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This month we are running our 2nd Great Italian wine festival. With over thirty wines on promotion from all over Italy there is sure to be something for everybody. The Italians have always enjoyed great success in their wine making and they offer many of the usual grape varieties but also a vast array of different and indigenous grape varieties. These fantastic grapes coupled with Italy the Mediterranean climate combine to make Italy one of the world’s top producers of wine.




South Africa The Melting Pot Of the Wine World

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South Africa produces some of the greatest wines in the World today but also many misunderstood wine. This beautiful but troubled nation has been producing wines since the Dutch founded the Cape Colony 350 years ago this year, take that Mr. Guinness your only a teenager. But it wasn’t until the arrival of French Huguenots in the 1680s that the local wine industry began to flourish, the dutch having interest in other pursuits even back then! The climate is central to South Africas wine industry as it is in every other wine producing nation. The climate coupled with the wine making traditions brought with the huguenots has ensured that South Africa’s wine style has developed into one which seamlessly blends thre restrained elegance elegance of the Old World with the accessable, fruit driven styles that the New Wolrd has to offer. Over the next few weeks we’ll take a breif look at the various wine producing regions in South Africa and some of their top wines.

Shiraz Vs Syrah

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Alright first thinks first… lets get the elephant out of the room. YES! they are the same grape. And I know what you’re thinking… “but they’re grown virtually worlds apart…. how can they be the same?”. Well while we’re on the topic of elephants Syrah and Shiraz are like Indian and African elephants- everyone knows there’s supposed to be a difference, but only people who know their stuff can really tell the difference. Well their is a lot of similarities between the two, but I’m going to try and not bore you with those details. Instead I’ll try and bore you with some slight differences!!!

Well the first difference- a little obvious but a good place to start nonetheless- is the name. In its country of origin France the grape is generally referred to as Syrah, along with Argentina, Chile, and the United States. However, the Australians opted to call it Shiraz. The name Shiraz is potentially the result of the English language on french- similar to the name of whiskey is the result of the Irish Fuisce Beatha. Bordeaux wines were always popular in England, but in the 18th and 19th century the wines from Bordeaux were lacking in something and needed that little bit of extra bite. Hence the inclusion of Syrah coming into England… so the name most have been interpreted (by some British Gentleman) to have a silent z at the end of it, and now we have Syrah and Shiraz.

The best parallel i have heard when describing the difference between them both is that Shiraz is more emotive, while Syrah is more refined! If Syrah is the smile then Shiraz is the giggle. not encumbered by years of tradition- and to a certain degree stagnation- the Australians took the Syrah and gave it a whole new personality. It flourished in its new home in Australia, and took over regions like Barossa Valley- which produces some of the most powerful full bodied reds in the world. Having said all this though they are now worlds apart, and maybe not in taste but in feel, and the sense you get from them as you drink them- Australian Shiraz for the party or BBQ, and French Syrah for the Dinner party’s. To most people they’ll always be just two elephants, but part of the fun with wine is finding the subtle differences between wines, and being able to know the difference for yourself!

A Kiwi Syrah Viognier

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On Monday I posted a blog on Australia’s new found love for Shiraz Viognier, never ones to be out done by their neighbours the Kiwis have also caught the Shiraz Viognier. The Kiwis being slightly more traditionalists insist on calling Shiraz Syrah allot of the time. Bilancia is a fantastic producer from Hawkes Bay on the Northern Island in New Zealand, they specialise in Syrah, Viognier and Pinot Gris, and of course Syrah-Viognier Blends.

Bilancia Syrah-Viognier 2004

The 2004 vintage of Bilancia Syrah is a blend of approximately 98% Syrah some of it from their top vineyard La Collina (Italian for Hill) and 2% Viognier this is all sourced from La Collina.

All the components were hand harvested and crushed to open top fermenters for hand plunging during fermentation. The Viognier component, from the La Collina vineyard, was harvested and co-fermented with a portion of the La Collina Syrah. The pressed wine was run to French oak, 40% new, for malolactic fermentation and the wine was aged in these barrels for 16 months.

The aroma is of ripe red fruits with characteristic black pepper whilst the palate shows floral, plum and raspberry characters with well integrated oak. The wine has great mouth feel and balance. It is extremely approachable now but will certainly benefit from further aging.

Go on Give It A Go Part 7: Shiraz Viognier

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Shiraz Viognier is an increasingly popular wine in among Australian winemakers at the minute. Over the last few years the Australians have been blending their world class Shiraz with Viognier, a white wine variety which has emerged from obscurity in the Northern Rhone region of France (See previous post on Viognier). This blend has been made in Rhone for years but it is only now due to the New World winemakers tendency to name the blend on the bottle that people have become aware of it.

Blended Wines

Most wine lovers know that wines can be made from just one variety (varietal) or they can be made from two more varieties (blended wines). The wine variety making up the majority of the blend is named first in this case the wine tends to be 95% plus shiraz, anymore than 5% viognier and the wine may develop a sickly floral note for a red.

Usually blended wines are made by blending two or more batches of wine, each made from a single variety. The winemaker strives to balance the weakness of one variety with the strength of the other to achieve a more rounded result. Shiraz Viognier is named as if it is a blend, but in fact it is produced by a slightly different method.


By contrast, Shiraz Viognier is produced by the method of co-fermentation. Here the red Shiraz grapes are mixed with the white Viognier grapes before the wine is made. The addition of white grapes at this stage is thought to preserve the brightness of the red pigments during fermentation, as well as altering the development of some of the flavour compounds.

The fermentation process of making wine involves a large number of concurrent chemical reactions which change the nature of the phenolics in the wine. Phenolics are a group of chemical compounds found mainly in the skin of the grapes and they are the main contributors to the colour, taste, firmness and odour of the wine.

O’Leary Walker Shiraz Viognier 2004

A very limited parcel of wine made from 100% Clare Valley fruit. The viognier gives this wine a floral perfume which is joined by spice from the shiraz the aromas are all consuming. The palate is silky rich with a long alluring velvety finish.

Yalumba Barrossa Shiraz Viognier 2005

The nose explodes with aromas of cloves, cedar, plums and raspberries. On the palate it has huge rich blackfruit flavours with spices and anise and clove notes.

Whats In A Points Score??

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A recent study published in the journal Appetite set about analysing how we react to being told how the critics rate the wines we are about to drink. They divided the test group of 163 into 3 and gave them all a taste of the 2006 Clos de los Siete wine which was scored 92 points in Robert Parkers Wine Advocate. They told one set of subjects the correct points score, another set that the wine scored a lowly 72 and did not inform the third set either way. The reuslts then showed that those who were told the correct score rated the wine highly while those who were informed of the incorrect score felt the wine was poor quality. Now all this study proves is that we are lead by what we read and hear about wines, we could have told them that with out the need for 163 to be tested. Many of us are influenced greatly by the label on a bottle, despite being constantly reminded not judge a book by its cover, of course what we read and hear about a particular bottle of wine will affect our judgement, how many people would by a bottle with the label reading PLONCK?.

However how else are we to decide on if we like a wine if we are to ignore the recommendations of critics and friends and anyone else who advises us on what wine to try?

Portuguese wines

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Portugal has a long tradition in wine making; in fact the history producing wine in this country comes from much earlier than the foundation of its Nationality. Portuguese wine comes from vineyards that are planted from the northern to the southern Portuguese regions. Although Portugal is a small country has a great variety of soils and climate as well as Portuguese wine varietals allowing a great diversity of Portuguese wines. In addition, there are several methods of wine making which have obvious reflex in the wine produced. Famous Portuguese wines include Port and Madeira, but lately it is their regular table wine that has been drawing attention.

Two of the most important wine producing areas in Portugal are Duoro in the north, the majority of grapes for port are grown in this area and in the south the large expansive region of Alentejo. Both regions produce fabulous wine for drinking and the following two staff favourites among the selection we have in the shop.

Quinta Dos Aciprestes Reserva, Duoro

This wine has an intensely aromatic nose with notes of sweet herb, inviting smooth milk chocolate and floral tropical fruit. The palate is rounded supple and vibrant, reminiscent of a Rioja Crianza. The tannins are silky smooth and the wine has a long lasting finish of luscious ripe red fruit flavours.

Pequeno Pintor, Alentejo

This is a fabulous to have by the glass, drinking beautifully by itself. It has a deep garnet colour and fine aromas, with a touch of dried coffee grounds. It is persistent and complex with ripe red berry flavours. The flavours are solid and reveal a touch of youth and fruitiness.

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