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Whisky is produced all over the world and can be traced back to the 15th century in Scotland where it is called scotch. Scotch, like all whiskies is not made from grapes but from grains like barley or corn. The best of scotches are the single malts. These are products made from malted barely, are double-distilled and made exclusively at one of Scotland’s distilleries. Most are aged for several years. The Macallan, Talisker and Glenlivet are single malts. Vatted malts are blends of several single malts. They are usually region-specific in that vatted malts are assembled from distilleries in one area, giving a local style to the product. Bells Special Reserve, Bennachie and MacPhail’s are vatted malts. Finally there are the blended scotches. These are made from a combination of malt and grain spirits. J&B, Johnnie Walker, Ballantine’s and Teacher’s fall into the blended scotch category. Most scotch runs about 40% alcohol and do spend some time ageing in wood barrels. Like other spirits, scotch’s body and taste is created before bottling. That is, the ageing process ceases and the aromas or flavors will not change or develop in the bottle. For the most part, Scotland is divided into four major production areas: the Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islay and the Western Isles and the Highlands. The Lowlands whiskies tend to be gentle and sweet, Campbeltown’s products are fresh and heady, Islay scotches are seaweedy and pungent while the Highlands give smokiness to their whiskies. And like Robbie Burns, any scotch is pure poetry.
South Africa: Profile of a Wine Region
The wine producing regions of South Africa are considered young among the global world of wine. Although viticulture in the country dates back to the 1600s, it was not until the mid 1980s that quality grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc or Steen as it is known in South Africa, and Chardonnay were planted. The number of vineyards and wineries began to grow and continues to increase as the world market blossoms. Today, South Africa sits in the top 10 nations with regards to volume of wine produced. Even though it is a top producer, its wine laws are not very strict. It took almost 10 years after the beginning plantings for the South African wine industry to establish the laws of “Wine of Origin.” If stated these words are stated on the label, it does not necessarily reflect the growing regions or the varietal contained within the bottle. On the local shelves, we will find wines from the areas of Stellenbosch and Parrl. These regions make stellar Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinotage. This is a unique variety to South Africa is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault and delivers dark red wines with a medium to light body and a blend of spice and fruit. Pinotage is a wonderful compliment to veal, ham or lighter pasta dishes.
Grape Variety: Gewürtztraminer
Gewurztraminer (pronounced Guh-VERTZ-tra-meener) is a pink-skinned grape that produces wonderfully spicy white wines. It grows best in cool climate areas such as Alsace, Germany, Northern Italy, Eastern Europe and right here Michigan. It is made into various styles from semi-dry to richly sweet. In places such as Alsace, drier table wines are the way for Gewurtz, whereas North American winemakers vinify the grape into lighter-bodied, sweeter versions. The grape is also used for late-harvest and ice wines as it holds on the vine for longer periods without losing the balance between acidity and sugar. Typical Gewurztraminers produce aromas of spice, lychees and rose petals.
Liana’s Latest Choices
Vinuva Pinot Grigio ($12.99) – Lucky for us this wine from Northern Italy comes in a fancy eggplant-shaped purple bottle – it makes it easy to find on the shelf. Wonderfully light and crisp with tones of peach and apricot. This wine will compliment lighter foods like chicken or fish.
Brancott Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99) - Citrus flavors and a long crisp, tart finish come forth in this wine from Marlborough New Zealand.
J. Garcia Merlot ($18.99) – Nice balance of oak to its berry and vanilla aromas and taste. Serve with grilled pork chops to get the full effect.
Hahn Estate Meritage ($16.99) – The 2001 vintage is predominately Merlot but the Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc aid the softer variety into a fuller-bodied wine. Roast beef is the perfect match for this wine.
Black Swan Shiraz ($9.49) – An Australian wine with amazing spice that opens up to a smooth choice with light tannins. Excellent with grilled meats and pastas.
Legs: This is a wine appreciation term referring to the colorless “tears” or droplets that form along the inside of a wine glass after swirling. The amount of legs indicates that the wine is young and/or high in alcohol and often rich in flavor.
Residual Sugar: Residual sugar or “RS” is the amount of sugar that is left after the wine has fermented. Most residual sugar levels are undetectable on the palate but higher levels can make the wine taste sweet.
Varietal: A varietal wine is one made of a single grape variety. Although most wine laws do give leeway in that if a grape variety is named on the label, the wine can be made of only 75-85% from that variety. The other portion can remain undeclared.
The Beverage Alcohol Report (The BAR) is published on a monthly basis compliments of Liana Bennett. It main purpose is to further the knowledge, appreciation and general enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages. Your comments, questions and tasting stories can be sent to [email protected] . Please feel free to share this e-newsletter with your friends or forward their email address to Liana to be added to the list. Thank you and of course, I hope you have enjoyed The BAR and have learned something new!
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