JWL Issue #142: The Joys of Wine Tasting, plus the Role of Vine Leaves

June 8, 2021

Tasting wine as opposed to drinking it is something I love doing. This weekend, I had a tasting with some friends where we opened a 2004 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny I'd been saving, drinking it alongside a 2018 pinot from Essex producer Danbury Ridge.

The 2004 was past its best. For the most part, mushroomy, earthy flavours were present in the glass. But then there was this briefest window where a floral chorus of red fruits sprung out onto the palate. There was still acidity and tannin on the palate, but this window didn't last long.

The Danbury Octagon Block by comparison was polar opposite – big, vibrant fruit. Oak rounding out the wine in a wonderful way. This is the fifth Essex pinot I've had recently. Two were from Tillingham, one from Blackbook, and Danbury's entry point as well.

Blackbook's Sergio Verillo told me years ago that Essex would be our Oregon and he's right. These aren't Burgundy aspirers, they are pinots in their own rights, with their own sets of terroir showing them off.

Tasting these two side by side was a wonderful experience. Getting to taste the subtleties. Really considering each look, each smell and each sip. Even the 2004 which for all intents and purposes wasn't a nice wine to drink, was a fascinating experience. Another note for the memory bank. Another pinot logged away.

They call pinot the heartbreak grape. It struggles in so many conditions. It's delicate. And even in its heartland of Burgundy, where it can make the very greatest wines in the world, it can so often disappoint.

Why do we go back again and again? We know there is greatness there. That 2004 was past it's best, but there was that slither of hope we were going to taste something transcendent.

I am a big fan of tasting wine, rather than just drinking it. Although I do love drinking it too. Tasting it allows you to be swept up in a whole history of a place and build your mind map of wines from around the world.

It's YouTube Live week this week. Want to taste wines along with us (and drink them as well of course), then head to the June Box Tasting page, and hit the Reminder button.

We've got the last case or two of our rosé boxes left – get six incredible rosés, plus four GoVino glasses to drink the wine in the park for £113.50.

Learn this week we look to the vineyard and understand wine vine leaves are important. While Taste, we lean into the summer heat.

Happy tasting



Leaning into the summer time

For this hot weather, all I often want is thirst quenching high acidity wine. Pecorino Terre di Chieti (Lidl, £5.49) is named after the sheep famous for their pecorino cheese. And the two are a perfect pairing together. Citrus with green apple and light body, this is easy drinking wine.

La Vieille Ferme Rosé (Co-op, £7.75) is made by the Perrin family. They are a big winemaking family in France who one one of the top Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards as well as the Luberon rosé which we stock. This one is their entry-level range, it has slightly warmer, plumper fruits from its lower altitude location. Think raspberry, grapefruit and rose.

From Bardolino in Italy this red is a blend of corvina and rondinella. The first of which is famous in deep-coloured Valpolicella wine. Cavalchina Bardolino (M&S, £10) has a bit of a pong - like an earthy smell with spice and concentrated red fruits.


Why are vine leaves so important?

Plant’s leaves show you how healthy a plant is. Any discolouration can be an indicator of disease or malnutrition.

Leaves are the engine of grape production. Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction that happens inside the leaf. It uses the sun to create sugar in the grapes.

If you don’t have enough leaves in comparison to grapes, the grapes will ripen sluggishly. A good leaf to grape ratio is vital.

However, if there are too many leaves, they cast a shadow below them. This can cause many issues like disease and mould.

Some grapes need a higher leaf to grape ratio. The famously fussy pinot noir needs lots of leaves to grow at its best. Sunnier countries can afford to have fewer leaves but countries like here in the UK need more.

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