The Fourth Wine – Chardonnay

The Grape

Chardonnay is the biggest white wine on the planet. It’s a truly noble grape as every region will have some form of it. It is also known as ‘White Burgundy’ after the region it originated in. The grapes can take different tastes depending on the climate they are grown in.

If it’s a warm climate, they become ripe and have tropical apricot flavours, where as if it was a colder climate a more earthy and apple like taste. The wine is very susceptible to oak ageing. A little time in the casks give it a nice flavour it can also easily be over oaked, causing a nasty taste that is why chardonnay fell out of fashion for a while.

The Wine

This time the wine is an Italian Chardonnay by Piemonte, that was part of a dine in for £10 deal from M&S so treating it like it’s less than £5 for a bottle!

It’s very fresh, with a slight bitter taste out the bottle, but after 5 minutes in the air then it softens and you get lovely tropical tastes fruit, especially peaches. Very nice and easy to drink!

What is a tannin?

A tannin is a polyphenol. That’s basically a chemical with lots of phenol groups attached. Don’t worry about it. They occur in grape seeds, skins and stems and get into the grape juice when the grape is crushed and soaking. It can also be added when the wine is soaking in a wooden barrel.

Generally tannins are found in red wine, though occasionally whites as well. That’s all nice and dandy now that we know what it is, but what does it do? How do we recognise it and why does it matter?

A tannin in wine is a natural chemical protector for the wine, which is why winemakers like it. It is said to create a ‘body’ for the wine so that helps as well. If you drink a wine with tannin’s it gives that feeling of drying in the mouth after a sip. If it’s high in tannins then your mouth feels very  dry, low in tannins won’t make it feel too dry at all.

There we have it! So what does it mean for some actual wines? Well a couple of examples for high tannin wine would be Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. And low tannin reds would be Pinot Noir and Tempranillo.

Tomorrow we have our first white wine! Till then!

Wine the Third – Pinot Noir

The Grape

Pinot Noir is said by some to be one of the most difficult wines to grow and produce. The grapes don’t like cool weather, and get diseases and rot fairly easily. A main area for the grape is Burgundy in France.

The tastes of Pinot Noir are said to be red berry like. Think raspberries, cherries and strawberries. It’s meant to be a very fragrant wine with perfume like notes.


The Wine

The selected wine this week was ‘Surprisingly Good Pinot Noir’, bought from Morrisons for £5. It’s from Romania and says it’d be good with ribs. It’s 13% and you can barely taste that. What you do taste though are the cherry and raspberries in it. Much sweeter than the previous styles of wine I think, but still delicious. Highly recommend!

Till next time where we make a start on the white nobel grapes!

What is ‘Vintage’?

A lot of wines have a published vintage on them, be it 2016 or another year. But what exactly is it about and why does it matter?

Put simply vintage is the year when the grapes were picked. Generally this is displayed on the bottle, for example “Merlot 2016”. If there’s not a vintage on the wine it’s generally a blend of different years to try and keep the flavour constant throughout the bottles. Champagne is an example of this and will often have N.V. on the label meaning Non-Vintage.

So why do we care what vintage a wine is? The biggest factor that affects the grapes growing over a year is the weather. Bad weather often means the grape won’t fully ripen, not be as nice in wine. Lots of sun though can damage grapes causing them to become like raisins. So the weather is incredibly important!

Due to different regions having different grapes, what is a good vintage in one region may not be the same in a different one. You are able to read up online on vintage tables about what are good vintages for different regions so it’s always worth a check to see stuff!

Fun fact: If champagne has a vintage on it then it’s a very special one as it’s only the very unique bottles with a story (like surviving a flood) that get a vintage year!

Till tomorrow!

Week 2 – Merlot

The Grape

Merlot is the second of the noble grapes that we’re trying. It’s said that some of the best wines in the world are Merlot and it’s grown nearly everywhere. The issue with Merlot though is that it is apparently not the easiest to get to full ripeness. If the grape isn’t fully ripe, you know about it and the Merlot isn’t pleasant to drink. On the other hand if it’s good, it’s very good.

Although it’s uncommon to find a pure Merlot, it is often blended with something a little, a large number of red wine merlots include merlot due to it’s availability, and it brings a smooth flavour to it, as you can easily balance the rest of it either using a light or full-bodied version.

The Wine

Merlots are meant to have three main tastes:

  1. Plums
  2. Blueberries
  3. Blackberries

It can range from light bodied to full bodied and are generally about 13%.

This weeks wine of the week is:

Terre & Vigne 2015 Merlot

It’s a French wine and was found in Morrisons for £5. Pretty smooth out the bottle and easy to drink. Definitely get the taste of plums and blueberries from it. You can get a feel for the oak used to mature the wine as well from this as there’s a slight sweetness to the start. Would highly recommend a taste, although I did notice that Morrisons seemed to have 2015 and 2016 vintages for sale. So I think we’ll learn about vintages next weekend! Till then!


What is Wine?

What a stupid question. We all know that it’s grapes. But how does it get from grapes to wine? Put simply it is the fermented juice of grapes. Any fruit juice can be fermented to give wine, but the main one you see is grape juice. But these grapes aren’t the same kind you can buy at Tesco. Those are table grapes, we want wine grapes!

Table grapes are bigger, generally seedless and less sweet. Supermarkets don’t generally stock the wine variety as no one really uses them for anything.

So we’ve got our grapes growing on a vine, what next? Pickers (or machines) pick the grapes, and then they are sorted. You don’t want bad or rotten grapes in your wine so you pull them out. The grapes then get put into a fermenting container, which is where one of the biggest actions happens.

To make red wine you just toss the grape in, skin and all. To make white wine, the grapes are pressed, removing the juices from the skin before the fermentation. After fermentation red wine is pressed, to separate it from the skin. The wine is then put into oak barrels or steel casks to mature, often in quantities around 200 L.

The type of barrel used to store the wine can have an impact on its flavour. While a steel cask won’t change the flavour much, an oak matured wine can have tastes of oak (earthiness) added to it.

Finally, when the winemaker thinks it’s good, they bottle the wine, and send it away, which ends up in the supermarkets for us to buy and drink it.

This was a pretty brief overview, mentioning things like fermentation and such and not really delving into it too much, but we’re taking it simply as it’s still the start and we don’t want to think too much about it as we learn the overall process.

Till tomorrow where there’s facts, history and a review of a Merlot!



Week 1 – Cabernet Sauvignon

The Grape

So our first wine is a cabernet sauvignon, one of the basic three red noble grapes. But what is it I hear you cry? The history seems to date back to when there was an accident in 17th century France, where there was a vine grown from a crossing between a grape called ‘Cabernet Franc’ and another known as ‘Sauvignon Blanc’. Winemakers seemed to like this new grape as it had a thicker skin, so was quite durable, and seemed to grow with relative ease.

It really took off in the Bordeaux region of France (the southwest of France) where the winemakers liked the tannin (we’ll get to that one day) levels in the grape. As popularity grew for the wine, it started to get planted all around the world growing into a big grape and earning it’s place as one of the ‘Noble Grapes’.

The Wine

So what about the wine itself? Cabernet Sauvignon is supposedly known for 3 main flavours:

  1. Blackcurrent
  2. Black Berry
  3. Black Cherry

It generally has a ‘medium – heavy’ body and an alcohol percentage of 13.5% – 15.5%.

With those basics in mind this weeks ‘Wine at the Weekend’ is:

‘Isla Negra’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

This is a wine from Chile and cost £4.50 from Tesco. It’s 12% ABV so on the weaker side but hey, it’s cheap and cheerful. Initially couldn’t taste much, it seemed to be pretty bitter and not taste nice, leaving me to think this entire under £5 might be a bad idea, but I soon changed my mind. I’ve heard before about letting wine breathe by letting it stand in the air, but this made me understand it a bit more.

After pouring my glass and briefly forgetting about it while I was cooking dinner, I came back to it and on a further sip found the bitterness had lessened. In it’s place I was able to start to taste some of the fruitiness, predominantly blackcurrant. It wasn’t overpowering at all which was pleasant and soon I could taste a bit of cherry. Not sure if it was black cherry as not sure of the difference between that and the regular cherries bought at the supermarket, but it had a cherry taste for sure.

Overall it was a pretty nice wine once left for a while. A good start for the first week, and leaving me feeling excited for the project ahead with the next wine being a Merlot. See you next weekend!