Francis Peel's wine wisdom

PUBLISHED: 12:57 15 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:58 20 February 2013

Francis Peel’s wine wisdom

Francis Peel’s wine wisdom

Austerity autumn... with fizz

Austerity autumn with fizz

I always dread the end of summer, but as soon as I am back into the swing of the routine of what after all is normal life for most of us, I find that autumn is a much underrated season. The first log fire, ripening fruits, and morning mists all create a feeling quite unlike that of any other season. It is also a time for parties.

Friends who you havent seen for months over the summer break seem to have stored up their 50th birthdays, daughters 21sts and silver weddings for an autumnal party fest. After all, we have to have something to cheer us as the nights lengthen and the temperature cools. And if we are to party, we need fizz. The double whammy of exchange rate and duty hikes has meant that champagne is beyond many budgets. And beware the special offer champagnes. I was at a friends for dinner the other day when we were served what I immediately spotted as a demi-sec cava. Surprised by this, I took a look at the label, only to be astonished to discover it was champagne that I later discovered was indeed from an aforementioned special offer.

But there is a really viable alternative: a well-made Crmant de Bourgogne. The wines of this appellation come from vineyards just to the south of the main champagne region and are made by exactly the same process and from the same grapes yet cost almost half as much on the shelves. Many hundreds of growers in Burgundy produce their own Crmant with varying degrees of success, but it pays to go to one of the larger specialist growers to get the best value. One of the most spectacular of the cellars in the region is the Caves Bailly-Lapierre. Situated eight miles from Chablis, Bailly-Lapierre has some of the largest underground cellars to be found anywhere in France. These labyrinthine cellars not only are the perfect place to store many thousands of bottles in perfect conditions, but also boast a banqueting hall which can seat over 500.

Bailly-Lapierre Crmant Brut 9.99 per bottle
Made mainly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this biscuity sparkling wine has real complexity of flavour.

Bailly-Lapierre Crmant Ros Brut 10.99 per bottle
Delicious pink fizz made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay that has elegant strawberry fruit on the palate.

The Dictionary of Wine Terms

These are the dead yeast cells that collect at the bottom of the fermenter. Leaving the wine on its lees after fermentation can add complexity to it Muscadet sur lie is a well-known example. Classic white burgundy that has been barrel-fermented is often stirred on its fine lees (bttonage) to add a creamy richness to the wine.

Late harvest: If you see a wine labelled as late harvest it means that the grapes are left on the vines until they developed a higher sugar level. The wine will probably be quite sweet, although in some cases may have been fermented to dryness, in which case the potential alcohol will be higher. The French term for this is 'vendange tardive', in German it is 'sptlese'.

Lactic acid: The main acid present in yoghurt, and which is also found in varying quantities of wine. It is much softer in flavour than the other two main acids in wine, malic acid and tartaric acid. After alcoholic fermentation, most red wines and some white wines undergo a malolactic fermentation, in which lactic acid bacteria transform the harsher-tasting malic acid into lactic acid. The result is that the wine tastes softer and
less acidic.

Francis Peel lives in north Shropshire and owns the Midlands
largest wine warehouse, Whitebridge Wines.

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