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Monday, June 25, 2012

Wine Professional's Notes - It is easy to become one with a bit of study.

Selection of my Italian wine collection.
It's not just Red or White.
It is not the first time, that I happen to be entertaing guests at a restaurant, or giving advice to someone about wine selections for a private occasion, and even sometimes when one happens to strike a conversation with a restaurateur, that as far as they know wine falls just under two categories. It's either Red or White (or in more incongruous and daft situations, someone might also add another category - Rose D'Anjou - yes that's correct not just Rose', but you read well, Rose D'Anjou!). One has to sympathise with such a mentality or lack of knowledge, because the subject of wine is a vast and intricate one, but also one that has its rewards in the enjoyment of this exquisite beverage, especially if one knows what he is on about, what he is selecting and what pairs well with certain foods, the important varietals, and of course what quality one will be paying for.

The appreciation of wine is an acquired taste. It takes no special skill to drink a wine and know that you like it, even if you are not always able to tell why. Liking or not liking a particular wine or a particular varietal, is subjective, as not everyone has the same palate.
To understand wine, one should read and study about it, think about it and above all -  drink it.

A selection of some excellent
Maltese wines.
One of the best ways of acquiring an undestanding of wine is to taste it blind, without knowing what is in the glass. Tasting wine blind forces discipline and concentration of our senses, that we otherwise take for granted. Not knowing what is in the glass causes us to become more sensitive to what it might be.

In judging or evaluating wines, there are three main, distinct, but also inter-related evaluation keys that allow us to distinguish one wine from another. These are: Colour; Smell (often referred to as bouquet or aroma) and the most important Taste.

So how would one distinguish between one wine and another?

More from the Maltese
wines cellar.
Well let's take White Wine to start with. White wine can be produced from numerous grape varieties, the most notable of which are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, which although these grape varieties originated in France, Burgundy and the Upper Loire Valley respectively to be exact, these two varieties are grown, cultivated and harvested in numerous "New World" wine producing countries from American rootstock and selected varietal clones.

Chardonnay Champagne
Chardonnay is the grape used to produce the famous Blanc de Blanc Champagne; the exquisite Chablis and Pouilly-Fuisse; whereas Sauvignon Blanc is the grape variety of the fabulous Sancerre and the Pouilly-Fume' of France as well as the Fume Blanc of California. Of note is the fact that the very best Sauvignon Blanc varietal wines come form New Zealand.

Then we have other famous grape varieties such as Riesling; Chenin Blanc; Gewurztraminer; Muscat; Semilon; Viogner;  Marsanne and Rousanne both of which are blended to produce the unique Hermitage. Muscadet; Pinot Blanc; Pinot Gris; Pinot Grigio; Cortese for Gavi di Gavi; Malvasia and Trebiano for Frascati; and Trebiano alone for the Orvieto; Garganega and again Trebiano for the Soave; Vedicchio; Vermentino; Fiano di Avellino; Greco di Tufo; Vernacchia; Falanghina; and maybe the lesser known Grillo and Catarretto from Sicily. Airen and Macabeo varietals from Spain.

Ripe Chenin Blanc grape
So as wine consumers, do we really have to remember the varietal characteristics of all these varieties in way of colour, smell and taste, before we can decide what each of us like in as far as white wine is concerned? No, I would not venture to say yes. One has to keep in mind that a varietal wine from one country can vary immensely from the same varietal wine produced from grapes harvested in another country. Even wine from the same country, but from different regions, show recognisable differences as well as from one maker to the next, even from the same geographical locations would show differences.  The winemaking method have a tendency to change some of the varietal characteristic, as well as the yeast used in fermentation, fermentation in oak; fermentation in stainless steel vats; aging in oak; etc, etc.

Smell and Taste of white wine:

Let's take Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines as the classic examples.

White wine of Malta.
To be served well chilled.
Chardonnay's bouquet can have aromas, smells of:  citrus; hazelnuts; apples; green apples; lemons; tropical fruit and vanilla. The smell can be oaky, buttery and toasty. Whereas the palate, that is the taste in the mouth, may be: rich; dry; medium or light bodied; with citric hints of lemon and grapefruit; green apples; with a good, refreshing acidity, sometimes spicy with a crisp aftertaste.

Sauvignon Blanc
Served at 10 to 12 Deg. C
An excellent pairing with
fish dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc aromas range from having hints of: asparagus; gun-flint; herbs; cut-grass; lemon; thyme; melon and even figs. On the palate, Sauvignon Blanc wine may have a taste and flavours of: spice; it might feel medium or light-bodied; with hints of liquorice and vanilla. It could be harbaceous with a crisp and tangy, dry aftertaste of lemons. Very refreshing acidity when served at the correct temperature.

Samples of two very different Chenin Blanc
wines, different origin and age. The lighter
sample is a young 2007 vintage wine from
South Africa,
 whereas the amber coloured sample is made
from late harvested grapes 2001 vintage
from the Loire Valley in France and
is more aged.
Colour of white wine vary from pale gold, straw yellow colour, golden yellow, greenish tinged, pale (whitish), even sometimes to light amber (which would indicate some age). For normal white wine, I would suggest that such wines are to be drunk young up to a maximum of three years from the vintage date for a good wine, two years for most others. Of course there are exceptions, if we are considering expensive, specially produced white wines of an excellent vintage. Easy drinking, everyday, quafing white wines should be consumed within the first year from the vintage (harvest) date.

Most other white wine varietals fall somewhere in between these two main varietals in both taste and smell, but then again, the "taster's" own imagination, expertise, and taste buds come into play and which can make the final results very subjective and individualistic.

Bonterra 2005 Chardonnay
Montana 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.
Marlborough, New Zealand.

The Red Wine Varieties:

Maltese Red wine.
The red wine varieties fall under a vastly different category in all aspects of smell, taste and of course colour, body, texture and complexity. The production of red wine (that is, the way red wine is made), is also very different from that of white wine.

The international red grape varieties can be categorsied mainly as those originating from France, namely: Cabernet Sauvgnon; Merlot; Syrah/Shiraz; Pinot Noir; Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot which are grown also in nearly all of the "New World" wine producing countries.

Italian Premium wine.
Then we have the Italian red grape vareties which seem to grow best in their own indegenious region in Italy viz: Nebbiolo of Piedmont; Sangiovese of Tuscany; Corvina of Veneto/Verona; Rondinella, Molinara and Corvina which three varieties form the blend basis of the famous Amarone and Valpolicella; Aglianico from Campania; Primitivo of Apuglia; Nero D'Avola and Insolia of Sicily. There is also the unique Sagrantino di Montefalco and the Monica grape varietal from Sardegna. Bardolino, Dolcetto, Barbera, etc.

Tempranillo grape clusters.
From Spain we have the Tempranillo from the Rioja region; and from South Africa we have the Pinotage; Malbec of Argentina and Carmenere from Chile.

These grape varieties are produced into wines which may bear the name of the actual grape variety, togther with the winemaker's name and vintage date, or they can be produced under such prestigious product names that are protected by law in the country of origin; for example:

Wine Name..................Grape Variety.

Barolo.........................................  Nebbiolo........Italy.
Barbaresco.................................. Nebbiolo.
Brunello Di Montalcino..............Brunello strain of Sangiovese.
Vino Nobile de Montepulciano...Prugnolio stain of Sangiovese.
Amarone/Valpolicella.................Rondinella, Molinara and Corvina.

Cote Rotie...................................  Syrah............France.
Burgundy.....................................Pinot Noir.
Graves..........................................Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend.
Medoc..........................................Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend.
St. Emilion...................................Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend.

Rioja Riserva................................Tempranillo..........Spain.

A rich Carmenere from Chile.
Serve at 17/18Deg.C
A full-bodied, rich, red
wine. See the stains on the glass.

Premium wines.
Quality red wines can be medium to full-bodied, with smooth, strong or astringent tannins. Colours vary from red to ruby red to purple to very dark ruby to brown for aged wines.

Aromas vary for the top red wines from a combination of black fruits black currants, cassis, strawberries, rasberries, liquorice, with flavours of rich fruits, chocolate, black cherries, marascino cherries, black currants, tropical fruits, etc. Red fruits, rhubarb, cinamon, nutmeg, plum and blackberries. Together or in combinations of.

In a wine cellar for
aged wine.
This list is not exhaustive, as there are hundreds of different wine grape varieties grown all over the world, which are used to produce wines as single varietals on their own or in blends. The subject of wine is vast and requires constant study and reading to keep up-to-date. Vintage quality vary from year to year, region to region and country to country. Vintage quality is greatly affected by terroir, climatic conditions appartaining for any particular year i.e. rainfall, droughts, frost, winds, etc.; by the expertise of the viticulturist responsible for the vineyards;  as well as by the handling and winemaking techniques of every individual oenologist (winemaker). All this happens well before the wine is finally bottled and released for consumption.

So what about a chilled glass of Rose' wine?

Francis Ford Coppola
Winery  California-
Sofia Rose 2011,
Syrah/Grenache blend.
There are various, good quality Rose' wines on the market produced  either by local winemakers as well as imported selections. Rose' wines are perhaps the most  versatile fruit friendly wines around, and most offer good value for money. Rose wines can be produced from any red grape variety, the most popular being: Syrah; Grenache; Gamay; blends of  Mourvedre', Grenache and Counoise; Zinfandel (mainly from California);  I have even tasted a 100% Malbec derived  rose' from Argentina which was delicious.

A top class rose' wine offers an alluring nose with rich, red berries, citrus and even a bit of herbal tang. Dynamic fruit - wild strawberries, sweet cherry and ripe raspberry engage the palate with well balanced acidity could make this very versatile summertime wine a delight. But alas, having said this, there are many cheap rose's on the market so consumers have to be wary of quality rather than just price.

Rose' wine sample.
Must be serve chilled.
Chenin Blanc - excellent with
Summer light food.
Serve at 11 deg.C. Chilled.

A little nearer to home.
A selection from VitiMalta.
Once we have read this feature, I would assume that we would have come a long way from the reasoning made in the first paragraph, in that wine is not just red or white (forget the Rose D'Anjou please), but a vast selection of quality categories, made from vastly different grapes, with vastly different smells, tastes, colours and flavours, created by winemakers for us to enjoy.

The VitiMalta selection on the left shows a marvelous 100% Gozo Syrah rose; a crispy unoaked Chardonnay also produced from 100% Gozo grown grapes; a unique blended red wine; and a 100% Merlot also from Gozo grown grapes. These are wines of a very high standard which offer excellent value for money and a great accopaniment to any type of food.

So now we all know that there are wines beyond just Red or White or a Rose'.

A very refreshing Syrah-Merlot
blend Maltese rose' for Summer.
So how do we go about choosing the correct wine to pair with that exclusive dinner in a good restaurant, or in the enjoyment of a sumptuous lunch or dinner with family and friends at home?

One of the main purposes of this website is information and education about wine related topics, so I have obtained a copy of this very informative food and wine pairing chart which in some ways make our lives much easier to pick that special wine with our cuisine and food choices.

Food and wine pairing chart.

Reno Spiteri,
Certified Wine Professional.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eagle's Cliff Entry level wines for Summer.

Eagle's Cliff Entry Level Wines for those Summer BBQ's.

The Eagle’s Cliff Cellar with it’s spectacular views over the vineyards and sunset over the picturesque mountains, lies in the heart of the Breede River Valley, between Worcester and Villiersdorp, South Africa.

Christiaan Groenewald, wine exporter and wine maker, founded the New Cape Wines company in 2000. Wines are bottled under the following labels:
Eagle's Cliff range, Eagle's Cliff Reserve range, Dwyka Hills range and the Arendskloof range.

Eagle's Cliff Entry level range.
The range of Eagle's Cliff entry wines have been taste tested and found that they are reasonably good, easy drinking, everyday wines for Summer especially to complement fish and seafood as well as meat BBQ's. Good value wines at Eur5.50 a bottle.

Light, greenish, straw colour, and
very clear white wine for Summer.

Chenin Blanc 2011 - 12.5% alcohol: This wine shows fresh floral and tropical fruit flavours that lingers well on the pallet, a good companion to fish, seafood, salads, pasta, pizza, vegetable dishes. To be served well chilled.

A very refreshing 10%
Shiraz Rose'
Shiraz Rose 2011 - 13% alcohol: Round fruity wine, shows fresh berry fruit with a velvety aftertaste that lingers well on the pallet, a good companion to most food and is made from 100% Shiraz grapes. Very good as a social and refreshing  drink or as accompaniment to white meats, fish, shellfish and seafood, light meals, salads, pizza and pasta. To be served well chilled.

Easy drinking, everyday
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend 2019 - 14% alcohol: An attractive classical blend with berry fruit flavours and well-integrated soft oak matured flavours. Food: Ideally served with red meat and pasta dishes. Serve at about 17deg. C.

Deep red ruby Shiraz/Pinotage.
Shiraz/Pinotage 2011 - 14% Alcohol: The wine is ruby red in colour. An elegant wine with lovely fruity flavours. An integrated, smooth mouth-filling taste. Excellent for Summer meat BBQ's, steaks, roast beef, traditional rabbit, pasta with rich red sauces. To be served at about 17deg.C.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cono Sur Premium Wine from Chile.

CONO SUR although at first glance one would  connect this name instantly with the word connoisseur, these two words actually mean Southern Cone, for the fact that these wines are produced in the most southern region of Chile known as the Southern Cone. Once these wines are tasted of course, one can also immediately associate them with the connoisseur label as they are excellent wines in  all respects.

Wine Valleys -Colchagua.
Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1993, with the vision of producing premium, expressive and innovative wines conveying the spirit of the New World. The company's name refers to the company’s geographic position; it represents wines proudly made in South America’s Southern Cone, on whose western edge lies Chile and its gifted wine valleys. Cono Sur applied new ideas and technology to winemaking traditional methods right from the start, so that wines produced would be the best or among the very best coming from Chile. The company's chief winemaker is Adolfo Hurtado who is also the General Manager, who states that the success of Cono Sur lies in understanding the origin of New World wines: expression of soil and climate melded with intense aromas of the fruit, yielding the elegance and concentration of full, fresh and well-balanced flavours.”

Typical vineyard.
This winemaker produce several wine brands from different grape varieties which come under brand names such as: their top of the range OCIO which is their icon wine and Chile's first ultra-premium Pinot Noir; 20 Barrels which is produced in various varietals; Vision; Riserva; Organic and Sparkling.

Riserva Carmenere 2009.
and Sauvignon Blanc 2010
As a wine taster and reviewer I have been given the opportunity to taste-test a selection of these wines which are new to Malta, and sample bottles of the following wines were submitted, and are illustrated herewith with our findings:

Cono Sur 20 Barrels
Merlot 2008.

This wine has won the "Five Nations Wine Challenge 2011" trophy for the best wine in its class and is produced from 85% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah and 1% A. Bouchet, harvested in the Colchagua Valley from the Peralillo Estate. Grapes hand-picked and carefully selected.

This wine has a deep, dark ruby red colour, is full-bodied and which leaves thick stains and tears all over the test glass. Aromas and flavours of black fruit, black currants and spice with hints of liquorice and dark chocolate. Full-bodied on the palate with a well defined structure and strong-round tannins, vanilla and oak. Finish is long and lingering.

Sampling glass showing
the wine body and tears
on the glass.
This wine is aged for 12 months in barrels, 1 month in stainless steel. Alcohol content 14% by volume.

Rating: This is a premium class Merlot which deserves RS92 points - Luxury grade premium wine.

Price range in wine shops and enotecas: Eur16 per bottle.

Cono Sur Carmenere Riserva 2009.
2. The second wine that I tasted was a superb, extremely good value
     CARMENERE RISERVA 2009 - Colchagua Valley.

This wine is produced from 85% Carmenere; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Syrah, grown and harvested from the Peralillo Estate in the Colchagua Valley. Hand-picked grapes.

This wine has a deep dark red colour, with a ruby top ring around the glass. it is full-bodied which also leave deep stains on the glass with long tears flowing down slowly. Aromas and flavours of cassis, red cherries with hints of coffee and dark rich chocolate. On the palate this wine is concentrated , well structured with strong mature tannins, and a very long finish.

This wine is matured and aged 80% in oak barrels and 20% in stainless steel over a period of 11 months prior to bottling. Alcohol content is 14% by volume.

Carmenere Risreva
sample glass.
This wine has been awarded the Mundis Vini Silver Medal and is rated by us at RS91 points - Premium wine.

An excellent wine that pairs well with rich red meats and strong cheeses.

Price range from wine shops and enotecas: Eur8.20 an excelllent value for a top quality Carmenere varietal.

Cono Sur Sauvignon
Blanc 2010 Riserva.

This wine is produced from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, grown and harvested from the El Centinella estate in the Casablanca Valley. Hand-picked grapes..

Pale yellow-green in colour, with a bouquet of green apples and peaches, flowery; on the palate it is pure citrus with strong notes of grapefruit. It is fresh and elegant even delicate in the mouth, with refreshing minerals notes. Smooth and crisp acidity, well balanced.

Pairs well with fish, seafood, chicken, veal, most cheeses, pasta, pizza and vegetable dishes.

Cono Sur Riserva
Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Casablanca Valley
Alcohol content 13% by volume. Price Range Eur8.20 giving and excellent value for a rich white wine. After fermenting this wine is aged for 4 months in stainless steel tanks.

Rating: RS90 points excellent Easy Drinking.