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Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico hasn’t a great reputation but perhaps it’s misunderstood. It has a deep ruby red colour, spicy cherry nose and a dry herbaceous savoury taste.. It’s rustic and from the heart. It’s not ashamed and doesn’t pretend to be all perfume and seduction.. It’s an honest serious wine. At its peak the ultimate flavour desired from a Chianti Classico is strong tea! This Sangiovese is a lover of all hearty classic dishes. The ultimate food wine. Give it a try this Autumn with your flavourful dishes.. stews, meatballs even pizza.

The gallo nero symbol dates back into antiquity. Two cities, Florence and Siena were growing weary of never ending warfare and decided to settle their boundary dispute by means of a contest. When the morning cock crowed a horseman would ride towards the other city, and where the two riders met would be the border.
Siena chose a healthy white cock, pampered and fed it up in preparation for the contest. Florence picked a scrawny ill-fed black cock. The black cock woke hungry before the sun rose and crowed while the white cock was still soundly sleeping. The Florentine rider got to ten miles of Siena before meeting their rider. Thus the boundaries were drawn and Chianti became part of the Florence Republic.


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Heady Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most seductive of all grapes. It’s wine brings forth rich fruit perfume and clear flavours.
The name comes from the French words for “pine” and “black” alluding to the tight cone like clusters of grapes on the vine.
This is the famous red Burgundy grape, its best examples are from the Côte d’Or which include Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Pinot Noir has also proved successful in Oregon, California and New Zealand, with some other warmer climate new world regions producing a more jammy baked style.
Pinot Noir is rarely blended only in Champagne (along with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay). As it is sweeter and less tannic than Cabernet and has a richer texture, Pinot Noir can be enjoyed at a far younger age.

Pinot Noir the toughest grape to grow and vinify. It has delicate thin skin making it susceptible to rot and mildew in the vineyards and is sensitive to fermentation methods and yeast strains in the winery, however when successful these delicate cool climate Burgundian grapes can produce such elegance and extraordinary silkiness in the wine with predominantly lush red fruit character – raspberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries and roses with occasional hints of sandalwood, incense and exotic spices. When aged, the wine will develop extraordinary complexity and exude such finesse with a range of rich, savoury, gamey, mushroom, farmyard flavours.
Especially those from the more northerly region of Côte de Nuits.

Famous examples from this region include: Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée and Nuits St. George. Lighter Beaune styles include: Pommard, Volnay and Santenay.

Pinot Noir gained notoriety in the 2004 cult movie “Sideways” which brought about a huge demand for this variety and sent Pinot Noir sales through the roof which in turn led to a lot of media attention and write ups, such as:

It’s flavors are sensuous, often erotic, above rational discourse and beyond powers of measured criticism.
– Oz Clarke

Pinot Noir is a righteous grape, chock full of incredible texture and hedonistic pleasures; it is sex in a glass, so seductive that it is hard to say no to.
– Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon

Here are some quick food matches for each main Pinot Noir region/style:

Burgundy- Côte D’Or
Côte de Nuits: these wines are more substantial and tannic than Beaune and can take on big flavours of game such as pigeon and venison. Côte de Beaune: lighter style and better suited to milder game such as pheasant, rabbit. Classic dishes such as beef Bourgiugnon and vegetarian mushroom based dishes would go equally as well with classic Burgundy styles.

Côte Chalonnaise & Macon:
These wines echo the style of Côte de Nuits but are less deep, complex and long lived with more earthiness than silkiness. Food match- game, casseroles ( beef, chicken in red wine and pork).

Alsace & Sancerre:
Northern French regions produce Pinots that are light, strawberry ish and far removed from the gaminess of Côte d’Or. These make lovely summer wines and pair well with fish such as red mullet and salmon.

California: Producing delicious, complex Pinot Noir with lush raspberry fruit and French oak these wines match well with duck, turkey, ham and ‘meaty’ fish. While Oregon, once hyped as the new worlds Côte d’Or produces Pinots similar in style to burgundy and so pair excellently with game.

Australia’s Pinot Noir can be elegant and supple but lack complexity making them a very versatile food match similar to California.

New Zealand’s cooler climate produce fine Pinot Noir with penetrating dark fruit. Food match- game, duck with lighter styles pairing well with fish.
South Africa are beginning to produce wines similar in style to Burgundy with good complexity. Food match – game.

Chile: Pinot Noir is in my opinion so much bang for you buck, tonnes of flavour perfect all rounder fruit forward style that goes well with fish, ham and pork.

In Germany Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) usually makes light, sweetish reds which pair well charcuterie and even Chinese dishes and other Asian cuisine. However Baden in the south produce exceptional, oak aged, French style Pinot. Similar to wines from Austria where Pinot Noir is called Blauburgunder. Both best matched with game or duck.

Switzerland: these Pinots are often blended with Gamay (Beaujolais grape) and give light simpler wines best matched with light charcuterie.


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Classic Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon – the “king” of the world’s red wine grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon originated in the Bordeaux region of France, but also produces fantastic wines around the globe, including north and South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a late-ripening variety, with small, deeply coloured, think skinned berries that yield dark, intensely flavoured, tannic, long lived wines that often require years of ageing to soften and become drinkable.

These deep dark wines can offer a range of complex aromas and concentrated flavours from blackberries, creme de cassis, black cherries, boysenberry, blueberry and chocolate when young, to fragrances of tobacco, truffle, cedar wood, earth, lead pencil shavings and leather when mature.
When the grapes are not fully ripe, distinct notes of green pepper or olives can be found.

Cabernet also profits from blending with other complimentary grape varieties such as the softer, fruitier merlot and the highly perfumed Cabernet franc (both of these are customarily blended in Bordeaux)

These wines contain lots of tannin (poly phenol naturally found in the skin, seeds and stems of the grape.) which make Cabernet Sauvignon wines the slowest to mature. It needs ageing in oak and bottle. French oak departs a vanilla character in the whine while American oak will usually give a more coconut/cedar quality.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines have the ability to age for decades when grown in good soils and allowed ample time to ripen. These often hard and monochromatic wines when young, with extended ageing can develop fine, complex aromas and flavours, making excellent long lived wines.
The quality of these wines can be such that the first growth estates of chateau Mouton Rothschild and château Latour are noted for regularly producing wines which are usually 75% Cabernet Sauvignon. Can’t get better than that!

Enjoy some delicious Cabernet Sauvignon wines that range in style and quality, and here’s a quick food match guide for each main cab. sav. Growing region:

Bordeaux: Classic blackcurrant – match with beef, lamb, duck, goose and aromatic cheeses.

Pays D’oc & Provence: France’s Ripest example, usually herby and well structured – match with garlicky, herb strewn red meat dishes and game.

USA: Powerfully fruity, oaky and tannic. Blackcurrant with a touch of eucalyptus – match with full flavoured dishes. Meaty casseroles and marinaded grills.

Australia: ripe and succulent Cabernets with coonawarra noted for its mint tinged quality – match with liver, beef and lamb.

Chile & Argentina: Deep complex flavours beneath cassis fruit with some spicy and chocolate character – match with full flavoured beef dishes.

South Africa: Robust, tarry, tannic flavours – match with rustic stews and BBQ meats.

Eastern Europe: Bulgarian, Moldovan and Romanian versions of Cabernet Sauvignon can be excellent value, vivid fruit and cedar tobaccoey style – match with anything from sausage to lasagne.

Italy: Tuscany produces superb Cabernets with intensity and spicey richness – match with roast meats. Northern examples are lighter and grassier and are better suited to pasta dishes.20140708-163013-59413282.jpg

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Love it or hate it – Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most instantly recognisable grape varieties for its pungent grassy, gooseberry aromas and refreshing acidity. Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile white grape variety that create white wines ranging in flavour from grassy to mineraly to fruity.

Distinct aromas of grapefruit, gooseberry, freshly mown grass, green bell pepper, nettles and even cats pee! Other Sauvignon Blanc flavors and aromas can also include apples, melons, passion fruit and smoke. Sauvignon Blanc tends to be more grassy when picked early, more fruity when picked late. Sauvignon Blanc flavors also depends heavily on terroir (where the grapes are grown/influences from climate and soil). Cooler climates tend to produce herbaceous styles, while warmer temperatures develop more citrus zesty aromas. The most famous wines made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes come from the Loire valley and bordeaux in France.

In the winery, a number of styles can be accomplished by using different wine making techniques including fermentation temperature and ageing in oak. French wines made from Sauvignon Blanc tend to be unoaked, for example, while California Sauvignon Blanc (often called Fumé Blanc) tends to be oaked to soften the acidic characteristics to produce more vanilla, creamy style wines.

French wine makers also tend to ferment Sauvignon Blanc in warmer temperatures, which enhances the mineral aspects of the flavour, while American wineries use colder temperatures to bring out the floral and fruity aspects. The purest expression of the Sauvignon Blanc grape is found in France in the Loire Valley (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume) and Bordeaux. However, it is making great wines in New Zealand, California ( fumé blanc), Australia, South Africa, and Chile. In Bordeaux, it is usually blended with the Sémillon grape to produce both fine dry wines (Graves) and the beautifully luscious sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

Quick food match different Sauvignon Blanc regions and styles:

Sancerre, Pouilly-fumé and the Loire: France’s premium sauv.blanc region, minerally, flinty and smoky – match with goats cheese, fish dishes and pepper/asparagus veg dishes.

Bordeaux: traditionally blended with Sémillon for both dry and sweet styles. Usually medium bodied every day wines. Match with fish, salads and light meals, while richly sauced fish dishes and lobster should be matched with top notch examples from Graves.

Austria: More of a fruity style with the same crisp acidity of the Loire – match with similar fish dishes.

New Zealand: Intense, concentrated gooseberry fruit. Pungent herbaceous examples from Marlborough – match with shellfish and sweet veg.

USA: Oaked style Fume Blanc creamy with rounded vanilla accents popular in California – match with fish, chicken, sweet corn, leeks etc..

Australia: Some winemakers especially in the cooler area of Adelaide hills have started making true varietal Sauvignon Blanc with finesse – match with shellfish.

Chile & South Africa: Similar to New Zealand styles match Chilean and South African wines with sweet veg and shellfish.


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The many masks of Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy and can produce an impressive range of styles and flavours, from light and steely, oaked and buttery, austere and minerally to tropical and fruity!

This wine can accommodate almost any palate and can be paired with just as many food combinations as its own styles! Chardonnay can certainly leave a lasting impression with its extraordinary versatility.. The minerally Chablis, the tropical fruit aromas of California and Hunter Valley, the nuttiness of Mersault, lets not forget the elegance of Blanc de Blanc champagne!

Chardonnay adapts very well to most regions particularly Australia, California, northern Italy, New Zealand and Chile, each bringing their own unique styles and broad range of food pairings.

Chablis: Steely, minerally, unoaked Chardonnay. A style that is unique to Chablis in Burgundy and found nowhere else. This unoaked chardonnay is the classic style of wine to pair with fish and shellfish. Younger Chablis pairs well with lighter flavours like oysters. More mature, grand cru or premier cru Chardonnays will do better with salmon, turbot and sole. These more weightier wines will also stand up to rich creamy sauced dishes too.

Maconnais & Chalonnaise: good examples from the Maconnais include Pouilly-Fuissé and St. Véran, these styles tend to be beautifully creamy with apple aromas. Those from Côte Chalonnaise are fuller in body with more of a nutty character. This style of Chardonnay can be matched well with creamy sauced pasta, fish and chicken dishes. Also well with Serrano, Parma and other lightly salted hams.

Côte de Beaune: This is the southern half of the famous Côte d’Or of Burgundy. The spiritual home of legendary names, such as Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Aloxe-Corton. Big full bodied, nutty, honeyed, buttery, sometimes smoky, richly complex. These are expensive special occasion wines and deserve the best dishes to pair with them.. Lobster with a rich sauce would fit the bill quite nicely.

Alto Adige & Friuli- Northern Italy: These Chardonnays tend to be quite delicate. Generally crisp and light wines with white floral and apple flavours. Ideal as aperitifs, also match well with most light flavoured dishes- risotto, salads, white fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon etc..

Chile: Vibrant green fruit and some oak. Lighter style than most other new world producing regions. Best drank young, these wines can handle some spice but nothing too hot. Light curry dishes could be ideal.

New Zealand: As N.Z. has a cooler climate, the Chardonnay wines from here denote more intense vivid fruit (not tropical), good acidity, toasty oak with balance and finesse similar to that of Burgundy. Match with favoursome fish, light Mediterranean dishes and even grilled meats.

California: A range of styles now found here, not just the big, oaked, tropical or buttery Chardonnays that California is usually associated with. Although these are still predominant. Best drank young. Match with stronger flavoured foods such as smoked fish, Mediterranean dishes, grilled/ BBQ veg and meats.

Australia: Home to some of the most tropical fruity Chardonnay. From the hotter regions of the Barossa and Hunter valleys, these wines should be drank young and can be matched with full flavoured foods. Cooler regions such as the Yarra Valley, Margaret River and Adelaide Hills produce more elegant wines, some unoaked matching very well with seafood.

Always remember to chill your whites just right. Too cold and you could miss some of the beautiful character in the wine. Not cold enough can make the wine dull and even unpleasant with seemingly high alcohol and acidity. Ideally whites should be served at 8-10 degrees Celsius.


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Syrah Syrah.. My love


The noble Syrah grape has to be my favourite.. originated in the Rhone area of France and is used to make dry, full bodied reds. The trademark flavour of French Syrah is black pepper. Black pepper has always been very seductive to me. My first glass of St. Joseph almost transported me to a pine forest after the rain with it’s intense pepper and woody aromas. Just the aroma alone moved me to close my eyes and imagine where I could be. That very glass began my love affair with wine.

Although there is much confusion and many misconceptions, Shiraz is in fact the same grape as Syrah. They are both made from the same small dark skinned grape, but based on the climate and soil (terroir) in which it is grown, you can expect very different characteristics in style. Syrah associated with the old world of France and Shiraz with new world particularly Australia.

“If black pepper is the French trademark, dark chocolate is that of Shiraz produced from one or, more often, some of Australia’s hotter vineyards”-Jancis Robinson.

At home in the Rhône valley, steep, inhospitable slopes produce tannic wines of immense concentration and complexity that take years to mature – though usefully not as many years as the reds of Bordeaux with equivalent quality. Syrah has more concentration and tannin, more complexity and spice in the northern Rhône than anywhere else. The finest examples are from Hermitage and Côte Rôtie.

In southern Rhône Syrah is blended with other grapes to make a warmer, softer broader style. Usually blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre, (GSM) with Grenache the dominant grape here producing some exotic fruit forward, rich styles. Châteauneuf-du-pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras being the big names of the southern Rhône and can produce excellent long lived wines, when mature can give aromas of leather, tobacco and exotic spice.

European countries that use varietal labeling, for example “Syrah” denote an old world style, rich and earthy. France labels wine based on region rather then varietal, so wines like Hermitage, Cornas and Cote-Rotie are usually prodominetly Syrah.

If the wine comes from Australia or South Africa, it will almost certainly be labeled Shiraz not Syrah. Like the Shiraz from Australia and South Africa, wines from other countries labeled as Shiraz will be a new world style wine– fruit forward and punchy!

The key when choosing a Syrah or Shiraz is knowing what characteristics you like in a wine. If you like fruit forward, stick with Shiraz but if you like earthy go with Syrah.

Here’s a quick food match guide to the different Syrah styles around the world:

Northern Rhône: Hermitage & Côte Rotie: Concentrated, tarry, spicy flavour- match with rich beef dishes, good match for rare steak.

Southern Rhône: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Lirac make rich, spicy, plummy wines that can be mostly drunk quite young. Match with substantial dishes anything from beef, lamb, pork, duck to goose. The majority of Côtes Du Rhône wines are young and fresh although the villages will be slightly weightier. These are matched well with everyday dishes.

Provence and Languedoc: Corbières, Minervois and Fitou are herby and earthy with raspberry fruit. They range from rustic to more serious wines and can be matched with lamb, game and roasted meats. The more inexpensive examples can be matched with everyday meals like shepards pie, cous cous for example.

Australia: Shiraz is softer in texture and fruitier than Syrah. The rich and most voluptuous are those made from old vines in the Barossa – match with rich meats, beef, venison even fois gras or barbecue meats. Inexpensive wines with more of a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) can be matched with pizza, spare ribs, chorizo based dishes etc.


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Annie get your glass!

Crozes Hermitage From lidl, a lidl meaty wine, lidl bitter, lidl foxy! but some nice white spicy pepper on the finish, (a must for my Northern Rhônes;) though I would rather it had some black pepper with more elegance. Definitely needs to be paired with red meat, the rawer the better to make this one a success!