• Whether you're trying to keep your cooking simple, throwing a plate together quickly, or tackling something more ambitious you need a well stocked fridge laden with goodies.

    • Bacon, Diced Pancetta and Sliced Ham
    • Parma Ham
    • Butter - unsalted for your cooking (salted for toast)
    • Cheddar Cheese
    • Parmesan
    • Mozzarella
    • Crème Fraîche
    • Natural Yoghurt
    • Eggs - Large Free range ones
    • Mayonnaise - unflavoured
    • Peas (fresh in the fridge, frozen in the freezer)
    • Pesto - homemade of course (recipe here)
    • Puff & Shortcrust Pastry (freeze if you're not going to use it for a while)
    • Soy Sauce (not in the cupboard, it loses flavour)
    • Ice Cream - your favourite varieties plus ol' faithful vanilla.
  • Whether you're trying to keep your cooking simple, throwing a plate together quickly, or tackling something more ambitious you need a well stocked cupboard.  Fear not - I'm not talking about keeping obscure and weird ingredients on standby at all times; these are the killer ingredients to always have in your kitchen cupboard.

    • Sugar (Caster and Demerara) - different flavours, and finer ground on both so that they dissolve faster without leaving a crunch in your food.
    • Cocoa Powder - everyone loves chocolate right?
    • Instant Coffee - flavour enhancing, and instant coffee behaves differently as a flavour than a shot of espresso.
    • Dried Herbs & Spices - definitely a mixed herb pot.  Spices; you need to have cayenne pepper and paprika (smoked optional)  Green and/or pink peppercorns for sauces.  Nutmeg is needed, especially as winter dessert season comes around.
    • Dried Pasta - of various sizes, I like to have some bigger shells, and smaller pieces, as well as good ol' spaghetti.
    • Golden Syrup
    • Mustard: 3 ways - English, Dijon & Wholegrain.  Note: never American.  Not being snobby, but you can make it from the others.
    • Olive Oil - Variants to match your budget.
    • Rapespeed Oil - almost flavourless and goes up to great high temperatures.
    • Passata - minimum 4 large jars.
    • Flour - self-raising and plain.
    • Plain Chocolate
    • Redcurrant Jelly - not as a condiment but to sweeten otherwise too savoury sauces.
    • Rice - always have Brown, Basmati and Arborio.
    • Stock - I have never (repeat, NEVER) made my own stock.  Get yourself the liquid stock, or tins of consommé, again not for snobby reasons, but it's definitely faster to work with than the drier variants.
    • Tabasco - a couple of variants if you feel like it.
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Chopped Tomatoes - never bothered with the regular peeled tomatoes since I always end up smashing the tomatoes up anyhow.
    • Vinegar - White Wine, Red (if it's Cabernet Sauvignon) Balsamic (Older the Better)
    • Walnut Oil - brings to life any salad.
    • Vanilla Extract
  • Rich, Fleshy - if it combines various families of aroma.

    Vinous - it if reveals characteristics of youth and freshness, reminiscent of the scent of the must of the grape.

    Frank - if it has clean and precise aromas.

    Ether - when there is a pronounced tinge of alcohol, acetone, varnish, or candy.

    Aromatic - if its dominant perfume is that of fresh grapes or fresh aromatic herbs (basil, mint, thyme, etc).

    Grilled - when its perfume reminds one of toasted bread.

    Mineral - typical of wines of great terroirs whose bouquet is stony, smelling of flint, pencil lead, and powder.

    Smoky - for wines aged in new wood heated at high temperatures that give off a scent of burnt wood.

    Oaky - for a wine aged in a new cask that emits scents of liquorice, hazelnut, cocoa, coconut, vanilla, etc

    Fragrant - with a hint of yeast and of the doughy part of bread.

    Linear - expressing the scents of one family of aromas.

    Authentic - when the grape variety and the original cru are easy to name.

    Open - of oxygenation liberated all the qualities of the bouquet, resulting in a wine that is well-made.

    Closed - if, on the contrary, it is timid, reserved, actually in the phase of youth.

    Pure - if it defines the clearness and the precision of a grape variety and a cru, most often applicable to wines that are not aged in the cask.

    Complex - when the olfactory examination of a bouquet develops in the wine glass, evolving and revealing a wine range of perfumes.

    Lactic - when it is reminiscent of a creamy hint of butter, whipped cream, yoghurt, etc.

    Madeirized - if it evokes madeira, it is a positive quality for oxidative wines, but it is negative in the case of most wines since it indicates a fault of oxidation.

     

  • To judge the quality of the bouquet, we must take all parameters (the stage of development, the degree of intensity, the persistency, the maturity of the fruit, and the scent of wood) and put them together to set up a basis that combines logic, coherence, and pleasure.

    We can precisely define the aromatic expression of the bouquet in five shades: excellent, refined, discreet, mediocre, and poor.

    A great wine profits from further aging to express its excellence unreservedly.  It is important to make it clear that price is not relevant here.  A ten dollar wine can prove as excellent as one that costs a hundred in terms of its quality, if there is truly a logic in its persistency, its integrity, the maturity of the fruit, etc.

    A wine of redefined quality can be recognized by its elegance, its complexity, and the subtlety that makes it very persistent, as well as a respect for the fruit, which is at its best.

    A wine lacking in complexity but nonetheless pleasant to drink, one that is young and has no pretension of aging, is considered discreet.

    However, when the wine is too woody, or has dominant vegetal accents, or is the product of overripe grapes, there is not much that is positive to describe it, and it is definitely of mediocre quality.

    When a wine is poor, it is simply not pleasant to drink.  This can be due to an odour of decay or of corked wine, or to volatile acidity (with its vinegary smell), or to oxidation.

    A bouquet of “reduction” (a phenomenon that is the opposite of oxidation) is not necessarily a sign of poor quality.  This scent is recognisable because it is metallic or steely, with a hint of animal or of the stable, and of sausage meat.  These emanations can appear at a crucial moment of the life of the wine (particularly when it lacks oxygen after bottling) and are often only temporary.  For example, among grape varieties, syrah, mourvedre, and mondeuse are particularly sensitive to this.  Racking the wine, if it is in the cask, or simply decanting it from the bottle, can take care of this temporary problem.  As the wine breathes, it absorbs oxygen to rid itself of unpleasant odours that mask its own fine olfactory qualities.

  • It lends the nose a touch of complexity and amiability while respecting the nature of the fruit and of the wine, it will offer an elegant bouquet.  As the wine ages, the hint of oakiness will disappear.  The wine will have body and character, and the bouquet will retain its increased complexity.

    The length of the maturing influences the quality of the bouquet, as does the way the barrel has been heated during fabrication (which will give off a smoky, roasted, or related flavour), as well as the quality of the oak, of course, since it acts upon the tannins.

    French oak from the Vosques, the Limousin, and the Allier are reputed to be among the best, along with their American competitor, the white oak, which, while less complex and refined, still lends a certain sweetness with a hint of coconut or vanilla.  It should be noted that a producer usually orders several different kinds of casks from the cooper, in order to obtain as many varied combinations of savours as possible.  In general, wood adds its mark to the wine of most of the great terroirs.  But it gradually disappaers, leaving room for the wines’s structure and complexity, except when the maturing in oak is too marked, in which case the wine ends up vaguely resembling an English breakfast, with hints of toasted, roasted, torrefied or a smokiness.  But there is worse: when the wine ages in barrels that are too old or dirty, or of mediocre quality, its maturation is down right vulgar.  Because of their capillarity, the defective barrels naturally pass all their negative qualityies such as oxidation and volatile acidity (a vinegary odour) on to the wine.

    There are exceptional wines, extremely pure and mineral, with scents of flowers and fresh fruits, which are rich in elegant structure, light and refreshing, that have been never known a single moment of contact with wood.  There are many very young wines dominated by new wood, with a touch of the roasted aromas and scents of vanilla that are less than subtle to perceive.  These widely-commercialised products hide the true perfume of the wine.

     

  • According to the nature of the grape variety and its stage of development, wine reveals a primary, secondary, or tertiary bouquet characteristic of the respective phases of youth, maturity, and aging.

    Youth

    We can generally say that a bouquet is in its primary stage when it offers aromatic perfumes such as fresh grape, mint, basil, thyme, clementine, lime, kiwi, lemon grass or green apple.  It possesses youth, with an intense body that is like a solid block, due to the concentration of aromas.

    Maturity

    The secondary bouquet is a mixture of scents that indicates the transformation of a wine that is between youth and maturity.  These include fresh fruit perfumes like peach, apricot, pineapple, strawberry, and raspberry as well as a bit of floral scent, pepper, coriander, bread yeasts, butter, mushroom or acacia honey.  This includes the majority of wines the public consumes, usually between two and eight years old, that are the product of non-aromatic grape varieties, including whites such as chardonnay, chenin blanc, and tokay pinot gris and nearly all the main red wine grape varieties of the same age.

    Aging

     

    As the wine develops, it takes on spicy perfumes like cinnamon and clove, but also the scent of jam, coffee, and chocolate, as well as fresh and candied fruit, a hint of animal, and undergrowth, leather, truffle, or dried cep.  All of these aromas are indications of aging and we are in the phase of the wine’s apogee: it has become well-rounded, fat in the mouth and complete.  But is this tertiary bouquet always a sign of excellence?  Unfortunately not.  Wines are like people, they develop differently, each to the beat of his own internal drum.  When a Beaujolais nouveau or a muscat sec, has achieved perfect maturity, it nonetheless presents the aromas of a primary bouquet.  In both wines, the presence of a hint of tertiary bouquet along with an orangey colour indicates an unbalanced structure.

    By the same token, it is tantamount to a sin to taste an Alsatian riesling grand cru, or a Barolo, or a Bordeaux grand cru when it is still in its primary or secondary bouquet phase.  The aromatic pallet is closed, not yet affirmed, and the wine inevitably feels harsh in the mouth due to its tannins and its acidity.  Only the tertiary bouquet reveals the intensity, the persistency, the aromatic complexity, and the perfect balance which would otherwise be concealed.

    In fact, all the wines of the great terroirs, worldwide, should be tasted when in the tertiary bouquet phase.

     

  • Pinot Noir is rich with the scent of cherry, raspberry, and black pepper when young.  As it ages, it takes on a hint of mushroom, undergrowth and jam.

    The dominant aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon are berries, spices such as vanilla and liquorice, preserved sweet pepper, and paprika.  With age, it's very open bouquet reveals a hint of black truffle.

    Syrah is a very sharp and penetrating grape variety that expresses black olive, black pepper and wild blackberry aromas.  New World wines give off a hint of eucalyptus as well.

    Grenache can be misleading, because it has a tendency towards rapid development, giving off complex hints of jam, prune, laurel, and scents of scrub when very young, but exhaling very subtle hints of spices and dried herbs as well at maturity.

    Gamay is a light grape variety whose very intense berrylike character has accents of strawberry, cassis, and raspberry.  It can also remind one of fermenting must.

    Nebbiolo is a virile grape variety with a strong identity, great strength and character.  It needs aging to confirm to hints of white truffle, spices, leather, mushrooms, cherries-in-eau-de-vie, moist earth and humid cellar.

    In detail, the olfactory analysis can be divided into two parts, the first and second nose.  At the first nose, when leaving the wine immobile, the most vivid aromas appear.  At the second nose, when one gives the glass a turn of the wrist, the wine exhales its hidden scents.  The first nose phase reveals the development of the bouquet, its intensity, its persistency, the maturity of the fruit, the use of wood, and a general criterion of quality.  The second nose phase defines the families of aromas and each of its perfumes.

  • Sauvignon Blanc reminds one of the fresh fruit, basil, thyme, green peppers, pine, tomato leaves, mint.  When it has not been aged in the cask, it opens up in a very intense and direct manner.  A stay in the barel makes it more pomace, spicier, with a hnt of infusion.

    Viognier is naturally exuberant in character, with aromas of violet and banana.  It nremains very intense and slightly exotic, with a hint of apricot.  It opens up even when young, and its bouquet is stronger than it is persistent.

    Chardonnay, if it has not aged in the cask, exudes a bit of the mineral reminiscent of white-fleshed fruits such a pear.  The bouquet changes after it has aged in the cask, and it takes on a hint of peach, butter, toasted brioche, and during its development, more of the scents of acacia and of apricot jam.  It takes time to fulfil its potential and is not particularly expressive when young.

    Enjoying a great terroir, Riesling expresses itself in a very assertive, linear manner.  Creating a discreet first impression, it must be decanted in the first few years.  Its dominant aromas are citrus, grapefruit, lime, and a hint of petroleum.  As it develops, it reveals perfumes of white truffle, lychee, clementine, and passion fruit.

    Roussanne expresses itself exuberantly, with a hint of scrub, laurel, rosemary and candied fruits.

    The chasselas is a neuter grape variety, not very aromatic.  Its subtle scent evokes pear, apple, and a touch of white pepper, and freshly cut aromatic herbs.

  • The Olfactory examination is one of the key moments of wine tasting.  It allows us to define the main characteristics of a grape variety, to place the terroir and the climate, and to determine the stage of development of a wine or identify a particular vintage.  It is also a pleasant voyage of discovery of perfumes both rare and innumerable, each one generating a different sensation every time.

    The taster's task is to precisely describe the emanations of a wine which, in turn, will help him in determining the corresponding typology of the variety of grape, the region of production, etc.  The first actual success at distinguishing, then defining, an aroma inspires a unique emotion, an indescribable feeling of joy mixed with surprise, like the discovery of a fascinating new toy equipped with an infinite number of combinations.

    By the time the wine taster has completed the correct and precise visual and olfactory examinations, he is in possession of 70% of the information concerning a wine.  The essential role of the gustatory examination is to confirm his prior deductions, for, in the art of wine tasting, one never reaches perfection.  It is an illusion to believe it possible to pt on the magician’s suit and pull the exact answer out of a hat.  Even the most experienced wine tasters can never profess that their conclusions are indisputable.

  • Effervescence only concerns champagnes and sparkling wines, wines that have undergone a second fermentation - in the bottle, according to the Champagne Method or in a sealed vat, in the Charmat method.  Apart from its complexity, perceived by the nose and the mouth, to be examined later, the excellence of an effervescent wine is judged by the quantity, the size and the persistency of its bubbles, which alone can indicate the method used in its production.

    It should be noted that champagne should never be served ice-cold.  It begins as a “still” wine, produced from the grapes of a great terroir.  Serving it chilled increases its naturaly acidity, which is the result of being grown in a col climate and soil of strong mineral content.  Besides, the carbon dioxide that is an element of its charm already adds a refrseshing aspect and brings out the scents that are such a pleasure for the nose.

    Effervescence is of course, defined by the quality of its bubbles, first of all their finesse.  This is the term used to define their elegance, and their tendency to crowd together, one up on the other.  Envision the Olympic competition in aquatic gymnastics, and you get the picture.  There is no need for the contrary metaphor to describe a rough finesse.  Bottle fermentation is a rapid process.

    The persistency of the bubble is either lengthy, medium, or short.  It’s a fairly easy test, for experience teaches one the minimum time required before a bubble should decently expire.

    We also have to judge the quantity of bubbles.  If they are numerous, this is a product of great quality; if they are few and tend to rapidly disappear in the glass, this is a mediocre bottle.  Delicate stomachs shoudl abstain, if their finesse is rough as well, for this iseither a very middling champagne or worse.

    The terroir and climate of champagne are unique, so the wine taster will always find these three parameters here.  But many of the sparkling wines of italy, SpainCalifornia, and Australia offer a competitive challenge when it comes to bruts.  Grape varieties with a good level of acidity, grown in mineral soil, produce some really lovely wines

  • The fluidity of a wine is a measure of its degree of alcohol and or of residual sugars.  It can be determined by simply tilting the glass and giving it a half-swirl, then observing what are calle dthe “tears” that run down the sides.  The speed with which these traces mark the glass serves as a test.  An abundance of tears that run dwn the glass slowly indicates a wine with strong alcohol content.  Compare mineral water, which disappears in no time, with a cognac that meanders down the sides of the glass, lazy as a lizard on a stone in the sun.

    Chaptalization, the addition of sugar to the must - though never to the wine - is practiced in certain viticultural regions, especially during the cold years (consequently weak in alcohol), and it can fool the wine taster.  He finds himself before a wine that is rich in acidity, but with a consistent level of alcohol.  Alcohol on one hand, acidity on the other, the result is a curious sensation in the mouth, something of a void.  If the producer is in the habit of doing this to compensate for  a lack of maturity of the grape due to excessive yield, or to harvest the grapes prematurely, by machine, without love or respect for the vine, it si an entirely condemnable act.  This appearance can mislead the wine taster during the visual examination; he may perceive what appears to be a dense consistency.

    There are five parameters that determine the degree of fluidity of a wine.  Liqueurs and spirits are considered to be viscous.  This is easily observed: the tears stroll down the glass like a bride walking down the aisle.

    Very dense fluidity is tupical of vermouth and other mistelles of its type often consumed as aperitifs, fortified wines, port, and the products of late harvest.  These are characterised by strong capillarity, an abundance of tears, and legs that are fine and close together.

    The products of a very sunny terroir, dry wines whose structure is high in alcohol content, such as Mediterranean wines, or those from the New World, are considered dense.

    In contrast, wines whse tears flow rapidly down the sides of the glass, often from oceanic climates such as those of the Loire, Calicia, New Zealand, or Japan, fall into the category of thinner.

    Fluid wines, those that are light in alcohol and lacking in residual sgars, from particularly chilly climates such as those of Ne York, Germany Canada, Pagagonia and even Tasmania, have tears that plunge down the sides of the glass like seals off a bank, sliding into the welcoming sea of wine.

  • The purity and age of a wine can be judged through its limpidity.  A young wine is particularly brilliant, while a very mature wine is often rather opaque.

    If a young wine is cloudy and reveals particles in suspension or sediment of white tartrate at the bottom of the glass, it means the vinification process has failed.  In white wines, extreme brilliance indicates a wine of exceptional quality.  Because of its intense colours and tannins, it is impossible to judge the limpidity of a red wine.

    The limpidity of a wine can be judged by holding the glass up to a light source, natural if possible.

    White wines and roses that reflect the light are considered brilliant.  This is the sign in a young wine indicated that the filtration that contributes to the purity of colour has been perfectly effected.

    A slightly less luminous wine is said to be crystalline.  On a scale of limpidity, this is still an indication of quality.  In fact, after a few years of aging, a brilliant wine becomes pure and crystalline, like spring water.

    In a red wine, richer tannins and more brightly coloured than a white wine or a rose, the degree of excellence of colour cannot reach that of brilliant or crystalline, with the exception of wines made with carbonic maceration.  This is done without added yeast, and the grapes are not pressed; the oxygen is eliminated in an anaerobic atmosphere through the use of carbon dioxide, as in wines from the Beaujolais.

    A red wine is at its best when it is judged simply limpid.  Applied to a young white wine, however, this adjective implies that there is probably a problem of filtration, particularly if the wine is a straw yellow or green colour.

    An aged white wine that displays a colour with hints of amber may be limpid or even slightly cloudy without implying an inferior quality.  The term can also be used to describe aged red wines whose tannins decompose at maturity, giving it a cloudy aspect.  This is one of the reasons why wine is decanted from the original bottle, to separate it from its sediment.

    When a wine is cloudy, a term that is invariably negative, its haziness indicates that it has suffered and error of vinification, has been poorly stored, or is at the end of its life.

    Limpidity is linked to the techniques used in the cellar and to the age of the wine.  During the first year, part of the vinification process of red wines involves racking, a process in which suspended matter that has settled at the bottom of the barrel are separated by transferring the wine from the original cask into a clean and sterile one.  The following stage, clarification or fining (the introduction of organic agents such as egg white or gelatine, which attract the remaining minute particles) also ensures that the wine will be perfectly clear.

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