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FOOD & DRINK


Understanding wine, its styles and taste


DIFFERENT GRAPE STYLES


There are hundreds of grape styles, we’ll look at a few as you can have white wine made from Chardonnay grapes or white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes but why do they taste different? Well, like apples and oranges taste different so do the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.


ONBOARD’s wine guru Brad Mitton looks at the science behind what makes a wine taste the way it does and why you might prefer one style over another


As Chardonnay ripens on the vine, it changes through fruit characters of green apple, white peach, nectarine, ripe peach and honey melon, finally when over-ripe the character is simply tropical fruit. Sauvignon Blanc has characters of green vegetables, bell peppers, gooseberry and asparagus but also leads to tropical fruit when over-ripe.


The key for the winemaker is to pick the grapes at the right time to have sufficient sugar and acid in the grapes to provide a balanced character. If you like juicy peaches, you’d normally be a warm climate Chardonnay fan, if you like fresher, lighter and crisp characters, then you’d probably prefer a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc.


DIFFERENT CLIMATES Chardonnays from different climates as with Shiraz and grapes like Pinot Noir have different characters depending upon the climate they are grown in. Let’s take it back again to farming, imagine an apple from a local market in Northern France or Germany and an apple from a market in Sicily or the south of Spain. There would be great differences in the size, colour and flavour of the apples.


The cooler climate apple would be crisp, green fresh, almost refreshing and lively with some malic acids that give your palate that zesty feeling. The apple from the warmer climate would be richer in colour, more fruity and sweet and with more developed characters that the sun and the warmth has given the fruit. This is exactly the same with grapes. The warmer the climate, the more character the wine has, the cooler the climate, they’re more fresh and elegant.


THE WINEMAKER What do our winemakers do with the grapes that change the characters. Well, they can ferment in oak barrels, which is one excellent way of giving wines a smoky, toasty character as the barrels are normally toasted inside by burning a little fire inside them so the wine picks up smokey characters from the wood. The bacterial ferment that goes off in a barrel is normally malolactic so you pick-up creamy, buttery characters and the oak itself gives nutty, vanilla pod flavours and aromas. So there is a big difference between a normal cold-vat ferment in a stainless tank that holds in all of the lemon/lime characters and a malolactic ferment in a barrel that richens up the wine.


Winemakers can do other things like low- crop or un-irrigate and this has effects on the concentration and quality of the wines. Un-irrigated (dry grown) vines are stressed out and have to work to develop their fruits, often showing excellent terroir characters as they dig deep to find minerals and water deposits, the fruit is often smaller and more concentrated. This is not a cost-effective method of production but offers excellent fruit. Irrigated vines are lazy, they produce lots of juicy, boring crop, this is the bulk wine-making side of the business, often bland supermarket wines.


TANNINS AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE AND RED WINE Basically it is the grape skins. White wines generally don’t have the skins added into the ferment. For red wines the skins are added to give three things:


1. Depth of character with flavours that come from the skins.


2. Colour depending upon how long the skins are in contact with the juice and depending upon the grape varietals. Pinot Noir is light in colour pigment, Shiraz, depends upon the climate and Cabernet is ruby red.


3. Tannins are the third item, the drying agent that makes your cheeks suck in and they dry out your palate when you drink red wine. Different grapes and different terroirs offer different tannins and this can be measured on the palate. Soft tannins are normally found in Pinot Noirs, spicy sweet tannins in Shiraz and dry tannins in Cabernets.


To find out more visit www.mittonwines.com


110 | AUTUMN 2021 | ONBOARD


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