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Wine Quiz #137 – How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

April 10, 2021 2 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #136. Once again, you needed to identify wines (producers) by the fragment of the wine label. Here are the full labels of the wines:

All of these are well-known producers, all from California, and all are mainstream wines.

I’m happy to report that once again, Zak correctly identified all of the wines and he gets the grand prize of unlimited bragging rights. I also want to mention Suzanne who correctly identified The Prisoner. It’s the game that counts – really you have nothing to lose – just give it a try.

And here is a new set of fragments of the wine labels, with the wine producers who should be reasonably familiar, and some even carrying good hints with them:

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5.

6.

There is something in common between all of these fragments – once you will figure it out, the rest should be reasonably straightforward.

Good luck, enjoy the weekend and your new quiz! Cheers!

Wine Quiz #136 – How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

March 27, 2021 5 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #135. Once again, you needed to identify wines (producers) by the fragment of the wine label. I’m making an effort to ensure that the fragment of the label will be telling enough to allow for the producer to be identified. Here are the full pictures of the labels so you can compare:

All of these are well-known producers, most from California with the exception of Chateau Ste. Michelle from the State of Washington.

Sadly, nobody attempted to answer this quiz, so I have to keep all the prizes where they are.

Here is a new set of fragments of the wine labels, with the wine producers who should be reasonably familiar, and some even carrying good hints with them:

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2.

3.

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5.

6.

Good luck, enjoy the weekend and your new quiz! Cheers!

Wine Quiz #135 – How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

February 28, 2021 1 comment

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #134. That was the second quiz in the new series, where instead of identifying the wines by the top foil or the top of the cork, I’m now asking you to identify the producers by the fragment of the wine label. I’m making an effort to make sure that the fragment of the label will be telling enough to allow for the producer to be identified. Here are the same pictures, now with the producers identified (point to the picture to see):

As I suggested in the last quiz, all of these producers and wines can be called iconic, and they all come from the same region – Washington. Also worth noting that 4 wines here are produced by Christophe Baron (Cayuse, Hors Categorie, Horsepower, No Girls).

Only one player attempted to answer the quiz, and he did it quite successfully – Zak correctly identified 5 wines out of the 6, so he gets almost unlimited bragging rights.

This week, I’m offering you another set of 6 fragments of the wine labels, with a similar hint as before – all wines are reasonably famous/iconic (again, some might be hard to find, though).

Here we go:

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6.

Good luck, enjoy the new quiz! Cheers!

Wine Quiz #134 – How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

February 13, 2021 4 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #133. That was the first quiz in the new series, where instead of identifying the wines by the top foil or the top of the cork, I’m now asking you to identify the producers by the fragment of the wine label. I’m making an effort to make sure that the label fragment will be telling enough to allow for the producer to be identified. Here are the same pictures, now with the producers identified (point to the picture to see):

As I suggested in the last quiz, all of these producers and wines can be called iconic, and they all come from the same region – California.

Now, I”m happy to say that there were more players this time, and even more importantly, we have a winner – Zak correctly identified all 6 producers, so he gets the unlimited bragging rights. Mika correctly identified 3 producers, so he definitely gets an honorable mention.

This week, I’m offering you another set of 6 fragments of the wine labels, with the same set of hints – all wines come from the same region, and all are quite famous/iconic (some might be hard to find, though).

Here we go:

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3.

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5.

6.

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and enjoy your weekend! Cheers!

Wine Quiz #133 – How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

January 30, 2021 7 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

Let’s start with the answers to the last quiz #132. In that quiz, you were given a set of pictures of the top of the bottles and you were supposed to identify the producers. Here are the same pictures, now with the producers identified (point to the picture to see):

We didn’t have a lot of players, but Zak did extremely well correctly identifying 5 out of 6 producers, so he gets the honorable mention and unlimited bragging rights which come with it.

At the moment, I don’t have a new set of pictures of wine bottle tops to play another round, so I decided to start a variation of this game and turn your attention to something which might be easier to identify – the labels themselves.

For all of us, wine geeks, lovers, and aficionados, labels are special. It is often enough to have a glimpse of color, lettering, or an image, to be able to instantly identify the producer, the winery, or maybe even the wine. So below you will find images of fragments of the labels, which hopefully will be enough for you to identify the producers.

Let’s go:

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All of these wines can be called iconic, and they come from the same region – these are all the hints I can offer. But I expect many of you to do very well with this quiz.

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and enjoy your weekend! Cheers!

Let’s Talk Wine Labels

November 11, 2019 Leave a comment

How are you with the wine labels?

Speaking for myself, I love wine labels a lot more that I would even admit. Everybody knows that we eat with our eyes first – this is why good restaurants go out of their way to present their food in the best possible way.

The same is true for the wines – and I’m not talking about the wine in the glass. Let’s leave aside the situation when we are looking for a specific wine. You walk into the wine store and first and foremost you notice the wine labels. I don’t know how this works for you, but speaking strictly for myself, I can’t figure out what makes wine label attractive for me. It is more of magic. Some labels have an elaborate design, and my eye simply skips them. And then there are simple, very simple labels which solicit instant reaction “oh, this is so cool”. Magic.

It appears that the effect of the wine label goes much further than an instant determination of cool/not cool and the desire to quickly grab the bottle. The wine label design also creates expectations about taste, price, quality, and lots more. Don’t take this from me. Folks at Iron Design create product labels for living. They conducted market research, which you can read about here – and summarized all the results in the form of an infographic, one of my favorite ways of presenting the information. Bunch of numbers, facts, and pictures in compact and concise form – isn’t it fun?

For what it worth, the Iron Design team was very kind letting me share the infographic in this blog, which I’m happily presenting below. And for all of you, my friends, what do you think of the impact of the wine labels on your choices and expectations?

The Art of Tempranillo

May 24, 2018 7 comments

Source: Vintae.com

I love Tempranillo wines. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I had a wide range of Tempranillo – with the exception of Australia, I believe I tried most of the major renditions – Rioja, Ribera Del Duero, Toro, most everywhere else in Spain, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington (am I missing something? do tell!). With all the love and respect to all the regions, if I have to put an order of priorities in that “list”, I would put Rioja first, Ribera del Duero very close second, but the competition for the 3rd place would be severe – in my world, of course.

I like wines of Toro, the closest sibling to the Rioja and Ribera del Duero, but it would be hard for me to place them higher than some of the beautiful Tempranillo renditions from Irwin Family Vineyards, Duchman, or Fields – considering the Toro wines I had in the past. Compared to Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Toro is … well, maybe I need to explain why I keep mentioning Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro together all the time. These are the only three regions in the world where the absolute majority of the red wines is made out of the Tempranillo grapes. Yes, there are Garnacha and Graciano in Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Ribera del Duero, but still – most of the red wines in these three regions are made out of the Tempranillo, hence the constant comparison.

Out of the three regions, Toro is south-most one, with an expressly continental climate, low annual rainfall amounts, and significant range of day-night temperatures – which typically translates well into the flavor. Tempranillo is the grape of Toro, but similarly to Tuscany/Brunello, where you have Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso, Tempranillo in Toro is known as Tinta de Toro, a.k.a Tempranillo de Castilla, a.k.a. Ink of Toro. The grape is a bit smaller, with thicker skin, which coupled with growing conditions typically results, in massive, concentrated wines requiring extensive aging to become drinkable – I still have a memory of trying Alabaster made by Sierra Cantabria, one of the well-known producers in Toro, which was one of the most massive wines I ever experienced. Nevertheless, as I said at the beginning, Tempranillo is one of the favorites, so when the opportunity called to try 3 wines from Toro, I was definitely curious – and a bit cautious at the same time.

To ease things up, together with the 3 Toro wines from Bodega Matsu came a bottle of Rioja Reserva from Bodega Classica. While coming from unrelated producers, there is a common link between them – this link is called Vintae – a young company with a serious passion for the Spanish wine for the modern world. Vintae, started in 1999 by the Arambarri family, set on changing world’s perception of the Spanish wine as “boring”. To the date, Vintae unifies a collection of 11 different “projects”, all focused on showcasing the regions and the grapes.

Going back to the wines at hand, let’s talk about Rioja first. The wine comes from Bodega Classica, located in the heart of Rioja Alta. Rioja Alta offers a unique high-altitude setting to produce arguably the best Tempranillo of the whole of Rioja region. Couple that with more than 100 years old vineyards, and you are looking at some tasty opportunities in the bottle, as this Bodega Classica Hacienda López de Haro Rioja Reserva was. Here are my notes:

2013 Bodega Classica Hacienda López de Haro Rioja Reserva DOCa (13.5% ABV, $16.99, 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha, 5% Graciano, 20 months in French and American oak)
Dark garnet color
Pepper, vanilla, raspberries, mushrooms, nice minerality
Medium body, good acidity, noticeable alcohol burn initially, went away in about 15 minutes, good fruit showed up, characteristic cedar notes, good acidity, round, soft.
8-, nice, just give it a bit of time to soften up at the beginning. The second day continued without changes. Good life expectancy, as expected of Rioja Reserva. And an excellent QPR.

Now, let’s go back to Toro. As I already said, in my prior experience, Toro wines were massive and concentrated, requiring long aging to soften and really show a beautiful expression of Tempranillo. And then there were wines called Matsu.

Bodega Matsu wines

Matsu in means “wait” in Japanese. As we all know, waiting is one of the favorite games of oenophiles. When it comes to the three Matsu wines I had an opportunity to taste, there are many different levels of “waiting”. The wines had been progressively aged for the longer times before the release – 3 months for El Picaro, 14 months for El Recio, 16 months for El Viejo. The grapes were harvested from the vines of different age (again, progressively) – 50-70 years old for El Picaro, 90-100 years old for El Recio, more than 100 years old for El Viejo. See, waiting here is clearly a part of the equation.

And then there are those ultra-creative labels. Not only labels commemorate people who actually worked to create the wines, they clearly identify what you should expect from the wines – in age, in style, and even in price. I conducted a little experiment, first with my kids, and then with the people on Instagram, asking them to identify the most expensive wine – nobody made a mistake, the labels speak very clearly to us.

How were the wines? Surprising. Probably the best Toro wines I ever had – without any regard to the pricing category. Here are my notes, so you can see for yourself:

2016 Bodega Matsu El Picaro Toro DO (14.5% ABV, $13.99, 100% Tinta de Toro, 50 – 70 years old vines, 3 months minimum aging on the lees, concrete tanks)
Bright ruby color, noticeable legs, minimal rim variation
Young fresh berries, medium+ intensity, a touch of vanilla
Surprisingly light on the palate, pleasant tannins, fresh berries, very quaffable.
8-, might be the lightest rendition of Toro I ever had. The smell is a bit more complex on the second day. Palate nicely evolved, good balance, raspberries, no more impression of the young wine, lots of minerality.

2015 Bodega Matsu El Recio Toro DO (14.5% ABV, $21.99, 100% Tinta de Toro, 90 – 100 years old vines, 14 months aging in second use oak barrels)
Garnet color, noticeable legs, minimal rim variation too
Sage, fresh raspberries, quite fruity, roasted notes, minerality, distant hint of cinnamon
Underripe plums, blueberries, thyme, nice herbal component, surprisingly light, still noticeable alcohol, needs more time
8-, needs time. Second day: 8/8+, velvety texture, well integrated, excellent balance, a touch of tobacco and espresso on the palate and ripe plums. Outstanding.

2015 Bodega Matsu El Viejo Toro DO (15% ABV, $46.99, 100% Tinta de Toro, 100+ years old vines, 16 months in new French oak barrels)
Garnet Color, noticeable legs, rim variation is not extensive, but present
Sweet blueberries and raspberries on the nose, sage, sweet oak
8- first day, waiting for more.
Second day: 8, much evolved, more integrated, velvety texture, dark fruit, round, smooth. Will evolve further.

Here you are, my friends – the Art of Wine, from the label to the glass. Very impressive and thought-provoking wines, definitely worth seeking. Have you had any of these wines? Have you had Toro wines before? Do you have any Tempranillo favorites? Cheers!

Behind The Label

September 18, 2017 13 comments

We eat with our eyes first – everybody knows that. We drink in exactly same way. While looking for the wine to buy, we always start from the label. Of course, sometimes we might be looking just for the specific producer’s name – but way more often than not, wine consumer is lured by the appearance of the bottle before anything else. We let the bottle speak to us.

Wine producers always knew the effect of the bottle appearance, and always tried to design attractive and appealing labels – think about Château Mouton Rothschild, for example, which started their “Artist” wine label series back in 1945. 20-25 years ago, the design, and most importantly, production capabilities were limited both in style and the cost. But not today- there are literally no limits to how creative the wine bottle design can get in today’s world. It is hard to tell what exactly makes the wine label instantly attractive, but we all can recognize that special label when we see it. I shared my fascination with the creativity of the wine labels on the multiple occasions in this blog – here is one example for you.

You don’t have to agree with me, but I see creative wine labels as objects of art. Art at large is a form of the human expression. Art takes lots and lots of different forms – beautiful building, successful surgery, a sublime glass of wine, a flower, a painting. I’m sure there are countless studies written on the subject, and I will not even try for the slightest bit to delve into it, but I’m convinced that art as a final expression always has its source, the origin, it is inspired – and this leads to the fundamental question – what inspires the art? I will leave you to ponder at that, and meanwhile, let me turn our conversation towards the … wine, of course.

Vilarnau Barcelona Cava When I saw the label of Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé, my first reaction was “wow, this is a beautiful bottle”. The next question was – what does it mean? Yes, I read the description connecting Vilarnau Trencadís Edition cavas to the work of famous architect Antoni Gaudí, but I still wanted to understand the true inspiration behind this label. I reached out to the winery, and asked a few questions – here is our short conversation:

[TaV]: Vilarnau produces Cava since 1949. When Trencadís labels were used on Vilarnau Cava for the first time?
[V]: We launched the Trencadis labels at the end of 2014.

[TaV]: What was the inspiration behind the Trencadís labels?
[V]: This form of mosaic is very famous in Catalunya, Spain. Inspired by the Park Guëll in Barcelona and the famous artist Gaudí. Vilarnau is the “Barcelona Cava” and we felt it was fitting to use such an iconic design to decorate the bottles.
Trencadís’ is a type of mosaic used in Catalan modernism, created from broken tile shards. The technique is also called ‘pique assiette’. The mosaic is done using broken pieces of ceramic, like tiles and dinnerware. The Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Pujol used trencadís in many projects, among which Barcelona’s Parc Güell is probably the most famous. Vilarnau being so close to Barcelona (not only geographically, but also with heart and soul), it was natural to pick up this typical artistic theme for our winery.

[TaV]: Are the Trencadís Cava target the specific market, or do they sell equally well world-wide?
[V:]: We are currently exporting this label to almost 30 markets (principle markets being the USA, UK, Germany, and Belgium) and the number is growing as consumers love the design and the wine.

[TaV]: Do you have plans to add any new wines to the Trencadís series?
[V]: When we first launched we only had the Brut Reserva NV in the trencadis design but we have added the Rosado Reserva to the range two years and the Brut Nature Vintage and Demi-Sec last year

[TaV]; Do you have plans for any other “creative label” designs under Vilarnau name?
[V]: Barcelona is a constant inspiration to us and we are full of ideas, however, we have so much to do with the Trencadis design that we probably won’t launch anything new for the next 2 years or so.

Vilarnau Barcelona Cava glasses

The beautiful label is very important, it sets the expectations and makes you anticipate more from the wine. But – the content of the bottle is better to support the beauty of the label, or the joy of wine drinking will quickly dissipate.

I’m happy to say that the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Trencadís Edition Rosé D.O. Cava (12% ABV, SRP: $15, 90% Trepat and 10% Pinot Noir, 15+ month in the bottle) didn’t disappoint. Beautiful intense pink color, classic Sparkling nose, with a touch of yeast and toasted bread on the nose, supported by fresh tart strawberries and lemon notes on the palate, crisp, succulent and invigorating. A perfect sparkling wine by itself, and at a price – almost an unbeatable value. (Drinkability: 8-/8).

What do you think of Art of the [wine] Labels? Do you have some favorites? Cheers!

[Weekly] Wine Quiz #119: How Well Do You Know Your Wines?

January 7, 2017 12 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

“Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!” – this was an opening phrase of this long-running feature on the blog – but yes, it had been more than a year since the last quiz post here.

Well, definitely welcome to the weekend, and an occasional wine quiz I managed to put together for you – this wine quizzes used to come out every Saturday, on the various wine-related subjects.

Today’s quiz is on the subject of the wine bottle tops – foils, or sometimes simply the corks themselves. I know, the bottle’s top is rarely something most of us pay attention to. Meanwhile, in a lot of cases, the picture or letters on the top are meaningful and allow you to identify at least the winery, even if the name is not spelled out. So below are the pictures of 6 of such bottle tops – please see what you can derive out of them.

Here we go:

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  5. img_4545
  6. img_4556

As this quiz is hard enough, I can offer you a small hint – the wines here represent Spain, the US, Australia, and Chile.

Please place your answers into the comments section. Remember – you have nothing to lose, and by playing, you can obtain cool bragging rights. The answer will be provided next Saturday – I have enough bottle tops prepared to play another round 🙂

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

The answer to this quiz can be found here.

The Post Which Could Have Many Names

May 29, 2016 8 comments

Blog post title is something I consider to be important, may be even essential. Good title facilitates the flow of thoughts and actually, once I get a title in and I’m happy with it, the writing usually flows effortlessly.

The post you are reading could’ve have many different titles, such as “More Creative Wine Labels”, “City Winery with Worldly Wines”, “Secret Wine Santa Over-delivers”, “Art in and of the Wine Labels”, or “Better Late Than Never” and I’m sure I would be able to come up with a few more – hence the title you see at the top. As for all of these possible titles – read on and you will figure it out.

As some of you know, there is a game of Secret Wine Santa, originated by Jeff a.k.a The Drunken Cyclist – here is Jeff’s post about it from the last year. The game, of course, is played closer to the actual Santa-related period. All participants get assigned a random recipient, who then gets from the secret Wine Santa one or two bottles of wine, preferably arriving before Thanksgiving. If you think that I have a nerve talking about Wine Santa when the temperatures on the East Coast are trailing above 90°F – well, may be I do. But I have an excuse – I always wanted to play this game twice a year, but shipping wine during summer is not good for the wine, so much for that thought – but then at least I get to talk about it (no, I didn’t plan it like that – life did).

Of course the Santa stays secret only until the wine arrives. When I opened the box, I found a nice handwritten note from Nancy Koziol, introducing me to the two absolutely gorgeous looking bottles from the winery I never heard of, called Brooklyn Oenology:

Brooklyn Oenology

Going beyond the beautiful labels, it turned out that the wines are produced by Brooklyn Oenology, the first urban winery in the New York City – they have a tasting room open in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, so technically right in my backyard (still never visited them so far). Brooklyn Oenology, or BOE for short, sources their grapes from around the New York state (as you can see below in the wine descriptions) and in the future they even plan to bring actual winemaking facilities into Brooklyn.

Now, talking about the labels – not only they are beautiful, but to top that off, BOE really thought of the people like myself, who spend countless hours trying to neatly peal off the labels from the bottles for the notes journals. These labels are peel off labels – how smart is that! I can’t help it not to share this paragraph from the About page on the BOE web site:

“In addition to sourcing New York grapes, BOE draws upon the Brooklyn and greater New York areas to create its identity. Each wine’s label showcases contemporary art by a Brooklyn artist and features a new piece of work for each vintage. They’re not just for viewing; they are double-layer, easy-to-peel stickers, so the customer can preserve the artwork”.

What is most important, that these wines are not just labels – they are first and foremost, unique, different and delicious wines.

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For what it worth, here are my notes:

2012 Brooklyn Oenology Gewürztraminer Finger lakes, New York (12.8% ABV, 100% Gewurztraminer, fermented with skin and seeds)
C: concentrated gold, the wine is made with the “orange wine” methodology
N: concentrated honeyed fruit initially, but then quite closed, not perfumy at all, which is usually a trait of Gewürztraminer
P: very unusual, more of a qvevri style, clean acidity, very restrained, but opens up to some nice finish with touch of fruit.
V: 8-, very thought provoking, interesting wine

2010 Brooklyn Oenology Motley Cru North Fork of Long Island, New York (13.5% ABV, 57% Merlot, 19% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon)
C: dark garnet
N: warm, inviting, ripe sweet fruit, blueberries
P: medium to full body, soft, round, fresh fruit, touch of pepper, violet, clean acidity, excellent balance, long lingering finish. On the third day the wine became even more polished. Delicious.
V: 8, an excellent bottle of wine, good for all occasions.

Here is the story of [yet again] boundless creativity and passion in the world of wine. Thank you wine Santa for this wonderful discovery – and I already can’t wait to see what next November might bring. Cheers!

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