Winemaking practices: Oak Barrels

Oak barrels have been used as a vessel to transport wine for thousands of years. Other than transportation, they can also affect the wine both in feeling and in flavour. All oak barrels will affect the feeling, as they let in tiny amounts of air, which allows the wines to slowly age, soften the tannins and feel more pleasant and drinkable. This is useful with austere, rigid wines that need help softening.

Not all oak barrels will add flavour to wine. We distinguish between new oak barrels and old oak barrels. New oak means that the barrels have not
been rinsed with wine yet or have been in use a maximum of two times. These new oak barrels will impart some sweet spice, vanilla, coconut and dill flavours. Old oak barrels have used many times and have now lost the ability to add flavour to wines. This is useful when you need to soften an austere wine but want to keep the purity of the fruit and not add any extra aromas.

Winemaking practices: Malolactic Fermentation

Malolactic fermentation is a process where harsh, crisp malic acids are converted to softer, creamier lactic acids. This can alter the feel of the wine, making it softer and adding a bit of texture to it. It can also alter the flavour slightly, by adding milk-based aromas, like cream, yoghurt or cheese. Most white wines will avoid “Malo” while most red wines will go through the whole process.

How to taste: Sugar

Residual sugar is the level of sugar left-over in the wine after fermentation. This is rarely spontaneous, most often it is the winemaker’s choice to stop the fermentation prematurely and keep a bit of the sweetness in wine. Residual sugar is often misunderstood and confused for fruitiness. The way to assess it is by focusing on the actual flavour of sugar on your tongue, not the sweet fruit aromas on your nose.

How to taste: Tannin

Tannin is a compound in wine that mostly comes from the skins and stalks of a grape, so it is most evident in wines that have been macerated with the skins and stalks. White wine doesn’t go through maceration, so tannins won’t be present. In wine this feels as the drying, slightly bitter feeling on your gums. To assess it, focus on that feeling, the higher the intensity, the higher the tannin level.

How to taste: Body

Body is how we assess the weight of the wine. The best way to assess it,
is by comparing it to water. If the wine feels as light as water, it is a light bodied wine, if it feels slightly heavier then it is medium-bodied and if it feels very heavy then it is full-bodied. There are parallels with alcohol content and body, but it’s not one hundred percent reliable, so always double-check your results.

How to taste: Acidity

Acidity is the level of PH in the wine and it is best described as the mouthwatering effect that occurs on consumption. The level can be assessed by taking a sip of wine, swirling it around your mouth, swallowing and then tilting your head forward with your mouth slightly opened. You will feel saliva building up and the speed and volume will determine the level of acidity in the wine. High acidity would be equal to taking a bite of a fresh lemon and low acidity would be eating cooked mushrooms.

Mourvedre

Also known as Mataro and Monastrell, Mourvedre is a Spanish grape, originating from the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is most commonly used as a blending partner to Grenache and Syrah, to add a bit
of colour and reinforce the tannins. There are some example of a pure varietal wine most successfully made in Bandol, Provence, where they produce truly premium Mourvedre and in Southern Rhone.

  Cool Climate Moderate Climate Warm Climate
Distinctive Flavours N/A Blackberry, black plum, game meat, black pepper Blackberry, Black currant, Blueberry, Black Pepper, Violet, Smoke, Gravel
Acidity N/A Medium+ Medium
Alcohol N/A High High
Body N/A Full Full
Tannin N/A High High
Sugar N/A Dry Dry

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Tempranillo

Tempranillo is most famous as the main grape in Rioja, Spain. Its deep, juicy flavours, complemented by the vanilla, coconut and spicy flavours from oak ageing make this a favourite wine for many wine drinkers. It is great value for money, as even some of the older examples are very affordable and high quality. It is now grown all over Spain, with Ribera del Duero, producing slightly more expensive, premium examples of the Tempranillo.

  Cool Climate Moderate Climate Warm Climate
Distinctive Flavours N/A Cherry, Strawberry, Tomato Leaf, Vanilla, Coconut, Dill Cherry Jam, Raspberry Jam, Tomato Juice, Sweet Coconut, Vanilla
Acidity N/A Medium Medium
Alcohol N/A Medium+ High
Body N/A Medium+ Full
Tannin N/A Medium+ Medium+
Sugar N/A Dry Dry

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Sangiovese

This is the native grape of Chianti in Tuscany, Italy and is slowly finding its way to other vineyards across Italy and into the New World. It is famously paired with slow cooked lamb and tomato based pasta sauces as it has distinctive herbaceous notes.

  Cool Climate Moderate Climate Warm Climate
Distinctive Flavours N/A Cherry, Strawberry, Tomato Leaf, Leather Tomato, Sour Cherry, Leather, Spice
Acidity N/A High Medium+
Alcohol N/A Medium+ High
Body N/A Medium+ Full
Tannin N/A Medium+ High
Sugar N/A Dry Dry

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Barbera

In spite of Nebbiolo taking the crown in Piemonte, Barbera is actually the grape that produces the most. Originally produced as a table wine for Italian families to share with lunch, it is getting more and more traction as winemakers discover the potential of this soft and fresh grape. Lighter in tannins, higher in acidity, it is incredibly food friendly.

  Cool Climate Moderate Climate Warm Climate
Distinctive Flavours Sour cherry, strawberry, lavender Red cherry, ripe strawberry, ripe raspberry, violet Black Cherry, Strawberry Jam, Dried Plums
Acidity High High High
Alcohol Low Low Medium-
Body Medium- Medium Medium
Tannin Medium- Medium- Medium-
Sugar Dry Dry Dry

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