Let’s start from the usual routine – the answer for the Wine Quiz #21 – Do you Know the King? Similar to the previous quiz, this one also had a diversity of opinion as to which wine is called a “King of the Wines”. And the answer is … Barolo!
Believe it or not, but until the middle of the 19th century Barolo was a sweet wine (it probably sounds funny for anyone who experienced the power of Barolo) due to the deficiencies of the winemaking process. In the second half of the 19th century, invited French oenologist managed to change the winemaking process which resulted in production of completely dry wine. This dry Barolo wine became so popular among nobility of Turin that it was often described as “the king of wine” (here is a link for you with more information on the subject). Now that you know the king, you can enjoy Barolo even more (but don’t forget to decant it!).
Now it is time for the wine news. Let’s start form the Wine Blogging Wednesday #79 – Summer Reading, Summer Wine. This is probably one of the more difficult WBW events, as you are required not to drink the wine yourself, but rather explain to the world what kind of wine your favorite fiction character should be drinking, and why. I’m still not decided if I will will be writing my blog post for #wbw79 – may be yes, may be no – but I’m sure it will be fun to read what the other people will have to say.
Now, all the wine lovers who like value – please pay special attention. Wine Till Sold Out (a.k.a. WTSO) Cheapskate Wednesday is coming up on August 8th. Starting at 6 am Eastern, deeply discounted wines will be offered for sale every 15 minutes or may be even faster. All the wines will be priced in the range of $7.99 to $18.99 and you will have to buy 4 bottles or more to get free shipping. These “marathon” events are usually offering great values and shouldn’t be missed – here are couple of reports (one and two) I compiled from the past events in case you want to have a frame of reference. Get your cellar ready!
Moving along. Next, I want to bring to your attention two more interesting posts. First, W. Blake Gray wrote about the results of market research of consumers’ emotional attachment to the brand (of course primarily concerning alcohol brands). This is pretty short post (here is the link) – read it, some of the results are staggering and hilarious at the same time.
Last but not least: if you love wine and live in a close proximity of Boston (remember, airplanes are known to greatly shorten the distances), there is a restaurant you must visit until the end of August. Why? Because this restaurant (Troquet) is offering mind boggling dealson superbly aged wines (1966 Bordeaux for $75? unreal…) – for more details, please read this post by Richard Auffrey who writes The Passionate Foodie blog.
That’s all for today, folks. Hope you enjoyed this Meritage, and don’t worry – the next Wednesday will be here much sooner than you are expecting, so we will be talking again. And… don’t forget to leave a comment. And – think about your #WBW79 post. Cheers!
If you had been drinking wine for a while, I would expect that you have developed certain taste expectations. As you drink the wines from the different regions, you find that the wines from the same geographic locality made from the same grapes would have somewhat of a similar taste and style (yes, of course, I just described what is properly called Terroir without using the word itself). At some point, the associations between the origin of the wine and its expected taste become engrained in your mind. Looking at the bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you are expecting to find bright acidity and citrus flavor profile even without opening the bottle. Looking at the bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon you are expecting to find good amount of fruit with some explicit black currant notes and probably good amount of tannins – note that I’m really trying to generalize here, but you got the point.
This is the way the wine was for a very long time. However, when you taste modern wines, do you have a feeling that your expectations no longer valid and don’t match the reality any longer? I had this experience many times lately, when Amarone didn’t taste like anything expected (you can find my rant of pain here), or when unoaked Chardonnay tastes rather like Pinot Grigio – and there are many more examples of “taste confusion”.
Recently, I had another case of “broken” taste expectations – this time it was somewhat sanctioned, as we did a double (almost) blind tasting. The theme was set a bit ambitiously, as France and Italy. The “ambitious” part is coming from the fact that these two countries on their own have such a variety of wine production that it makes literally impossible to recognize the grape or at least the style of wine (either one of those countries would provide a plentiful selection for a double blind tasting on its own). Anyway, with the main goal of having fun with the wines, we actually had a great time.
We blind tasted 5 wines, which happened to be 4 reds and one white. For what it worth, here are my notes as we were moving along:
#1 – Very nice, a bit too sweet. I think Italy, Super Tuscan/Barbera/Dolcetto
#2 – earthy, nice, little green bell peppers, roasted notes? Bordeaux?
#3 – France, nice bright fruit, good sweetness, noit enough acidity? No idea about the grape.
#4 – interesting, lots of fruit, very nice – no idea.
#5 – great, round, good fruit – no idea.
While I understand that these a rather limited wine descriptions, would you try to guess what was what? Well, you can see the answers below in the picture (wines are set in the order we tasted them, left to right):
Here is an actual list: 2007 Comm. G. B. Burlotto Barolo Verduno; 1995, Chateau Haut-Corbin Saint-Emillion Grand Cru; 2009 Petracupa Greco di Tufo; 2005 Pascal Marchand Pinot Noir and L’oca Ciuca Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – now compare that with my guesses above…
In case you are curious – of course we voted for the favorite – Brunello (#5) was a clear winner, with Greco de Tufo (#3) trailing it closely behind (one point difference).
Where is the case of broken taste expectations? Fruit forward, bright and loaded wine with well masked tannins and almost non-existing earthiness, bright purple in color – 2007 Barolo? I’m very far from Barolo expert, but this doesn’t match my expectations of Barolo, albeit well decanted. Even winning Brunello was quite uncharacteristic, lacking earthiness and tartness, the traditional Brunello bite. I can’t comment on Greco do Tufo (it was actually quite nice), and the only varietally correct wine was 1995 Bordeaux. Am I making too big of a deal from varietal correctness and taste expectations here? It depends. On its own, both Barolo and Brunello were good wines, but if I would order either one in the restaurant with the goal of pairing with food, that could’ve been quite disappointing…
Okay, I can’t leave you with this sad impression of disappointment – it was not that bad at all. Also, we had a great cast of supporting wines, even with some pleasant surprises.
First, two sparkling wines. Chevalier de Grenelle Cuvee Reserve Saumur AOC, a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc with 10% Chardonnay was very good, full bodies sparkling wine, with good notes of apple and toasted oak. In addition to good wine, this was also a very special bottle – a magnum with metal imprinted label. Second sparkling wine was even more unusual – Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry – a sparkling wine from Russia, made by reincarnated famous producer of sparkling wines for Russian Tzar (original company was created in 1870). This wine had just a hint (a whiff) of sweetness, lightly toasted apple and nutmeg on the palate. Very refreshing and delicate. I suggest you will find a bottle and try for yourself – there is a good chance you might like it.
And for the last surprise – 2002 Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG. Why surprising? If you will look at the Wine Spectator’s Vintage Chart, you will see that 2002 was regarded as a very bad year for Barolo, with the rating of 72 and recommendation of wines being past prime. I decanted this bottle at some time in the late morning, and by the early evening, when we actually drunk it, it opened up very nicely – while it was lacking powerful tannins, otherwise it was quite enjoyable wine, very balanced with quite a bit of finesse.
Play with your wine, get friends together and do the blind tasting – I guarantee you will learn something new about your palate, your wine preferences and may be even your friends!
Of course time had being here forever, always moving, and always in one direction (someone, please prove me wrong!). Wine had being around for about 8,000 years, first appearing in the ancient Georgia (no, not the one down south, but the one from the Caucus region, on another continent). Wine is one of the few products literally not changed for such a long time in its form and its production methods – sans reverse osmosis machines, electrical presses and micro-oxygenation boxes. Considering such a long history, you can imagine that relationship between wine and time is very complex, and you would be right.
First, time is a necessary part and an attribute of the wine making process. For the vast majority of wines, if you read winery’s description of the wine, you will see something like “aged for so many month in …”. Sometimes the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks. Sometimes the wine is aged in clay vessels (very popular in Georgia now, the vessels are called Kvevri and produce very distinct wines). Lots of red wines are aged in oak barrels – American oak, French oak, Hungarian Oak, new oak, old oak – variations are endless. For many wines, duration and the type of the aging is a sole decision of winemaker (no pressure, but this decision will greatly affect quality and the taste of wine, and will define success and failure for it). For some of the wines, aging in a specific type of barrels is mandatory before the wine can be released – Rioja Gran Reserva should be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrel and 3 years in the bottle to be officially designated as Rioja Gran Reserva. Barolo must be aged for 3 years, at least two of them in the oak barrel, and Barolo Riserva should be aged at least for 5 years. During the aging process, the wine is changing. Oak imparts very specific flavor, which we, humans, tend to like. Oak aging also acts as a preservative and helps wines to live long life.
Once all the aging is complete (in the tanks, barrels and bottles – whatever the aging was), wine is released – and this is when the second phase of the wine and time relationship kicks in.
This second phase is as tricky, if not trickier, as the first. Have you heard the phrase “needs time” in relation to the particular bottle of wine? If you will look at the wine reviews in Wine Spectator or any other publication which provides wine reviews, you would often see one of the phrases “Drink now”, “Best 2014-2020”, “Best after 2013” – these are the suggestions for how long the wine should be kept in the cellar before it should be consumed.
Why is that? What with all this aging? Why not open the bottle right away and just drink the wine? What was discovered at some point (don’t ask me when, but it was long time ago) is that wine actually changes its taste as it spends time in the bottle (the aging). And it doesn’t just change the taste arbitrarily, it tastes better. Young wines are often sharp, or somewhat single-toned in their taste – you might get pronounced acidity, or only sweetness, or lots of white apples – but only white apples. During aging, trace amounts of air are making its way into he bottle, and they lead to the wine changing its taste, improving to the better in majority of the cases – it becomes complex, bite softens up, bright and diverse fruit tones compensate for the pronounced acidity and the wine brings a lot more pleasure compare to the young wines. Mature wines deliver more pleasure – this is the whole philosophy behind wine aging.
Simple and easy, right? Well, this is were everything becomes complicated and confusing – as not all the wines should be aged (do not try to age Beaujolais Noveau, please) and also it is very tricky to make sure you would drink the wine at its peak – as whatever comes up, goes down in mother nature. This is where time transforms from the friend to the foe – and as a foe, it is merciless. After reaching maturity and staying there for a while, the wines are typically starting their decline in the taste (wine loses fruit, become very acidic, may be oxidized – and it stops delivering pleasure). Different wines made in the different styles will have different peak times and different lifespans. Some of the Jerez, Madeira and similar wines can go on literally for the hundreds of years. Good Rioja, Barolo or Bordeaux can be perfectly aged for 50 years or longer. Simple Cote du Rhone might only last for 3-5 years, same would be true for many of the Chardonnay wines. There is not crystal ball telling you precisely how long the wine will last and when will it taste the best – human trial and error is the best way to find that out. Of course there are many factors which might help you to decide whether to age the wine and if yes, for how long – the winery, the winemaker, the region’s wine style, success of the vintage and many others – but in the end of the day you would need to do the work (err, I meant the wine drinking) as the wine ages to find out when it tastes best to you.
So, does it worth to age wines if you don’t know what will happen to them in the end? For anyone who is into wines, and who had an opportunity to try a mature wine, the wine which reached its optimum taste, I’m sure this is a no-brainer question – yes, of course, and please, please give me more.
How one can experience aged wines? You got a few options. First, you can age it in your own cellar. Second, you can buy aged wines, either in a good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines in Stamford or Benchmark Wine Company. Note that you have to buy aged wines only from the trusted source – not aging the wines in the right conditions will simply ruin them, so you have to trust your source. Third option is to attend a wine tasting, such as PJ Wine Grand Tasting, where you can taste really amazing wines. However, you don’t have to wait of the Grand tasting, which takes place only once a year. If you live in a close proximity to Stamford, CT, you can attend a wine tasting at the Franklin Street Works gallery on Thursday, January 19th at 5:30 pm (here is the link for RSVP). The event is free and open to all. Here are the wines which will be presented in the tasting (the list might change at any time):
2003 Riesling, Mosel Saar River, Germany
1998 Merlot, Italy
2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, Napa Valley
2009 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time, hyper-decanted using Nathan Myhrvold’s methodology.
So you should come and experience the relationship between time and wine for yourself – there is a good chance that you will even enjoy it! Cheers!
As promised, this is follow up post to compare Thanksgiving expectations with experiences.
When it comes to the food, the star of our table was dish called Turducken. First time I read about turducken in the late nineties in the Wall Street Journal. Since then we made it a few times for Thanksgiving. The dish is somewhat labor-intense, but absolutely delicious when done right. The word turducken comes from the fact that the dish consists of partially deboned turkey, with fully deboned duck going inside of turkey, and then deboned chicken going inside of a duck. The idea of enclosing birds into each other during cooking is not new, it had being done in Europe for centuries. Turducken specifically is considered to be originated in New Orleans – and one of most popular cooking styles for it is Cajun.
The process of preparation starts from deboning of chicken, duck and then turkey (turkey is only partially deboned with legs and wings left untouched). Next very important step is brining. As critical as it is for smoking, brining helps to retain the moisture in the meat during long cooking time. Brining typically takes 12 hours, so you need to plan your time accordingly.
After brining, the process of preparation starts from laying down the turkey, adding spices (or stuffing) on top, then putting in the duck, repeat spices again and then chicken, plus you can put any desired stuffing as the last layer (we used smoked sausages in our case). The next step is to sew the turkey together and place it in the oven for about 5 – 6 hours. The resulting bird is very moist and flavorful, and – may I add – very easy to carve.
So what about wine? Turducken and all the side dishes, such as yams, pumpkin and wild rice stuffing, are very flavorful, so it is hard to tell apriori which wine will work the best – therefore it is an opportunity to experiment. We tried Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau - this wine was completely lost next to turducken. Next one was Claraval, Spanish Grenache/Tempranillo blend – this wine well complemented the variety of flavors.
The winner was Serradenari Barolo 2005. It was decanted for 3 hours prior to the dinner (as always suggested for classic Barolos), and the wine showed beautiful layers of fruit and earth, which worked very well with turducken and other dishes at the table.
Of course we shouldn’t forget about desert. No, there was no pumpkin pie at the table. Yes, it is violation of the tradition, but when nobody likes the dish, it is hard to justify getting it on the table. Instead, Pecan pie is one of traditional staples of the sweet portion of our Thanksgiving dinners:
You are saying that coffee or tea would be the best match for such a dish? You are right, however, there are some exceptions here. We were lucky to have Rivesaltes 1936, a desert wine produced in Roussillon region in South of France (courtesy of my friend Zak). This wine is a natural sweet wine, made out of Grenache grape and produced in the same style since 13th century. This wine has luscious layers of nuts, honey, cloves and other spices, without overpowering sweetness of many of the ice wines. It drinks as a very light wine (despite high alcohol content0 and perfectly complement many different deserts.
So, I told you what was on our Thanksgiving table. Now, I would love to know what was your most memorable dish and wine?
Thanksgiving day – friends, family, lots of food and wines. Culinary delight is definite part of the holiday – every possible ( and impossible) web site is full of new recipes to try and recommendations on what to serve.
I would love to write the blog post right after the dinner – but this would be literally impossible, as desire to sleep after a big meal will interfere. Therefore, let me just share my quick expectations. The staple dish for tonight is turducken – chicken inside duck inside turkey, all de-boned, of course, except turkey legs and wings. That is already in the oven and holds a big promise of the tasty meal ( pictures and details – in the later posts). There will be a lot more of traditional fall flavors – squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – all taking part in the feast.
Variety of flavors is expected of the food, and it is hard to tell which wine will work the best. Therefore, when in doubt – experiment! We plan to have Beaujolais Nouveau ( Joseph Drouhin), Barolo, Zinfandel and Claraval (Spanish red). Which one will pair the best? Hopefully one of the wines on the table. And if not – wine program for tonight also includes Rivesaltes 1936 and Bruichladdich 12 – expectations, expectations…
What will be on your table tonight?
Until later – Happy Thanksgiving!