Author Archives: Eduardo Miranda

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Red German Wines

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I’ve recently been to Berlin for the wedding of a great friend. As I always do when visiting wine-producer countries, I explore their wines, and although it was a short trip exclusively for the wedding, I managed to try some wines…

We were lucky to have a nice Sekt at the wedding, instead of the usual Prosecco for the bubbly drink. German Sekt has suffered some bad press for being cheap and lacking in quality, considered by many to be nothing more than carbonated fruit juice, which is not fair at all! Most Sekt uses the Charmat method for secondary fermentation, similar to Prosecco, and are usually sweeter and lower in alcohol than other sparkling wines. Sekt can contain aromas of apples, pears and white flowers, and when purchased correctly, can be a real treat!

Still in the wedding we got a lovely trocken (dry) Riesling – lots of fine wineries are producing more dry Riesling recently – but surprisingly the red was French. I asked why to the bartender, and she answered that German red wines were not good! Another unfair statement for German wines…

Germany’s red wines may not get the same reputation as their famous white wines, but they are really good! Food-friendly, fresh, and lively as their dazzling white wine counterparts, German red wine expectations should be set towards more delicate wine, lighter in body, high in acidity, and usually very aromatic.

The most widely planted red grape variety in Germany is Spätburgunder (literally “late Burgundian”), better known as Pinot Noir in the rest of the world, and it is considered to give the most elegant red wines of Germany. Other reds are Dornfelder and Trollinger.

As I couldn’t get a genuine German red at the wedding, I got a nice Dornfelder at the airport on my way back. A dark-skinned grape variety, Dornfelder is the second most grown red wine grape variety in Germany. It was initially bred (cross from Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe grapes) in 1955, to serve as a blending wine to improve the colour of pale reds. It only received varietal protection in 1979, and was then released for cultivation. Today it is prized on its own as a fragrant, full-bodied, complex wine with a fairly tannic acidity, and when fermented or aged in oak, it might fetch high prices.


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EU Excise Rates and VAT on Wine

Country Still wine Sparkling VAT
Austria Nil Nil 20.00%
Belgium €0.43 €1.46 21.00%
Bulgaria Nil Nil 20.00%
Cyprus Nil Nil 19.00%
Czech Republic Nil €0.68 21.00%
Denmark €1.11 €1.43 25.00%
Estonia €0.61 €0.61 20.00%
Finland €2.54 €2.54 24.00%
France €0.03 €0.07 20.00%
Germany Nil €1.02 19.00%
Greece Nil Nil 23.00%
Hungary Nil €0.42 27.00%
Ireland €3.19 €6.71 23.00%
Italy Nil Nil 22.00%
Latvia €0.48 €0.48 21.00%
Lithuania €0.43 €0.43 21.00%
Luxembourg Nil Nil 15.00%
Malta Nil Nil 18.00%
Netherlands €0.66 €1.91 21.00%
Poland €0.28 €0.28 23.00%
Portugal Nil Nil 13.00%
Romania Nil €0.26 24.00%
Slovakia Nil €0.60 20.00%
Slovenia Nil Nil 22.00%
Spain Nil Nil 21.00%
Sweden €2.01 €2.01 25.00%
UK €2.51 €3.21 20.00%

source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/eu-wine-taxes.lml


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Australian Day Wine Tasting in Dublin

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I was in the Australian Day Tasting Dublin (#ADTWine) this week (thank you Jean Smullen for the invitation) and it was fantastic! Great atmosphere, nice people, good wines… what else would you want?

Just because I was a bit in a hurry doesn’t mean I didn’t taste everything! Well, I missed one or 2 tables, I confess, but I got into the spirit! I started from producers looking for distributors – even some of them already sell in UK – then the producers already represented in Ireland, and I found some nice gems!

Ochota Barrels "The Fugazi Vineyard"

Ochota Barrels “The Fugazi Vineyard” McLaren Vale Grenache 2015: light cherry, with notes of fresh berries, sweet spices and something floral in the back. Long finishing and firm tannins.

Kangarilla Road “Terzetto” McLaren Vale Sangiovese Primitivo Nebbiolo 2013: Red berries, sweet spices, full-bodied. Good value for €18.

Luke Lambert Yarra Valley Nebbiolo 2015: Fresh and aromatic, red cherries, plums and spices with subtle citric and herbal. A real fine wine, exploring the beauty of Nebbiolo!

Grosset “Gaia” Clare Valley Blend 2013: Light purple, blackcurrant, plums, woody. Velvety, silky, long finishing. Lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc!

That’s all for now…I might post other notes later.


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DO Montsant Fine Wines

The Permanent Selection

Terra Personas Red

In appearance the wine has a beautiful cherry colour with violet highlights. On the nose the wine displays a pronounced intensity of wild raspberries, cherry and herbs. On the palate is rich and dull bodied, with hints of spices forest fruits, and a long mineral finish.

Terra Personas White

Attractive pale straw in colour. Clear and bright with a green tinge and some viscosity. The nose displays pronounced notes of white flowers, fresh cut melon, and tropical fruits with creamy background tones. Subtle notes of lemon, vanilla and toast in the mouth, with a fresh and crisp yet mouth-filling and a long mineral finish.

Solpost White

Solpost Blanc is all about Garnatxa Blanca (White Grenache). This Garnatxa allows Mas d’en Rafel’s soil to speak for itself, and provides an exuberating and refreshing white wine. It is intense, filled with aromatic flowers together with citric and tropical fruit.

Solpost Red

Solpost Negre has a lively, shining red colour. The aromas of fruit
and flowers predominate and are very pleasant in the nose and the
palate. Fresh and balanced, Solpost Negre seduces by its youth!


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Know your Bubbles – part 2: Beyond Champagne

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(See also Know your Bubbles – part 1: Méthode Champenoise)

The méthode traditionnelle (or traditional method) has been adopted throughout France and worldwide as the most successful approach to quality, ageworthy sparkling wine production. While the exact aging requirements and grape varieties may change, and the limit on pressing is less strict, the traditional method mirrors the méthode Champenoise and has at its heart the principle of a second fermentation in the bottle.

In France, there are seven AOP regions for crémant wines produced by the traditional method: Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, and Crémant d’Alsace. Other appellations in France producing traditional method sparkling wines include Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire, and Saumur in the Loire; and Vin de Savoie and Seyssel in Savoie. Fully sparkling wines from the aforementioned appellations will be labeled mousseux, whereas lightly sparkling wines are labeled pétillant. Blanquette de Limoux AOP wines from the Languedoc region are also produced by the traditional method, from a minimum 90% Mauzac, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.

Spanish Cava (mostly in Catalonia but also in other regions such as Valencia, La Rioja, Aragon, Extremadura) is a white or pink sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia, 40 km to the south west of Barcelona. Under Spanish Denominación de Origen laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions and must be made according to the Traditional Method with second fermentation in the bottle and uses a selection of the grapes Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Subirat.

In Italy, sparkling wines are made throughout the whole country but the Italian sparkling wines most widely seen on the world market are the Franciacorta from Lombardy, Asti from Piedmont, Lambrusco from Emilia and Prosecco from Veneto. Though Franciacorta wines are made according to the traditional method, most Italian sparkling wines, in particular Asti and Prosecco, are made with the Charmat method (see below).

Portuguese Espumante (sparkling) is produced in throughout Portugal. While Spain has one regulating body, DOC Cava, spread across several different political regions, quality portuguese Espumante is produced solely in DOC Bairrada, located just south of Vinho Verde. In order for a wine to be certified as a quality Espumante from DOC Bairrada, it must be made in the traditional method (indicating the year of harvest) and stamped with the VEQPRD (Vinho Espumante de Qualidade Produzido em Região Determinada) certification. Other certifications are VFQPRD, a regional sparkling wine made in the traditional, charmat or transfer method in one of the following determined regions: Douro, Ribatejo, Minho, Alentejo or Estremadura. VQPRD is a sparkling wine that can be made by injecting the wine with gas in the traditional champagne, charmat or transfer method anywhere in Portugal. Espumosos is the cheapest and lowest level of sparkling wine, made by injecting the wine with CO2.

Quality sparkling wines are made on USA West Coast, in Carneros, Napa Valley, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, and Washington. Traditional method sparkling wines are also made in New York and Canada. Graham Beck is at the forefront of traditional method “Cap Classique” sparkling wines in South Africa. Major Champagne houses have established outposts in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Ukraine, and even Brazil!

Other Sparkling Winemaking Methods

The Charmat Process (aka Cuve Close or Tank Method) is quicker, cheaper, and less labor-intensive than the traditional method. After the wine undergoes primary fermentation, liqueur de tirage is added to the wine, provoking a second fermentation, which occurs in a pressurized enamel-lined tank, or autoclave, over a matter of days. Once the appropriate pressure is reached (usually 5 atmospheres), the wine is chilled to arrest fermentation. Some appellations require the wine to remain in tank for a minimum period of time, such as one month for Asti DOCG. The wine is then filtered and bottled, usually with a dosage. The lack of extended lees contact in the tank method is not suitable for making quality wines in the style of Champagne. The bubbles in tank method wines will be larger and coarser, and the wine will have a less uniform texture than wines made by the traditional method. However, this method is appropriate and even preferred for sparkling wines emphasizing fruit and varietal aromatics rather than the flavors derived from autolysis. Mousseux (French for “sparkling”) wines, most Italian Asti DOCG and Prosecco are produced in this method.

Continuous Method (aka Russian Continuous Method), is similar to the tank method, but the base wine is pumped through a series of interconnected (continuous) tanks while undergoing the second fermentation. Liqueur de tirage is constantly added to the wine, and lees accumulate in the first several tanks, offering a higher degree of autolyzed flavors than the standard tank method. The majority of German Sekt is produced by either the tank method or the continuous method.

Carbonation is the cheapest method of sparkling winemaking, and involves a simple injection of carbon dioxide into still wine. The bubbles do not integrate into the texture of the wine at all, and fade quickly upon opening. This method is not used for quality wines.

Source:
 http://www.champagne.fr
 https://www.guildsomm.com
 http://www.winespectator.com
 http://winefolly.com

 


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Know your Bubbles – part 1: Méthode Champenoise

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(See also Know your Bubbles – part 2: Beyond Champagne)

The techniques of sparkling winemaking did not originate with the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, nor was the first purposely sparkling wine produced in the region of Champagne. Regardless, through centuries of refinement Champagne has become the world’s leading sparkling wine and the vinous embodiment of luxury and celebration.

Méthode Champenoise is the labor-intensive and costly process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process. Also known as méthode traditionnelle or metodo classico.

Méthode Champenoise begins in the press house. Black grapes must be pressed especially quickly after harvest, lest they colour the must. Extraction is limited to 102 liters from 160 kg of grapes. The extracted juice is then divided into the vin de cuvée (the first 2,050 liters) and the vin de taille (the following 500 liters). The vin de taille is usually richer in pigment and tannin. The must, which is often chaptalized, will then undergo primary fermentation, which may occur in either stainless steel or oak barrels. The base wines often undergo malolactic fermentation, although this is not a universal practice. After both the primary and malolactic fermentations have concluded, the base wines will generally be clarified, through fining, filtering, or centrifuge. The clarified base wines remain in either stainless steel or barrel until late February or March of the year following the harvest. At this stage the blender will taste the lots of base wine, and determine a house’s hallmark blend, drawing on reserve stocks from previous years to provide complexity and richness. After the assemblage and cold stabilization, the blend will be racked and bottled with the addition of liqueur de tirage, a mixture of still wine, yeasts, sugar, and fining agents that will serve to ignite the second fermentation.

The second fermentation is the heart of the méthode Champenoise. Each bottle is affixed with a crown cap after the liqueur de tirage is added, and yeast begins its work. The secondary fermentation lasts up to eight weeks, as the yeast slowly converts the additional sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide creates a pressure inside the bottle of five to six atmospheres. During the second fermentation, the bottles are usually stored horizontally. Autolysis, the breakdown of dead yeast cells, forms sediment, or lees, in the bottle as second fermentation occurs. The wine will be aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 months prior to their removal from the bottle through dégorgement.

In preparation for dégorgement, the sediment must first be trapped in the neck of the bottle. Producers proceed to remuage, or riddling, which manipulates the sediment into the neck and bidule through sharp twists and inversion of the bottle. The widow Clicquot’s breakthrough involved the development of the pupitre: two large wooden planks fastened together in an upright “A” shape, with sixty angled holes cut into each plank of wood. A remuer would fractionally turn and tilt each bottle over a period of about eight weeks, slowly inverting the bottles with the neck pointing downward. Despite the fact that a top remuer is rumored to handle upwards of 70,000 bottles a day, Champagne is an industry, and more efficient methods are required. The modern remuage operation is shortened to a week or less through the use of a Spanish invention, the gyropalette, an automated device that holds 504 bottles. The gyropalette has replaced hand-riddling at all of the major houses, although some prestige cuvée bottlings are still handled manually.

Once the sediment is successfully collected in the neck of the bottle, the bottles remain in the upside-down vertical position for a short period of time prior to dégorgement. The modern method of dégorgement à la glace involves dipping the neck of bottle in a freezing brine solution. The bottle can then be turned upright. The force of internal pressure will expel the semi-frozen sediment (and a small portion of wine) as the crown cap is removed. As the wines are fully fermented to total dryness, the bottles are then topped off with dosage, a liquid mixture of sugar syrup and wine. Rarely, bone-dry non-dosage styles are produced. The amount of sugar in the dosage is determined by the desired style of the wine. Brut is the most common sweetness level and the level at which most houses bottle vintage and prestige cuvées.

Source:
 http://www.champagne.fr
 https://www.guildsomm.com
 http://www.winespectator.com
 http://winefolly.com

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Cheap quality wines

Life is too short…

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Cheap quality wines

Life is too short to drink bad, cheap quality wines. I truly believe it! The problem is to identify the cheap quality stuff… particularly when it come to wines.

Most of people don’t know how to qualify a wine. And that’s totally OK, as they didn’t attend the same education as a sommelier, for instance. They are usually driven by taste – but taste might not be enough.

“Good wine is the wine you enjoy drinking!”

Not really… Your idea of sun-­dappled vineyards and grand châteaus might be very romantic, but in reality, cheap wine – no matter how “lovely” it tastes – might owe more to chemists than to viticulturist. Wines, like most foodstuffs, has been industrialized as well, might be made of grapes that come from anywhere, cooked up in ­behemoth factories.

Looking after your pocket or your health

As an example, oak barrels make wines taste more complex, drier and give them notes of coconut or vanilla. As they’re expensive, cheap wines will look for cheaper alternatives as oak chips, sawdust, or wood essence.

Another trick is is a substance called Mega-­Purple. A thick goo to correct colour issues, where a few drops can turn a wine from a weak salmon blush to an appealingly intense crimson, helping consistency from batch to batch.

What’s really in your cheap wine?

Vat­-produced wines can be coaxed into drinkability by just adding the right stuff: sulfur dioxide, ammonium salts, oak adjuncts, tartaric acid, powdered tannin, sugar, pectic enzymes, gum arabic, dimethyl dicarbonate, among others, although on the record no one will cop to using them.


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How does your wine taste?

How does your wine taste?

How does your wine taste?

Browsing the weekend newspapers while sipping a glass of wine is my Sunday afternoons’ luxury pleasure. I say luxury because I rarely managed to have the time to do it… but today I did!

There are a lot of politics lately, as we are a few days from the elections. Among all the regulars, I found an interesting article about how the wine taste for those uninitiated.

This wine tastes like… wine!

It reminded me of my early days, when all I had was curiosity and perseverance, the latter made me go a little beyond the wine taste of wine. Many might be happy with that. They just want a wine that smells good, tastes good and they can afford.

As I say in another article, Life is too short…, this might be no problem at all, but there’s a fourth element to this trio, which is whether the memory of a wine remains when you put the glass down. If it does, it means that it’s probably a good wine, but it also means that you might be in the right direction towards become a connoisseur!

You’ve started to pay attention beyond the glass, and you are focusing on what you are tasting. If you dig deeper, with no time you’ll be noting fruits and flowers, minerals and vegetables, oak and spices in your glass, among other particularities.

With no doubt, a better understanding of wines will bring you enhancement of enjoyment.


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Mechanical Harvesting vs. Hand Picked Grapes

Wine grapes hand-pickerThe harvesting of wine grapes is one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels. The weather can also shape the timetable of harvesting. In addition to determining the time of the harvest, winemakers and vineyard owners must also determine whether to use hand-picker workers or mechanical harvest machinery.

The question of using mechanical harvesting versus traditional hand picking is a source of contention in the wine industry. Mechanical harvesting of grapes has been one of the major changes in many vineyards in the last third of a century, and it’s been adopted in different places for various economic, labour and winemaking reasons. It keeps the price down to the $8 range, which no one expects to be hand-crafted. There is nothing gentle about mechanical harvesting. It beats up the grapes so badly that they end up looking more like oatmeal than grapes.

Even if some of us do more or less regularly drink mass-produced industrial wines, we all know that hand-craftsmanship is best, and despite the costs, some wineries prefer the use of human workers to hand-pick grapes. The main advantage is the knowledge and discernment of the worker to pick only healthy bunches and the gentler handling of the grapes.

There are several reasons we might choose to hand harvest. Some varietals don’t shake off the stems easily, so the plants would have to be beaten senseless in order to get the grapes off. The production of some dessert wine like Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese require that individual berries are picked from the botrytized bunches which can only be done by hand. In areas of steep terrain, like in the Priorat and Monsant, in Spain, it would be virtually impossible to run a mechanical harvester through the vineyard.

The quality of the wine is actually the main determinate of harvest technique. When the harvester shakes the grapes loose, lots of them end up breaking open. This can be mitigated by running the machine slower, but it’s inevitable. When you’re making white wine, particularly a delicate flavoured wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, that contact between the skins and the juice can add undesirable bitterness to the final product. By hand harvesting the grapes arrive at the press pad largely intact, taking pressure off the cellar crew to get them crushed and pressed ASAP.


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Low Yield Vineyards

Quality & Low Yield Vineyards

In viticulture, the yield is a measure of the amount of grapes or wine that is produced per unit surface of vineyard. Yield is an important quality factor in wine production.

In general, there is consensus that if vines are cropped with a very high amount of grape clusters, a poor wine will result because of slow and insufficient ripening of the grapes.

Natural vs Conventional Wines

The reason conventional winemakers believe they can make good wine from high yielding vineyards is that the quality of the grapes is relatively unimportant in conventionally made wines. Any lack of taste in the grapes can be compensated for in the winery. Which is too bad! I wrote about it in this article, Life is too short…

A naturally made wine relies for its taste solely on the grapes from which it is made. A great natural wine, one that truly expresses its terroir, can only be made from the low-yielding vines.


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