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Wine Guide

Pruning the Vines - Different methods of pruning

If you travel by road across the continent, much of the pattern of the countryside is dictated by the vine. South-facing slopes are often coated in vines, their serried ranks frequently marking out the east-west meridian, designed to ensure that all grapes get exposure to sunlight. More>>

Puglia - The heel of Italy

The heel of Italy is an extraordinary place. Puglia, or Le Puglie, is what Italians call the area. It's probably best known for ports; Bari, Brindisi, Gallipoli and Taranto, all of which have long histories as trading centres with the Eastern Mediterranean. Apart from the coastal plains which are rarely more than ten kilometres wide, its countryside is composed of rolling hills, nearly all of which are cultivated. More>>

Quality and Price - Is there a relationship?

It would be lovely to think that cost and quality were inextricably tied together. The world would be a much simpler place - you'd only need to know a simple rule - the more it costs, the better it is. We want to believe this, even though in our hearts we know it ain't necessarily so. More>>

Rarities - Some unusual wines

had a lunch recently in Roly's which was hosted by Dillons the wine merchants to celebrate their 100th year of a trading partnership with the Burgundian house of Lupe-Cholet. A very fine meal it was too, and with it we got to taste some of Lupe-Cholet's range of wines. More>>

Rating Wine - What makes a wine 'great'

A couple of days ago I sat with a friend of mine late into the night doing some serious wine tasting. The climax of the evening was sharing a bottle of Chateau Petrus 1989, a wine which ranks at the very top end of the galaxy of wines. We had Robert Parker's book open in front of us and read his detailed description, which culminated in his marking this wine 100 out of 100. More>>

Rating Wine - What makes a wine 'great'

A couple of days ago I sat with a friend of mine late into the night doing some serious wine tasting. The climax of the evening was sharing a bottle of Chateau Petrus 1989, a wine which ranks at the very top end of the galaxy of wines. We had Robert Parker's book open in front of us and read his detailed description, which culminated in his marking this wine 100 out of 100. More>>

Red and White - The main differences

know a lot of people who will only drink white wine. There's a commonly held opinion that red wine is somehow more likely to cause that combination of ghastly feelings the next morning that we call a hangover. There may well be some truth in this; many red wines contain more alcohol than many whites and all red wines contain significantly more tannin, the chemical that preserves wine and leather. More>>

Rioja - A look at the Tempranillo grape

For many people a good red Spanish wine and a Rioja are almost synonymous, and given the ubiquity of the Rioja wines it's understandable. The area called the Rioja is south of Bilbao and Pamplona, and apart from a small area on the Costa Brava, it's the most northerly of the Spanish wine-making regions. More>>

Roses and Fashion - How fashion informs our tastes

Fashions in wine-drinking are no different from fashions in any other sphere. Quite simply our tastes change; what was once acceptable becomes unfashionable and sometimes even risible. Tanks-tops, elephant flares and shirts with absurdly long collars have their oenolgical equivalents. Sometimes it's simply that the general taste of society slowly changes to a different style, sometimes it's a new product that changes our tastes. More>>

Sardinian Wines - A place to explore

The two largest islands in the Mediterranean, Sicily and Sardinia, are politically part of Italy. In truth both of these islands are different from the mainland, and Sardinia in particular has much to make it very different. The flora and fauna are a case in point. Sardinian rabbits and donkeys are smaller than their European mainland counterparts, there are birds that are found only there, and bizarrely Sardinian bees make honey that is almost bitter. More>>

Sauvignon Blanc - The New Zealand Success story

A relative new-comer to the international wine market, New Zealand is increasingly making its presence felt. As in other spheres, being a new arrival can bring a number of benefits, not least the ability to learn from other people's mistakes. On the ground it means that carefully selected areas are chosen for planting on the basis of micro-climate and soil types, rather than growing grapes where they have always been planted before. In the wineries that have been built to process the rapidly growing grape harvest, new machinery and technologies have been put in place right from the start, making many of the New Zealand wineries some of the most modern in the world. More>>

Screw Tops - Even more alternatives to corks

Let's be clear on this; the purpose of the cork in your bottle of wine is to keep the wine in the condition in which it was made for as long as possible. The cork is a big improvement over previous methods, but it's imperfect. More>>

Semillon - The grape and its varietals

By now most wine buyers are completely at home with all the major varietals. Shelves in supermarkets and off-licenses are filled with bottles that proclaim their variety on the label - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, so you could be forgiven for thinking that that's where the range of varietals comes to an end. Yet the range of grape varieties available to the wine-grower is huge - every traditional wine-growing area across Europe has its own favourite, but these localised grape varieties are hardly household names. More>>

Serving Wine - Getting the best from your wine

As our ministers for finance keep heaping duties and excise onto wines, the net effect is that in Ireland there is no such thing as a cheap wine. There may be bad wines, but thanks to our high levels of excise and VAT, no wine is cheap. More>>

Sherry (part 1) - The wines of Jerez and Montilla

One of the great wines of the world is increasingly hard to find in Ireland. I'm talking here about sherry, but not the easily available commercial kinds that are marketed by brand. The only affinity that they have with the fine wines of Jerez - where sherry comes from - is the name. More>>

Sherry (part 2) - The various wines of Jerez de la Frontera

The fortunes of sherry have waxed and waned over the centuries. Today most people think of sherry as either a bone dry fino like Tio Pepe or a sweet nut brown drink like Bristol Cream, yet best-selling as these two drinks are, there is a wealth of fine wines to be explored from Jerez that represent the best of what sherry can offer. More>>

Sicilian Wines - New developments in growing vines

Eating a Sicilian meal this week reminded me of the time I came really close to spending a summer there, but settled instead for Italy's toe, Calabria. I'll admit that back then I suffered from inherited prejudice: my father, who had spent a year in Sicily as a conscript in Mussolini's army had always vowed he'd never return, and the forcefulness of his rhetoric inclined me to believe that Sicily was probably best left to the Sicilians. I let his anti-Sicilian bias lead me instead to a summer in Brancaleone, which means 'lion's paw' in English. More>>

Sicily - The changing nature of Sicilian wines

Sicily is the football at Italy's toe; a part of the Italian nation and yet apart from the Italian nation. In 1945 it nearly succeeded in seceding from Italy to become an autonomous state, such was their sense of separateness. In Sicily they're inclined to refer to 'the continent' when they mean the mainland, which says something of their insular view of themselves. More>>

Small is Beautiful - A boutique winery in Australia

Our increasingly global markets have had a transforming effect upon the ancient and, some might say, stuffy wine trade. It's a trade with a venerable history; wines were moved around the ancient world by boat, barge and cart allowing Britons to drink wines from Greece, Italy and Gaul. More>>

Some Good Buys - A personal listing of value for money wines

There's little more personal than taste in wine. When I was a child and French wines were affordable and all-pervasive, I remember my father arguing with his friends over the merits of Bordeaux over Burgundy. At today's prices you might as well argue whether a diamond is preferable to a sapphire. More>>

South African Wines - The Hamilton Russell Vineyards

It wasn't that long ago when South Africa was a pariah state. You didn't even buy oranges from there if you had a social conscience. Yet there were travellers' tales of wonderful wines from there, with that same unreal quality of old maps with the legend ‘here be dragons'. You had to take those tales on trust, because all through the era of sanctions, these wines were unavailable outside of South Africa itself. More>>

South American Wines - Wines from Chile and Argentina

It's a sad truth that good French wines have got more expensive in the past twenty years. I don't mean in line with inflation, but in real terms. Twenty years ago I could afford to drink a good Burgundy or a Cru Bourgeois from the Bordeaux regularly, today I can't. The reason for this is straightforward enough; the market for good French wines has expanded hugely in America and Japan and that increased demand has pushed the prices relentlessly upwards. More>>

Spanish Regions - A look outside the Rioja

Spain is one of Europe's top three wine-producing countries, with a combination of a long tradition as well as a recently developed innovative streak. It wasn't always so; as recently as the early '70s over 90% of Spain's exported wines left the country by tanker. It's not hard to imagine what this liquid tasted like as road-tankers hauled it across Europe rather like petro-chemicals. Dreadful things happened to this wine at its destination; importers were inclined to dose it with sulphur dioxide in an attempt to slow down its proclivity to oxidise, a tendency that was caused in the most part by poor vinification techniques. More>>

Special Drinks - Drinks for special occasions

There's no doubt that some drinks convey a sense of glamour, excitement and sexiness more than others. It's all down, I suppose, to where the makers want to pitch it in their advertising. Carlsberg pushes the line that theirs is a drink for serious connoisseurs of beer, Guinness wants to hold on to its traditional customers as well as be clever, trendy, and above all, young. More>>

Stressing the Vine - Better fruit by stressing the vine

You may or may not like it, but the branding of wines is here to stay. I had the opportunity recently to talk to Philip Laffer, chief winemaker for the Jacob's Creek range of wines, who won Australia's Winemaker of the Year award in 2002. He's the man who's responsible for the great value 'Reserve' range, a step up the quality ladder from the more basic entry level wines. More>>
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