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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 3M ago
As the winter finally tips towards spring we’re now hoping for a generous amount of warmer weather hitting our shores. Who can beat a bottle of good wine outside on a balmy night?Light red wines are perfect for drinking, tasting and sharing, don’t need to cost a fortune and it’s quite easy to find great examples. As a rule of thumb we need to head to cold climates to find light reds, as opposed to warmer climates on the other side of the world. Let’s have a look together! What are They?

These are wines made to feel light-bodied (see our blog post on ‘What’s a Wine Body') and refreshing in the mouth. They're also generally lower in alcohol (under 13.5% abv) than the big bold wines from say California or Australia.

Classic grapes used for these wines are Pinot Noir (Burgundy and New Zealand) and Gamay (Beaujolais, France). The list doesn't end here though - with 1,300 grapes currently grown, it could hardly be so! Further below we present 4 alternatives from such large set. These are all delicate grapes with gentle tannins, thin-skinned and perfectly compliment our changing seasonal foods as we head away from sticky rich stews to greener local garden produce. 

   The Classics

Pinot Noir is the benchmark wine for lighter styles, especially in Burgundy (where it originates from) and across the rest of Europe. In France it produces a wine with high acidity and low alcohol that makes it perfect, not only for current drinking but also gives it brilliant ageing potential. Top wines from Burgundy can be put away for decades, but still a supermarket Burgundy from a recent vintage can taste extraordinarily good. For a most classic example, go for a Burgundy Pinot Noir from Bouchard Pere et Fils. Pinot Noirs from New Zealand can take on very different characteristics such as a more intense jammy fruit flavour. To discover the difference from the French style described above, try a classic NZ Pinot Noir from Villa Maria.

The Beaujolais region is only a few kilometers south of Burgundy, in Central France. But their wines turn out incredibly different, although both light in body. To see the difference for yourself, pick a bottle from one of the many smaller villages in Beaujolais such as Fleurie, Julienas or St Amour. These wines made with the Gamay grape, have a level of fruitiness that is hard to beat if that's your style. For instance, Bouchard Père et Fils do a great Fleurie that can be found at many supermarkets. 

   More Exotic Light Reds

For the more unusual grape varieties and the more curious, the list can become veeeeery long. At least the following grapes should be also considered:

  • Dolcetto - Langhe, Italy
  • Cabernet Franc - Loire Valley, France
  • Cinsault - originally from the Rhone Valley, France
  • Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio - Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

Dolcetto comes from the Langhe area, in the Piedmont region in North West Italy. Its name literally means ‘little sweet one’. This wine is classically very fruity and has relatively low alcohol making it a great lunchtime companion and is friendly, approachable and affordable. A good example is Dolcetto d'Alba from producer De Forville (found at Majestic Wines).

For Cabernet Franc head to the Loire valley and the area of Chinon, where these slightly chewier wines are produced. If like me you’re left with cheese and not much else on a Sunday night then a glass of Chinon (for instance the one made by producer Marc Bredif) is a match made in heaven. 

Cinsault is another French grape that is gaining more popularity and is slowly spreading around the globe. It makes very fine reds, more medium bodied to be honest but a great discovery if you're after something unusual. I'm very fond of the Cinsault blend that Chateau Musar makes in Lebanon, under the label Hochar. Have a go at it and you won't be disappointed! PS: they also make a more pricey blend called Chateau Musar but that's for a later blog.

Last but not least, Etna Rosso - one of my favourites. This wine is made with two very unusual grapes that grow only around Mount Etna - Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. They are so unusual that it's almost pointless to try to remember them; but if you try Etna Rosso, you'll definitely remember the wines they make! These wines have the same lightness and fine aromas of a more expensive Pinot Noir, and in addition you can feel a nice savoury taste coming from the rich mineral soil of their volcanic homeland. Have a go at Etna Rosso from Planeta, one of Sicily's flagbearer winemakers. 

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A wealth of new ‘natural’ ‘organic’, or ‘biodynamic’ wines is sprawling around us and defining the buzz words of the decade. But how can we know what we are getting into? The important differences between the three are debunked in this blog post and we also have some great suggestions of wines easily available near you that you can try to see the difference for yourself.  (1) Natural Wines

Let's start with ‘natural wine’: although there is a big ‘buzz’ surrounding them at the moment, in reality wines like these have been around for thousands of years. In fact, back in the day they use to be the norm, and the exception.

There are no legal definitions of natural wine. However, ‘official-ish’ rules have been set in various countries (Italy, France and Spain) where growers self-regulate themselves and in fact can be stricter than those set by the official bodies that write the rules for organic or biodynamic wines. 

A ‘natural wine’ is made with no (or very little) chemical and technological intervention – in the vineyard, with the grapes and the process of making the wine. Only organic fertilisers are used in the vineyard, and nothing is added or removed in the cellar. No additives or anything else is used to help fermentation. The wines are not fined or filtered so the end wine is a ‘living wine’ full of natural occurring yeasts and may have quite a lot of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. So, as you can imagine, with all the uncertainty that comes from doing away with all technological and chemical support, it takes enormous skill to make a natural wine and a real awareness of the soil, grapes and terroir. 

   (2) Organic Wines

When it comes to organic wines instead, strict official rules come into play. Unfortunately, there's no internationally agreed standard but several countries have regulated the labeling of organic wines separately. A good starting point is to look out for the EU and US certification (see the logos alongside this paragraph).

Laid out bare, organic wines can include sulphites but must be made from organically grown grapes along the lines of certified protocols that apposite bodies can review for quality control. Man-made synthetic chemicals are a big ‘no no’ and wines labelled organic will have no chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and/or herbicides used in the vineyard.

  (3) Biodynamic Wines

A biodynamic wine is very similar to organic wines but the 'naturalness' of the winemaking approach is taken one step further. In particular, the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner’s ideas on agriculture are the base of the approach: in this case, the winemaker will think about the vineyard as an ecosystem and will take into consideration lunar cycles and other astronomical influences. To respect the cycles of nature, a complete lack of chemicals is prescribed, together with the use of herbal sprays and natural composting (think horses…). Among other things, for biodynamic growers the calendar tells whether it is a lunar ‘root’ or a ‘fruit’ day, and believe that the day chosen for the harvest will influence the resulting wine. Apparently 'fruit' days are the best days to drink wine.

Do we believe them?  Does the moon really effect how good a bottled wine taste?  For sure these are insights that farmers used to follow for centuries and all the way till the end of the 1950s. I think this is worth a further blog post as it’s definitely an interesting concept!

  see for yourself

Here are a few of suggestions of wines widely available at major wine shops and supermarkets to try the difference first hand.

Natural wines: there are some very good online retailers that specialize on them, carrying a large set of natural wines. Buon Vino is our go-to-option given they have some of the largest set of natural wines (as well as organic and biodynamic). 

Organic wines: Before getting into the more unusual wines, Vina Albali produce an organic Tempranillo (that can be found at Waitrose) which is a great one to start on an easy note.

Biodynamic wines: For a good bet Domaine Roche-Audran in the southern Rhone (all their wines are organic however) produce a Cote du Rhone which is worth picking out if you want to give one a go.

  Why does It Matter?

Is it worth paying more for this kind of wines? In our humble opinion: yes it is! The care and attention that has been given from the growing of the grapes to the making of the wine is above average. It is harder to produce a natural/organic/biodynamic wine because it would be much easier to throw chemicals at the problems that winemakers always face rather than keeping with nature and a natural process.

Venture that little bit more and see if you like the result. Cheers to that! 

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Are you in love with big, bold, red wines? Then Shiraz is definitely on your radar! But what about Syrah? Are they the same wine or are they different?Let's discover together what sets one apart from the other and which one is the right match for your taste. Do you wanna spot the difference first hand? In this post we suggest wines widely available for you to try and see the difference for yourself.  A Renaissance

If Sauvignon Blanc's fame can be attributed to New Zealand, then we must surely raise a glass to Australia for its role of putting Shiraz/Syrah on the wine map.

As you may have guessed by now, Shiraz and Syrah are made from exactly the same grape variety. It's a variety which has been around since the times of the ancient Phoenicians (a civilisation based 3,000+ years ago in today's Lebanon), yet it was little until the Australians virtually re-invented it!

Whether they comes from Australia or France, wines made from this grape have one definite thing in common: a deep purple colour. Also, the grape passes on to the wine a set of aromas which remind most of us of black pepper and chocolate. One may be scheptical at first, but these aromas have become such a trademark that one producer named her wine The Chocolate Block.

  The Australian SIBLING - Shiraz

The style of a good deal of Australia's Shiraz is a heavy, fruit-filled wine with a degree of sweetness from its residual sugar, which makes the wines taste particularly mouth-filling and easily to pair with food.

Whilst delicious, these wines are best consumed young or at most within a few years of their vintage. If you are looking for a good quality Shiraz, the safest bet are those coming from the Barossa Valley, like for instance [].

As usual, there're exceptions and we can find a number of high quality Shiraz that defy the rule. For instance, Shiraz is also a key element in what is, arguably, Australia's greatest red wine, Penfold's Grange.

 The French Sibling - Syrah

In France it is the great grape of the northern Rhône and is responsible for the great wines of Hermitage and Côte Rotie, as well as the more affordable Cote du Rhone reds.

Wines produced from this grape in France show a higher level of tannins than their Australian sibling. In the longer-lived examples, Syrah can be mouth-puckering when still young and will benefit by as much as decades in bottle. Patience, particularly with the likes of Hermitage and Cornas, is not only a virtue. It is a prerequisite. 

 The Newcomers

The success of Shiraz and Syrah has been such that other geographies have tried to jump on the bandwagon, and some have done with considerable success. Interestingly enough, two schools have then developed: the one that follows the Australian lead and name their wines Shiraz; and the one that takes the French approach and names their wine Syrah. It's only better for us, given that we can get more diversity and often better prices!

South Africa and more recently South America have been the most successful newcomers, but also California has shown to produce some very fine wines with some ageing potential. In recent years it has been grown very successfully in the Southern French region of Languédoc, with wines that have some of the softer, more approachable style associated with the New World.

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 3M ago
It’s happened to all of us to get some nasty headache, even after drinking some amazing wine.It’s true that, when we have a proper fun night out, we don’t notice how much we may have drunk, but there are more reasons that can lead to a hangover the day after.Let’s have a look together. Myths Debunked

Some believe that post-wine headaches are caused by sulphites but this myth has been revealed by experts a while ago: only a very small portion of us have an allergy for sulphites, with allergy and asthma symptoms as an indication.

So what are the culprits then? For most of us, the cause of a wine headache is simply drinking too much wine and not enough water. Our body takes a lot of water to break down and digest alcohol so we actually get dehydrated when we drink wine, as odd as it sounds.

The simple solution here is to always drink tons of water while drinking wine.

  Still Feeling Rough?

If you’ve been good and drank loads of water to keep yourself hydrated, there’re still three main causes for a wine headache:

Tannins

These make up one of the six basic components of wine, the one that cause that drying sensation in your mouth after a nice sip of (mostly red) wine.

For most of us, tannins will have no effect but for some they could be the root cause of a bad headache.

Test yourself by drinking a very strong black tea (which is high in tannins as well) and see if that’s the cause for you.

Sugar

When mixed with alcohol, the body requires a great deal of water to be able to process the combination of the two substances. Once again, the best recommendation is to keep hydrated.

In cheap wines, sugar is added to the grape juice to boost their alcohol content. This creates a less pure kind of alcohol that triggers headaches. That’s why cheap wines give nastier headaches.

Histamines

Certain foods and drinks, such as aged wines, can cause our bodies to release a natural chemical compound called histamines. In low doses these help defending the body against infections, but too much histamines lead to inflammation in soft tissues, like the lungs, the nose and the skin. Even when so mild to be barely noticeable, such allergic reactions come together with a thumping headache. 

  Red vs White Wine Headaches

Red wines tend to give more problems than white – so much so that some talk of red wine allergy. The reason is that both tannins and histamines are present in higher quantities in red wines so if you figured they are the reason for your headaches, drinking white wine might be your solution.

That said, a final word of caution. White wine (and sparkling wine for that matter) is a sneaky b*stard: even though it has less tannins and less histamines, on average we notice much less how much we drink of it. Usually, it’s served nice and chill, so it flows way easier than red. So we may end up with a bad headache anyway if we aren’t careful. 

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 3M ago
We've all been puzzled when drinking wine on airplane: we don't know why, but it always tastes different from what we're used to. But does the wine change when on-board? Scientifically speaking, no. Rather, it's us changing on a plane and not the wine itself. In this week's blog we look at how this happens and how we can address the problem so to able to enjoy a nice glass of wine while taking off to our next holiday destination.  Why Does Wine Taste Different on a Plane?

Recently in the news the people in charge of selecting the wines to be served on Cathay Pacific flights decided that it was pointless tasting wines on the ground because the wines tasted so different once up in the air. But do the vibrations of the plane and the air pressure change our taste buds or do they change the wine itself? Scientifically we change on a plane and not the wine itself. 

How? A few facts - Cabin atmosphere is generally 40% dryer than on the ground. This dryness affects our nose follicles which means we can’t smell as well as normal, and with 3/4ers of our taste perception being driven by our buds, it means choosing and tasting a good wine may be harder than we think.

   Can engine noise affect the taste?

A new study apparently says yes, it can. Some flavours can become more intense with loud noise - and cabins are veeeeeery noisy - whilst other flavours can be squashed. Tomato juice for example is a winner, so beginning your journey with a Bloody Mary before going on to choosing your wine could be a starter. 

Why am I always offered Chardonnay on a flight, and never Pinot noir?

Some grapes work better at high altitude than others. Pinot Noir for example is a fragile grape and the small but many vibrations of the plane, which we barely feel, may upset the flavour molecules and the wine itself may then taste too tannic (i.e. overly dry and bitter) as well as acidic. Chardonnay is a variety that makes smoother wines which withstand air pressure and vibrations, so that it consistently tastes like it should.

   Why is my red wine always chilled on a plane?

Red wines are kept alongside the refrigerated white wines for sake of preserving them until they're loaded onto planes, so both arrive on board cold. That's not a big deal: just open the red, pour it out and leave it to warm up a bit. No need to swirl it around as the changing air of the plane will open up the aromas of the wine pretty much immediately. 

Don't forget to drink water!

There’s an old saying that ‘one glass in the air is worth two on the ground’. Dehydration from cabin pressure and altitude makes alcohol rather more potent, and dehydration is the first cause of hangovers... So it’s worth having a glass or two of water in between your glasses of wine and you won’t have anything to worry about once you land.

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Finally the answer to one of the questions on wine most searched online: What’s the difference between Champagne, Prosecco and Cava? Which one is better?The most important ones are laid bare in this blog post. And if you want to spot the difference first hand, we also suggest wines widely available for you to try and see the difference for yourself.    

First things first. Only sparkling wine made in the French region of Champagne can be called Champagne. Not that want to be picky about it, but the French are highly protective of the very valuable brand they have developed with Champagne, and have made sure with legal means that no one else can use their name.

Now, that's the first thing people ask so we got that out of the way. But the differences don't end here...

  The Detailed Story

Digging deeper, the three most common sparkling wines - Champagne, Prosecco and Cava - differ from each other in many ways.

The Area

First of all, the regions where they come from is very specific. Exactly like Champagne, all of them can only carry their name if they come from specific areas:

Cava: from few regions in Spain, and most importantly from Catalonia.

Prosecco: from the North-Eastern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The Grapes

The three are made from different grapes.

Champagne: a blend of Pinot Noir (for body), Pinot Meunier (for fruitiness), and Chardonnay (for freshness).

Cava: a blend of Xarello (for body), Macabeu (for its lemony and floral aromas), and Parellada (for freshness).

Prosecco: made with the light-bodied, fragrant, and floral grape Glera.

The Technique

Champagne and Cava: made with the so-called Traditional Method (aka Champenoise in Champagne), a costly technique that includes first making a normal still wine and then bottling it with the addition of yeasts and sugars to cause a second fermentation that creates the bubbles.

Prosecco: made with the simpler and cheaper Tank Method (aka Charmat Method). The still wine in this case is put in a pressurised tank where the second fermentation takes place.

The Ageing

Champagne: minimum 15 months - the highest among the three.

Cava: usually 9 months (one of the things that make it cheaper).

Champagne and Cava get the extra benefit of ageing on the yeasts, which adds extra flavours.

Prosecco: no minimum requirements The earlier you drink it, the better!

Prosecco is a pure reflection of the Glera grape aromas.

“Most Champagnes are sold as “Non-Vintage” and the year of harvest doesn’t show anywhere on the label. Such Champagnes blend a combination of wines from different years.

A vintage Champagne instead is a blend of wines from a specific year and is only produced if the harvest has been of good enough quality.”
— Wine Fact

The Bubbles

Thanks to different winemaking techniques and ageing, the three end up having different kind of bubbles.

Champagne: the finest and most persistent, thanks to the higher pressure at which it's aged.

Cava: fine and persistent.

Prosecco: light, frothy, bigger, and less persistent.

You pick your style!

“Sparkling wines are generally sold with 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure in the bottle, almost twice the pressure of a car tyre!”
— Wine Fact   see for yourself

Here are a couple of suggestions of wines widely available at major wine shops and supermarkets to try the difference first hand.

For a good quality NV champagne there are a good few to choose from. For a family owned company Pol Roger White Foil NV is hard to beat. At supermarket level Waitrose own label Champagne is great value.

Good Cava is difficult to spot as the market is flooded with cheaper and lower quality ones. A safer bet is to focus on the Reservas and Gran Reservas that are aged longer (15 and 30 months respectively), and are made from the best batches of grape harvested.

Prosecco is also graded into different quality levels. Look for ‘Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG' for the best quality, or at least for ‘Valdobbiadene’ which is nearly as good. A good example of a top Prosecco is the Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Millesimato.

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 4M ago
Some 15 years ago a new type of wine hit the tables - orange wine. But it's only in the past couple of years that it has become popular, yet still maintaining its aura of mystery.It's time to see together what orange wine is, where it comes from and whether it can fit your unique personal taste! Orange Wine Explained

Orange wine is white wine made the way red is made. You may have heard this line already, but what does it really mean? Well, making red and white wines involves different techniques:

  • With reds, grapes are crushed and the skins are left to macerate with the juice for some time before they are removed and the wine is made. This extracts as much colour and taste as possible from the red grapes.
     
  • With whites, this usually doesn’t happen; skins are taken away from the get-go as winemakers focus on preserving the aromas that the juice itself carries, without trying to extract anything else.
     At the crossroads of two techniques, orange winemaking involves leaving the skins to macerate with the juice to allow wine to get colour and taste.

 

Aren't you simply talking about rosé?

No. Rosé is made with black (aka red) grapes, and short skin contact, during or previous to fermentation. Orange however is made with white grape varieties - which are actually yellow, green or orange - and with short to long skin contact, during or before fermentation.

These wines are dry and fresh and not sweet at all. Actually, as a results of their hybrid winemaking method, orange wines turn out more similar in body and flavours to red wines than to common whites. For this reason, they're better served at room temperature (or more precisely between 16-18° C) so that the all their aromas and taste can be appreciated in full.

  Where Do They Come from?

Orange wine has a long history, dating back some 5,000 years as one of the earliest winemaking techniques. The tradition continued uninterrupted in its birthplace of Georgia in former Soviet Union, but was completely lost in Western Europe.

Until they were brought back for all wine lovers' benefit in the early 2000s by Josko Gravner - pictured below - an innovative winemaker from Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy. In 2001 he visited Georgia and was so fascinated by the "Qvevri" - big amphorae used to ferment and age wine - that he decided to bring them back to Italy and give it a go. Bringing together skin contact maceration and the use of these unusual wine vessels, he put orange wines on the world stage.

In the past 10 years, orange wine has grown in popularity and several producers have dedicated themselves to it with success. Orange wine is now being made not only in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, but also in the rest of the country, in Austria and in Slovenia (to mention one among several Eastern European countries).

   Orange wines are organic

Bringing back orange wines was part of a broader search for a more ‘back-to-basics’ winemaking method. Their first proponents were big supporters of the organic and biodynamic wine movement, so they went ahead spreading the gospel in such a way that to this day the vast majority of orange wines are natural. Needless to say, most are sulfite free and preservative free. 

Now, making wine in such an old-fashioned way, and not making use of chemical treatments also means that a producer has less certainty on the quantity and the quality if the wines produced each year. So it's not unusual for these wine producers to decide not to sell their production in bad years. Whilst this gives us great comfort on the average quality to be expected from orange wines, it also explains why orange wines are more expensive than regular still wines - starting from 50% more and above.

   See for yourself

If you feel adventurous like our team here at Pulp, give it a go to orange wines. It's going to be a love-it-or-hate-it experience, because they're very unusual in taste and aromas: on the nose they may remind more of Sherry, Port and Marsala as opposed to regular white wines. In the mouth, I find they often taste like a nice Pinot Noir but this is quite a personal judgement (and I love Pinot Noir).

In the UK a good go-to-shop that carries many orange wines is Buon Vino. From their list of options, I recommend trying Oslavje by Radikon from Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Pithos Bianco by Cos from Sicily and Malvasia by Nando from Slovenia.

Finally, if you want to feel the emotion of trying the "original" orange wine Bianco Breg by Josko Gravner, it will be "a little bit" pricer, but you're paying for innovation as well ;-)

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 4M ago
You don’t need to be a master of wine to work out what a wine might taste like before opening the bottle. Unfortunately, wine labels don't help much.Every wine label is different, and most are littered with useless jargon. With the Pulp tips below, you can figure out how to filter through the nonsense and find the information that matters.In a nutshell, there're three ways in which wines are labelled: (1) By Grape; (2) By Place of origin; and (3) By Winemaking. Let's have a look together. What’s in a Bottle's name?

Deciphering the following three elements can give offer some insight into the three ways in which wines are usually labelled. Let’s break it down:

  

1. By Grape

A wine named by the grape it's made from is the most straightforward. It makes it more immediate to figure out what to expect in terms of taste. Which grape variety was used is the most important thing to figure out when buying a wine. While naming a wine by its grape makes the most sense, you’ll find labels that choose to prioritise different information or simply make up different names altogether.

2. By Place of origin

Naming a wine after the place where it was grown may give the illusion of giving more detail about a wine, but it doesn’t really tell us much unless we know the region and its wines insideout. If we don’t have the answers to the questions we need to ask about climate and soil, it’s usually not very helpful. 

This naming standard is what it's referred in French as Appellation (AOC), in Italian as Denominazione (DOC/DOCG) and in Spanish as Denominacion (DO, DOCa).

3. By Winemaking

Labelling a wine with a made up name is the least helpful way. More often than not, a name is plucked out of thin air by the winemaker which provides little to no useful information.

  Unfortunately, it’s very rare for a wine label to provide all three of these reference points. If they did, we could make much more informed decisions about the bottles we choose. 
 
At Pulp, we're working to make wine labels easy. Soon, for each wine you drink with us, you'll have a digital Pulp wine label spelling out what you need to know before tasting. This way, you’ll quickly understand which elements to look for (grape, place and process) when you’re next choosing what to drink.      Did you find this post interesting? Join the Pulp Community to discover all you want to about wine.

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 4M ago
The most well-known region of Spain takes its name from the Oja River (Rio Oja) that crosses the region. But what does make the Rioja style different from other wines? In a nutshell, two concepts: (1) the blending of different grapes (most importantly Tempranillo and Garnacha); and (2) the long ageing in oak barrels.In this post we break down Rioja wines in their components and characteristics and, as usual, suggest wines widely available for you to try and see for yourself.   The Blending of the Grapes  

Winemaking in Rioja borrowed a lot from the wine masters of Bordeaux. In a sense, what Rioja's winemakers have traditionally tried to do was to outdo their French neighbors and, do so at a more affordable price level.

They developed a perfect blend of two local grapes, which in the mix play the same roles that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot respectively play in the classic Bordeaux blend:

  • Tempranillo is used to bring the aromas that characterise Rioja wines and their ability to age;

  • Garnacha adds diverse aromas and most importantly provides body to the wine.

Let's look in detail at the two grapes.

 

Why Tempranillo?

This grape usually makes up 80% of the blend. It brings acidity and tannins without which Rioja wines wouldn’t have the capacity for long ageing.

Aromas

Typically Tempranillo brings a distinctive aroma to the wine, in particular a vegetal and medicinal one, which is quite unique in the wine world.

Taste

In the mouth, Tempranillo is quite savoury as if a touch of salt had been added to the wine.

Why Garnacha

Also known as Grenache (France) and Cannonau (Italy), and grown across much of the Mediterranean. It makes heavier wines and adds body to the blend of Rioja.

Aromas

Garnacha is really fruity with aromas like plum and raspberry.

Taste

In the mouth Garnacha is smooth and thick, giving the feeling of a full-bodied wine.

see for yourself

A great option to try a pure Tempranillo is the widely available Faustino VII, which can be found in many supermarkets around the world as well as on Amazon. A very affordable wine that doesn't disappoint!

To find a great Garnacha there's a lot to choose from between Spain and Italy (Sardinia to be precise). And of course a lot of it is grown in France as well, but there it's usually blended with other grapes. La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo is a highly rated one from the Ebro Valley. Alternatively, under the name of Cannonau, the renowned Italian winemaker Argiolas makes a powerful version thanks to Sardinia's summer heat.

Finally you can make your own Rioja by blending the two wines. Don’t worry, nothing bad happens by mixing wines… Quite the opposite! Take a mix of 4 parts of Tempranillo and 1 part of Garnacha and gently blend them in your glass. That’s your classic Rioja blend. Enjoy!

   Ageing in Oak – Rioja’s Quality Levels  

Rioja wines are best known for their long ageing in barrel and bottle. Ageing is such a trademark that Riojas are classified according to how many years they spend in barrel and then in bottle. The wines made from the best grapes are selected to age for longer.

Once more, the Rioja looked for a differentiating point from the Bordeaux masters by using American oak - coming from territories that were at the time their colonies - which passes on stronger aromas and flavors.

Four quality levels...

Gran Reserva – 2 years in oak barrel, 3 in bottle

Reserva – 1 year in oak barrel, 2 in bottle

Crianza* – 1 year in oak barrel, 1 in bottle

Rioja – no specific minimum ageing

...and their Prices

The level of ageing drives the retail price. Entry level Riojas are found at Supermarkets for £5-9. Restaurants carry Crianzas* worth £10-14 (before mark-up). High-end restaurants and wine shops focus on Reservas and Gran Reservas.

* Curiosity: The term "Crianza" shares the same origins of the Frenh word "Cru". In English, they both roughly translate into "Growth" and they hint at the fact that the grapes for the wine are of a "special breed" which has been "nurtured" with extra care.

 What to expect from a youthful Rioja (entry level or Crianza) and what from an aged one?

Younger Riojas

From the younger ones you should get some black pepper and vanilla, the aromas of the oak barrel as we have pointed in our blog post about oaking.

The Reservas

From the Reservas you should get some very unusual aroma such as leather and dried tomato - aromas that appear in wine after lengthy ageing.

See for yourself

CVNE produce a range of excellent Rioja wines that can be found in most major supermarkets and independent wine shops. Majestic Wines carries their whole range, including their Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva

The Faustino VII that I mentioned in the first section of the post, not only it's 100% Tempranillo, but it's also a good representation of what an entry level Rioja should be. But Bodegas Faustino also cover the higher level of the quality range; if you want to experience older vintages at an affordable price, Faustino I Gran Reserva is a great option, with wines that are 12 year old and older.

  But Rioja isn't just red... Aside from the more famous red wines, Rioja also comes in a barrel-fermented white version, a style which was pioneered by CVNE's winemaker, Basilio Izquierdo, combining the heavy use of American oak that is Rioja's trademark with the intense fruity flavours and refreshing acidity of the Viura and Malvasia grape varieties.Rioja Blancos are also fit for long ageing, a feature which is rare with whites. One of my favourite winemakers in Rioja makes a great example: give it a try to López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco, which is easily aged 10+ years!  Did you find this post interesting? Join the Pulp Community to discover all you want to about wine.

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Pulp Blog by Paolo Zanelli - 4M ago
Body levels are how the wine ‘feels’ inside your mouth. Does it feel light and refreshing or heavy and smooth, coating the inside of your cheeks?If in doubt, the looks of the wine can give you some cues, but it’s really by tasting that you can nail it. Why does it matter?

A wine's body level has nothing to do with the wine’s quality. Still, it's important to figure out if we like our wine full, medium or light bodied if we want to start building the ID of our perfect wine. 

It's the combination of body, oaking, ageing and many other factors, that brought together can result in fabulous wines. A balanced blend of all three is easy to ask for but much harder for the winemaker to achieve.

  What determines Body Levels?  

Wine is made of 6 natural components. Their combination make up the body of the wine. We have listed them below in order of decreasing impact on a wine's body.

As a rule of thumb, the richer the wine is with regards to each of its components, the fuller the body. Acids are the only exception: the higher the acidity, the lighter the wine will feel.

(1) Glycerol

This is a gluey, sweet component that makes the wine glide down the glass. This is the single most important component in determining body as it's the root cause for a wine's thickness.

(2) Alcohol

Not much to explain here. It's worth stressing that alcohol usually comes in equal parts to glycerol as they are produced together during the fermentation process that transforms grape juice into wine. So, if you're struggling with identifying the glycerol level, a good cheat is to check the alcohol by volume on the label.  

(3) Tannins

These are that bitter thing that make your gums dry immediately and get your tongue to stick to your palate. Tannins can be found almost exclusively in red wines. Highly tannic wines are usually full-bodied.

  

(4) Sugar

Most wines are completely dry, i.e. don't have any sugar. In some wines though, sugar is present as residual – ie. left over from the wine making process - making the wine sweet. In a later blog we'll log into the difference between sweet wine and aromatic ones, that by many are thought to be sweet as well. Riesling for example can smell and taste very sweet with high residual sugar, whereas Viognier smell aromatic and ‘of sweets’ but in fact have little residual sugar.

(5) Minerals

These often impact in the taste of the wine, giving a savoury or even salty taste. Wines Muscadet or Chablis are good examples in which to find plenty of minerals.

  

(6) Acids

Generally high in most white wines, a wine's acidity will make you salivate while drinking. Beware that acidity tricks our perception, making full-bodied wines appear lighter than they are!

   Most red wines are medium or full-bodied, but it's quite easy to find examples of great light-bodied reds. The looks of the wine will help getting body levels right with reds, but it's the tasting that will confirm the final answer.Let's try a wine together to see how to figure out its body level: 

Start by looking at the wine against a white background and notice the intensity of its colour. Pale reds with a watery rim are light-bodied and deeper, darker reds are full-bodied.

Swirl it around the glass. Notice how the wine moves around. If it moves slowly like a thick and gluey liquid, the body is full; if it behaves like water, it’s light.

Swirl again and look at the drops that that glide down the glass. These are the famous ‘legs’ (or ‘tears’). Glycerol is the main factor for this: the more and the slower they fall, the fuller the body.

And finally let's drink! How does the wine feel in your mouth? If it feels like full-bodied full-fat milk, it's full-bodied; if it feels like skimmed milk, it's light-bodied.

If you are struggling to call a shot, try ‘chewing the wine’’: get a good sip and fake chewing on it. Does it feel dense or not?

see for yourself

Most red wines are medium to full bodied. Nonetheless, here are a couple of suggestions of wines widely available at major wine shops and supermarkets to sample light vs full bodied and see the difference first hand.

As a rule of thumb, for full bodied reds we have to head to warmer climates. Good examples can be found in Australia, with a classic rich Shiraz (try Yalumba Family Vignerons). Alternatively, you can try one a wine that has two completely different names on each side of the Atlantic: in California it's called Zinfandel (try Ravenswood Lodi) whilst in Southern Italy it goes by the name of Primitivo (try Surani Costarossa).

For light bodied reds, we have to go to colder places instead. The most classic examples are a Burgundy Pinot Noir (try Bouchard Pere et Fils) or a Beaujolais (try Louis Jadot) which is made from a grape called Gamay.

   White wines are most often light to medium bodied, wines we think of as crisp and refreshing and are lighter in the mouth and lower in alcohol.Let's try a wine together to see how to figure out its body level:

Swirl the glass. Similarly to red wines, the ‘legs’ of wine running back down the glass will tell the story. For fuller bodied whites, the wine will move slowly around the glass.

Swirl again and look at the ‘legs’. The more legs and the slower they fall, the fuller the body.

And finally, time to drink again! A white wine that feels like full-bodied full-fat milk is full-bodied; one that feels like skimmed milk is light-bodied.

And once more, if you are struggling to decide, try ‘chewing the wine’’.

 See for yourself

As opposed to reds, in the case of whites the majority of wines are light to medium bodied. Nevertheless, find here are a couple of suggestions to compare the two ends of the spectrum.

For a full bodied white we can go for a classic oaky Chardonnay (try Vasse Felix from Australia). If we want to try something a little more off-the-beaten-path, let's try a wine that is gaining more and more popularity - Viognier; a good example is Bellingham's from South Africa.

Finding a light bodied white is much easier, and to be honest almost any Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick very well. But let's look for something a bit more exciting! A nice Riesling from Alsace, France is a great option (try Trimbach); alternatively, let's bring the Spanish cheerfulness into play with an Albarino from Tesco Finest.

 
“Some ‘experts’ will claim that the best wine brings everything - body, oaking, ageing, etc - to the fullest.
Don’t let them decide for you. Choose what you like!”
 Did you find this post interesting? Join the Pulp Community to discover all you want to about wine.

Sign up to receive our newsletter, wine tips, invitations to free wine tastings and more.

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