Bubbly Personalities – Wine Talk Issue 1

I drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it ~ unless I’m thirsty

Lily Bollinger, of the Bollinger Champagne House (1899-1977)

Champagne, the most luxurious of drinks, began life as a still red wine – and a mediocre one at that. But in overcoming the challenges it presented, winemakers have created one of the world’s best-loved tipples

Any event worth celebrating will sparkle that much more with a glass of bubbly. Drinking Champagne means we’re attaching importance to the occasion – whether it’s a life-changing wedding, the annual Christmas celebrations, or simply an evening relaxing with friends to mark the end of a hard week at work.

Champagne is the classiest of drinks (what else could launch a luxury liner?) – and has an illustrious history. Wine has been made in the Champagne area, some 145 kilometres east of Paris, since the early centuries AD. When the majestic Reims cathedral was built in the early 13th century, in the heart of Champagne, Reims became the major religious centre, with Catholic monks attending the vineyards and providing wine for religious occasions. Over the centuries, some two dozen kings were crowned in the cathedral and the local wine became known as ‘royal wine’.

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LOAM AND DRY – Wine Talk Issue 1

loam and dry

Put together the words ‘New Zealand’ and ‘wine’ and of all its delightful varietals, it’s the famously clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc that first comes to mind.

And one of the best is Babich, whose family business has passed through the generations since 16-year-old Croatian émigré Josip Babich planted his first grapes in the north of the country in 1912.

Babich is now one of the country’s leading wineries, with vineyards in Auckland’s Henderson Valley, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough.

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LIQUID GOLD – Wine Talk Issue 1

liquid gold

Award-winning labels are par for the course on the shelves of Straits Wines’ outlets, but we’re still delighted when our suppliers pick up some more welldeserved prizes. 

K1 by Geoff Hardy has picked up a clutch of awards to add to its collection at recent Australian events – including three golds and three wines being the top-rated wine in their class. They include:

Gold – K1 Silver Label Shiraz 2008 (Great Australian Shiraz Challenge); Gold (Top of Class) – K1 Arneis 2010 (Alternative Varieties Show); Blue-Gold – K1 Shiraz 2008 (Sydney International Challenge); Silver – Hand Crafted

Savagnin 2009 (Alternative Varieties Show); Silver – K1 Shiraz 2008 (Great Australian Shiraz Challenge); Bronze (Top Wine of Class) – Hand Crafted Lagrein 2009 (Alternative Varieties Wine Show). 

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COOL AUSTRALIANS – Wine Talk Issue 1

cool australian winesYou don’t need constant sunshine to make great wine in Australia. Some of the country’s most refined labels are grown in areas with a touch of winter frost and even snow
 
Think of Australian wine and your first image is of full-bodied varietals bursting with fruity flavour. The country produces plenty of wines providing exactly that; but as one of the world’s largest wine producers, there is certainly more to Australian wine than simply ‘sunshine in a bottle’.
 

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SINGLE MINDED – Wine Talk Issue 1

SINGLENext time you’re about to reach for a bottle of Cognac to buy, why not try its southern relative, Armagnac?

Brandy is produced in many countries throughout the world, but the finest French varieties – Cognac (made in south-west France, north of Bordeaux) and Armagnac (in the far south-west, on the foothills of the Pyrenees) – can only be made in their respective geographical areas and to stringent specifications.

But it’s not just geography that separates them; they are made and aged differently. Cognac is dominated by big brand names, while the lesser-known, yet older Armagnac is mostly made by small producers. And it certainly has an illustrious history, celebrating its 700th anniversary in 2010.

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Wine Words – T – W

Table wine
Common, everyday wines. (Usually dry.) Table wine is not bad wine – but not top quality.

Tannin
Tannins are found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes. When young, their taste is bitter, harsh, and astringent. They make the mouth pucker like over-steeped tea.

Tannins preserve wine, add a bit of golden color, and add body to wine. Over time, tannins mellow & soften.

Red wines (which need to age) have far more tannin than white wines . . . which are usually drunk fairly soon after bottling.

Tears
Same as “legs”. The drops of wine that remain on the side of a glass after swirling.

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Wine Words – P – S

Palate

Wine-speak for flavors & taste.

Petrol

Some wines (particularly certain Rieslings) have a slight petrol (gasoline, diesel) aroma.

Strange as it may seem, it can actually be quite pleasant. Of course, too much is unpleasant – & a sign that the wine is aging badly.

Prädikat

German word for “distinction.” It refers to the ripeness of grapes when harvested. Below . . . #4 & #5 are usually the sweetest.

1. Kabinett (Ripe)

2. Spatlese . . . means “late harvest”.

3. Auslese

4. Beerenauslese (BA)

5. Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) (Ripest)

Top quality German Rieslings will have a TmP (Pradikat listing) on their labels.

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Wine Words – N, O

Negotiant

A French word for a person who buys grapes from other growers, and then, makes wine under his or her own label. (For example: Mischief & Mayhem do not own a vineyard. They are ‘negotiants’ who make splendid wines in Burgundy.)

This term has nothing to do with the quality of the resulting wines – which could range from awful to Grand Cru.

Pronounced . . . nee – go – she –ant

New World Countries

This refers to countries that have been making fine wine for 100 years or less. All of these countries are located outside of Europe.

For example; Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, USA & others. Wines from these countries tend to be fruitier & have bigger, bolder flavors. See ‘Old World Countries’

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Wine Words – G – M

Green Harvest
Cutting unripe grapes (while still green) from their vines, so that remaining grapes get more nutrients, and therefore, are more likely to have a rich, concentrated flavor.

Green Notes
The aroma or flavor of herbs, grass, green peppers. “Herbaceous” means the same thing.

Horizontal Tasting
Choose a country or grape and taste only wines that fit that category. For instance, taste only Pinot Noirs from Burgundy.

See ‘Vertical Tasting’

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Wine Words – E, F

“er” . . . on a German label

When you see “er” at the end of a word on a German label, the word indicates the name of the town where the vineyard is located. The next word will be the name of the vineyard or winery.

They do this because many German vineyards have the same or similar names.

En Premier

A wine investment term meaning, “wine futures”.

It is a method of purchasing wine while it’s still in the barrel & not fully developed. Payment is made a year or 18 months prior to the official release of a vintage. The buyer is gambling that the wine will be excellent – based on the vintage and winemaker.

However, excellence is not guaranteed, and some wines may lose value over time. Not all wine is available to be sold ‘en premier’.

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