21/01/2010 - 00:00

Varieties are the spice of life

21/01/2010 - 00:00

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LET’S be honest, New Year’s resolutions seldom have impetus past mid-January, so why not set yourself a goal that is enjoyable and at least has some hope of being achieved, like learning more about wine.

Varieties are the spice of life

LET’S be honest, New Year’s resolutions seldom have impetus past mid-January, so why not set yourself a goal that is enjoyable and at least has some hope of being achieved, like learning more about wine.

There are a few good wine courses around the traps. Those at the Claremont showgrounds are good and any of the tastings at Lamonts in Cottesloe with JJ is definitely worth a look. I won’t mention the tastings at my place because that would be unethical, right?

But some may feel that committing to four Tuesday nights in a row is a bit of a stretch, so the best thing to do is to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

I’m going to give a brief rundown on a few of the quirky grape varieties hitting the shelves in the hope of giving you a starting point.

Pinot grigio: Produces lovely dry white wines. Hailing from northern Italy, the traditional examples and those from Australia are all about neutral, mineral-flavoured profiles. They are never oak aged and are very clear when they pour into the glass. Light, bright, crisp, zippy and refreshing, pinot grigio is great with seafood on a hot day.

Pinot gris: Actually the same grape as pinot grigio, the difference comes from leaving the fruit on vine for longer, which increases the natural sugar levels and decreases the amount of acids, producing (mostly) softer, fleshier, sweeter wines.

Gewürztraminer (or simply gewurz): A variety most often found in Alsace on the border between France and Germany. These wines can be fabulously rich, spicy and lusciously sweet but the key here is a high level of acid. If the wine contains any fruit sweetness or minerality, without the acid to clean it up, the wine becomes flabby and sickly. A cool climate or the high altitude of the vineyard (or both) is a good indicator that the wine will have the acid needed.

Albarino: An indigenous white Spanish grape variety that is quickly becoming the darling of Aussie wine makers, bucking the trend of the cool climate equating to higher acid rule I mentioned above for the gewurz. In fact, it loves a bit of heat, so look for it from the Barossa and McLaren. The wines have that magical combination of summery refreshment like a Marlborough sauv blanc but also have another dimension of texture and broadness often associated with chardonnay.

Tempranillo: The new red variety most suited to our stinking hot summers. As with albarino, its traditional home is Spain where it handles the vineyard heat pretty well. The region of Rioja produces the finest examples of this variety – they are medium bodied, and can range from fleshy, soft, forward, easy drinking summery reds through to tightly structured, dry and dusty food wines of considerable elegance and pedigree. The Aussie versions of this variety are mostly of the former style, so try those first to get a feel for the variety then splash out on the older wines from Rioja to really get a feel for what this variety can do.

Whichever variety you choose to experiment with, it’s sure to be better than a session at the gym, right?

 

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