Your GTG’s top 10 wines of the world
Greetings globetrotters and welcome again to your GTG. Special welcome to anyone joining our curious band of nomads for the first time. Since last post the world has lost a great traveller, who also loved wine, and most forms of alcohol. This post and this year of the GTG will be dedicated to him. When it comes to wine, your GTG is never short of words but it has been a while since we ventured in that direction so this week we take a look at some wines both well known and just a little bit obscure. The wines chosen for this top ten are all wines that are connected to a particular region or place and form a part of the attraction to visit the area. In fact, in some cases, the name of the wine is even literally the name of the place. Professional wine writers may label such delicacies as wine of provenance….
No surprises here, Champagne has a reputation that precedes it and an ice-bucket-load of memories to match. You might find it at a friend’s wedding, on the side of a new boat or any other special occasion around the world but you’d be best advised against arguing with the French when it comes to what can be officially called Champagne.
Where is it from?– Champagne in North-Eastern France.
What is it like?– Dry, hints of citrus, acidic and bubbly
What’s so special about it?– Champagne has built a reputation on royalty and exclusivity to the point where even the not-so-rich can feel like monarchs with a glass in hand. Also look for the fine bubbles that sizzle as they pop on your tongue.
While us Australians and other savvy new-world wine markets are making a mean Sangiovese (the main grape used in Chianti) when it comes to Chianti there’s only one place to go. An essential part of any wine-lover’s Tuscan experience Chianti will steal your heart but not your life’s savings.
Where’s it from?– Chianti in central Tuscany, Italy.
What’s it like?– Medium bodied. plum and cherry spice with moderate-high acidity.
What’s so special about it?- Chianti has a traditional unique flask-like bottle shape with a straw basket protecting the bottom. Classic Chianti is also marked by the traditional black rooster seal signifying that that Chianti comes from one of the classic makers in the Chianti heartland.
While Malbec is grown at 30 different spots in France where it is often blended, recently it is the Malbec of Mendoza, Argentina that has taken the world by storm. If pedigree is your thing then you will be pleased to note that some of the Bodegas (vineyards) in Mendoza go back at least 4 generations.
Where’s it from?– Cahors in South-Western France and Mendoza in Central-Western Argentina.
What’s it like?– Blackberry, plum and black cherry.
What’s so special about it? Malbec is thought to have over 1000 different synonyms so is sometimes confused with other varieties. It is also thought to be named after a Hungarian peasant who spread the grape throughout France.
Less brash than it’s Bullfighting human cousins, a good Rioja will make up for in allure what it lacks in punch. Just like Chianti, many regions have taken the components, in this case Tempranillo and made it their own but to quote the wizard of Oz and many others, ‘there’s no place like home’.
Where’s it from?– While there are many regions in the Spanish speaking world called La Rioja, the original wine region is in northern Spain.
What’s it like?– Rich cherries, blackberries, rich spice-box, tobacco, cinnamon and pure rich fruit.
What’s so special about it?– Unlike many wines that are modernising in style, the best and most popular Rioja wines are those that stick closest to tradition.
While slightly less rowdy than their Spanish neighbours, the Portuguese still know a things or two about wining, dining and good times.
Where’s it from? The Duoro Valley in northern Portugal
What’s it like? Rich,sweet and heavy
What’s so special about it? Strengthened by the added spirits such as Brandy, Port is a wine to savour and contemplate while enjoying. It’s richness and high alcohol content can leave you satisfied after a small amount and keep you warm on a chilly winter’s evening.
This one may have slipped in with local bias but still worth trying and a nice starting point for those who may not consider themselves white wine drinkers.
Where’s it from? Nowadays you’ll find this grand gal in Bordeaux France and the Napa Valley in the US where it is blended but for a good solo Semillon try the Hunter Valley Australia, home turf of your GTG
What’s it like? In it’s youth, fresh zesty with lemon notes and becomes rich and toasty with age.
What’s so special about it? Semillon epitomises the expression good things come to those who wait. While lemony, zesty and fresh in it’s youth, a mysterious wonder occurs while Semillon is aged inside the bottle. Past two years old it is best left for a minimum of 6-8 years then you can open and taste the toasty magic inside.
What’s that you say? Well it may be the first time you’ve heard of it but for some it’s a well-kept secret.
Where’s it from? Originally this spicy specimen hails from Bordeaux France but is now the grand grape of Chile with the largest plantation in Chile’s Central Valley
What’s it like? Medium-bodied, hints of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather.
What’s so special about it? Due to the effect of Bordeaux conditions on the Carmenere grape, at one stage the planting of Carmenere was abandoned in France. Happily the story ends with the international viticultural community picking up the slack like those crafty Chileans and plantations in Italy.
Txacoli (pronounced chah-koh-lee)
Where’s it from? Basque country-Northern Spain (or independent nation depending on who you ask). Picture your self on a narrow Donostia (San Sebastian) cobblestone street as you enter a square full of people watching life go by and enjoying the finer things. Your attention is caught by the crunch of a freshly caught morsel prepared by a local icon who could challenge any of the world’s best chefs. Now let’s talk wine.
What’s it like? Txacoli is fresh and acidic, lightly sparkling and works as a palate cleanser between pintxos dishes.
What so special about it? Txacoli is poured from a height to create the lightly aerated affect
Also known as ‘Bull’s blood’, introduce yourself to this Hungarian enigma
Where’s it from? The Eger wine region in Northern Hungary
What’s it like? Depending on the blend and quality, Egri Bikaver will be full-bodied but mellow with fresh fruit aromas and will reflect the minerality of where the grapes where grown.
What’s so special about it? Egri Bikaver must contain a minimum 3 out of 13 officially acceptable grape varieties but is based on an ancient grape variety called Kadarka
Going out to try Umeshu became my welcoming tradition for new foreign teachers arriving at the English school I was working at in Kanagawa prefecture and is highly recommended for any new arrivals in Japan.
Where’s it from? The Ume fruit similar to an apricot or plum is thought to have come from China is used all over Japan to make Umeshu and similar variations.
What’s it like? More liquor ‘per se’ than a wine, Umeshu is sweet and nectar-like depending on whether it is mixed with Soda, tonic, sours, ice-cubes or not at all.
What’s so special about it? The fermented Ume fruit at the bottom of the glass as your reward for enjoying your drink at a leisurely pace (the longer you leave it the stronger the fruit…).
Well I hope you have all enjoyed your vinous adventures. This year your GTG will be brought to you on a monthly basis as I try to simultaneously further my academic endeavours. Having said that, any ideas for new posts or something would like to know more about is always welcome. Untill next month!