With the new year comes an array of inevitable resolutions for how we’re all going to change our lives for the better. Most of them last not much longer than that bottle of Champagne popped open as the clock strikes midnight on January 1st.
Here at Lazenne we’ve decided to create more realistic resolutions for 2015, ones that we know we’ll enjoy and which will enrich our lives. We’re not talking about stand up paddle-boarding lessons or competing in a triathlon (they were on last year’s list). Instead we’ve resolved to take a more global view to the grape and to delve into the world of lesser known wines, regions and varieties.
What a better way to start then with three categories of wines we’re really looking forward to becoming more familiar with in 2015.
So down the rabbit hole we go!
German Pinot Noir
Yes! They don’t just make white wine in Germany! Considering the German climate, it’s no surprise really that the red wine grape that is getting all the acclaim is Pinot Noir. Known locally as Spätburgunder, (literally meaning late maturing Burgundy, get it?), those Germans have gone and cultivated one of the most delicate (read: fussy) grape varieties of all, and nailed it. Pinot Noir thrives in cooler climates (New Zealand’s Central Otago is a prime example) and has found its match in the soils of the acclaimed Baden and Pfalz wine regions where it produces an elegant, light-to-medium bodied wine redolent of strawberries and raspberries. We’re looking forward to matching a glass with another German favourite; the Schnitzel! If you’re looking to expand your Pinot Noir repertoire beyond Burgundy and the USA, here’s a great place to start.
Unusual European Delights
Have you noticed that the shelves of your local wine retailer have becoming a little more international these days? The world has suddenly woken up to the fact that counties like Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia have established wine traditions and produce an array of top quality wines made from unusual, foreign sounding grape varieties such as Žilavka and Saperavi. It seems like we’ll be accompanied through the seasons by Central and Eastern European wines. We envisage summer afternoons sipping a wonderfully fresh and mineral Assyrtiko from Greece’s Santorini, followed by a round and rich Malvasia Istriana from Croatia on early autumn evenings, then warming up in winter with a full bodied Vranac from Montenegro and letting a fragrant and floral Macedonian Temjanika put a spring in our step.
English Sparkling Wine
English wine? We know that may sound like a paradox, but the English wine industry is the sleeper of Europe and we predict big things for it this year. The number of vineyards in the country is steadily increasing, mainly centered in the south, where winemakers are planting cool climate varieties such as Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine and Dornfelder, along with more recognized names such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With a fairly similar latitude to the Champagne region and some lovely chalky soils in the North and South Downs, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s the country’s sparkling wines that are really getting the wine world talking. We’re already planning to pop a cork or two to mark some of the year’s quintessentially British events: Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and Glastonbury!
Have you any favourite wines or vineyards from our list to recommend? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below! If you’re visiting vineyards in Europe in 2015, don’t forget to check out the Lazenne range of products, perfect for transporting your purchases with safety and ease!
If you look around the world of wine today, you'll notice that most wine is made with the same grape varieties. Pretty much every 'New World' country produces wines made from grapes native to France; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot... the list goes on. This is no bad thing as stylistically, all the above varieties can be drastically different depending upon climate, soil, viticulture and vinification. The vast majority of glossy, bold Shiraz from Australia is, literally and figuratively, a world away from the savoury, peppery wines of the Northern Rhone, for example. However, in the last 10 years the fashion has been to move away from seeking out the 'best' examples of these well known varieties and instead to look for unique expressions, typically from grapes native to specific countries and regions. This has seen the emergence of some new stars in the world of wine, from the austere, mineral wines of Mount Etna in Sicily to the powerful, racy Assyrtiko of Santorini in Greece. Austria has re-modelled its vinous reputation with the versatile Grüner Veltliner and even as afar as South America, Bonarda and Pais are resurging on both sides of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile respectively.
However, no country has been rediscovered in quite the same way as Spain. There are somewhere in the region of 600 grape varieties on the Iberian Peninsula, the vast majority of them indigenous and regionally specific in production. Despite this, Spain was for decades synonymous with oaky, extracted wines from Rioja, and to a lesser extent Ribera del Duero, with Tempranillo the only celebrated indigenous grape hailing from the country. Short-sighted producers ripped up their old, unfashionable vineyards and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and anything that was currently selling, not realising that in doing so they were giving up their major point of difference on the international market-place. However, this wasn't true for all producers and quietly, many went about their business as they had done for centuries; cultivating their families vineyards and producing wines of distinction and style, as their vines slowly became older, sturdier and produced better quality fruit. To look at the market now compared to 20 years ago is staggering. Shops in Barcelona are awash with local Catalan wines, Galician field-blends are appearing in top restaurants across the world and even Sherry is making a come-back! To cover the entirety of this resurgence would take a strong liver and a lot of time, but I'd like to share a few exciting varieties from my own little corner of Spain, the fiercely independent Catalunya:
Wine is a fussy product. Starting from its very beginnings as embryonic genetic material located on the buds of vines, to its moment of glory in your glass, there are countless chemical reactions, pitfalls and opportunities to be navigated and controlled in order to create a good bottle of wine. The vast majority of these is, fortunately, taken care of by the time we actually buy a bottle of wine, as the vigneron has spent the entire year wrestling against nature, ensuring the right balance of sugars, acids and flavour compounds, before handing over the baton to the wine-maker. This is where the grapes will be converted into wine through the magical process of fermentation, possibly aged and then bottled with care being taken to ensure biological stability. Then depending on where the wine is to be sold, it will go through a long or short supply route, potentially crossing oceans, continents and all sorts of checks before it finally appears on a shop shelf or restaurant list somewhere in the world.
Enter us; the consumer. We purchase the wine with the intention of one day drinking it, whether that be within minutes of the purchase, or 20 years down the line, after extended storage to allow for it to evolve within the bottle. Assuming the bottle has been purchased close to home and you intend to drink it in the near future, this is all well and good as any issues of storage are very much the responsibility of the retailer/restaurant and bottles can be returned for a refund. However, if you're buying the wine far from home, possibly, abroad, we run into some potential issues quite quickly.
Having just come back from a two week trip to the Mount Etna region of eastern Sicily we thought we'd share some of the best wine stores we came across travelling in the region. I must say I love the "enoteca" concept in Italy, where you can come for an aperitivo, taste local wines by the glass with some food, and then purchase bottles that you've tasted and liked. We loved visiting and tasting wines directly at the wineries of course, but the experience of tasting different producers side by side, and the ability to try older vintages can only be done at an enoteca.