Go to www.winebird.co.uk for details of wine tastings and events

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Lost in Gewürz-translation: if Scarlett Johannson were a grape...

Have you ever lost yourself in the heady aromas of an Asian food market? In one corner, it’s about cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. In another, it’s fresh lychee, peaches and candied orange peel.  You’re in a world ofexoticrose-scented intrigue! Enter Scarlett Johansson stage right to complete the picture with her distinctivevoluptuous and sensual style. Dressed in a pink-peach dress, she walks around, taking everything in. It could have been an deleted scene from Lost in Translation!
Welcome to Gewürztraminer; aka Gewürz or Traminer. You can always tell this exotic, perfumed grape variety a mile off, no matter where it’s grown! Lychee, rose, ginger and orange peel best describe its distinctive aroma. The ripe, well-rounded body with its sumptuous, oily weight and low acidity, make it feel like a soft, peachy skinned beauty.
Gewürztraminer (Guh-verts-tra-mee-na) is the grape that sounds well ‘ard, but it’s not at all. It’s just hard to say, which is probably why it’s not nearly as popular as it should be, so give it a try!

Tasting Tour:
* Start with Alsace for classic, dry and powerful Gewürz.
* Taste these against wines from Gisbourne, New Zealand for similarly powerful styles, including some ‘off dry’ versions.
* Head to North East Italy or Central Europe for more subtle, delicate versions.
* Harder to find, but if you can, try some from Oregon too.
* Gewürztraminer can be off dry, but if it’s real sweetness you want, go for a late-harvest style!  Make sure you check the label to know which one you’re getting.

Food Match:
Strong cheese is a goer, as are rich dishes like duck, goose & fois gras. Grilled and smoked food works well as do dishes with warm spices (as in aromatic spicis, not chilli!)

Dab some behind your ears and you’re set for the night!



Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Zinfandel: The Godfather of Grapes

You know those duvet days where you want to curl up by the fire watching a Californian Blockbuster? Well, who would be your leading man?

Someone bold, brooding & beefy perhaps? Someone smouldering who simply commands attention? Someone with a penchant for alcohol and a tendency to put on weight maybe? Someone with an intriguing European heritage who has since become a Californian icon? If the answer is yes to all of the above, it has got to be Marlon Brando. If you want a wine to match, it has got to be Zinfandel: the Godfather of grapes.

Just like Marlon Brando, the Zinfandel grape variety is full-on and full-bodied. Frequently high in alcohol and with lots of tannin, Zin will often be packed full of smoky damson and brambly fruit aromas, spicy fig notes and yummy, pepper and black cherry jam flavours. It's not exactly a subtle grape variety but quite frankly, don't we all secretly like to be slapped around occasionally - just a little bit? And Marlon is the man for the job!

I digress. Ahem...

Food matches: Zin is always going to be a big, juicy boy, but some are a touch softer and lighter than others. Try these lighter styles with charcuterie, burgers and sausages. The bombastic, classic powerhouse styles of Zinfandel can handle food with strong flavours, however. Try these with hearty stews, casseroles, sticky ribs and game!

Tip: look for 'Old Vines' on the label. Old vines produce less grapes and therefore produce a more concentrated, figgy, rustic wine. Just delicious!

Tasting Tour:

Head straight to California and compare the regional styles: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma for the oldest vines and dark, peppery styles; Napa Valley for the juicy, exuberant, bright-berry styles; Sierra Foothills for inky-black, aniseed & mineral styles and Lodi or Pasa Robles for a more herbal, ripe cherry style.

The Zinfandel grape variety has its roots in Croatia and is genetically very similar to Southern Italy's Primitivo grape variety, so try Primitivo for a slightly more restrained version of Zinfandel.

Other than this, you won't really find it many other places yet, although South Africa and Western Australia have recently had a small amount of success with it if you can find them.

I need warming up. Pass me the Godfather trilogy!


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

GAMAY: Beaujolais, Bubblegum & Strawberry Blondes!

Baby, It's cold outside and I've just decided what to drink with my Christmas Turkey. It's got to be Gamay! Distinctive and light bodied, it ticks all the boxes for Turkey; not overpowering the meat, but standing up to the trimmings.

Christmas makes you nostalgic and try as I might, I can't get this Gamay VINALOGY out of my head, so I thought I'd share...

It's snowing outside and my 9 year-old self is wrapped up warm inside the local sweet shop. There's another young girl in there, the spitting image of Annie (from the film!) Dressed in a bright pink coat and with a shock of soft, red curls, she giggles to herself as she fills a bag with strawberry bubblegum, Parma Violets and banana sweets.

This image, to me, is quintessentially Gamay - the grape that makes the famous light red wines of Beaujolais: it's easy drinking, juicy, light, super-soft and fun. Gamay smells of over ripe strawberries and is made to be drunk young and wonderful when a little chilled. It's been a hard knock life for Gamay, but this once desperately unfashionable wine is now back in vogue thanks to its juicy, light body and soft glug-ability in a world of too-heavy reds.

Beaujolais isn't all about bubblegum though. Here are the 4 main styles that get progressively more serious...


Start with Beaujolais Nouveau - the Annie: that kid in the sweet shop! Light, bright and very gluggable, with bubblegum, raspberry and sometimes, banana flavours. Drink as fresh as possible, within 1 year of the vintage (year of production)!

Next, try a straight Beaujolais - The Isla Fisher: a gentle step up with a touch more maturity, but still that bouncy, fun kid underneath. More juicy strawberry and raspberry here.

Now, go to the next level with a Beaujolais-Villages - the Lily Cole: pretty, perfumed Gamay with a good education, a clear personal style and earning well, so it's a little bit richer and a touch more sophisticated!
At the top of the tree, is Beaujolais 'Cru' - the Miranda: in a light-hearted show, she's the serious one. More full-on, the curls have been cut and she's showing more age! There are 10 separate villages* in this Beaujolais 'crew' and they're like softer, juicer versions of Pinot Noir. Think savory spice, wild strawberry and black cherry.

* The 10 Cru will be labelled by village. Here they are, going light to heavy:
Brouilly, Regnie, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Morgon, Moulin a Vent.

So there you have it - Gamay is a great Christmas wine match for Turkey that you can happily glug all day. Why not try one of each to compare? You'll get through them all between you this Christmas!


WB xx