Hello and welcome to my Wines and Spirits Blog

Welcome to the world of wines and spirits. Over the coming months you will find news and articles relating to Wines and Spirits ranging from Buying through Making your own to Storing. Occasionally there will be articles on general Food and Drink topics. Please enjoy our journey together.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Understanding Italian Wine Classifications

Understanding Italian Wine Classifications

By Giovanni Balboni

Wine is taken very seriously in Italy and is very strictly classified. Understanding how this classification works will help you learn a little about the wines you can have the pleasure of sampling while staying in villas in Tuscany - and the ones you may want to take home.

Italy's Wine Classifications

  • DOCG: The highest category of wine is the DOCG. This classification is given only to a limited number of the best wines. To be rated as a DOCG wine, it must pass a blind taste test, as well as other stringent tests. It must be easily recognisable as the grape from which it is produced.

  • DOC: Wines in this category must adhere to the restrictions of having been made from grapes grown in a certain region, and used in minimum combinations. For example, for a wine to be DOC Chianti, the grapes must all have been grown in the Chianti area (perhaps even within view of your villas in Tuscany!), and the wine must be made from at least 75% Sangiovese grapes. When a wine is labelled DOC you can trust that it is true to the original definition of its labelled variety and that it is a wine of very high quality. This is the wine you should choose for a fine dinner in a restaurant, or a special dinner when you are holidaying in villas in Tuscany.

  • IGT: These wines are the highest category of 'table wines'. You can be certain that the wine is made from grapes grown in the region specified, but the combination of grapes can vary. These wines are among some of the best in Italy - they simply do not meet the restrictions for DOC wine grape combinations because the winemakers have chosen to experiment.

  • VdT: This is the Vino de Tavola category - the lowest category of wine in Italy. To qualify as VdT the wine must simply be made from grapes grown in Italy.

  • Super Tuscans: These wines are similar to the IGT wines in that they don't follow the guidelines of the combination of grapes, so they are not rated by the DOC system. They are all made from grapes grown in the Tuscan wine region, but the combination of grapes may vary greatly. These wines are very typically delicious and often very creative combinations of grapes.

Once you understand the wine classification system, you will be able to confidently choose wines in a local restaurant or to enjoy back in your villas in Tuscany. While you can certainly make more informed decisions, don't make the mistake of sticking to only one category - any Italian wine is worth at least one try!

Giovanni Balboni works for To Tuscany, who specialise in finding the perfect villas in Tuscany as well as selected villas in Umbria and Puglia. To Tuscany is proud of their villas and their reputation. Each property is personally selected and visited by our representatives to ensure we offer only the best in the region.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Giovanni_Balboni


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wine — Chile, Olé

Blessed with a Mediterranean climate similar to France or California, Chile has the added advantage of being south of the equator. That puts their summers from November to March, allowing them to harvest wine during the off-season of many other countries. Time shifting allows them to satisfy the market when others can't.

This has served Chilean wine producers well since vineyards were first planted in the mid-16th century. By the mid-18th century the country saw the importation of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Regrettably, by the mid-20th century the industry was stagnant, producing inferior wines. But a 21st century renaissance has seen vintners produce world class wines again, taking several major prizes in recent years.

The country is divided, like France's appellations, into several viticultural regions running north to south along this sliver of land in South America. Some lie in the fertile central plain 750ft (229m) above sea level, others are closer to the famous Andes. The area has seen superior growth in recent years, growing from only 12 wineries to over 70.

Blessed not only with good weather but, because of its unique geography, the region has never been affected by the Phylloxera louse that devastated so many European vineyards. When France and others looked to rebuild in the 1870s, they imported much of their stock from Chile.
Not only is the weather similar to France, but many of the names would be immediately recognized by vintners there. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and others. German varieties are represented too: Gewürztraminer and Riesling are plentiful.

The reds of Chile have in many cases (pun intended) become the country's most notable exports. Chile is the fourth largest exporter of wine to the United States. A significant distinction, considering the U.S. has an enormous wine industry of its own. As long ago as 1998 it passed 5.3 million bottles and has continued to grow since.

Many of these premium wines come from vineyards sited in cooler areas with poorer soils. Along with modern pruning techniques, the result concentrates the flavors. Adding stainless steel fermenting tanks alongside French oak barrels has brought Chile's wines to the pinnacle of world winemaking.

In the Apalta Valley, for example, conditions are ideal for Merlot, Syrah, and other favorites of the California market. Produced from grapes grown on 50-year-old vines in sandy soil, it competes with the best anywhere. Those seeking a superior, full-bodied wine will look for the Montes Alpha 'M' designation.

While still small in size, at around 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) total under cultivation, Chile can still produce one of the finest Syrahs anywhere. The peppery product from the cooler Elqui Valley is the envy of vintners from Australia to California. The warmer, southern Colchagua region offers a fruity version that competes well with those of the Hermitages of France.
With the shackles of its past now receding from memory, Chile is well poised to take its proper place among the major quality producers of the world.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Wine — Home Winemakers, No Longer Amateurs

The Latin word 'amateur' means 'lover' and originally referred to someone who did something out of the love of doing, rather than 'just for the money'. They were regarded as the highest experts because they honed their craft motivated by joy instead of monetary reward.

Though the professionals of wine still imbue their work with passion and skill, amateurs — with the help of modern technology and knowledge passed down over generations — can often approach similar results.

Fermentation biochemistry was ill-understood until the beginning of the 20th century. But even so, the process has been used for over 5,000 years. Left unmolested a wine grape would ripen until the skin ruptured and the juice fermented naturally. Today, the process is guided by art and science.

Harvested grapes are put into a press where they are turned into must — a mixture of skin, pulp and juice. Natural (residing on the skin, near the stem) and added yeast interacts with the sugars in the juice and produces ethanol (alcohol), carbon dioxide and heat. The process continues until the sugars are all reacted or the yeast is killed by the buildup of the reaction products.

Thanks to Pasteur and others the process is now tightly controlled to produce just the desired result. For those not fortunate enough to have a vineyard handy, juice concentrates can be purchased for a modest cost.

Add sugar, acids, yeast and nutrients (to assist the yeast) to a container (a carboy or jug) and allow to sit idle for 3-10 days at 75F (24C). Specific recipes available with the concentrate give amounts and details. Strain off the liquid from the pulp and allow to ferment at 65F (18C) for several weeks until bubbling stops. Siphon off sediments (lees) and store the bottles on their sides at 55F (13C) for six months (white) to a year (red) before tasting.

Of course, it sounds simpler than it is — but neither is it beyond the dedicated amateur's ability. The process is monitored and (sometimes) adjusted on a daily basis. Thanks to inexpensive refractometers to measure sugar concentrations, hydrometers, thermometers, temperature controlled cabinets and a host of other items the job is now much easier.

But it's less expensive than the average photography fanatic's budget, and with equally pleasurable results. Well, one hopes, anyway.

It will come as no surprise, that much can go wrong while nature is taking its — well, natural — course. Fermentation can fail to start, it can start and then mysteriously cease prematurely, the output can be excessively sweet or hazy or full of sediments. The wine can have too much pectin, too much bacteria, taste flat or sulphurous or even moldy. Crystals can form from storing in too much cold or secondary fermentation can result from storing too hot. Sometimes these are deliberate.

But, thanks to the Internet, there are now hundreds of websites devoted to helping the eager amateur vintner in producing wines that rival the masters. All you have to do is practice for about a hundred years.

Bonne chance!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Australia's Wine Regions

Wine — Australia's Wine Regions

Australia's wine efforts date back to the mid-19th century, but the industry languished until about 30 years ago. Since then, the country has grown to be a world producer with a variety of highly regarded whites and reds.

With climate regions similar to California, it's not surprising that much of the product would mirror the popular varieties of that state. But the Australian's — true to their iconoclastic heritage — add several distinctive varieties of their own.

Shiraz (or Syrah) is one of the most well-known recent products, but the lesser-known Durif would be a welcome guest at any table. Hailing from the Rutherglen, a small town in north-eastern Victoria, it joins the area's unusual sparkling red to form a pair of unique offerings. Rutherglen also produces fortified wines, such as port, muscat, and Tokay that often make their way to other countries.

Victoria also boasts another world-class set of producers in the Pyrenees (not to be confused with the mountains along the French-Spanish border).

Under plant since the early 1960s, the region now holds over 30 vineyards with nearly 600 hectares (1458 acres) growing twenty-five varieties. Shiraz, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are among the reds, with whites represented by Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and others.

Once the home largely to apple orchards, the Mornington Peninsula has turned to winemaking in recent decades. With over 60 wineries, many open for public tastings, the area boasts a well-regarded Pinot Noir.

McLaren Vale, bound on the south by the Sellicks Hill Range and to the west by Gulf Saint Vincent. The area enjoys a Mediterranean climate with a dry summer south of the equator. Rarely suffering frost or drought, the long hot days and short cool nights are perfect for growing.

Some vines of the region are still producing more than a hundred years after first being planted. The soil and climate combine with modern methods to produce a wine with superior aging qualities. Widely acknowledged as one of the premier producers of Shiraz, harvest occurs from March to early April. With its noted smaller berries, vintners here produce a complex, intense wine.

But Shiraz isn't the only excellent product of the region. Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache both are well reputed. The Grenache, similar to that grown in Spain, grows well in the distinctive soils.

Among the oldest regions, the Clare Valley is also one of the most scenic. Settled by the English and Irish in the 1840s, much of the architecture still reflects those early days.

The climate is continental, with hot summer days and cool nights. Some valleys enjoy altitudes as high as 500m (1640ft) with red soil over graveled rock.

Like much of Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz dominate, but it also produces a Riesling which has garnered international awards.

After struggling back from phylloxera infestations, in the years since the 1970s the country has grown to become the world's largest exporter of wine to the UK. It has earned its reputation as one of the world's finest producers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wine — Glossary: Words For The Perplexed

Acetic: vinegar-like taste or smell from exposure to air. Vinegar is acetic acid.

Acidity: wines contain acids, which vary in concentration.

Appellation: French system regulating authenticity; applies to region where the grapes were grown.

Astringent: high tannin content produces dry, puckering effect.

Balance: relative degree of fruity quality, acidity, tannins, alcohol and other characteristics.

Bouquet: complex of aromas, usually from aging.

Cooked: prunish flavor, usually from excessive heat.

Cooper: a maker of casks or barrels.

Corked: a kind of spoilage, smelling of cork, usually from cracked or seeping cork allowing introduction of air or fungi.

Dry: opposite of sweet.

Fruity: aroma or flavor of apples, grapes, currants, pears, etc.

Green: wine made from unripe grapes, producing tart flavor.

Honeyed: smell or taste reminiscent of honey, characteristic of wines affected by 'noble rot' (Botrytis cinerea).

Length: a lingering aftertaste.

Madeirized: oxidized with a brownish color and stale odor. After the island of Madeira where wine is intentionally produced in open air vats.

Noble: a classification of grapes that produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling

Nose: aroma. 'Off-nose' refers to odors indicating defect.

Nutty: nutlike aroma, such as found in sherry or aged whites.

Oakey: aroma from aging in oaken casks.

Oxidized: spoiled from over-exposure to air.

Sommelier: a specialist in selecting and serving wine.

Sparkling: wine containing carbonation, such as champagne.

Sulphur: an anti-oxidant introduced in some wines in small amounts. Fermentation creates minute amounts naturally.

Sweet: having residual sugar from fermentation, from grape sugar incompletely converted to alcohol.

Vintner: a winemaker.

Viticulture: the art and science of growing wine grapes.

Vitis vinifera: plant species encompassing most traditional European wine grapes.

Woody: having the aroma or taste of aging barrels.

Yeasty: smelling similar to bread. Yeasts are introduced to carry out fermentation and can be incompletely removed.

Ten Major Grape Varieties —

(1) Cabernet Sauvignon: grows in a variety of climates, but most closely associated with Bordeaux, France. Produces wines usually high in tannin.

(2) Chardonnay: from Burgundy, France. Classic and popular.

(3) Chenin Blanc: from France's Loire valley. A white grape, grow in climates too warm for many vinifera types.

(4) Grenache: Spanish grape with raspberry-like flavor and fruity aroma.

(5) Merlot: produces deep colored, high alcohol wines with low tannin. Sometimes chocolaty.

(6) Nebbiolo: from Piedmont, Italy in the northwest, produces Barbaresco and Barolo. High in acidity and tannins.

(7) Pinot Noir: difficult to grow, low in tannin, prone to rot.

(8) Riesling: a traditional German grape from the Mosel region.

(9) Sangiovese: produces herby, spicy Italian wine from Tuscany, Italy.

(10) Syrah/Shiraz: from France's Rhone valley, but more recently Australia and New Zealand. Spicy, sometimes reminiscent of black pepper. Not to be confused with Petit Sirah, a California grape.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wine — Ancient Art, Modern Science and Global Business

In one form or another wine production has been carried out for thousands of years. Pottery discovered in Persia (present-day Iran), dated at 5,500 BC show evidence of grape use for winemaking. Jars from Jiahu in China containing wine from wild grapes date to between 6000 and 7000 BC.

But whether ancient or modern, many of the same conditions are required and similar techniques used. The chemistry of grapes is eternal.

Wine grapes grow, with few exceptions, only in bands delineated by latitudes 30-50 degrees North and 30-45 degrees South of the equator. Unlike most crops, grapes don't require fertile soil. The thinness of the soil restricts the quantity of the crop, producing fewer grapes of higher quality.

Paradoxically, soils too rich in nitrogen and other nutrients —highly beneficial for most plants— can produce grapes unsuitable for winemaking. Fine for eating, but lacking desirable quantities of minerals, sugars and acids.

The best wines are produced from soil that would be considered poor quality for other agricultural purposes. The stellar wines from Bordeaux are made from grapes grown in gravelly soil, atop a base of clay or chalk. Fewer grapes are grown, but high in quality. The pebbly earth allows for good drainage — grapevines require access to adequate, but not excessive, water. As the roots reach down further, more complex minerals are absorbed.

Vineyards are most often founded in river valleys, with slopes that provide abundant sunshine. Vines there are most often of the European species vitis vinifera, from which many common wines are made, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Viticulture, the practice of growing grapes for wine, is today one of the most complex agricultural undertakings. A master vintner (today, sometimes called an oenologist), must be an expert in soil chemistry and fermentation, climatology and several other ancient arts and modern sciences.

In addition to categorization by variety, the products of these vines are classified by vinification methods - sparkling, still, fortified, rosé, blush — or by region — Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace — and of course by vintage, as well as a dozen other methods.

After the farmer, chemist and manufacturer have had their say, the businessman must take over. In 2002, 595 million gallons of wine were sold in the U.S. alone, representing over $20 billion in consumer spending. France led the pack with 22% of export volume, with Italy a close 20% behind.

The bold artists of wine must possess a sensitive nose and palette and balance dozens of time-sensitive factors such as when to harvest, how long to ferment and age, when to bottle. And that's before considering modern manufacturing and marketing requirements, not to mention legal restrictions.

An art, a science and a business definitely not for the timid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Red Wine Article From Wine-Blog.net

Stripped down to the basic, wine is divided into 2 worlds, red wine and white wine. Red wines due to their ability to form complex subtleties is comparatively more expensive than white wine. The color of wine is determined by the presence or absence of the grape skin during fermentation. Red wine is made from red or black grapes and its color is determined by the skin being left in contact with the juice during fermentation. Red wines are the most common types to take up space in the cellar, this is because red wine often mature to their best when kept unopened for years. The longer red wine is kept in its original unopened state, the better the taste becomes. The phrase ‘age gracefully’ is believed to be a reference to red wine instead of physical beauty.

Red wine is made from around 40-50 different grape varieties from around the world. The tannin content is responsible for the body of the wine. Tannins are astringent, bitter-tasting plant polyphones that bind and precipitate proteins. Tannins play an important role in preventing oxidation in aging wine and make up a major portion of the sediment in wine. The reds can range from heavy and dark to light and refreshing. Red wine should be served at room temperature around 57 degree Fahrenheit in a large deep glass to appreciate its aroma and flavor.

Below is a list of red wines and their countries they are produced from:
• Barolo - Italy
• Brunello di Montalcino - Italy
• Beaujolais - France
• Bordeaux - France
• Burgundy - France
• Cabernet Sauvignon - France, California, Australia, Moldova, South Africa
• Carmenere - Chile
• Chianti - Italy
• Merlot - France, California, Washington, Chile, South Africa
• Pinot Noir - France, California, Oregon, South Africa
• Pinotage - South Africa
• Rioja - Spain
• Syrah/Shiraz - France (N.Rhône), Australia, California, South Africa
• Valpolicella - Italy
• Zinfandel – California

In recent consumer research, it was found that red wine is the highest type of wine consumed around the world compared to other types of wine, this is no surprise with the result of the ground-breaking study by Dr. Serge Renaud in the early 1990s, a French cardiologist that made medical history by his findings that proves wine is able to disperse the fat-derived cholesterol that builds up in the arteries, which lowers your risk of a coronary heart disease. Since then, numerous research has been made to either debunk or support Dr. Renaud’s findings. A study published in Nature magazine have suggested that moderate alcohol drinking helps to reduce the likelihood of heart disease. Scientist have found a mechanism in red wine which appears to interfere with the production of a body chemical, a protein called endothelin-1 (ET-1), which is the vital cause that clogs up arteries and increases the risk of a heart attack. It is said that Cabernet Sauvignon-derived wines seemed to have the most impact in decreasing the production of ET-1 in our body.

Italians have long used red wine as part of the ingredient in their food. Red wine somehow enhances the taste of the food. Red wines which are commonly used for cooking are called table wines, they are considerably cheaper than vintage wine and are often made with lesser quality grapes and meant to be consumed almost immediately after bottling. The rule of thumb when it comes to cooking with wine is to never cook with any wine that you wouldn’t drink because if it tastes like vinegar in your glass, then high chance it will taste like vinegar in your food.

Wine Article From: Wine-Blog.Net - Information About Fine Wine