Sunday, 9 November 2014

New Zealand Chardonnay

New Zealand Chardonnay

Elegance is the word I associate with the New Zealand style of Chardonnay.  Forget the BOOM of the late 90’s Aussie and Californian Chardonnays which packed a heavy oaky punch, forget the association with Footballers Wives, these Chardonnays have a class and sophistication which cannot fail to impress.

Chardonnay is grown in most of New Zealand’s vineyard areas but for me, the stand out wines come from the east of the North Island around Hawkes Bay and Gisborne.  Unusually, many of these wines are grown on predominately flat, fertile land but the management techniques employed in the vineyard address any issue of excess vine vigour and overproduction.  New Zealand celebrates the skills of the winemaker more than the land it is grown upon – a reversal of the importance of the French acclaims of ‘terroir’.  The importance of soils is however becoming more recognised and in particular, the sub-region of Gimblett Gravels is producing some very complex wines with the characteristics being attributed equally to the gravel based soils.   

These regions have a high rate of sunshine hours (average 2188 hrs compared to Burgundys’ 1919 hrs) leaving the heralded winemaker with the challenge of balancing ripeness of the grape against the desired acidity which contributes to the elegance of the wines. 

Techniques in the winery add to the sense of precision of these wines.  Oak is used to gently compliment the wines rather than overpower.  The wines are often left on their lees (the used yeast cells from the fermentation process) giving an additional weight to the wine.  Malolactic fermentation (conversion of harsher malic acids to lactic acids) is not routinely used. 

New Zealand wines have been one of the front runners in the introduction and use of screwcaps.  First introduced in 2001, most of the wines from these regions will be bottles in screwcap.

All together, these factors produce a range of fantastic Chardonnays which I urge you to try.  Match with most foods, these wines have flavour, weight and complexity to match many vegetable, fish, poultry or pork dishes.  They are also perfect with cheese.

Please see the Recommendations page of the website for examples of wines from these regions.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wine Wise Course Schedule

Wine Wise Course Schedule

    Nov 14 – April 15       Sutton Coldfield      

WSET Level 1

Sunday 18 January
One Day Course 9.30am–5pm
Monday 19 January
One Day Course 9.30am-5pm
Thursday 26 February
One Day Course 9.30am-5pm
Saturday 25 April
One Day Course 9.30am-5pm
The full course can be completed in One Day, including the Exam. 
Wed 4th & Thurs 5th March
Two Day Course 10am-2pm


  WSET Level 2

Sunday 16 November
Plus 23rd & 30th November

Three Day Course 9.30am–5pm
Monday 17 November
Plus 24th Nov & 1 Dec
Three Day Course 9.30am-5pm
Sunday 01 February
Plus 08th & 15th February
Three Day Course 9.30am-5pm
Monday 02 February
Plus 09th & 16th February
Three Day Course 9.30am-5pm
The above courses offer flexible learning approach.  You will be allowed to switch your dates between the corresponding Sunday/Monday course should you be unable to make one of the dates.  Please enquire for more information.
Tuesday Evening – starting 13 Jan
Nine Week course  7.00pm-9.15pm
Further Level 2 Courses available in June
WSET Level 2 Distance Learning option available to start at anytime.


 WSET Level 3

Sunday 08 March
Plus 15th & 22 March and
12th & 19th April
Five Day Course 9.30am–5pm
Monday 09 March
Plus 16th & 22nd March and
13th & 20th April
Five Day Course 9.30am-5pm
The above courses offer flexible learning approach.  You will be allowed to switch your dates between the corresponding Sunday/Monday course should you be unable to make one of the dates.  Please enquire for more information

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Albarino October


October is Albarino month at Wine Wise

About the Grapes

Albarino is a white grape variety predominantly from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia in North West Spain.  The region started to develop its commercial wine production in the mid 1980’s when the wine became fashionable in the capital Madrid.

The wine is refreshing and high in acidity with fresh fruit flavours and a touch of minerality.  The fruit flavours display as white peach and lime with a superfresh characteristic.  The wine pairs well with local seafood and can match up to a creamy sauce thanks to the high acidity levels.

Alcohol levels are not too high with these wines.  The balance of sugar ripeness and acidity levels in the grapes falls in favour of the latter and therefore there is a modest amount of sugar to converted into alcohol  Typical levels are 12-12.5%

Most wines are young and fresh and are not meant for ageing.  Usual recommendations are to drink the wines between 1 & 3 years.  There is some experimentation with oak ageing and resting on lees (this is the process of leaving the wine in contact with the used yeast cells after fermentation).  These will offer additional complexity to the wines with a full body and creamy or biscuit-like characteristics with the possibility of some extended ageing.


Untypical of Spain, this windy region is lush and green and has nearly twice as much rainfall than Manchester.  Overall annual average temperature is 15 degrees (UK enjoys overall annual averages of 7-11 degrees).  This is considered marginal for the full ripeness of grapes (16 degrees is usually considered minimum) and the climate is considered cool in grape growing terms.  It can be difficult to get the grapes to full ripeness and vintages can widely differ.  Some summer temperatures however can reach 40 degrees which aids grape development and ripening
The region is home to pine forests and eucalyptus trees, the latter of which were introduced in the 1950s and have thrived in this environment.  As well as being a coastal environment and subject to sea mists and maritime influences, there are a series of rias (similar to the fjords of Scandinavia) and also complex river system leading to high humidity, even far inland.  To combat this, many of the vines are grown on pergolas which provide an elevated growing position away from the floor.  Air can circulate easily underneath and throughout the vines and reduce the risk of fungus and mildew.  Quite often other crops are grown beneath the vines or animals are able to graze, doubling the value  of the land.

The soils tend tp be of an alluvial nature due to the river system with a high prevalence of granite.

The individual berries are usually small with thick skins, protecting the grape from the cool, damp conditions and threat of mildew.  Despite the difficult climate, the vines are usually high yielding with little impact on flavour intensity.  It is usually considered good practice to limit the amount of bunches on a vine to preserve the flavours of the remaining grapes.  This is not so imperative in this region.

Human Factor

Until recently many vineyards were not well tended and the grapes used for local and domestic wines only.  Many of the local population left the region in search of city employment so ownership was remote and bare minimum attention was paid to the land.  However, since the upsurge of interest from the 1980’s onwards, vineyards are being reclaimed from nature and restored to full productivity.  Some wire trained linear vineyards are appearing which can take advantage of machine harvesting but on the whole, the traditional pergola systems prevail. 

There are over 6500 different growers in the region who sell their grapes to one of 178 wineries.  Many of these are co-operatives.

Many wine merchants and supermarkets are now listing Albarino.  Prices range from around £8.00 upwards.  

In summary, this wine is a flavoursome refreshing wine and a welcome change from the flooded market of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. 

Please see the website for recommendations –

Monday, 29 September 2014

New at Wine Wise

All New at Wine Wise

You may have noticed we have a new website and new image.  We hope to bring you some simple wine facts and wine information to increase your understanding of some of the worlds wines. 
A little knowledge goes a long way in wine.  We believe that just a few facts can really help you gain an association with a wine and therefore your sense of enjoyment increases. 
Each month we will feature a different style of wine.  There will be a blog giving interesting fun filled information about the wine.  Access to this blog is via the website or at
There will also be recommended wines of the month to try.  These will be posted on the website Recommendations pages and will also feature on Facebook and Twitter feeds.  These are entirely subjective opinions as we are an independent company and therefore are not open to persuasion from wine producers/supplier/sellers.


If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch.  These features will hopefully start a conversation and help you discover different styles of wine you may or may not be familiar with.