Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes reaches the letter S in her alphabetical travels around the world of drinks
S for spell to be cast by some quite special wines
Why hello letter S. It’s now your turn to share your involvement in the world of wine.
All I ask is that you’re upfront in a jumble of letters mustering to form a word. Be proud. Take charge of this, my latest foray into the A-Z of exploring drinks. Because this time all my choices will begin with you, Letter S.
Show us what you’ve got.
What’s that you say? Some very special grape varieties are yours? OK then, let’s begin.
The first is sangiovese. Just saying the word out loud makes me dream of warm, sunlit vineyards, rolling hills, a breeze, and a delicious Italian meal. Sangiovese is the grape at the heart of some super-delicious Italian wines, and you should be familiar with the sight of one of them: Chianti Classico DOCG.
The wines carry a label with a black rooster seal, a symbol of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium. The rooster is there so you can recognise the quality of this wine. It’s a stamp of approval.
Sangiovese has high tannins - the dryness that you find around your mouth when you taste a red wine. It has notes of red cherries and plums, and sometimes memories of herbs come to greet your senses. Sangiovese must be 80 per cent of the blend in a Chianti Classico wine. Some of the best grapes are saved for a wine a notch above the classico in style, that of Chianti Classico Riserva. I sipped this one Villa Cerna 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva (£22.99, online at Noble Grapes) on a video call with Andrea Cecchi, from wine producers Famiglia Cecchi.
The wine is 95 per cent sangiovese, aged in barrels for a minimum of 14 months, and it speaks of black pepper, orange peel and prunes.
Well thank-you Letter S, that was a nice start. Where are we heading now?
To the grape sémillon, a grape variety that casts a spell in both Old World and New World winemaking regions. Many weeks ago when we were firmly in the territory of the letter B, I described to you a rot which can effect grapes. On the surface (quite literally) it doesn’t seem a pleasant concept.
But the B of botrytis is otherwise known as noble rot. It shrivels grapes. The sugars, flavours and acids intensify and then those grapes are fermented into wine. One of my favourite wines to have this interesting start in life is Sauternes.
Sémillon is the grape used to create that delicious dessert wine. It is white, with a thin skin, which makes it susceptible to rot. The grape is native to Bordeaux in France, and it is in the areas of Sauternes and Barsac that this botrytis alchemy takes place. The dessert wines sing with stone fruits, and especially apricots. In Australia, sémillon drops the French accent (literally) and becomes semillon. In the Hunter Valley the wines created from this multi-talented grape can age wonderfully. When they mature these wines exude complexity, with a honeyed, nutty, style. A tasty wine to dip your toes into a sweet semillon style can be found at Tesco. The wine Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon is a snip at £6 for a half bottle.
It has won many awards over the years and I always relish its flavours of citrus, peach and apricot developed in its Australian home.
And so, Letter S, have you anything else to share?
Well yes. Semillon’s blending partner in crime is often its famous cousin, sauvignon blanc. I say cousin, as the grape’s homeland is also Bordeaux in France, even though it is now grown in many winemaking regions.
Sauvignon blanc is known for its ripping high acidity. Its flavours can vary, from green pepper and asparagus to more tropical notes when the grapes are allowed to ripen a bit more in warmer climates.
Thank you Letter S. I enjoyed that little saunter.
Jane Clare is One Foot in the Grapes, an approved programme provider for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Email: [email protected]