• Pinot Noir is an almost transparent grape whose colouring matter is weak.  Of a ruby red with a hint of purple when young, it takes on a brick red tint at maturity.  The colour of grand crus and premier crus can develop into a garnet red with tile red tint when aged for a decade.  Responsible for the famous red wines of the Cote d’Or, it is among the most delivate varieties, capable of displaying its finest qualities only in the noblest of soil, with a low yield and careful vinification.  When these conditions are not respected, it can produce an ordinary wine of little colour and great acidity

    Cabernet Sauvignon, very fashionable these days, is planted all over the world.  A leading grape variety in the Bordelais, in particular witht eh classified growths of Medoc, it begins life with a purple colour with a purple red tint, developing into ruby with a garnet tint when mature.  If it is a grand cru, during exceptional years it turns to a tile red colour with an orangey tint, a sign of its great complecity.  In France, it is often assembled with merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, but this practice is not so common in other countries.  A resistant variety of late maturity, contrary to its blending companion, the merlot, it reaches its apogee particularly during sunny months of September and October in the northern hemisphere and of March in the southern hemisphere.

    Syrah, like Cabernet, is currently very popular all over the world.  Symbolic of countries like Australia, where it is known as shiraz, this variety is also grown in Chile, Italy and Spain.  King of the northern Rhone valley, where it gives birth to such prestigious appellations as Cornas, Hermitage, and Cote-Rotie, its colouring matter is very deep and rich, with blue and black tints at the beginning of life.  Chromatic development is quite slow, passing from a violet purple to garnet at the moment of its maturity.  This variety has a long life and can produce a slight hint of tile red after fifteen years.  But if can also be consumed young, when the taster observes its purplish red.  It thrives in a sunny, autumnal Indian summer, which preserves the natural acidity of its grapes and their phenolic maturity.  Its fruit, gathered when both skins and pips are fully ripe, provides a bouquet that is rich in aroma, a body of excellent quality, as well as tannins completely free of any bitter edge.

    Grenache, the most widely cultivated red wine vine the world over, particularly in Spain, expresses a strength and an elegance one finds with a certain class in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It is of a deep colour in the Priorat, a bit lighter in the Gigondas, and its chromatic development is rapid during the first few years of life.  Extremely sensitive to oxidation, it rapidly develops a ruby colour tending towards garnet with a tint of brick red.

    Gamay, typical of the Beaujolais region., but also successfully grown in cooler climates such as the Loire and Switzerland, presents purple and deep purple tones.  the chromatic scale rapidly develops towards a garnet ruby.  In general, it is appreciated when young (one tofour years).  This is a vine that matures early and flourishes, though without spectacular results, in the warmest regions (California, the Mediterranean basin, Australia).

    Nebbiolo is among the noblest of Italian red wine vines.  It has a complex bouquet and exemplary capacity for aging.  Lacking in density, its colour is easily recognizable.  To mellow its tannins, it should be aged in the cask between two and four years.  Garnet nuances appear then, and will eventually turn into a hint of tile red.

     

  • Sauvignon Blanc adapts to cooler climates.  It likes an oceanic influence (the Loire, the Bordelais, New Zealand) and is often drunk with young (one or two years), without having aged in wood.  Its colour is greenish, with a silvery tint.  Aged in cask, it arrives at maturity in three or four years.  By this time it has acquired a straw yellow colour, with a green tint if it is the product of a cooler region.  However, it will have a golden tint when a dry year has marked its birth.  It is often used in blends, in the Bordelais, for example, since its freshness contributes to the balance of the wine.

    The ideal climate for Viognier, one that is sunny but not too hot, is found in the north of the Rhone valley.  Its natural colour when young (one of two years) is a straw yellow with a green tint, rapidly developing into golden yellow tones (a sign that it is ready to be drunk) at three to five years.  Its colour changes more rapidly when grown on a plain, in a hot climate.

    Chardonnay, predominant in Burgundy, presents a green colour with a silvery tint during its first year, if not aged in the cask.  After a more of less prolonged period in the cask, the colour develops into a straw yellow with a green tint.  At maturity it is typically golden yellow, as is the case in a Puligny-Montrachet that is five to eight years old.  In a cooler climate (Chablis), it tends towards nuances of green, but if raised in California (Santa Barbara, for example) it takes on its golden yellow colour even when young.

    Riesling displays distinct characteristics at every stage of its development.  I find this small, yellowish grape one of the finest in the world.  Classy, of noble breed, it is a variety that displays a green colour with a silver tint when very young, and not aged in the cask.  A late harvest or the selection of noble strains produces amber and topaz nuances.  This is a grape variety that ages slowly, it needs time to develop its chromatic tints.  Like the Chardonnay, it cannot prosper in mediocre soil.  Only the finest of soils can give it longevity and a real minerality.

    A sunny climate encourages the Roussanne to fulfil its promise of body, plumpness, and a Mediterranean bouquet.  Golden yellow in its youth, it rapidly evolves into an old gold colour which indicates its sensitivity to oxidation.  A roussanne can mature with surprising rapidity or, on the contrary, take pride in a very long life, but one which can end abruptly, like that of a man who falls victim to a heart attack.

    Outside of Switzerland, the Chaddelas is considered a table grape.  But it has its place in the international market thanks to the great vineyards, of French-speaking Switzerland in particular.  Lacking in body, it is not a wine that keeps and is usually enjoyed in its youth then its colour is very pale silvery green.  It develops rapidly, tending towards golden and crystal-clear hints, but it can offer some startling surprises.  I once asted some 1976 and 1977 vintages of a Dezaley vintener.  Their colouring matter had developed very slowly.  Contrary to popular conceptions of its character, this wine was not in the least oxidised, despite its advanced age.  And that is still another mystery of wine: even a very humble grape can age, if it is grown in a great soil.

  • White wines range from yellow green to straw yellow, golden yellow, amber yellow, and, finally, topaz yellow.  Very young wines take hints of green.  These wines one drinks preferably during summer, in all their freshness and youth.  They are not aged in casks, and are composed of aromatic grape varieties such as sauvignon, muscat, sylvaner, or riesling.  According to the intensity of the sun they have been exposed to, or prolonged periods in the cask, these same white wines lose their green tints and take on straw yellow and golden yellow nuances.  This is a sign that the wine is ready to be tasted.  In Burgundy, a Puligny-Montrachet reaches this colour after five years.  When it is amber yellow or topaz yellow one cn be sure one is tasting an older wine.  However, the colour may also be due to the fact that it is past its prime as a result of oxidation, a phenomenon caused by the harmful effects of oxygen resulting from a prolonged period of storage in the bottle or in the cask.  This observation, however, is not applicable to madeiras, sherrys, marsalas, vine de paille of the Jura, and other wines that are specific and charactistic product of a slow and carefully controlled process of oxygenation.

    The colour of roses varies from pale pink to rose pink, salmon pink and then cherry pink and, the darkest, claret pink.  The intensity of their colour depends most of all upon the assemblage.  In general, the colour of light roses wavers between pale pink and rose pink.  Wines with body present nuances of salmon, while the richest and the most well developed wines are marked buy the cherry pink or claret pink hue.  Generally speaking roses have a bad reputation, and yet there are some excellent ones available the world over.  It should be noted that the age of a rose wine is not necessarily an indication of its quality.  A colour that is too light and slightly orangey nuances indicate a wine that has been aged too long.  This characteristic is confirmed by a nose with a hit of animal and a mouth lacking in acidity.  The opposite is true of a grande cuvee Champagne rose whose colour is marked by onion skin nuances, for this is a positive sign of aging (keep in mind, of course, that the presence of carbon dioxide increases the sensation of freshness in th emouth and preserves the wine from rapid development).

    Red wine colours vary from purple to orange, with gradations of ruby, garnet and tile red in between.  A purple red colour denotes an extremely young wine, ruby red and garnet red, wines that are mature and ready to drink.  Tile reds and orange reds signify wines that have aged.  The temporal development among red wines also depends upon the region where they are produced.  A wine of a tile red colour might be exceptional for a great terrior of Tuscany (Italy), or for a bottle of Ribera del Duero (Spain); however, in a pinot noir of the Ahr (Germany), it would be a sign that the wine is past its prime.

  • Wine tasting really starts with the visual examination.  The way the wine catches the eye is the first indication of its style and of its age, analysed through the colour, the tint, the limpidity, the colouring matter, the fluidity, and, eventually, the effervescence.  During blind tasting, the first few seconds of observation can help determine the typology of the parcel of vineyard, the vintage year, the development of the wine, and the yield of the vineyard.  The nuances of colour typical of one grape variety rather than another are also recognisable to the eye.  An Argentinian malbec is more likely to display a deep, dense, rich colour that veers towards purplish nuances than is a sangiovese from Romagna.  Inversely, a rube tint with slight transparency that is the result of light colouring mater that would be that of a pinot noir from Burgundy rather than an Australian shiraz.

    To begin with, the taster should start by tilting the wine glass, which is held by the stem, in front of a source of light.  The transparency and the colour of the wine can thus be observed.  Under a clear light, the wine will reveal its fluidity and its limpidity as well as indications of its grape variety and the stage of its development.

     

  • When tasting wine there are three key measures of equal importance: visual examination, an olfactory examination, and of course taste.   Although not as important as these primary elements, the tasting of a wine is incomplete without touching it and believe it or not, listening to it as well.

    Before even thinking of raising the glass to the lips, spend a minute to appreciate the wine’s color and bouquet or fragrance.  A lot of people underestimate the importance of this step in the experience of tasting.  It’s easy to see it as a pompous ritual, but that misses so much of a wine.  For the visual and olfactory (nose) part of tasting provide 70% of the necessary information about a wine, only to be confirmed in the mouth.

    Wine must be approached with humility.  The arrogant cannot properly analyse wine because tasting is a delicate operation that never leads to simplistic or improvised conclusions, and even less to generalizations.  Don’t be cocky and assume you know what the wine will reveal.  Judging the complexity and harmony of a wine, its evolution and its capacity for ageing, requires immense experience that can only be acquired with time, passion, and the pleasure derived from challenge.

  • A Harvey Wallbanger is simply a Screwdriver (double measure of Vodka topped up with Orange juice over ice) with a floating layer of the Italian liqueur Galliano on the surface. Galliano is an unusual honey and vanilla flavoured yellow liquid with a hint of rose petals to it; sold in really tall thin bottles it can be a bit of a hazard to store, so go careful!

    The trick is to make the Screwdriver as usual, and then use the back of a teaspoon to gently poor the Galliano into the surface.

  • If you are like me, then you agree that there is nothing quite like a refreshing Mint Julep out on the terrace as the sun sets. However, something that surprised me to hear that the work 'Julep' is actually taken from the Arabic word for "Rose Syrup". This recipe is for an equally refreshing beverage as the bourbon based alternative.

    Method

    1 - Place 4-6 cracked ice cubes in a shaker.
    2 - Add 1 measure orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice. Then a half measure of raspberry juice.
    3 - Add a handful (4 torn) mint leaves.
    4 - Shake hard until a frost forms on the outside of the shaker.
    5 - Top up with ginger ale.
    6 - Serve in a tall glass with a sprig of mint to decorate.

  • Sometimes it's good to include kids in the garden party and give them a glass of Kir, but to avoid messy unwell kids, perhaps best to serve them this 'Faux Kir'. A fake Kir Royal recipe for kids if you will.

    It's super simple to make.

    Method

    1 - Take chilled Raspberry Syrup in a jug over ice (whole cubes preferred).
    2 - Top up with chilled white grape juice.
    3 - Serve in a small goblet.

    As a variation try with sparkling Apple Juice for a Kir Royale feel; the fizz mimicking champagne in the grown up equivalent.

  • An excellent choice to serve with your Sunday brunch, when an alcoholic beverage might put you into a Sunday-slumber.

    Method

    1 - Place 4-6 cracked ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
    2 - Add a few dashes of Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce.
    3 - Add 4 measures of Tomato Juice, with 4 measures of Clam Juice.
    4 - Add a quarter teaspoon of horseradish sauce.
    5 - Shake well to form a frost on the outside of the shaker.
    6 - Serve in a tall glass with a dash of celery salt and if you feel like it a stick of fresh crisp celery.

  • Papaya contains an enzyme called bromelin which dissolves protein.
    Gelatine is a protein based structure; so if you try to make papaya jelly the enzyme will dissolve the gelatine structure, so it never sets.  The same applies to Pineapple and Kiwi Fruit.
    Now you know!
    However, do not freak out!  You can still make jelly from these fruits.  Just use agar-agar (sometimes called Japanese gelatine).  The texture is slightly different; more brittle and less ‘melt-in-the-mouth’.

  • The great thing about gelatine is that it melts; the liquid form is not particularly sticky, so if you can melt the gelatine within  the mould then it will fall out real easy.
    If you take a bowl or sink full of very hot water, sink the mould into the water for 8-10 seconds (careful not to get water on top of the mould).  The very surface of the jelly within the mould is now slightly which means it will slip right out.  This works best with metal moulds because they conduct heat better.

  • There are lumps in my jelly!
    The gelatine was not warm enough when added to the flavoured liquid (the base).  Or the base was not warm enough.  Both need to be at roughly the same temperature.
    My jelly never set!
    You did not leave the jelly to set for long enough.
    You did not use enough gelatine for the amount of base liquid.
    The gelatine was overheated (breaking the protein) so can never set.
    My jelly is rubbery!
    Way too much gelatine in your mixture; or too little base liquid.

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