Portugal is Unique in that they produce 250 grape varietals unique to their region..
OK, I didn’t actually try to taste 250 new grape varietals (can you say “Alvarinho”, “Baga” “Trincadeira” or “Touriga Nacional” ?) but I did try to better understand the wonderful variety of wines coming from a country with a unique language and known more for fortified wines – their Ports – than for their still wines.
Trade Tastings can be a SERIOUS Affair!
The best part of my tasting was the seated seminar with Evan Goldstein
- I had seen him in videos, but it was great to actually meet the wine powerhouse in person. Passionate is not a wasted word on this wine lover – he really presented with energy and humor and a keen sense of fun and adventure – he popped a few key Portguese words into the presentation but for the obvious effect – few people understand the language!
Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions was quite engaging..
So what did I learn from the seated tasting of 7 wines (it was supposed to be 8, but one never made it through shipping!) ?
-Vinho Verde which translates as “Green Wine” does NOT mean green-hued wine, but rather a wine meant to be consumed “young”.
-Portuguese “Verdelho” is NOT the same as Spanish “Verdejo”
-There is a Rose Vinho Verde
-There are many micro-climates and the wines from the southern planes tend to ripen very evenly from year to year.
-Moscatel de Setubal is a Muscat Fortified wine other than Port from the southern Peninsula and has more of a golden raisin/apricot flavor than Ports more prunish, dark fruit flavors.
Overall I was impressed by the consistency of the wines – most had abundent acidity and enough fruit and flavor for backbone. Some of the reds such as the pure Touriga Nacional’s were quite tannic and “cedar box” spice, but still the average quality of wines was quite good.
I do want to mention that TasteDC was affiliated with the Consumer Grand Tasting that evening and helped to sell it out – although the wines were the same in the consumer tasting, the food was much better than the Trade got which is actually a good thing. Also the food was quite good – really tender carved Roast Beef, Ham Table, Specialty Taco Table and something I hadn’t seen before – a Ramen Noodle table with the chance to choose your own noodles and fixings- this kept the Vegetarians happy – Cheers!
“In Order to Make Great Wine, the Vines Must Suffer..”
I attended a recent trade tasting given by the Bureau of Burgundy Wines on Tuesday, April 23rd at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. – it was taught by a very affable and precise Jean-Pierre Renard who took us through history, philosophy and ultimately a tasting of 9 wines from the lowest classification up to a Grand Cru – Corton Grand Cru, les Renardes, 2008 Domaine Maillard.
We covered the basics of Burgundy which can actually be quite confusing. In a nutshell, Burgundy is a region and the wines are named from their location in that region. The basic breakdown is Regional wines, Village wines, Premiere Cru wines and Grands Cru wines, each respective layer being more rare and specific to a smaller number of wines and thus normally costing more as well. If you purchase a regular Bourgogne with little more information on the bottle, it most likely can come from grapes grown anywhere in that region. Village wines have regionality, but are not specific to any site while Premiere Cru and Grands Cru grapes come from specified parcels. Add to this the complexity rule-wise of “climats” which loosely translates according to the speaker as the “DNA of the individual Bourgogne Vineyards” – I actually found a site in English that delves deeper into the climats concept – the “climats”. Climats equates closely with “terroir”..
OK, now that you’re probably totally confused, let me say that much of what the speaker said rang true with what I had learned over the past 15 years at various wine classes and courses.
Burgundy has been producing serious wine since the Roman times, and afterwards the plots of land came from Church donations by nobles – they always gave their worst sites (poorest and rockiest soils) to the local Monasteries. Ironically, the rocky soils and hills they donated actually produce the world’s greatest wines!
The concept of “terroir” has really been developed from the wines of Burgundy more so than any other region – why?
1)They pretty much only use Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white wines (a few exceptions like Aligote, but these are not blended)
2)hillside vineyards grow very different quality grapes from vineyards grown in the valley – hillier/higher sites produce more intense wine flavors, valley grapes are more generic.
3)Each vineyard site has it’s own weather patterns, geology, geography and even human/historical conditions. This last point is very confusing to most Americans: wine is made by humans, NOT by nature! Choosing the right site and propagating the best grapes is a human endeavor, but Nature is always adding chance to the equation. There is science as well as mysticism in the vineyard, maybe even some witchcraft..
“People can’t wait for aging wine any more, they want to drink everything young..”
A sad refrain by Jean-Pierre, but the reality of the modern wine drinker – people today don’t want to age their wines, so they want to drink young vintages before they’re ready to shine. There is so much history in Burgundy and even though winemaking today is better than ever, to truly understand and appreciate a fine age-worthy Burgundy, you simply must wait – Patience!
Dave McIntyre of both the Washington Post and his own Wine Line Blog interviewed and cajoled Jancis on a comfortable stage setting – the two seated in “comfy chairs” (OK – bad Monty Python reference! )
Jim Law, Linden Vineyards, Virginia
The discussion related to wine, specificially American, and Jancis’ latest book (with the fellow authorship of Linda Murphy) American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United StatesJancis has a very British speaking style and a dry wit that is best appreciated with a glass of wine. She mentioned that there are now 8,000 wineries in the US – the majority outside of California – and this is part of why America has become a great wine producing region on the international scene. I haven’t read the book, but she mentioned that it was primarily written by Linda Murphy who is a sports writer – and there is very little technical information about wine, the book was designed to be a fun read. I want to say – it is VERY difficult to make talking about wine interesting..Dave McIntyre did a very good job by broadening the topic from just American wine into lifestyle (mentions of wine tourism and also Dave’s own organization DrinkLocalWine ) as well as an interesting word association back-and-forth at the end:
Dave: “Natural Wines” ?
Jancis: “Very trendy right now..They have to be good!” (approximation of a quote!)
The Lovely Rachel Martin, Boxwood Estate Winery, VA
Overall, an excellent evening and the finish was a wine tasting in the famous Natural History Museum Auditorium with the elephant..nobody probably noticed, but the famous dinosaur Shark Jaws were hiding behind the wine exhibition..sort of like the evening – a subtle discussion of wine with amazingly delicious wines by American wineries from Idaho to Virginia – is America “biting back” at the French/Italian wine dominance of the past? Who knows – Cheers!
American Wines take a BITE out of Europe’s Dominance!
I attended a really fun Sparkling Wine Comparison Tasting of Champagne vs. The Rest at the Hill Center as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. There were actually 2 speakers at the event: Burnie Williams of Chat’s Liquors who did most of the educational component of the event and a French gentleman I only remember as “Charles” who spoke about the specifics of the 4 wines we tasted because he imported them.
The Setup: We sat in a U-shape at tables with each of getting 4 flutes of sparkling wine. I thought the black table coverings were a nice touch even though traditionally you look at wines through a white background (and tablecloths) – but why? The colors of the wine show exceptionally well against a black background – maybe for red wines a different story, but we only had one rosé, so no issue here. The Frenchman opened each wine and came down the interior of the “U” and poured each glass individually – as you can see on the left, it’s a visually pleasing way of pouring wine/presentation!
The Wine: There were 4 sparkling wines poured of which 2 were non-Champagne (one Italian, one French Cremant) and two “true” Champagnes. (I’ve included “suggested retail price” which usually means you can get them for a bit less..)
Ca’ dei Zago DOC Proseccor Coi Fondo 2010 – Prosecco is actually made in a less expensive method than traditional Champagne – the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tank. This was also a pretty dry version of Prosecco – they usually are a bit more sweet.
Klein “Cremant d’Alsace” Chardonnay Extra Brut (Alsace, France), $29.99 – very nice Chardonnay based sparkler – pretty good value.
Champagne Francois Diligent Rose Cote de Bar, NV (Champagne, France), $36.99- this wine was a bit funky, but I think the cork had ruined it..
Laherte Freres “Les Vignes d’Autrefois-A Chavot” Extra Brut, 2006 (Champagne, France) $74.99 – My favorite by a long shot – price doesn’t always determine quality, but this wine had the wine on the lees for 3 years in bottle and this created that nutty, smokey, yeasty complexity that I LOVE in Champagne – by this one for me!
The Education: Burnie Williams, the owner of Chat’s Liquors did an excellent job of covering a pretty involved and complex topic. You see, sparkling wines are created different from other wines – they must go through a second fermentation to create the bubbles, the first fermentation creates the “wine” and alcohol. He did an excellent job of covering both the history (yep, Dom Perignon was NOT the inventor of sparkling wine!) and the process of making sparkling wines. I’ve attended many sparkling wine classes so rather than bore with you with all the details, the most interesting parts of making this type of wine are:
Lees - these are the dead yeast that drop to the bottom of the barrel or bottle, depending on how you’re aging your wine. If you let them stay with the wine and age, they create a yeasty/nutty flavor and aroma, if you take them away (slightly different than “filtering” a wine, but similar process), then the wine will have a cleaner more fruit-driven expression.
Riddling – this is the process of turning the bottles a few turns every so often for maybe a year or two to get the dead yeast from the 2nd fermentation out of the wine. This was once done by humans wearing cages on their face to prevent chards of glass from cutting their faces if the bottles exploded (19th century bottles had poor technology!), but now often done by machines.
Disgorging – After riddling, the dead yeast/lees are now upside down in the bottle and form a plug of..dead yeast! This has to be removed or “disgorged” – the way it’s done today is by freezing this gook but putting the bottles part way into an ice bath with salted water – the low temperature freezes only the plug and thus it is pulled out.
Dosage – This is after the dead lees are taken out, the final flavor and sugar level is added back – Brut is less sugar than Extra Dry, so the type of flavor/sweetness is determined at this point. Overall, had a really fun time at this event and it was a helluva deal at such a low price! I’m chatting it up with Chat’s Liquors to do more tasting events – DC has very few wine tastings right now, and the demand is there. As always, keep drinking good sparkling wine, Champagne or whatever is in your glass..you only live once – Cheers!
Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia WO 2011 ($15.29 special bottle price)
De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ Stellenbosch WO 2012 ($16.19 special bottle price)
A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend Swartland Coastal Region 2011
($14.39 special bottle price)
Kanonkop Kadette Red Blend Stellenbosch WO South Africa 2010
($14.39 special bottle price)
The wines we tasted were offered for 10% off. My favorite was the
Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia WO 2011. It had wonderful acidity, light citrus notes and spice on the finish. The De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ Stellenbosch WO 2012 was also incredibly well done. It had creamy notes without being overly buttery or vanilla. There was some nice fruit midpalate.
Girl Meets Glass really enjoyed the reds especially the A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend Swartland Coastal Region 2011. It was reminiscent of a GSM blend. The Kanonkop Kadette Red Blend Stellenbosch WO South Africa 2010 is one of the most well known and extremely well done wines from South Africa. It’s a bigger red with tobacco notes with a smooth finish.
We were lucky enough to have Eric Rohleder, Founder and Owner, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, leading our tasting. He is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but extremely down to Earth. I can’t wait to go back to the shop as the selection is well-curated and still affordable. They also had Hop Slam!!
After the wine, I continued the fun to Penn Social for my game show league. We played Pyramid and I was robbed. I did very well at Groundhog Day category. I ended up giving clues to my teammate for synonyms for friends and we didn’t get one. Sigh. Therefore, I stole a competitor’s beer. Next week, he’s going down.
As part of the Fancy Food Show which now is in Washington, D.C. annually at the Convention Center (it has been temporarily moved from NYC’s Jacob’s Javit’s Center until renovations are completed), I was invited to a fun chef battle between Iron Chef competitor RJ Cooper and Cordon Bleu Chilean chef Pilar Rodríguez, to take place on Thursday, June 14th, from 1-3pm, at Rogue 24. It was an invitation only media event, in which was able to taste food prepared with authentic Chilean ingredients, paired with Chilean wine and pisco. The new Ambassador of Chile, Felipe Bulnes Serrano, was there to add to the importance of the festivities, but all in all, it was just a fun time!
Here are some photos of the drinks, the Chilean wine, some of the dishes and of course the Ambassador (although, RJ Cooper was in true form, check out the photo!).
I’ve organized or promoted over 1,000 wine tastings and wine classes in the Washington, D.C. area since 1997 through my organization TasteDC.com. A few times a week I get a phone call at headquarters (a room in my Georgetown townhouse with 2 computers, a color printer and a Fax..but it IS Ground Zero for DC wine tastings!) asking me to organize a wine tasting or class for a group of say maybe 15 people. What’s funny/unfortunate/amazing is that the call is almost always the same – THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WINE TASTING IS OR WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR!
A wine tasting is an event from the TasteDC perspective – it has a beginning time, an ending time and a theme to fill the middle of the tasting. Say for example, a wine tasting of wine styles: rent a room, supply it with glassware (maybe a little food – cheese, crackers and bread would be nice!), a selection of wines with say three different “styles” (could be anything, but normally it might be light-bodied, medium-bodied and heavy-bodied wines) and put them at their own tables with volunteers pouring the wine..or people could pour their own wine – then we suggest you put out an information tasting sheet on each wine..
Do you have a Date?
Do you have a Venue?
Do you have a wine “theme”?
There are literally thousands of ways to organize a wine tasting! I do want to make note – if you use the term “wine class” that most likely means a seated event with a speaker. Does a wine tasting necessarily need a speaker? No – the simple answer is sometimes (most of the time!) a speaker ads an unnecessary expense to a tasting – speakers charge for their services and the fees range significantly (I start at about $500 per event, but I have other ways to increase my profitability – hey, don’t attendees want a copy of my book “I Drink on the Job” ?
I’m going to write more about what to look for in a wine tasting – both for a private group and for a fun public form of entertainment – keep checking back – Cheers!