One of the astonishing facts about wine is that even being made only out of grapes, yet it offers so many different kind of styles, emotions and characters. Despite the different regions or winemakers which will affect the final product, the grape is the core of the wine and defines it’s identity. So knowing your grape gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect on the first sip.
Within over ten thousands wine grape varieties in the world less than 2000 are in use and probably around a dozen widely known by the occasional consumer. The grapes are divided into two categories: white and red/black. My space and your time being limited here some of the most representative within the international varieties or also called the Noble Grapes, and the ones perceived as making some of the best quality wines. The red varieties will be in the next article.
– Sauvignon Blanc: Originally from Loire Valley it’s a dry and crisp wine with a vibrant acidity. From light to medium body, gooseberry is usually it’s signature flavour. Flinty, chalky and grassy from Loire Valley, to tropical and stone fruits and bell pepper in New Zealand, where SB contributed greatly to put this country on the world wine map. It’s a very aromatic wine, best to drink young.
– Riesling: Some of the finest from Germany, also a key grape in Alsace and more and more present in Australia, New Zealand and USA. It can be light, bone dry and mineral to full body, luscious sweet and fruity or sparkling. This is a wine with great ageing potential, with lemon juice, lime peal and apricot flavour when young it will develop some aromas of petrol and spices through the years.
– Chardonnay: Originally from Bourgogne (the term Burgundy is not in used by law since 2014 to avoid confusion). This is one of the most widely planted international white grape in the world, partly because it grows quite easily and partly of it’s facility to adapt to different climate and wine techniques. Consequently it offers a wide range of styles: just in Bourgogne region, from Chablis in the North where it’ll be light, very high acidity, chalky, citrusy and salty to the South, going through Montrachet to Mâcon where it will be full body, creamy with very profound and rich flavours. Chardonnay from the new world will be more intense with tropical and luscious stone fruits flavour. It’s one of the few white grapes where the use of oak is common. Also very important in the making of sparkling.
Since we are in Macau each article will have a selection of Portuguese wines, affordable and easy to source. Here are some different examples of single varietal wines within the indigenous grapes of Portugal. David Rouault*
Originally from Douro Valley and now widely planted all across Portugal the white grape Gouveio has a few similarities with Chardonnay: full body, citrus aromas with a high acidity which works very well for the making of sparkling. This 2007 sparkling is made by traditional methods (i.e. Champagne method). In this case the wine stayed on lees more than six years which gives it more complexity, yeastiness and refined bubbles. This sparkling wine developed through the years a light golden colour with a bouquet of white flowers, hot steel and brioche; very dry with a creamy texture, aromas of biscuit and ripe golden apple; fresh and long finish with a bit of saltiness.
Signature grape of the Vinho Verde region in the North of Portugal, Alvarinho (i.e Albariño in Spain) makes dry and vibrant white wines, especially from the sub-regions of Monção and Melgaço. Light yellow colour with a nose of white peach, camomile and an evanescence of frangipani, very dry on the palate with a franc and mineral attack, this is a medium body wine developing to some white flowers and grapefruit. Fresh and easy drinking, good for aperitif or for example to accompany “Yum cha”, sushi, bacalhau, sardines or Carabineros prawn with garlic.
Wines available at vinoveritas.com.mo and local supermarkets.
* David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding WSET
Advanced Level, CSW and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo