Envision a 100 point Cabernet Sauvignon. What does it taste like? Beyond the shelf talker descriptions that someone else provided you with. Is it sweet, dry, semi-sweet? How acidic is it? Paint me a picture describing its tannin structure.
Does everyone remember their first kiss? Their first girlfriend? Their first car? Of course you do.
I had just turned 21 and was playing in a band, working part-time as a courier, going to college part-time, and having a good time long before blogging, Twitter and Facebook were household terms. I lived above a bar in Vancouver, British Columbia, only 15 minutes from Lollapalooza ‘93. Good times.
This became my go-to special occasion adult beverage. Eventually I began exploring other Australian Shiraz’s. Rosemont Estate, Penfold’s, and others. As my palate evolved, I began drinking Wolf Blass Yellow Label.
Sometimes we all need a thick slice of humble pie to chew on. If you find yourself routinely puffing your chest out or staring for long periods in the mirror at your handsome reflection, I suggest a blind tasting.
Not only are they grounding, but blind tastings are also a great way to test your “wine chops”. A while back, I attended a blind tasting at a local wine bar. There were 4 wines, 2 whites and 2 reds. We did not know the varietals or where they came from– known as a “Double Blind” tasting. We were given only one clue: The wines were single varietals, not blends.
Have you ever entertained the idea of owning a vineyard and or winery? At some point most wine lovers wonder – better yet, dream: “it would be so nice to have my own winery or vineyard”. Images of vines all neat in rows, and others contouring to the hillsides. Press accolades adorning a tasting room, the adulation of millions of consumers…
There are two most common ways to do this:
Over the years, a number of people, with little to no wine drinking experience, have asked for my advice as they start their wine education. While wine blogs and internet references have made factual education easier than ever to obtain, the number one educational tool will always be tasting. There is no need to sacrifice your first born in order to learn by tasting Grand Cru. A solid foundation can be built on very short money, and I’m eager to spread that word. I thought rather than answer everyone’s questions individually, I’d compile the following advice for people interested in empowering themselves with some educational wine ammunition.
Why not just drink it already? Understanding that our sense of smell is how we percieve most of what we taste is very important in wine tasting. The wine’s aroma is often times just as important as the taste. Take several sniffs, searching for essential characteristics that will give you hints about the wine’s style and production. Do you get aromas like butter, cream, vanilla or smoke? These are all indicators that the wine was aged in oak. Does it smell like jammy, sugary fruit? This might be an indication that the grapes were grown in a warmer, New World climate.
Finally, we’re ready to actually taste the wine. Take a sip, holding the wine in your mouth, suck it back and forth between your teeth like mouthwash. This may seem odd or downright inappropriate, but what you are doing is “Priming” your palate. Forget what your mom told you about playing with your food, this method is the best way for analyzing all that a wine has to offer. It’s important to get the wine into all the far corners of your mouth. There is a sort of memory to our palates,where the second sip activates the memory of the first sip, and even though the second sip is much quicker than the first, it almost has the same effect. If you do not prime your palate on the first sip, the second sip might be somewhat unremarkable.
After swallowing (or spitting it out), genuinely reflect on what you’ve tasted. Again, you’ll want to look for specific flavors that will tell you about that wine’s origins. Does it make your mouth salivate or slightly pucker? This is an indication of high acidity. If it’s dry and leaves your mouth feeling like sandpaper, then the wine is probably rich in tannin. Finally, use your past experiences to draw conclusions – don’t try to use fancy jargon if you’re not comfortable with it. Cassis, quince and minerality are often tasting notes used by “the pros”. But if a wine tastes like your grandma’s blueberry pie, don’t hesitate to say it. There are no “rights” and “wrongs” in wine tasting. The more you taste, the more readily you’ll be able to identify descriptors.
Those of you who read the last few posts may have noticed a critical tone developing, maybe an irritation? I decided to write about something positive this week. That was until something happened that I just could not let pass without comment. Add this to the list of things related to wine that get under my skin.
I was in a big warehouse club and I was just visiting the wine department to see if there were any deals.
2005 Chateau Pinchon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande. A quick scan with the smart phone revealed that the price for this wine ranges between about $150-$200. This is a serious wine. It was classified second growth in the Medoc classification of 1855. The price at this store was $99.97 Great! But then I noticed something.
The price tag also has a brief product description and other info, and it read:
Spice, fruity, with hidden power.
I recently posed the question: “Am I was becoming a curmudgeonly old man, and a wine snob?”
I explained there are 2 things (so far, 2 things) that really irk me about the wine experience while dining out. The first thing is serving wine at the incorrect temperature.
The second thing is not serving wine in the appropriate stemware.
Now, you can’t expect your local sports bar to have anything other than tiny red wine glasses that they fill precariously close to the rim, so they’re not the ones I’m complaining about.
But how about a nice non-chain restaurant, an Italian place, or a trendy Bistro? Shouldn’t a place that actually takes time and effort to make great food, at least consider the presentation of their beverages? I went to a wonderful Bistro here in Phoenix a while back, and the food was absolutely outstanding. Except the red wine came in champagne flutes. Really? I am paying $35 for a 6oz fillet Mignon and I get red wine in a tall skinny glass? I felt like a jerk when I asked if the server could pour the wine into a red wine glass for me, and she said “That’s the only wine glass we have”. I felt like saying “well in that case, just bring me the bottle” The people dining with me laughed and said I needed to lighten up.
I’m not saying that I need my wine in Riedel stemware. But I really do need my reds served in a nice, big glass, so I can swirl it and smell it. It’s gotten to the point now where as I walk into a restaurant to be seated, I take a quick glance at the glasses people are drinking their wine from. The bigger they are, the safer, more relaxed I feel. I almost feel like the character from the TV show “Monk”; the little things bug me. If all the wine glasses are the same, regardless of red or white, that’s a bad sign. If they are little and filled to the top, that means I am ordering beer; it’s pretty hard to screw that up.
So tell me: am I a wine snob?
On a recent trip to a big warehouse club, I noticed some incredible markdowns on super high end wines.
A markdown is when the retailer lowers the price to clear out their inventory, making space for a product that they hope to sell more of. A markdown is usually denoted by the price ending in the number 7. For example, this store had 2001 Chris Ringland Shiraz on sale for $399.97. A quick search on my smartphone revealed that the online price for this wine ranges between $550 and $999. The 2001 Chris Ringland Shiraz was rated 100 points by Robert Parker and only 60 cases of this wine were produced. I was very surprised to see it in a big warehouse club!
How did it get from the Barossa Valley in Australia all the way over to Phoenix, Arizona? So many questions and the answers I kept coming up with lead me to believe that somehow this 100 point wine was not kept under ideal conditions, and therefore no longer a 100 point wine. On the other hand…how sensitive is wine? Do serious connoisseurs baby wine too much and spend too much money on unnecessary storage set ups?
This is a follow up to a piece that was published yesterday. In it, I provided some practical advice about what some of the most important features and elements to look for in a proper wine storage fridge. Last year I purchased two Vinotemp 34-bottle capacity wine fridges.
There comes a time in every wine lover’s life when they begin to consider storage. Proper storage. Aesthetically pleasing storage. Expensive storage. Finding an appropriate place to keep our wine becomes an issue because, as a our enthusiasm for wine grows, so too does our collection.