Today, Friday the 18th September, is International Grenache day. While it's unlikely that you need an excuse to drink wine on a Friday, here's some good reasons for making it a glass of Grenache.
Why should you drink it? Chester Osborn of d'Arenberg wines in Australia said; "Once people taste a good Grenache they are converted, but the challenge lies in getting them to try it. As a variety, it has wonderfully fresh, sweet red fruits, beautiful spices and lively tannins. It's a great blending tool, but also makes brilliant single variety wines." Master of Wine Jancis Robinson states that "Grenache is an unlikely hero of a grape".
You may have been drinking Grenache without even realising it; it's one of the most widely planted varietals, being particularly popular in Spain (as Garnacha) and France where it is dominant in many Southern Rhone wines including the delicious (and often expensive) Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
In isolation, Grenache exhibits red fruit flavours of strawberry and raspberry with a spicy / peppery edge. This flavour profile makes it a good blending candidate and is commonly added to Shiraz / Mourvedre often labelled by Australia producers as 'GSM'.
Grenache wines to try:
La Garnacha 2014 Salvaje del Moncayo, Majestic, £7.49 (on offer)
"Powerful aromas of wild berries and tobacco leaf are tempered by a sense of freshness and floral edges. The middleweight palate has ripe red fruit, minerality and subtle French oak."
Blason des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Waitrose, £14.49 (on offer)
Finding decent Châteauneuf-du-Pape at sub £20 is difficult but this is good value for money (it's currently discounted from £22). "Rich texture and spicy red fruit flavours, bursting with heady redcurrant fruit followed by a smooth layer of cherry liqueur and a spicy finish. Best enjoyed with grilled lamb or pork."
Rioja Reserva 2010 CVNE, Majestic, £7.99 (on offer)
This award winning wine is described as "a soft luxurious wine, mid garnet in colour with a lovely brambly nose and a hint of spice. Nuances of warm leather, caramel and coffee over rich autumn fruit. Excellent balance and a lingering finish".
Decanter, the well known UK based wine magazine, recently announced its winners of their annual Wine Retail Awards for 2015.
The awards aim to offer the UK wine drinker guidance on those wine retailers who, in the view of Decanter judges, show imagination, drive and evangelism across key categories ranging from high street supermarkets to specialist retailers.
Asda - best supermarket retailer. Decanter 2015 wine retailer awards. Photo courtesy of Decanter.
There were some new names on the winners podium this year with Asda winning best supermarket, usurping the multiple winning M&S who took second place.
The Wine Society was a worthy repeat winner of the National Retailer of the Year (we are big fans) with Oddbins coming second.
Other notables were Uncorked of London taking the award for Small Independent Retailer and the crowd funded and quite fabulous New Zealand Wine Cellar recently opened in Brixton winning the award for the best Specialist Retailer of Australian and New Zealand wines.
Congratulations to all the winners - we will look at a number of these in more detail in the near future.
It has been announced that Tesco are to close their online wine community which had been established back in 2011 to act as a forum for wine lovers to communicate, gone too are the tastings that will cease in October.
Focus for the supermarket is around reducing its online and in-store wine ranges inline with an overall focus driven by the current CEO to reduce product ranges across the board.
The closure of the site has upset many of its members and it is expected that the reduction of its wine range is likely to disappoint many of its customers.
We at mywinespace believe that to find great value interesting wines you need to get out of the supermarket bargain buckets and into grown up wine retailers who know their stuff and will deliver a very personalised service.
One of the sections on our developing site will be around which outlets (high street and online) are worth a visit.
Our first article on where to buy your wine focuses on the award winning Majestic where down to earth qualified staff will hold your hand through the whole selection and help you find a bottle of something special.
To all our fellow lovers and wannabe lovers of wine, it's so lovely to be back.
For anyone following our website, you'll note that not much had happened with our magazine. Despite being award winning (pardon the minor boast) as a project which is effectively done solely as a about of love, it was't sustainable and meant that it took to long to compile and didn't allow us to release content on the fly.
So we've decided instead to change direction and post content on the site as and when it happens. Our aim remains unchanged; helping people understand more about wine to help them become wine lovers confident in their ability to understand and navigate through different wines, regions, etc. but all done in a light hearted way. This is not meant to be like going to school!
So we hope you enjoy our new site. We're probably going to tweak it as we go and we figure out what is and isn't working but any feedback is welcome.
We have previously tasted and reviewed see of the wines on the Majestic 'Definition' range within our wine reviews section.
We felt that they represented good value for money with a nice range of grape varietals and regions to suit most shoppers.
Turns out we were not alone. Since the launch of the range in Autumn 2015, Majestic have seen sales top the £5m mark with their Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and Rioja Reserva being the most popular.
At the recent International Wine Challenge and Decanter World Wine Awards the range came away with 24 medals including 2 gold medals at the IWC for their Chardonnay and Rioja Reserva (both reviewed here).
Recently the range has grown from 12 to 14 wines with the addition of a Pouilly Fume and a Chianti Classico.
Pricing is between £8 and £14 and are available in-store and online.
The world of wine has its rotation of darlings of the moment. Years ago it was the sickly sweet German Liebfraumilch, then the buttery oily Chardonnays followed by the often thin and tasteless Pinot Grigios. One of the more recent additions is New Zealand.
Hitting the shelves with as much oomph as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the clever marketing folk at Cloudy Bay created an exclusive and high quality brand image that was backed by an interesting mouth-watering Sauvignon Blanc. The New Zealand version of the grape variety was much crisper and juicier than the French Sancerre version and often had a grassy/limey/capsicum edge to it. In a world of bland Pinot Grigios, these taste sensations had as big a wow factor as the special effects of Peter Jacksons trilogy. Limited availability meant this only added to the buzz and the desirability factor – New Zealand wine suddenly became very exciting and fashionable.
But it’s been some time since the Kiwi wines made their initial impact in the UK. Is popularity starting to wane? Are people looking for the next taste experience or fashionable region to take its place? Is Kiwi wine starting to head towards the big Black Tower in the sky?
Absolutely not. Many of the ‘one hit’ wonders mentioned already have been relatively one dimensional, often to the detriment of the wine region. Germany was solely focused on low alcohol very sweet whites for the mass market which has tainted peoples perception of German wines. To this day, this damage is still being felt. I brought a very nice bottle of German Riesling to a dinner party recently and as soon as people saw the funny label and learned where it was from, the facial expressions were being set to ‘grimace’. It was only when I was not force-feeding people to try it did they realise that it was probably not a prank and potentially very nice, And it was. Yes it was sweeter than other whites being sampled that night but the Riesling had gorgeous fresh acidity that provided the wine with excellent balance; very different from those German wines we guzzled in the eighties and nineties.
Of the recent public favourites, Australia has been facing some criticism in the press for not moving with the times. The trademark full bodied and [often] high alcohol Shiraz and oily Chardonnays are still very much in full view on supermarket shelves (though more up market offerings are moving with the times). The British public are apparently more concerned about their alcohol intake and are growing wary of wines with alcohol levels in excess of 13%. Many Aussie reds are well in excess of this with 14.5% being more like the norm. Much of this alcohol is as a result of the sugar generated in the berries because of the extreme Aussie temperatures and managing this while still producing a wine with balance is incredibly difficult.
You could quite rightly state that New Zealand is at risk of becoming a one [or two] trick pony with its lead characters being zingy Sauvignon Blanc and spicy Pinot Noirs. They have been star performers but we are easily bored; we need variety in our lives. Does New Zealand deliver this? It does. In fact the wonderful Pinots and Sav Blancs are only the first instalment in the blockbuster that is the Kiwi wine trilogy.
The second instalment is all about regionality. The Kiwis are very proud of the distinct characteristics of their wines that make them unmistakably NZ. More often than not even novice winetasters can pick out a Kiwi wine in a blind tasting. But some of the winemakers there are looking to impart a sense of local terroir to give them that additional complexity. How this is handled is very important; it is vital that there still is s distinct New Zealand style to the wines. After all that is what has made them incredibly successful. A number of years ago I visited one of the most famous Pinot producers in Marlborough. It was on this very site that I fell in love with Kiwi wines and an event that started a particular fascination for Pinot Noir, one of the most difficult grapes to make good wine with. When I went to the cellar door I was giddy as a school boy on Christmas morning – I could hardly contain my excitement. The I tasted the wine. That New Zealand Pinot Noir with its powerful fruit structure, hints of spice, and excellent balance with soft round tannins was gone. If I’m being honest, it tasted like they had added water to the wine I had drank there previously meaning the characteristics were significantly less pronounced. The wine was actually very boring. Seeing my shocked expression, the host thought this was surprise at how wonderful their wine was. “I know what you’re thinking”, she proudly proclaimed, “just like the great wines of Burgundy in France!” She couldn’t have been further from the mark.
While imitation is a form of flattery, in this case it really wasn’t. Instead of producing some of New Zealand’s best and exciting Pinot Noir they decided to make something no better than very cheap French table wine. Oh, but charged 10 times the price. Why??? We’re in New Zealand at an award winning winery noted for their full, complex Pinot Noirs and they are proudly serving Ribena light. Also, pardon the obvious but if I would have wanted to taste French Pinot at a winery I could have achieved that with a few hours on a train rather than a day stuck on a 747 with screaming kids, snoring parents and dodgy movies to pass the time. The French also do the French style significantly better than other nations.
Thankfully, this copycat mentality did not catch on. Kiwi winemakers are very proud of their product and are looking to improve its complexities and ageing potential rather than mimic what other regions produce.
One excellent example of this focus on regionality is being spear headed by Villa Maria. One of the largest producers and exporters of New Zealand wines they have recently begun showcasing wines from individual vineyards which indeed have a distinct flavour of the local terroir. They have taken Pinot and Sav Blanc, and produced wines with interesting individual nuances that reflect the soil and climate of the region they hail from while remaining unmistakably Kiwi. What is astonishing is how varied the tastes and textures are from plots of land that are on some cases only a hop, skip and a jump away from each other. It’s obviously much harder work producing wines from single vineyards but the results are well worth the effort. Villa Maria recently held a very interesting tasting event that involved a blind comparison between their wines and the main Old World players. This included France for their Sav Blanc and Pinot. The results were impressive; not only were the Kiwi wines the general winners on the night, when the price of Old and New world wines were compared, the Kiwis were always cheaper and usually significantly so. In most cases you could pick the Kiwi wines from the Old World version but New Zealand tended to be more interesting and complex and significantly better value.
The third and probably most spectacular instalment of the trilogy is a bit of a ‘card up the sleeve’ of NZ. While the World has marvelled at its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, the Kiwi’s haven’t been resting on their laurels. Instead they have been working hard to exploring new potential wine regions and experimenting with other grape varieties. The results are very exciting.
Chardonnay has been established for some time now and the New Zealand style is very different to their Aussie neighbours; the cooler climate leads to lighter style wines that are elegant with little oak. Also expect some fresh green notes and tinges of minerality. Many of us that are generally not Chardonnay drinkers are pleasantly surprised at how delicious the New Zealand versions are.
Next up is Syrah [aka Shiraz]. Again the cooler climate leads to wines with more complexity and layers than those from hotter climates. One of the most exciting regions for producing Syrah and other Bordeaux blend reds [Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon] is a region called Gimblett Gravels. This may sound like a region somewhere in the depts. Of Mordor but actually it is in Hawkes Bay on the East Coast of the North Island. Up to the late 1980’s this was regarded as the worst piece of land in the area, not fit for growing crops or grazing sheep – the only use the land had was for mining gravel. It amused the locals no end when people started planting grapes on this barren and stony land but it was the innovative and slightly daft vineyard owners who had the last laugh. After some fine tuning the area was found to produce wines of exceptional flavour and complexity, the hostile soils making the vines work ridiculously hard to produce fruit which would be low yielding and full of flavour. In many peoples opinion, this is potentially the holy grail for wine production that could rival or even [dare we say] better the examples coming from Bordeaux.
Back to the white wines, Riesling is fast becoming an established wine from New Zealand with styles to suit all palates. In hotter parts of the country such as Central Otago, the Rieslings have a more mineral, flint character often with that trademark petrol smell. In cooler climes such as Marlborough, Rieslings tend to be fruitier, and sweeter with fresh acidity. In our big Kiwi tasting we were surprised to find that there was a Riesling to suit all tastes, even for those who originally classified themselves as Riesling-haters.
Completing the set are two more white wine varietals; Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. Both of these wines vary in style significantly between producers with the key difference being levels of sweetness. Expect the traditional aromas of Lychees and Turkish Delight with the Gewürztraminer but with more fruit and a fresher style than the Old World versions. The Pinot Gris varied more dramatically with some versions being a more interesting take on Pinot Grigio with others rich and syrupy.
And if you’re looking for a sequel [if they exist where there is a trilogy] the left fielder to keep an eye out for is Kiwi dessert wines. Last time I visited NZ and did a cellar tour I was absolutely blown away by their pudding wines – an intense experience where fruit, sugar and acidity are in perfect balance. But for many years we have been denied access to these little bottle wonders because of EU regulations on alcohol levels. But after 15 years of relentless campaigning the EU has been convinced [finally] that we are old enough to take care of ourselves and a green light ha been giving to import them into the UK. Halleluiah.
So we come to the end of our journey around the wines of New Zealand. A voyage less harrowing than Mr. Frodos and a lot more fun to be a part of than fighting ugly looking wart covered monsters. If you want to do that I suggest you try our local Walkabout on a Thursday night.
At a recent visit to a very reputable restaurant in Amsterdam, I noticed on the wine list that a Pinot Grigio was the most expensive white wine. Intrigued, I asked the friendly wine guy about it explaining that typically in the UK, Pinot Grigio was seen as the entry level house wine and not the flagship event. He told me that it was his favourite wine on the whole list and I am easily led astray. We ordered a bottle and it looked...interesting.
I don't like the look of yours much...
When I looked at it, it didn't look appealing. Thankfully we had been pre-warned that this was an Orange Wine. For those folks who have never heard of Orange Wine, here's why it looks (and tastes) so funky.
Traditionally, white wine is made by pressing the white wine grapes and then avoiding any subsequent contact with the skins. For red wine, this is generally preferred as the skins give the wine extra colour and add tannin. Tannins on most white wines are generally seen as a no-no.
However, for the production of orange wine, the wine maker employs more of a red wine making approach ensuring that there is sufficient contact with the grape skins to give the wine some tannin and colour; it can look odd if you're not expecting it.
As for the taste, this orange wine was a Radikon Pinot Grigio 2014 from Italy and was clearly a wine that sat between a white and a red. Initial flavours were more red wine dominant with gentle blackberry / strawberry fruit flavours followed by a white wine pear drop finish that was rich and buttery.
Not an experience that would appeal to everyone but you never know until you try!
We all have wine lovers (or wine lover wannabes) in our life. We're here to here to help take the stress out of panic buying the right gift for your favourite wino.
Our pick of top wine gifts for this Christmas
1. Decanter: No wine lovers house is complete without a decanter as a centre piece. If you're feeling generous, Riedel are the Rolls Royce equivalent and have some amazing decanters that are nothing short of wine porn. However, you can get really nice decanters from other brands from around the £35 mark. Try John Lewis as a starter.
2. Glasses: Not courtesy of specsavers but nice glasses to hold your wine in. Again, Riedel set the benchmark for the serious wine professional, but there are some cute and trendy alternatives that are very successful at holding wine while also looking rather trendy. A nice selection of plain and pattern glasses for all budgets are at Debenhams at a variety of price ranges.
4. A Wine log: Many serious wine drinkers like to keep notes of wines they had. While there are lots of wine apps out there that do the job, there's something special about having an old fashioned paper based version. Here's a really nice one that can be personalised from notonthehighstreet.
5. Nose trainers!: The real wine geeks love the challenge of identifying smells within a wine and this kit allows your wine lover to practice without having to open a bottle. Available from WineWare at the starting price of £28.
6. Wine Society Subscription: This is an absolute no brainer for us. For a measly £40 you get membership of the best wine membership there is where you are part of a not for profit organisation that sells exceptionally good wines that represent fantastically good value for money. Oh, and you get a £20 credit for your first order! Check them out at The Wine Society.
7. Wine course: We believe that a little bit of knowledge makes wine a lot more fun. There are lots of wine courses out there from fun to factual. On the fun side, check out providers such as LocalWineSchool. If you want to get a bit more technical, the WSET provide industry recognised qualifications for all levels.
8. Wine taste lab: Something we have tried from Honest Grapes this excellent wine tasting lab forces you to taste wines without knowing what they are and not be influenced by the label. You answer some questions and they come back with some real insight as to what wines you like and why you like them.
9. Corkscrews: There is real ceremony in opening a bottle of wine and we all have a favourite corkscrew. Trendy wine drinkers just love having a good old-style corkscrew which is much better at delicately extracting a fragile cork from an old bottle. Check out WineWare for a great selection but we're hoping Santa brings us a hand crafted Laguiole.
10. Bottle of wine: An easy one to end on. Who doesn't like to get a bottle of wine as a gift? But don't go to your supermarket and pick up one on offer, instead find a good local independent wine shop, tell them a little about teh recipient and get them to pick one for your budget. Places like The Sampler have a fantastic selection of wines across most price ranges.
So there you have it - all your Christmas shopping concerns sorted. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy a well earned glass yourself.
Man, that's one hell of a sales pitch. My initial reaction having seen this curious headline was that this must be a piece circulated by Hallmark or some other empire that profits off the forced romance of Valentines Day. Then I realised that it's not actually February...
So, on digging further, it seems that the research has in fact been published in the Journals of Gerontology ( a much better 'ology' than the Scientology crew) which makes it seem even more official. They even titled the article as Drinking Patterns Among Older Couples: Longitudinal Associations With Negative Marital Quality which suggests that those involved with the publication were taking their task quite seriously and didn't have the time, resources or inclination to devise a punchy or humorous title....
If you want to read the official report, knock yourself out (or at least sedate yourself heavily) and click through here. However, to save time, let us instead argue the case based on many years and bottles of wine that drinking wine can indeed save your relationship.
Wine makes you and your surroundings more interesting. This is achieved either through people sharing a common passion for wine, increasing your animation levels and making you more interesting to those around you or providing a level of intoxication that acts as a diffuser to unwanted interference. Political debate is like nails on a blackboard to many, but add a bottle of Rioja and all of a sudden its a Punch and Judy show for adults.
Nice wine makes you happy. And euphoria is infectious. They say misery likes company but company would much rather silliness and Chardonnay.
Arguing after (too much) wine doesn't count. If we do remember having an argument, we usually can't remember what it was about. It gets all the angry out of the system in a controlled manner where slip ups such as 'you are turning into your mother' and thankfully forgotten by the next day. This release mechanism means we don't need to have real arguments which is nice for all involved.
Wine collections keep couples together. Of those possessions where there is a genuine concern as to what happens post relationship, the order of priority is (1) dog, (2) wine and (3) children. If your dusty bottles all of a sudden have some fingerprint marks, these could be a sign of your other half weighing up his or her options before making a call to stay or to go. If you don't have a dog and do have nice wine, best cook something special, wear something clingy and suggest an early night.
So in conclusion, it is interesting to note that, (without scientific qualifications or substantial lottery funding) we have managed to come to the same conclusion as our intellectual superiors. However, I bet we had a lot more fun completing our research... ;-)
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