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!

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!


The Start & Noble Grapes

So I know next to nothing about wine. I know there’s red, white and rose isn’t a mix of the two. I know a few names and if buying wine in the supermarket then I’ll aim for those recognisable words and avoid any ones I don’t understand.

My plan is to slowly work my way through learning wine here, and posting about it weekly in simple steps to help anyone else that wants to start learning about it as well with me. I don’t plan on spending a fortune in this endeavour so I’m aiming to keep the cost of a bottle of wine under £5 if possible and bought from a supermarket so anyone can try and find it as well! So if you get put off by the thought of there being so many different regions and where they all are or what they mean then join me as I try to get the basics and some of the history about it all.

Noble Grapes

So the first bit of information seems to be a concept called ‘Noble Grapes’. The simple part of this information is that these are basically the variety of grapes that are generally grown in all the big wine regions around the world. The more complex part is just how many varieties count, it seems to generally go from 6 up to 18 though and doesn’t seem to be agreed upon. So we’ll make this super simple and start with the basic six. At least till we’ve drunk our way through them and might have a bit of better knowledge about wine. So what are they? There’s three red and there’s three white:

Three Red:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Pinot Noir

Three White:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Chardonnay
  3. Riesling

That’s not too complicated to start with, and it gives us our first goal. Drink the basic Noble Grapes. The first one to try will be posted tomorrow and will be a Cabernet Sauvignon from Tesco. I’ll post some information about the grape style itself and then a bit about the bottle I got, so until then!

If you have any ideas for improvement or any topics you want covered feel free to let me know and we’ll try and muddle our way through all the wine stuff together!