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Wine Words

Giles Cooke, Take Stock’s resident wine expert, talks Olympic wines:

An Olympic Ideal

As the world’s athletes prepare to descend on an expectant London, it seems fitting to reflect on just how lucky we are to live in a country that, when it comes to wine, welcomes all comers – a literal melting pot of an island.

Ever the sporting rival, Australia’s modern day wine history is one of massive success. But like most huge successes, we like to cut them down to size and the recent past has seen critics trading blows over the qualities of Aussie wines. The subject of much of this scorn was the 80s and 90s darling variety, Chardonnay. Like fashion though, quality prevails and Chardonnay is the ‘hot’ variety once again. Go cool climate, lose the obvious oaky character and try the inspired Thistledown Chardonnay, Eden Valley 2010.

Italy has more to offer than the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio and the place to look at the moment is Sicily. Visited and conquered by a multitude of peoples, the feel and gastronomy is very much that of a melting pot culture. At the heart of this is wine, and there’s no better place to start your discovery than with the Nero D’Avola variety. Spicy, succulent and laden with dark fruits, Nero D’Avola is produced in a multitude of styles but novices could do worse than try the delicious, juicy Palazzo del Mare Nero D’Avola 2011.

 

Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa; Chateau Ka, Source Rouge, Bekaa Valley 2010, Lebanon; Thistledown Chardonnay 2010, Eden Valley, Australia; Palazzo del Mare Nero D’Avola, 2011, Sicily

Lebanon is, unfortunately, more famous for its war-torn past than its winemaking history  but this diverse country is also thought to be the birth-place of the vine. Today, it is reinventing itself as the source of intriguing new wine styles, capable of challenging more established countries. The Bekaa Valley is where it’s all happening and if you really want to push the boundaries, offer a glass of the fragrant, exotic, balsamic-tinged Chateau Ka Source Rouge.

Sport is often about rehabilitation and comebacks. It’s easy to forget that South Africa was not only a sporting but a commercial pariah until the 90s, with its wines banned from export to the UK. Today, South Africa is a wine powerhouse with Chenin Blanc at its heart. This deliciously fruity, appley white is deftly handled by the charismatic Bruwer Raats and with his Original Chenin Blanc you have a perfect example of how quality always wins through, despite the odds.

A bit about Giles:

Having done a history degree at Sheffield University, Giles realised that he was more skilled at eating and drinking than being an historian. In 1994 he joined a small regional distributor called Alliance Wine. In the 17 years since, Giles has worked in all areas of the business – on-trade sales, off trade sales, buying & marketing – and has been an integral part of the growth of Alliance into a significant national, and increasingly international, player. In 1998, Giles embarked upon the notoriously difficult Master of Wine qualification and passed in November 2001 to become one of only 299 in the world. Passionate about all wines, and in particular the wines of Spain & Australia, Giles has travelled the world and spent a great deal of time travelling within Spain and extolling the virtues of Spanish wine back home in the UK and now in exports markets across the world. Perhaps as much a passion as wine, Giles is fanatical about the pleasures of Iberico Jamon de Bellota and has been known to travel with a Jamon in the boot of his car!

*Trade bottle selling price. For stockist visit website www.alliancewine.co.uk or telephone 01505 506060.

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