglass shaped bottle  is Côtes de Provence La Vidaubanaise 2014, enchanting in its delicacy, with soft strawberry, redcurrant and citrus flavours.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru Classé

    Equally charming, and a notch up in terms of quality and depth of flavour is Chateau Sainte Marguerite 2014, elegant & stylish with zestily fresh strawberry, peach and wild herb touches, and a bone dry finish.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere RoséBut it’s not just southern France that produces the palest of pale pinks. Move south to Portugal, and you’ll find the most fragile coloured rose from the sun-baked plains of the southern Alentenjo region, east of Lisbon. Ribafreixo Pato Frio Cashmere 2014, is gossamer-light in both colour and style, with very delicate wafts of summer berry fruit and hints of lemon peel, with a delicate citrus finish.  Move to the far south of the Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll find a similarly light coloured, peachy-pretty pink, in the form of Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage Rosé 2014, with its delicate colour, but ripe-flavoured raspberries and cream-infused flavours, with a hint of sweet cherry tomatoes; very savoury, very pretty and a perfect lunchtime wine.

    Medium Pinks

    I find these some of the most elegant and enchanting of Rosés, with their pretty, rose-pink and crushed strawberry hues. They also have juicy, succulent flavours of ripe berry fruits, laced with cream, and hints of citrus and fresh herbs.  They also make excellent food wines.

    Château du Donjon Rose MinervoisMany of these are from Bordeaux and South West France, such as one of my current flavours, the intensely-fruity, red cherry and raspberry-stashed Domaine du Donjon, Minervois Rosé 2014, with its generous, yet squeakily clean style.  Côtes du Rhône rose is also highly popular, and exudes scents and flavours of the Mediterranean summer, ranging from pale to mid pink in colour, with the Grenache grape, most prevalent. Spain is another a top producer of quality Rosés, many of them from Rioja, Navarra, and the north eastern area of Catalunya,  with the Garnacha grape dominating.

    Massard, Más Amor Rosado

    For a bold, dry but flavour-packed style, try the modern, graffiti-labelled Massard Mas Amor Rosado 2014, truly vibrant and exciting in its intensity of freshly-crushed summer pudding fruit, and hints of pomegranates and rose petals.

    Darker, Fuller Pinks

    The longer grape skins are left on the juice, the darker the colour will be – this also means that many of these fuller pinks will be deeper and richer in colour; some even resemble light reds more than rosés.  Richer coloured pinks often come from hotter climes, such as Australia, Chile, and California.

    There is still far too much dominance of sugary, luridly-pink bubblegum wines from Californian, although, there are a few sweeter styles which are well made and work remarkably well with spicy Indian food, with lots of chilli heat.

    Leyda Pinot Noir Rose Loica Vineyard Leyda ValleyNew Zealand produce some delightfully vibrant, sassy, rosé from Pinot Noir, with elegance and perfume. Chile is developing a bit of a reputation for delicious super-ripe pink wines, which have fragrance, opulence and bold, fruity flavours.  Leyda  Pinot Noir Loica Vineyard has a delightful freshness, with a bold colour , yet remarkably fresh raspberry-infused flavours, due to the cooling breezes from the neighbouring Pacific Ocean.

    Skillogalee RoséSkillogalee Handpicked Cabernet Malbec Rosé 2013 is a dark cerise-shade of pink from South Australia. As owner Dave Palmer told me recently ‘it’s Rosé with attitude’. It certainly is – bold and laden with rich raspberry and dark cherry-scented fruit, it’s dry, but the ripeness of the grapes give it an added fleshiness and richness of style, with an intensely of crunchy cranberry, pomegranate and hedgerow fruit flavours.

    Serving Rosé Wines

    The first rule is to chill all pink wines. They will taste deliciously fresh, refreshing and vibrant; even the boldest and darkest of roses will benefit from being chilled, as this will bring out the delicious, fruity flavours.

    Serve delicate, lighter style elegant pinks as an aperitif, a picnic wine, or with simple seafood and nibbles. Riper, pinker wines are great food wines, especially with dishes such as char-grilled prawns, tuna niçoise, grilled vegetables and platters of charcuterie.

    I’ve always been a fan of big, bold, succulent pink wines with oriental and spicy food – this is where the darker coloured, richer pinks, sometimes with a hint of sweetness, come into their own, and are vibrant and characterful enough themselves to match up to the heat and exotic spices of Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine.

    Whichever you choose, enjoy, alfresco whenever possible; don’t take  wines too seriously – it’s all about fun, enjoyment and supporting the occasion. Happy Holidays.

    By Angela Mount

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: NV Rosé 'Brut de Noir' Cleto Chiarli

    NV Rosé 'Brut de Noir' Cleto Chiarli

     Cantina Cleto Chiarli, Rose Brut NV

    An intense fruit and strawberry bouquet opens up to redcurrant notes on the palate. A delicious elegant rosé!

    Regular price: £12.95 Special Price: £11.40

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

    Prices valid 08.07.15 - 27.07.15

  • Tried & Tested: Peking duck summer rolls & J.Lohr Wildflower, Valdiguie

    Cravings for a delicious takeaway style treat but want to stay healthy for summer?

    This week I tried and tested a lighter version of the classic Peking duck wraps using plenty of refreshing ingredients, and rice paper over the usual flower coated pancakes; creating more of a summer roll style dish as an alternative.  With the duck being a slightly heavier meat than the chicken you'd usually come across in a summer roll, I thought I'd try a red wine match, as it can never hurt to have a few summer appropriate reds on hand for a change from the white and sparkling we often lean towards in the warmer weather.

    I chose the J.Lohr, Wildflower, Valdiguie, 2014 which, after having been a little chilled in the fridge for just a little before opening, was full of juicy berry flavours (perfect for drinking on its own during the very welcome heatwave we've been having)!

    The wine worked well with elements of the dish, the freshness of the cucumber, spring onion and rice paper wraps, along with the slightly richer element of the duck were nicely balanced by the sweet, fruitiness of the wine.  The hoi sin sauce was a little too thick and sweet for such a light and fruity wine, so I'd perhaps opt for a lighter dressing, keeping the main focus the crunchy and refreshing greens in this light summer snack.

    Food and wine match with J.Lohr wildflower valdiguie

    I went with what I know for this recipe; simple ingredients all thrown together, wrapped up (the tricky bit), and sliced into bite-size pieces.

    To make enough for 2 people as a main, or a few more as party finger food, all you need is: 1/2 peking shredded duck (available in most supermarkets), rice paper, a handful of coriander, 2 spring onions and 1/2 cucumer (sliced to about 10cm in length - just under the length of your rice paper), and Hoisin sauce.  You can make this yourself (see BBC recipe here), but it often comes with the shredded duck.

    The rice paper rolls are the most fiddly but (best to follow individual pack instructions), but as long as you don't over fill your rolls, you can wrap up all of the ingredients quite securely.  Can be served per person as a full roll, but look great sliced up and served as summer garden party miniatures too.

    By Olivia Moore

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