Ladies and Gentlemen Mr Al Barino!

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I know- I should be shot for the amount of cheesy puns in my titles but i swear i can’t help it! And yes that’s Dean Martin in the photo and not Mr Al Barino … Anyways as you may (or may not) have guessed this blog is all about Albarino. Now some may say that Verdejo is the king of Spanish whites… and this may still be the case but i just think that Albarino brings something a little different to the table! Don’t by any means get me wrong- Verdejo is fantastic, its actually a close relative of Sauvignon Blanc! (and for that reason i would say that for anyone sick of Sauvignon Blanc, like i alluded to in my last blog, then i would strongly suggest trying some Verdejo!) But this blog is not entitled Mr Ver Dejo so we’ll get back to the business at hand! So whats so special about Albarino??? Well its not unheard of for people to come in to us looking for something a little different from time to time! Now usually its a different type of style or a slightly different variety from one variety to the next… but the odd time we get someone looking to go the opposite direction all together! As in switch from red wine to white! Now there are certain thing this entails- number 1, they want it full bodied, number 2, they want it relatively dry, and 3 they are pretty open to suggestion. And that’s where Albarino strolls in to the equation!
Basically Albarino is a big thick skinned grape grown mostly a long the west coast of Spain and Portugal. Now the reason it thrives here is because of it thick skin- it can withstand a lot of sun, and humidity, and as you can imagine it plumps up into these big juicy white wines. Its actually because of this thick skin that they tend to be very aromatic wines with really rich flavours of peach and apricot. But the Albarino is at its absolute best when matched with seafood! So does this make Albarino the grape of choice for this summer for our red wine drinkers??? I think it might…
One last little side note, we started our promotion today on Spanish and Portuguese wines (we’ve gone for the title of Iberian Superstars!) and as usual there is a lot of very good wines to be had! So that’s why we had a blog on the Spanish and Portuguese variety today, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll be having a few more informative little blogs on Spanish and Portuguese wines! Anyways look forward to seeing ye in the shop and talk to ye soon!

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Another One Bites the Dust???

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Debated in doing this whole blog in the style of an obituary but figured that would be a bit morbid… and obviously a little bit premature! Wine, like anything else, follows trends… i hate to admit it, but its true. No where is this more true that with our old friend Chardonnay… ah yes Chardonnay! It was the apple of so many eyes there for a while, and now its seems like you have to physically make people try some… but recently I’ve noticed some people not only picking up 1 or 2 different Chardonnays…. but some have even come in and bought half cases of Chardonnays from different regions…. (if you were one of those people and you were wondering why i was looking so pleasantly surprised then hopefully this will answer some questions for you) At first I simply ignored this anomaly… No No it couldn’t be making a little come back! I use to say to myself as i wrapped up the bottles and bagged them.

But then (as i would do most days) i was checking to see if there was any interesting wine news out there (cause sometimes an blogger like myself needs some inspiration!) and all these articles started popping up about New Zealand Sauvignon’s…. but not in the way I had come used to! The changes were slight, but definitely there! Instead of critics raving about this new wine from the Marlborough region- they were looking a bit like reviews of the last the last few seasons of Friends; ya they’re still kinds funny, but would they not think of doing something new?

And all this started me thinking again about Chardonnay… and how people used to like it…. And before i knew what had happened I couldn’t stop thinking about Chardonnay’s fall from grace. Basically it was a victim of its own versatility- too readily available, too easy to grow, and much too popular for any dishonest wine producer to not bottle and sell of cheap. All of a sudden the supermarket shelves, the restaurants, and even some wine shops were flush with all this Cheap Chardonnay! Now I’m not saying you have to spend a load on your Chardonnay! Far from it- you can actually get some pretty good ones around the €10-€15 mark, But (and we saw this with the Ernest&Julio Gallo Pinot Noir Scandal) there are some producers out there who simply want a profit, and they don’t care how they get it! So all this bad Chardonnay inevitably started putting people off the stuff… but they had to drink something! So why not move to the complete opposite end of the spectrum- BOOM! Sauvignon Blanc!

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that Sauvignon Blanc is going to become the new Chardonnay… but all I’m saying is be careful if you don’t want to ruin it for yourself! Because there are still a lot of people out there who want to make that quick buck. It may even have started happening… I’m not naming names… cough Cloudy Bay cough cough! but a certain well know New Zealand brand just finished in the bottom few wines at a blind tasting in New Zealand…. Hmmmm! I hate to say it… but maybe 5 years down the line will people be put of Sauvignon completely???

A Horse is a Horse!

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Remember my post on Bluffing your way through wine tasting? Well this follows on from that just a tad. Basically when your palate and other senses are developed a little better you’ll occasionally come across the smell of horse hair in your red wine (sometimes transfers over to Chardonnay but usually red wine). Now this is nothing unusual, and won’t do you any harm… but it is caused by Brettanomyces (pronounced Bre-tan-no-my-seas this will come in handy later when we talk about the wine tasting). OK so skip ahead at any stage if this gets boring- but essentially its from a strain of yeast called saccharomycetaceae… and basically this strain does particularly well where there is a lot of carbohydrate! Which would explain why it was first discovered way back in 1904 in the Carlsberg Brewery (probably weren’t the best beer in the world back then) by a guy who was trying to get to figure out why a load of British ales kept spoiling- the name brettanomyces actually comes from the Latin British Fungus!
Now there is some debate whether or not its the worst thing in the world, because a number of wine producers around the world actually allow a little bit of it in their wine production- and even some Belgian beer producers use brettanomyces as their only yeast! But its a very difficult thing to control- its grand if you’re Belgian, making beer, and want to only use this particular yeast… But if you’re a wine producer, making wine, and want to give your wine some complexity… then a yeast that makes your wine smell like Horse Hair might not be the best option.
As far as the experts think it most likely gets into vineyards through fruit flies, and makes itself at home in the oak barrel’s. But once it gets in its pretty difficult to get out, and it is thought to be a pretty big indication of uncleanliness in the vineyard! Now there are certain things that will help stop the spread of this yeast- cleanliness being number 1, but the addition of…. Sulphur Dioxide! will also help stop it! Yes Yes those poor poor sulphites doing so much to help our enjoyment of wine and they get such a bad wrap for it too!
So next wine tasting you’re at- sniff the glass, go through the motions just like we talked about a week ago, and if you smell horse hair (it’ll be pretty slight at the start)  you announce it to the group- like you’d announce the fact that the dog peed on the carpet (kinda annoyed but you know blaming the dog isn’t really the solution)- then if someone questions you, you simply poor out the rest of your wine refill the glass with some water, poor that out, and then sniff it again and that horse hair smell will be much more pronounced!

Sun Again??? Oh its BBQ Time!!!!

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Sweet Sweet Sunshine… Well kinda… chances are if you’re reading this then you’re not outside enjoying this glorious weather- maybe you’re a work, maybe your hungover and the sun is not your friend today, but whatever the reason is… I can see no reason why you wouldn’t be getting ready for a BBQ later! I know, I know i already talked about how Rose is the perfect wine for a sunny day- but for a BBQ… well the Rose simply won’t cut it! Picture it- a sunny Friday evening sitting out in the garden, full of delicious grilled meat, and your sitting back in your chair listening to the birds with a glass of wine in hand… nothing can possibly beat that!

So hopefully I’ve got you sold on the idea of the BBQ- but now is where we have to make a decision… what wine will be in your glass?? Its a tricky one- not because its a difficult pairing, in fact the opposite, its because there are so many wines suited to this moment! Now i can’t tell you what drink will be appropriate here- Oh No! That’s entirely up to you! But what i will do is tell you what my top 3 choices are for this evenings BBQ are. So in reverse order-
  • In at number 3…. Its Shiraz- Australian definitely, but preferably not Barossa… Way too peppery and big. Instead what I’m looking for is a Clare valley Shiraz, with it mellow fruits and that perfect eucalyptus touch that they always have- definitely perfect for relaxing with.
  • The silver medal goes to Malbec from Mendoza! It may be a bit too big- but with grilled beef Malbec just takes on new life! No wonder the Argentinians are so fond of it!
  • And my number one pick! What wine will be in my glass tonight as I sit in my chair with some friends and an excess of meat around me… Its got to be Grenache! Its one of the most planted varieties in the world- usually added to give an extra bit of flavour in certain regions like Rioja, or the Cotes Du Rhone. But on its own it has really rich berry-fruit flavours with some spice, but what makes this the perfect one to relax with is the fact that it tends to not have much acid or tannins in it which makes for a mellow relaxing wine on its own. And on a sunny day like today isn’t that what its all about???
One final note- I’m sure all the millions of you avid followers may of noticed this already, but for those of you who haven’t…  I’ve started adding some links to other blogs on our “along the vine” section! Now i spent a lot of time going through some of the lesser known blogs online seeing if there was anything good out there (just in case ye’re not satisfied with our own one…) and to be honest there’s a lot of mediocre ones but there’s also one or two pretty decent ones- so feel free to have a look around… just don’t forget about us!! 

The Italians sure are PRO-secco!

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So the title warrants some explanation if you have no idea how the Italian classification system works. Basically you know how ridiculous and absurd the French system is… well the Italian one is slightly better… kinda. This is actually a great example of how these laws are enforced to protect quality of wine. Now if you say prosecco, generally people think (like champagne) its a region- but their wrong, its actually the grape. Don’t worry its a pretty forgivable mistake to make. But that is all about to change. Essentially on 17th of July last year there was a rule passed to ensure that Prosecco was no longer a wine produced form a particular type of grape, but rather the wine of a precise geographical area. Anyways back to the system of classification itself. So there used to be 3 classes- DOCG, DOC, and Vin de Tavola (VDT). So DOCG guaranteed the right grapes from the right region- DOC operates on the same principal, only DOCG wines have to pass a blind taste test first! This brings us to VDT (table wine)- does exactly what it says on the tin, or does it…. Well basically all the fuss about DOCGs and DOCs is great, but it leaves very little room for development of different styles. But this didn’t stop the Italians- oh no! They kept experimenting, while conforming to the DOC rules, but they would still produce a lot of wines not made in the traditional method! So what happened was the VDT section became bit of a lucky dip- there were some of the most amazing wines lumped in with some of the worst all because the producer added a touch of a grape that wasn’t permitted in the zone! So in fairness, the Powers that be (like good old berlusconi above) stepped up and created a fourth classification- IGT, or indicazione geografica tipica. So this didn’t guarantee anything except that the wine was made in a non traditional method. I think this is a pretty good compromise- if anyone has ever tried the Montezovo Ca’Linverno you’ll know what I’m talking about!
Anyways back to the Prosecco! So as i was saying above, because Prosecco was the grape and not the region, anyone could just label the bottle with Prosecco and therefore it would just fall under the IGT class. But as with anything that does well… the quality starts to fall, because its being over-produced! So… in order to fix this the name of the grape will no longer be Prosecco- its going to be know by Glera. And the region best known for its Prosecco (Conegliano-Valdobbiadene) now falls under the DOCG label, and all the other little regions around it fall under DOC.

So this will all start to take effect around the end of the year- so for those of you who love your Prosecco this is what you’ll be looking out for. The highest end Prosecco will say Conegliano-valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore. The next level will say DOC Prosecco. And if it says Prosecco and you don’t see the DOC or the DOCG, then its most likely some cheap knock off- note for the IGT it will have to say Glera (the grapes new name).

Bluffing your way through wine tastings!

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So when you first start to drink wine, its really just a case of smiling and nodding along with the other tasters… however, the longer you spend wine tasting- the more uncontrollable the urge is to say something… maybe its to do with the amount of alcohol you’ve drank, maybe you just have a natural sommelier inside you just bursting to get out! But whatever it is, when you’ve got a nice wine in your glass it certainly warrants comment!

So your there with some red wine in your glass. You sniff it- and smell something interesting, but you can’t quite put your finger on it…. Well how do you let everyone else know you’ve spotted this without actually saying what it is? Its a tricky one… But the best way I found was to pull a shocked/confused face, look to the person next to you, say in your most convincing tone of voice “there’s something on the nose”, now this next bit is crucial! You pause like your trying to think really hard what it is (tilting your head and staring off into space with a pensive look on your face usually conveys this pretty well!) Then you sniff again, and again look pensive! Now you may actually put your finger on what that extra little smell is- but don’t worry if you don’t because this will have bought you enough time for somebody else to intervene and say what they think it is. Now this is then where you swoop in, nod in agreement, and then change what they said slightly! For example your pulling you pensive face, staring off into space, and somebody finally pipes up and says “its got a bit of blackcurrant”- you then lean in nodding and say “yes, like a nice bit of cassis” then lean back in your seat with a smug look on your face! Now if your with people and nobody knows what it is in the wine (best way to spot this is look around and if everyone is staring off into space then its safe to assume nobody knows) then nobody is going to venture a guess- do not panic! this is your moment to shine, because everyone is too afraid to be wrong, they’re probably a little impressed at you for spotting that extra little bit in the first place, so you just pipe up and say something vague but succinct enough to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about like… “oh this has such classic malbec flavours!” Now this won’t make you look like an expert straight away- but what it will do is give you practice in getting the actions down for when you do spot something in the wine that nobody else can put their finger on! Essentially when you’re wine tasting your training your palate- so the more you do it the more you’ll recognise certain characteristics, like peppery notes in shiraz or vanilla in oaked chardonnay.
So at this stage you’ve been to a few wine tastings- your palate is developing nicely, and you know what you’re smelling in the glass! Well you are about to enjoy a pretty gratifying experience in wine tasting! Now they rarely happen (to me at least…) but when they do it is imperative ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE! that you milk them for everything they’re worth. Now this doesn’t actually differ all that much from faking like you know what you’re talking about- you smell it, look confused, say the line, and stare off into space, but when you go back for your second sniff you pull the glass away from your nose and with a face that looks like you’re saying EUREKA (careful not to actually say eureka) you let them all in on what it is- probably something difficult to spot like tobacco, or leather! At this stage now you’ve come so far- you’ve earned the respect of all those around you, and confirmed to yourself that these wine tastings are actually working, so it would be a real shame to fall at the last hurtle… So as nonchalantly as possible you sit back with the most intellectually smug face you can muster and let everyone else basque in the glory of you expert palate!
Its no surprise that there are certain recurring smells and tastes with different grape varieties, but through training your palate you can spot not only these but the ones that are unusual- it just takes time that’s all. But while your bidding your time, there is absolutely no harm in faking it a little bit! One final point we are slowly but surely getting our act together on organising wine tasting evenings- its just debating on the format of them. We’re not sure if we should focus on one grape variety (like cabernet) and try them from all over the world to see how different they can be, or we might just do it region by region… So if ye have any suggestions or any particular preference don’t be afraid to let us know- either below as a comment, or telling us in store, or even if it suits you can e mail us at woodberrywines@eircom.net

Anyways look forward to hearing from ye, and hope ye enjoy your next wine tasting where you can stare off into space looking like an expert!