“Just like literature, wine takes time to learn. Before having access to the emotion of a stunning poem or to the vigour of a captivating novel, we all had to go through a long initiation. First, we need to learn the alphabet, the sound of each letter. In wine, that would be learning about the grapes and their characteristics. Then, once we master our letters, we need to learn the arrangements of letters, the pronunciation, the grammar, the structure of sentences. Now we can read. In wine, that would be the stage when we start noticing differences between two reds. You no longer drink wine: you start drinking this wine” —Olivier Magny.
a wine moment with Lebbie Musavaya
There is something about belonging. That feeling of being a part, even in a small way, of a “whole”. In Zimbabwe, we have the totems. I have seen brotherhoods and sisterhoods being formed through sharing the same totem, sometimes even stronger than blood relations. I, for one, have a keen listening ear, once I hear you have the same totem as me.
Zimbabweans have a huge interest in soccer and lines have been drawn clearly to define the team you support. Several other sports follow — rugby, cricket, you name it. I’m a loyal New Zealand All Blacks fan and that is my rugby team of first choice. However, because I love the sport, and can never get enough of it, I have an alternative team I support when All Blacks aren’t playing, and that’s Argentina’s Jaguares. When we leave the rugby field and head over onto the tennis courts, I belong to Novak Djokovic’s camp. When the game is not quite going my way, I have another camp I join and the tennis goes on. Where am I going with all this, you might ask? Well, it’s all about teams, favourites, first choices and happy places.
The world of wines is no different with lots of wine loyalists who proudly announce, “I only drink Merlot or I only drink Chardonnay.” Then you have the wine enthusiast who only drinks red wines or only drinks white wines. Another who finds pleasure in sparkling wine and the happy wine trend participant who moves from one wine to another. Whatever the reason may be, we all have a first choice and in most instances, a “fall-back” wine for a second choice.
Wine lovers, which wine team are you on?
With the month of December upon us, bringing with it travels and festivities, wine lovers, let’s have a refresher on our choice of wines available. The top nine (www.forbes.com) in planting, grape varieties in the wine world are waiting for you to claim your tried and tested team or select a new team to vie for.
This thick-skinned, dark-skinned grape variety of repute is comfortable as a single varietal wine or in a blend. Its traditional home is in Bordeaux, France, but now grown all over the world. It has the extraordinary trait of producing dark-coloured, structure-filled, complex and age-worthy wines.
A red grape rivalry exists between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is well-known for its unceasing and mellow contribution in the world-famous Bordeaux style blends. It is its ‘smooth’ nature that this red grape is famous for and I often find myself labeling it as the “safe” variety in wine.
This Spanish variety is responsible for Spain’s most popular red wines. It is commonly made as both single varietal wines and blends. Growth of Tempranillo has spread throughout Spain and the following names have also been adopted in Spain for the same grape: Tinto Madrid, Tinto de la Rioja, Tinta del Pais, Tinto Aragones and Tinta de Toro.
Airén, also Spanish and Tempranillo, constitutes about 45% of vines planted throughout Spain. Airén is a white grape, responsible for Spain’s brandy production and modest dry white wines for everyday drinking.
This white grape wears the badge for being “the darling of the vineyard.” From its base in Burgundy, France, it has spread throughout the world and offers the wine lover a range of wines from this grape. From youthful unwooded Chardonnays to wooded and aged oaky Chardonnays. It is, though, perhaps mostly known for its contribution as the essential ingredient in the world’s production of sparkling wines.
Also known as Shiraz, this red grape, mostly known for its production of serious wine, has over the years found itself defying tradition and starting a trend of ripe sparkling Shiraz. Labels can include famous sing varietals as well as blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and simply labelled “Cabernet shiraz”. Its responsibility lies with the famous Southern Rhône blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (Carignan or Cinsault too), while in the north; a dash of Viognier (white) is blended.
Often referred to as Grenache, the South of France and Spain (Garnacha) are well known for production of this red grape. In the past, its existence was only known in blends. Its single variety moments surface in Rosés in Tavel, France. Israel and South Africa are also growers of this varietal in small quantities.
It is its nose that unmistakably gives Sauvignon Blanc away.
This popular white wine has widespread production. Though it is also produced in oak and age-worthy, it is commonly loved for its youthful enjoyment. Sémillon’s (white grape) blending partner of choice is Sauvignon Blanc. Sauternes, France’s great sweet wines, are produced with a component of Sauvignon Blanc and not forgetting New Zealand, whose signature grape variety is this white variety.
If there’s a wine that portrays “sexy”, then this is it. Burgundy in France is home to this “finicky” red grape. In Germany, where it is also grown, it is known as Spätburgunder. It’s unmissable in a glass with its much lighter colour and it joins Chardonnay as a traditional grape in the production of sparkling wine. Pinot Noir has a strong association with South Africa as it is this red grape and Cinsault (Hermitage) which were grafted and South Africa’s own cultivar was born.
Which wine team are you on this festive season, wine lovers? Or, perhaps, add a little excitement and pick your top five. They do, after all, say, “variety is the life of wine”. I have my festivities all lined up, I’ll wake to a glass of sparkling Chardonnay, ease into a Pinot noir, to bring out the feminist in me and end with a Cabernet Sauvignon to assure my sophistication is on track. I belong to a wine team, wine lovers, do you? Until next week, it’s cheers with wine to your team.
Lebbie Musavaya is a qualified passion-filled Wine Consultant who spends quality time with wine through travel, study, wine chat and, of course, sipping on wines. Email: email@example.com
? DID YOU KNOW?
The grape varieties to think about are in the region of 10 000. The 13 most popular varieties are planted on a third of the vine area of the world, according to OIV, The International Organisation of Vine and Wine.