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Wine Glossary
Dr Bryce Rankin is one of one of Australia's leading wine Academics and is responsible for creating this benchmark Glossary of Wine Tasting Terms. We encourage wine lovers to use these definitions in their notes and discussions on the smell and taste of wine.
Vintage Charts
Charting the quality of vintages provides an invaluable buying tool for consumers. Over twenty vintage charts are collected here, representing all of the major wine producing regions of Australia. The charts are divided into both red and white wine categories to avoid generalisations.
Wine & Spirit Maps
This is a free collection of maps tailored specifically to the needs of wine and spirit enthusiasts. For example, in wine regions like Italy or Bordeaux where a myriad of varietals are planted or the number of sub-regions makes for confusion, we've identified the primary grape varieties associated with each respective area. Similarly, the quality or style of a given spirit is often associated with a particular distillery location, many of which are based in obscure places around the world with both social and historical significance. Most maps can be downloaded as printable PDF's and we'll continue to add to the collection as we profile the world's great wine and spirit regions.
McLaren Vale
While 'joosy', ripe, full bodied Shiraz wines from McLaren Vale have captured the world's imagination, the region is also known for other varietals and now offers a complimentary set of experiences that characterise its superb food and wonderful hospitality. This article is an overview of one of Australia's great wine producing regions and was compiled after a 'whirlwind' three day visit.
Heathcote: A Viticultural Paradox
The Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Great Western districts have firmly cemented their place as exceptional Shiraz regions, and although Heathcote could be regarded their equal, the scarcity of wine has left the district in relative obscurity. That's all rapidly changing as newer planting come on stream. This article profiles the region's historical development and now famous geology, including an interview with Heathcote's modern-day pioneer, Ron Laughton from Jasper Hill Vineyard.
New Zealand Wine: Past, Present & Future
The modern New Zealand wine renaissance is still unfolding. The country is continuing to discover itself as it embarks on a project to classify and quantify its dizzying range of terroirs and micro climates. The array of wine styles it can potentially succeed with seems to be ever growing. In this article we examine why the industry took so long to establish itself, the causes behind its present day growth and we profile the two varietals that look set to drive New Zealand's future for some time to come: Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. This report includes a map of New Zealand's major wine regions and their primary grape varieties.
A Guide to the Appellations of Bordeaux
Becoming familiar with what Bordeaux Appellations are permitted to produce which wines is a daunting learning curve for those with little experience of the region. With the help of information sourced from the "Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux", we have assembled a concise introduction to all 57 appellations. The peculiar or common characteristics of each region, the grape varieties used, their locations and the more notable producers are outlined. We trust this guide will serve as an introduction to "The Wine Capital of The World", and stimulate interest for Bordeaux wines which Nicks Wine Merchants continue to ship on a regular basis.
Italian Wine Regions
Despite Italy being one of the world's largest wine producers, quality Italian wines have only relatively recently caught the attention of wine enthusiasts. This is a brief overview of Italy's many wine regions and the extraordinary array of grape varieties which are grown there.
Chilean Wine Primer
Many Australian wine lovers will be unfamiliar with South American wines, yet the continent actually has a longer tradition of wine production than our own. The Chilean wine industry is almost 500 years old and in recent decades has undergone a comprehensive transformation. Its reputation as a producer solely of inexpensive but pleasant, value for money wines is rapidly changing with the emergence of unique, engaging, mid-priced wines that look set to challenge other new world producers like Australia and New Zealand. Nicks Wine Merchants continue to ship South American wines on a regular basis and offer this primer to add to winelover's appreciation of this remarkable region.
The Madeira Wine Guide
Since the 17th century, the Portuguese island of Madeira has produced some of the world's most famous fortified wines, commercially known all over the world as 'Madeira'. Its versatility and different tastes combined with its easy storing and incredible longevity have made it a collectible for many wine lovers. This excellent introduction covers Madeira's history, its unique viticulture and winemaking as well as offering some first hand tips from a long time Madeira enthusiast, Dr. Wolf Peter Reutter, who after visiting Madeira in 1995 and fell in love with both the island and the drink.
Spanish Sherry
This article offers a comprehensive account of the Jerez region, from its history to the architecture of its Bodegas, and of course a detailed introduction to the drink that has made Spain famous. Much of the information has been supplied by the official Spanish Sherry Organisation so offering a first hand description of the viticulture, viniculture and enjoyment of this unique drink.
The Search for the Perfect Closure Part 1: Synthetics
This article follows on from Vintage School 2.14 Corks & Cork Taint, and offers an insight into contemporary innovations in wine closure technology. While these new developments aim to reproduce the look and feel of natural cork using alternative materials, their significance resides in their imperviousness to micro biological contamination. Could synthetics be the perfect wine closure?
The Search for the Perfect Closure Part 2: Screw Caps
The third and final supplement to our discussion on wine closures concerns the growing phenomena of 'Screw Caps', (also referred to as Stelvin Caps). These have found great popularity amongst winemakers and continue to threaten traditional corks as the closure of preference. This article documents the recent studies and the ongoing debates surrounding the true viability of screw caps, an issue which seems destined to rage on for years to come!
An Accountable Rating System for all Spirit Types
A brief survey of existing rating systems for spirits reveals that they offer little or no detailed account as to how a score is arrived at. Exactly why does a given beverage score 89 points and not 90? Was it the colour, the aroma or the palate that failed to impress, and in what respect? This paper asks "Is an accountable rating system possible for spirits" and attempts to create a working model based on an existing parent system, www.winespider.com.
A Scotch Whisky Primer
As with fine wines, Scotland's whiskies offer a unique world of sensory experiences. This introduction to the appreciation of Scotch Whisky covers the history, regions, styles, production methods and tastes of this noble spirit. Also included is a detailed map of distillery locations and a version of a whisky flavour chart as developed by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.
The Australian Whisky Guide
The Australian Whisky renaissance is here! After tasting dozens of the latest samples, we were prompted to search for a comprehensive Australian whisky guide to learn more about the people, products, processes and places that make Australian whiskies some of the most exciting 'new' spirits in the world today. When we couldn't find a guide, we decided to write one! This article represents the first comprehensive profile of Australia's currently operating whisky producers. New releases are available to taste at our Armadale store and we're certain they'll dispel the myth that great whisky can only come from Scotland.
Irish Whiskey - The Spirit of the Emerald Isles
The Irish claim (with some justification), to have actually invented whiskey. Certainly, the Scots most likely learned about distilling from the Irish (though they are loath to admit it). While the production of Irish whiskies is broadly similar to that of Scotch, there are important differences that bring about its famous silky mouthfeel & lightness. This article also outlines the troubled history behind this often neglected spirit.
Bourbon - Spirit of the Wild West
Bourbon holds a special place in American culture. Its origins are linked to the beginnings of the country. In the late 1700's, "Scotch-Irish" settlers streamed westward taking their household arts with them including the art of distilling. From the mid-west emerged not one but several styles of North American Whiskey which we now generically refer to as 'Bourbon.' This article includes an introduction to these various styles as well as covering the history and production techniques of America's favourite whiskey.
Vodka - A Passion for Purity
Despite our innate desire for variety, Vodka, a beverage which is almost devoid of aroma and taste, is today the world's largest selling alcoholic drink. This must partly be explained by its versatility with food, and the thousands of cocktails for which it has become a key ingredient. But Eastern Europeans have long known that there are in fact as many variations and flavours to vodka as there are types of produce from which it can be made. This article examines the sources of the 'neutral spirit', and the obsession for purity which it excites in those who make it.
Grappa: The Spirit of Vinous Recycling
Given Europe's ubiquitous and ancient wine industry, the widespread availability of cheap pomace was the obvious choice as a raw material to produce a spirit. Skilled Italians have long known how to transform it into one of the world's most seductive brandies - Grappa. We're now pleased to introduce some wonderful examples of this classic spirit to Australian drinkers from our recent tastings.
Gin - England's National Spirit
Essentially, Gin is nothing more than a neutral spirit (more commonly known as vodka) with added botanical-flavours, though by law, these must include Juniper berries. Gin was first intended as a tonic of sorts, but became notorious in England during the 18th Century as a cause of social decay. This article covers the history and re-emergence of this classic spirit that has today become an iconic Dutch / English specialty.
Tequila - Heart & Soul of Mexico
Perhaps no other drink is surrounded by as much myth and confusion as Tequila and its companion, Mezcal. This section offers a comprehensive account of the Mexico's national drink, seeking to dispel common mis-conceptions and introduce readers to the unusual history and production processes behind this exotic spirit.
Rum - Caribbean Class
Rums are as diverse as whiskies, and much depends on how the distiller and blender create their product. Rum is also thought to be the world's oldest spirit with its cultural heritage centered in the Caribbean and its history inextricably intertwined with colonialism, slavery and the creation of capitalism.
Cognac - A Heady Atmosphere
"Imagine a length of velvet and another of silk fabric" says Salvatore Calabrese. "Stroke them. The velvet has a deep and rich texture. And that is an armagnac. The silk is pure finesse, and that to me is cognac." Cognac is widely considered the finest distilled spirit in the world. While most of the Cognac houses we are familiar with today were established in the 18th Century, the region has a long tradition of brandy production with the region's terroir, oak forests and ageing processes all contributing to this most complex of spirits.
The Earthy Charms of Armagnac
Armagnac is France's oldest brandy, pre-dating Cognac by some 150 years and rivaling for recognition as the finest producer of brandy in the world. But despite the two regions geographic proximity and similarity of production methods, there are definite stylistic differences between the two.
Calvados - The Norman Holemaker
When the Norseman came to Northern France, straddling the mouth of the Seine in the 9th century, they found areas covered with wild apple trees. They and the local Bretons fermented the apple juice into a rough cider, and cider (followed by apple brandy or 'Calvados') became part of the local way of life. Today Calvados is only beginning to enjoy a long overdue revival as one of the world's great after dinner drinks.
Absinthe: The Misunderstood Muse
Absinthe, now readily available in Australia, has always had an ambivalent history. On the one hand it was praised as 'The Green Muse' by its devotees, and on the other it was condemned by it detractors as a cause of madness and moral degeneracy. But is there any scientific or medical basis for either position? This article offers a critical review of the various attitudes towards this mysterious drink.
Classic Cocktails
The world of Cocktails can bewilder with the sheer variety and number of recipes available. Here we present a selection of Cocktail Classics - the originals from which many later drinks were inspired or based. This article also includes an introduction to making your own cocktails at home.
Liqueurs - A paper by the late Eddie Baitz
Eddie Baitz was the master of liqueur making in Australia and has left a strong legacy behind with Baitz Liqueurs. This section is taken from a paper prepared by the late Eddie Baitz and deals with aspects of liqueur making and their enjoyment.
A Complete Guide to Liqueurs
In this article, Eddie Baitz provides insights into the complexities of the art of the Master Liqueurist. The contents have evolved from lectures which he prepared for both the trade and consumers, covering the origins, production methods, varieties and appreciation of liqueurs.
Wine Dictionary
The 'Wine Dictionary' was reproduced from "Winecraft - The Encyclopaedia of Wines & Spirits" which was originally compiled by - T.A. Layton. The book dates back to the turn of last century and although some information is obsolete, the work nevertheless contains many curious entries which are no longer included in contemporary reference works.
Towards an Australian Wine Classification
Let the international debate begin towards an Australian wine classification system! The world is taking a very strong interest in Australian wine, and a recent e-mail from overseas prompted us to revisit a Classification System that we had been working on since May 2000. Let us know your thoughts.
Elements of a Vineyard
This essay briefly covers topics such as site selection, soil, vines and viticulture aswell as offering a general introduction to the idiosyncrasies of vineyards from an 'Old World' perspective. The excerpt is taken from 'The Wines and Vineyards of France' by Louis Jacquezin and Rene Poulain.
French Wine Regions
An excellent reference guide to France's many wine regions and their sometimes confusing 'appellation' systems. This section has been sourced from the book, "The Wines and Vineyards of France" by Louis Jacquezin and Rene Poulain and is highly recommended to anyone wishing to refine their knowledge of France and her wines.
The Rhone Valley
The Rhone Valley vineyards run in and out between hills, perching on terraces and precipitous hillsides, and forming a splendid green contrast to the sun-mellowed roof tiles of the houses. This wine region is a world in itself; but is not really a single region. This essay covers the huge range of 'terroirs' within the Rhone.
Pinot Noir - The Search for the Holy Grail
Pinot Noir is the most difficult grape variety to come to terms with and in order to evaluate Pinot Noir, we must first reach an understanding of what it is that we are looking for when we smell and taste the wines made from these grapes, as well as gain an insight into the style of the variety.
Terroir - The Human Factor
The concept of Terroir is being widely discussed amongst viticulturalists and winemakers as they seek out the ultimate answers in their quest for great wine. We are fortunate in obtaining permission from Warren Moran, Professor of Geography at the University of New Zealand to publish this paper he presented held at the Michael Fowler Centre, New Zealand. The essay focuses on New Zealand and its experience with Pinot Noir in relation to Terroir.
The Relationship Between Yield and Quality
After decades of scientific research, why are we still asking the same questions about yield? Maybe it's because we are using science to answer the wrong questions. Dr Mark Greenspan, a US consultant who provides specialist services to wine companies discusses the variables in the relationship between yield and quality.
Influences of Oak on Making and Maturing Wine
Wine Business Monthly publishes an insightful article into the influence of oak on the making and maturing of wine. Discussion includes the influence of steel vs new and used oak, the origin of the oak in use (French, Europe and US), French oak regions, influence of open air seasoning and finally the effects of varying toasting levels.
Global Warming & Wine - First World Meeting
Global warming and climate change have become one of the most important and worrying issues of our generation. No one doubts that the Earth is suffering the effects of climate change, produced, amongst other factors, by the greenhouse effect. But what becomes more worrying is the speed at which this is happening, specially in the last 10 to 20 years. Find out the repercussions on the wine industry with an interview with Pancho Campo, Master of Wine and president of The Wine Academy of Spain.
Shiraz Clones
The McLaren Vale winemakers, as part of establishing the Fleurieu Wine Tourist Centre, established a 16 acre vineyard, adjacent to the Centre. In a normal marketing environment, it would seem an appropriate adjunct - growing wines for tourists to admire - however, with the assistance of top McLaren Vale winemakers came the notion of conducting a Shiraz Clonal Trial.
Kosher Wine
In the past, the perception of Kosher wines has been that they have been thin and lacking flavour, or alternatively sickly sweet. Much has changed in recent years, with the development of new wine styles. In this section we taste some of the latest additions to the market while also providing a useful background to Kosher Wine, including an examination of how Kosher Wine is made.
Characteristics of a Great Wine
What are the characteristics that distinguish a great wine from a good wine? The answer is far from simple and can be found in an inter relationship of events that start from the selection of the right parcel of land for a particular variety through to brand management.
2009 Bordeaux En Primeurs Offer
Nick's Wine Merchant's 2009 Bordeaux offer is now open. Like 2005, critics worldwide are describing 2009 as a vintage where consumers can secure outstanding reds and Sauternes without the classed growth price tags. Overall, a benchmark vintage! The following is a brief report.
Bordeaux 2010 En Primeurs
Bordeaux 2010 En Primeurs
2011 Bordeaux En Primeurs Offer
Overall, 2011 is a good vintage, presenting a return to classicism that will have to live in the shadow of the stellar 2009 and 2010. Of course, some sectors have done better than others. After the dream run of 2009 and 2010, Bordeaux as a region, was reminded of the primacy of the natural elements, their impact on viticulture, and the fact that vignerons can never rest on their laurels.
2005 Vintage Report
The 2005 vintage was described as one of consistent good quality across all regions. Favourable seasonal conditions - particularly mild temperatures, with few sustained hot periods, and moderate and generally well timed rainfall - resulted in good quality and steady ripening of fruit, with full varietal characters being developed.
2004 Vintage Report
The Australian wine industry achieved a record vintage in 2004, with an estimated crush of 1.86 million tonnes-40% more than the drought affected 2003 vintage and 23% more than the previous record vintage of 1.51 million tonnes in 2002.