Fortified Wine: The Ultimate Guide To This Wine Type

From sherry to port, fortified wines come in a variety of colour, flavour, and sweetness. One thing they have in common, however, is that these wines have all gone through – as the name suggests – the process of fortification. In this article, we will discuss the fortification process, the different expressions of fortified wines and the considerations to keep in mind when pairing them with food. What Is Fortified Wine? A glass of fortified wine is a true delight both as an aperitif or a digestif. Yet, what exactly is it? Commonly classified under the dessert wine category, fortified wines typically have a higher alcohol content than the other sweet wines because the process involves strengthening the wine with grape-based spirits either during or after the fermentation process. Popularized in the late 17th century, this strengthening, otherwise known as fortification, was introduced to stabilize and preserve wine so they can survive the long sea voyages. Due to strict regulations, winemakers must adhere to guidelines and practices that accurately represent the style of their desired wine style. These regulations govern factors such as: Grapes used Alcohol volume Type of spirit added Sugar content Length of aging This unique wine style is incredibly diverse. Wines that are fortified can be dry and delicate, sweet and syrupy, or robust and nutty, depending on the country of origin, grape variety used, and winemaking style. There is something for every level of enthusiast, and a great option to round off a flavourful multi-course meal. The Fortification Process It all begins with a base wine (using specific grape varieties as noted by regulations) made just like a regular wine, where the grapes were harvested, pressed, and then fermented. The fortification process then kicks off when a distilled spirit with an alcohol by volume (ABV) level between 50% – 70% is added to the base wine. Fortifying the base wine at different stages of the fermentation process will influence the final style of wine. Adding distilled spirit in the earlier stages of fermentation will result in a sweeter wine because the strong alcohol content kills off the yeast before they can convert all the sugars into alcohol, consequently leaving a larger amount of residual sugar behind. When the spirit is added after fermentation ends, the yeast has been given the opportunity to convert more sugars into alcohol, resulting in a drier style. After the fortification process has completed, the wines are usually aged for an additional period in wood barrels. In some cases, winemakers may choose to further age the wines in bottles prior to selling them. What are the Different Types of Fortified Wine? Most people may have come across the following styles of fortified dessert wine while walking through the aisle: Sherry, Port, Madeira, Marsala, and Vermouth. Sherry Sherry is exclusively produced in the wine-growing region of Jerez, which is situated in a triangle of land in southern Spain formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto …

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Champagne: Celebrate The New Year With This Classic

A glass of Champagne is a great sparkling wine option to celebrate many wonderful occasions.

Champagne is most often associated with elegance, celebration, happiness and extravagance. With the New Year being reigned in all over the world, many wine aficionados choose this sparkling wine for marking the beginning of a brand new year.  Yet, the history behind Champagne shows that this sparkling wine is more than just the celebrations it is associated with. Below, we discuss its origins and the best food pairing options to choose when serving.  The History Of This Sparkling Wine Many people often categorize all sparkling wine as Champagne. However, only true Champagne comes from the French region after which it is named.  Located in northern France, this small region is centred on the cities of Reims and Epernay. Offering a cooler climate than other wine-growing regions in France, this area has long suffered for lacking adequate temperatures needed to ripen grapes for standard winemaking.  Despite this challenge, the region became famous for its production of sparkling wine. This was accidental, though, as they had problems with secondary fermentations that were happening in the bottle.  This process releases carbon dioxide gas and can cause the bottle to explode, under the wrong conditions. However, the Champagnoise were able to control the process with an understanding of the process of fermentation as well as stronger bottles to withstand the increased pressure. This marked the birth of this region’s renowned sparkling wine.   How Is This Sparkling Wine Made?  The production of this sparkling wine is carried out using the “traditional method”. This begins with a base wine that is fermented normally. A mixture of sugar and yeast is added to encourage a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This secondary fermentation converts the added sugar into alcohol, and carbon dioxide is generated and retained under pressure.  After the second fermentation, the yeast is left in the bottle for at least one year and often much longer. During this time the yeast begins to break down, a process known as autolysis, and impart yeasty flavours and aromas of bread and dough. With time it can also develop even more complex notes of pie crust, brioche and buttered toast. These characteristics are key to understanding Champagne. Winemakers in Champagne are masters at blending. Wines can be a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, and up to four other less common varieties. These will usually be selected depending on the style a winemaker wants to achieve, with Chardonnay typically adding acidity and structure, Pinot Noir adding aromas and body, and Pinot Meunier contributing fruitiness.  A “non-vintage” Champagne will usually have wines from several different vintages, so-called “reserve wines”, added to maintain a particular style.  Food Pairing Tips For Champagne Now that you know the origins of this classic celebratory wine, the next step is to familiarize yourself with recommended food pairing options and considerations to keep in mind when doing so.  A number of wine pairing basics should be kept in mind when pairing food with this sparkling wine. For example, consider the weighting of the …

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An Introduction: The Best Tuscan Wines

Italy is the biggest wine producer in the world. Although the country’s winemaking history dates back over 4,000 years it is only in the forty years that it has become wildly popular worldwide. Tuscany plays a very important role in Italy’s wine culture, both past and present. It is the second largest producing wine region in Italy, second only to Veneto, and has a wide variety of styles ranging from easy to drink, fruit forward wine, to ultra-premium Super Tuscans. For those interested in learning more about Tuscan wines, this article serves as an introduction to the famous and everchanging Italian wine region. Tuscany: A Regional Overview Tuscany is famous for several things – beautiful art, architecture and culture of Florence and Siena, the beautiful countryside, and rolling hills and, of course, its food and wine. Situated in central Italy, Tuscany enjoys a warm, Mediterranean climate that allows producers to ripen grapes perfectly. High elevation hillside plantings, moreover, let the warm daytime temperatures cool down at night. This diurnal temperature variation helps the grapes maintain a balance of sugars, acidity and aromatics. Sangiovese is one variety that thrives on these hillside vineyards and is Tuscany’s signature red grape. Many people interchange the words “Tuscany” and “Chianti”. Not only is this incorrect, but the region’s wine landscape is far more complex and dynamic. The central core of Tuscany, where Chianti Classico is located, is based almost entirely on the noble Sangiovese grape. However, besides Chianti Classico, there are 7 sub-zones in the Chianti region including Chianti Colli Senesi and Chianti Rufina (which are the most famous out of the sub-zones) as well as Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Montespertoli and Chianti Colli Pisane. All sub-zones have a unique microclimate and produce different styles of wine from the Sangiovese grape. Further south, where the climate is warmer, are made Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, wines that tend to have a fuller body with richer tannin structure. Further west, toward the Tuscan coast, a very different terroir emerges, and this is where “Super Tuscans” are often found, usually made by blending a little Sangiovese with non-native grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. These wines are some of the most prestigious in the world including famous labels such as Sassicaia, Solaia and Tignanello. Tuscan Wines: Knowing The Grapes With a long history, innovation, continuous review of regulation and a pride and passion for winemaking Tuscany has become a reliable and reputable source for great quality wines.  Tuscany’s terroir allows for a wide variety of white and red grapes to grow successfully. Below is an overview of the main grape varieties found in Tuscany: Sangiovese Sangiovese is the king of Tuscan grapes. It is Italy’s most widely- planted variety with 55,000 hectares across the country and has a deep-rooted history. It is noted that the origin of Sangiovese dates the grape to the time of Roman winemaking. It was even theorized that the grape was first …

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Wine Profile: Why is Riesling a Super Grape?

Pronunciation:[reece-ling] Origin: Originating in Germany’s Rhineland in 1435, when a German count bought six vines making it the first documented varietal sale Styles: Dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines Profile: Colour: Bright, pale yellow when young or gold when aged Sweetness: Wide range from bone dry to very sweet Acidity: High Body: Light Alcohol: Low/Medium Ageing: From 5 to 30 depending on style, vintage and producer There is almost nothing better than sipping a cold glass of delicious Riesling on a hot summer day. No matter what the style, Riesling is the ideal wine to enjoy throughout the spring and summer months. Many connoisseurs consider Riesling to be the world’s finest grape because of its versatility, its food-friendliness and its ability to age gracefully. When young, these wines are aromatic, refreshing, and known for their intense fruit and floral aromas. They are crisp and juicy, with aromas of lemon, apricot, pear, honey-crisp apple, and nectarine. With age Riesling becomes fuller and richer and the fruit forward notes develop into notes of honey, petrol, mineral and smoke. This grape is extremely versatile; making excellent dessert and off-dry styles that we have come know and love in North America, however, the majority of Riesling produced in Germany and France are dry and similar in body and style to a light, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. The consistent element through all styles of Riesling is its high acidity, making your mouth water as much as a glass of lemonade would. The different styles of Riesling depend on several factors such as the vineyards farming methods, soil varieties, climate, and winemaking techniques. For example, the grapes to make Spätlese, meaning late harvest in German, are picked at least seven days after the normal harvest, so they are riper and have higher sugar content than the grapes used to make a dry Riesling. No other grape variety in the world provides such a stylistic range. Where does Riesling come from? While the origin of Riesling is a bit of a mystery (like most varietals), many point to Germany as the country of origin. The earliest documentation of the German production of Riesling dates back to 1435. The region known as the birthplace is along the Rhein River, in the Rheinhessen wine region. Where does Riesling Grow? The delicate nature and slower growing pace compared to Chardonnay makes Riesling suited to grow in cooler climates and strives in places such as Germany and France. However, over time, Riesling has adapted to grow successfully in warmer climates, such as Australia, where sometimes the grape skins are seven times the thickness of German grown grape. Here are the regions that Riesling grows best: Germany Mosel Riesling production – 12,891 acres Pfalz Riesling production – 12,508 acres Rheinhessen Riesling production – 7,889 acres In addition to being known as the place of Rieslings origin, Germany is known for its production of some of the world’s best Riesling. In 2006, Riesling was the most grown variety Germany producing 20.8% of the country’s …

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Wine Country Profile: New Zealand

new zealand wine

New Zealand’s population is just a mere 4 and a half million, and their experience in producing wine dates back only 40 years. Yet, the country’s contribution to the production of wine is remarkable, so remarkable in fact, that New Zealand has become the number 2 exporter of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. New Zealand is home to 10 great wine producing regions that have combined to make New Zealand’s world passion for wine-making known worldwide. The Lay of the Land New Zealand is a beautiful remote island country sitting a thousand miles to the south-east of Australia. Its tall mountain peaks and lush green forests are truly a sight to behold. Due to its long and narrow shape, most of the wine regions are close to the ocean and experience a Maritime climate. Since the majority of vineyards are in close proximity to the cool breezes of the oceans, the acidity in well preserved in most bottles of wine. The Central Otago wine region at the south end of New Zealand is interesting as it is the most southerly wine region in the world and the only region of New Zealand that features a continental climate. And in contrast to the rest of the country, Central Otago is almost exclusively focused on creating the best Pinot Noir. New Zealand Wine A common theme of freshness will prevail when consuming different glasses of the countries wines. While New Zealand is now well known for its great sauvignon blanc, the country has also become a great producer of Chardonnay, Cabernet/Merlot blends, and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc In 1975, the first Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in Marlborough – on the North end of the South Island. With its unique combination of crispness and intense fruity and herbaceousness, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has come to be seen as some of the world’s best. It’s such a popular wine that it accounts for just over 70% of all wine production in the country and is the second largest exporter of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Try Some of These Authentic New Zealand Wines New Zealand has the ability to produce wines as wonderful as its gorgeous landscapes. Unfortunately for us in Ontario, the flight from Toronto to Auckland is 14,100 kilometres and just under 20 hours long. Fortunately, the Small Winemakers and their Toronto wine delivery service, has made great New Zealand wine is just a click of the mouse away from arriving at your doorstep.   Appleby Lane – Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $20.70 / Bottle This Sauvignon Blanc is aromatic with characters of citrus, lime, gooseberry and herbaceous. A mouth-filling palate showing delicious gooseberry, grapefruit and citrus fruit flavours with a typical minerally edge. Rich and concentrated, the mid-palate shows a genuine breadth and the overall impression remains clean, ripe and fresh.   Mt Difficulty – Roaring Meg Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $26.35 / Bottle While the name can suggest difficulty, this wine is a simple pleasure to drink. The warm summer growing conditions have …

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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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