Posts Tagged ‘fruity’

HOW OLD IS TOO OLD…AND HOW DO YOU KNOW?

April 19, 2017

Age and wine…it is a big issue, both for wine dweebs like me and even the average wine drinker. For the former, it is all about trying to find the optimum time to drink a wine – not too young and tannic, not old and dried out, but just right! And for the latter – I want to drink it right away, is that okay?

I am generalizing, of course, and apologies to all – in both camps – who are offended! But the basic question is the same – how old should a wine be before I can enjoy it at its best?

I decided to write about this topic after my buddy Jim texted me to come over and taste a 2004 La Frenz Merlot the other day. At almost 13 years old, any Merlot from BC (and most from anywhere) should be dead…dried out, no fruit. But this one (I of course raced right over!) was stunning – still lots of fruit, interesting touch of vanilla and licorice and mint…simply stunning!

Back to the questions, then…but before I answer (and add some additional considerations), a few qualifications.

First, we are talking about red wines here, not whites. While a few white wines can age (sweet, Rieslings, some Burgundies), the vast majority don’t age well and should be consumed within a year or so of purchase.

Second, even with reds, over 90% are good to go on release. That way you get the freshness of the fruit, which is what wine is (or should be) all about.

So what about it, then? How old should it be…and what is too old?

The first question? That is a matter of taste, for the most part.

Young red wines have more fruit to them – some would say “obvious” fruit, but there is nothing the matter with that. They also can have a lot of tannin, which makes them mouth puckering and difficult to unpleasant to drink. So it depends on what style you like the best.

Interestingly, because more and more wine drinkers won’t wait to age a wine these days, even the most expensive wines can drink very well upon release.

But what about the other question – how do you know if it is too old?

This, of course, excludes wines that are oxidized and/or spoiled. Aromas and flavours of vinegar, tea, etc. mean the wine is bad, and should be avoided.

But aside from that, it turns out the answer to the question is almost the same as the first time – it depends on the style you like the best!

Most people like their older wines to still have some fruit in them. It may be more dried fruit – dried cherries, cassis, and plums in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone wines, Barolo, Barbaresco, etc – but still recognizable as fruit, none-the-less.

However, there are folks that actually like their wine almost completely dried out – oak, cedar, other kinds of wood! The stereotype is “the English”, who apparently had a tradition of aging their Bordeaux and Burgundy so long that it literally had no fruit left in it. Not my style, but if that’s what you like…

So, as usual, it all depends on your taste.

But make sure you know what you like in advance! The last thing you want to do is wait for a wine to age…and find out that you don’t like that style.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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How Important is Wine Tasting, Anyway?

September 24, 2014

We watched an interesting documentary last weekend on Sommeliers, specifically the process for gaining the highest level of certification (I know, I know…but it was the only thing on Netflix we wanted to watch).
The part I found most fascinating was the emphasis placed on wine tasting. For those who don’t know, there are three components in the Sommelier exams – wine knowledge/theory, wine service and blind tasting (the ability to tell what a wine is just from its colour). The first two didn’t get very much coverage at all (especially the last one, which had about one scene in 90 minutes! But it all seemed to be about the tasting portion.

By the end, that got me to thinking about why and, more importantly, whether that is – or isn’t – important.
Let’s look at it from two perspectives – what a sommelier needs to serve his or her customers, and what a customer needs.

The second one first! As a wine drinker anywhere – restaurant, home, etc. – how important is it for you to be able to correctly taste and identify the wine you are drinking?
Personally, I think not very important at all. Aside from being able to tell if a wine is “off” or oxidized (from being left open too long), why does it matter? All that really matters is if you enjoy it. If part of that enjoyment is being able to describe it to your friends or partner, great…but hardly a necessity. It tastes, good, pour me more!

And in terms of the advice you are looking for from the sommelier?

Well, if you haven’t had a wine or grape variety before, it would be nice to know – in general terms – what it will taste like. From the basic (sweet vs dry, oaky or not) to the specific (the kind of fruit, amount of herbal tastes), all can be helpful. But do you need to hear – and the therefore the sommelier have to know – the details i.e. wet dog fur, cat pee, fallen leaves, earth floor, etc.? I’m not sure.

Not only that, but is it really possible to smell and taste these flavours? Personally, I doubt it. There is only so much your nose and mouth can do…the rest, I think, is just good marketing.

Finally, regardless of whether you can or can’t “get” all these different smells and tastes, I think everyone does it differently. Aside from the basics, we all taste very differently. What are cherries to one person may be plums to another…even fruity can have a very different definition depending on the taster (see Bordeaux tasting as a good example).

I just don’t think that tasting is a science the way it is portrayed. So why should we put so much emphasis on it?

This was actually reinforced in the movie when some of the candidates were talking to each other about some of the wines they were tasting during training. One set of white wines was either white Hermitage (made from Roussanne and Marsanne) or barrel fermented California Chardonnay (make from…well, you know what!). Now, in my experience, those wines could not taste more different! The former has a flowery nose, but a distinct waxy, almost resiny taste…some would call it an acquired taste. The latter has vanilla, butterscotch and citrus. This is particularly the case for the actual wine they used, the Beringer Private Reserve, one of my favourite wines and almost instantly recognizable for this flavour profile.

But guess what…these professional tasters mixed up these wines, and couldn’t agree which was which! If this is possible for wines this different, then anybody can get it wrong…or right.
That, I guess, is my point. Whatever you smell and taste is personal to you…not right or wrong, just what you are experiencing. That experience will be different for the next person, just like it will be different for the sommelier.

And if it is different, then why put so much emphasis on it? Just enjoy what is in your glass!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com