Eastern Aegean Islands and Greek Wines
The Aegean is spread out to the east of mainland of Greece and the coast of Turkey and is filled with countless islands. Vines have been cultivated on these islands and wine made for at least 6,000 years and the sweet, luxuriant wines of Limnos, Lesbos, Chios, and Samos are legendary. Each island has its own microclimate and soil structure which ensure wines of an individual character undulating hills rising to 450 metres (1,476 feet) and valleys in which the wine-growing and agriculture is concentrated. This white Limnos wine is yellow- green in colour with a very fruity nose of fresh Muscat grapes. The taste is fulsome and rounded. Drinking temperature for this Greek wine is 10-12°C (50-53.6°F). Several acceptable red wines are also made on the island of Limnio grapes.
The white Clairette grape is one of the oldest varieties and Clairette de Languedoc is one of the oldest and smallest appellations of Languedoc. The vineyards are situated on the hills of the Herault valley, south of Lodeve, approx. 30 km (19 miles) from the sea.
Drinking temperature this French wine: 10-12°C (50-53.6°F).
This is a vin doux naturel from Mireval, between Montpellier and Sete. The vineyards are on the southern slopes of the Gardiole mountain which dominates the Vic lake. The ground is chalky with alluvium here and there and also rocks. This French wine is also made using the Muscat Petit Grains. It is a comforting, fruity wine that is almost like a liqueur.
The charm of Muscat de Mireval is in its refined floral and fruity aromas of jasmine, lime blossom, citrus fruit, and raisins. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 6°C (42.8°F).
The Prontignan vineyards are slightly more southerly than those of Mireval, immediately north of Sete. This Muscat wine is stronger than the previous two and is even more like a liqueur. The bouquet is somewhat less aromatic than the other Muscat wines and generally somewhat coarser, though there are exceptions. The nose does contain recognisable notes of citrus fruit, overripe Muscat grapes or even of raisins. The best Muscat de Prontignan wines develop a superb nose of exotic fruit such as passion fruit, and peach, and are very elegant. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 6°C (42.8°F)
The vineyards of Paugeres are slightly to the north of Beziers, situated on a gently rolling ridge of hills of shale. The area is off-the-beaten track, hilly, but both inviting and intimate. A lithe and silken red wine is produced in the small villages that both smells and taste of ripe fruit and liquorice. After several years of maturing the wine tends towards spicier aromas and notes of leather. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 14- 16°C (57 .2-60.8°F) .
Paugeres also produces a little rose which combines the velvet smooth and fruity character of the red wine with a mellow freshness. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 12°C (53.6°F).
Red and rose St Chin ian wines are produced at the foot of the Montagne Noire, north-east of Beziers. There are two different types of St Chinian: a light, playful wine that is lithe and comforting, with much fruitiness and a heavier, more powerful wine with nose of ripe fruit, bay laurel, and flint. The first type is drunk when young, preferable chilled(12-14°C/53.6-57.2°F) while the latter is better left a few years before drinking at 14-16°C (53.6-57.2°F) for a good taste and a good French wine. Drink the St Chinian rose at 12°C (53.6°F).
The vineyards of St-Jean de Minervois lie amid the maquis and wild Provençal herbs at a height of 200 metres (656 feet) . The soil is a mixture of chalk and shale on a base of red clay. Here too the grape used is exclusively Muscat Petit Grains. A superb, very aromatic French wine is produced in this very small area of 159 hectares. Intense aromas of citrus fruit, fresh Muscat grapes, exotic fruit, and menthol are characteristic of Muscat de St-Jean de Minervois. In spite of its liqueur-like properties, this Muscat is still exceptionally fresh-tasting. Drinking temperature for this French wine 6°C (42.8°F).
The vineyards of Minervois, which are largely arranged on terraces, are situated in a triangle formed by Carcassonne, Narbonne and Beziers. The production is mainly of red French wine but if you search you will also find rose or even the rarer white Minervois. The red wine is fruity, refined, elegant, and well-balanced. There are as many different types of Minervois as there are different terroirs. In the Minervois the wine gives you a free lesson in geology with gneiss, chalk, shale, lignite, and alluvial deposits mixed together in the soil to give the Minervois its own character. Drink this rose French wine (12°C/53.6°F) and the red French wine at 14-16°C (57.2- 60.8°F).
Excellent rose and red French wines are produced from 331 hectares to the north of the fine Medieval town of Carcassonne. Drinking temperature for French wine: 14- 16°C (57.2- 60.8°F) .
This is the most westerly wine-growing area of the Languedoc, located in the triangle formed by Carcassonne, Limoux, and Castelnaudary. Malepere is in the process of achieving Appellation Controlee status. The rose and red French wines from here are fairly light and fruity. Drinking temperature for this French wine: rose 12°C (53 .6°F) , red 14- 16°C (57 .2- 60.8°F) .
Various white, rose, and red wines are produced from 8,255 hectares of vineyards between Nîmes and Narbonne. Certain of these French wines (St-Chinian and Paugeres reds and the white Clairette du Languedoc) are permitted to bear their own AC label.
The other French wines carry the Côteaux du Languedoc AC combined with the name of their terroir or just plain Coteaux du Languedoc AC.
Each terroir has its own added value and character but it is characteristic of all Coteaux du Languedoc wines to be fresh, lithe, pleasing, and friendly in their taste.
CÔTEAUX DE ST -CHRISTOL
CÔTEAUX DE VERARGUES
CÔTEAUX DE LA MEJANELLE
(All north of Lunel and Montpellier)
(North of Clermont-I'Hérault)
PICPOUL DE PINET (BLANC)
(North of Séte)
LA CLAPE (ROUGE & BLANC)
(South of Narbonne)
Try them all: each wine has something different to impart of sea, herbs, shrubs, the soil, the lakes, and the sun. The red wines are dominated by Syrah, either on its own or in company with Grenache, insault, Carignan and (increasingly) Mourvedre. The whites are made with Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Rolle, Bourboulenc, Clairette and Picpoul. This last grape variety gives its name to the well-known Picpoul de Pinet.
Drinking temperature: white French wines 10°C (50.0°F ), French rose 12°C (53.6°F), and French red at 14- 16°C (57.2- 60.8°F).
This is a relatively small appellation area (307 hectares) which produces an exceptionally fruity Muscat wine that is a vin doux nature!. The ground is strewn with boulders with a subsoil of red clay. The vineyards are situated on a ridge of hills around the town of Lunel, between Nîmes and Montpellier.
Only the very scented Muscat Petit Grains grapes are used to make this French wine. The characteristic nose of a Muscat de Lunel is of citrus fruit and floral scents, completed with notes of honey, preserved fruit, and raisins. The best Muscat de Lunel wines sometimes also have a pleasing bitter and peppery aftertaste. Drinking temperature for this French wine: 6°C (42.8°F).
This distinctive grape variety is known by its friends simply as Gewürtz but sometimes also as Traminer. It provides interese aromas, reminiscent of lychee, rose petals and spice.
Gewürtraminer often smells sweet, but may produce an element fi suprise, by tasting dry. It tends to grow best in cooler climates where there is a decent levet of acidity in the soil. Alsace Gewürztraminers are the most successful, with wines from other territories tending to be bland in comparison.
Gewürztramineris found in Alsace, Germany, Northern Italy, Eastern Europe, and the USA.
This grape makes the seafood simple par excellence. Offering hints of apple and gooseberry, the wine becomes dry, savoury and tangy, particlarly when aged in contact with the lees - the yeast deposit left after fermantation. Attempts to age Muscadet in oak are not guaranteed to meet with success as the grape's structure and body tend to preclude assimilation with the wood.
The Muscadet grape thrives in the Loire Valley.
All members of the large Muscat family share a floral, grapey, and aromatic charanter. Depending on when it's picked, Muscat is capable of making dry to sweet wines, from the very lightest to the biggest 'stickies', such as the Liqueur Muscats of Australia. The tast of sweet Muscats is redolent of raisins and oranges. These wines may be fortified with grape brandy during the fermentation process in order to preserve sweetness. The Muscat is often blended with other varieties of grape in order to increase complexity and flavour. It is used in the well-known Italian wine Asti Spumante.
Muscat is grown throughout Europe anda also in Australia.
The most widely planted white grape in Italy, the soil and warm climate help to create wines with highsh acidity. Indeed, because of its high acidity it is sometimes belnded with red wines. Trebbianos tend to be medium bedied and with zesty fruit character, Trebbiano is usually fermented is stainless steel vats and may be matured in oak in orded to add some complexity to the flavour.
Italy and France, where the grape is used in the blend for Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. It also makes excellent distilling material for both Cognac and Armagnac.
Very aromatic, Viognier's hallmark notes are of apricot, peach, and honey. Lush and flesh, the dry wines produced by the Viognier grape are so aromatic that they can seem sweet on the palate. Viognier is a difficult grape to grow successfully. Indeed, modern winemaking techniques are being developed to encourage a consistency in the taste. In France it tends to do best on the small hillsides outside Lyons.
Viognier takes centr stage in Condrieu (Northern Rhône) and is also doing well in Southern France, Chile, Australia, and California.
From the Rhône Valley, France's Marsanne makes full-bodied, fat and weighty wines, with flavours of peach and toast, and can even taste nutty when mature. Marsanne may be blended with Roussanne.
Pinot Blanc invariably makes dry, apple-scented and flavoured white wines, with a touch of honey and a whiff of spice in Alsace. Very adaptable with food, Pinot Blanc is also star material for sparkling wine.
Pinot Blanc is another grape to originate in the Alsace region of France and also in North America.
Today world's most popular white grape, Chadonnay express its varietal character in many forms: from the racy, steely, and nervy wines of Chablis, to the fuller-bodied, buttery rich wine made in the Napa Vally, California.
This is an aromatic grape, which ripens early and is mostly grown in cool-climate vineyards. Its range extends from featherweight tangy, dry white wines like Sauvignon de Touraine, to the ripe, almost tropical-like fruitiness obtained in California, where the less common addition of oak is often adopted and labelled 'Fume Blanc'. Sauvignon Blanc thrives on chalk or gravel soil.
The Riesling grape is seen by many as the most versatile variety of white grape in the world. It is without doubt a class act with a number of strengths, not least its ability to outperform Chardonnay in the longevity stakes.
Arguably one fo the most underrated verieties of grapes, Sémillon, Bordeaux's most widely planted white grape, makes delicious dry and sweet wines. With an almost honeyed texture, Sémillon is often partnered by Sauvignon Blanc to lift the acidity, although Australian winemakers also blend Sémillon Trebbiano.
An extremely versatile variety of grapes, Chenin Blanc is capable of making dry and crisp white wines that are great as an aperitif, through to medium, unctuous and sweet styles. Due to the keeen and vibrant acidity often found in Chenin Blanc grape, they make brilliant food wines and can stay in good shape for many years after the vitange.
This is the largest appellation for vin doux naturels at 10,821 hectares. Moderately sweet wines used to be made here once from both red and white Grenache grapes. There has been a change under way here though since 1996. The areas cultivated have been significantly reduced, with the yield per hectare lowered as the growers seem to have become aware of the potential quality of their French wine. Various grape varieties are used to make these vin doux naturels: red and white Grenache, Macabeu, Malvoisie, and Muscat. There are two types of Rivesaltes: the amber-coloured wine produced with white grapes, and the roof-tile red wine of at least 50 per cent Grenache Noir. The better cuvées (Rivesaltes hors d'age) should be kept for at least five years.
The young ordinary Rivesaltes should be drunk at approx. 12°C (53 .6°F), while the better ones are best at 14-16°C (57.2-60.8°F) for a good French wine taste.
Amidst the vineyards of Maury, Rivesaltes, and Banyuls, 4,540 hectares are planted with Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Petits Grains. The Muscat of Alexandria imparts breadth to the Muscat de Rivesaltes in addition to aromas of ripe fruits, raisins, and roses, while the Muscat Petits Grains is responsible for the heady bouquet of exotic citrus fruit and suggestion of menthol for a good French wine. This Muscat de Rivesaltes is at its fruitiest when still very young. Drink this French wine at 8-10°C (46.4-50°F) .
With most French wines the area from which they originate is the most important information on the label. All wines in Alsace are Alsace AOC but they are identified by their grapes. A wine may be ordered in France as a Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Gris/ Tokay but everyone knows immediately that these are Alsace wines. Only the local place name is indicated on the labels of Muscat wines because there are different types of Muscat wine in France (such as the sweet wines of the south). No other area in France follows this practice.
Although the Americans have great difficulty with the name this wine is certainly no joke. Most of the local Gewurztramier is made as sweet wine with floral notes, suggestions of Muscat, a hint of spice, and sultry, but Gewurtraminer Dry is becoming increasingly popular.
Many Americans drink the sweet of slightly sweet ‘off-dry’ Gewurztraminer as an apertif. The dry Gewürztraminer is excellent with chichen and Oriental dishes. Drinking temperature is 50-53.6°F (10-12°C) for dry, 46.4-50°F (8-10°C) for off-dry, and 42.8-46.4°F (6-8°C) for sweet.
Zinfandel and Grenache are famous blue grapes but there are also white wines made with them. The wine is of course not truly white but a light pink. These are quite recent creations which are mainly aimed at the younger market.
Most wines are not wholly dry and some of them are even slightly sweet. They have a nos in which vanilla ice cream with strawberries can be found in the White Zin or res fruit in the White Grenache. Drinkling temperature is 50-53°F (10-12°C).
There are sultry, sweet wines that in addition to the recongnisable Muscat grape nose hane apricot, peach, and ripe pear in their bouquet. The wine is often served with goose liver in California but it is better suited to serve with a fruit dessert. Drinking temperature is 42.8-46.4°F (6-8°C).
The name is often unceremoniously shorted to ‘Cab’. This classic is one of the better wines of California. It is dark coloured and very aromatic with grassy and vegetal hints here, plus suggestions of green tea and leaves.