Riesling Wine: How Well Does It Age?

A sommelier prepares a glass of Riesling wine for tasting

As a white grape varietal, Riesling is well-known by professionals and consumers in the food and wine industry. While still a fan favourite amongst sommeliers, its limited retail presence has caused this wine to slip under the radar of some. However, the question many ask about Riesling is: Does it age well?  Riesling can in fact be enjoyed both young or aged, depending on the style and structure of the wine. However, there are many considerations that must be kept in mind when choosing to age this wine. Below, we look at the characteristics of the Riesling grape and provide recommendations on how to store Riesling correctly during the ageing process.  What Are the Main Characteristics of Riesling? Riesling is an aromatic grape varietal. Known for producing white wine that is floral and fruit-driven, this grape is grown in many reputable wine regions across the world, most notably Mosel Valley, Germany.  This white grape is often characterized by its moderate size, green skin, high acidity and light body. Notable tasting notes for this grape include citrus, stone fruit, rose blossom and petrol (when aged). Rieslings are also known for expressing their terroir and come in many styles. You can expect variations in terms of flavour, dryness, and sweetness.  For more information on the origins of this versatile grape, read our in-depth guide to Riesling wine.  Does the Riesling Grape Get Better With Age? Many think ageing is only suitable for red wines. But, in fact, many white wines such as Rieslings can evolve beautify with age in bottle. In fact, in recent years, older German Rieslings have come to prominence among sommeliers although it is still somewhat of a secret to consumers of the mass wine market.  As part of aging, one consideration that is looked at is a wine’s structure. Wines that have a complex structure and high acid are known to develop with age. In the case of white wine, the Riesling grape falls into this category – therefore, making it a worthy wine to age.  As noted above, a young Riesling will be unequivocally fresh, vibrant and fruit-forward. However, the profile of an older Riesling is much more complex and interesting. Riesling gains balance and density with age. Prominent flavours such as toast, honey and petrol are known to develop, while the fresh fruit characteristics known in its younger state become more subtle.  Riesling is considered aged after five years and Riesling which is high in acid and sugar or both can sometimes be cellared for twenty years or longer. Having said that, cellaring a Riesling must be done with care – otherwise, it won’t improve with age.  Wine Storage Considerations: How to Store Riesling Correctly How successfully a Riesling ages depends on three factors: the complexity of aromas, acidity levels and residual sugar. As the wine is so versatile and offers both dry, off-dry and sweet versions, you will need a storage method that is as multifaceted as the wine itself.  Wine storage principles such as …

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Chianti: A Guide to Tasting Notes & Food Pairing Ideas

An image depicting a rolling hillside covered in vineyards.

As an export, Chianti is as famous and respected as pasta, pizza, and espresso. Many wine enthusiasts will be able to cast their minds back to a particularly fond memory of tasting this renowned Italian wine.  Many have asked the question: Is Chianti a grape or a region? Similar to Bordeaux or Champagne, Chianti derives its name from its place of origin rather than its grape varietal. Made primarily with the classic Tuscan grape, Sangiovese, this wine is more than just its flavour profile – its true essence derives from the region and sub-regions it is produced in. Below, we will look at the wine region that gave its name to this red wine, the typical tasting notes and the ideal dishes to serve with Chianti.  Chianti: Understanding the Region and its Sub-Regions Located in Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is known for a distinctive Italian characteristic: rolling hills accentuated by vineyards. Stretching over 100 miles north to south, this large region is known for producing wine from some of the most notable appellations in Italy. In fact, Chianti reached DOCG status in the 1980s. However, it is the Chianti sub-regions where the true magic happens.  Chianti has several sub-regions that are mostly found in and around Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Arezzo. Each of these sub-regions can produce wines in various styles such as Chianti, Classico, Annata, Riserva, and Gran Selezione, all having their own aging requirements.  Let’s take a further look into each of the core sub-regions:  Chianti Classico – Considered the most important sub-region of Chianti, it is the only sub-region to hold its own DOCG. Known for their high-quality and aging properties, Chianti Classico wines have high acidity and a firm tannic structure. Variances in terroir lead to different styles produced in this sub-region. For example, wines from Greve are considered to have concentrated flavours while those from Radda are more elegant.  Chianti Rufina – The smallest of the sub-regions, Chianti Rufina is located east of Florence. Nestled at the base of the Apennine Mountains, this region’s elevation, cool climate and agreeable soils produce Chianti wines that are elegant and ideal for aging.  Chianti Colli Senesi – wines from Colli Senesi can offer good value and are notably elegant with fruit-driven characteristics.  Chianti Montalbano – Located north of Florence, the Chianti Montalbano wine region offers vineyards that are heavily influenced by sandstone which gives the Sangiovese grape a light, fruit-forward style.  Chianti Montespertoli – While it used to be part of the Fiorentini region, this sub-region was given its own designation in the late 1990s. This area’s special terroir and favourable climate allow it to produce particularly ripe Sangiovese grapes. Chianti Montespertoli wine is primarily a blended wine.  Chianti Colli Fiorentini – Chianti Colli Fiorentini wines, produced just south of Florence, are known for being easygoing, fruity, and light-bodied. Many would recommend enjoying these wines while young.  Chianti Colline Pisane – Located near the hills of Pisa, this lesser-known sub-region is closer to the coast and has …

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Riesling: The World’s Most Versatile White Wine Grape?

  Riesling is an aromatic white wine known for producing a wide array of wine styles, from bone dry to very sweet. Native to Germany, this white wine varietal is now present in many cool and warm climate regions around the world, where it is often praised as a favourite for many wine enthusiasts. In this article, we will quickly review the history of this wine, characteristics common to this varietal and core wine regions responsible for the production of this noble white wine.  The History of Riesling Wine Native to the Rhine River Valley of Germany, the origins of this wine date back to the 1400s.  Like many of the world’s great vines, for the first 200 years of its evolution, Riesling vineyards were largely tended by monks for the benefit of nobility.   By the late 1600s through to the late 1700s, German nobility had recognized Riesling as a superior variety, and many other varietals were jettisoned and replaced by Riesling.  This set into place a glorious century for Riesling in Germany, during which time the best German Rieslings were priced on par with Champagne and the best red wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The 1900s were not as good for German Riesling vineyards, as many were destroyed through World Wars I and II.  Upon replanting, Riesling vines were often replaced by lesser varietals better at producing quantity rather than quality wine.    It wasn’t until the late 1900s when Riesling regained its status as Germany’s #1 varietal in terms of volume.  Coincidentally, Riesling travelled around the world and is now found in many of the world’s finest cool-climate appellations. Which Wine Regions are Known for Riesling? The Riesling vine thrives in cool climate growing zones (particularly in the slate soils of the Mosel) but also in some warmer climate appellations with various soils. While seemingly contradictory, it is Riesling’s high acidity, retained even as the grape matures on the vine, that allows it to thrive in warmer climates.  These conditions are found in multiple wine regions including:    Germany – As mentioned above, Riesling is principally grown along the Rhine river, but is also present in all of the country’s grape regions. A third of Germany’s Riesling is produced in the Mosel Valley where the result is a delicate, light, crisp wine. However, other German wine regions such as Nahe, Pfalz and Rheingau are noted for producing fuller-bodied Riesling with structural acidity.  France (Alsace only) – Located southwest of Germany’s border, the Alsace region in France adopted the growth of this white grape varietal in the 1600s. While the Alsace version of Riesling has a higher alcohol content due to a warmer climate, it shares many similarities with German Rieslings such as its high acidity and steely minerality.  Side note: Alsace is the only wine region in France that allows Riesling as part of its appellation classification.   Australia – In the 1800s, Riesling vines were brought to Australia from the Rheingau region of Germany. While the climate is warmer …

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An Insider’s Guide To Merlot Wine: All You Need To Know About This Grape Varietal

Merlot is considered extremely versatile and adaptable. Great when used as part of a blend but also delicious on its own, this grape varietal has left a lasting impression on the wine industry.

  Merlot is a grape varietal that is praised and loved by many all over the world. But what exactly makes this grape so special? In this article, we look at the origins of merlot, the main regions where it is grown and it’s most defining characteristics.  Merlot: The Origins Of This Beloved Grape Variety The earliest mention of this grape varietal was recorded in the French wine region of Bordeaux in approximately 1784. It is believed that during this time, it was most often used when making blended wine. Directly translating to ‘The Little Blackbird’, Merlot became known for its ability to add softness and fruit-forward characteristics to wine when combined with the French favourite, Cabernet Sauvignon.  As the popularity of Bordeaux wine increased, so inevitably did the popularity of Merlot. Soon, this grape varietal was being planted all over France, especially on Bordeaux Right Bank. Sadly, Merlot is susceptible to frost, mildew and rot and successive bad vintages through the ’50s and ‘60s prompted a 5-year ban in 1970 on new plantings by the French Government. After the ban was lifted, it was widely planted once again. What Are The Main Wine Regions That Grow This Grape?  One of the defining characteristics of Merlot, according to many wine enthusiasts, is the fact that it is a bit of a chameleon – it is adaptable and can take on the character of its location and winemaking techniques.  The popularity of Merlot has led to its introduction in many wine regions all over the world, from the Golden State of California to Down Under in Australia. Let’s take a look at some of the modern interpretations of this French classic varietal. Tuscany Merlot is the fifth-most planted grape in Italy and has featured prominently in many Tuscan blends, more commonly known as Super Tuscans. They often use Merlot to make a single varietal wine or blend it with other grapes such as the local Sangiovese or more international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.   The warm climate helps ripen the Merlot grape varietal and soften harsh tannins making the Tuscan versions range from big, bold and oaky to restrained, delicate and earthy.  California The second most popular red wine varietal in the United States, Merlot has been produced in California since the mid-19th Century.  In fact, it was Californian winemakers that originally made the first 100% Merlot wine. Typically warm California wine regions such as Napa Valley and Paso Robles produce a Merlot that is round and lush with jammy fruit character, most often complimented with spice and vanilla notes from oak ageing. Chile  Although Chile is widely known for its red wine varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, Merlot has quickly become prominent. Chilean Merlot tends to be full-bodied yet delicate and is capable of standing out against even the strongest of flavours.  Colchagua Valley’s Apalta sub-appellation is an area where you can find some great examples of Merlot. Merlot: Tasting Notes & Flavour Profile Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot …

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What Is Tempranillo? An Insightful Guide

Tempranillo, the quintessential Spanish grape, is known for its thick skin and beautiful juxtaposition of both earthy and fruity characteristics.

Examining This Spanish Grape: The History Of Tempranillo  Tempranillo is the quintessential Spanish grape. The third most planted varietal in the world, it is most famous as being the primary grape of Rioja reds where it is blended with a bit of Graciano, Mazuelo or Garnacha. Originating in the Iberian Peninsula, it dates to at least the ninth century, and Spain is responsible for 80% of the world production.  Tempranillo now grows in most of the Spanish red wine regions, often with other names like Tinta del Toro,  Tinta del Pais and Tinto de La Rioja. But the grape has made headway in other parts of the world, mainly in Portugal (Tinta Roriz), Argentina, Mexico and the United States. While not having the same kind of recognition as other red grapes such as Merlot or Pinot Noir, its long history of making complex, long-lived wine is one to truly applaud.  Due to the hardy nature of the vine, it has a natural ability to withstand hot, dry climates making it perfect for cultivation in Spain and other warm wine regions around the world. The thick skin of Tempranillo grapes allows the fruit to fully ripen in hot daytime temperatures while cooler nights help maintain the natural acid balance.  This Old World grape varietal may have started its existence as a staple in Spanish winemaking tradition but has since become appreciated around the world.  Tempranillo Wine Characteristics: What Does It Taste Like?  Tempranillo is known for its contrasting earthy and fruity flavours, most notably leather and cherry. This medium-bodied ruby coloured wine has a low to medium acidity level and offers smooth tannins on the finish.  On the palate, you can expect fruity notes of plum, figs, strawberries and occasionally tomatoes. On the more earthy side of the spectrum, wine connoisseurs may observe notes of cedar, tobacco and cloves. Tempranillo is often aged in oak barrels, mostly American, which give an aroma of vanilla, coconut and caramel.  New world versions of Tempranillo tend to be more fruity and tannic while the Spanish tempranillo shows more earthy notes. Best Food Pairings For This Grape Varietal  Due to its savoury qualities and fruity finish, this wine style complements a wide range of dishes from grilled meat to paella and tomato-rich Italian pasta.  For a more rustic, traditional experience consider pairing this grape varietal with a true classic Spanish dish of roasted vegetables and cured meats. The saltiness of the meat pairs exceptionally well with the sweeter fruit notes. With its moderate tannin and acidity, it has been known to pair well with spicier Mexican cuisine and corn-based dishes. Cheese and charcuterie boards are also a great match for Tempranillo. Where To Buy Tempranillo Wine In Ontario?  Interested in trying this beautiful Spanish grape for yourself? The good news is that Tempranillo can be easily purchased in Ontario especially through a trusted online wine agent. Here at Small Winemakers, the Tempranillo grape varietal has held a special place in our hearts for a long …

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Chardonnay Wine: A Brief History

Chardonnay wine ageing in oak barrels. The only white wine that can stand up to the power of oak

  Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world and has garnered a reputation as an easy grape to grow, no matter the climate.  The wine that’s produced with these grapes is one of the easiest-drinking white wines available and has the ability to speak clearly of the terroir where it was produced. That’s why you can find Chardonnay grapes in almost every wine-growing region in the country ranging from Washington, Quebec, and New York to South Africa, Italy, and New Zealand. However, most winemakers agree that the grape’s real spiritual home is in Burgundy, where the chalky limestone clay gives it a pure and crisp flavour.   Chardonnay Wine: The Most Popular White Grape Varietal?  Since the Chardonnay grape reflects its growing conditions so perfectly, it’s used in many different wines all around the world. Grown in a cool climate, the grape maintains very high acidity and crispy green fruit characteristics. In a warmer climate, the wines take on riper flavours bordering on tropical fruit. No other grape has quite the same sort of range of aromas and flavours as Chardonnay. Since it’s able to showcase both terroir and technique so well, it’s become one of the most popular white grape varieties in the world. The History Of Chardonnay Winemaking  Although this grape variety has been cultivated for centuries, the biggest moment for Chardonnay wine came in the late 1980s.  In trying to emulate the style of a rich and unctuous white Burgundy, New World wineries produced big, bold, and oaky Chardonnays. For years these wines were the most popular style. Eventually, tastes changed and people reacted to the overt and obvious style of heavily-oaked Chardonnay.  The ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement was a protest against this style, but it was a misnomer. First, consumers did not flock to many other grapes but instead adopted Pinot Grigio as the new go-to variety. Secondly, Chardonnay never went away. It is still widely planted around the world and enjoyed in various styles, and it remains the main grape in Sparkling wines such as Champagne and Franciacorta from Italy. Chardonnay Wine Characteristics: Oaked vs Unoaked  One of the truths about Chardonnay wine is it is one of the few white wines that has the depth and power to stand up to oak. Burgundy perfected the fermentation and ageing of Chardonnay in oak barrels. They also permitted their wines to go through a malolactic conversion, which changes the harsh malic acid found in grapes to a softer lactic acid, similar to that found in milk. This malolactic conversion makes the palate soft and rich and can sometimes contribute aromas and flavours of butter, cream and even popcorn. This whole process was copied, albeit rather clumsily, by New World wineries in the 1980s and 90s. They aimed for extreme flavours of oak and butter, which overpowered the fruit in the wine and caused the aforementioned reaction and rejection of the style.  However, dialled back and properly done, oak ageing and …

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An Introduction: A Brief History Of Syrah Wine

Syrah wine has long been regarded as one of the darkest red wines on the market. A full-bodied wine that boasts mouth-drying tannins and many wonderful flavours such as berries, pepper and smoked meat. However, only few wine lovers truly know of the origins of this exquisite grape variety. Syrah Wine: Its Origins There are numerous myths surrounding the emergence of the Syrah grape including a Roman emperor planting the grape in 280 A.D to a winemaker from Iran bringing the vines with him to France in 600 B.C. Regardless of how the grape arrived in France, what is known is that the French made this grape variety what it is today. Coming to prominence in the eighteenth century, Syrah wines are famously grown in Northern Rhône and have become one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. A quintessential Mediterranean-climate variety, its memorable earthy-herbaceous aromas leave a lasting impression on many wine tasters. Typically grown in moderate and hot climates, this grape needs plenty of sun in order to ripen due to their thick skins. Many winemakers note that “Syrah likes a view” as it is generally grown towards the top of the hill. Soil is generally poorer at the top of the hill, and this makes the vine struggle and produce more concentrated grapes. At the height of its popularity, many winemakers from around the world began to grow this grape variety. One such place is Australia, where Syrah is also known as Shiraz wine. Barossa Valley in Australia produces some of the highest-rated Syrah wines in the world. The Australian Shiraz come in a variety of styles and differ in flavours to its French counterpart, offering hints of blackberry, sweet spice and dark chocolate. It is also extremely useful as a blending grape and commonly blended in Southern Rhône with any combination of Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut due to its deep colour and high tannins. What Are The Defining Characteristics Of This Grape Variety? Syrah and Shiraz is beautifully expressive and offers many unique structural components. As we have mentioned before, one of the most striking characteristics of this grape is its appearance. This dark-coloured inky wine is known for its deep purple hue and lack of translucency. Syrah’s velvety elegance packs a punch on the opening palate with bold flavours of dark-fruit and crunchy spice. However, climate plays a large role in the flavour profile of this grape. This is one of the defining characteristics that make this grape truly unique. Cooler climates such as Northern Rhône or parts of Western Australia bring out hints of mint, pepperiness and spice on the aftertaste. While warmer climates change the flavour profile to include notes of blackberry, chocolate and gamey aftertastes as it ages. Typical flavours of this grape include blackberries, plums, black cherries, flowers, earth, chocolate, pepper and truffles. Pairing Options: Which Food Suits Best Thanks to its rich flavour profile, pairing Syrah wine is a delightful experience. The perfect match to …

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Wine Profile: Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio

Its crisp, light and appealing citrus and tree fruit flavours have made Pinot Grigio one of the most popular wines in the world. However, its popularity has been met with the mass production of a lot of “cheap” versions that have sullied the wine’s reputation. When searching for a Pinot Grigio make sure to avoid these and chose one which has characteristics that helped to make it one of the most popular wines on the planet. Pinot Grigio was made popular in the Northern Italian regions of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Alto Adige. It can be bottled and out on the market within four to twelve weeks after fermentation. Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris You’ve likely heard that Pinot Gris and Pinot Gris are the same wine. Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for the French grape after all. They are made from the same grayish/brownish pink skin grape, however, they each offer with a different style. If a wine has ‘Pinot Gris’ on the label you can expect a more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. It also has a longer aging potential. Grapes destined for Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, are harvested earlier to retain the fresh acidity, and it is this early picking with gives this wine its fresher and lighter style. A Brief History Pinot Gris dates back to the middle ages and was discovered in the Burgundy region of France, a (grey) mutation of the (black) Pinot Noir grape. The vines soon spread to Switzerland and were discovered growing in Germany around the 18th century. It was a popular wine grape in Burgundy and Champagne for several centuries. however, unreliable crops led to a decline in popularity around the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Germany continued to produce Pinot gris due the later development of a clonal variety that allowed for a more reliable crop. The grape’s popularity quickly spread to Italy, where it flourishes today. It also currently ranks as the third most popular variety in the United states. Describing a Pinot Grigio The common words used to describe a Pinot Grigio are commonly “light”, “crisp” and “dry”. The palate is usually crisp, lighter-bodied, fresh, and vibrant floral aromas and stone fruit, but this can vary depending on the climate in which it is grown. Northern Italian Pinot Grigio tends to have a straw-yellow color while in other locations this can change to a light shade of pink to a deep golden yellow to copper. Pinot Grigio is a wine best enjoyed when served cold and is made perfect for picnic or a patio on a warm summer day. Best Pinot Grigio Food Pairings While there are many unique combinations, the crispness and acidity in the wine generally pairs well with lighter foods such as seafood, light pasta, and cheese and cracker combinations. Here are a couple of examples from our portfolio: Luigi Righetti – Pinot Grigio 2014 Pairs with: Asparagus and eggs, ricotta, risotto and gnocchi with pumpkin. La Tunella – Pinot Grigio 2014 Pairs with: …

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