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Wine Guide

After Dinner Drinks - Drinks to help you digest

It's suddenly struck me as odd that after some years of writing about food, I haven't addressed digestion. For an Italian that demonstrates remarkable restraint. Whereas in Ireland digestion and bowel movements in general are conversations we have with doctors, in Italy these are daily topics of discourse with friends and family. More>>

Age and Wine - Storing wine for ageing

Wine has a very long history, reaching right back to the Golden Age of Sumer and Babylon some 6,000 years ago. It's tempting to think that the wine that we drink is much the same drink that the ancients enjoyed, but the truth is that it's very different. More>>

A German Blush - The Spatburgunder grape and its wines

Every now and then it's fun to try something unusual. I try to bear in mind Arnold Bax's maxim that 'you should try everything in life at least once, with the possible exeption of incest and Morris dancing', but when it comes to wines it's good every now and then to step outside the grape varieties and commercial standards that are becoming depressingly similar. By now anyone who's remotely interested in wine will have tried a Cabernet, a Merlot, a Sauvignon and a Chardonnay and many of these varieties, even when they come from different parts of the world, will often taste disconcertingly alike. More>>

Alba - The wines of Italy's Piedmont

If you were to drive into Italy from its North-west border with France, you come into the French-speaking Val d'Aosta. The valley is long, and nowhere is it wider than a few kilometres. It's sides are precipitous and for much of the year the mountains are capped with snow. More>>

Alsace & Tradition - Why their wine-makers are traditionalists

Wine and wine-making has a long history and for me, one of the attractions of the industry is that you can find the old and the new, and just about any combination of the two that you like. I have friends and relatives in my Italian village who make their wines in exactly the same way that it's been made for millennia and I have a cousin who makes his wine in a state-of-the-art winery that has more in common with a chemist's laboratory than it does with a traditional cantina. More>>

An Italian Festa - Gallinaro's annual wine festa

I make it a rule to be in my little Italian village of Gallinaro every year for the second week of August. There are two reasons for this: first there's the festa of San Gerardo our patron saint on the 11th and then two days later on the 13th there's the annual wine festa. More>>

Appellations - The development of Appellation Laws

In theory the idea of a national body applying rules and regulations to the making of wine means that the consumer will be better protected. The rules of Appellation across Europe and elsewhere are designed to ensure that when the consumer sees 'appellation controlee' or its equivalent, certain things are guaranteed. More>>

Artisan Wines - The art of home-made wines

Once a year, on the 13th of August, my little village in Italy hosts the annual 'Festa del Cabernet', which is Italian for a three-day festa of drinking huge amounts of our local wine. There's a long wine-making tradition that stretches right back to pre-Roman times. My village, Gallinaro, sits right in the middle of a large valley called the Comino Valley. More>>

Australian Rieslings - Another look

The Riesling is one of the great white grapes. Today's fashions may have pushed it a little to one side in favour of the Chardonnay, but its inherent nobility is unquestioned. When you think about it, all the very greatest German wines are made from the Riesling and the very finest wines from Alsace are as well. So much for the Old World, but the Riesling found pastures new in the Antipodes as well. It's hard to believe looking through the Australian section of an off-license today where Chardonnay rules that before 1970 Australia's white wine production was based on the Riesling, which arrived in Australia with the large influx of German settlers in the 1840s. More>>

Australian Rieslings - Australia' re-emergent variety

It's almost a knee-jerk reaction; when you think of Australian white wines you think of Chardonnay. Until the 1980s Australian wines were almost unknown in Ireland, but it's the measure of their export success that now Australian wines outsell French and are the market leaders. What coincided with this export success was the arrival of Chardonnay varietals in Australia; until the 80s the principle white wine grape had been the Riesling. More>>

Australian Shiraz - The grape and its varietals

There's a story that at the Vienna International Exhibition of 1873 the judges were tasting the red Hermitage wines from Australia. After the second bottle was tasted they judges began to mutter out loud 'this can't be Australian Wine, it's too good, it must be French'. This may have been the first recorded moment when Europeans were surprised at the quality of Australian wines, but it wasn't the last. More>>

Australian Varietals - Some of the lesser-known grapes

A few years ago, surveying the popular end of the wine market, you might have been forgiven for thinking that Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were the only two grape varieties in the world. Certainly I was beginning to believe that whatever about anywhere else, Australia appeared to be concentrating its efforts solely on those two varieties. Huge, heavily oaked Chardonnays and jammy Cabernets exploded onto the market and were such an instant success that everyone leapt onto the band-wagon, not only in Australia, but in just about the whole of the wine-producing world. More>>

Austrian Wines - A general view

When you think about wines from the 'Old World', which I suspect means Europe, thoughts tend to move towards France, Italy and the Iberian peninsula. When pushed, you might come up with Bulgaria as a source of cheap red plonk, you may even think of Hungary and its noble Tokaj, but I'd be surprised if Austria got a mention. More>>

Balsamic Vinegar - The great condiment from Modena

Anthony Barton of the eponymous chateaus in Bordeaux once remarked that 'wine is the brief interlude between grape juice and vinegar'. It's true; a wine that's been naturally fermented and without additives will become vinegar upon exposure to air, a fact long known to wine-makers. More>>

Beaujolais - The area and its Grands Crus

Beaujolais is one of those recognisable wines. You can find it on plenty of restaurant lists, it's easy to drink, it has a fruity smell. In many ways it was the European prototype of later New World trends, when fresher, livelier wines began to made from classic varietals all around the world. It's a wine that's light in colour, but still often fairly alcoholic. It's not a wine that designed to age in the bottle, it's a wine that made to be drunk young and without a great deal of ceremony. You could call it the perfect party wine. More>>

Beaujolais - The Old and the Nouveau

The news that M. Deboeuf has just poured many thousands of litres of Beaujolais down the drain tells us a thing or two about market forces. I can still remember the first time my father drove me through the Beaujolais region I kept asking him 'so does all the Beaujolais in the world come from here? More>>

Biodynamic Wines - Wines in harmony with nature

Last week I was writing about organic wines, but there is a movement - especially strong among French growers - for biodynamic wines. Biodynamism has all the rigours that are applied to organic growing, but has a whole raft more on top of those. For these holistic growers their crop, their management of it, and their ultimate vinification of it is ruled by the moon. More>>

Bordeaux - It's significance to wine-lovers

There's no doubt that the single most pivotal word for wine-drinkers is 'Bordeaux'. Its eminence rests on centuries of producing high-quality wines and in large quantities. The whole wine-making area, which takes up a tenth of the department of the Gironde, regularly produces between 4 and 5 billion hectolitres a year - a lot of wine by any measure. More>>

Bordeaux - What makes those wines great

Not much in the world of wine is universally accepted as true. There are shades of opinion and degrees of truth. There is, however, one truth that seems to hold across countries and across the ages, and it's this: the world's best red wines come from Bordeaux. It's worth looking at why this should have become an unarguable maxim. More>>

Botrytis - The fungus and the grape

The word 'botrytis' is one that you'll find from time to time on wine labels. It sounds like some kind of disease and in a way that's exactly what it is. It's the name of a fungus; a small, yeast-like variety that makes its living by infecting the skins of grapes under certain climatic conditions. More>>

Bottle Sizes - Their variations and names

Why exactly 75 cls has been picked as the standard sized wine bottle is not entirely clear, it has simply evolved into the standard size by custom, although it's now a recognised EU quantity for the retail trade. You could argue that the old imperial bottle of one sixth of a gallon may have something to do with it, but it could also be that 75cls is just about the right amount for a meal for two. More>>

Brown Brothers - Brown Brothers and their varietal wines

I had lunch recently with Ross Brown the Australian wine-maker. He's recently taken over as CEO of the family-run business, Brown Brothers, which is based in Victoria. Over lunch we talked of wine and the wine business, and what became abundantly clear to me as the meal and our conversation progressed, was that the wine business is more than a little different from others. More>>

Buying Wines En Primeur - Suggestions as to what wines to buy early

It's an old adage: invest carefully in a wine cellar and after a while you can drink for free. I've heard that on and off for years and in truth I've still to meet anyone who drinks for free. More>>

California - The history of Californian wines

American wines in Europe are mostly understood as Californian wines. Since it's the state that produces the most wine by a large margin that's understandable, but it's worth bearing in mind that over half of the states of the Union produce wine. More>>

Chablis Grand Cru - A look at the landscape

The biggest difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux is perhaps on the ground, rather than in the bottle. In Bordeaux the norm is for a chateau or chaise to sit in the middle of an estate and to have one owner. I don't mean necessarily one person - it could be a company or a partnership - but the ownership tends to be invested in a single entity. More>>
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