Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wine Tasting Class #10 and #11

I missed another class. I tried so hard to make sure I didn't miss a class. I even booked my vacation times to not be a full week so that I would be here for the classes. Unfortunately some things beyond my control took over and I missed a total of two. But I did not miss last Monday night, class #11. And thank god because it was the last one! The last one before the final exam anyway. So I've had some catching up to do this week to make sure I don't loose it come Monday.

The first half of the class was spent reviewing what we've learned over the past 5 weeks.

Cool Climate vs Warm Climate
Winemakers will take a look at the terroir they're dealing with before starting to grow grapes. How long is the growing season? Projected rainfall and sunlight? Proximity to water, mountain range, hills. Is the vineyard facing south, and hopefully it is. What combination of soil is available – limestone, gravel, slate, etc. When planting, the vine will only produce good fruit after about 5 years.

In a cool climate, such as Ontario, good winemakers look at what they're dealing with and then choose the grape they're going to grow. For whites in a cool climate, Riesling, Chardonnay and Vidal do very well. Reds that do well in a cool climate are Pinot Noir, Cab Franc, Gamay.

Ontario is comparable to Burgundy in terms of climate. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay are some of the top grape varieties.

Winemakers have a tendency to do different things in cool climates, such as using stainless steel for fermentation, to maintain crispness and freshness. White wines usually have a nice acidity. (You can vinefy a Chardonnay different ways. French oak aged for example, will give a Chardonnay hints of spice and round it out. American oak will leave it creamy, buttery and softer on the palate.)

In cool climates, winemakers are dealing with, on average, shorter growing seasons. Therefore, they should choose varieties more condusive to that type of growing.

Warm climates, such as Argentina, Australia and Chile for example, have longer growing seasons. The grapes hang on to the vines longer, which results in the potential of having higher sugar levels, which means more alcohol, creating a smoother, richer wine.

Chardonnays are also grown in warm climates. For reds, Shiraz, Merlot and Cab Sauvignon's are quite popular. Sometimes the grapes are cultivated a little under ripe, which results in the wine having a bit of a green edge to it (vegetal, green pepper, etc.)

Wine Characteristics
Characteristics of a cool climate Chardonnay that was fermented in stainless steel, aged in stainless steel for a bit then bottled.
- aromas of citrus, floral, green apple, mineral
- medium to high acidity on the palate
- tastes of citrus and mineral
- short to medium finish (because of the high acidity, it's a very palate cleansing wine)

Characteristics of a warm climate Chardonnay that was oak aged for 11 months and went through malolactic fermentation.
- aromas of butter, caramel, butterscotch, tropical fruits, baked apple, pear.
- medium to full bodied with buttery and creamy notes on the palate and low to medium acidity.
- tastes of butter, vanilla, baked apple, smoky, caramel and honey
- finish is medium to long

Here are some other grape varieties we've tried over the past few weeks:

Albarino – Very similar to Viognier and Gewurztraminer, suggesting apricot and peach. It's also very light and high in acidity.

Chenin Blanc – A sweet, light, dry wine with flavours of apples, melon, quince and flint. This wine is great on it's own or with Chinese, Thai or shellfish.

Grenache – Often blended with other grape varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut. It has a spicy, berry flavour on the palate and has high alcohol but lacks acid, tannin and colour.

Madeira – Fortified Portuguese wine that is the result of being exposed to excessive heat and movement. Colour is similar to a tawny port and has a sweet nutty flavour.

Moscato or Muscat (mix between Gewurz and Riesling) – Sweet floral aromas. Widely used in sweeter sparkling wines like Asti. “Grapey” quality makes them easy to identify.

Primitivo (good subsitute for Amarone), also known as Zinfandel in North America. Dark fruit and pepper flavours.

Syrah (or Shiraz) – Full bodied and powerful and has a wide range of flavour notes depending on the climate and soil where it's grown. From violets to berries, chocolate, blackberry and pepper.

Viognier – Aromatic and fruit forward white with floral notes and some residual sugar. It's meant to be drunk young.

Some Blends that we tried:

Blend of Syrah (spice, smoke), Mourvèdre (plum, dark chocolate), Grenache (earthy, blackberry, spices)

Ripassa made with blend of Corvina (mild fruity flavours, sour cherry, acidic and low tannins), Rondinella (grape is fairly neutral but is often used due to the amount of wine it produces per unit surface of vineyard), Molinara (adds acidity)

Blend of Tempranillo (berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, herb), Cab (blackcurrant, cassis, herbs and cedar or oak)

American Oak vs French Oak
- spice
- tobacco
- pepper
- espresso/coffee
- lightly smokey
- lightly toasty (1=lightest toast rating, 5=charred)
- French is softer and lighter than American oak. Also barrel is strongest the first year you use it.

American (more flavour characteristics)
- vanilla
- butterscotch
- spice
- butter
- smoke
- toffee

*If you're ever at a winery, my prof strongly recommends doing a barrel tasting.

The cost of wine. Why is it that a $20 bottle of wine can be better than a $200 bottle? Many factors come into play when it comes to the cost of wine.
- volume production
- labour costs
- reputation of the winery
- and of course, your own personal palate

Quality is subjective. What tastes good to one person, may not be good to another. What the winemaker does, how they produce their wine, all come into play when talking price – long fermentation, quality of the yeast, manual separation. Unfortunately, some wineries will use their name to increase the price of a wine, even though their aren't any additional reasons to do so.

Wine Olfactory Faults
“Cork Taint” (corked wine) – most common
- chemical name - Tricloranisole, or TCA
- result of interaction between chlorine, phenols and mould
- aromas of wet cardboard or newspaper, and dog fur and/or mustiness (damp basement)
- average threshold - 4.5 parts per trillion
- at lower levels wine is muted, neutralized
- 5-10% of wines affected

- result of excess exposure to oxygen
- aromas are sherry-like, tired, lack of fruit
- lack of sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- faulty cork with improper seal
- exception – Sherries & Madeiras

(happens during fermentation if the temperature was not controlled or if it was stored improperly)
- can be similar to oxidation
- should be applied only to wines with a high enough alcoholic strength to inhibi the action of acetobacter, which would otherwise transform the wine into vinegar
- result of exposure to heat
- wines are said to be “cooked”, showing a burnt, caramelized quality
- exception to the rule would be a Madeira

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
- result of excess SO2 during winemaking
- aroma – pungent smell of burnt match, rotten eggs
- can also result in hard mouth-feel
- bitterness in finish

Ethyl Acetate
- occurs during primary fermentation
- result of Acetic Acid reacting with Ethanol to produce Ehtyl Acetate
- aroma of nail polish remover
- wine is now wine vinegar

Wine and Food Pairing
What would you serve as a wine with the following foods and why?

Raw tuna: Sauvignon Blanc, because the crispness will balance out the creaminess of the fish. Also, a Pinot Noir – strong tuna with delicate Pinot will play nicely off each other.

Med-rare steak and potato, no veg: Zinfandel or Shiraz. The proteins in the meat will soften the tannins in the wine, which will bring forward the fruit.

Butterscotch Sunday: Ice Wine, Vidal, Vin Santo, Tokaji – wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Cold cucumber soup: Champagne or sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, bone-dry Riesling.

Wine Tasting
1. Latitude 41 Sauvignon Blanc 2008 CSPC 164244 $18.95 (stainless steel)
Sight: Pale yellow
Aromas: Citrus, green apple, melon, apricot, pear, pineapple, mineral, cat pee
Weight: Light to medium bodied
Acidity: Medium to high
Taste: Citrus, green apple, melon, grapefruit, lime, mineral, flinty, wet stone, pear
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Marinated pimento salad (see current Food & Drink magazine)

2. Ste Michelle Chardonnay 2008 CSPC 232439 $17.95 (American oak – hence the butter, vanilla and caramel in the aromas)
Sight: Pale to medium yellow
Aromas: Smoke, butter, vanilla, burnt caramel, slightly nutty, peanut brittle, toast, overripe banana, floral, mango
Weight: Medium
Acidity: Light to medium
Taste: Butter, peach, banana (overripe), tropical fruit, pineapple, citrus in the background, banana bread with walnuts, slight toastiness
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: Chipotle pork and pineapple kabobs (Food & Drink)
Thoughts: Really nice, good for this time of year.

3. Indian Summer Riesling 2006 CSPC 415901 $24.95 (Aged in French oak)
Rieslings and Vidals are similar, however the Riesling's ageing potential is much higher. Dessert wines made with Riesling have high sugar levels but still retain acidity. The longer it's on the vine, the more you loose and the sweeter it gets, which unfortunately, animals love, so you have to be really careful.
Sight: Medium to dark yellow
Aromas: Pool vinyl, paraffin wax, beeswax, poached roasted pear, apple sauce with a bit of cinnamon, floral aspects, honey
Weight: Medium
Acidity: Light to medium with some residual sugar
Taste: Honey, crème brûlée, cooked apple, cooked pear, hint of orange or tangerine, citrusy, lemon edge
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: Honeyed apricots, fruit salad, crème brûlée
Thoughts: Really nice wine, also has good ageing potential

4. J Lohr Merlot 2007 CSPC 27516 $19.95
Sight: Dark red with brick and purple hue
Aromas: Eucalyptus, hint of mint, a bit of rose petal, cherry, plums, smoke, hint of chocolate, earthiness, raspberries, dried raisins, blueberry
Weight: Medium bodied
Tannin: Light to medium with a nice acidity – would cut nicely through the oiliness of duck
Taste: Cherries, spice, tobacco, dark chocolate, raisin, plum, cassis, dates, prunes, blackberry
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Very versatile. Could drink on it's own or with a grilled duck breast with elderberry.
Thoughts: Very nice wine. I have a new appreciation for Merlot's.
Duckhorn Vineyards has an amazing Merlot for $70 if you can be so lucky enough to get your hands on it!

5. Leaping Lizard Zinfandel 2008 CSPC 161497 $18.95
Grenache, Petit Syrah and Shiraz are often mixed with Zinfandels to add to it's ageing potential. Otherwise, they aren't usually meant for long-time cellaring. Zins are nice and light and winemakers try not to over-oak them.
Sight: Medium to dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Cherry, smokey, sweet spice (cinnamon, clove), blueberries, raspberries, plums, mineral, slate, jam, violet
Weight: Medium
Tannin: Light to medium with lots of acidity
Taste: Stewed fruit, pepper, dark chocolate, cherries, spicy
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Be careful with spicy foods, Zins are often high in alcohol and paired with spice brings it out even more. Jerk chicken burgers.

6. Sheeps Back Old Vines Shiraz 2003 CSPC 165902 $19.95
Sight: Dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Raisin, cassis, Christmas rum cake, sweet tobacco leaf, cigar box, cured smoked meat (common with wines starting to age), lavender
Weight: Light to medium
Tannin: Light to medium with lots of acidity
Taste: Molasses, sour cherry, chocolate, prunes, cranberries, red licorice
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Blue cheese, cigar, slow bbq Szechuan beef roast
Thoughts: Really nice, kind of like a port because of it's age.

7. Tedeschi Amarone 2006 CSPC 433417 $39.95
Sight: Dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Sour cherry, spice, chocolate, leather, earthy, cloves, pepper, barnyard, herbaceous, dried raisin, fig, plum
Weight: Medium to full bodied
Tannin: Medium
Taste: Jamy, black and sour cherry, dark chocolate, clove, dried fruit (potpourri), dried raisin, fig, date, spicy, cranberry, black licorice
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is so big that it prefers something lighter. Cured meats, bruschetta, grilled provolone and garlic toast.
Thoughts: I loved it. Obviously.

8. Quinta Do Tedo Tawny Port CSPC 170233 $15.95
Sight: Light to medium red with amber hue to it. Watery edge, almost like a sunset.
Aromas: Nutty, butterscotch, oranges, alcohol, burnt sugar, cherry, hazelnut, vanilla, caramel, pumpkin pie, candied fruits, figs, dates, dried raisins, chocolate, black forest cake
Weight: Medium to full bodied
Tannin: Light to medium with some residual sugar
Taste: Caramel, hazelnuts, cashews
Notes about Port: With a port, you should drink it all within two weeks. After that you can use it for cooking. Store in the fridge after you've opened the bottle. When you see 20 year port or 30 year port on the bottle, that's not it's age, they average it out after blending. When you finish your bottle, use the sediment at the bottom to spread on toast.
Tawny: aged in wood barrel, brick colour and nuttiness, exposed to air will have some oxidation – to a certain degree.
LBV: late bottle vintage, spent some time in a barrel, is blended and won't age.
Ruby: good for cooking, blended, not aged very long if at all, cheaper version of port.
Vintage: most expensive and good to keep for a long time – ages in the bottle sometimes even up to 30 or 40 years, only made when it's a declared year (best growing season).

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