The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Spotlight on Pinot Noir

Published by Monday, April 15, 2013 Permalink 0

The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Spotlight on Pinot Noir

by James Flewellen

Pinot Noir is a light-skinned red grape originating from Burgundy in its modern form. Although, the Burgundians have been working with Pinot for around a thousand years, so the term ‘modern’ should be taken with a grain of salt!

 

Pinot noir grapes have a much darker hue than ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grape typically produces light-bodied wines with aromas ranging from fresh red fruit (raspberry, strawberry, cherry) to black (blackberry, mulberry) depending on the local climate of the vineyard. Warmer sites tend to produce wines with ‘blacker’ and riper fruit flavours. Alongside the fruit, good Pinot exhibits a fresh minerally, or even pleasantly ‘grassy’ character – complemented by the grape’s naturally high acidity on the palate. With bottle maturation, the wine develops notes of mushroom and decaying autumnal leaves — expressed evocatively by the French term sous-bois — which translates as ‘forest floor’. The thin skins of the grapes mean that the wines are generally low in tannin, though tannins are usually very fine-grained and punctuate the wine sufficiently so it can be enjoyed with food.

Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape and is very difficult to handle. Burgundy’s millennium of association with Pinot Noir means that it produces the best in the world — and that the Burgundian clones of the grape are ideally suited to Burgundy’s continental climate. Explaining Burgundy’s appellation system would take an entire post of its own, but there are two main subregions for Pinot Noir there: Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. These are further divided into villages, which may be further identified by vineyard — and these can be classified as either Premier Cru or Grand Cru indicating the quality level of the grapes.

Pinot grapes in Burgundy going through the pro...

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Switzerland: Take a Gourmet Walk in the Vineyards of Mont-sur-Rolle

Published by Monday, August 27, 2012 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Discover the various wine grape varieties and wines of Mont-sur-Rolle at the Caveau de Mont-sur-Rolle on September 1st, 2012. This is a great introductory wine course to Vaud wine.

The walk makes for a lovely daytime family outing. The 5-kilometer walk through the vineyards includes 9 stops at different grand cru wineries. Wine tastings are given by the actual wine maker, with explanations about the method and technique used. It is an easy walk, so children can even come along. The discovery tour starts every 15 minutes, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to reserve a traditional Swiss dinner and make it a gourmet walk, you must reserve ahead. Adults 60 CHF, children 25 CHF.

Departure

From 10.30 a.m. in front of the Caveau des Vignerons
Address: Route du Coeur de la Côte, 1185 Mont-sur-Rolle

Festivities

From 12 p.m. at Domaine de Bellevue
Musical entertainment
Snacks and refreshments
Wine tasted on sale

 Contact Tania de Wateville by email at montbenay@gmail.com or by phone 41 (0)79 363 48 59.

 

 

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The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Using your nose: Aromas in white wines

Published by Monday, August 27, 2012 Permalink 0

by James Flewellen

For me, the greatest tragedy of having a cold is not hours spent in bed when I could be out doing something ‘productive’. Rather, it’s losing my sense of smell with a blocked nose: food simply doesn’t taste the same!

Just like food, the aroma of a wine is very important to our overall perception, and enjoyment, of it. We smell a wine without even trying when we go to drink it. Our taste buds are immediately informed about what to expect and we unconsciously assess the flavour of a wine based on whether it lives up to how it smelled. We even have smell sensors that can be reached from inside our mouth. These are especially triggered by wine, whose alcoholic content helps lift the aroma molecules to reach these sensors even after we swallow. Wine can be such a complex beverage, it’s a shame not to experience fully everything it has to offer, which is why you’ll see wine geeks swirling a glass of fine wine and sticking their noses in endlessly, before even taking a sip!

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When pairing food and wine think also about complimenting the aromas of each. The stone fruit and honey aromas of this Tokaji paired very well with an apricot tarte tatin.

Given the density of aroma molecules found in a wine and a human’s comparatively poor sense of smell, it can sometimes be a challenge identifying what it is we’re actually smelling in a wine. This is no bad thing — if you can immediately name a single thing a wine smells like, it’s a sign that it’s not particularly complex or interesting wine.

To help simplify things I like to break up the aromas I might be getting in a wine into different categories. Firstly I focus on the ‘fruit’ aspect of the bouquet. Does the wine smell ‘fruity’ or is the nose (wine term for ‘aroma’) dominated by non-fruit aromas? Or perhaps they are both there in equal measure. If fruity, what sort of fruits?

For white wines, I tend to think of a ‘fruit spectrum’. At one end of the scale we have cool climate fruits, such as apples, pears, lemon and grapefruit. We move through to stone fruit — peaches, apricots — and then to tropical fruits — for instance pineapple, guava, mango. This ‘spectrum’ is an indication of the ripeness of the grapes and can give us a clue as to the climate in which the grapes are grown. To generalise, the more towards the tropical end of the spectrum, the warmer the climate.

Part of the ‘fruit spectrum’.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and some wines have distinct aromas of certain fruits — Gewurztraminer typically smells of lychee for instance. It’s interesting to note that very few wines actually smell of ‘grapes’. Perhaps this reflects the reduced variation in table grapes we have available to us in a globalised, homogenised food market — most of the table grapes I’ve seen in supermarkets around the world are Thompson Seedless. Although there is of course the argument that if grapes are fine enough to be made into wine, why would you waste them on a table! Wines made from Muscat are one exception to this rule, and are often described as having a ‘grapey’ aroma.

As far as non-fruit aromas go, we can have vegetal or herbaceous aromas — Sauvignon Blanc is often described as smelling of gooseberry and nettle, or even tomato leaf. Shelled peas, grass and hay are all terms I’ve used more than once too. Wines can smell musty or animally too, which is not always a pejorative term. Loire Chenin Blanc can have an intriguing aroma commonly referred to as ‘wet wool’! And of course we have flowers. Muscat smells of orange blossom; Chablis can be reminiscent of lilies. If you know your flowers you’ll be able to discover all sorts of comparisons with wine.Image Copyright. All Rights Reserved

You’ll often hear the term ‘minerality’ thrown about in wine descriptions. Minerality is more commonly used to describe a component of taste, and exactly what it means is a matter than is hotly debated. As far as aromas go, some wines do have a sort of chemical smell such as flint, gunpowder, kerosene, petrol or wet asphalt. Again, these are not always used in a negative way. The most complex wines will have elements from all categories in varying degrees and over the course of a meal or tasting different aspects of the bouquet will come to the fore, while others will recede in prominence as your nose gets used to smelling them.

The final aspect of the nose of a white wine may be the presence of oak. If a wine has been aged in new French oak, you may expect aromas of vanilla, butter, nuts, spices, or even freshly sawn planks — if the wine is very young. American oak has a more lifted, slightly confected aroma often described as coconut, but also as white chocolate.

As you’re picking up, wine is a complex concerto of hundreds of aromatic compounds. As humans, we’re lucky enough to be able to smell even some of the, though it can take practice to identify what exactly we smell. As with everything though, it is simply a matter of starting to pay attention to what we’re smelling, both in and out of the glass.

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