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Christmas guide to grape varieties

grapes wine

Christmas is a time when most people enjoy the festivities with a glass or two or wine.

This is Barrels and Bottles guide to grapes. A general look at what each style is and what it goes with for Christmas

Champagne

Made in the North East of France around the towns of Reims and Epernay. 3 grape varieties are allowed, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for red grapes and Chardonnay for white. Most are a blend of the three grapes, (bearing in mind that red grapes are a white juice when they are pressed) and some are 100% red grapes ( blancs de Noirs) and some are 100% white grape ( blancs des Blancs).

The more Pinot in the blend the heavier the style, with the 100% Chardonnay Champagnes being lighter softer and more feminine

Sauvignon Blanc

My favourite white grape variety at present. Zippy Zingy and fresh with hints of ripe citrus in the best wines. For French wines look for Pouilly Fume, Sancerre and St Bris for those named after the village. Very good with fish particularly seafood and white meats

Chardonnay

The days of Chardonnay being the King of white grapes is long gone, but in its classical form it is very good from the great villages of Burgundy. Chablis remains a little fresher and less oaked than those villages further south and east, such as Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet and Pouilly Fuisse. Look at for up and coming areas such as Vire Clesse and St veran, which are great but not as pricy yet. Good with richer white meats such as Pork, creamy sauces and can work well with blue cheese.

Riesling

Classically from Germany good examples are also coming forward from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Big fruit and oily texture with floral nose, sometimes with a hint of petrol
Very good with Fusion cooking and lightly spiced dishes but can work well with fruit desserts

Cabernet Sauvignon

A Powerhouse of a red grape. Full on spiced and punchy with big black fruit character and good alcohol. Best examples from Chile ( Colchagua) and the Medoc in Bordeaux. Very good with Beef, Veal and Braised dishes

Merlot

A softer cousin of Cabernet, often used to blend together to harmonise the flavours. Very soft and fruity with vegetal tones. Good examples all over the world particularly Pomerol in Bordeaux, Chile (Rapel Valley) and South Africa Stellenbosch

Pinot Noir

Great old Burgundian grape variety with an elegant fruit, ripe red berries and rich and velvety texture when aged. Very good with Turkey and also works well with Venison, as well as being perfect with cheeses. Best examples from the Cote D’or area of Burgundy as well as some great examples from New Zealand ( Marlborough and Martinborough)

Malbec

Old Bordeaux grape variety doing really well in Argentina. Wines from the Mendoza district are particularly good and offer smooth texture and power without an aggressive edge. Good with Pork, Chicken or Turkey in rich sauces.

The list of grapes is endless. The main thing is to try lots of variety and see what suits your own palate. Part two of this grape guide will appear in the next issue looking at the wacky varieties springing up all over the world.

An article by Andrew Coghlan for City Business Magazine

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