White grapes’ aromas

Classic questions in those who approach to the world of wine tasting are on the aromas. How does this wine smell? What should you smell? The smell of one thing or another, is it good or bad?
White Wine GlassIf you’ve ever seen in movies the classic sketch in which an expert is able to reveal the vintage, type of grape, the origin, the make and even if the keeper of the wine cellar had cached a cold in October, you cannot help feeling frustrated, when then you go and smell a wine and you?re not able to identify any does things. However, it is normal at first not to know how does the wine you taste exactly smells. 

In my case, the transition has been far more natural than that. I tasted a wine, and if I liked it I would look at the label and tried to remember the name. Later, what type of grape was? In varietal wines, went gradually finding matches between a Chardonnay, for example, and a different grape. So I learned the aromas given off by each grape.
I could not name the aromas, but I knew the difference between a Macabeo and Riesling.
I always recommend start on tasting white wine, because the range of aromas are much different between each other (floral, fruit, herbs, honey ,…) than red wines, which can also include aromas of barrel aging .

Finally, in a tasting course they gave me the proper names for the impressions perceived. And so I began to be considered as an assessor, but I like to think I’m just a wine lover.
“Do grapes smell different? Yes, as you know a cherry tomato is different form a pear tomato. But if you make a gazpacho mixing these two varieties, it would be difficult to distinguish them. So If you’re interested in learning how to taste wines start with varietals in order to recognize each grape individually.

The smell of one thing or another, is it good or bad? Depends on whether you like the scent or not. There are very faithful to the generic flavor of the grape wines, because the grape winery that wants to take his best, but some wineries (or winemakers) make completely different wines, in which you can hardly recognize the grapes, because they want to emphasize that their vineyards are unique and different, or are able to obtain new flavors in this variety. Everything is ok if you like the result.
What should a white wine smell like? Who knows. Throughout history a standard of aromas have been established, which are the aromas that are usually present in each type of grape. But it is not the same a Gewürztraminer grown in La Mancha than in Austria.Even with a particular wine, as the vineyard ages or external factors change (global warming, new pressing and lift, winemakers contributions), the resulting wine might have change its aromas.
Finally, we must consider that it will not smell the same when wine grapes are collected green, from those collected mellow. It is Logical, right?

Albariño GrapesThe standard of white grapes are more or less, the following:

? Chardonnay: Green apple, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, banana, …
? Riesling: Green apple, citrus, quince, smoked, spicy, petroleum, …
? Gewürztraminer: rose, gardenia, lychee, mango, peach, …
? Macabeo / Viura: green fruit, apple, white flowers, wine, …
Muscat: There are as many varieties of Muscat as aromas. Also, when it comes to wine varietal it overripe grapes are often used: candied fruits, honey, dried rose petals, orange blossom, peaches in syrup, …
Sauvignon Blanc: ripe fruit, smoke, asparagus, green pepper, passion fruit, …
Albariño: golden apple, honey, apricot, floral, …
Airen: banana, pineapple, hay, barley, lavender, …
Malmsey: white fruit, lemon, peach, plum, …
Palomino: Lima, bitter almonds, aniseed, salt, balsamic, …
Verdejo: White fruit, green grass, mango, melon, fennel, …
Can a wine made from these grapes smell like something else? Yes, of course. Additionally, the name of the aroma must be named after whatever that aroma reminds you. In some tasting notes can be read: aromas “dew of a morning in October,” “recently changed sheets”, “red apple cut in two”,? bakery working full time “,… seem absurd, but if you read carefully that would bring up to your mind some aroma.
How do we know if a wine that smells like apple is a Chardonnay, Riesling, Macabeo, Albariño or any other grape? Well, the aromas are not exclusive. The same wine has several flavors at once, so try to identify other aromas in the glass to help you to decide. More than a recommendation it is an obligation for those who like wine: try, try, try and try …

Tasting notes

Tasting teacherOkay, I’ve tried a wine and I want to do a more or less academic speech… How should I do that?
Well, we “Uviners”, like all kind of opinions, especially those who tell favorite wine pairing,  if you decided to buy wine through Uvinum and found it  cheap, or if your bf / gf liked it more than you, because we want you to tell us your story… but if you ever find yourself in the position of having to write something more formal, here are some advices:
First of all, hand the  glass of wine you want to write on, tasting notes are written better at the moment. So, go ahead! Buy wine!
Yes, we realize that to write a tasting note you must have previous notions of how a wine should be tasted, If not, this article will not teach you to do it: just to order your feelings on paper.
Start separating by senses: sight, hearing, smell and taste, touch (to remember the order, think about your organs from top to bottom: Eyes, ears, nose and mouth (in the mouth you will notice the taste and the touch at the same time).

  • View: Discuss whether the wine is transparent, opaque or turbid. How does the wine tear look? You see it very thick, like sludge, or oil, like vinegar? Talk about the color (main color, edge, or secondary color). If it’s sparkling, how persistent and large the bobble is….
  • Hearing: This is only for sparkling wine. Think of the bubble sound, like a peta-zeta, a coca-cola or is so thin that can’t even hear it, although you are seeing it.
  • Smell: You can talk about your first impressions, without shaking the glass. What aromas can you appreciate after, and even how smells several hours after opening the bottle, if aromas have gone? New ones have appeared? Remember after you receive the retro nasal aromas; Do they change something, are they is intensified.
  • Taste-touch: You can start by touching, because it may be the simplest: was the wine warm? “The thick champagne bubbles bother?  “Dense? Write it all! Now, share with us, discover us the tastes, starting with primary flavors: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. What you notice first? How you get to the final taste? Was it (balanced? Take a moment to think of astringency. Has your left side tongue felt like sandpaper, or something softer? Finally, stop for a moment to remember that wine, while analyzing its post palate. Are you going next? Does it stay long? Do you remember any special scent or flavor?

By now you should have enough notes to write your tasting note, more or less correctly.
Basting is the sentences will also do to correct and revise your notes. You’ll see that   as reviewing, clarifications or revisions will occur. It’s normal, because once we have a global idea of the wine seems that everything becomes more meaningful. If you do not want to correct, or want to keep both versions, you can divide your impressions, saying something like: “At first, at first impression …” and then something like “continues to change, later, later I felt…”
Also think that a wine that always offers you the same feeling is something remarkable. You can say that the wine “is emphasized in perceptions”, or talk about the “persistence of aromas.”
Anyway, after that you will already have your note ready to send to any Wine Academy. Just do not forget to share it in Uvinum…

Twitter’s Fledgling Wine launches

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In an exciting convergence of technology, CSR, and wine, yesterday Twitter launched it’s first wine, called Fledgling Wine. The 2009 vintage includes a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sourced from “top-flight California vineyards”, crushed at San Francisco’s DIY custom crush facility Crushpad, and on sale on $25 a bottle, but probably the most interesting thing about the wine is where your money goes. $5 from every bottle will be used to promote literacy in Uttarakhand, India through the non-profit Room to Read organization. It’s part of Twitter’s declared larger effort to increase access to information and use open communication to bring about positive change, and as the company points out, ” if you can’t read you can’t Tweet!” In true Twitter style the winemaking process has been shared with users along the way, allowing them to participate in the process. 

Supporting educational efforts simply by enjoying your wine seems like an attractive idea to me…find out more about Fledgling Wine or buy a bottle here

When drinking your wine is not enough

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If it is too hot this summer to comfortably enjoy your Cab, you can try it in sorbet form now thanks to Wine Cellars sorbet. Although I’ve seen other wine flavored ice creams and sorbets before, this was the first time I’d come across the company designed soley on this idea. The result is a range from riesling, to pinot noir, to rosé or port…all made with actual wine, though they are non-alcoholic. In my mind this opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities, like a frozen version of brunch- Heston Blumenthal style bacon and egg ice cream paired with mimosa sorbet, for example, or gazpacho sorbet and sangria sorbet for a Spanish themed lunch…

If you don’t have access to these sorbets, you can try your hand at making one with only water, sugar, and your choice of wine. Let me know how they turn out! 

Consumers stay home and drink wine

Good news for the wine industry: a recent survey shows wine has become consumers’ first choice in the US, UK, and Australia when they stay at home, which itself remains a strong trend as people seem reluctant to return to their pre-Crisis levels of spending on eating and drinking out.

The bad news for upper tier wineries is that the wines chosen remain on the lower end of the price scale in the US, Australia, and other countries like Italy and Austria. Only the UK is feeling optimistic- 30% are willing to pay more then $10 per bottle versus the $7 bottles selling in the other countries.

Red wine

What does this mean? In the short term wineries selling wines over $10 are going to continue to struggle for a while and wine flash sales and deals will continue- more of the same we’ve been seeing in the past year. But long term it means drinking habits are shifting from beer and spirits towards wine, which is considered better for your health, adds an additional level of pleasure to food, and has strong associations with sharing good times with family and friends. Even the Crisis has had one major upside, as in their search for values consumers have become more open to experimenting with new regions and varietals. This means once confidence is restored the industry may have its best moment yet- a wide wine drinking population, now open minded and with increased power to move up the price scale and searching for great finds at all levels. And with internet shopping for wine now more widely available, consumers will be able to take advantage of more choices than ever.

Wine and Tourism

SomontanoAfter reading a review by Manuel Colmenero Larriba of Lluis Tolosa’s new book España no es California, in which he discusses the issue of attracting tourists to Spanish wine regions, I thought of all the news I have been recieving recently about Napa– new restaurants with celebrity chefs, new state of the art wineries, luxe resort openings, and had mixed feelings on the topic. Spanish tourism is underdeveloped in most of its wine regions, even in Rioja this spring my parents had problems finding wineries with tours in English on the days they were there, and generally lacking information on where to go and what to do. Undoubtedly there are business opportunities being missed that would benefit the wineries, the regions, and the country’s reputation as well as the tourists themselves. However, after reading the descriptions of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s new Napa restaurant, which is called, so there is no confusion, Morimoto Napa, and will eventually sit alongside two other celebrity restaurants, one by Tyler Florence, and Stephen Barber, I couldn’t help but think- Vegas

Not that there is anything wrong per se with Las Vegas, but it called to mind the boom there a few years back with all the over the top restaurants where the celebrity chefs only flew in periodically and the housing bubble that accompanied it, and the pattern worries me. More so because so much of Napa Valley‘s charm is in the land and the already existing icons. There is no shortage of amazing food to be found, from The French Laundry to Terra to more low key favorites like Gott’s, and much of the charm is driving through the stunning scenery, albeit probably quite slowly due to the traffic, and knowing despite corporate buyouts of many wineries, a large amount are still held in family hands, and the Valley is still lovely because those families fight to keep it a place they want to live. 

Napa ValleyI love Napa, and I could be wrong to worry about the direction in which it’s headed, after all it has still retained its allure despite being a serious tourist attraction since the 1980’s. But as Spanish wine regions like Somontano decide which measures to take to build tourism, I think they should seriously consider their end goals, and make sure the road they choose is sustainable. It’s good to offer tourists a range of good dining and accomodation options, and ways to learn about the region and the wines, but ideally the end result should preserve and enhance the original treasure- the vineyards and wineries. It’s a tricky line to walk. 

Thoughts on food and wine pairing

How to choose a wine to match your food is an never ending discussion as we continue to search for the best strategy to deal with our ever increasing options. I was recently reading Olly Smith’s The Complete Summer Wine Guide, and while I found it entertaining to read and very helpful in its specificity, after reading the question still lingered- if you’re having fish with a citrus, for example, how do you choose between New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, and Riesling?  In the US and UK we have nowsuch a plethora of grapes, regions, and styles it can be paralyzing, even with expert advice.

Food and wine pairing

In this sense living in Spain is a blessing, for although I can seek out imports, the wines usually sitting on my grocery or local wine shop’s shelves are generally Spanish. With 77 Quality Wine regions, there are still a lot of options and a lot to explore, but choosing wine one country at a time has certain advantages. Most of the food I am eating is Spanish or at least Spanish influenced, not just in restaurants, but also at home as my local shops tend to dictate in large part what I eat by what’s available. And my Spanish dinner usually goes pretty well with the Spanish wine I buy.

Back in the States though, if I was stuck between options I still tended to pair with a similar mindset, picking a wine that reflects the origin of the food whenever possible. Even if the dish isn’t strictly from one place or another, the orientation of the ingredients is a great guide. When this system fails, for example, with sushi or ceviche, I turn to the type of place; since these foods are from the sea, I look for whites from regions by the ocean- something like a Albariño from Rias Biaxas or Vinho Verde. Beef, on the other hand, would call to mind regions that are famous for their cattle as well as wine, such as Argentine Malbec or a Brunello  (from Tuscany, home of the Chianina, the beef used in bistecca alla fiorentina).

There’s no perfect answer, but it helps to have a place to start. How do you pick your wine for dinner?

Icewine comes to Spain

Penedes in Catalonia, SpainUnlike in the New World, where appellations are still being defined (for example segmentation crazy Napa Valley, who seems to be in constant turmoil, most recently over a new proposed Mayacama Mountain range AVA), the Old World wine producing countries usually look at their wine regulations as being set in stone. For the most part, you are allowed to only grow the same grapes that were approved for your great grandfather if you want your wine to bear the appellation label. This can make understanding what type of wine you will get from a particular region easier for the consumer, but it can also be a source of frustration for producers looking to experiment. 

https://www.uvinum.co.uk/blog/assets/uploads/sites/3/2010/07/804381-274685.jpgHowever, Spain, who is becoming one of the biggest exporters to the US and UK markets, is one of the more liberal in this regard, particularly in it’s lesser known regions. I would be surprised to see any changes in the regulations that guide Rioja wine anytime soon, but now Penedes, the region where Cava is produced, has now been approved for icewine. What’s more is producers are allowed to artificially freeze the grapes, which is not permitted anywhere else in Europe.  Icewine is normally created when the grapes freeze on the vine, and this is the only method available in Germany, Austria, and Canada, the best known locations for this type of dessert wine. 

Although the 3 countries mentioned above each have their own version of icewine’s history, Spain will definitely add a new chapter. The new DO (Domination of Origin) is called Vino Dulce de Hielo or Vi Dolç del Fred, and will apply from 2009. A general rule is not to drink your icewine with a food that is sweeter than the wine, and goat cheese is one example of a classic pairing, for example Garrotxa if you wanted to stay local to the Spanish version. Salud! 

Shipwrecked Champagne

https://www.uvinum.co.uk/blog/assets/uploads/sites/3/2010/07/775388-271574.jpgAccording to a  Reuters report that will surely inspire jealousy in wine loving divers across the world, a group of Swedish divers discovered what is being called the oldest known drinkable Champagne in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. They believe the bottles are from the late 18th century, and they know it is drinkable because they drank it, apparently with great pleasure. The general theory is the Champagne is likely Veuve Cliquot, and  that it was on it’s way to St. Petersburg. This would beat Perrier-Jouet’s current record for world’s oldest Champagne, which only dates back till 1825, probably because unless you happen to lose it in a shipwreck, most of us would find it impossible to hold onto Champagne for that long.

Shipwrecked Champagne

 

Diver Christian Ekstrom was quoted as saying, “It was fantastic… it had a very sweet taste, you could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco smell. And there were very small bubbles”. Lucky guy. I think I just found a reason to learn to dive.

BYOB comes to London

https://www.uvinum.co.uk/blog/assets/uploads/sites/3/2010/07/733582-270759.jpgHaving usually been allowed to bring a special bottle of wine if I so chose to a nice restaurant as long as I was willing to pay a corkage fee, it was not until recently that it occurred to me that this could be considered a privilege and not a right. It was not actually until my first day at Uvinum that I learned that this was not a common practice in Spain, and since then I have noticed the online wine world has been commenting on a new BYOB (bottle in this case, not beer) club in London. Started by Christopher and Khadine Johnson-Rose, the idea is to pay an annual fee in exchange for permission to bring a bottle from your own collection to the restaurants on the list, most fine dining, and some of them among the big names in London’s restaurant scene such as Tom Aikens and The Ledbury, both which have Michelin stars. Restaurants can still place restrictions, such as limiting it to lunch or certain days of the week, however, or charge small additional fees. 

It’s a tricky one for restaurants as they make a substantial margin on wine sold in house, though they tend to cite service as the reason behind the big markups. It is true that a nice restaurant with a sommelier needs to pay that salary, but it is not the same rationale that can be claimed for food. There is no transformation with the product in question as there is with food in the kitchen; the server or sommelier, other than helping a guest select a wine, just needs to open and pour the bottle. This is still very important, but it is likely something that can be covered in a corkage charge. 

I have to admit I am biased coming from a place where this is not unusual, particularly in my hometown of San Francisco. Yet we also normally have a few unofficial rules:

  • Bring a special bottle (not a cheap one).
  • Never bring something that is on the restaurant’s wine list.
  • It is always nice to also buy a glass to start with from the restaurant, or another bottle depending on the size of the group. 

Despite the fact that bringing a bottle is frequently permitted in the US, the majority of customers chose not to. After all, selecting a wine is often one of the best parts of eating out. So I don’t think restaurants in other countries have much to fear. It simply allows their guests additional options. And for some diners, there can certainly be financial incentives to bring a bottle- they can often drink a nicer bottle than if they had to order one. Which means for the restaurant, they have more money to spend on food, or justify a dinner out. In this economy, I think that’s a win-win for both sides.