Lorenzo Barbareschi

Lorenzo Barbareschi

A dry pleasure

April 05, 2018

SHERRY, an anglicisation of the Spanish Jerez, is a fortified wine from white grapes grown near Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia. 

After fermentation the wines are fortified with grape spirit to increase the final alcohol content. Wines suitable for ageing as Fino and Manzanilla are fortified until they reach a total alcohol content of 15.5 per cent. As they age in barrel, the wines develop natural yeast known as flor that helps protect them from excessive oxidation. 

Wines chosen to undergo ageing as Oloroso are fortified to reach an alcohol content of at least 17. They do not develop flor and oxidise slightly as they age, giving them a darker colour. 

Because fortification takes place after fermentation, most Sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness added later. 

Jerez has been a centre of viniculture since Phoenician times in 1100 BC, with the Moors - after conquering the region - introducing distillation and producing brandy and fortified wine.

During the Moorish period, the town was called Sherish, from which both Sherry and Jerez are derived. 

By the end of the 16th century, sherry had a reputation as the world’s finest wine and both Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan took it on voyages to the New World. 

Because sherry was heavily exported to the UK many of the Jerez cellars were founded by British families. 

Wines from different years are aged and blended before bottling, so sherry bottles do not usually carry a specific vintage year. 

Sherry is traditionally drunk from a copita or catavino, a special tulip-shaped glass. 

Happy tasting. 


VINHO VERDE is not a ‘green’ wine nor a grape, but a region (DOC) for its production.

It may be red, white or rose, and translates as ‘young wine’ usually consumed three to six months after harvest. Vinho Verde in northern Portugal - the nation’s largest wine region - has produced wine for more than 2,000 years, and is now responsible for approximately 85 million litres each year, of which 86 per cent is white. 

Made from local grape varieties Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, the whites are lemon - or straw-coloured with 8.5 to 11 per cent alcohol. The most successful is Alvarinho, which displays tropical aromas, an overall lemony character, high acidity and alcohol levels, and Loureiro which is more floral. 

White Vinho Verde are light and fresh and known for vibrant fruit, natural acidity and low alcohol which makes them ideal for pairing with seafood, salads and Asian cuisine, or served as an aperitif.

The reds made mostly from Vinhão, Borraçal and Amaral grapes have an inky texture, are low in alcohol, have sour flavours and are seldom exported.  The roses are fresh and fruity, and usually from Espadeiro and Padeiro grapes. 

Many of the Vinho Verde wines have a light fizz, originally a natural by-product of fermentation in the bottle, but nowadays a result of added carbon dioxide mainly for en-masse export as better labels do not have any bubbles. 

The Vinho Verde image as a young wine has led importers pressing producers to deliver wines freshly bottled, thereby preventing the development of high quality single-varietal labels. Popularity of Vinho Verde has surged in the last decade with consumers discovering it as one of the most affordable and versatile wines on the market, with prices from around €5.

Happy tasting.


SPAIN is an increasing popular choice among wine tourism travellers.

With the nation boasting the world’s largest land area dedicated to vineyard cultivation, the Serranía de Ronda is among the latest additions to the official wine tourism routes throughout Spain with wines from the area being increasing locally and internationally valued. 

The region’s historical ties to wine dates back to Roman times when wine was produced in the nearby city of Acinipo (Phoenician for ‘Land of wine,’) and exported back to Rome.

Ronda’s proximity to the Mediterranean, its unique micro-climate and geological diversity support cultivation of a diverse range of grape varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo and Garnacha and gives wines very distinct aromas and flavours. 

Locally produced wines are bottled under the DOs, or Designations of Origin, of Málaga and Sierras de Málaga.

A visit to the wineries in the surrounding countryside can be especially interesting in September as the harvest gets underway.

Among wineries to visit include:

Bodegas Chinchilla:  In the Ronda La Vieja area, close to Acinipo, a boutique winery with a façade displaying the name given to its wine.

Bodegas Descalzos Viejos: Formerly a convent and one of the most visited bodegas due to its historic appeal.

Bodegas Vetas:  The smallest in Andalucia with just a couple of acres of land and with very low yields, Vetas crafts two treasures, the 100 per cent Petit Verdot and its very own, Vetas Selection.

Bodegas F-Schatz: A small family-run winery close to the Roman city of Acinipo that produces several distinctive wines.

Enjoy the visit and happy tasting.

PORT, a fortified wine similar to Marsala and Madeira, is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. 

Though typically red and sweet, port - taking its name from the city of Porto - also comes in dry, semi-dry, rose and white varieties.  

Rich and sweet, it is also high in alcohol content due to the addition of neutral grape spirits, known as aguardente. This is done to halt fermentation, leaving residual sugar which boosts the alcohol level prior to storing and ageing in sealed glass bottles or barrels. 

 More than 100 varieties of grapes, all suitable for long-ageing wines, are sanctioned for port production, although only five - Tinta Cão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional - are widely cultivated. 

The four main styles of port are:

Ruby: Bright red with full bodied fruitiness; the most extensively produced and generally does not improve with age. 

Tawny:  Sweet or medium dry, made from red grapes. Can be aged for years in wooden barrels and as a result of the oxidation gradually mellows to a golden-brown colour and gains a caramel, nutty flavour. 

White: From white grapes, can go from dry to very sweet. When matured in wood for long periods the colour can darken substantially. 

Rose: A new style made like rose wine, with flavours of strawberry and caramel. 

Apart from white port, which can be served chilled, port should be served at around 16ºC. 

Vintage ports need to breathe and require decanting. Once opened they are best consumed within a short period although aged types may keep for several months. 

Happy tasting.

PRIORAT as one of the upcoming Spanish wine regions has recorded an extraordinary leap in quality and reputation over the last decade. 

This small area which qualifies as Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQ) is in Tarragona Province in Cataluña and is one of only two -  alongside Rioja - regions to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification.

It produces mainly red and powerful wines. 

Characterised by a terroir of volcanic origins with black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella with vineyards on terraces at 100m - 700m, the area has low yields due to the rocky soil that does not allow water accumulation.  

Wine production in the area dates from the 12th century, when monks from the Monastery of Scala Dei introduced viticulture and the prior ruled as a feudal lord, giving rise to the name Priorat. 

At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards and replanting was undertaken only in the 1950’s. In the 1980’s bulk wine production was phased out and bottling of quality wine was introduced.

The traditional grape variety in El Priorat is the red Garnacha tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. Other red varieties are Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. 

White varieties are Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin.

The traditional reds are a single grape bottling of Grenache and Carignan, or a blend of these with French grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah. Usually aged in oak barrels for 18 months followed by six months in the bottle, Priorat wines have a consumption optimal two years later.

Happy tasting.

Excellence of Aragon

February 15, 2018

CARIÑENA is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) created in 1932 for wines produced on the Campo de Cariñena plateau near the centre of Aragón, the acknowledged source of the Carignan grape or Mazuelo. This is also grown in Italy and new world regions. 

The vineyards lie between 400-800m above sea level with temperature extremes over 12 months as well as daytime and night which contribute to the characteristic intensity of Cariñena wines.

The local population had been producing mead since 300 BC; during the Middle Ages wine-making prospered under the protection of monasteries and by the 16th century vineyards covered 50 per cent of the territory of Zaragoza Province.

Since 1995 Cariñena exports have quadrupled thanks to changes aimed at attracting more overseas buyers through fruitier, lighter and well balanced wines while the traditional robust, high alcohol content wines are retained mainly for local consumption. 

The most planted variety is Garnacha tinta (55 per cent) for reds and rosés, followed by Viura (20 per cent), Mazuelo and Tempranillo (15 per cent), while Moscatel Romano is used for the production of sweet Moscatels and a rare red grape called Vidadillo. 

Tempranillo is blended with Garnacha to make the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. 

The whites are made with Viura and the rosés use Garnacha along with other white and red varieties and are macerated for colour.

Both the fresh young whites, which represent 20 per cent of total production, and rosés, are best consumed within the year of production. 

Reds have the characteristic style of Garnacha wines produced in hot climates and, in the case of oak-aged Crianzas, have the taste and strength provided by 5 per cent of Cariñena grapes which pair well with red meats and game. Happy tasting.


Waste not!

February 08, 2018

GRAPPA is one of Italy’s most popular alcoholic drinks, with approximately 40 million bottles produced each year.

In 1989 the name Grappa became protected by the EU and can be used only if the drink is sourced and produced in Italy with alcohol content between 35-60 per cent. 

Grappa is made by steam distillation of the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems (the pomace) left over from the wine-making process in order to extract remaining flavours before the waste is discarded. 

It is then bottled at once to make Grappa Bianca, or aged in wooden casks to create the yellow or brown-hued riserva: Flavoured grappas are also produced with infusion of herbs.

If at least 85 per cent of the pomace comes from a single variety, grappa can be designated di vitigno or varietale, and the type of grape can be incorporated into the name, eg, grappa di moscato.  

An aromatic, neutral spirit with great digestive qualities grappa is a wonderful way to end a meal drunk on its own or added to an espresso, when it is known as ‘caffè corretto.’ 

Young and aromatic grappa should be served chilled, while aged should be served slightly below room temperature, but never ice cold as freezing affects the flavour, and drunk from small tulip-shaped glasses with an open rim. 

The flavour of grappa depends on the type and quality of the grapes used, as well as the distillation process, though quality is not guaranteed as there is no DOC protection system as for wines.

There are more than 100 grappa producers in Italy, with several in Bassano del Grappa, the drink’s historic home. 

The best-known include Berta, Bocchino, Brotto, Distilleria De Negri, Domenis, Jacopo Poli, Nardini, Alexander and Nonino. 

Happy tasting.

WINES in Spain are classified into 69 major regions or Designation of Origin (DO) with their own set of laws and quality standards. 

The best known national regions are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Penedés, Navarra, Rueda, Cava, Rias Baixas, Jeréz, and La Mancha. 

Grape names are not often used, with restaurants and shops classifying wines according to their origin, therefore it is quite common to confuse the grape name with the region. 

A clear example is that Rioja refers to the DO as there is no such grape; though Albariño refers to the grape variety from the Rias Baixas region.   

Here are the most common Spanish red grape varietals.

Tempranillo: The best known red also known as Tinto Fino, Cencibel and Ull de Llebre producing fruity young wines that age well in oak. 

Garnacha (Grenache): Though of Spanish origin and produced in La Rioja, Navarra, Aragón and Cataluña is also found in several wine countries. It is normally blended with Tempranillo to produce fruity wines, with raspberry aromas. 

Bobal: Cultivated mainly in Valencia it produces full bodied wines. 

Monastrell: The typical grape of Murcia producing powerful wines with structure and strength. 

Cabernet Sauvignon:  Not a Spanish grape varietal but grows well here and is often blended with other grapes to produce more complex wines. Cabernet is found in La Mancha, Catalonia and Navarra. 

Merlot: Another French grape variety and again found in many regions. 

Syrah: Relatively popular in La Mancha and in the Mediterranean areas, it produces full bodied wines high in alcohol. 

Tinta de Toro: Of the Tempranillo grape family and most typically grown in Zamora. 

Cariñena: Widespread in Spain and in other wine-producing countries around the world. Other red wine grape varieties include Manto Negro from the Balearic Islands, Negramoll and Listán Negro from the Canary Islands, Prieto Picudo from León, Brancellao and Caíño from Galicia, and Garnacha Tintorera found in Galicia, Alicante, and Albacete.

The most common Spanish white grape varietals.

Verdejo: Typical from Rueda-producing wines that are aromatic with a tropical character. 

Albariño:  Produced in Rias Baixas, Galicia; aromatic and crispy with a distinctive aroma and silky texture. 

Godello: From Northwest Spain producing aromatic wines. 

Palomino: Mainly used for Fino production in Andalucia. 

Xareló, Parellada and Macabeo (or Viura): Grapes traditionally used to produce Cava. 

Airen: The world’s third most planted grape and traditionally used to produce the alcohol served as the base for brandy.

Happy tasting.


CODORNIU is the world’s oldest and second-largest producer of bottle-fermented sparkling wine - cava - made by the méthode traditionelle (same as Champagne). 

Founded in Cataluña in 1551 by Jaume Codorniu,  just over 100 years later Codorniu heiress Anna married Miguel Raventós merging two families with a long wine tradition. 

Cava was first made in 1872 by José Raventós who established a new industry with Codorniu cellars established at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia between 1895 and 1915.

They were designed by renowned Catalán architect Josep Puig i Cadalfach.

Tragically in 1930 the Phylloxera plague infested the vineyards, but the family fought back with innovative viticultural techniques and ensured survival, with Codorniu producing more than 100,000 bottles of cava annually by the end of the 20th century. 

Nowadays, Codorniu with modern installations and the latest equipment continues to control the production process of its cavas from vineyard planting to finished product.

Wines produced with different blends of Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Pinot Noir and reserve wines are: Anna de Codorniu Brut, Codorniu 1551 Brut Natural, Codorniu Mediterranea Brut Natural, Cuvée Raventós Brut Natural, Codorniu Rosé Brut, Cuvée Reina Maria Cristina Brut, Delapierre ‘D’ Brut, Delapierre Glaçé Prestige Brut, Gran Codorniu Brut, Jaume de Codorniu Brut and Non Plus Ultra Reserva Vintage Brut. 

Codorniu has been one of the innovators of Wine Tourism in Spain, providing the infrastructure necessary for an interesting visit to their cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia which in 1976 were declared a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest by King Juan Carlos. 

Happy tasting.


THERE is more to Chianti than the now rarely used classic bottle in a straw basket - known as a ‘fiasco’ -  that was made famous by Italian restaurants in the ‘70s.

An Italian red wine, Chianti derives its name from the Tuscany area known for its landscapes, art and food where different types of soil and micro-climates result from rolling hills with altitudes of 250 - 610 metres. 

To retain its name it must be produced in the Chianti region and made from at least 80 per cent of Sangiovese grapes, with possible blends of Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah to soften the finished wine. 

Following the Second World War, with an emphasis on quantity over quality, the reputation of Chianti plummeted. But over the last 30 years it has been revived with the introduction of modern and innovative wine-making techniques.

Today, most Chianti falls under two major designations: basic level and the Chianti Classico DOCG which produces the largest volume of DOCG wines in Italy.

Basic level Chianti has medium-high acidity and tannins with minimum alcohol level of 11.5 per cent and juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry. This wine reaches peak drinking quality between three and five years after vintage. 

Chianti Classico can age from six to 20 years with a predominant floral and cinnamon spicy bouquet and aromas of tobacco with minimum 12 per cent alcohol and seven months ageing in oak.

Other higher end versions are: Chianti Classico Gran Selezione,  Riserva and Superiore. 

Chianti’s acidity makes it flexible with food pairing, particularly with Italian cuisine that features red sauces as well as beef, lamb and game.  

It can range in price from €3 to upwards of €30 for high-end versions.

Happy tasting. 

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