Monday, September 28, 2015

Wine Riot NYC

Last weekend, I attended the Wine Riot NYC, where I was able to get my drink on AND get my learn on.  Wine Riots are wine tasting events put on by Second Glass, a relatively new company that brings "wineries and wine drinkers together through technology and in-person events."    The in-person part of the event was great, but unfortunately the technology part was a big fail for me.  I downloaded the app, but it refused to let me log in.  ☹  So, I was unable to record all of the wines that I tasted, but I did manage to jot down my two favorites of the night:

Confessions of a White Glove Chaser a South African Cab Sav from Blank Bottle,  imported by Blue Crane Imports.

Reisling Trocken, a lovely, German dry reisling from Fritz Haag, imported by Loosen Brothers.

The Wine Riots also include a bunch of "crash courses" to help everyone and anyone start to learn about wine.  I participated in two courses:
  • Learn to Order Italian Wine Like a Boss
  • Learn to Love Garnacha

The first class was taught by Second Glass founder, Travis Balliet.  He made the class fun and approachable.  He discussed the DOC rules for the labels and led us through a tasting of Chianti, Montepulciano, Nebbiola, and Lambrusco.  Lately, I've been on a bit of a Montepulciano kick myself, so I was happy to see it included, and I'd never had the Lambrusco before, which was a dry, slightly sparkling red.

Next was "Learn to Love Garnacha", which was taught by a sommelier from Wines of Garnacha. First thing I learned  was that September 19th (the day of the event) was Garnacha day - woohoo!  Garnacha (also known as Grenache) originates from the Ebro River in Northeastern Spain.  It is a very old grape and has long been used in blends, but Wines of Garnacha are working to popularize Garnacha as a varietal (a wine made from all one grape).  We tasted four different wines made with the Garnacha grape, but at that point in the evening, I had kind of lost track of which wine was which - oops! 

Anyway... plenty of good wine and an overall good time at Wine Riot NYC!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tasting Breakdown - The Palate

In past posts, I have discussed the Visual Inspection and Aroma parts of wine tasting, but now its time to actually taste the wine. . .

The Palate is a fancy word used to describe how a wine tastes, and can be broken down into several different characteristics:
  • flavor
  • body
  • sweetness
  • acidity
  • tannins
  • finish
To start take a small sip, as though you are drinking it through a straw.  You don't have to slurp or gargle it, but do hold it in your mouth for a few seconds.  The key is to allow the wine to circulate around your mouth, exposing as many taste buds as possible to the flavors.  You will want to try to confirm the flavors that you identified in the aroma, but also look for new flavors. You will also want to consider how full the wine makes your mouth feel or the weight of the wine.  This characteristic is called the body and is sort of like comparing skim milk to whole milk.  

Beyond flavors and body, you want to determine if the wine is dry or sweet.  This is a statement about the amount of residual sugar in the wine, so you don't want to confuse fruity with sweet.  A dry wine can have fruit flavors (as can a sweet wine).  The difference is dry wine will actually dry out your mouth and not have any of the syrupy-ness of sweet wines.

After determining sweetness, the next two characteristics to consider are acidity and tannins.  The acidity of a wine gives it a crispness and creates a mouth-watering sensation.  The tannins are bitter and produce a drying sensation in your mouth (the opposite of effect from the acidity). Tannins are usually only found in red wine, because they come from the grape skins (and white wine is white because the grape skins are removed for fermentation).

And finally, the finish (sometimes also called the length).  This is used to describe how long the taste/sensations lasts in your mouth after you've swallowed the wine.  The finish is usually described as Short (<3 seconds), Medium (4-5 seconds), Long (5-7 seconds), or Very Long (>8 seconds).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lioco Indica - Tasting Notes

Name: Indica
Producer: Lioco
Region: Mendocino County, CA
Grape Varieties: Carignan
Overall Rating:  

Photo bombed by the cat - I think he wanted some wine, too!
Pairing:  My husband grilled up some burgers and zucchini to enjoy one of the last warm evenings of summer.  The Indica was a great match for the burgers.  It had enough acid and body to stand up to the burger, but was very easy drinking and would have also been delicious without food. We finished off the meal with some Ghirardelli dark chocolate, which was a lovely pairing as well.

Color: Purplish/Ruby

Brightness: Dull

Intensity: Moderate
Age: Youthful
Scent: Dark fruit and leather

Dry/Sweet: Dry
Body: Medium
Acidity: Fresh
Tannin: Medium
Flavors: Blackberries (a bit jammy) and more earthy, than leather on the taste
Finish: Medium (4-5 sec)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Collefrisio Morrecine Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - Tasting Notes

Name: Morrecine
Producer: Collefrisio
Region: Italy
Grape Varieties: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Overall Rating:  
Pairing:  A delicious Italian sandwich from Il Salumaio called Valtellina (dry cured filet mignon, parmigiano, reggiano, and arugula on foccacia).  The sandwich was delicious, the wine was delicious, and together they were wonderful.

Color:  Dark Purple
Brightness: Dull

Intensity: Aromatic
Age: Some Age
Scent: Dried Fruit, Bell Pepper

Dry/Sweet: Dry
Body: Medium
Acidity: Fresh/Smooth
Tannin: Low
Flavors:  Prune, Cherry, Bell Pepper      
Finish: Medium (4-5 sec)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tasting breakdown - Wine Aroma

In an older post (Tasting breakdown - Visual Inspection) I described how to look at the wine to look for identifying features, and now we are moving on to smell...

The aroma of food or drink greatly affects how you perceive the taste, even before you taste it.  For example, have you ever noticed that when you have a stuffy nose, everything tastes blander?  That's because smell is an important part of taste!  So let's start smelling...

First off, swirl the wine in your glass, because this gives the impression that you know what you are doing.  ;)  Secondly, swirling helps to oxygenate the wine and release the aromas.  This is sometimes referred to as "opening up the wine".   Now that the aromas are churning, you want to stick your nose into the glass for a good whiff.   

Some wines have very strong and distinct smells, while others are faint and indiscernible.  The intensity of the aroma is usually judged on the following scale: 
  • Low
  • Moderate
  • Aromatic
  • Powerful  
Whether the aroma is powerful or not, we want to try to identify the different scents.   These scents can range from fruity and floral to earthy or spicy.   Some of these aromas come from the grapes themselves, but many more come from the fermentation and aging of the wine, and that's how wine can have so many different scents.

I usually find that the fruit scents are the easiest to identify.  The fruit aromas can be divided into five categories:
  • Black Fruit: blackberries, plum, black cherry, currants, blueberry, fig, prune, raisin
  • Red Fruit: cherry, strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, cranberry
  • Citrus: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
  • Tree Fruit: apple, pear, peach, nectarine, apricot, persimmon, quince
  • Other Fruits: melon, pineapple, mango, guava, passion-fruit, kiwi, lychee
Beyond determining the types of fruit, it is also important to consider the other characteristics of the fruit aroma.   Does the fruit taste ripe or dried or maybe baked or jammy?  In younger wines, the fruit often tastes ripe and fresh.  While the flavors of dried fruit are more common in older vintages.  These characteristics can also be indicative of the climate where the grapes were grown.  Grapes grown in warmer climates are able to more fully ripen, so they will give off aromas of ripe or baked fruits, while wines from cooler climates may have tart or under-ripe flavors.

This all sounds easy enough, but putting a name to an aroma can be difficult. Building up your odor-identification skills takes time and effort.   When you are at the grocery store, take some time to smell the different fruits, herbs, and flowers; especially those that are less familiar to you.  The other trick is to smell (and drink) lots of different wines, and keep track of what you smell.  Compare notes with others, but don't worry about being wrong.  Each person will experience a wine differently, but they might pick something out that you wouldn't have otherwise noticed.  For my own tasting notes, I usually write down the following:

       Aroma       Intensity: Low/Moderate/Aromatic/Powerful       Age: Youthful/Some age/ Aged       Scent: Fruit, Earth, Wood, Other (flowers, spices, leather, etc)

So take a swirl, a good sniff, and enjoy!