Comparing Oranges and Rosés

 

Orange Wine

This is an orange wine from South Africa made from the sémillon grape.

Orange wines seem to be the new trend in many restaurants and wine bars.  Although these wines are new and different for many Americans, these wines are very traditional and have been made for centuries in Eastern European countries, such as Georgia and Slovenia.  With the increasing popularity of natural wine-making techniques, we are seeing a resurgence of this style throughout the wine-making world.

I’ve heard many people liken orange wines to rosé, but they are actually kind of the opposite.  Rosé wine is made from red grapes, but the skins are removed from the juice shortly after pressing.  Conversely,  orange wine is made from white (or light skinned) grapes; however, the skins/seeds are left in contact with the juice for an extended period of time.  This results in an golden/amber/orange colored wine, and thus the name, orange wine.  Grape skins and seeds are the main source of tannin in wines.  This is why white and rosé wines have little to no tannins.  However, by allowing the white grape skins to macerate in the grape juice, orange wines will have some tannic structure and be fuller bodied than white or rosé wines.  Orange wines often have a very unique and savory taste, with flavors ranging from nutty or earthy to floral and funky.  The fruit aromas that are present are often more similar to dried fruit or even the skin or pit of the fruit.   Given the range of flavors, as well as the nice body and acidity, orange wines are excellent for pairing with bold and salty foods like cheese and charcuterie, curries, or even kimchi.

 

Advertisements

Tasting through the Loire

 

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of cruising down the Loire River without leaving NYC at the Spring to Loire event.

There are four major sub-regions within the Loire Valley of France: Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, and Central Vineyards.

Pays Nantais is known almost exclusively for Muscadet wine, which is dry white wine made from the grape called Melon de Bourgogne.  The wine is often aged sur lie (French for “on the lees”) and refers to the practice of keeping the wine in contact with the dead yeast to add more body and richness to the wine.

Vineyards in Anjou-Saumur are most well-known for Chenin Blanc and rosé wines.  There are many AOPs (Appellation d’Origine Protégée)  within Anjou-Saumur, and these are some of the most prominent:

  • Rosé d’Anjou AOP:  slightly off-dry rosé wines, with lots of berry flavors, usually made from Grolleau and Cabernet Franc.
  • Savennières and Jasnières AOPs: dry Chenin Blanc wines.
  • Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume  AOPs: sweet Chenin Blanc  wines
  • Crémant de Loire AOP:  sparkling wine made primarily from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

Continuing along the river, we come across the Touraine AOC, where we find crisp, mineral Sauvignon Blancs.  However, Vouvray is an AOC within Touraine, which is famous for Chenin Blanc wines that range from sec (dry) to moelleux (sweet).   Chinon and Bourgueil are red appellations found in Touraine that focus on Cabernet Franc.

Finally the Central Vineyards, which are most famous for Sauvignon Blanc from  Sancerre  and Pouilly-Fumé.  These Sauvignon Blancs have become very popular, and the price will reflect that.  However, you can often find similar wines in neighboring AOPs such as  Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, and Quincy at a better price point.  Pinot Noir is also grown in this area.  I was especially impressed by several of the Sancerre and Menetou-Salon Pinot Noirs, which had really nice minerality balanced out with lovely aromas of cherry and dried leaves.

With so many excellent and varied wines coming out of the Loire Valley, it was a lovely tasting event to welcome in the spring weather.

 

 

 

Wine Au Naturel

It’s been a while since I have blogged, but now I’m back!  The past few months have been full of changes for me, but one of the biggest is that I have started working at Foragers Wines. Foragers is a wine shop focused on organic, biodynamic, natural, and sustainable wine, so for this first blog post of 2018, I wanted to provide a quick guide on all of this “green” terminology.

Organic Wines: Wines are often labeled as “made with organic grapes”.  This means that the grapes were grown organically, and usually implies that additives (such as yeast and fining agents) were also organic.  However, depending on the country, there may or may not have been sulfur added as a preservative.  USDA certified organic wines are not allowed to use sulfur in the winemaking process, but the rules for organic vary by country, so many organic wines have minimal amounts of sulfites.

Biodynamic Wines: Biodynamic is a method of farming that views the farm (or vineyard) as a living, interconnected system that must be kept in balance through ecological and spiritual practices, such as making your own fertilizer and scheduling planting and harvesting according to the cycles of the moon and planets.  The theories of biodynamic farming were laid out by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, and the current certification for biodynamic farms is the Demeter certification.

Natural:  Natural wines take things a step further.  Natural wines are organic (or biodynamic) wines that are produced with minimal intervention during the winemaking.   Currently there aren’t any official certifications, but some commonly accepted criteria for a “natural wine” are as follows:

  • grapes are grown organically/biodynamically and are hand-picked
  • use of wild yeast fermentation (aka spontaneous fermentation)
  • no additives (sugar, acid, flavors, sulfites)
  • minimal or no fining or filtering

Natural wines are not meant to be aged and extra care should be taken to ensure that the wines are stored at the appropriate temperature.  Since they do not contain any preservatives, there may be some ongoing fermentation, which can lead to a slight effervescent quality in natural wines.

Sustainable Wines:  Sustainable vineyards expand their purview beyond the grapes and place an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility.  Sustainable vineyards may follow some organic and/or biodynamic practices, but the focus is on preserving natural resources such as soil, water, and energy to ensure the sustainability of the farm and long-term viability of the environment, while producing high quality wine.  The rules are varied, but many regions are establishing certifications for sustainablilty:

  • Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)
  • Sustainability in Practice (SIP)
  • Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE)
  • Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
  • Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile
  • South Africa Integrity & Sustainability Certified
  • Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW)
  • Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Protocol

Overall, there are many different certifications, and the rules may vary by country, but hopefully this overview provides a better understanding of  “green wine”.

Certified Wine Nerd

DSC_0070

I did not have much time for blogging this summer, because I was so busy preparing for my Certified Sommelier Examination.  All of my studying paid off, and I did it!  I am officially a certified sommelier!!!  Now, you might be wondering – what does it take to become a certified sommelier?  Well…  the examination is conducted by the Court of Master Sommeliers and consists of three parts: a blind tasting, a theory test, and a mock service exercise.

  1. Blind Tasting:  Upon arrival in the examination room, each desk has four glasses of wine: 2 white, 2 red.  The candidates fill out tasting grids to identify key features of each wine through sight, smell, and taste.  Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 10.00.42 PMPoints are earned for the accurate identification of the various characteristics, and the grid also guides the candidates toward their final conclusion of grape, country, and estimated vintage.
  2. Theory Test:  This portion of the exam tests the candidates’ knowledge of wine theory through 45 short answer questions.  The topics vary across all aspects of wine theory, such as information about grape varieties, wine making techniques, the history/geography of wine regions around the world, etc.
  3. Mock Service:  This final part of the exam allows the candidates to demonstrate their ability to safely open a bottle of sparkling wine or decant an aged bottle of wine, all while being a graceful, charming, and knowledgable server.  The Court sets up an imaginary restaurant and places an examiner at each table.  The candidates are each assigned to a table, and then they approach their “guests”.   The guest will place an order, and while the wine is being opened and served, the candidate will be grilled with various questions about wine pairings and/ cocktail and/or beer recommendations. glasses_on_tray

Candidates must pass all three portions of the exam to earn their certification.  It’s a stressful and rigorous process, but the Court aims to establish a high standard for beverage knowledge and service in restaurants around the world.

 

 

 

 

False Friends

Learning about wine is a bit like learning a new language, and when learning a new language there’s bound to be some points of confusion or “false friends“.  Here are a few wine terms that are easily mistaken.

Claret vs Clairette

  • Claret is a British term for red wine from Bordeaux, France.
  • Clairette is a white grape used in winemaking in the Rhône Valley in France

Muscat vs. Muscadet vs. Muscadelle

  • Muscat is a family of grapes that has varieties used in wine making and for eating.  In Italy, the sparking wine Moscato is made from the the Muscat grape.  In France and Spain, Muscat grapes are often used to make fortified wines.
  • Muscadet is a dry, white wine made in the Loire Valley from the grape called Melon de Bourgogne.  It is not related to the Muscat family of grapes – it is a cross between  Gouais blanc and  Pinot blanc.
  • Muscadelle is another white grape that is used for blending in the Bordeaux region in France.  It is not related to the Muscat family of grapes – it is a cross between Gouais blanc and an unidentified grape variety.

Syrah and Petit Sirah

  • Syrah is a red wine grape originating from France.  Syrah is known as Shiraz, in Australia.
  • Petit Sirah is a red wine grape that resulted from a crossing of Syrah and Peloursin Grapes.  Petit Sirah is also known as Durif.

Pouilly-Fumé  vs. Pouilly-Fuissé

  • Pouilly-Fumé is a wine region in the Loire Valley of France that is known for its Sauvignon Blanc wines.
  • Pouilly-Fuissé is a wine region in Burgundy, France that is known for its Chardonnay wines.

VDN vs. VDL

  • VDN stands for vins doux naturel.  VDNs are fortified wines, common in the south of France, where brandy is added to the wine to stop the fermentation.
  • VDL stands for vin de liquer.  VDLs are also fortified wines; however, the brandy is added to the unfermented grape juice.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo vs. Vino Nobile de Montepulciano

  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made in the region of Abruzzo, from the Montepulciano grapes.
  • Vino Nobile de Montepulciano is made in the town of Montepulciano, from Sangiovese grapes.

 

Wine Pairing Basics

We all know that food and wine were meant to be together, but not all combinations are ideal.  It can be quite daunting to try to find that “perfect pair”, but here are some basics guidelines:

  • Match the overall quality and intensity of the food and wine 
  • Decide whether to complement or contrast the flavors
  • Wine and food from the same region are usually complementary
  • Acidity in wine can cut through fatty foods and balance out saltiness
  • High tannin wines can over power delicate flavors, but also cuts through fatty foods
  • Spicy food can be alleviated with a sweet wine, while high tannins will increase the heat sensation

I was able to put these ideas to the test the other night in my sommelier class with seven different pairings.

DSC_0217

 

  • Goat Cheese with 2015 Cailbourdin Pouilly Fumé, AOC Loire Valley, France    
    • This pairing neutralizes some of the acidity in both the cheese and the wine, making the cheese seem even creamier.         
  • Grilled Chicken with 2013 Faiveley Mercurey, AOC Blanc Clos Rochette, France  
    • The light oak on this Chardonnay accentuates the grilled flavor on the chicken.
  • Duck Breast with 2014 Lynmar Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley AVA, California   
    • The acidity cuts through the fattiness of the duck and the earthiness of the Pinot complements the gamey flavor of the duck.
  • Roast Pork with 2011 Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy 
    • The fruit in the wine brought out some nice flavor in the pork.
  • Seared Ham with 2015 J.H. Selbach  Riesling Spätlese, QmP Mosel, Germany
    • The subtle sweetness of the wine was delicious with the salty ham.
  • Foie Gras with 2009 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes, AOC Bordeaux, France
    • This sweet wine brings out some of the saltiness of the foie, and the foie balanced out the sweetness of the wine.
  • Roquefort NV Graham’s Six Grapes  Ruby Port, Porto DOC, Portugal 
    • Another sweet-salty combination, that smoothed out the blue cheese and highlighted the richness of the port.

Overall, each person has slightly different tastes, but when you do find a “perfect pair”, it is delicious.

Sauvignon Blanc Day on Friday

 

The first Friday in May is International Sauvignon Blanc day, so here’s a little background to help you prepare for the festivities.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape that originated in France, where it is  still widely planted in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux .  However, it has also become popular in many New World wine regions, such as Chile, South Africa, and California, but especially New Zealand, where it has become their most widely planted grape.

Sauvignon Blanc is a dry, white wine, with high acidity.  It is often described as crisp and refreshing, and it is one of my favorite wines for summer.  I find Sauvignon Blanc easy to drink on its own, but with its herbal and mineral qualities, it also makes an excellent pairing for fresh vegetables, salads,  fish/seafood, sushi,  and raw oysters.

Common fruit flavors for Sauvignon Blanc are lime (and other citrus), honeydew melon, green apple, and peach.  Additionally, Sauvignon Blanc is known for strong non-fruit flavors such as fresh grass, bell pepper, and chalky minerals.