Alsace is a premium white wine region in northeast France. It is unique in having a distinct Germanic influence on its grape varieties and wine styles, and is the only French wine-growing region that labels its varietals.
Alsace’s vineyards run in a narrow north-south strip in the foothills of the Vosges mountains (a stunning natural shelter) and are bordered by the Rhine to the east.
Alsace is particularly famous for feminine, aromatic whites made from Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer and late harvest (vendange tardive) wines are a speciality – where grapes are left longer on the vines to increase their levels of natural sweetness, with a reduction of alcohol.
A.O.C. Alsace Grand Cru is the highest appellation, below that is A.O.C. Alsace and A.O.C. Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling wine).
Andaluçia is a southern Spanish wine region, best known for its tourism industry rather than its wine. It is also the home of Sherry, which takes its name from the town of Jerez where Sherry production houses (bodegas) are situated.
Appellation d'origine contrôlée (A.O.C.)
A.O.C. sits at the top of the French wine quality system (with V.D.P. and V.d.T. below). It is a geographical-based system, which states a wine’s origin and quality, and only a producer from a particular A.O.C. designation (such as A.O.C. Champagne), which has satisfied the authorities that its wines are of A.O.C. status, may use it on their labels.
Regulations vary between appellations, and each appellation has specific laws including: geographical boundaries; grape varieties; viticulture (e.g. pruning and irrigation), and vinification (e.g. ageing in barrel).
Although appellation status is a good guide into locating the finest examples of French wine, the quality of produce varies from producer to producer and between vintages.
Growers do not need to restrict their plantings to one appellation, and many produce wines from various vineyard plots scattered over different appellations.
Argentina is the largest wine producer in South America and the world’s 5th largest wine producer.
Italian immigrants originally planted many of its vineyards in the 19th century. Over 90% of Argentinean wine is produced from the Cuyo region, encompassing Mendoza and San Juan. Mendoza is the most important region in terms of quantity and quality. Much of the lower quality wines go to large bodegas and co-operatives and is drunk by the local market, which consumes around 90% of total production.
Red wine predominates and the main grape varieties are Barbera; Bonarda; Cabernet Sauvignon; Malbec; Merlot; Pinot Noir; Sangiovese; Syrah, and Tempranillo.
Argentina has long, dry summers and autumns, and irrigation is essential. High diurunal temperature ranges (hot days and cool nights) help produce ripe grapes that benefit from cool night-time respite. Many estates are situated at altitude, where low humidity keeps vineyards practically pest free.
Australia is the world’s 6th largest wine producer and the 4th largest wine exporter. It is the market leader in UK wine sales, and the UK is Australia’s biggest single wine market.
Australia’s first vines were planted in 1788, it has no native vines, and so rootstock was brought over by European settlers, including: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Riesling. Certain varieties, like Terrango and Cienna, have been bred by Australian viticulturalists, and over 100 grape varieties are now grown across 60 designated wine regions in: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
Australia’s appeal has been based on effective marketing by big brands, great value wines and easy-to-understand labels. However, there is also a finer market for boutique wineries producing smaller quantities of unique styles and flavours.
Barbaresco is an Italian red wine producing grape variety and a Piedmont wine growing designation (DOCG) in northwest Italy.
Barbaresco is often compared to its famous neighbour Barolo, both of which are made from the Nebbiolo grape. However, unlike Barolo wines, Barbaresco tends to be more approachable in its youth (and more elegant and refined), and, with the exception of a few top producers, relatively more affordable.
DOCG rules require that Barbaresco wines are aged for a minimum of two years in the cellar prior to release (1 year must be in oak), and a Riserva must be aged for a minimum of three years (1 year must be in oak).
Barbera is an Italian red wine producing grape variety (the third most planted in Italy) – most famously grown in Piedmont (northwest Italy). The best quality Barberas come from the DOCs of Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti.
Barbera ranges from the fruity, medium-bodied style (for early consumption) to full-bodied oaked renditions with greater power and structure to warrant ageing. Barbera produces good yields and is generally low in tannin with relatively high acidity for a red wine.
Barbera has also been planted in warmer regions like southern Italy and California, though with considerably less success than Piedmont.
The Barossa Valley, situated 60kms northeast of Adelaide in South Australia, is one of Australia’s most prestigious wine regions with over 60 wineries.
The Barossa has the world's oldest Shiraz vineyards, for which it is most famous, including Australia’s most sought after fine wine – Penfold’s Grange Hermitage. Other important grape varieties grown in the Barossa include Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Semillon (from which good fortified sweet wines are made).
Barossa’s very hot ripening season (February – March) can produce extremely ripe and concentrated grapes, although over-production can be one downside with less quality-focused producers.
Bâtard-Montrachet is an elite white wine producing Grand Cru appellation situated in the southern half of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or (the Côte de Beaune). It produces some of the finest white wines in the world from the Chardonnay grape.
Bâtard-Montrachet comprises 30 acres, whose vineyards are actually situated in Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet.
Good Bâtard-Montrachet is rich, honeyed and concentrated.
Beaujolais is Burgundy’s most southerly district, extending from just north of Lyon to the city of Mâcon.
However, it is usually considered independently of Burgundy, because its wines are produced from Gamay rather than Pinot Noir. (Tiny amounts of rosé and white wines are also produced).
Beaujolais wines tend to be light, fresh and fruity in style, low in tannins and are best drunk young. They are often not taken as seriously as they should be, as many wine drinkers are unaware of the quality that exists outside of Beaujolais Nouveau (basic wine released on the third Thursday in November each year).
There are 10 Beaujolais Crus (village appellations), including: Côte de Brouilly; Juliénas; Morgon; Moulin-à-Vent; Fleurie, and Régnié) which produce the finest Beaujolais. Each cru has its own unique style – from the masculine Morgon to distinctly floral and feminine Fleurie.
Below these Crus is the appellation Beaujolais-Villages, which encompasses all Beaujolais that comes from 39 other villages, and below this, is the generic appellation of Beaujolais itself.
Bodega is the generic Spanish term for winery, wine producer or estate. It is the equivalent of the French term Château orDomaine – and can be anything from a tin shack to a grand estate.
Bonnes Mares (lit. good vintage) is a red Burgundy Grand Cru appellation from the communes of Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits district.
Bonnes Mares is renowned for producing rich, full-bodied Pinot Noir.
Bordeaux is situated in the Gironde département of southwest France. The Gironde Estuary, which is the confluence of the Rivers Dordogne and Garonne, splits Bordeaux into three regions: the left bank, right bank and the Entre-Deux-Mers (lit. between two seas).
Bordeaux’s path to becoming the world’s finest winemaking region was set when King Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitane and gained control of the region in the 12th century. Henry placated Bordeaux’s citizens by granting them tax-free trade with England, and Clairette (the original rosé style of wine that later became Claret) became a major hit with the English.
The left bank is responsible for the most famous red wines on the planet. It is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon plantings, reflected in the full-bodied, long-lived tannic style of wines. Châteaux of the Médoc (Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, Saint-Julien), are rated under the 1855 Bordeaux classification into growths. Other important left bank appellations include the Graves and Margaux.
The right bank refers to the right bank or northern half of the Dordogne. Merlot is the dominant grape variety here, accounting for softer, less tannic wines than Cabernet Sauvignon. Saint-Emilion (which has its own classification system), and Pomerol are the most famous of right bank appellations, but in the past decade a number of other districts have risen to prominence for producing good value alternatives, such as Blaye, Bourg, Castillon and Fronsac.
Other grape varieties that are used in smaller amounts in Bordeaux blends include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Muscadelle.
Bordeaux is the world centre for fine wine investment, and elite châteaux, particularly the top growths of the Médoc, which have the potential to age well in bottle, fetch prices that only wealthy investors can afford, especially in great vintages. Investment wines can be bought pre-bottling (en primeur) or post-bottling.
Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is a Tuscan red wine and a DOCG wine appellation. Brunello is made solely from a Sangiovese clone,Sangiovese Grosso (aka Brunello or the little dark one) because of the brown colouring of its skin. Brunello wines are typically big and powerful with great structure and powerful tannins that ensure longevity in bottle. DOCG law requires that Brunello has the longest ageing requirements (4 years) in Italy, and Brunellos aged for five years before release are designated Riservas. The US market consumes around 95% of total Brunello production.
Burgundy (Bourgogne) encompasses a narrow vertical strip of land between Dijon and Lyon. It comprises five distinct wine growing districts: the Côte d’Or; Côte Chalonnaise; Mâconnais, Beaujolais, and the satellite of Chablis.
Three major grape varieties are permitted: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay. Gamay is used in Beaujolais; Chardonnay predominates in Chablis and the Côte de Beaune, and Pinot Noir in the Côte de Nuits. Aligote and Sauvignon are also grown.
Burgundy produces some of the finest red and white wines in the world, from the likes of Gevrey-Chambertin and Puligny-Montrachet respectively. In the south of the region, the Mâconnais and Côtes Challonaise are renowned for producing some high quality whites at a fraction of the prices of the Cote d’Or.
Knowing and finding good Burgundy is a tricky business due to its myriad of small, fragmented vineyard plots – a hangover from the Napoleonic Law of Succession – under which inherited land is divided equally among one’s children. Vineyard plots are therefore often split amongst many growers, and many have the same name (being related). It is therefore important to know the merits of the individual grower as well as the vineyard.
Burgundy has over 600 appellations (Bordeaux has just 57 in comparison). Grand and Premier Cru appellations (account for around 10% of wines); Village wines, which may attach a village name to the label (just over 20%), and the remaining 60%+ are sub-village appellations – i.e. commune, district and regional.
Négociants are extremely important in Burgundy.
Cabernet Franc is the genetic parent of the more famous Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, and is often used in much smaller percentages in Bordeaux blends.
Cabernet Franc is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon, and has lower acidity levels. It is therefore more suitable to cooler climates (such as the Loire where it makes single varietal reds). Cabernet Franc can also play a more dominant role in Bordeaux blends in cold years when Cabernet Sauvignon fails to ripen fully.
Cabernet Franc tends to produce fruitier, more aromatic and vegetative flavours than Cabernet Sauvignon, typically displaying redcurrant, cherry and plum fruits.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular and successful red wine grape.
It provides the backbone and structure to many of Bordeaux’s world-famous right bank reds, including the Médoc: the finest red winemaking commune on the planet.
In recent times it has also been heavily planted across California, Chile, Australia and Italy. Cabernet Sauvignon’s popularity amongst wine drinkers and growers comes from the fact that it typically produces full-bodied, tannic, complex wines of great longevity. It buds late, limiting its exposure to spring frost, and thick skins are resistant to rot and insects.
Cahors is a red wine appellation situated in southwest France. It has a reputation for producing big, tannic wines using Malbec (Cot), Merlot and Tannat.
Carbonic maceration (maceration carbonique) is a modern winemaking technique in which whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide-rich tank (before being crushed). This process ferments grape juice (whilst still in the grape) causing them to explode, and produces fruity wines that are low in tannin.
Carbonic maceration is common in Beaujolais and the Côtes du Rhône.
Carignan (Cariñena, Carinyena, Carignano) is a red wine producing grape indigenous to Aragon in Spain, and is now also widely planted in the Languedoc.
Carignan is mainly used in blends (adding depth of colour). It produces high yields, but is sensitive to rot and mildew. Carignan blends particularly well with Syrah and Grenache. It is rarely bottled as a single varietal due its high acidity, tannins and astringency.
Castilla y León
Castilla y León is a Spanish wine producing region that extends from Rioja to the outskirts of Madrid and the Spanish/Portuguese border.
Castilla y León's fame as a wine region relies heavily on the high quality, ‘meaty’ reds of the Ribera del Duero – one of Spain’s most revered districts.
Other growing areas of note in Castilla y León include Rueda and Toro. Rueda, situated in the heart of the region, has a good reputation for great value whites made from Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc.
Catalonia (Cataluña) is a predominantly red and sparkling wine producing region in northeast Spain.
As well as the perennial good value sparkling Cava from the Penedès, Catalonia is home to an increasingly quality-focused wine movement based on red wines from eight DO regions, including Priorat and Terra Alta.
Garnaxta (Grenache) is the dominant red wine producing grape in Catalonia. Cava is made from grapes including Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel•lo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Cellar is a term that describes an area in which a wine is stored or aged, at a winery or private home. It is also often used to refer to the place where winemaking takes place. The French term for cellar is chai.
Chablis is a small white wine producing satellite district of Burgundy that encircles the town of Chablis to the northwest of the Côte d’Or. It is actually closer to Champagne than Burgundy.
Chardonnay is the only grape variety permitted in the production of Chablis, and its wines are graded in the following descending appellation hierarchy: Grand Cru, Premier Grand Cru, Chablis and Petit Chablis.
Chablis tends to be more refined in style than many New World Chardonnays and its producers tend to age their wines in stainless steel to create a crisper, fresher style with a classic flinty, mineral feel. Chablis has a natural affinity with seafood (esp. oysters).
Chambolle-Musigny is a Burgundy Grand Cru situated in the Côte de Nuits. Pinot Noir is predominantly grown here, presenting itself as a wine style often referred to as ‘an iron fist in a silk glove’.
The majority of Les Bonnes Mares’ vineyards also lie in Chambolle-Musigny, including 12 Premier Crus, which may use both designations on their labels.
Champagne is France’s most northerly wine-growing region. Situated northeast of Paris, the region comprises three main districts: the Vallée de la Marne, Montagne de Reims, and the Côte de Blancs.
Three grape varieties are permitted in the production of Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay is most commonly planted in the Côte de Blancs, Pinot Noir in Montagne, and Pinot Meunier in Marne.
Champagne’s marginal vine growing climate of cold winters and warm summers means that non-vintage blends form the mainstay of production – as grapes from one harvest rarely make a good wine in their own right, although exceptional years are sold as vintages.
This phenomenon of blending grapes from different vintages has resulted in the development of individual house styles (Champagne producers are known as houses) – and so it is brand and consistency, rather than any other factor that is of paramount importance when buying Champagne. The majority of growers sell their grapes or wine to larger houses.
Champagne is made using the ‘Champagne method’ (methode champenoise), which involves secondary fermentation in the bottle. Rosé Champagne may be made using grape skin contact or (and unlike any other French region) by adding a small amount of red wine to the blend.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white wine producing grape variety. It has travelled from its Burgundian roots, with classic styles such as Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet, to all corners of the winemaking world.
Unfortunately its reputation has suffered from a mass of over-oaked examples and just plain, bland offerings, and has led to what we call the ABC (anything but chardonnay) wine aficionado.
However, it has adapted well to a wide range of terroirs, and in the right hands it can produce a wonderfully diverse range of textures and flavours to suit varying tastes: from the oaky and buttery, to the steely, minerally and crisp, and even a tropical fruits style.
Love it or hate it, Chardonnay is here to stay.
Charmes-Chambertin is a 37 hectare Grand Cru vineyard near Gevrey-Chambertin within Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Its Pinot Noirs are renowned for being soft, ripe and fruity, with the ability to age for several decades.
The quality and relatively large size of Charmes-Chambertin (encompassing Mazoyères-Chambertin), has made it a highly popular Burgundian red.
Producers from Mazoyères-Chambertin (the adjoining Grand Cru) may also use the name Charmes-Chambertin on their labels.
Chassagne-Montrachet is a predominantly white wine growing vineyard in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune.
It accounts for some of the finest, most expensive and long-lived white wines in the world, produced from 5 appellations including 3 Grand Crus: Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet (which it rather confusingly shares with Puligny-Montrachet) and, less famously, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet.
Château (pl. Châteaux) is a generic French term meaning manor house, and is often used as a prefix for Bordeaux wine estates.
In reality, only the elite Bordeaux châteaux, like those of the Médoc, are very grand manor houses, while the majority are farmhouses or even sheds! But don't let those shed fool you, they can be full of surprises.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the leading red wine appellation of the southern Rhône – whose typically big, rich and full-bodied reds have earned it considerable fame.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (lit. New Castle of the Pope), situated between Orange and Avignon, is named after a papal summer palace that once stood in the town of the same name, and its wines were once entwined with divinity, being once known as ‘Vin de Pape’.
Thirteen grape varieties (including a few white wine producing varieties) are permitted in the appellation. Grenache and Mourvèdre make up the majority of blends, others include: Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse. White grape varieties include: Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Picardin, Picpoul and Roussanne. Châteauneuf’s vines benefit from continual warmth as an unusual terroir of large galet (lit. round) stones, deposited by ice age glaciers, store the intense summer heat of the day and aid gradual ripening at night.
Chenin Blanc (Pineau de la Loire) is a white wine producing grape variety widely planted in the Loire districts of Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, and South Africa (where it is also known as Steen).
Chenin Blanc’s high acidity makes it a versatile grape in the Loire, capable of producing different wine styles: dry white, sweet and sparkling wine (Crémant de Loire).
Chenin is a hardy variety and can survive both temperate and continental climates. It has adapted well to many different soil types and has good resistance against common vine diseases. However, it is susceptible to noble rot (beneficial for sweet wines).
Chenin Blanc is also grown to a lesser extent in South Australia and Western Australia and California.
Chianti is the best known of all Italian wines. The Chianti DOCG is a single appellation situated within Tuscany, and is divided into seven sub-divisions: Chianti Aretini, Chianti Classico, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano and Chianti Rufina. Wines produced outside of these sub-divisions may be labelled as just ‘Chianti’.
Chianti is made from Sangiovese, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano are also permitted in the blend. Chianti Classico typically produces Chianti’s best wines (identifiable by a black rooster on the label). Chianti that has been aged for at least three years prior to bottling may be labelled Riserva.
Cinsault is an important red wine producing variety in France’s Languedoc region where it is blended with grapes like Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. It is also grown in many other countries, most notably South Africa, where it is known as Hermitage.
Cinsault is a highly productive grape, grows particularly well in hot, dry climates, and produces light reds with high acidity – it is therefore considered as a blending grape (the vigneron’s seasoning) rather than a single varietal.
Claret is the English name for Bordeaux red wine. The name comes from the French word Clairet – the dark Rosé wine that was once exported to the UK from the Bordeaux region. The French do not use the term Claret.
Clos de Vougeot
Clos de Vougeot is a Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard in the Côte de Nuits, and at around 125 acres it is the largest single vineyard in Burgundy planted exclusively with Pinot Noir.
Clos de Vougeot’s quality of produce varies considerably according to the grower and the position of their vines: with hillside vineyards producing the best wines, which generally decrease in quality with descending altitude.
Colli Orientali del Friuli
The Colli Orientali del Friuli (lit. the eastern hills of Friuli) was designated a DOC in 1970 and produces some of the finest white wines in Italy.
Its beautiful rolling hills are blessed with distinctive marl and sandstone based soils (deposited by an ancient lagoon), providing excellent vine-growing material particularly suited to white wine production. Colli is also backed by the Julian Alps, which together with the close proximity of the Adriatic sea, provides the vines with shelter from cold northern currents in the winter, yet constant cooling sea breezes during hot summers.
DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli wines must comprise 90% of a named varietal, and important varieties include Pinot Grigo, Sauvignon, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Consultant winemakers provide expert consultancy services to wine producers.
The consultant winemaker has become an integral part of the winemaking process throughout the world and the most skilled consultants embrace appropriate vineyard management as the 'building blocks' for great wines, rather than just wizardry in the cellar as the name suggests.
Coonawarra (from the Aboriginal word honeysuckle) is an important winemaking district in South Australia, situated 200 miles to the southeast of Adelaide.
Coonawarra is renowned for its cool-climate reds based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grown on its famous terra rossa (lit. over limestone) soils. Other red wine producing red varieties include Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
Riesling is the most popular white wine producing variety, and Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown.
A wine is corked when it has been in contact with a cork infected with a fungus that produces 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, otherwise known as TCA. It is this chemical (not the fungus itself) that causes the taint.
A mildy corked wine may lack fruit, be unbalanced and uninteresting, but without definite signs of taint. More obviously corked wine will smell like wet cardboard, mushrooms and mould, while the palate will lack fruit and be quite bitter.
Corton is a Burgundy Grand Cru appellation situated at the northern end of the Côte de Beaune district. Its vineyards are situated on the hill of Montagne de Corton.
Corton is a predominantly Pinot Noir vineyard, comprising many smaller vineyards that may append their name to the Corton label. Corton’s red wines are amongst the very best Pinot Noirs produced in the Côte de Beaune.
Vineyards, labelled Corton-Charlemagne, may produce white wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
The Chalonnaise district is a southern continuation of the slopes of Burgundy’s more famous Côte d’Or, separated by the Dheune River.
Chalonnaise consists of six appellations including the exclusive white wine growing Montagny: a happy hunting ground for those seeking good quality Chardonnay at a fraction of the price of its more famous neighbours in the Côte de Beaune.
Other wines that are not entitled to an appellation designation in Côte Chalonnaise are classified as either A.O.C. Bourgogne or A.O.C. Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grain.
Côte de Beaune
The Côte de Beaune makes up the southern half of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or (lit. golden slope).
Beaune is widely considered to be the world’s finest white winemaking district – producing premium Chardonnay. Beaune’s Grand Cru sites account for the district’s finest wines such as Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet.
There are also two generic appellations: the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Beaune-Villages, which produce blended wines from 20 villages.
Côte de Blancs
The Côte de Blancs is one of Champagne’s three distinct grape-growing districts. It is almost solely planted with Chardonnay, with a smattering of Pinot Noir in the south of the district.
Grapes from the Côte de Blancs typically produce the finest quality Champagne and are labelled ‘Blanc de Blancs’.
Côtes de Blaye
Blaye is a town and a pretty, right bank Bordeaux wine producing district to the north of Bourg. Blaye is an underrated Bordeaux district and its top producers offer great value-for-money.
Blaye is divided into three appellations, the finest vineyards, sited on highly fertile limestone slopes, being entitled to the Premières Côtes de Blaye appellation – offering the wine drinker the chance to taste soft, fruity reds based on the Merlot grape.
Other permitted red grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Côtes de Bourg
The Côtes de Bourg is a beautiful undulating right bank Bordeaux district dotted with late Medieval fort ruins and commanding stunning views over the Gironde Estuary.
Bourg is a lesser-known, underrated Bordeaux district, and, like its neighbour Blaye, its top producers offer very good quality and great value-for-money Claret.
On the political map the Bourg district is actually part of Blaye, and you catch a ferry from the ancient village port of Bourg itself to Margaux on the other side of the Gironde.
Côtes de Castillon
The Côtes de Castillon is the most exciting of Bordeaux’s satellite appellations - a great source of high quality and great value-for-money Bordeaux. According to Robert Parker it is: "…now the most fashionable of all the Bordeaux satellite appellations", and when you look at its soils it’s easy to see why.
Castillon’s limestone soils are a direct continuation of those of Saint-Émilion, making it a dynamic hotbed of modern winemaking attracting some of Bordeaux’ finest winemakers (like Hübert de Boüard of Château Angélus, Gérard Perse of Château Pavie, Stéphane Derenoncourt and Stephan von Neipperg of Châteaux Canon-La-Gaffelière and La Mondotte).
Castillon has two appellations: Bordeaux Côtes de Castillon and the higher quality Bordeaux Supérieur Côtes de Castillon.
Côte de Nuits
The long, narrow Côte de Nuits district makes up the northern half of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or.
The Côte de Nuits is synonymous with full-bodied Pinot Noir, and produces many of the world’s most elegant reds; although there are also some fine Chardonnays produced here.
Nuits is made up of numerous villages where wine is bottled under the generic Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation, as well as more specific villages which have their own appellations, including Grand and Premier Cru vineyards such as Charmes-Chambertin, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée and Morey-St-Denis.
Côtes de Ventoux
The Côtes de Ventoux is a red, white and rosé wine producing appellation situated in France’s Rhône Valley.
The poor limestone soils of the Côtes de Ventoux encourage typically light, fruity reds similar in style to the Côtes du Rhône: highly quaffable and great value-for-money.
The Côte d’Or (lit. golden slope) is Burgundy’s most famous (and expensive) wine producing district, which allegedly gets its name from the golden colour of its hills in autumn.
The district is about 30 miles long and just 12 miles wide, running from just south of Dijon in the north to Santenay in the south. It comprises two sub-divisions: the Côte de Beaune in the south (famous for cool-climate style Chardonnay), and the Côte de Nuits in the north (famous for the world’s finest Pinot Noir).
The Côte d’Or is a myriad of tiny vineyard plots, which have been continually split up and divided under the Napoleonic Rule of Succession – where land is divided amongst siblings on the death of the parent. Many neighbouring vineyards therefore have the same name, yet produce can vary significantly.
Côtes du Rhône
The Côtes du Rhône is a generic, mainly red wine producing Rhône appellation in southern France.
The Côtes du Rhône produces light, fruity red wines made from Grenache, with small amounts of Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah used in blends.
The Côtes du Rhône-Villages is a sub-appellation, which accounts for higher quality, more full-bodied reds, and where a wine is made from grapes sourced from a single village; the producer may also append the village name to the appellation.
White Côtes du Rhône is made from Bourboulenc, Clairette, Marsanne, Muscardine, Picpoule and Roussanne.
Cour-Cheverny is a relatively unknown and good value Loire appellation situated in the north of the Touraine district.
Romorantin is the dominant grape in Cour-Cheverny, a variety rarely seen on the high street, yet capable of producing minerally style whites reminiscent of Chablis.
Crianza (lit. breeding or ageing) is a general Spanish term, as well as being more specifically applied to wine in terms of oak-ageing. A wine bearing the label crianza must have been aged for at least a year in oak.
Crus Bourgeois is a classification that encompasses great value left bank Bordeaux châteaux that were not included in the higher 1855 classification.
Cuvée is derived from the French term cuve (lit. tank or vat) and is often used as a synonym for wine.
Producers sometimes use the term to distinguish different wines from their estate as an indication of quality (e.g. cuvée speciale), or different blends. French winemakers sometimes name a wine after a member of the family (e.g. cuvée Emile).
In Champagne winemaking, cuvée describes the premium, free running grape juice.
Denominación de Origen (DO)
Denominación de Origen is the Spanish equivalent of the French appellation designation (AOC). Around 65 Spanish wine growing regions have DO status, which account for approximately 50% of Spanish wines.
Like AOC law, DO wines must satisfy specific vitification and vinification regulations, such as grape varieties permitted and yields.
Following criticism that many DOs were not producing wine of acceptable quality, a new, higher classification was devised, Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa), with more exacting standards. In recent years however, the quality of DO and Spanish wine in general has improved considerably.
Below DOCa and DOC in the Spanish wine hierarchy system are Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada (VCPRD), Vinos de la Tierra (VdT) and Vino de Mesa (VdM) in descending order of quality.
Denominaçâo de Origen Controlada (DO)
Denominaçâo de Origen Controlada (DO) is the Portuguese equivalent of the French appellation designation (AOC).
Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa)
Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) is the highest classification a Spanish wine can achieve.
DOCa literally means a ‘qualified designation of origin’, and was introduced in the early 1990s following much criticism of the standard of Denominación de Origen (DO) wines, and has more strict regulations governing vitification and vinification.
Rioja was the first region to qualify for this classification.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) is the second highest classification an Italian wine can attain.
DOC is the equivalent of French AOC status. There are around 300 DOCs, accounting for approximately 15% of Italian wine production. DOC requirements vary widely between regions, but each stipulates regulations governing vitification and vinification.
Some growers, wishing to make wines with less strict regulations opt to produce wines under Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IgT) law which offers greater freedom of expression – such as the use of international grape varieties in Super Tuscans. The Italian wine hierarchy system in order of descending quality is Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), DOC, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IgT) and Vino da Tavola (VdT).
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is the highest classification that an Italian wine can achieve.
Wines with DOCG status, must meet all the regulations of a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wine, and must be subject to a Ministry of Agriculture tasting and seal of approval.
There are around 20 DOCG regions, of which Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Barbaresco are the most famous.
The Italian wine hierarchy system in order of descending quality is Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), DOC, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (I.g.T.), and Vindo da Tavola (V.d.T.).
Domaine is a generic French wine term that means estate, producer, winery or château.
It is most commonly seen on Burgundy labels.
Portugal’s charming Douro Valley is synonymous with Port; the grapes for which are grown and vinified under DOC law.
The valley gets its name from the River Douro which flows into Portugal from Spain (where it is confusingly known as the Duero).
The name Port actually derives from the port of Oporto from where the wine was originally shipped from to England, gaining popularity during the wars with France (when Bordeaux wine exports dried up).
There are many Port styles, including ruby, tawny and late bottled vintage (lbv), with Vintage Port being the finest of all.
Echézeaux is a Burgundy Grand Cru vineyard situated in the Côte de Nuits, which produces red wine from Pinot Noir.
There are around 80 producers in Echézeaux, and the Grands Echézeaux sub-appellation produces the finest wines.
Enology is the knowledge or study of wine.
While it strictly refers to winemaking rather than viticulture, over the past few decades, it has become more widely accepted that wine is largely crafted in the vineyard – and so the term is now often applied to viticulture as well as wizardry behind the cellar door.
An enologist (aka winemaker) practices enology.
Many estates rely solely on the skills of an employed winemaker, others use consultant winemakers to provide expert advice and direction on all aspects of viticulture and vinification to maximise an estate’s potential.
En primeur is a French term applied to wine bought before it has been bottled. It is a practice largely confined to Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhône Valley.
Buying en primeur can be an attractive investment opportunity as a means of securing stocks of difficult to get hold of wines, such as top Bordeaux growths.
When a wine is bought en primeur the buyer has the choice to pay the VAT and duty straight away or to store the wine in a bonded warehouse, where the VAT and duty are paid on release of the wine.
Fattoria is a generic Italian noun, meaning farm, and is often used as a prefix to Italian wine estates.
Fleurie is a Beaujolais appellation and one of the ten quality crus (or village appellations) in the district.
Fleurie typically produces rich, floral, fruity reds from the Gamay grape, made for early enjoyment, and its wines are some of the most popular (and expensive) in all of Beaujolais.
Fleurie is often referred to as 'The Queen of Beaujolais', because of its elegance.
France is the world’s most important wine producing country. It produces the most wine and is the centre of fine wine production. Its tradition and history in wine is unrivalled.
France’s premier wine growing regions are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhône Valley. Other important regions include Alsace and the Loire, while the Languedoc and Roussillon are sources of great value wines.
In northern France the cool-climate is particularly suited to white wine production, with red wine producing grapes becoming more prominent as you move south. However, Pinot Noir grows particularly well in cool climates, most notably Burgundy.
The French drink the most wine per capita consumer. French wine drinkers are parochial in their drinking (as with their food), and drink wine produced in their local region (wine shops also stock local wines in the main).
France has had the greatest influence on the style and quality of many of the world’s regions – particularly those of the New World. Many indigenous French grape varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are now widely planted throughout the world.
Situated in the northeast corner of Italy, the beautiful rolling hills (Collio) of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (Friuli for short) are home to some of Italy’s finest white wines. There are seven DOCs in Friuli, accounting for around 40% of the region’s total production – one of the highest ratios of all the Italian regions – the most prestigious being Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli.
The last 20 years has seen an explosion in modern, dynamic winemaking in the region, with a trend for terroir-driven wines bearing testament to Friuli’s fantastic clay-rich marl soils and the unique cooling climate of the Adriatic Sea.
Permitted DOC white varieties include Tocai and Pinot Grigio, and other international grapes grown include Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Red wine is also produced in the region (although less important than white), using international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Fronsac is a right bank Bordeaux appellation. Its rolling hills, which overlook the Dordogne, produce rich, full-bodied red Bordeaux, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
In the 19th century, Fronsac wines were better known than neighbouring Pomerol, although poor access to vineyards meant that it fell into relative obscurity and became synonymous with more expensive/less glamorous wines than neighbouring Pomerol and Saint-Émilion.
However, there is a new drive in the Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac (a smaller, higher quality sub-appellation), into producing softer, more user-friendly styles.
Gamay is a red wine producing variety largely found in France’s Beaujolais district (in Burgundy), where it generally produces soft, fruity red wines low in tannin.
Low tannin levels means that Gamay wines are generally best drunk within a few years, although premium Beaujolais can age moderately longer.
A small amount of Gamay is grown in the Loire Valley near Tours, and is blended with Cabernet Franc and Côt (a Malbec strain). Gamay is also grown in relatively small quantities in Australia and New Zealand.
Garganega is an Italian white wine grape famous for producing Soave in the Veneto region. It is also grown in Lombardy and Umbria.
Garganega is a very productive variety producing high yields, and so many Soaves tend to suffer from lack of flavour. However, when yields are strictly controlled it can produce elegant white wines with a typically nutty, almond flavour.
Although Germany’s wine drinking per capita head is far less than France or Italy, it actually consumes more wine than it produces.
Germany is predominantly a white wine producing country due to its cool-climate and red wine grapes do not ripen sufficiently. Its finest wines are produced in the Rhine and its tributaries (e.g. Baden, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Rheinhessen); and the three main white wine grapes grown are Müller Thurgau, Riesling and Sylvanner. Other white wine varieties include Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc, while Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is also grown. Riesling produces the finest German wines.
Germany’s appellation system is unlike any other country, as it is based on levels of ripeness and sweetness as well as geographic location, and, in descending order of quality, is as follows:
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebeit (QbA)
Deutscher Tafelwein (DTW)
QmP is further sub-divided into 6 subcategories in ascending levels of sweetness: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese.
German wine labels can be complex, detailing the name of the producer, the wine region, the name of the village and level of sweetness.
Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the largest and most famous red wine producing villages in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits district, based on the Pinot Noir grape.
At the top end of Gevrey-Chambertin are nine Grand Crus, including Charmes-Chambertin and Mazoyères-Chambertin. The best premier crus include Clos Saint-Jacques and Les Cazetiers, and below this are the generic appellations of Gevrey-Chambertin and then the Côte de Nuits.
Grand Cru Classé
A Grand Cru Classé is a Bordeaux wine that appears in the 1855 classification of the Médoc. There are five levels of Grand Cru Classés from 1st to 5th growths in descending order of quality and price.
Graves (including Pessac-Léognan)
Graves is a unique left bank Bordeaux district as it is well known for both its red and white wines.
Graves (lit. gravel) takes its name from the gravel soil prominent in its north (where the higher quality sub-appellation, Péssac-Leognan includes many of the district’s finest châteaux, including Château Haut-Brion).
The red and white châteaux of the Graves were classified in 1953 and 1959 respectively. Thirteen châteaux were given cru classé status, six of these acquiring status for both their red and white wines.
Predominant red wine grape varieties in the Graves are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, while white wines are based on Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. Graves' reds use more Merlot than Médoc blends and tend to be a softer style.
Grenache comes in both red and white wine producing varieties. But Grenache typically refers to the red wine variety Grenache Noir (Grenache Blanc being its white wine producing sibling).
Grenache is suited to hot, dry climates, is one of the most commonly planted grapes in the world, and the most planted variety in its native Spain (where it is known as Garnacha).
Grenache is also an important variety in the Languedoc, Roussillon and the southern Rhône (Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape), and is widely planted in Australia and parts of California.
Grenache typically produces fleshy, fruity red wines – low in tannin, high in alcohol.
Picking by hand is the traditional method of gathering grapes, before the introduction of labour-saving machinery.
Mechanical picking saves time and money, but some producers still prefer to handpick to ensure a greater quality of produce.
Handpicking is also a necessity in steeply terraced vineyards that are inaccessible by machinery.
The Haut-Médoc forms the southern section of Bordeaux’s world-famous Médoc district, where the majority of Bordeaux’s famous châteaux are situated in village appellations including: Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe.
Other wines produced in the Haut-Médoc that fall outside of these higher quality appellations are labelled as generic A.O.C. Haut-Médoc.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety in Haut-Médoc blends and is supported by Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and smaller amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Hermitage is a great northern Rhône appellation renowned for its full-bodied tannic wines based on Syrah grown on steep, narrow valley sides around a famous hill called Chapelle.
There was a time when the red wines of Hermitage were used to bolster thinner wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, but now they have a similar quality and stature to those that they formerly doctored, and in some cases prices to boot too!
A small amount of white wine made from Marsanne and Roussanne is also produced in Hermitage.
The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions, situated approximately 100 miles to the west of Sydney in New South Wales. The Hunter Valley is divided into the Upper and Lower Hunter Valleys.
Sémillon has a particular affinity with the soils of the Hunter, is often picked early to maintain acidity, and is renowned for its buttery, honeyed dimension. Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho are also grown in the Hunter Valley.
Shiraz (known as Hermitage in the Hunter Valley) and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most widely planted red wine grapes, while Pinot Noir is also grown in smaller amounts.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IgT)
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IgT) is a classification status in the Italian wine hierarchy.
IgT status sits between DOC and VdT in quality. It is on a par with the French VdP status and IgT wines must state their origin on their labels.
Some growers and consultant winemakers have moved away from producing DOC(G) wines in favour of IgT – as they strive to produce innovative new wines, free from the shackles of strict regulations
Perhaps the best known (and amongst the highest quality) IgT wines are the Super Tuscans – which use international grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon alongside the native Sangiovese.
Italy is the second biggest wine producer in the world, and grapes are grown in every part of the country. Piedmont and Tuscany are the most famous regions.
Italy has a rich heritage in winemaking (which dates back to Roman times), that only began to be regulated in 1963 when the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) areas were introduced.
The quality of Italian wines has improved dramatically in the last few decades, with the emergence of many exciting wines being made from both international and forgotten indigenous grape varieties.
Perhaps the most exciting trend is producers in lesser-known regions rediscovering ancient varieties and bottling themselves, rather than mass-manufacturing grapes to sell on to huge co-operatives.
Juliénas is a Beaujolais appellation and one of the smallest of Beaujolais’ ten crus (villages that produce the district’s finest wines).
Juliénas is renowned for producing some of the most full-bodied Beaujolais from the Gamay grape.
Wine that is produced under the supervision of a rabbi so as to be ritually pure or clean.
The Languedoc comprises three of France’s Mediterranean départements: the Aude, Hérault, and Gard. It is often grouped with the neighbouring Roussillon region, although the wines are quite distinct from one another.
The Languedoc accounts for over 80% of France's vin de pays produce - much of which is labelled Vin de Pays d'Oc. Many winemakers believe that VdP gives them the freedom and flexibility in which to flex their creative muscle, making it one of France’s most exciting regions.
The most prominent Languedoc appellations are Corbières and Minervois, whilst the vast appellation of the Côteaux du Languedoc region accounts for much of production. Due to considerable differences in terroir in the Côteaux, additional 'Cru' status has been awarded to eleven sub-regions of superior locations, including Pic-Saint-Loup, St Chinian and Faugères.
Both red and white wines are produced in the Languedoc, which is more renowned for its reds. Grapes grown include traditional Rhône varieties (like Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and Viognier) and international varieties (like Chardonnay and Merlot).
Left bank (Bordeaux)
The left bank refers to the left bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde Estuary and river Garonne – the finest red wine district on earth. The left bank is generally distinguished from the right bank, as its wines are predominantly based on Cabernet Sauvignon not Merlot.
The Médoc is the most famous wine district on the left bank (and the world), and includes the Haut-Médoc and appellations of Listrac, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe and Saint-Julien. The Graves is another important left bank district.
Listrac is a red wine-producing appellation situated in the Haut-Médoc district of Bordeaux’s left bank. Its wines (which include no classed growths) are of a lesser quality to the other village appellations in the district such as Pauillac and Margaux. It can also be a good source of great value red Bordeaux.
The main grape varieties grown in Listrac wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
The Loire Valley produces the greatest variety of wine styles (mainly white) of any French region, including dry whites and reds, sweet white, rosé and sparkling.
The Loire is divided into three main districts: western, middle and upper.
The upper Loire, situated at the extreme northeast of the Loire Valley, is world-renowned for its crisp, fresh whites produced from Sauvignon Blanc in the appellations of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, and great value whites from neighbouring Côteaux du Giennois.
The middle Loire, which includes Vouvray, Touraine and Chinon, accounts for a diverse range of wine styles, including red, dry white, rosé (Rosé d’Anjou), sweet (Côteaux du Layon) and sparkling. Chenin Blanc is the predominant grape variety of this district.
The western Loire surrounds the city of Nantes and is the home to Muscadet.
Burgundy's southern Mâconnais district, which takes its name from the town of Mâcon, is a source of great value Chardonnay. However, it is also synonymous with dilute whites (from high-yielding vines) courtesy of a massive co-operative operating out of the town of Chaintré.
Mâconnais’ appellations (in ascending order of quality) are: Mâcon, Mâcon-Villages, Mâcon-Prissé and Pouilly-Fuissé. Saint-Véran has more recently been created as an appellation in the district’s south.
Pinot Noir is also grown in the Mâconnais, but less significantly so.
Malbec is a red wine producing grape variety found in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Cahors and Argentina.
Malbec typically produces big, tannic wines when used as a single varietal, and is often used as seasoning in red blends like Bordeaux.
Malvasia is a white wine producing variety.
It is also a generic noun for a family of Mediterranean grapes, including Malvasia Bianca and Malvasia Negra, which produce a wide variety of wine styles: red, white, sweet and sparkling.
Marche is the easternmost central region of Italy – comprising a central spine of the Appennine Mountains descending into the long, flat plains of Adriatic coastline – a land enriched by the remains of mediaeval settlements and castles.
Marches is predominantly a white wine-producing region in which Verdicchio dominates – one of the few central Italian white varietals with real character and personality. This hardy and vigorous vine thrives in the dry climes of Marche's spectacular mountainsides, and is capable of producing whites of real class with a defining mineral streak reminiscent of good Chablis.
The best Verdicchio hails from the DOCs of Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica.
Margaux is a left bank Bordeaux appellation renowned for its elegant, feminine style reds.
Margaux’s vineyards are situated at the southern end of the Haut-Médoc, and, the appellation, which stretches out over five communes, is unique in the Haut-Médoc in that it is the only appellation to contain the complete hierarchy of wines: from first to fifth growths. It also includes Crus Bourgeois and Crus Artisans.
Margaux has more grand cru classé châteaux (21) than any other Médoc appellation, the most famous being Château Margaux itself.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s premier and largest wine growing region, situated in the north of the South Island.
Marlborough has over 100 wineries and around 500 growers who benefit from the country’s most hours of sunshine and long, warm summer days.
Marlborough is most famous for its white wines, particularly its world-class Sauvignon Blanc. Other white wine varieties include Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Blanc.
Marlborough Pinot Noir is also gaining an international reputation.
Marsannay is a white, red and rosé appellation situated in the north of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits district.
It is the source of some of the best value, early drinking white wines in Burgundy. Supple whites, full and fleshy, and a great value alternative to the more expensive whites of the Côte de Beaune to the north.
Martinborough is a town and wine-producing region north of Wellington in New Zealand’s North Island.
Martinborough’s cool climate, including a long, dry autumn, is ideally suited to Pinot Noir production, for which it is gaining fame.
Mazoyères-Chambertin is a Burgundy Grand Cru adjoining the more famous Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits.
Mazoyères-Chambertin producers may append 'Charmes-Chambertin' on their labels, and many do, often without mentioning Mazoyères-Chambertin due to its relative obscurity.
The Médoc is a red wine district situated on Bordeaux’s left bank. It is the most prestigious fine wine-producing district on the planet.
The Médoc is split geographically into two areas: the Bas Médoc in the north and the more prestigious Haut-Médoc in the south, which includes village appellations like Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Julien.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the main grape variety grown in the Médoc, typically producing full-bodied, structured reds of great longevity that command the world’s highest wine prices.
Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec are also grown and blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in making the ‘Bordeaux blend’.
Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous and important wine region in terms of both quantity and quality. It produces over 80% of Argentina’s wine.
Mendoza is predominantly a red and rosé wine growing region and Malbec is the most important grape. However, many other red wine varieties are grown, including: Barbera; Bonarda; Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Pinot Noir; Sangiovese; Syrah and Tempranillo.
White wine varieties include: Chardonnay; Chenin Blanc; Sémillon; Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Merlot Noir is commonly known as Merlot (and distinct from the white wine producing grape Merlot Blanc).
Merlot is best known for its part in the classic Bordeaux blend alongside Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the dominant grape variety in the Bordeaux’s right bank appellations of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, where it revels in the district’s heavy clay soils.
Merlot is an extremely popular grape for both winegrower and consumer, and is extensively planted in other areas of France, Europe and the New World. Merlot is an early ripening variety and characteristically produces soft, juicy, fruity reds with distinct blackcurrant fruit and low tannin.
Meursault is a village appellation in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune district.
Meursault is famous for its Premier Cru white wines made from Chardonnay – the finest being Les Charmes, Les Genevrières, and Les Perrières. Meursault has no Grand Cru vineyards.
Montagny is a village appellation in Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise district that produces great value white Burgundy based on Chardonnay.
Morey-Saint-Denis is a predominantly red wine-producing appellation in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits’ district.
The village of Morey-Saint-Denis is surrounded by 20 Premier Cru vineyards and 5 Grand Cru vineyards. The grand crus are: Bonnes Mares; Clos de Lambrays; Clos de la Roche; Clos de Tart and Clos Saint-Denis.
Morgon is one of the ten Beaujolais Crus that produce Beaujolais' finest wines.
Morgon typically produces the most powerful, rich and earthy wines in Beaujolais – and the best wines, from the Mont du Py, are capable of ageing up to five years in bottle and reaching Burgundian-like silky complexity.
The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (more commonly Mosel) is Germany’s finest wine producing region – stretching from the French border to where the Mosel meets the Rhine – encompassing the Mosel River, and its tributaries (the Saar and the Ruwer).
Riesling is the most widely planted variety in Germany’s most beautiful wine region and many of Mosel’s vineyards are sited on perilously steep, slatey slopes that necessitate handpicking.
Mourvèdre is a late-ripening red wine producing grape variety commonly found in southern Rhône blends (including Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe) and Languedoc in France, Spain, Australia, Portugal and California.
Mourvèdre typically produces tannic wine and therefore usually forms part of a blend, with a particular affinity with Grenache.
Mourvèdre is known as Mataró in Portugal and Monastrell in Spain. Monastrell vines in southern Spain survived the attack of Phylloxera that wiped out much of Europe’s vines in the 19th century.
Muscadelle is a white wine producing grape variety sometimes used as seasoning in Bordeaux white wines alongside Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
It is rarely used as a single varietal due to its simple, one-dimensional grapey/ raisin flavours.
In Australia, Muscadelle is known as Tokay and Sauvignon Vert in California.
Nebbiolo is an Italian red wine producing grape variety famous in Piedmont (Barbera and Barbaresco).
Nebbiolo typically produces quite tannic that often require time in bottle to reveal classic characteristics such as violets, tar, cherries, truffles and prunes.
Outside of Piedmont, Nebbiolo is grown to a far lesser extent in Lombardy and Veneto, but has not really taken on outside of Italy.
Nebbiolo d’Alba is an Italian red wine-producing DOC in Piedmont, in which wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape.
Nebbiolo d’Alba neighbours Barbaresco and Barolo, which also use the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo d’Alba tends to produce lighter, fruitier wines than Barbaresco or Barolo.
Négociant is a French term for a merchant who buys grapes, must or wine from growers who do not wish to produce wines themselves or perhaps cannot afford their own cellar or winemaking equipment. The négociant will then blend and mature wines and bottle under their own label(s).
Some négociants will own the growers they use and are known as co-operatives.
Négociants are of particular importance in Burgundy and Champagne where many individual growers produce tiny quantities of grapes – for whom it is not economically viable to make their own wines.
The quality of négociant wines varies considerably – and account for some of the highest and lowest quality wines.
New South Wales
New South Wales is Australia’s second largest wine producing state (accounting for a third of total production), and comprises 14 separate wine growing regions, the most famous being the Hunter Valley.
New South Wales has around 500 producers (approx. 350 produce their own wine and family producers predominate).
Sémillon is New South Wales’ most iconic grape variety. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shiraz are amongst the other widely planted varieties.
New Zealand is an important New World wine producing country, comprising 10 major wine regions across its North and South islands.
Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are New Zealand’s most important grape varieties. Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also grown.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s most prominent region. Central Otago and Hawkes Bay are also important regions.
The New World applies to all wine producing countries outside of Europe, including: Argentina; Australia; Chile; New Zealand; South Africa, and the United States.
Noble rot is caused by a grey fungus, called Botrytis cinerea. The fungus dries and shrivels grapes and is beneficial in the production of certain sweet wines like Sauternes.
Botrytis requires moist conditions when grapes are quite ripe, followed by drier conditions. The partial drying process is actually known as noble rot.
Oak ageing is a skilled part of the winemaking process, and the decision of whether (or how long) to oak a wine or not depends on the grape(s) used, tradition, regional regulations and the winemaker’s attitudes.
Oak was originally used as a simple storage for wine, before its beneficial aspects were discovered, and is now a vital aspect of many fine wines – adding structure, complexity and flavour.
The affect that oak has on a wine depends on: the type of oak used; the degree of ‘toasting’ during its manufacture; the size of the barrel (smaller barrels means more flavour); the age of the barrel (new oak imparts stronger flavours), and the length of time in oak.
Two main types of oak are used: American and French. The wide-grained American wood imparts a much stronger, sweeter vanilla flavour and spice, whereas French oak is more subtle, savoury and expensive.
Pauillac is a northern Haut-Médoc village appellation on Bordeaux’s left bank.
Pauillac is the world’s most important and influential appellation. It contains three of Bordeaux’s five first growth chateaux: Châteaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour and Mouton Rothschild.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety planted on Pauillac’s gravel soils.
Petit Verdot is known as the winemaker’s seasoning. A highly tannic variety, mainly used in small percentages to add peppery, spicy flavour characteristics to the classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (the Bordeaux blend).
Petit Verdot is a late-ripening variety, in fact in some years it barely matures at all. It has seen a rise in popularity amongst Californian and Australian winegrowers, where more consistent and longer ripening seasons ensure greater ripeness.
Piedmont (lit. foot of the mountain) is a northwest Italian wine region. It is one of Italy’s most important wine regions alongside Tuscany.
Piedmont has the largest number of DOC areas (50) in Italy and is home to many small producers making tiny quantities of wine. Its reds are dominated by three main grape varieties: Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Nebbiolo forms the basis of the region's two most famous wines: Barolo and Barbaresco.
Piedmont’s major white wine producing varieties are Arneis, Cortese and Moscato (used in the famed sparkling wines of Asti), but increasingly you might find Chardonnay, which true to the region's influences, is more likely to mirror Burgundian Chardonnay than that of any other Italian wine region.
Pinot Noir is a red wine producing grape variety traditionally associated with red Burgundy.
Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape, a real challenge for both winegrower and winemaker, who must work hard and intelligently to unravel the wonderful gamey, complex, intense and silky nuances that it is often so reluctant to reveal. It rarely likes to travel from its native Côte de Nuits district, where it is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest red wines.
Other important Pinot Noir growing regions include Germany, northern Italy and New Zealand – which have long, gradual growing seasons.
Pinot Noir is also a major grape variety used in the production of Champagne.
Pomerol is a prestigious right bank Bordeaux appellation, neighbouring Saint-Emilion.
Pomerol produces fine red wines based on Merlot, and some of the most glamorous, fashionable and sought-after producers in the world, including: Châteaux Le Pin and Pétrus.
Merlot revels in Pomerol’s heavy clay soils, accounting for rich, opulent, seductively styled wines.
Pouilly-Fumé is a white wine appellation in France’s Loire Valley. Pouilly-Fumé is a classic Sauvignon Blanc wine style renowned for its smoky, minerally flavours.
Pouilly-Fuissé is a white wine appellation in Burgundy’s Mâconnais district and can be a source of great value Chardonnay.
Priorat is a red wine DO in Spain’s Catalonia region.
Priorat used to be one of the most depressed winemaking regions in Spain, being associated with large co-operatives, but there has been a sizeable shift towards quality in recent years.
The secret to this change (expert winemaking aside) is in the rocky hillside vineyards made of broken slate-like soil and known locally as Licorella. To call it soil is far too kind, but the vines that manage to survive in this element produce tiny quantities of concentrated fruit, the best coming from ancient Garnacha and Cariñena vines (of up to 100 years old). These wines are deeply concentrated with great fruit quality, and the finest have a clear mineral quality.
Puligny-Montrachet is one of the most famous and finest white wine communes and appellations in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune district.
Puligny-Montrachet is a vineyard between the villages of Puligny and Chassagne. It also encompasses the vineyards of Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet.
The commune has around 100 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards out of the total of 235ha in Puligny. There are 24 Premier Crus, although 10 of them represent particular plots within other Premier Crus. There are also around 6 hectares of Pinot Noir.
The Rhône is one of France’s finest red wine producing regions. Although the Rhône is one wine region, it is actually split into two distinct winemaking districts as you follow the Rhône river valley south.
The narrow northern district contains great individual appellations like Côte Rôtie, Condrieu and Hermitage. Many of these vineyards are planted on steep terraces with breathtaking views of the Rhône River and produce world famous reds made solely from the Syrah grape. White wines (from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier) are also made in the north.
The southern Rhône’s vineyards are a considerable geographical contrast to the north – comprising wide flat plains spreading from Nîmes in the west to St Tropez in the east. Rhône Valley
Most of the vineyards in the southern Rhône are designated as Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône-Villages: both good sources of inexpensive quaffable reds. The most famous appellation is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and other well known appellations include Gigondas and Lirac. Southern reds are blends. Grenache is the most important variety and other varieties used include: Carignan, Counoise, Mourvèdre and Syrah. White wines, made from Clairette, Marsanne and Roussanne, are less important in quantity terms.
Ribera del Duero
The Ribera del Duero (Duero being the same river as the Portuguese Duoro of Port fame) is a red wine-producing DO in Spain’s Castilla-y-Léon region.
Ribera produces some of Spain’s (and the world’s) finest and most long-lived red wines, like Vega Sicilia, but much of its produce still comes from a large co-operative.
Tempranillo is the main grape variety in Ribera, but numerous other red grapes are permitted within DO law, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
Riesling is a white wine producing grape variety, native to Germany’s Rhine region. It is one of the world’s three finest white wine varieties, behind Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and is predominantly used as a single varietal.
Riesling is an aromatic variety used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. It is very rarely oaked and highly influenced by its place of origin (terroir).
Riesling is also an important variety in France’s Alsace region and is planted in Austria, northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
Riesling is a very good food wine, and partners spicy Asian cuisine particularly well.
Right Bank (Bordeaux)
The right bank refers to the right bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde Estuary and the Garonne River.
The right bank notably includes the red wine appellations of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol whose world-renowned fine wines are based on Merlot. Other (satellite) appellations of the right bank offer great value red Bordeaux, including the Côtes de Bourg, Blaye and Castillon and Fronsac.
Rioja is an important red wine producing DOCa in northern Spain.
Rioja is divided into three subzones: La Rioja Alavesa, La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Baja. La Rioja Alta generally produces the finest wines, followed by La Rioja Alavesa.
Red Rioja varies in style, including: Joven (unoaked); Crianza (released after two years, including a year in oak); Reserva (released after three years, including two years in oak), and Gran Reserva (released after five years, including two years in oak).
Red Rioja is made predominantly from Tempranillo and is renowned for its classic vanilla flavour derived from new American oak. Smaller amounts of other plantings are permitted in Rioja blends, including Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A small amount of white Rioja is also made from Viura (Macabeo), Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia. In the past these whites have tended to be heavily oaked, although many are now made in a crisper, fresh style.
Rosso di Montalcino
Rosso di Montalcino is a DOC wine in Italy’s Tuscany region, made from Sangiovese.
Rosso di Montalcino was established to give Brunello di Montalcino producers the flexibility to continue their traditional long oak-ageing of the region's flagship Brunello wine, whilst releasing their Rossos (after just one year in the cellar) to generate cash-flow.
In poor vintages, producers can declassify their Brunello and use these grapes for Rosso di Montalcino instead. Rosso di Montalcino is typically lighter, fresher and more approachable than Brunello, although some producers make Rosso with more Brunello-like characteristics.
Roussanne is a white wine producing grape variety native to the Rhône region of France. It is used alongside Marsanne in the northern Rhône and blended in the red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
It is also grown in Tuscany, Spain, California and Australia. New World styles tend to be rich, full-bodied and honeyed, and it tends to be more delicate and floral in cooler European climes.
Roussanne is susceptible to disease and drought, uneven ripening and irregular yields, and it is therefore often blended with grapes such as Marsanne and Viognier.
Roussillon is a southern French wine region. It is often referred to in conjunction with the Languedoc.
The two main appellations of the Roussillon are the Côtes du Roussillon and the Côtes du Roussillon Villages, which are very similar in terms of quality.
Red, white and rosé wines are all made in the Roussillon, which can be a good source of great value wines.
Major red wine producing grapes in the Roussillon include: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache. Major white wine producing varieties include: Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne.
From the limestone hills around the historic town of Saint-Émilion to the Graves terraces in the western reaches, the sweet and silky style of quality Saint-Émilion wines highlight why it is widely considered to be Bordeaux's most exciting appellation, with a clutch of some of Bordeaux’s finest châteaux, plus numerous tiny producers who have generated the ‘garage wine’ movement – so called because of their small scale.
Saint-Émilion is not only one of the largest appellations in Bordeaux – but it also boasts the distinction of being the oldest and perhaps most aesthetically pleasing wine growing area in Bordeaux – recognised by UNESCO as: "an outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day".
Merlot is the dominant grape variety in Saint-Émilion, while Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon play supporting roles.
Saint-Émilion was omitted from the general 1855 Classification of Bordeaux, but the local Wine Growers' Union decided to draw up a Saint-Émilion Classification in 1955.
Saint-Estèphe is a village appellation situated in Bordeaux’s Hâut-Médoc district.
Saint-Estèphe, which most notably includes two second growth Bordeaux and one fourth growth, is renowned for its big, muscular tannic reds and big earthy flavours.
However, over the last decade or so, an increase in the use of Merlot has resulted in slightly softer, more supple, user-friendly wines.
Saint-Julien is a village appellation situated in Bordeaux’s Hâut-Médoc district.
Saint-Julien is renowned for its highly skilled winemakers who, together with great soils, produce wines that punch well above their growth status, and can compete with some of the finest wines of Pauillac.
Saint-Julien also accounts for some of the most consistently high quality wines of any Bordeaux appellation. This is great news for Bordeaux aficionados who seek the rare duality of both quality and value-for-money from left bank growths.
Sancerre is one of the most famous white wine producing appellations in the Loire Valley.
Sancerre is the home of Sauvignon Blanc, and is classically crisp and fresh with vibrant acidity, gooseberry fruit and herbal characteristics. A traditional style for savouring alone, or to accompany fish and seafood dishes.
Sangiovese is a native Italian red wine producing grape variety famous for its production of Chianti, Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans.
Sangiovese is Italy’s most widely planted variety. It is particularly famous in Tuscany, and also notably in Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna and the Marche. It is also grown in Argentina’s Mendoza Valley, Australia and California.
Satellite appellations (Bordeaux)
Bordeaux’s satellite appellations refer to the Côtes de Bourg, Blaye, Castillon, Fronsac and Lalande de Pomerol situated on the region’s right bank.
These appellations are less well known and less prestigious than other Bordeaux districts like the Haut-Médoc and Saint-Emilion, but can be a source of great value, early drinking red Bordeaux.
Sauternes is a sweet white wine producing appellation within Bordeaux’ Graves district and produces some of the finest sweet wines in the world, including the legendary Château d’Yquem.
Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle, and by the natural introduction of noble rot, brought on by moist, misty autumn weather around the Garonne River. These conditions shrivel grapes and intensify their natural sugar levels.
The best Sauternes exhibit a fine balance between sweetness and acidity, and classic food combinations include foie gras, pâte and strong blue cheese.
Sauvignon Blanc (Sauvignon)
Sauvignon Blanc is a popular and fine white wine producing grape variety native to Bordeaux. As well as a key ingredient in Bordeaux dry and sweet wines, it is perhaps better known for the fine dry white wines of the Loire Valley and the appellations of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre in particular.
Sauvignon Blanc is also widely grown across new and old world winemaking countries, most notably in New Zealand’s South Island. Sauvignon has high natural acidity and produces crisp, zesty whites. It is rarely aged in wood, and often made for early consumption.
Sauvignon is mainly a single varietal wine, but it is also commonly blended with Sémillon in Bordeaux and the New World.
Sémillon is a white wine producing grape variety, which produces both dry and sweet white wines, and is notably used in Bordeaux and Australia.
Sémillon’s susceptibility to noble rot makes it a favoured variety for sweet wines like Sauternes. Elsewhere in Bordeaux, small amounts of Sémillon are often added to Sauvignon. Wines made from 100% Sémillon tend to be full and fat and Sauvignon, which is higher in acidity, keeps the blend crisp and fresh.
Super Tuscans are a style of red wines from Italy’s Tuscan region, which emerged in the 1970s as a result of creative producers wanting to make high quality wines outside of strict DOC/DOCG regulations. Super Tuscans combine international grape varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with the native Sangiovese.
Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines, but many producers still prefer to use declassified rankings or the IGT designation.
Sherry (an anglicization for Jerez) is a fortified wine (using brandy) made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez (in southern Spain), in a triangle between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.
Fortification takes place after fermentation, and sherry is then aged in a cascading ‘Solera’ system of barrels, in which young wine is continually introduced to the first barrel.
A particular Sherry is therefore a blend of various vintages and so classified as non-vintage. Variances in fortification and ageing account for different Sherry styles, including: Fino (dry and traditional); Oloroso (dark and rich) and Amontillado which sits somewhere in between.
Shiraz is an Australian synonym for the Syrah grape variety. Syrah was brought to Australia in the 19th century and today it is mainly used as a single varietal, as well as being commonly blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Shiraz is the single most planted variety in Australia and Australia is the second biggest producer of Shiraz/ Syrah in the world (behind France).
Soave is an Italian white wine and DOCG from the Veneto region.
Soave is typically made from the native Garganega grape variety, but is also produced from another indigenous variety, Trebbiano di Soave.
Soave is also used in the sweet wine, Recioto di Soave. The term recioto is derived from the Italian word for the ear (orecchio), which the shrivelled grapes are said to resemble.
Soil plays a significant part in wine production. It is the building blocks of a wine and its physical attributes, such as drainage and porosity, can help shape a wine.
Many winemakers are fiercely proud and protective of their soils, which can vary on macro and micro scales – and even within the same vineyard plot.
In France, soil plays an integral part of the term terroir.
South Australia is arguably Australia’s most important wine producing region, comprising 12 individual wine regions, most notably the Barossa Valley, Claire Valley and the Adelaide Hills. It is renowned for producing cool-climate style wines of more elegance and finesse than is the norm from Australia.
South Island (New Zealand)
New Zealand’s South Island is an important fine wine producing area, renowned for its world class Pinot Noir and Sauvignon.
Marlborough is the South Island’s most important region and Central Otago is a newly emerging fine wine region.
Other grape varieties grown in the South Island include Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
Spain is the most widely planted wine country, but only the third largest producer (behind France and Italy) due to its low yielding varieties and relatively large spacing of old vines. It is ninth in terms of consumption per head.
Spain’s finest wine regions are Rioja and the Ribera del Duero appellations. Other important regions include Catalonia (Priorat and Penedès), Jerez (Sherry) and Galicia.
Indigenous grape varieties comprise much of Spain's production, including Albariño, Cariñena, Garnacha, Monastrell, and Tempranillo.
Catalonia is one of Spain’s most exciting regions, and a good example of Spain’s recent shift towards higher quality produce.
Syrah is a red wine producing grape variety, which produces world-famous single varietal wines from France’s northern Rhône (Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie). Wines made from Syrah are often rich, full-bodied and spicy.
Syrah is also used in the southern Rhône, most notably in appellations such as the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Syrah is also grown in the Languedoc and Roussillon regions, and is known as Shiraz in Australia.
Tannin is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenol found in the seeds and grape skins of red wine producing grapes (in particular).
Tannins are a key component in fine red wines made for ageing as they prevent oxidation in the bottle. As tannins decompose over time a wine mellows and becomes more drinkable.
Grapes with thicker skins, like Cabernet Sauvignon, have more tannin and therefore tend to produce more ageworthy wines, like the great wines of the Medoc, which can age for many decades.
Tempranillo is an early ripening red wine producing grape native to northern Spain. It is an important grape in the production of Ribera del Duero and Rioja.
Tempranillo wines are made for both everyday early consumption and fine wines that require ageing.
Tempranillo is also grown in the USA, South Africa and Australia.
Terroir is a French term used to describe the natural environment of a vineyard – the factors that influence the quality of the finished wine.
The three main factors that make up terroir include: soil type, aspect and climate. There is a great diversity of terroirs, and it is common to hear a winemaker talk passionately about different terroirs even within the same vineyard.
The central Italian region of Tuscany (Toscana), around Florence and Siena, is widely regarded as the heartland of Italian wine (together with Piedmont).
The hillside soils, climate and romantic, artisan attitude of its people and winemakers are what make Tuscan wines special. Sangiovese is the dominant red wine producing variety, and is particularly important for the flagship Tuscan reds: Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
Tuscany has also given us the Super Tuscan wine style that combines native and international grape varieties; and several distinguished whites, the most notable being Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The space between the wine and the top of a wine bottle. As wine ages, the ullage will increase as the wine gradually evaporates and seeps through the cork. (The winemaking use of the term 'ullage' differs in that it refers to the practice of topping off a barrel with extra wine to prevent oxidation.)
Veneto is a red and white wine producing Italian region on the northeast Adriatic coast, renowned for Soave, Valpolicella and Prosecco.
The Veneto is Italy’s largest producer of DOC wines, with 21 designated DOCs. It also includes two DOCGS including Recioto di Soave.
IgT Veneto accounts for some interesting and exciting wines that are a match or more for many DOC wines in quality terms.
The hardy and vigorous Verdicchio vine thrives in the dry climes of Italy’s Le Marche's spectacular mountainsides and the DOCS of Verdicchio di Matelica and Verdicchio dei Castelli.
The best Verdicchio are aromatically expressive with distinctive honeyed texture and mineral backbone that compete with the finest whites in all of Italy.
Verdicchio di Matelica
While less well known than its higher-profile seaside sibling (the Castelli di Jesi), the predominantly white wine-producing DOC of Verdicchio di Matelica, situated in Italy’s Marches region, is becoming more and more renowned for its quality Verdicchio.
Verdelho is a high yielding, early ripening white wine producing grape variety notably grown in Spain (not to be confused with Verdejo) and Australia (the Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale in particular).
Single varietal Verdelho is a soft, ripe, round style, and Australian Verdelho is renowned for its rich, lime and honeysuckle notes. Verdelho ripens early but is prone to powdery mildew and vines are susceptible to spring frost.
Verdelho should not be confused with Verdello or Verdejo.
Vermentino is a late-ripening white wine producing grape variety that is widely planted in Corsica and Sardinia (most famously in the DOCG of Vermentino di Gallura in northern Sardinia). It is also grown in Provence, the Languedoc and Australia.
Vieilles vignes (old vines)
Generally, vines over about 30-40 years old can be considered old, and anything under around 10 years is young.
Older vines generally produce lower yields of higher quality fruit and generally more concentrated wines.
In Europe you can find vines up to 100-years-old. These highly prized vineyards tend to be in poorer areas – where it didn’t make economic sense to replant in the 1950s and 60s – and where (ironically) producers now find they have a wonderful raw material to make exceptional wines.
Vinification describes the process of making wine in the cellar and includes: selecting grapes; de-stemming; pressing; fermentation; ageing; filtration and bottling.
A vintage wine is one that is made from grapes that are primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year.
Vintage is also commonly used (instead of year) to describe the characteristics of a year in specific regions.
Vintage Port is the finest of all port styles and is made entirely from the grapes of a single year. Vintage Port makes up around 2% of a year’s total Port production.
Port vintages are declared when a port house (estate) feels that their wine in a particular vintage is of the highest quality. However, market forces can also influence a vintage declaration, i.e. whether the market can absorb another vintage at a particular time.
There is not always uniform agreement between houses as to whether a year should be declared a vintage, and on average there are around three declarations each decade.
Vintage ports are aged in barrels for up to 2.5 years and generally require 10-30 years to reach their drinking peak.
Viognier is a white wine producing grape variety. Viognier is the only permitted white grape variety in the Rhône Valley’s Condrieu appellation and is also an important grape in the Languedoc where it is often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Rolle.
Viognier is also grown significantly in California, Argentina, Chile and Australia, and in the Rhône’s Côte-Rôtie certain producers use small percentages to stabilize the colouring of red wine.
Viognier wines are renowned for their unique floral nuances and are to be enjoyed relatively young.
The yield (the quantity of fruit you get from the vine) is fundamental to the final quality of a wine.
Anything over 3kg of fruit per plant is unlikely to produce great wine, as the vine simply isn’t able to concentrate sufficient goodness into the fruit. Any quantity above this is usually made up by extra water in the grapes. Any level of production below 1kg of grapes per vine is an indication of huge potential.
There are a number of ways to prompt a vine to produce less fruit, including the removal of excess fruit before the grapes ripen (green harvesting). However, the best vineyards are those cultivated to keep yields naturally low, or those blessed with older vines, which naturally produce less fruit.