Thursday, 10 October 2013

Fortified with facts

Some time has passed since my last entry. Best intentions crashed swiftly and silently. However, I find myself once again faced with an exam with a month long run up with which to imbibe as much information as possible. Having exhausted traditional methods I am turning to the blogosphere as an alternative means to revise. If I can write vaguely coherently on the subject here then it should stand me in good stead. So, with that in mind I will tackle my next topic; Fortified wines of the world.

As a crude contents page, the blogs will go as follows;

Vins Doux Naturels
Rutherglen Muscat

The key elements of each will be documented, such as;

Climate & Topography
Grape Varieties
Vineyard Management
Terms and Conditions / Classifications
Market Leaders / Brands
Current Market trends
Tasting notes for each style

Plenty to get my teeth into, so one a day (2 on a good day) should about do it! And, to be perfectly honest, it will most likely read a lot better with a glass of fortified wine in hand. I'm writing it with a glass of Manzanilla under the same pretence. Salud!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Flor-ed Characters

One great way to enjoy this momentary relief from grey skies and perpetual damp is with a nice glass of Sherry. Not the Bristol Cream reserved for Granny at Christmas, which usually has a good 5 years of bottle ageing following its first use. Scrummy!

No, I rather prefer a chilled glass of dry Sherry and try my best to think I'm soaking up the sun and sea of Jerez, in deepest Andalucia, where this wondrous wine originates. Using the Palomino Fino grape, which loves the chalky albariza soils surrounding Jerez that retain the water needed for the 363 days of baking sun, Sherry producers craft incredibly varied styles using a complex ageing system. Google 'solera system' for visual aids. 

Each style is distinguishable by colour and smell, depending on the ageing process. Fino is the driest and palest and hibernates under a layer of yeast, known as the 'Flor', which maintains it's light colour and fresh, zingy character. Amontillado is essentially a Fino that is allowed to oxidise once the Flor dies off giving it a copper hue and nutty aroma.Oloroso is a different animal altogether, however, as it never touches the Flor, instead it's subjected to an early fortification and, thus, longer oxidative ageing. The result is dark brown in colour with luscious aromas of dried fruit and hints of caramel. 

The beauty of dry Sherry is that it partners food with aplomb. Unsure what to pair it with, I leave you with a lovely bit of gastronomic logic I've pinched from Jeremy Rockett, UK Marketing Director for Gonzalez Byass; 

If it swims, drink Fino. 
If it flies, drink Amontillado. 
And, if it walks, drink Oloroso.

Salud to that.

A journey of 1000 miles starts with one step.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Many quotes and clich├ęs or increasing grandeur have been floating around my mind over the last few days, having taken the plunge and signed up for the WSET diploma. 

A life of studious servitude, made all the more enjoyable by the need to fit it around a 45 hour working week, has just begun and, as such, this blog will be overhauled to provide some relief from the viticultural minutiae of Unit 2.

I love wine, which is frankly a pre-requisite for embarking on the 2 year Diploma, but this passion is likely to be tested at times during this period. I do hope, however, that this outlet will serve the purpose of reigniting the vinous fire within at points when it reaches a low ebb.

At times the content on here may become unreadable, as I cover various climatic conditions, canopy management and the like, but I will try to intersperse these additions with blogs of a more whimsical nature. 

So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Here I come 'Viticultural Growing Environment!'

Monday, 6 May 2013

A nod to the past.

Much like a good wine, tastes develop over time. Fashions, fancies and gimmicks come and go, and can be extremely succesful for a time, but longevity in the wine trade is usually achieved through consistency. This, of course, applies to the wine itself, but also to how well people can recognise it.
We've had some wines (and I won't name names) that have undergone a radical facelift to reenergise the brand but just end up leaving people cold. That's not to say that labels shouldn't change, but adaptation is often a better course of action.
With the influx of some lovely aged Rioja at the end of last year we've had the opportunity to compare wines, and their labels, from the early 90s with their more recent counterparts. Using the example of Bodegas Beronia, a particular favourite of mine, it's interesting to see the development of the label over 22 years.
The 1994 label is very classic Rioja, with prominence given to the Bodega, the region, the style (Reserva) and the year. A minimalist colour swatch with an off-white background, navy blue lettering and gold elaborations, such as the picture of the bodega, is classy yet understated. 22 years later and the central themes endure. The Bodega name remains at the forefront with slightly updated typography but the colours have been inverted to provide a more contemporary look, which it acheives. It's essentially a modern take on their historic label.
It is not a great suprise to read on the back label that Beronia is part of the Gonzalaz Byass group, as they have form in this regard. They recently revamped their Sherry labels having dug out some bottles from yesteryear. It's nice when things come full circle.
As for the wine itself, the '94 has held up beautifully. There is still plenty of fruit in the glass, predominantly red cherry, which leads through to an elegant finish with sweet cinnamon and silky cocoa. By contrast, the voluptuous 2006 'Dos Maderas' (meaning 'two woods') balances excellent fruit concentration with sweet clove notes from French oak and vanilla imparted from the American. Youthful, vibrant yet velvety.