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A TOUR OF EUROPE'S WINE REGIONS ABOUT WINE

Wine expert Joe Wadsack talks Pinot Noir Epiphanies and how to pair hors d'oeuvres with your favourite tipple (reproduced courtesy of Discover the Origin - www.discovertheorigin.co.uk)

Joe WadsackGoing abroad is when many people take the opportunity to try new gourmet food - sampling a gorgeous new drop of red or a new type of cured ham, so it's no wonder if you haven't taken a trip this year you may be feeling like you are missing out on the experience.

Whether you stayed at home or travelled to Europe and have the post holiday blues, worry not as some of the very best quality produce is available in the UK and readily at your fingertips.

In this video, wine expert Joe Wadsack gives you tips on making the most out of Port (and not just for Christmas), the wines of the Burgundy region in France and the Douro Valley in Portugal. He'll also give advice to ensure you're trying true top-quality European foods that have the PDO official stamp. Watch Joe's video to find out how to have your own "Pinot Noir Epiphany" and the best way to serve and eat hors d'oeuvres like Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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to make bread - www.cookingholidays.co.uk

BURGUNDY WINE

Think burgundy, think terroir.

The terroir in Burgundy, is the basis of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

In Burgundy, terroir is a broad concept which includes both natural and human factors. It was wine growers, who discovered, identified and then developed the terroirs. Centuries of hard work was necessary for this concept, whose origin goes back to the early Middle Ages, to be passed down to us, and to be officially recognised and described in the middle of the last century with the creation of the I.N.A.O. (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) and Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC).

There is not one word in English that is equivalent to "terroir". However it can be best translated as comprising of soil and local topography and with the macroclimate can have a great effect on the mesoclimate and vine microclimate. The terroir is above all the sub-soil and soil from which the vine draws its nutrients and which create a secret alchemy of colours, aromas and flavours.

If the nature of the soil is the key element of the terroir, many other natural factors have an influence on the quality, typicity and expression of a wine: the exposure to the sun of the plot of land, its altitude, the depth and drainage of the soil, the climatic conditions of the year and the microclimate.

The main grape varieities in Burgundy:

Pinot Noir
Over 90% of the red wines in the Burgundy region are made using the Pinot Noir grape, which requires a particular climate - not too warm and not too cold. Pinot Noir is one of the world's greatest grape varieties and produces wines that are pale in colour, with softer tannins.

Pinot Noir is a fragile grape and likes neither extremes of heat or cold. The unique conditions in Burgundy produce Pinot Noirs relatively low in alcohol, certainly by new world standards (13 degrees rather than 14.5 is ideal here). The best growers are looking for purity of flavour, complexity and length rather than rich, up front mouthfuls of fruit.

The Pinot Noir loves well-drained marl and limestone soils on which, depending on the proportion of limestone and the situation of the plot, it will produce a light, elegant red or a powerful, vigorous wine.

Chardonnay
Chardonnay originated in the region and most of the delicious white wines from Burgundy are made using this grape variety. The diversity of the "terroirs" in Burgundy is expressed through the grapes and the wines vary from light and crisp to rich and full-bodied so there is a white Burgundy wine for every occasion and to suit all tastes.

The Chardonnay prefers marly-limestone soils that are quite clayey, where it develops all its elegance and smooth flavours. It is the proportion of clay in the soil which determines the more or less aromatic, full style of the great dry white wines of Burgundy.

Gamay
The Gamay grape is quite a heavy-cropping plant. The grape bunches more or less tightly packed according to variety.

The variety which concerns us here is the white-juiced black Gamay which, when planted in the Mâconnais on 'Burgundy style' soils, produces attractive and aromatic red wines under such a label as Mâcon Rouge.
A small amount of Gamay can be found the in the Côte d'Or. The wines produced here, on the clay-limestone soils, differ from the Mâconnais and are less refined.

The red wines of the Mâconnais and Beaujolais owe their reputation to this grape variety.

Aligoté
The Aligoté is a medium-fine plant, which has a long history in Burgundy and can be found almost anywhere in soils, which though good for vines, suit neither the Pinot Noir nor the Chardonnay. The wine made from it goes under the official name Bourgogne Aligoté. It can also provide one of the ingredients for sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.

Viticulture

Yields are limited depending on the classification i.e. permitted yields of Grand Cru are lower than Premier Cru. Generally lower yields produce more concentrated wines. This is also the case for Pinot Noir.

Grand Cru wines make up 2% of the production at 35 hectolitres/hectare while Premier Cru wines consist of 12% of the productions at 45 hectolitres/hectare. Village wines equate to 50 hectolitres/hectare at 36% of the yield and AOC Bourgogne makes up the rest at 55 hectolitres/hectare.

In Burgundy, the density of plantings is high, up to 12,000 vines per hectare. Most vines are trained low along wires to the Guyot system.

Harvesting is mostly done by hand. This is especially important for the delicate Pinot Noir grape.

Vinification

Treatment of grapes - The best Domaines will only use the grapes that they feel are in perfect condition. Bunches will be left in the vineyards and then sorted again on a sorting table at the cuverie. In a difficult year a Domaine can easily discard 25% of their crop in this way to ensure they produce the best wine possible. Once in the cuverie the wines are allowed to soak on their skins at cold temperatures (maceration) allowing the gentle extraction of colour and aroma. During fermentation, the skins and juice are also pumped down (it's called the 'pigeage') or pumped over (juice from the bottom of the cuve is pumped back over the skins that have risen to the top of the cuve). This maximises the contact between the juice and skins.

Red wines

The degree to which the 'pigeage' is done depends on the grower. Too much extraction, however, causes the wine to become overly dark, tannic and bitter and whilst the finishing wine might look impressive in the glass it will probably dry out as it ages and not be representative of Burgundy red wines, which should be about subtlety and delicacy.

White wines

After the grapes are pressed and left to settle, they are then clarified. Fermentation takes place in either vat or oak cask. Depending on the style of the wine required, malolactic fermentation is either encouraged or suppressed. Maturation in vats or oak casks and the length of time spent depends on the style required.
Oak

The wines are generally aged in oak barrels called "Pièces" in Burgundy, which are 228 litres in size. Some of these barrels will be new, some will have been used in the previous vintage or even in several previous vintages. The percentage of new oak tends to increase with the quality of juice. A Grand Cru is richer in fruit than a Village and can therefore handle more new oak. Some growers favour 100% new oak for their Grands Crus, others are happier with 40%.

Bottling

Good Burgundy is known to age well in bottle. Premier Cru is usually aged for five to ten years in bottle and for Grand Cru, it is about ten years but most can be kept for much longer. Wines are usually filtered before bottling. This contributes to their stability and adds clarity. Bottling has to be carefully timed. If the wine stays too long in the vats it becomes tired and "dried out" and loses its aroma.

Bottling of white wines tends to be between July and December of the year following the vintage. Bottling of reds wines tends to be a little later, between 12 and 18 months after the harvest.

All these factors, plus the work in the vineyards throughout the year and the care and attention in the cellar, mean that each vineyard has its own characteristics and each wine within each vineyard can have its own individual taste and aromas.

Burgundy then offers endless scope for finding the perfect wine for any occasion - and for anyone, no matter how extensive their wine knowledge.

DOURO VALLEY WINE

Douro Valley wines, made from the same grapes as Port, have experienced a renaissance in recent years, with modern equipment and techniques enhancing the quality.

In 1982 they received their own Denominacão de Origem Controlada (DOC) - Denomination of Origin - classification, over 200 years after Port. The combination of these factors has lead to dynamism in wine production and Douro Valley wines are now exported all over the world, often being referred to as the jewel in Portugal's crown.

Grape Varieties

Port and DOC Douro Valley wines are made only with native grape varieties. The main ones are:

Red:

Touriga Nacional
Only accounts for a small amount of the region's vine stock but is growing rapidly. The grape had virtually become extinct by the 1970s but was thankfully brought back by producers who worked vigorously on clones of it as well as the grape variety itself. A difficult grape to manage but it can produce the darkest and most concentrated of wines: deep, dense and with cast-iron backbone.

Tinta Barroca
This grape is planted at higher altitudes or on cooler north-facing slopes in the Cima Corgo. It is the first to ripen but is susceptible to extreme heat. This grape produces supple, well-structured wines, which frequently have a distinctive rustic, earthy character.

Tinto Cão
This grape is even more challenging to grow than Touriga Nacional, with small bunches and small yields. It ripens late but needs to be picked at just the right time to achieve the delicate balance of alcohol and acidity. This grape has the capacity to produce long-lasting, complex wines.

Tinta Roriz
The one "international" variety as it's also known as Tempranillo in Spain. It produces wines that combine tight, firm fruit with finesse and length.

Touriga Franca
The most widely planted variety. It flourishes on warmer south-facing slopes and gives consistent yields. This grape brings structure, up-front fruit, elegance and floral overtones.

The young reds for immediate drinking have cherry and raspberry aromas, and the cellar reds start with notes of black fruit and chocolate, but age to great delicacy and complexity for 20 years or more.

White:

Malvasia
This variety is the second most widely planted grape in the Douro Valley. It is difficult to cultivate but the results can be impressive. Elegant wines with hints of nutmeg and some smoke.

Rabigato
(Portuguese for cat's tail), matures slowly and is able to stand up to extreme heat. Its aroma is of medium intensity and sweet, reminding us of Orange flowers with some vegetable notes, equilibrium and fresh, with a fruity taste. In the mouth, it has vivacity and some persistency. It offers White Port and Douro Valley wines freshness and high levels of acidity.

Viosinho
This is a low-yield variety and produces some very high quality wines. Good intensity, reminding camomile and plums, fruity and complex. Medium acidity with a pleasant aroma in mouth.

Food and wine matching

The fresh, fruity white wines with floral aromas are an excellent aperitif, and can be paired very successfully with seafood and grilled fresh fish, for which Portugal is justly famous. The white wines that have been aged in oak are ideal with roast fish or chicken. Young reds compliment fowl, mild salted fish such as bacalhau or pasta particularly well. The more full bodied cellar reds are perfect with game and other strong flavoured meat dishes.

Click to view Discover the Origin web site

The above information is reproduced courtesy of Discover the Origin. Discover the Origin is a campaign promoted by the European Union, Italy, France and Portugal and achieved by the office representative of five key European products: Burgundy wines, Port and Douro Valley wines, Parma Ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The aim of all of them is to enhance knowledge of the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) among consumers, distributors and food professionals and to educate on the benefits of the provenance indicator schemes, the relevant checks, controls and traceability systems that are put in place to ensure ongoing quality, and to differentiate the products and raise their profiles.

For more information visit www.discovertheorigin.co.uk

Published 27 October 2009

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