Archive for March 7, 2014
|Photo by Tracie Parzen|
|Conservative studies estimate that 5 to 6 percent of wine is affected by some sort of defect. That’s roughly one in 20 bottles.|
The following is a true story.
A few years ago, my wife, Tracie P — then a wine sales rep — and I were running late for a dinner with the upper-echelon management team of the company for whom she worked, one of the major players in the Texas wine scene.
We were stressed. We weren’t just having dinner with her boss; we were having dinner with the boss of her boss’s boss.
Thanks to a navigation mishap, we arrived 45 minutes late to the swank Dallas restaurant where the dinner was held. The table of ten leading Texas wine professionals had already finished a first bottle of white wine and the group was enjoying a bottle of red, for the record, a vineyard-designated Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
One of the guests poured us each a glass as we sat down. Tracie swirled and sniffed. And then she gestured to me to lean closer.
“The wine is corked,” she whispered. “Didn’t they notice?”
Of the ten seasoned tasters present, not one had detected the cork taint. After Tracie politely mentioned that she thought the wine was corked, everyone at the table revisited the wine and all agreed: There was no denying that the wine had an unmistakable note of musty cork.
As surprising as it may be, it happens more often than you would imagine. It might be because someone’s nose and palate are “off” on a given night. It might be because the chaotic nature of fine dining often distracts even the most sensitive taster. Or it could be owed to the fact that stress — like that created by having dinner with your boss — can cloud our ability to evaluate the fitness of a wine.
After all, we weren’t sitting in a quiet temperature- and humidity-controlled room at 9 in the morning with well-rested palates.
|Photo by Jeremy Parzen|
|You can’t tell if a wine is “corked” by looking at the cork. The cork is often presented not to evaluate the wine’s fitness, but rather to determine the authenticity of its provenance.|
Conservative studies estimate that 5 to 6 percent of bottles are affected by some sort of wine defect. That’s roughly one in 20bottles.
The most common defect is TCA, otherwise known as trichloroanisole, “a potent taint compound associated with musty odours and flavours in a range of food and beverages,” according to the editors of the Oxford Companion to Wine.
Some tasters will describe the presence of TCA as “musty” or “wet cardboard.” Sometimes it just smells like rotten cork. In most cases, it’s unmistakable. But it can also be so faint that even professional tasters (like the ones in the anecdote above) won’t immediately notice it.
Some in the wine trade estimate that roughly 50 percent of wine defects are traced to faulty corks. Keep in mind: A cork wine closure is made from the bark of a cork tree, and because it is an organic substance, it is susceptible to a wide range of issues (with TCA being the most common).
But wine defects can also be ascribed to a number of different causes, often originating at the winery or occurring during shipping and storage.
One of the most common is volatile acidity: An acetone “finger-nail polish” odor that masks the wine’s fruit aroma.
Another is maderization (from the wine name Madeira) whereby a wine is oxidized (exposed to oxygen due to a faulty seal) and possibly cooked (due to exposure to extreme temperature). In a maderized wine, the fruit flavors will be attenuated or entirely absent.
Evaluating the fitness can be one of the most divisive and contentious issues among wine professionals and consumers (especially when the wine in question is an expensive one).
Here are some rules of thumb for determining whether or not a wine is correct.
Make sure the glass isn’t tainted by detergent residue or dust.
This is a major problem in restaurants, where wine glasses are often cleaned in dishwashers using reclaimed water. It’s also a big issue at home, where wine glasses often collect dust when not in use. (See this post on priming your stemware.)
Give the wine a healthy swirl and then stick your nose into the glass.
You should be able to tell whether or not the wine is correct by smelling it. The first thing to note is the presence or absence of fruit aromas. Wine is made from fruit and it should smell like fruit. If you don’t detect any fruit aromas or you detect a foul aroma that masks the fruit, you most likely have a corked, oxidized, or maderized wine.
Take your time when evaluating the wine.
In more cases than not, foul odors will “blow off” after a few minutes. They’re often due to “reduction,” a phenomenon whereby the wine has not been exposed to enough oxygen during aging. It might smell like a fart, and it will probably go away after a few minutes. Give the wine some time to “open up” in the glass before you determine whether or not it’s corked or otherwise defective.
Remember that there is a big difference between a wine that is corked and wine that you simply don’t like.
Just because you don’t like the wine doesn’t mean that it’s corked or faulty. Before you order or purchase a bottle of wine you’ve never had before, consult with your server or wine salesperson and let them know what kind of wine you like. If ordering a bottle of wine that you already know, you should have a recollection and expectation of what it should taste like. If it smells or tastes radically different than it has in your past experience, it might be faulty.
So how do you send a bottle back when you think it’s corked? I’ll address that extremely sticky issue in next week’s post.
France is the place of origin of Malbec, but Argentina is now home to nearly 70% of the Malbec vineyards of the world. Thus, your very first taste of Malbec could have been from Mendoza, Argentina. There is a dramatic difference in taste between the two regions and this is because Malbec really shows how terroir affects wine.
Argentinian Malbec vs. French Malbec
An instant definition of ‘terroir’
Terroir encompasses all the regional factors that define the taste of a wine grape including sun, soil, the slant of a hillside, proximity to a body of water, climate, weather and altitude. Terroir happens before a winemaker even touches the grapes. Any winemaker worth his/her salt will tell you: great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. Read more about Terroir
Malbec taste by region
- Argentina Malbec = Fruit-forward, plummy with a velvety texture
- French Malbec = Savory, tart, firm tannins, plum, meat and blackberry
This uber-popular varietal is a household name thanks to Argentina, but it still has a foothold in southwest France where it originated. Same grape, two very different wines. A Malbec from Argentina tends to be plummy and fruit-forward, with a velvety soft texture. In France, Malbec tends to have more structure, firmer tannins, and an inky dark, brooding quality.
Why does Malbec show Terroir better than other grapes?
Malbec growing in limestone soils in Cahors, France. source
This thin-skinned “black grape” is something of a rustic relative of Merlot so it shares its sensitivity to rot, frost, and pests. Thus, having ideal growing conditions are extremely important to the final product. Perfect conditions include ample sunshine and a dry climate to thrive. Too much sunshine, however, will turn wines into flabby fruit bombs with little structure (alcoholic soda pop, anyone?). In short, Malbec is a fickle grape and it’s more sensitive to the climate.
Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec and Sangiovese are sponges to their environments.
Limestone gives Malbec high tannin and color
In the limestone soils of the Cahors region, Malbec produces its darkest, most tannic manifestation, showing blackberry fruit in its youth, and tobacco, coffee, and meaty notes as it ages. This is partly due to the calcium component in limestone, which helps maintain acidity late into the growing season for the grape, and contributes to structure in the glass. The vines thrive in the arid, limestone plateau called the Causses, which has a thin topsoil that forces the roots to dig deeply for nutrients. Hardworking roots equate to more concentrated grapes and a deeper wine.
Sunshine gives Malbec a fruitiness
In Mendoza, where 70 percent of Argentina’s wine — mostly Malbec — is grown, conditions are even sunnier and even drier. Here, at the foot of the Andes, the grape makes rich, robust wines with brambly black mountain fruit and sweet floral notes. With scarce rain, early summer hail, and a forceful gale called the Zonda, the vines here have to dig deep into the alluvial sand and clay soils which have formed over time from mineral deposits left by snow melt running down the Andes. The clay allows the vines to root deeply and thus soak up more of the soil’s minerals. The sand provides for good drainage, an important factor in keeping rot at bay.
One of the most significant factors in Mendoza’s terroir are the jagged Andes that dominate the skyline. Mount Aconcagua tops out at over 23,000 ft. and is the tallest in the Americas. The mountains provide altitude and cooler air, which slows down the ripening process and is essential to ensure the grapes develop enough acidity in this very sunny region. The grapes have the chance to develop full, ripe, fruity characteristics, while still building acid to ward off the soda-pop effect. The big temperature swings between day and night help enhance this ripeness/acidity tango. The resulting wine shows riper, fruitier notes thanks to the longer time in a more intense sun that high altitude provides.
A lil’ history of Malbec’s Origins
Vineyards in Cahors along the Lot River. source
For centuries, Malbec played a supporting roll in Bordeaux blends but it often underperformed because of its sensitivity. Further up the Garonne River from Bordeaux, Malbec has done very well in southwest France, particularly the Cahors appellation. The cooling breezes from the Atlantic keep the vines rot-free, while warm daytime temperatures and Mediterranean influence allows grapes to ripen. In Cahors, Malbec is called ‘Cot’ and in the Middle Ages it was called “black wine” for its deep, purple-ebony hue.
About the Author Kate Soto is the manager of winegoddess.com a wine retail store that offers wine classes, a wine club and private events in Evanston, Illinois.
If you made your own wine blend, what would you make?
Check out the classic white and red wine blends from around the world.
Creating the blend might just be the most creative part of being a winemaker. It’s the moment where you get a chance to exercise your skills at flavor balancing. In fact, the process of blending goes beyond just putting grape varieties together. Many winemakers go through a rigorous barrel selection process to identify the best tasting wines. The top barrels go into a winery’s reserve bottlings, either reserved as a single variety or put together into a cuvée (French for ‘vat’).
Famous White & Red Wine Blends
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Original Source: Famous Wine Blends by Wine
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet Franc
- Petit Verdot
A zesty and lightly colored white wine with flavors of gooseberry and melon. A few examples are oak-aged and have a lightly creamy texture.
- Sauvignon Blanc
Learn more about the Bordeaux Region, the origin place of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Bordeaux Wine Region
- Pinot Meunier
- Pinot Noir
Learn more about Champagne Champagne Wine Region
- Sangiovese 70-100%
- No more than 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc
- Up to 30% of Others
Learn more about Italy’s wine regions. Italian Wine Region Map
- Other Indigenous Varieties
Learn more about Cava, a delicious alternative to Champagne All about Cava
- Tempranillo — up to 100%
- Maturana Tinta
Know the difference between Crianza and Reserva Rioja: How to Buy Rioja
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Touriga Franca
- Touriga Nacional
- Tinta Roriz
- Tinta Barroca
- Tinto Cão
Portugal’s underrated region The Douro Valley
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petit Verdot
- Cabernet Franc
White Rhône Blend
- Grenache Blanc
- Pinot Noir — minimum of ~85%
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Blanc
The secrets to Burgundy Simple Guide to Burgundy Wine
A delicately floral sparkling wine with notes of lilies and peaches
- Prosecco (a.k.a. ‘Glera’)
Barolo is a sub-region in Northwestern Italy Find out more about Piedmont
Μετά τη θερμή υποδοχή που γνώρισε το περασμένο φθινόπωρο ο κύκλος «Ισπανικός Κινηματογράφος α λα καρτ», η πρεσβεία της Ισπανίας και το Ινστιτούτο «Θερβάντες» της Αθήνας διοργανώνουν δεύτερο κύκλο προβολών, κάθε Τετάρτη στις 19.30 το βράδυ, μέχρι τις 2 Απρίλη.
Το πρόγραμμα περιλαμβάνει πέντε ισπανικές, πολυβραβευμένες ταινίες καταξιωμένων σκηνοθετών που επέλεξε το κοινό. Ποικίλες οι επιλογές θεματικά, καθώς ανάμεσά τους συναντάμε δύο σπουδαίες κωμωδίες, την κλασική πια «Η μαμά κλείνει τα εκατό» (1979) του Κάρλος Σάουρα, που άνοιξε την εκδήλωση στις 5/3 και την, κατά πολύ μεταγενέστερη «Ξαδέρφια» (2011) του Ντάνιελ Σάνσεθ Αλέβαρο, που την κλείνει στις 2/4. Στο ενδιάμεσο διάστημα θα προβληθούν δύο εξαιρετικά δράματα: Το «Γυναίκες μόνες» (1999) του Μπενίτο Ζαμπράνο στις 12/3 και το «Επτά τραπέζια γαλλικού Μπιλιάρδου» (2007) της Γκράσια Κερεχέτα στις 26/3. Από το δεύτερο αυτόν κύκλο προβολών δεν απουσιάζει και ο κινηματογράφος μυστηρίου με την ταινία της Πατρίσια Φερέιρα «Ξέρω ποιος είσαι» (2000) που θα προβληθεί στις 19/3. Ολες οι προβολές θα πραγματοποιηθούν στην αίθουσα εκδηλώσεων του Ινστιτούτου «Θερβάντες», Μητροπόλεως 23, Σύνταγμα. Οι ταινίες έχουν ελληνικούς υπότιτλους και η είσοδος είναι ελεύθερη για το κοινό, έως τη συμπλήρωση των θέσεων. Μισή ώρα πριν την έναρξη των προβολών, θα μοιράζονται αριθμημένα, δωρεάν εισιτήρια, ενώ η είσοδος θα απαγορεύεται μετά την έναρξη των προβολών.