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!

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!