wine tasting

How do you like your eggs? The effect of vessels on wine flavour and texture

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The world of wine is changing so quickly, people like us need to do our best to keep up. With this in mind, the three of us were intrigued to attend a tasting held last week by award-winning Languedoc winery Domaine Gayda and their importer, New Generation. 

This fascinating tasting showcased the dramatically different effects that vessels used to age wine can have on its flavour and texture. Why is this important? These days, most consumers are looking for wines that can be opened straight away rather than laying them down to age for years, so winemakers from regions with traditionally heavier red blends such as the Languedoc have had to revise their techniques. Forward-thinking Gayda have been experimenting extensively since 2012 to see which methods produce the most delicious wines that can be drunk straight away.  Here’s what they trailed and what we found.

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit:  www.gaydavineyards.com

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit: www.gaydavineyards.com

Same grape, vineyard, vintage and fermentation

To do this experiment, the domaine took exactly the same wine (100% Syrah from 30 year old vines in the south-east facing, Col de la Dona vineyard in Roussillon, harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel) before transferring it into nine different vessels and left for nine months. Here’s what they used and the effects we tasted on the wine in practice:

Stainless Steel Tank (1500 litres)

Considered to be the benchmark for a neutral sample. Result expected: Clean, bright fruit and lean texture.

Terracotta Egg (700 litres)

The most amount of oxygen exchange expected due to porosity of the material. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: a more oxidative style with overripe fruit and juicy texture.

Concrete Egg (1600 litres)

Inert and cool with little oxygen exchange. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness, minerality and aromatics.

Plastic Egg (High density polyethylene egg - 1000 litres)

Plastic but with oxygen exchange to mimic a new oak oak barrel (17 mg/l per year oxygen transmission). Liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness and aromatics with perhaps a wider, more lush texture from the extra oxygen.

Oak Foudre (v large barrel -2000 litres)

Oxygen exchange and a good amount of lees and liquid movement allowed. Result expected: ripest fruit with noticeably creamy texture.

Oak Barrel 500 litre (1 year old)

Half the size of a foudre and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: subtle oak flavour and marked tannic structure with some creaminess from oxygen exchange.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (1 year old)

Half the size again and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: more noticable oak flavour and heavier tannic structure.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (3 years old)

As above but after two more years of use. Result expected: less oak influence in terms of flavour, but a creamy structure because of the oxygen exchange. 

Sandstone Jar

The material and shape of this jar allows for the least amount of oxygen exchange and movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: reduced flavours (a bit stinky and sulphurous), savoury notes and less fruit. 

Conclusions

The differences were clear, but there we certainly some surprises. The most perfumed, pretty aromatics came from the eggs, especially the plastic one with its oxygen exchange system. The large oak barrel gave a wine that felt it had developed too early; that was overripe and lush, but would probably not go on much longer. The traditional stainless steel felt less fresh and round in comparison to the eggs, highlighting that these new vessels really do have a great place and purpose in modern winemaking. The more classic vessels - the smaller oak barrels -gave the most classic result of slightly spiced, textural wines with open, ripe fruit, but they still felt that they would be best tasted after a bit more time.

All in all, this was an incredibly interesting experiment that made most people in the room rethink their preconceptions about which materials do what to wine. It’s worth noting however that this was a big, ballsy Syrah and the results will be slightly different with other grape varieties. It’s all about choosing your vessel according to desired style. As Gayda winemaker Vincent Chansault says, it’s just like pots and pans for cooking. You chose one over another to add a certain nuance to your dish. With wine, it’s just the same.

Taste the Syrah

Syrah plays a large part in Gayda’s top wine: Chemin de Moscou

  • Try Chemin de Moscou 2015 RRP £29.95 from Amazon

See more about Domaine Gayda

See more about New Generation Wines

By Helena Nicklin

The Wine Society: Top picks for Spring & Summer 2019

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As wine writers, we get invited to a lot of press tastings, where we are lucky enough to try many of the wines on offer from various merchants, clubs and supermarkets all at once. One tasting we are always happy to go to is that of The Wine Society: a national institution that despite being founded in 1874 has moved seamlessly with the times to offer genuinely fantastic examples of key grapes and styles of wine as well as hand-picked, lesser known wines from places you may never have heard of (but that will blow your mind). The best bit? As The Society is owned by its members, there are no obligations to place huge margins on the wines, so everything you taste punches well above its price tag as the buyers have the freedom to buy the best. With wines from £5 all the way up to iconic, more collectible bottles, this is where to come to learn your wine basics by tasting through their benchmark styles before moving on to expand your palate, happy to do so as you know and trust their choices.

Here’s our pick from yesterday’s press tasting:

SPARKLING

Crémant de Jura, Domaine de Montbourgeau, France, NV. £14.50

Fabulous, classy, Champagne-style bubbles (traditional method) with loads of tang and flavour. Made with 100% Chardonnay and ridiculous value. 12%

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2012. £39

Proper, seriously good, 100% Chardonnay Champagne with all the trimmings: brioche, apple-skin, peaches, rainbows...

Alfred Gratien Brut 2006, £42

If you’re into aged vintage Champagne with a slight funky edge, you will adore this. Rich, round and a touch nutty, there’s so much going on.

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WHITE CLASSICS

The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018. £14.50

Yes, you can find some cheaper Albariño, but this is the best version we have tasted for ages. Crisp and citrus with a chalky kick and tropical, peachy note. Gorgeous.

Contino Blanco, Rioja, Spain, 2017. £20

A very well put together white Rioja that is fresh, floral with buttery, pineapple notes right now, but will also age beautifully. Made by a tip top producer.

Jacques Saumaize, Macon-Vergisson Sur La Roche, Burgundy, France, 2017. £12.95

Quite simply, a beautifully fresh and youthful, unoaked Chardonnay with tonnes of fruit.

Soave Classico, Calvarino, Pieropan, Italy 2016. £18

Soave can be boring but Pieropan’s is the icon. Incredible texture, floral aromatics and ripe fruit. Summer in a glass.

WHITE ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Quinta de Calçada Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal, 2018. £9.50

Another gorgeous Albariño but from Portugal this time. Saline and citrussy with great texture. Say its name out loud for extra enjoyment.

Pepe Mendoza, Moscatel, Macabeo, Airen & Alicante blend, Spain, 2018. £11.75

(Available from July) A happy, summery wine. White flowers, oranges and lemon cream with the lightest touch. Huge drinkability.

Szolo Tempo Tokaj Furmint, Hungary, 2017. £14.95

Hungarian Furmint is a grape to look out for if you love refreshing, crisp whites with an off-dry element, like this one. Perfect with mildly spiced thai food.

Blackbook Winery, The Mixup, England, 2018. £18

Properly quirky, this one! And made in London to boot by this exciting new winery. 50:50 Bacchus and Ortega grapes. Sweet, grassy nose but dry palate. Very textural. A great food wine. Gloriously different and unique.

PINK

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Corent Côtes d’Auvergne, Saint-Vernay, France, 2018. £9.50

Did you know that Corent must always be rosé and always made from the Gamay grape? This dark pink wonder is all tangy, wild strawberry with a subtle, savoury note. In between a Provençal and Tavel style. Delicious and great value.

Domaine Alzipratu, Fiumesecco Rosé, Ile de Beauté, Corsica, France, 2018. £14.50

A crazy Corsican name, this easy-to-love pink is made from the local Sciaccarellu grape and it has an incredibly soft, round palate with charming peach and melon flavours.

RED CLASSICS

El Pacto, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2016, £11.50

All those classic Rioja flavours, but with a particularly fresh acidity and lovely herbaceous note. Not overblown. Infinitely moreish.

The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, France, 2015. £23

This Margaux shows why this Bordeaux appellation is so sought-after: positively regal with silky, dark fruit, classic, Cabernet features and a seamless, mineral core. Gorgeous plum and violet notes too.

The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie, France, 2018. £10.50

Beaujolais is back and it’s better than ever. This Fleurie has all the hallmarks that make the appellation famous: perfume and light-bodied silkiness, but it’s a million miles away from the soapy styles of yore. Crying out for charcuterie.

Langhe Nebbiolo A Mont, Paolo Conterno, Italy, 2016 £18

This wine is just how you want non-Barolo nebbioo to be: ethereal and earthy with subtle violets and rose. Utterly beguiling.

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RED ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Carignan, Chile, 2016. £8.95

Chilean Carignan is getting really good. Tangy and refreshing, it’s got a moreish, chewy texture and strawberry jam notes.

Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere, Italy, 2017. £9.95

Rustic, but with charm, this is earthy and fruity with fairly high tannin. A bit like a fruitier Nero D’Avola. Made with Gaglioppo grapes from Calabria.

Duché d’Uzès, Les Perrasieres, Domaine Camp Galhan, France, 2016. £10.50

If you’re a fan of Syrah form the Northern  Rhône, you will love this. Tonnes of thyme, rosemary and violets on the nose and a silky, plum fruit texture. Great value for great Syrah.

Kardarka, Maurer, Serbia, 2017. £14.50

A Serbian wine, no less! Kadarka is the grape and makes wines that are really light in colour and bright red. The flavour profile is so interesting: rose petal and figs, with a viscous, licorice and caramel finish. Definitely worth a taste and only 11% abv.

By Helena Nicklin