The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Top 10 White Wine Grapes

By Sunday, June 23, 2013 Permalink 0

The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Top 10 White Wine Grapes

by James Flewellen

With over 1,300(!) vine varieties out there making commercial wine, it’s a tough task to narrow down to only 10. Nevertheless, here are my ‘top 10’ white wine producing grapes. The order is my own preference, based on commercial importance, potential quality of the grape and whether it produces a ‘classic style’.

10. Albariño

Deutsch: Albariño-Weingut. Weingut Granbazan. ...

Bodega Granbazán en las Rías Baixas, producer of Albariño

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps a controversial start to the list, Albariño is a rising star in my book. The grape can produce well-balanced aromatic, peachy wines with fresh acidity, suitable as an aperitif or with fish and vegetarian dishes. It’s not yet grown much outside its native Galicia in Spain (and parts of Portugal), yet its stature is certainly on the up and much interest is being shown in growing the grape in a number of new world countries.

9. Gewurztraminer

Tramin - Gewurztraminer Grapes

Tramin – Gewurztraminer Grapes (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very distinctive grape producing ‘love-em or hate-em’ wines. Gewurztraminer has its spiritual home in Alsace, France, though can be found throughout Central Europe and in many new world countries. The grape is typically pink-skinned and produces an abundance of sugars in the right growing conditions. This leads to deeply-coloured, rich, full-bodied wines – many of which are off-dry, or even sweet. Gewurztraminer wines are flamboyantly fragrant with unmistakable notes of lychee, pot pourri and sometimes cloves.

8. Viognier

English: Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in...

Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in Amador county, California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another full-bodied, distinctively aromatic wine. Viognier brings forth characteristic notes of peach, apricot and ginger. The very best examples come from the tiny appellation of Condrieu, in the Rhône Valley in France. However, it is found in the blended white wines of southern France, and increasingly in the new world. A single producer in the Barossa, South Australia — Yalumba — could be credited with re-popularising this grape and bringing it to a new audience in the modern era.

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The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: The Waipara Wine Region

By Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Permalink 0

The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: The Waipara Wine Region

by James Flewellen

About 45 minutes drive north of my hometown of Christchurch, NZ, lies the North Canterbury wine region of the Waipara Valley. The valley is nestled between the Teviotdale Hills, which shelter the region from the cool Pacific, and the foothills of the Southern Alps. The everchanging interplay of light and shadow on these surrounding hills and the immense Cantabrian skies make this one of my favourite places to visit.

Hills in the Waipara wine region

New Zealand’s wine industry is still very young (about 30 years) by global standards, yet the Waipara region has been recognised for less than half of that. While there are some well-established names in the area (Pegasus Bay, for instance), many of the wineries have only been around a decade or so, and a whole host have sprung up in the last two or three years. I’ve long been impressed with the quality of wine issuing from Waipara’s small-scale, boutique wineries. A recent visit over the New Year reconfirmed for me why this spectacular region is receiving a surge of interest and that the future looks stellar for quality wine production.

Inasmuch as such a young region can be ‘known’ for a particular style of wine, Waipara is fast becoming a home to Riesling in New Zealand, an alternative base for Pinot Noir, and a lighter, less pungent style of Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay is also planted and there are small plantings of other reds including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Unfortunately, my visit coincided with a public holiday, so I was unable to see many of the region’s top wineries on this trip; however, we had a lovely tasting and lunch at well-established winery Waipara Springs, newcomer Black Estate wines opened their doors up especially for us, and a trip to a family friend’s farm at Limestone Hills resulted in a tasting of their very small-scale (and delicious) Syrah and seeing a champion truffle-sniffing dog in action!

Waipara Springs

Waipara Springs is one of the more established wineries in the region. They have a well-equipped tasting room and a charming garden restaurant serving delicious food designed to match with their own wines. Waipara Springs produces a wide variety of styles. I was most impressed with their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which was very smartly-made, melding fresh gooseberry and passion fruit flavours with a high-acid, dry palate and a long, lemony finish.

Their ‘Premo’ series wines all showed great character and were a significant step up in quality from the house wines. The Premo Riesling, 2008, showed toffee notes of bottle age, zesty lime fruit, and was medium-sweet. Quite a full, luscious  body for a lowish alcohol wine and a refreshing tartness to the finish. The Premo Chardonnay, 2011, I found to be a rather light, elegant wine. Perhaps not one for those who like their Chardonnays to be bold and assertive, but a very pleasing wine nonetheless. The Premo Pinot Noir, 2010, seemed to me to have a bit much oak on the nose; the wine is aged in French oak for about 15 months, 20% of the barrels are new wood. But this is something that will resolve with time. Otherwise, the wine showed lovely concentration of dark plum fruit on the nose, an appealing sour cherry palate with green, herbal notes, crisp acidity and finely-etched tannins.

You can find a list of their overseas distributors here.

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A delicious light lunch at Waipara Springs

Black Estate

While the Black Estate winery and cellar door is reasonably new, the site was planted back in 1993 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The purchase by the Naish family in 2007 has seen the estate extend its plantings, with a constant eye on terroir and what the soil and mesoclimate bring to the wine. Their first Riesling release was in 2008, and I tried their 2011 incarnation. A beautiful nose with lime blossom, cream, mint leaf and sage was followed up by a rather intense lime sorbet palate. Crisp acidity was balanced nicely by the off-dry sweetness; medium alcohol (11%) and a medium length, but very pleasant finish.

Interestingly, the winery releases two different Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs: Black Estate and Omihi Series. Each comes from separate plantings with artisanal winemaking techniques (such as foot treading, and avoiding pumping) designed to bring out the terroir character in each wine. I enjoyed all of the wines and it was fascinating to see the difference the vineyards made. The Omihi Series Chardonnay, 2011, was a lean, delicate and very well-balanced wine. I discerned lighter, floral notes, with apple, cream and some truffle hints on the nose. By contrast, the Black Estate Chardonnay, 2011, had more apricot and peach notes on the nose and a heavier, more rounded body.

The Omihi Series Pinot Noir, 2010, was very aromatic, with a bright slightly estery, raspberry note along with hints of mushroom. The palate began with this bright fruit character and evolved savoury, stemmy notes all the way through to a crunchy, firm yet quite finely-etched tannic finish. Delicious, though my one criticism was the finish came through a bit hot. The Black Estate Pinot Noir, 2010, had more boysenberry on the nose, was less estery, with appealingly Burgundian ‘cooked carrot’ and white pepper hints. The palate showed a riper entry than the Omihi, with less of a progression to savoury (at least at this stage in its evolution); however, a slightly fuller, ‘gutsier’ body I felt balanced the alcohol on the finish more.

Black Estate wines are imported to the UK by Lea & Sandeman.

Limestone Hills

A highlight of the day was seeing Rosie the truffle-snuffler unearth an enormous truffle at the Limestone Hills farm. Well, I thought it was enormous, though Gareth Renowden, our host, assured me it was probably only a about 200 grams and therefore just a ‘medium sized one’! Gareth also grows Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes for his own wine made in vanishingly small quantities. I tasted the 2011 Limestone Hills Syrah and found a very interesting complex nose: black plum and berry fruit with medicinal, peppery hints alongside lavender and manuka honey. The palate showed only a medium body – a far cry from the full-bodied Shiraz of much of Australia, and even lighter than many Northern Rhone examples. Green, herbal flavours came through on the palate with a rich concentration of spicy strawberry and peppery plum. The wine had moderate acid, well-integrated alcohol and the classic, ‘ragged’-textured tannin profile I associate with Syrah. Overall a fascinating and very palatable wine.

Rosie the champion truffle-snuffler unearths some black gold at Limestone Hills farm

Waipara certainly is a region to watch in the very near future. One of the risks with hyped-up new regions is that many people can flock to invest there, resulting in huge increases in quantity and a dramatic decrease in average quality. However, as Bob Campbell MW suggests in this article, the difficulty of securing reliable yields in Waipara means that viticulturists and winemakers really do need to focus on quality to bring about a return. Long may this continue!

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Spanish Cava or Champagne: Both Bubbly, but Distinctly Different

By Monday, March 26, 2012 Permalink 0

by Raquel Pardo

Translated into English and adapted by Jonell Galloway

Para leer la versión en español, pinche aquí

I risk sounding like a schoolteacher (or a wine snob), but I shall continue. My hair stands on end when I hear people confuse Champagne and Spanish cava, or bubbly (I hide my annoyance, of course).

I can no longer maintain my silence, so I will hastily scribble out a few lines to remove all doubts about the difference between cava and Champagne, and you can face up to the test. You only have to worry about perhaps finding yourself at a blind tasting with people who always know how distinguish one from the other, who never get it wrong. Otherwise, you’re set to roll.

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Cava o champán: Mismas burbujas, distinto nombre

By Tuesday, May 10, 2011 Permalink 0

por Raquel Pardo

Click here to read English version

Sé que puede parecer una gafotada (esta palabra me la acabo de inventar, sustituyámosla por esnobismo), pero me sigue ocurriendo: se me erizan los pelos (a escondidas, eso sí) cuando oigo que alguien confunde el champagne (o champán) con el cava.

Así que hoy me hadado por garabatear unas líneas didácticas para el que quiera leerlas y no confundirlos nunca más, a no ser en una cata a ciegas (que puede pasar, doy fe, a pesar de que haya quien asegure que siempre distingue uno de otro).

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