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2 Regions, 3 Glasses, 1 Wine Geek

May 28, 2022 Leave a comment

The assignment was simple. Compare 6 Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 2 famous winemaking regions in Chile. Find differences. decide on a favorite.

As with any assignment, let’s start with the theory.

Cabernet Sauvignon is unquestionably a king of Chilean wines – it is the best-known Chilean wine worldwide and it is the most widely planted red grape variety in Chile. It accounts for about 20%+ of all vineyard plantings in Chile, covering an area of about 99,000 acres, stretching through the entire country from north to south. At the same time, 97% of the Cabernet Sauvignon plantings are located in the Central Valley, spread between O’Higgins, Maule, and Metropolitan Region.

Narrowing it down to the wine-producing DOs, we are looking at the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley, two of the best-known Cabernet Sauvignon areas in Chile. These are also the two regions that are the subject of our assignment.

Maipo Valley is one of the oldest winemaking regions in Chile, with its terroir shaped by the Maipo River, which begins at the Maipo volcano, creating a patchwork of valleys at the elevation of 2,500 feet above sea level. Some of the areas in Maipo Valley see a minimal number of sunny days required for the red grapes to fully ripen, with a climate somewhat similar to Bordeaux.

Colchagua Valley lies about 80 miles south of the city of Santiago. Parts of the valley are crisscrossed by the Tinguinirica River, taking its roots from the volcano crater in the Andes, and descending from about 2,000 feet to the 360 feet of elevation above sea level. Colchagua Valley generally offers much warmer daily temperatures compared to the Maipo Valley.

Here are some of the views of the beautiful regions:



I’m purposefully avoiding descending into the discussion about the different soil types throughout both regions but of course, alluvial soils, colluvial soils, gravel, clay are all intermixed around both regions. I don’t believe I can intelligently speak to the effect of a given soil type as it comes to the resulting taste profile of the wine, but our main difference between the wines from the two regions should be driven by the warmer versus cooler climate and some differences in the elevation.

I hope this is enough of the theory and it is time to get to practice – the lab portion of our assignment.

This is where the inner geek came out guns blazing – and this is where everything all of a sudden became muddy and complicated.

I decided that the challenge of comparing the 6 wines is insufficient, and to make things more fun, I decided to was possessed to try each wine from three different glasses: Glass 1- Riedel Universal tasting glass (this is the one typically offered at all of the wine tastings), Glass 2 – Chef & Sommelier Open’Up glass, one of most aesthetically pleasing glasses for the daily drinking, and Glass 3 – Riedel Radical Cabernet glass (my favorite glass for the Bordeaux varieties).

The wines I tasted all come from well-known producers. I was familiar with some prior to this tasting (Los Vascos, TerraNoble, Maquis) and I had a lot of Los Vascos and TerraNoble Cabernet wines in the past. Regardless, this was quite a respectful selection of the wines, expectedly illustrative to represent the two regions. Three of the wines were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3 had Cabernet Sauvignon as a dominant component.

To explain in more detail what I did: on the first day, I poured each one of the 6 wines into the 3 glasses – non-blind, one by one. I then tasted each wine from those 3 glasses – you will see the notes below, describing my perception of the same wine in each of the 3 glasses. The glasses had their effect, even though Radical Cab and Open’Up glasses offered mostly similar experiences. Open’Up glass required the bottom section to be sufficiently filled or the nose of the wine was becoming lost. All of the second and third day tastings were done only using the Universal tasting glass. Below you can see all of the tasting notes, from which it is very easy to conclude that I was unable to come to any meaningful conclusions and find any meaningful, region-conforming differences between the wines.

Here we go:

Team Maipo Valley:

2017 Lázuli Cabernet Sauvignon Valle del Maipo (14.5 ABV, $45, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Garnet

Glass 1: dark fruit, concentrated, iodine, forest underbrush, pyrazine
Interesting. Quite restrained. Not a lot going on.

Glass 2: much less expressive, just a hint of pyrazine
It is showing better. No idea how. Crunchy berry, soft tannins, still not very expressive

Glass 3: dark fruit, more focused than glass 1, a hint of bell pepper
Similar to glass 2. Dark fruit, baking spices, lots of minerality. Not very much Caberneish if you ask me.

Day 2: not good

Day 3: Fruit showed up. Fresh berries and eucalyptus. Is this a Cab? Not sure. Is it drinkable? Sure, on the third day.

2018 Miguel Torres Cordillera Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Especial de Les Andes Valle de Maipo (14% ABV, $20, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Concentrated ruby with bright hues

Glass 1: very similar presentation to the first wine. Dark fruit, a hint of bell pepper, very distant hint, a touch of eucalyptus.
Definitely a Cabernet profile, more explicit than the previous wine. Eucalyptus, cassis, bell pepper practically non-existent.

Glass 2: this glass requires much higher pour to get to the aromatics.
The wine appears more refined and elegant on the nose than glass 1, more focused on eucalyptus and cassis.
Delicious, earthy cab. Good acidity, cassis, earthy and restrained.

Glass 3: interesting. Almost gets to the barnyard space. Definitely more earthy than glass 2.
The best experience. Dark fruit, cassis, pencil shavings, crisp tart finish.

Day 2: good

Day 3: excellent. Dark fruit, eucalyptus. Round tannins, good structure, dark and supple.

2016 Echeverría Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition Maipo Valley (14% ABV, $25, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 5% Carménère)
Dark Garnet

Glass 1: very concentrated. Dark fruit, sapidity, earthiness, a hint of eucalyptus. Interestingly enough, all 3 wines so far are really similar.
The nice initial appearance of the fruit is instantly replaced by tannins. Serious French Oak tannins, front of the mouth is locked.

Glass 2: a much more elegant appearance than Glass 1. A hint of eucalyptus and bell pepper.
Fruitier than the previous 2 wines, nice load of dark berries, and then it is all tannins. Again, the wine appears to be more elegant.

Glass 3: similarly elegant to glass 2. Eucalyptus, bell pepper, and a touch of black pepper.
Berries, eucalyptus, and tannins. Should be outstanding with the steak.

Day 2: Excellent

Day 3: very good, open fruit – but not very much of the cab? I liked it more on the day 2

Overall notes: all 3 wines are very similar on the nose, showing differently on the palate. Earthy, concentrated wines. All need time to open.

Now, team Colchagua Valley:

2018 Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley (14% ABV, $20, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Carmenere, 1% Petit Verdot)
Garnet

Glass 1: bright and clean aromatics, cassis, eucalyptus, a hint of bell pepper
Plums, a touch of cherries, not a textbook Cabernet Sauvignon

Glass 2: interesting. Volcanic undertones, gunflint, almost a hint of sulfur, fresh crisp berries
Better showing, brighter fruit, some bitter undertones appeared (whole cluster?)

Glass 3: somewhat similar to the glass 2, but a bit more restrained
Amazing how much glass matters. This is almost at the expected level of Cabernet Sauvignon – a hint of cassis, mint. Still very restrained.

I’m so confused that I had to wash the glass.

Re-taste: it is not bad, but didn’t make a difference. Still, dry restrained, with some bitter notes on the finish.

Day 2: tight and closed

Day 3: definitely better. Bitter notes are gone. But the whole presentation is plum/cherry, not so much of the Cab Sauvignon

2018 Los Vascos Cromas Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley (14.5% ABV, $22, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 5% Carmenere)
Concentrated ruby

Glass 1: dark berries, a hint of cassis, vanilla, bell pepper might be a product of my imagination
Delicious. Fresh, open, clean, dark berries, cassis, bell pepper, eucalyptus. A pretty classic cab if you ask me. Best of tasting so far.

Glass 2: Cassis and mint, medium intensity
Delicious. Very similar to glass 1, somehow with a bit more intensity of the flavors.

Glass 3: very restrained, cassis, bell pepper, a touch of tobacco
Delicious. Exactly as two previous glasses. Happy to drink every day.

Day 2: not good. Tight, closed.

Day 3: lots of tobacco and smoke on the nose. Dark fruit, borderline bitter. I don’t get this wine

2018 TerraNoble Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Valle de Colchagua (14% ABV, $20, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Garnet color

Glass 1: dark berries, eucalyptus
Delicious. Open, bright, good acidity, ripe fruit, not necessarily a textbook cab, but fresh and delicious.

Glass 2: dark berries, sapidity, earthy, a hint of bell pepper
Fresh, delicious, crisp berries, a touch of cherries, a bit of dark chocolate.

Glass 3: a hint of bell pepper, dark fruit, earthy
Bright, open, good structure of tannins. A cab? Maybe…

Day 2: good

Day 3: beautiful, supple, good tannins, good structure, open fruit, good finish.

On the day 2, my preferences were with these three wines:

And then there were two. On the third day, I had two wines as my favorites – and they represented two regions.

For the final decision – Torres versus TerraNoble.

Wine geek at work

Nose: advantage Torres – dark chocolate, a hint of bell pepper. TerraNoble mostly closed

Palate: slight advantage Torres – better structure and better precision. Dark and concentrated. Will continue improving.

The winner: 2018 Miguel Torres Cordillera Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Especial de Les Andes Valle de Maipo

So we can conclude that Maipo Valley won this strange competition, at least with a margin of error.

The assignment is complete. So what did we learn?

  1. Don’t play with your glasses, unless this is actually a goal of your exercise. Wine glasses matter and wine glasses can will confuse you.
  2. Hey, wine glass matters.
  3. I probably should’ve done the blind tasting instead
  4. Chilean Cabs need time. Practically all showed better on the second day.
  5. I was unable to find the real differences between Colchagua and Maipo wines

Oh well. Play with your wine. Have fun. One way or the other, experience is still an experience, and as long as you desire, there is always something to learn.

Do you have a favorite Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Care to share? Cheers!

Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 2

December 11, 2014 7 comments

Happy HolidaysHere we go again – as promised, a continuation of our Wine Gift Guide (here is the link for the first part, where we were talking specifically about wine as a gift). Please remember our guiding principals – practical and pragmatic. Know what your gift recipient needs or wants. Measure it up for yourself – would you be happy getting the same exact gift. Spend the money as you would for yourself, not as you would think you have to spend to look good.

The theme of today’s installment of the Wine Gifts Guide is Wine Gadgets, often also called Wine Accessories. This category includes everything which helps you to handle the wine or the bottle, and the whole idea behind gadgets is that they help to enhance the pleasure of drinking wine. An elegant glass, a beautiful decanter, an easy to use wine opener, a pourer which protects the bottle’s label, your hands, and white tablecloth – all are the tools helping you to enjoy wine to its fullest.

The subject of gadgets is much bigger than the wine itself – there are myriads of them. Remember, you are presenting the gift to the person you care about. Know what the person needs, or even more importantly, what the person already has. As it was mentioned in the previous installment, getting the second bottle of your favorite wine is never a problem. Getting 3rd set of glasses the recipient has no room for, which will end up in the basement and will never be used, is not what you want, period. Think before you buy. On the positive side, many wine accessories are often small and inexpensive, so they make ideal “stocking stuffers” or can be easily combined for a bigger gift. Last note before we talk about particular gadgets – I wrote about some of the wine gadgets before (wanted to create a whole series, but that didn’t work), so here is the link where you will find detailed references to the accessories I will mention below. Let’s go.

DSC_0602 Wine Gadgets

  1. Wine Glasses. Often an excellent gift, best if you know that the other person needs them – wine glasses are bulky and require dedicated storage space. There are multitudes of glasses available. Yes, you can go to the extreme of varietal-specific top notch glasses from Riedel, which will set you back about $50 a piece. You can also get a universal Riedel tasting glass at around 1/4th of that, or you can get 5 Zwiesel glasses for the same amount. You don’t have to get Riedel varietal glasses – 95+% of the people (I’m generous here) will not notice the difference – but of course do what you think is right. And measure it up for yourself. Example – I don’t like Riedel O stemless glasses – therefore, I will never give them to someone as a present. Okay, I think we are clear on this subject.
  2. Wine Decanters. I love decanters, I own 3 of them. In some cases, you simply need them (think Barolo). Even if you don’t really need the decanter, it typically adds to the pleasure of wine consumption. Don’t buy decanter by the price – if it looks good for you, get it. Nobody will feel the difference in the wine decanted in the $30 and $130 decanters.
  3. Wine Pourers. I personally love those – they greatly contribute to the enjoyment of wine by preventing the spills, red circles on the tablecloth and red fingers. They are also small, so it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Some pourers also serve as aerators, so you get the double bonus.
  4. Wine Opener. An interesting category. Yes, there are always new fancy designs, promising to simplify that tough task of opening that bottle of wine. But then so-called “waiter corkscrew” is all you need to open 95% of the bottles… Unlike pourers or wine charms, you generally don’t need a lot of bottle openers (it helps to have more than one, though, as you can always forget where did it go). So again, this is the category where it helps to know what the recipient wants or needs. Also remember that they can be bulky. And – the worst part – some of them don’t work by design, plain and simple. Know what you are getting…
  5. Wine Preservers. I love my Vacuvin, and I use it daily. But – you really need only one, as they are extremely durable. Then again, maybe you want to give your dear friend a Coravin ($250) – it is your choice. Generally, wine preservation solutions are good to have, so go for it.
  6. Wine Stoppers. If you find something super-cool – go for it. But remember that average wine aficionado has about 10 or 15 of those already stuffed in all the corners of the cabinets. Unless yours is amazing, there is a good chance that it will end up last in line – and nobody needs to use 16 bottle stoppers at once.
  7. Wine Chillers. Some look nice (like the frozen sleeve ones) and they actually work. A lot of wine chillers don’t work. I don’t like the icicles, and any electronic chiller is an absolute waste of money and storage space (I have mine stuffed in the corner of the closet – used it once – if you need it, I will ship it to you). Remember that bucket of ice with water will get any wine to the proper drinking temperature in 25 minutes tops – and it doesn’t take any space until you actually have to use it.
  8. Wine Charms. These are typically the least offending – they are tiny, can be stored easily anywhere, and kind of fun at the parties.
  9. Wine carriers. I like this category. They often come handy when traveling with wine, so yes, this gets my vote. Make sure they are actually sized right and can accommodate bottles of different sizes – I have one which will not take a burgundy shaped bottle no matter what, so make sure to check the one you are planning to get.
  10. Wine Luggage. It is generally expensive and would make a great gift – only if you know that the other person actually wants it. Taking a specific piece of luggage to travel with wine requires determination – find out before you will spend money on something which will never be used.
  11. Wine storage solutions. This is a broad and generally useful category – if the other person wants it and needs it. Wine storage solutions are usually bulky – know that the person will be able to fit that 36-bottle wine rack or a wine fridge. This type of present usually requires full coordination on both sides. In this category, avoid tiny wine fridges (6 bottles or less) – they take space, and their utility value is non-existent. As soon as you will store 6 bottles, you will end up with additional 24 requiring storage. It’s a rule, remember it.
  12. Eclectic gifts, or gifts for geeks. Okay, you will be surprised how many accessories can fit into this category. Port Tongues. Porrón. Wine Thermometer. There is no limit to the unusual gifts – and they are generally fine, but you better know your gift recipient. The person who drinks Chardonnay with the cube of ice might not really appreciate the concept of Porrón, so be discerning if you are looking into this category.
  13. What no to get. Anything which promises to manipulate the taste of wine (outside of decanters and pourers/aerators) by putting it in contact with something, or subjecting it to heat, cold and voodoo dolls – those products are a waste of money. In general, if you don’t want something for yourself, don’t give it as a present – that simple.

I honestly think I exhausted my list. Yes, there are many more wine accessories which I didn’t cover here ( open any wine accessories catalog) – but I hope that I gave you some of the ideas which might help you in your wine gift shopping, where it is not that difficult to get lost.

And … we are done for today, but we are not done with the subject. To be continued…

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