A Wine Journal: Weekly Updates

Something Borrowed; Something New

Altesino Montosoli DOCG Brunello Montalcino Tuscany, Italy

The wine I had the opportunity of tasting – thanks to one of my regulars – was an Italian wine classified as Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). According to Wine-SearcherAltesino Montosoli’s 2006 batch has an average critic score of 93/100 with an average price of $139 CAD. This Sangiovese has a 13-14 percent alcohol content and is one of the most romantic wines I have ever interacted with; and done so in a unique setting. The colour is a bright burgundy and almost translucent and while it is classified as a near vintage wine, it looks smells and tastes very rich and youthful. Following the page of tasting notes, this Brunello (di Montalcino) has a ‘Med Minus’ intensity being that it is very floral and developed yet also has earthy tones which added another level of complexity. The customers that I was discussing the wine with said that this was from an Oaked barrel however, I usually find oaked wines to be too tannic, yet this was quite the opposite.

To say this wine was smooth would be a gross understatement. I would even go so far as to say that this is the best red wine I have ever had. The perfect combination of fruit forward and tannic with hints of cherry, tobacco and rose. The floral element, I found, was what made it so unique and tender on your palette. While discussing, both the customer and I found that the rose was not just in the bouquet, but heavily contributed to the smoothness and lack of tannic bitters. It was almost like drinking a very mature juice; refreshing, light and – dissimilar to the heavily tannic red wines – had a denser smell than taste where the rose, orchid and hibiscus aromas brought my senses to life with intricate essences and complimented nearly everything I ate. To put it simply, as the wine took its breath, it got even better. Every sip had a different tone and flavour that brought about positive elements in my food. 

The customers left half a glass for my manager and we had leftovers. What an ideal combination. We started with grilled calamari and the balsamic reduction with greens was an ideal citrus, provocative flavour to be complimented by the wine and bring out sweet flavours rather than a bitter, dominating after-taste. I feel, now more than ever, that wine speaks to your palette and through communicating specific flavours, notifies your senses of what pairs well. 

While this red has been described to typically be served with beef, I love good wine with bread, and so I packed the wine in a takeaway coffee cup, with a prosciutto pizza. Prosciutto’s flavour is subtle and salty, and brought forward spice and roasted textures (I am assuming due to the salt) however, I continue to stand-by the wonderful floral elements of the wine and how perfectly understated they were. One final note however, is that I would not pair a smooth, floral wine with a smooth cream or dessert; there may be too much competing between the flavours to be appreciated and as such, I stuck to the Italian grape for my dessert. 

While I may never have the pleasure of trying this wine again, I will forever remember the shared experience with customers I had only met several hours previous, and how this wine was simply flawless. I did request to take a picture or the label, and hopefully I will find it somewhere soon. 

References

Robinson, J., Magazin, F., Tanzer, S., & El Mundo Vino. (n.d.). 2006 Altesino Montosoli, Brunello di Montalcin … | prices, stores, tasting notes and market data. Retrieved from https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/altesino montosoli docg brunello montalcino tuscany italy/2006

Terroir

Terroir refers to an awfully controversial topic surrounding wine and vineyards that can be defined as the land, soil and environment which encompasses wine-makers and the grapes themselves. These factors, as examined by Wine for Normal People Radio, can include sunlight or sun exposure, rain water, proximity to the ocean, fog or a past history of war, draught, famine or flooding. These, and many more, are all variables which largely affect the way things grow (if successful) and how the aforementioned ‘vegetation’ tastes. // Similar to the interview, and that which Professor Robert Davidson emphasized, we can be urged to think about those products produced by a conglomerate grocery store, versus local organic farmers; Those heirloom tomatoes are bursting with flavour while mass-produced tomatoes are often mealy and tasteless. Those same distinctions can be made for those vineyards around the world where attributes of the grape make the flavour of the wine, but also broaden the classifications of each grape. By this, for example, we could refer to those tannic yet light characteristics of a pinot noir compared to a sharper grape such as shiraz or zinfandel; these grapes are not only influenced by the soil and terroir, but the growth of these grapes all over the world has broadened the flavour palette that is ‘characteristic’ to each grape. // Maybe it is just my personal preference, but after the extensive tasting of red and white wines, I find terroir is a factor which contributes to flavour if not directly through the grapes, then through what vineyards and vintners add to their wine in order to make it distinct. The wines from Priorat had elements of greenery and toasted fruit while maintaining a complex flavour profile that compliments seafood and spices, native to the Spanish region. My understanding of terroir is that just like the grapes themselves, every day is different, every environment varies, and every batch of grapes tastes unique.

A Process in Wine: The Lazio Region

Lazio is a region in Italy where Rome is specifically situated. Italy is the oldest producer of wine, dating back over a millennia and has expanded around the world being incorporated into daily life. In 1930, most land in Lazio suffered from a malaria-infestation which changed the soil, groundwater and inevitably, the grapes and vines. The contamination meant the land had to undergo a process called “bonification” which not only made the land useable again, but altered the soil enough for the wine in Rome to be changed for the years to follow. Even in the early 20th century, wine was very much a necessity for celebration, mourning or simple daily-enjoyment and as such, the land needed to be cultivated and grapes needed to grow. Other workers and vintners brought grapes down from the north such as Merlot and Cabernet’s, establishing Rome in Italy’s reputable stature in the world of fermentation.

            After establishing history, we can follow with the classification of Italian wine, post-growth and processing. The language and terms are in traditional Italian, but we can distinguish each one by letters; DOCG: The highest quality of wine, usually only purchased and consumed for special occasions such as proposals. DOC: Still good quality wine, however this classification ensures distinct characteristics of each region the wine belongs to. IGT: This is more a convenience classification where wines meet the same standards as DOC, but requires immensely less paperwork. Finally, VdT: is often classified as the unspecified, or that which has not met any other criteria; this wine is bought as gifts for friendly gatherings.

            Once we have bought the wine, it is important to understand how to read the label. This includes the classifications specified above, as well as the region of the wine, the grape and the year. All of the key information is on the front, while the superficial selling ‘points’ or attributes of the grape are found on the back. With drinking wine comes etiquette, established in Italy. This includes what most people assume to be tasting the wine, is actually just making sure the wine has not gone sour. Once the server has the green-light to serve around the table, typically within a cozy, intimate environment across the city, they are only to fill the glass halfway. From soil to table, wine in Rome has many differentiating elements which incorporate history that are impressed upon Europe and the world.

Wine Tasting and its Protocols

Protocols of wine tasting include a plethora of practices and techniques, that can be perfected over time, and are nearly a requirement in order to fully distinguish, define and experience grapes in their supreme form. // Similar to that which Madeline Puckette wrote in her article, there are specific characteristics to look for in the taste, smell and colour of wine. Specific to the Sauv Blanc we tasted in class, to put it simply, my experience was quite delightful. Where I normally find Chardonnay to be too sweet, and Pinot Grigio too acidic, Sauv Blanc is the perfect middle ground between fruit forward and heavy on the palette, to complimenting flavour rather than over-powering it. While the olive brought out not-so-appealing qualities in the grape, I argue that wine is all about personal preference and could I have added an ice-cube or two to the glass while eating the brackish food, it may have been a combination of less abrasive flavours. While my first interaction with the procedures of wine tasting were not in class, refreshing ones’ memory is always a helpful tool and this establishes a foundation not only for the rest of class, but for the rest of my life. // I have never enjoyed Zinfandel. It is not a grape I favour the taste of, and those attributes which vineyards often hope to bring forward are exactly those profiles I wish to avoid. Between the heavy tannins and hints of cherry with black current/licorice, Zinfandel is simply not my cup of tea (excuse the pun). However, the sniffing and tasting techniques allowed me to distinguish the flavours that I was not fond of, pin-point my distaste and enrich my vocabulary rather than simply avoiding the drink altogether. I felt the most protruding scent of the Zinfandel was cork; I am not sure why this was the essence I collected from the glass, especially after it had time to breathe, yet it was a sensory trigger that I had not yet experienced, even after years of working with Wine and I felt that was important to note. Overall, I would like to stress that the sensory experiences of wine are all about personal preference and interpretation. However, it is important connect the corporeal information, and collectively use it to distinguish grapes and/or blends. Sauv Blanc is an off grey colour on white, and can be slightly acidic if not paired with the right food while Zinfandel has almost a fuscia rim variation, with heavy tannins yet can compliment bitter food flavours such as dark chocolate.

Puckette, M. (2014). How to Taste Wine and Develop Your Palate | Wine Folly. Retrieved from https://winefolly.com/review/how-to-taste-wine-develop-palate/

 

A Pinky Full

My First Experience withWine

When I was growing up, my parents used to have this enormous diningroom table. It sat 12 people and had these huge leather chairs with hot airballoons carved into the wood-back. I always associated that table with family,and trying new food. Growing up in such a multicultural society, we were alwayseating Indian, Sri Lankan or Italian food and for my parents, outlandish food always went with a pairing; Red Wine. When I was around 8, after beingpersistent about trying the wine for several years previously, my parentsagreed that my brother and I were allowed to dip our pinky into the bottom of the glass and place a drop on our tongue. It was horrible. Bitter and similarto the skin of a grape, I hated it. It took me over a decade to learn that thetarte, forward flavour were the tannins. These tannin’s have become a key identifierof red wine. I specify red because I argue that wine is all about personalpreference and flavour and while tannin’s are obviously an aspect of both redand white wine, I find that ice or extra acidity in white wine cuts through thetarte-ness and bring about more fruity flavours. I distinctly remember a tastethat sat on the center of my tongue and couldn’t be washed away by water, I hadto let it disseminate on its own and work its way off of my palette. Now, I havelearned to not only appreciate the array of characteristics that comes fromwine tasting, but really studying the most prominent flavours that come fromeach sip of wine whether a Chianti, Malbec or Shiraz.

Wine List Exploration

Having studied my own wine list extensively, there are numerous aspects which draw me in nearly instantly on the Paris Paris list. I start at the top, only skimming briefly as sparkling wine and Rose are not my typical go-to choices. However, the single glass, of what I assume to be prosecco, and its name “A little glass of sparkling while you think” is not only adorable, but a nearly perfect sales and marketing ploy to sell alcohol and remind the customer that while the list may seem intense and extensive, it should not be overwhelming and they do not take themselves too seriously.

With regard to my questions for the Sommelier, I guess I would be asking more than three, but the first general theme is clarifying what certain terms on the menu mean, and why they are important to include next to the wine. This includes Wind Gap, Sparkling Wine with different colours, Skin Contact why the Jura region is separate. These key terms spark my interest as they aren’t very typical yet, as discussed in class, I wonder if because the French classification of Wine and Liquor is so strict, in order for it to be as authentic as possible Paris Paris needs to be as inclusive as possible. Though vague and open-ended, the follow-up would be what is the Sommelier’s favourite wine and why? When ordering wine in a restaurant it is also important for me to clarify what I like/look for as this might narrow down what the Somm recommends. I also know that when I am trying to sell wine myself, the first question I ask is “What do you like?” because those characteristics (such as dry, fruit forward, tannic etc) mean I can make specific recommendations based on my own palate. This clarification usually includes the grape variety and I would love to hear about some (reds) that I have not tried such as Grenach + White Grapes, Zweigelt, Sumoll, Garnacha and many others.

We then delve into wine pairings and what goes well with food. I am a Peskatarian, which means I do not eat meat, only fish so already, within French cuisine, I am more limited than others in my options for pairings. I will say, that despite my lessons in hospitality and wine service, I do not pick a wine based on the food I want to eat, and vice-versa. While it may not be a universal consensus, my belief is that the wine – and food – will remain tasty and positive if they are good substances to begin with. For example, a Ripasso may not bring out the most elegant elements in a spicy dish however, I will argue that they will both still be delightful because they were good quality products. Obviously, this does not always apply, but it is what I have noticed about my wine experiences – it is about the terroir in the experience and company and environment that end up making the wine exceptional or mediocre. It is less about the food. With all of that, my question for the sommelier would be given the wine that we ordered, what food would suit it best? I want things to be complimented or cut, but not contrast. Third, and finally, I want to ask what the most unique grape variety is, and why? The reality of wine is that it is a business and continues to expand into a corporate entity. So, varieties are a classification but because of consumer culture, the market becomes saturated with similar grapes. As such, I would be curious to know where the most unique variety on the Paris Paris menu comes from, and what makes so distinctive.

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