Damn my forgetfulness!

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So I new this date was coming up and i was really excited about it and everything…. then i forget all about it! What am i on about??? well our blogs one year anniversary obviously! Anyways just wanted to say that have enjoyed doing the blog over the last year and hope everyone has ebnjoyed reading it- might get a little wierd at times (like the pinotage post) it might be a little funny hopefully (like the bluffing your way through wine tasting post) but i always hope you find it entertaining! So after a year if there is anything you would like done differently- like maybe not go for so many exclamation points!!!! please let me know!
Also while I’ve got you ear! June 16th- keep this day free! Thats right- we’ve finally gotten around to organising some sort of wine tasting event. We’ll be focussing on New Zealand wines- which i know will be a hit with everyone. So while we don’t have much more info on it than that, we thought we’d let you know cause spaces will be limited! Anyways you can easily book your place now by e mail, phone, or popping into us in the store!
So one alst time- happy 1 year to us, and thank you everyone who has read the blog over the past year… and don’t worry, we can only get better at it!

Pinotage!

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Definitely one of the more interesting grape varieties out there- Pinotage! Every now and then its nice to venture into the obscure- in the words of Captain James T Kirk “To Boldly go where no man has gone before!” And while pinotage is hardly where no man (or woman- we’ll be a bit more politically correct than that chauvinist Kirk!) has gone before, it would definitely be a very different variety for a lot of people! Its South Africa’s signature variety, and as such anyone who has travelled to South Africa will generally fall in love with it. But for those who just try it once of, it can be a bit of a shock to the senses- but we’ll get back to that later. First off as always the technically bit of info! Its a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, and is the brain child of one Abraham Izak Perold. Now clearly good old Abraham loved- and i mean loved!- his Pinot Noir, but he was sick and tired of how finicky and difficult the damn grape was to grow right? rumour has it (and by rumour I mean complete fiction that i just came up with to make the story a little more interesting…) he used to lie awake at night ranting like a lunatic sometimes neighbours would hear him screaming at night time in vineyards at the pinot noir grapes as they were growing “why can’t you be more like cinsaut???” he would inquire “why?????” until one day by complete chance he was drinking he’s Pinot Noir- as he usually would cause he loved it so much- but when he went to top up his glass he accidentally picked up a bottle of cinsaut and poured it in to the same glass. Naturally our hero was scared of his creation- “what have i done?” he cried as he fell to the floor “I’ve created a monster!!!” he proclaimed as he tore he’s hair out! He was clearly fond of a bit of drama… but as he calmed down, he looked upon his Frankenstein with pride- holding it up to the light he uttered one word, one word which solved all the heart ache he had suffered over the years with that damn pinot noir grape, one word which ended an era of heart break and ushered in a new era that would define South African wine forever- one word: Pinotage!
Well now that that digression is over we can go on…. for anyone looking for a more accurate account of the origin of pinotage you can find it here at wikipedia, but to be honest with you i think i prefer my little bit of fiction…. Anyways if there is still anyone reading this we’ll get back to Pinotage! Now the actual name comes from a marriage of the words pinot noir obviously, and the name by which cinsaut is more commonly known in South Africa- Hermitage. Now more about that unique taste which can be a bit off putting at first. It typically produces deep varietal reds with smoky bramble and earthy flavours- definitely unique but not all that obscure i hear you say! But its the addition of flavours of caramelised bananas which is where this wine gets interesting… now it sounds like a strange combination, especially when you get the addition of some tropical fruits with it as well- but you’re really going to have to trust me, when its done right its a fantastic wine. The complexity the variety offers is 100% unique and as such its no wonder its such a special wine, and no wonder at all that it is the variety that defines not only South African wine, but also South African wine innovation. There will be more on South African wine in the next couple of weeks… but don’t worry I’ll work on cutting out the obscure bits of fiction!

Break the Rules! Thats what They’re there For!!

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What rule? You ask, why the most basic food pairing rule, part of our collective inheritance, White wine with fish, red wine with meat. Part of the fun and enjoyment many of us get from wine is the experimentation side of it. Now I’m not suggesting having a big brooding Aussie Shiraz with a light piece of plaice, but there are thousands of different wines out there and hundreds of different fish, so why not break the rules and add some excitement to your fish dishes! White wines work particularly well because of their high levels of acidity, just think of lemons with fish, again acidity, helps deal with the oily side of fish.

Warning Scientific Bit:

There’s plenty of useful wisdom built into this particular rule. For one, it’s meant to stop the pairing of lighter-bodied wines with heavy, over-powering foods and vice-versa. It’s also born of the idea that the high tannins and low acidity of some red wines make a very poor (and often grossly metallic) match for the oils found in plenty of seafood dishes. The rule even picked up a bit of scientific evidence last year, when a team of Japanese researchers discovered that the high iron content of red wine exacerbates the ‘fishy’ aftertaste of scallops.

3 Reds For Fish:

Knowing the background to the rule, however, just gives you all the more ammo to break it.
1) Pinot Noir; An elegant, lighter-bodied, with good acidity red that is a great with simple grilled or baked salmon or trout. A personal favourite of mine is baked salmon with a sweet chill sauce and a fruity New World Pinot.
2) Rioja; a good opportunity to consider the wine’s region, and then eat like a local (or vice-versa). The next time you try your hand at paella, go straight for a lighter-bodied Rioja crianza level or below would be best.
3) Barbera; with refreshing acidity, complex fruit-and-earth notes, and very soft tannins, Barbera is an excellent match for tuna’s rich, meaty flesh. Throw it on the grill alongside well-oiled veggies, just like the Italians do.

The wine lake… actually not as good as it sounds…

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Somebody was telling me (and this really sounds way to good to be true!) that in Laos you can hop on the rubber rings and follow the course of the river where there are bars dotted all along the bank- and whenever you need a top up, or if you spot a bar you like, you can just pull over and get a beer… now i don’t know about you, but if this is true I’m thinking Laos could be worth a visit. So when i heard the words Wine Lake…. you can imagine where my mind went first! You can also imagine the disappointment to find out there wasn’t a lake you can float around to different bars and top up your wine glass!

So what is this Wine Lake- if its not the greatest holiday destination in the world??? Well essentially it refers to a surplus of wine produced in the European Union every year. They have actually been producing about 1.7….. BILLION!!! bottles of wine more than they sell… So with this excess wine the have this practice called “emergency distillation” whereby they just distill the wine and turn it into industrial alcohol! Now this is far from ideal really- for 2 reasons (at least!) One: it costs the European union 500 Million euros every year to carry out this “Emergency Distillation!”
And Two: It means Grape prices have dropped, and when the profit falls out of anything… there really isn’t much incentive for anyone to keep plugging away at it! So is our romantic view of wine growers throughout Europe in decline? We see it here with our own farmers, our fishermen, etc. so really at the end of the day unless something is done this could bring about a change whereby the gap between the rich Chateau’s, Bodegas, and Villa’s and the poorer Wine producers widens and as such all we are left with is mass produced wine….
So what is being done to drain this Wine Lake- aside from temporary fixes which cost us 500million a year… Well it seems that we have to uproot a lot of the vines throughout Europe- in Bordeaux alone the plan is 17,000 hectares of vines! Chances are this will solve problem number 1, but i don’t know what its going to do for problem number 2… But its a situation whereby not everyone can be kept happy!

IBERIAN SUPERSTARS REGION BY REGION PART 2

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What makes Portugal different in regards their styles of wine production, as a Nations shy away in some respects from the popular international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Whereas Tempranillo is king in Spain, Portuguese wines; red or white, are made from varying blends of local indigenous grapes. The following is a list of some of Portugal’s main wine producing regions and includes a list of the most common grapes varieties produced there.

DOURO

Douro region, is located some distance upstream, of the Douro river from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence. The region has Portugal’s ‘s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origen Controlada (DOC). While the region is associated primarily with Port Wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine as it does Port. Vineyards dedicated to Port production are usually planted on schist while areas with granite-based soils are used for table wine production. A large number of grape varieties are grown in the Douro region, most of them local Portuguese grapes. For a long time, Vineyards of mixed plantation were the norm, and most of the time, the vineyard owners didn’t know which grape varieties they were growing. A pioneering effort were made in the 1970s which identified Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca as the prime dark-skinned grape varieties. This work was important for creating the new wave of top Douro wines and has also led to a greater focus on the grape varieties that go into Port wine. Most top quintas now replant with single-variety vineyards and focus on a limited number of varieties, but older, mixed vineyards will remain in production for many decades to come.

LISBOA

In early 2009, the region was renamed from Estremadura to Lisboa to avoid confusion with the Spanish wine region Extremadura and apparently ‘to capitalize on the internationally well-known name of the country’s capital’. The region is classified as a Vinho Regional (VR), a designation similar to a French vin de pays. While the Alentejo VR is the largest geographically, the Lisboa region is Portugal’s largest producer of wine by volume. The region stretches from Lisbon northwards along the Atlantic coast. The principle grapes of the Lisboa region include the white varieties Antao Vaz, Arinto, Chardonnay, and the reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano, Tinta Amarela and Argonez (Tempranillo).

THE SETÚBAL PENINSULA

Península de Setúbal,is another recently renamed region, untill 2009 it was called Terras do Sado, it is a vinho regional (VR) covering the Setúbal Peninsula and the Sado River region. Within the VR is located the smaller the Setúbal Denominação de Origen Controlada (DOC). The region is almost completely surrounded by the Alentejo VR. Red wines produced under the Península de Setúbal VR must contain a blend of at least 50% of one of or a blend of the following grapes Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Touriga Nacional. The remaining 50% can include a multitude of indigenous grape varieties. As with the reds, the white wines of the region must contain at least 50% of one of the following or a blend of Arinto, Chardonnay, or Rouperio. The remaining 50% can include Antao Vaz, Savignon Blanc or Ugni Blanc.

ALENTEJO

Alentejo is portugal’s largest wine producing region, located in the south of the country. The entire region is entitled to use the designation Alentejano VR, while some areas are also classified at the higher Denominação de Origen Controlada (DOC) level under the designation Alentejano DOC. Located in the southern half of Portugal, the Alentejo region covers about a third of the country and is sparsely populated. The region’s other notable wine export is cork, but in recent years the table wine produced in this region have garnered attention. There are eight sub regions of the Alentejo region that are entitled to the Alentejo DOC designation. The names of the sub regions may be indicated on the label together with the name Alentejo, for example as Alentejo-Borba. As in the rest of Portugal the majority of wine produced in Alentejo uses indigenous Portuguese grapes the most important red varities are Agonez, Touriga Nacinonal, Touriga Franca, and the most important white grapes are Arinto, Rouperio and Antao Vaz.

IBERIAN SUPERSTARS REGION BY REGION PART 1

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RIBERA DEL DUERO
Ribera del Duero is a Spanish (DO) located in the countrys northern plateau. It is also one of several recognised wine-producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river others include Toro and Rueda. The Ribera del Duero is located on the extensive, elevated northern plateau of the Iberian Peninsula. As its name suggests, the region follows the course of the Duero river for approximately 115 km.The region is characterised by a largely flat, rocky terrain, Ribera del Duero is dedicated almost entirely to the production of red wine, the vast majority of production is dedicated to Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo), the most popular grape in the northern half of the Spanish peninsula. The Albillo grape is the only white variety grown, white wines being mostly destined for local consumption.
RUEDA

To west of Ribera Del Duero along the Duero River is Rueda DO. It is known primarily for its quality white wines based on the verdejo grape. The climate is continental (long hot summers, cold winters) with a certain Atlantic maritime influences. Temperatures vary widely and can drop below zero in winter (-1°C) and can reach 30°C in summer, which is not as high as similar wine-producing regions in Southern Central Spain. There is a risk of frost, freezing fog, high winds and hailstones in winter/spring. On the other hand there is only a very small possibility of drought. Rueda mainly produces whites from Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon blanc, and a very small amount of reds.


TORO
 The area covered by the Toro DO is to the west  along the Duero river  from Rueda D.O and Ribera Del Duero. Toro has experienced rapid growth in the last decade with the number of producers almost trebling in number, it is considered the rising star of the Spanish wineworld. The area has an extreme continental climate (long, hot summers, cold winters) with small Atlantic influences. Temperatures vary greatly, ranging from -11°C in winter to 37°C in summer. Rainfall is light, with high chance of drought. Wine produced here is almost exclusively red from the local variety of Tempranillo called Tinta de Toro, almost no other red grapes are grown and the small amount of  whites produced, are for local consumption only. Due to the long hours of daylight Toro wines tend to be high in Alcohol and to gain Toro D.O status a wine must be vinified at 15% ABV or less.

New Arrivals!

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So i think this could be the start of something great for our little blog- becasue at the end of the day we get a lot of new wines in pretty regularly into the store. But last wednesday we started our Iberian Superstars promotion! Which has meant that we have now got a lot of new Spanish and Portuguesse wines on offer at the moment! Now we geenrally send out e mails to whoever is on our database detailing what exactly is on offer, but it only recently occured to me (yes i am a bit of a slow learner…) that not everyone is on our database… Well first off shame on you if you aren’t, but do not fear becasue this will become a regular little blog segment detailing what is new!
First off they way we work our special offers is easy- you can get 2 for €20, 2 for €25, or 2 for €30! and if that wasn’t enough…. we are always have some fine wine that has 20% off it! Also feel free to mix across the offers- we don’t mind that! So enough of me rambling on explaining how a special offer works, I’m sure ye are all more than capable to figure it out!
First off- in the 2 For €20 range we’ve got 3 new ones! A white from Prova Regia, a red from the Douro region, both of which are portuguesse, and finally a red from Navarra…. but something a little different! The white is made from 100% Arinto, and has an exuberant nose of passionfruit and pineapple, the palate is then vibrant and refreshing! The red (Porca de Murca) is made from some of the more traditional grapes to come from Douro region, this wine is pretty good value with a palate full of sweet red cherry and currants. The finish then offers a great sweet black pepperiness which lingers nicely. The Spanish red (Pagos De Araiz) is interesting- 60% Tempranillo, 20%Merlot, and 20& Cabernet Sauvignon… Don’t think i’ve ever tried a blend like this before, but Navarra can be much more mellow than the neighbouring- and much more famous region of- Rioja so this blend of big grapes could actually be pretty nice (I’m actually going to take a bottle home tonight just to see what its like, I’ll let ye know in the comment section below tomorrow!)
So on to the 2 for €25’s- Quite a few new ones- 5 in total for this section! First up Urbion Crianza– 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, Lovely intense cherry colour with mineral and Roated coffee aromas. The palate is meaty but balanced- a must for anyone who likes Rioja Crianza’s! Second- not quite a new one, its actually been in the store about a month already, but thought it could do with a mention- Vina los Valles Crainza 70:30– The 70:30 stands for 70% Tempranillo 30% Graciano, but what will really wine you over is that its organic (no that doesn’t mean no sulphites, but it is still nice to know!) Medium Bodied, deep cherry red colour. Subtle aromas of ripe red fruits, with elegant spicy notes of leather. Well balanced maturity and a nice acidity- Well worth a try, cause the Graciano really brings something new to this Crianza! Third- Quinta Dos Aciprestes. Imagine my dissapointment… we’ve had the reserva of this wine for a while now, and it is fantastic! It really is- it’s even manageed to win over some of the most die hard Rioja fans, and that takes some work! So anyways, I finish work on Saturday and take a bottle of this home lookkin forward to it because it’s a blend I’ve never tried before- Touringa Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tempranillo! Should go great with Roast pork… but it was corked… almost ruined my evening! But these things happen and no matter how careful the producer is- but rest assured i will try it and leave the notes in the Comment box.
Forth- one of the 2 new whites in this range. Tempestad Godello. If you like unoaked Chardonnay then this is for you! Fresh minerality on the nose, it has a rich, balanced palate with a touch of creaminess on the lingering finish. And 5th- Dilluvio Albarino (take note of my oh so cleverly titled blog below!) needs a bit to open up, but otherwise a classic Albarino, and very good value.
OK so in the 2 for €30 range we’ve got 2 new ones! Pegos Claros Garrafeira– A warm enticing nose with a sweet blurt of raspberry, nice figgyness and velvety tannins with blueberry fruit! Definitely something different and well worth a try! And secondly- Herdade Da Farizoa, Alentejo Res, 2006. One of the more interesting blends to come from this region, which gets a lot of sunshine. And that’s just what makes this so interesting- Touringa Nacional, Tempranillo, and Syrah…. yes thats right! Wonderful flavours of deep plum, with touches of fig. Blackberry, black fruit gums dominate on the palate, but also get some support form some freshness with firm supporting tannins! Well Worth a Try!
So thats the lot, but we do have around 35 wines from Spain and Portugal on promotion at the moment- so you’ll definitely find something you like in there! Anyways look forward to seeing ye soon!