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Wine Guide

Value for money - How much does good wine cost?

You can buy a really good wine for €50 - when you spend more than that you're buying prestige, or a label that matches your life-style, or rarity. None the less there are real costs that go into the making of a bottle of wine and these costs are reflected in the final price. More>>

Value Menus & Wines - Wines for the new 'Value' menus

You may have noticed in the press of the past few weeks that the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the Hotel Federation, Bord Failte and the Irish Times have come together to create a 'Value Menu' scheme, which will give us, the consumers, a choice of a €10, €20, or €30 set price menu in participating restaurants. More>>

Varietal Research - Perfecting the vine

The original European vine has the Latin name vitis vinifera, which translates as the vine that makes wine. The vine has been as subject to careful selective breeding as any other major crop over the centuries, constantly evolving into differing varieties with different properties. Probably the first distinction made was between table grapes and grapes for making wine. It's not that these are vastly different; it's perfectly possible to make wine from table grapes, it's just that they don't make very good wine. More>>

Vertical Tastings - Some Chateau Margaux

vertical tasting is the name we give, sometimes inappropriately, to the tasting of a flight of wines - that's to say the same wine from a number of vintages. What makes it interesting is that you get to know the character of the particular wine over a number of years, and if the same wine-maker has been at work over the entire flight, you get to see what his intentions were in the vinification. More>>

Vin de Constance - The wine of emperors

There are some wines that never fail to give me a thrill, that always titillate my palate, that always leave me wanting more. They're the well-made dessert wines. I'm as happy with a Hungarian Tokaj as with a Tuscan Vin Santo, as thrilled to be drinking a good Muscat as a first growth of the Barsac or Sauternes. More>>

Vines and Terroir - Does the grape or the soil make the flavour?

Despite the whingeing of people like me, the marketing of wines by grape variety continues unabated. From an intellectual point of view this has a built-in problem, and it's this. What the French call 'vignes nobles' or noble grape varieties, are noble because they express clearly in their resulting wine the 'terroir' of where they were grown. More>>

Volcanic Wines - Wines from Sicily's Etna

Three thousand years ago the Greeks exported their culture to Italy. All of southern Italy became Greek, in language and in custom. Great Greek names of antiquity, names like Diodorus and Archimedes, were Sicilians. The island of Sicily became a centre of Hellenic culture, cities like Syracuse and Menfis were major trading centres. Even then, all those years ago, there was viticulture. The Siculi - the aboriginal people of Sicily - were like others in the Italian peninsula and they grew grapes. For the Greeks, whose culture already included wine making, the wonder was the sheer extent of viticulture in Italy. It so amazed them that they called the peninsula 'Enotria' - the land of vines. More>>

Wild Yeasts - Fermenting with wild yeasts

A couple of weeks ago I touched briefly on wild fermentation, but I've recently come across a wine that prompts me to explore the subject in a little more depth. The background to the story is this; the bloom that you will find on the skins of grapes growing on the vines, is yeast. More>>

Wine and Chocolate - Matching wine to good chocolate

Matching food and wine is a lot of fun, arranging for the flavours of one to enhance the flavours of the other. But there's a new game that I've come across and you might like to try it, it's matching wine and chocolate. More>>

Wine and Health - How much wine is good for you?

There was a time in my youth when nearly every wine list used to have a motto inscribed underneath it: 'he who drinks beer lives to be a hundred, but he who drinks wine lives forever'. Obviously this is a maxim more likely to be believed in the wine producing countries of the south than it is in the beer brewing countries of the north. More>>

Wine and Prizes - The trend for more competitions

You may have noticed it. More and more wines have little badges slapped onto the labels saying things like 'Gold Medal Award'. Look closely at the fine print and you'll see that the wine won third prize at the Southern Victoria Farmers' Co-Operative Annual show. So what does it mean? More>>

Wine Bigotry - Getting over prejudices

heard a quote on the radio this morning, 'your mind is like a parachute - it works best when it's open.' It raised a smile, and then the following train of thought. A truly sclerotic mind is defined by the inability to take on a new idea. More>>

Wine Buying Trends - A look at the Irish wine market

The Wine Development Board of Ireland has been doing a good job. It must have been, because its job is to promote wine and in the years 1990 to 2002 the number of wine drinkers rose by 82%. The number of people who drink wine is now almost exactly half the population, compared with a little over a quarter in 1990. More>>

Wine for Women - Making wine-lists woman friendly

A few weeks ago I was sitting at dinner and the lady beside me made an interesting point about the restaurant's wine list. 'It's very definitely not woman friendly,' she said. I pressed her to elaborate. 'The way restaurants write their lists, all grape types and countries of origin, doesn't help women choose. More>>

Wine Glasses - Choosing the right glasses

Sometimes when Irish friends come to visit me in Italy they have remarked on the habit of wine-makers in my village of drinking their wine out of tumblers. 'Why don't they use proper glasses? The ones with stems?' they ask. I suppose the answer is partly habit, and it's also partly a question of respect. More>>

Wine Laws - Their pluses and minuses

Once upon a time we got to know wines by their region of origin, and that was defined by the local tradition. Chianti tastes the way it does, not just because of the method of vinification called 'governo', but because it's made from two local varieties - the San Giovese and the Canaiolo. More>>

Wine Lists - Restaurants and their mark-ups

From time to time I get upset in the column above when I find wine lists in restaurants that have huge and greedy mark-ups. It's worth considering just what makes a mark-up unacceptable. Let's start with the basics. Restaurants don't buy their wines like the rest of us in off-licenses or in supermarkets, they buy them from wholesalers. More>>

Wine Lists - What makes a good one

A couple of times recently I've been looking down a wine list in a restaurant and found myself inwardly tut-tutting. If a wine list doesn't compliment a restaurant's food, then it's simply not a good list. So let's a have a look at what precisely makes a list a good one. More>>

Wine Mysteries - Reflexions on the unexplained

There are many mysteries to wine, and that's perhaps why as a subject it continues to stimulate the interest as well as the palate. There's one that has been on my mind most of the summer, one that I've noticed many a time, but that I've never really addressed seriously. It's this; the puzzle of taste and provenance. More>>

Wine on the Net - What's available online

There has been a huge increase in the amount of wine that is sold in Ireland over the past ten years, due in part to increasing affluence and in part to changes in life-style. Research shows that a significant amount of the wine sold in Ireland is picked up in a supermarket along with the groceries - which seems entirely reasonable, given that the wine is most likely to be drunk with a meal. More>>

Wine regions and their grapes

As the world of wine marketing has shifted from a regional emphasis towards a varietal emphasis, there can't be many wine drinkers left who haven't tasted the big four varietals; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are moments when I scan supermarket shelves that I wonder what happened to the other grape varieties. Actually, despite misgivings, they're mostly alive and well and in some cases making returns to popularity. More>>

Wines and Fashion - How Australia changed the market

It's something I've touched on before, but there's a strong correlation between fashion and taste. Sometimes tastes in wines are determined by necessity; I'm thinking of wine in the Classical world that needed to have water added to be palatable. Drink enough of anything with a strong taste and eventually you become inured. More>>

Wines by Origin (2) - Branding by area revisited

A couple of weeks ago I was wondering in print if the current marketing thrust - that of selling wines by the grape variety to the almost complete exclusion of any other way, was in fact helping wine-drinkers. I have always been a supporter of introducing wines by grape variety, it makes remembering a wine easy and it makes finding a wine that might please easier on a restaurant's list or on a supermarket's shelf. That ease of recognition is a big boon to people who are new to wine, but as your tastes develop and your palate alters, the cracks in the system become more apparent. More>>

Wines by Origin - Defining wines by origin, not by varietal

A change in marketing strategy took place in the wine business about twenty years ago. Someone, somewhere had the bright idea of marketing wines by the variety of grape from which it was made, what are called 'varietals'. It has been a huge success - there can't be anyone left who drinks wine who hasn't heard of 'Chardonnay' or 'Cabernet Sauvignon'. More>>

Wines of Lazio (2) - Robust local wines

In my village of Gallinaro in Italy we've just finished the eighth annual festival of Cabernet, where all the local producers present their wines to the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy free tastings and free food. More>>
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