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Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC6 Results, WTSO Marathon Next Week, Champagne in Numbers

January 22, 2014 3 comments

Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #89, grape trivia – Dolcetto. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about the red grape from Piedmont called Dolcetto. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Except the “sweet little one”, what is the other possible explanation to the name of the Dolcetto grape?

A1: Dolcetto is likely named after the hilltops where the grape is growing (“duset” in Piedmont dialect).

Q2: Sort these Piedmontese  grapes in the order of time of ripening, from earlier to the later: Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Nebbiolo

A2: Typically, Dolcetto ripens two weeks earlier than Barbera, and Barbera ripens two weeks earlier than Nebbiolo. Freisa ripens a bit earlier or about at the same time as Nebbiolo. Thus correct answer is Dolcetto – Barbera – Freisa – Nebbiolo (the last two can be also swapped in place).

Q3: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Dolcetto-based wines rated in the Classic category

A3: True. The highest rated Dolcetto wine is only has a 93 rating, thus there are no Dolcetto wines in the Classic category.

Q4: One of the North American grapes for the long time was assumed to be identical to Dolcetto ( until recent DNA tests proved it wrong). Do you what grape was that?

a. Chambourcin, b. Charbono, c. Marechal Foch, d. St. Croix

A4: It was actually a Charbono grape which was erroneously assumed to be Dolcetto.

Q5: What is the suggested serving temperature for Dolcetto wines?

a. 65ºF to 75ºF, b.  60ºF to 65ºF, c. 50ºF to 60ºF, d. 45ºF to 50ºF

A5: The answer here of course is not universal, as the serving temperature should be rather linked to the style of wine – light style Burgundy will command different serving temperature comparing to the full bodied Pinot Noir from California. However, on average, Dolcetto wines are considered to be light-bodied, or lighter style reds, which are generally recommended to be served slightly chilled, at under 60ºF. Thus correct answer is c, 50ºF to 60ºF.

This time around we don’t have a winner, unfortunately. Yes, I understand that the grapes are getting a bit more obscure, but hey – they are still no too obscure for Google! I can give you a hint for what to expect in this grape trivia series – we still have quite a few interesting grapes to talk about, so you should expect to see here Pinotage, Tannat, Montepucliano, Bonarda, Viura, Gruner Veltliner and others. See, now you have a head start!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First, the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge  #6 with the theme of “Mystery”, hosted by Jeff a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist, has its winner! Alissa of SAHMMelier is the new queen of the MWWC! Here is the link to her winning post, in case you didn’t read it yet. Alissa is now working on the announcement of the new theme, which will be … spoiler alert? nope, you will have to wait for it to appear in Alissa’s blog.

I’m repeating here my note from the last week. Wine Til Sold Out, better known as WTSO, is conducting their Cheapskate Marathon next Tuesday, January 28th, starting 6 AM Eastern – be there ( in front of your computer), or risk missing out on the great wine deals. The Marathon will be conducted with the usual rules: all the wines are priced in $7.99 to $18.99 range, no e-mail announcements, all new wines are announced on twitter and only on twitter, new wines are offered every 15 minutes or sooner if the previous wine is sold out, free shipping for the quantities of 4 and up of the same wines. Happy hunting!

Last interesting item I want to bring to your attention is a few numbers about the sales of Champagne. It looks like the sales of Champagne worldwide are down for the second year in the row – there were 5 million bottles less sold in 2013 compare to 2012, and 2012 had even bigger slump comparing with 2011. Here is the link to the article in The Drinks Business which contains a lot more of the detailed numbers, including statistics by the different countries.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, #MWWC6 Vote, WTSO Marathon, Shoe as a Corkscrew

January 15, 2014 8 comments

Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #88, What Is It? In the quiz, you were given a picture with wine (alcohol) related object, and you were supposed to explain what this object is for and how it is supposed to be used.

Below is the quiz picture with two additional pictures, which together should give you a good idea of what and how:

This tiny hammer is packaged with every bottle of Beluga Vodka Gold Line – hammer is intended to be used to break the wax seal on top of the bottle and brush should be used to clean up all the small pieces of wax.

This quiz had a number of comments with the answer, but pretty much for the first time I remember running these quizzes, many people referred to one of the previous answers as a correct one, instead of providing their own answer. This creates an interesting challenge in announcing the winner. Nevertheless, the winners of this quiz are Misha and Emil, and Patty of Bota and The Beast, Julian of VinoInLove, Trace Lee Karner and Suzanne of apuginthekitchen are all getting a “supporting winner” title. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First, the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge  #6 with the theme of “Mystery”, hosted by Jeff a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist, has concluded with the record number of participants (25). Now it is time to vote for your favorite post (actually, you can vote for up to three) – for all rules and regulations please refer to Jeff’s post here.

WTSO is doing it again! Mark your calendars – Tuesday, January 28th, starting 6 AM Eastern – you better be glued to your computer, or you are risking to miss out on hundreds of great deals! WTSO marathon (a Cheapskate Marathon) will be taking place with all the usual rules: all the wines are priced in $7.99 to $18.99, no e-mail announcements, all new wines are announced on twitter and only on twitter, new wines are offered every 15 minutes or sooner if the previous wine is sold out. Happy hunting!

Last interesting item I want to bring to your attention is a video about using the shoe as a wine opener in the crisis – okay, not really a crisis, but if you have a bottle of wine, and you want to drink it, your date is getting impatient – and there is no corkscrew in site – does that constitute a crisis in your book? Well, shoe is to the rescue! You can read about using the shoe as a bottle opener in the Dr. Vino’s blog, where he also offers a collection of cork screw errr shoe-opener videos – here is the link.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

 

 

Mystery of Wine

January 12, 2014 20 comments

MWWC_logo“Mystery” is a theme of the sixth round of the Monthly Wine Writing Competition, as selected by the originator of the series and winner of the previous round, The Drunken Cyclist.

Wine is a strange thing. If you think about it rationally, wine is just a fermented grape juice. This is where the mystery starts – how come this fermented grape juice became so important that it even made it into the Bible? How was this fermented grape juice discovered for the first time? How did it happened that this fermented grape juice became an object of study, worship, love, hate, desire, crime, greed, excitement, awe, horror, passion (continue the list on your own)? How come this fermented grape juice is such a facilitator of emotion? These are the mysteries of the wine, the fermented grape juice, and these mysteries are countless.

The subject of wine is vast, it allows all of us, people who are “into the wine” – oenophiles, aficionados, snobs, buffs, casual wine drinkers – whatever designation speaks to you – to ponder at all the different sides of all “things wine”, to find our own mysteries. Starting from the growing of the grapes, harvesting them, making the wine and getting it into the bottle, the mysteries are abound every step of the way. Once the  wine goes into the bottle, this is when the actual “wine’s life” begins – of course,  with its own set of mysteries, one of the biggest of which is a simple question: when to drink this wine?

The wine in the bottle is a living thing. It is changing all the time. It has its ups and downs, lows and highs. We have no way of knowing if the wine is at its”peak” until we open the bottle. Once the bottle is opened, there is no way of putting the wine back if we think we didn’t hit it right. Anyone who ever experienced the wine at its peak will tell you that you get an uncounted amount of pleasure from each and every sip. The moment we take on the opening of the bottle is a decision moment to solve that mystery – is this wine ready to give us tremendous joy – or not. Open the bottle too soon, when the wine is too young – and you don’t know what did you miss, what this wine could’ve become if you would only give it another 2, 5 or 10 years. Open the bottle too late, and you have so many regrets that you will never find out how great this wine was at its peak. Either way, the mystery will remain a mystery. Yes, you can listen to the experts about “wine drinking window”. You can solicit the opinion of your family, your friends, the bloggers and wine writers of all walks. You will build your own expertize. But every time with the bottle in one hand and the corkscrew in another, the mystery will be unsettling, until that corks is pulled and the wine will be going into the glass. And your hits and misses are unavoidable. You will go from “wow!” to “I can’t believe THIS WINE tastes likes this, what happened?”.

Every time I’m opening the bottle of wine, I’m experiencing the thrill of solving the mystery. Same as everybody else, I’m influenced by the label, by what I read about the wine, by the opinion of the others, by my prior experience. But those are only expectations – and those should be managed. Better yet, the expectations should be ignored. To solve the mystery, the cork must be pulled. And then… The best one is when you simply say “wow, this is amazing!”. Even then, is that the end of the mystery, you think? Quite often, this is not. As the true mystery will remain forever, unsolved, expressed by the two words: “how come?!”.

Need an example? I have one for you. Here is my mystery case in point:

Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin

Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin Red Wine, Columbia Valley (13.9% ABV). It was one of my most favorite wines ever. I don’t remember the exact price, but I’m sure it was under $15, most likely even under $12 – I used to by this wine by the case. It was my favorite go to wine to share with the guests. Beautiful dark clean fruit, medium to full body, good firm tannins, balancing acidity – this was a pleasure in the glass. I was so disappointed when I was told ( I think some time in 2009, I might be off on that) – “you are buying the last bottles”. What? Why? The wine was only made for two years, 2004 and 2005 – and that was the end of it.

Okay, but I still had a few bottles in my wine fridge. And I remember to happily taking one of the bottles of 2004 Orphelin for a great occasion – Wine Century Club dinner, I believe in May of 2010. Those Wine Century Club dinners were arranged to take place all over the world on the same day, and we (Wine Centurions) were in competition with ourselves, trying to taste more unique and different grapes than we tasted last time. Thus my reason to bring this wine was two fold – yes, it was one of my favorites, but  – it also packed in one bottle a very impressive line up of grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Souzao and Touriga – yeah, that’s what we call “the bang for the buck”.

So the cork was pulled, the wine was poured, the first sip is taken – and yes, my first thought, amplified by the facial expressions of the people around me, was “what happened”? The wine, instead of being great and energetic, was clearly past prime – a bit of the cooked fruit flavors, weak acidity, only the hint of the old greatness. How was that possible?  The bottle was stored in the wine fridge all the time, and only recently it had being fresh and great. Yes, I heard that such a complex blends don’t age too well – but this was a great wine, how come?

Fast forward to December 2013. While going through the wine fridge, looking for the bottle to open (I love the fact that I have no system of storing the wines whatsoever – that allows me to extend the pleasure of touching many bottles in the search of one), I saw all of a sudden the familiar squares. Ha, what is that? I pulled the bottle of 2005 Orphelin. Ahh yes, now I recall – I also have a bottle of 2004 somewhere. Okay, fine, let’s free some space – let’s open the 2005. It probably will be “meh”, but okay. And it was … not! Had enough dark fruit both on the nose and the palate, not a sign of aging, supple tannins and robust acidity – definitely a pleasure to drink.

After the success of 2005, my thought was – so what is happening with 2004? How is that going to fare now? Will we be in for a treat or a bust?

Bottle found, cork is pulled, 2004 Orphelin pours into a glass. Dark ruby color, not a sign of age. The nose – perfectly fresh dark fruit, blackberries with a touch of plums. Palate – dense, firm, weaved together by the dark fruit and balancing acidity – clearly a perfect wine, at its peak – and I have no idea for long this peak will last.

Well, the duration of the peak is not that important anymore, as it was my last bottle. What happened with that wine back in 2010? What is a fluke, the bad bottle? Or was I super-lucky with my last bottle, which was not supposed to last that long,  and it was just a pure luck, one out of a thousand? This will remain a mystery, which will never be solved. But I guess this is for the better. Every time, when pulling the cork, we are faced with the mystery – which we don’t need to solve. We only need to enjoy it. Let’s drink to the mysteries of our lives. Cheers!

 

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine Crimes, #MWWC6 Last Chance, Wine Books, New World’s Most Planted Grape

January 8, 2014 4 comments

Meritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #87, how well do you know your wines.

In the quiz, you were supposed to identify 8 different wines/wineries using the pictures of the top foils of the bottles. Here are the answers:

1. White Cottage Ranch, a winery in Napa Valley (looks like it might be closed now  😦 )

2. Burgess Cellars – winery in Napa Valley, making great Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other wines

3. St. Francis – winery in Sonoma, producing wonderful Zinfandel and other wines

4. Lopez de Heredia, one of the classic Rioja producers from Spain

5. Talullah, a boutique winery in Napa

6. No Girls, an extremely limited production of Syrah and Grenache from Walla Walla Valley

7. Jordan, great producer from Sonoma, probably best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonus: Casa Burmester, a boutique Port producer from Portugal, also making wonderful dry wines

And here are the same pictures, only now you can see what is what:

As I said many times before, this was a very tough quiz – people generally don’t pay attention to the bottle tops. In this round, Zak correctly identified 6 wines out of 8 ( including the bonus), so he is the winner of this quiz and he gets the distinguished prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

As wine keeps growing in popularity, it becomes the subject of crime with much higher frequency. An excellent article from Mike Veseth at Wine Economist is talking about some of the latest wine crimes, where wine was stolen in a very sophisticated fashion. I like the “CSI Fine Wine” designation used for the article – definitely an interesting story to read.

Have you written about the wine mysteries in your life? Mystery is a theme for Monthly Wine Writing Competition #6, hosted by Jeff, a.k.a The Drunken Cyclist. The submission deadline is Monday, January 13th. You can read about all the rules in this post – but don’t delay, there are only few days left!

Do you like wine books? I personally do, but I don’t read them nearly enough – I read more blogs than the books lately. Nevertheless, here is an excellent list from W. Blake Gray, where he is talking about 9 of the latest wine books, all sounding very intriguing and worth reading, like “The Billionaire Vinegar”, which had been on my radar for a while. Did you read any of the books in the list? What do you think?

Last but not least – some wine numbers, for all of you, number junkies out there. The Drinks Business publication just published a very interesting article regarding the most planted grapes in the world. It appears that the most planted grape in the world as of now is nothing less than… (cue drum roll) … Cabernet Sauvignon! And hated/loved Merlot now is a close second – quite a change from Airen and Grenache being in the lead for a while. For more of the interesting interesting data, here is your link to the original article.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, WTSO Magnum Marathon, Globalization!, #MWWC6 and more

December 11, 2013 9 comments

Barbera DamilanoMeritage time!

First, let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #84, grape trivia – Barbera.

In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about red grape called Barbera. Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Based on the latest DNA analysis, which well known Spanish grape appears to be a close relative of Barbera?

A1: Spanish grape Monastrell (known in France as Mourvèdre) appears to be a close relative of Barbera (but ohh so different).

Q2: What well-known grape became popular blending partner of Barbera as of late?

A2: As of late, Nebbiolo, a close neighbor of Barbera, is often used in the blends with Barbera to round up the resulting wine.

Q3: The new technique was introduced in making the wines out of Barbera in the second half of the 20th century, which helped to improved the quality of the wines. Which one do you think it was:

a. Malolactic fermentation, b. Fermentation and aging in the small oak casks, c. Carbonic maceration, d. Reverse osmosis

A3: b, Fermentation and aging in the small oak casks, seems to be the preferred method to tame the acidity and add some tannins to the resulting wine, making it also age-worthy.

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Barbera-based wines rated in the Classic category

A4: False. But I have to admit that Barbera is only marginally there, with just 2 wines having 95 rating.

Q5: Fill in the blanks: Barbera typically ripens two weeks later than _____, but at the same time it is two weeks earlier than ____.

A5: Barbera typically ripens two weeks later than Dolcetto, but at the same time it is two weeks earlier than Nebbiolo.

Talking about the results, Jeff, a.k.a. the drunken cyclist, answered all 5 questions correctly so he gets (again) the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done! I also would like to mention Alissa, who put the quiz upside down and instead of answering the questions in the quiz, asked me a very interesting question. As a “bonus question”, I would like to pass it on to you: “Outside of Asti is a place which pays homage to a man who helped with the unification of Italy, commercialization of Italy’s wine industry, and houses the first regional enoteca in the Piedmont region. Name it.” If you know the answer, don’t be shy and comment away!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First, don’t miss the WTSO Magnum Marathon tomorrow, December 12. Starting at 8 AM Eastern time, WTSO will be offering large format wines, at least 1.5L or more in size. The wines will be priced from $24.99 to $499.99/bottle, and the new wines will be offered every 30 minutes or sooner, if the previous wine will sold out. The new wines will be announced only on Twitter, follow @WTSO so you will not miss out.

Next, I came across a very interesting article by Mike Veseth of The Wine Economist fame, talking about Globalization of wine and food. Actually, his article in itself is already an aggregation of a number of other articles. It is definitely worth a few minutes of your time, so please head to Mike’s blog to read it.

Now, it appears that The Drunken Cyclist is definitely a star of today’s Meritage. In addition to correctly solving the quiz, he is behind two noteworthy events. First, as a winner of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #5 (#MWWC5) – Congratulations, Jeff! – he announced the theme for #MWWC6, which is going to be … Mystery. Sharpen your pencils, or may be flex your fingers, get your thinking cap/hat/fedora on and start writing. #MWWC6 Rules and regulations can be found here.

Second event is also a brainchild of TDC, and it is a secret Wine Santa project. The idea is to get all the bloggers (and readers) who is interested in playing a secret wine Santa by sending the wine to the completely unsuspecting recipient (and of course also getting the one him- or herself) to provide their address information back to Jeff, who will then randomly assign the aspiring alcoholics in pairs. All the rules can be found here, and if you are interested in participation, make sure to get back to Jeff not later than this coming Friday 12/13.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but refill is on its way. Until the next time – cheers!

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