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Archive for June 2016

How to Read a Sake Label: 15 Sake Terms You Need to Know

With so many unfamiliar terms, Sake can seem like an almost impenetrable subject. Don’t let this stop you enjoying this incredibly food-friendly drink. But, where to start? 

 

In simple terms, what you really need to know is the fragrance and flavour. Understanding a little about some of the styles and a handful of terms can help you find the best sake for you. 

 

What is sake? 

 

Before we look at the Sake terms you need to know, let’s start at the basics: what is sake? 

 

Sake is made from rice, a mould (called koji), water and yeast. There are two broad styles: sake with distilled alcohol added or without distilled alcohol added (junmai). 

 

Within these two styles, there are varying degrees of rice polishing. The amount of rice polishing affects the aromas and weight of the sake. 

 

Rice is milled to remove the outer portion of fats, proteins and minerals to leave a starchy centre. Sake rice is polished so that somewhere between 80% (cheaper sake) and 35% (more expensive sake) of the grain remains. This percentage is called the seimaibuai - a word you will see often. 

 

Many premium sakes have been polished down to at least 70% of the original size of the rice grain.

 

Two Styles of Sake (with polishing rate)

 

1. Alcohol Added

 

Honjozu (70%)

 

Ginjo (60%)

 

Daiginjo (50%)

 

 

2. No Alcohol Added

 

Junmai (70%)

 

Junmai Ginjo (60%)

 

Junmai Daiginjo (50%)

 

 

15 Sake Terms You Need to Know

 

Ginjo and Daijingo

 

Ginjo is a highly polished style of sake; Daijingo, even more so. If you see this on the label, you can expect a clean and delicate style, with fruit and floral aromas that is perfect with seafood. They can be served cool. 

 

Try this: Tedorigawa Yamaha Daiginjo Sake

 

Kimoto and Yamahai

 

Yamahai (or you may see Kimoto, its predecessor) is the traditional process of making sake where a starter culture naturally develops over a few weeks (much like sourdough bread). The sakes are fuller-bodied, higher sweetness and acidity, with a rich and deep flavour. Sometimes showing a gamey flavour, they are particularly good with meat dishes. 

 

Tokubetsu

 

Translated as “special” in Japanese and can mean a few things when written on the label - whether it is a special type of brewing or a higher level of rice polishing than usual. 

 

Junmai

 

Junmai is a word you will often hear in sake circles. Translated as “pure rice” where nothing else is added other than rice, water and koji. It is a heavier style of sake that works very well with richer food - although it should not be considered better than other sake rather as a different style. 

 

Try this: Masumi Okuden Kantsukuri Junmai Sake

 

Honjozo

 

A style where a very small amount of alcohol is added to the sake. Alcohol stabilises the sake but also carries the flavour, and some would say, makes it more drinkable. This is a good choice for warming.

 

Muroka and Nigori

 

Muroka and Nigori describe the style according to how it is filtered. Muroko is clear but is not charcoal filtered; Nigori is where the sake is not filtered but milky or cloudy - you may seem some remaining rice solids (much like unfiltered wine).

 

Try this: Tobiroku Sparkling Nigori Sake

 

Genshu

 

Genshu is an undiluted sake (without added water) and is a strong style that suits rich dishes.

 

Yamada Nishiki

 

Considered the best rice for making sake.

 

Namazake

 

Namazake is an unpasteurised sake. Sake producers normally pasteurise rather than add preservatives, as winemakers do. Unpasteurised sake is a fresh and lively style that needs to be kept in the refrigerator. It is not a complex sake but a chilled Namazake is perfect with super fresh sushi.

 

Koshu

 

Koshu is aged sake. Unlike wine, there are no regulations for ageing but it is generally agreed that it is over three years old. Aged Koshu is a niche style as most sake is produced to be drunk young.

 

Umeshu

 

Umeshu is a plum liqueur made from plums preserved in sake. It is usually sweet and tangy. Drink straight, mixed with Champagne or soda, or simply over ice. 

 

Try this: Morikawa Tsuyahada Umeshu (50cl) 

 

Futsushu 

 

This can be translated as “ordinary sake” and most Sake served hot in restaurants is Futsushu. Much like the classification for table wine (such as Vin de France), this can either be low quality or it can allow the Sake producer to break the rules.

 

Try this: Banryu Futsushu Sake

 

See our full Sake selection 

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A Guide to Austrian Rosé

 

What is Austrian Rosé?

 

What’s so good about Austrian Rosé is what it is not.

It’s not this year’s fashion statement. It’s the real thing: refreshing and dry enough to drink without food. And yet also gastronomic enough to keep drinking through dinner. 

It’s is also just a tiny bit interesting; a little more so when the world is awash with pink wines during the summer. 

Where is the best Austrian Rosé from?

 

Rosé is produced in all of Austria’s main wine regions. And it is the Rosé from the red wine region of Burgenland that have really grabbed our attention here at Bottle Apostle. 

Only one hour’s drive from Vienna, Burgenland is the sunny side of Austria with over 300 days of sun a year. You will find vineyards are planted along the shores, of what appears at first as the sea, but soon find is the large lake of Nieusiedl. The cooling influence of Lake Nieusidl, and the warm sunshine, helps the grapes to ripen beautifully. The wines here are fresh, perfumed and busting with red fruits. 

 

Austrian Grape Varieties

 

What makes Austrian wine exciting is their indigenous varieties. You may know their white wine, Gruner Veltliner, or even the red, Blaufrankisch. Most of our premium pinks are made from the red grape Zweigelt that is blended with other Austrian red grapes, such as Blaufrankisch and Sankt Laurent. 

Zweigelt is similar to Gamay or Grenache and is light and juicy in style. When it is made as a Rosé, you have a fine and delicate Rosé that is the colour of long summer sunsets. 

Blaufrankisch has a touch of cherry but with notes of blackberry. Sankt Laurent is similar to Pinot Noir but with dark cherry flavours. All the wines are on the lean side with tart red fruit notes. 

 

Two Exciting Rosés from Burgenland

 

Umathum Rosa 

This is not your ordinary Rosé. Unlike most pink wines, the wine is hidden behind the dark glass bottle. Don’t let this discourage you. Open it and you will find a vibrant pink-purple colour, raspberry notes in a savoury, dry style. From one of Austria’s leading producers of Zweigelt, this is a hand-picked, low-yield, biodynamic wine from the sunny shores of Lake Neusiedl. 

 

Pittnauer Rosé

The Pittnauer Rosé is a perennial favourite here at Bottle Apostle. In 2015, they have further refined their style and continue to rise above most in the region. It has a delicious acidity, a clean and bright tone, with fresh and delicate red summer fruit showing no lack of elegance. You will be happy to have a few of these in the refrigerator on a warm summer weekend. 

 

Want more Rosé? See our full range here

 

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Summer Essentials (Rain or Shine): Vinho Verde

 

What is Vinho Verde?

 

Vinho Verde is a refreshing white wine with a slight spritz, mineral and citrus drenched, often bone-dry and probably the most cooling drink you can have on a humid summer day.  It’s often low in alcohol, and even better, often low in price.

From the northern part of Portugal, where the full brunt of damp and wet Atlantic conditions hit the vineyards, the climate here is damp and mild. Vinho Verde is the name of the wine and also the name of the wine region, which produces white, red and rosé. 

Translated directly from Portuguese, the Verde in Vinho Verde means “green”, which refers to its age rather than the colour. Most are made to be drunk within one year of bottling. Don’t even think of putting it in the wine rack – put it straight in the fridge, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice: the whole point of this wine is to drink it young and beat the humidity.

Rarely seen in the UK, the red Vinho Verde has a slight spritz, too, and is one of the best red wines to keep in the fridge and serve chilled.  

Try this: a crazy good red Vinho Verde - Vinhao 2015

 

What grape is Vinho Verde?

 

Traditionally, Vinho Verde is a blend of grapes. It can be made from 25 different grape varieties, but the most common ones are Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura.

Alvarinho contributes refreshing acidity; Loureiro gives exotic bay-leaf aromas, while the Trajadura brings the citrus notes to the party.

Spanish wine drinkers may recognise Alvarinho as the white wine Albariño from Rias Baixas. In fact, the Vinho Verde region has more in common with the humid and damp Atlantic conditions in Galicia than what most associate with Portugal.

If you are not a fan of the slight spritz, there are some excellent Alvarinho-only still wines in Vinho Verde, especially near the Spanish border, where the single variety is allowed to take centre stage. The alcohol can be higher at 11.5% to 14% and is more mineral and less peachy than their Spanish cousins.

Try this: Alvarinho 2015

One of the most famous winemakers in the region, Anselmo Mendes, focuses on single varieties from the region. His single-varietal Alvarinho and Loureiro are more serious than the spritzy stuff but they retain what makes Vinho Verde so perfect for summer: lightness and excellent refreshment. Worth seeking out.

Try this: Loureiro Muros Antigos 2015 by Anselmo Mendes

 

The Green Light for Spritz

 

The blended Vinho Verde has a light spritz or a tingle on the tongue. This may be seen as a fault in some other wines, but is exactly what makes Vinho Verde so refreshing and easy to drink.

The traditional spritz of bottle-initiated malolactic (which produces the slight effervescence) is a proud tradition. Many producers today give their wines a dose of slight carbonation to continue this tradition, although technically, Vinho Verde is not considered a sparkling or semi-sparkling wine.   

 

Vinho Verde Wine Characteristics

 

FRUIT FLAVORS 

Gooseberry, grapefruit, lemon, pear, melon and lime 

 

OTHER FLAVOURS

Lemonade, chalk (mineral), honeycomb

 

OAK FLAVORS 

No oak flavours!

 

BODY

Light with a light spritz

 

ACIDITY

High

 

ALCOHOL

8.5 – 11% alcohol

 

SERVING TEMPERATURE

Ice bucket cold - 8 to 10 ºC    

 

Try this: Vinho Verde Moncao e Megaco 2015  £8.10 per bottle

 

Vinho Verde Food Pairings

 

The northern part of Portugal is well-known for its fish and shellfish. Whether it is a platter of fresh shellfish or just the simple pleasure of opening a chilled bottle while relaxing at home on the weekend (hopefully) catching a few rays of sun. This is the ultimate summer wine - rain or shine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crafty Guide to Beer Styles in the Modern Craft Beer Era

 

The craft beer revolution has seen an explosion of beer styles on our shelves. Made by small, independent brewers, who are experimenting with creative flavours and referencing classic styles. We have never had more choice to slake our thirst with a good beer. Don’t get tripped up on terminology. Get to know the basic differences between beer styles here with our basic guide.

 

Beer Basics

 

In a very basic way, a beer is either an ale or a lager.

 

Today, craft brewers distinguish between ales and lagers by the yeast type. This can be a top-fermenting yeast (ale) or a bottom-fermenting yeast (lager). Craft brewers also like to play with a combination of both, such as Camden Brewery’s India Hells Lager, dry hopped as an IPA with a lager fermentation, for example.

 

It wasn’t always this way. Traditionally, in historical centres of brewing in Germany and Britain, ales and lagers were defined by the way it is fermented rather than the yeast. In Germany, ales are considered a typical British beer; in Britain, for example, Porters or Stouts would be considered separately from ales.

 

As you may have guessed, craft brewers like to turn traditional categories on their head and mix it up a bit. Here are some of the main styles.

 

 

What are the main styles of beer?

 

 

ALE

 

IPA (India Pale Ale)

 

Originally made in England for export to India in the 18th century, many consider IPAs the flagship style for modern craft beer: hoppy, full of citrus and tropical fruit flavour and stronger in alcohol than Pale Ales at 5.1 to 7.6%. You can double that strength for Double IPAs.

 

Styles: English IPA, American IPA, Speciality IPA, Double IPA

Try: Crate Brewery IPA

 

 

Pale Ale

 

Balanced, drinkable and less intensely hopped than IPA. Spicy fruit and floral notes feature. English Pale Ales are often more bitter, with less sweeter fruit, than American Pale Ales (APAs).

 

Styles: Cream Ale, Kölsch, Golden Ale, Blonde Ale, American Pale Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Blond Ale, Trappist Single, Saison

Try: Beavertown Gamma Ray APA

 

 

 

Amber Ales

 

Amber Ales are amber-coloured beers with caramel malt characters, a bitter finish and a moderate strength of 4.5% to 5.7% alcohol. Amber Ales can show a balance between malt and hops but some styles can swing either way: either very malty or very hoppy (such as Red Ales).

 

Styles: Altbier, Best Bitter, Strong Bitter, Red Ale, American Amber Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Bière de Garde

Try: Gipsy Hill Brewing Southpaw Amber Ale

 

 

Brown Ale

 

High levels of malt used in the brew gives Brown Ales less bitter characters. It is a mellow beer showing sweet malt, toffee, chocolate and caramel characters. The American Brown Ale is similar to the British Brown Ale but with more hoppy characters and higher alcohol.

 

Styles: Dark Mild, British Brown Ale, American Brown Ale, London Brown Ale (Historical style)

Try: Mondo Brewing James Brown Ale

 

 

Porter

 

Dark, spicy and complex, this is a slow sipping style of beer with a restrained roasted character, malty flavours and dry-fruity chocolate notes.

 

Styles: Baltic Porter, English Porter, American Porter

Try: Redemption Fellowship London Porter

 

 

Stout

 

Guinness began brewing their famous style of stout in 1810, claiming it was a “stouter kind of porter” in 1810. Originally inspired by the London Porter style, known at the time as Single Stouts, they are creamy and full-bodied with a pronounced roasted flavour and a hint of coffee.

 

Styles:  Tropical Stout, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Foreign Extra Stout, Irish Stout, American Stout, Imperial Stout

Try: Two Cocks Brewery Puritan Stout

 

 

Wheat Beer

 

Made with 40-60% wheat rather than 100% malt, this is a lighter style with a bright clean taste. Medium to high carbonation, it has a long-lasting white head with a soft, fluffy texture. Sometimes cloudy.

 

Styles: American Wheat Beer, Weissbier, Weizenbock, Berliner Weisse, Lambic, Witbier

Try: London Beer Lab Wheat Beer

 

 

Sour Ale

 

Here the usual hoppy bitterness of other beers is replaced by sourness. Fruit flavours of lemon tart, apple tart or even Haribo sours, which becomes more floral with age. Always effervescent and very refreshing.

 

Styles: Flanders Red, Oud Bruin

Try: Chorlton Brewing Company Amarillo Sour

 

 

LAGER

 

Pale Lager

 

Crisp, refreshing and smooth with high carbonation. Low levels of yeastiness can sometimes be added to give complexity to what is otherwise a clean style. Drink cold.

 

Styles: American Lager, Munich Helles

Try: Camden Brewery Hells Lager

 

 

Pilsner

 

Classic Czech beer. Light bodied, clear, yet rich in hops and spicy floral flavours. Pilsners are brewed with pale lager malt and matured before carbonation. Easy to drink with a smooth and refreshing finish.

 

Styles: German Leichtbier, Czech Pale Lager, German Pils

Try: Weird Beard Co. Traditional Spreadsheet Ninja

 

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