Brut or Extra Dry?


Somewhat counterintuitively, Extra Dry on the label of a bottle of Prosecco actually means it’s got a noticeable amount of residual sugar. Fermentation is stopped short, or arrested, before the yeast consumes all the sugar, leaving some sweetness in the wine. For Extra Dry you can expect 12 – 17 grams per litre. The Extra Dry style is the most famous, the most widely available. Brut styles are less sweet, 6 – 12 grams per litre. I rather enjoy that little bit of extra sweetness, it adds to the soft texture of the gentle mousse and brings out the pear and peach notes. Brut Prosecco has a bite to it, a more linear crispness and lemony tang.

 @proseccodoc #tasteprosecco #italiangenio #proseccodoc #sweettooth #cheers

Red Wine Soup?

Saumur ChampignyIt’s hitting temperatures of nearly 30 degrees centigrade in Edinburgh today, temperatures that we haven’t experienced for quite a few years!

Mostly we’ll be looking for a more refreshing beverage, lighter white wines, crunchy roses, zesty cocktails or possibly a dry, tangy Fino Sherry. Reds struggle a little bit when it’s hot. Reds have less acidity then whites so lack that refreshing characteristic and if served too warm, can become “soupy”. In the heat the wine’s texture thickens, losing any freshness that  it might have had and can taste flat or stale. To avoid this keep your wines in a cool space, avoid direct sunshine and you could even pop them briefly into the fridge or an ice bucket, or add an ice cube or two. Maybe not if you’re opening full bodied, highly tannic wines, like Bordeaux or Petrus or Aussie Shiraz, but for lighter fruitier, less tannic wines this a great way to enjoy them in the warmer summer months. Don’t leave them too long in the fridge/ice bucket though, the perception of tannins can increase in chilled reds. The best reds to chill are those that are typically fruity with lowish levels of oak and alcohol eg Beaujolais-Villages, Valpolicella, Grenache and Saumur-Champigny (pictured) or any oak or tannin bitterness will overpower the fresh fruit.

Chilling red is common place in Spain and Australia during the heat of the summer, with the Spanish often adding Coke and ice to make sure it really does give them the refresh they need.

If you’re drinking out don’t be afraid to ask your bartender/sommelier to chill your red slightly, if they know they’re stuff, they’ll have already popped it in the fridge for you.


Getting your geek on …

You can really get your geek on when it comes to learning about fortified wines! Port, Sherry and Madeira offer the wine student an opportunity to fill their boots with science and technology from the Maillard Reaction to mould development and the use of solar panels.

This was reflected in a batch of WSET assignments that I’ve just finished marking which asked students to write about Sweetening in Sherry, Maturation of Madeira and Fortification of Port. The answers were overall very good which suggested to me that the students had really enjoyed studying these subjects and had developed a detailed and accurate understanding of the 3 subjects. It was clear that some of them had even been to Spain and Portugal to see how the wines were actually made.

Some of the answers were so thorough with detail on parts of the production method or recent developments that I wasn’t aware of or had forgotten (it was a long time ago I did my WSET L4 exams!) that I constantly had to dip into my library of books or “ask Google” to help verify (or invalidate) facts!

Here are some of the most reliable resources I came across for learning about fortified wines:

Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson

The Wines of Madeira, Trevor Elliot

Understanding Wines: Explaining Style & Quality, an accompaniment to the WSET L3 Award in Wines

Court of Master Sommeliers

Once you’ve looked through all the above resources why not have a go at the assignment? Write a 250 word paragraph on one or all of the following:

Sweetening in Sherry

Maturation of Madeira

Fortification of Port

… and see how you get on.

When you’re done why not try some practical study:

Fernando de Castilla Cream Sherry

Graham’s Tawny Port 20 yr old

Blandy’s Madeira Boal 15 yr old

Try and pick out the characteristics in the wine that have come from the winemaking you discussed in your mini essays.