Vinifera Potpourri

The following post was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’ contributor.

The question was recently posed to me: “What is your favorite wine?”  My initial reaction was “Whoa, not fair.  Do you mean today, with this meal or what?”  “No, just your over-all favorite wine,” was the reply.  I still felt that there are too many variables to answer that question, but, upon further reflection, wondered to myself, alright, just what is my number one choice.  What is it that I will always (or almost always—see, a qualified answer even when musing hypothetically) feel comfortable with and be sure to enjoy.  Then I thought that, maybe, this wasn’t such a far-fetched question.  Perhaps it is helpful for one to try to come up with an answer.  This will help you identify the range of wines you may prefer (at this time, anyway—oops, another qualification).  As there are myriad variables, I suggest that a conclusive answer is fantasy.  But sometimes it’s fun to engage in fantasy, so let’s play the game.  What is your single-most favorite wine?  One might say, “I haven’t found it yet because I haven’t tasted every one (and even then vintages will vary).”  Get the idea that wine-drinking is an ever-changing landscape?  But I digress.  We do like something that is constant and upon which we can rely.  That’s part of human nature.  So what is it for you?  To be fair, let’s divide the question into three categories: whites, reds and others.  For this test, everyone will get a 100, as there are no wrong answers.  Okay, I won’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself, so here are my choices (du jour, at least).

Whites:  I love the Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, “Ariadne,” of Clos Du Val Winery (California).  Crisp and refreshing, excellent when white wine is the choice.  A close second is any good Sauvignon Blanc.  Something, perhaps, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, but you pick the region and the winery.

Reds:  My wine-tasting journey has led me to the belief that the Bourdeaux-style reds (i.e. blends of three to five grapes) is my safe harbor, upon which I can reasonably rely.  My personal favorite is Shya Red by Pomum Cellars, Washington State.  There are many others and many wonderful red varietals from around the globe—too numerous to mention and all fun to try.  A close second for reds would be a super Tuscan (Italy).  Try one sometime.

Others:  There are a lot of specialty wines, many of which you may find appealing.  Not so much for me, but, as I have said before, it is important to keep an open mind.  However, a nice, chilled sparkling wine is good for virtually any occasion.

Okay, so much for that exercise in futility.  What did you come up with?  There are probably no two answers alike to such a question.

To close this post, here’s a suggestion for what to do with left over wine.  “Left-over wine”—qu’ est que c’est?  Nonetheless, if the party’s over and there’s still something left in a bottle or two, try freezing it in an ice cube tray.  Yeah, it works.  I tried it.  Then use the wine cubes at a later time, when wine is desired for cooking purposes.  Not a bad suggestion.  Thanks to Charmaine for the contribution.  And, as always, enjoy the journey.

The Wide World of Wine

The following post was written for Two Dancing Buckeyes by ‘Dad’ Wolfe who is a regular ‘Wine Bits’ contributor.

As we anticipate the arrival of warmer weather and being out-of-doors more often, perhaps our wine selection will vary.  As we’ve noted before, wine is a time and place thing.  It may vary as to the circumstances, the company, the food, the weather, etc.  If you like a particular kind of wine and that’s what you want to drink all of the time, that’s your choice and it’s okay.  However, there is so much more out there.  On a warm day, sitting on the patio, with some light appetizers, a slightly chilled sauvignon blanc hits the spot.  Or you may prefer a pinot grigio or even a chardonnay.  Wonderful!  Then, when you bring out the steaks, the ribs or burgers (yes, it’s fine to drink wine with burgers), you may wish to shift to a nice red of your choosing—a pinot noir, if you want something lighter or a cabernet sauvignon, if you want something more robust.  In between those choices, you might select a merlot, a malbec or a syrah.  There are some excellent reds produced in Spain and a nice tempranillo may be perfect for the occasion, especially if you prepare something like a paella.  Vary your wine selections, and the wide world of wine will begin to open to you.  Enjoy.

Wine Bits: Bits And Pieces

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

Have you ever been somewhere, with a little time to pass, and wanted to get a glass of wine, and perhaps a snack, while you had the chance (such as waiting in an airport), but the variety of establishments was limited, and the wine selection was not very extensive? Recently, I was in an airport, all checked in, and had about an hour and a half until my flight. It was close enough to lunchtime, so I decided to get a sandwich and asked for a wine list. There were about six choices and none of what I would like to have had. On this occasion, I desired a white wine. The menu listed a pinot grigio and a chardonnay. I was hoping for something in between those two. Preferring several varieties of white blends (varying percentages of different white grapes mixed together, as the winemaker may determine), I decided to make my own blend. The price of a glass of the pinot grigio and a glass of the chardonnay were the same (although it shouldn’t be much problem to do the math if there was a difference in prices–add the two together and divide by two), so I asked the server to mix a glass of half pinot grigio and half chardonnay. It worked fine. Be sure you have some idea about what you are mixing because if you don’t like it, you bought it anyway. The server said that no one had ever asked to do that, but had no problem accommodating me. Be sure to tip well, when making a special request. I suppose, if you are thirsty enough, that you could just order a glass of each and an extra glass and do the mixing for yourself.

A favorite white grape of mine is “Semillon.” I also like “Sauvignon Blanc.” Lo and behold, a couple of years ago, I discovered an ideal wine—a semillon and sauvignon blanc blend. It is excellent and will be good, slightly chilled, on a warm evening, with some fresh fruit and cheese. The name of this nectar is Ariadne, made by the Clos Du Val winery in Napa Valley, California. There may well be other similar blends out there, so, if you discover something else to your liking, go for it. The winery tasting notes for Ariadne describe it as follows: “This proprietary blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc takes its name from Ariadne, wife of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Like its namesake, Clos Du Val’s Ariadne is rich, intense and elegant. Pale gold in color with a green tinge, the wine displays aromas of melon, fig and a hint of passion fruit. On the palate, Ariadne is consistent with intense tropical flavors of passion fruit, guava and citrus. Subtle oak tones make for a rich creamy mouth feel, while firm acids keep the finish crisp and light. Great for food pairings.” Mmmmm. I think I hear a bottle calling my name, now. Reasonably priced at $21.00 per bottle. Generally, Clos Du Val is better know for its reds. By the way, the Clos Du Val winery label depicts the daughters of Zeus– Splendor, Mirth and Joy. They are referred to as The Three Graces and throughout ancient Greece were known for dancing, singing and being the life of Olympian parties. You didn’t know that, in addition to learning about wine, you were also going to get information on Greek mythology, did you? Surprise. Remember the name Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. There will be a quiz later. In the meantime, enjoy the journey!

Several More Ways To Taste Wines At A Reasonable Cost

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

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In addition to winery visits, wine bars and wine festivals, there are a number of other ways to enjoy a wide range of wine tasting at a reasonable price.

Many larger grocery stores which sell wine, and usually have reasonably good wine selections, will have tastings, usually to promote a particular wine of the week.  The cost is ordinarily nominal.  Good opportunity and it helps make the grocery shopping trip a bit more enjoyable.  Likewise, wine stores will frequently schedule wine tastings, perhaps once a week or once a month, most often on a Friday or Saturday.  Cost may vary (I have seen them anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00), but these are good opportunities to many times taste some higher end wines.

Another way to taste a wide variety of wines is to get together a group of like-minded people (i.e. those who are interested in tasting wine) and have a wine tasting party.  Ask each guest to bring a bottle of his or her favorite wine or an unfamiliar wine that the guest has been wanting to try.  Open them all and let everyone taste.  A few appetizers and you have a great theme party.  You can vary this idea by specifying a certain area of the world from time to time.

Wine clubs (mail order wines) are a way to broaden your tasting experiences, although this will involve a bit more expense and full bottles of wines.  I have participated in several and have been satisfied with them.  There are a number out there.  Scrutinize them carefully and find one that fits your desires, if this is something you want to try.  Be sure that you can select the general categories (white, red or mixed) that you receive, that you can determine the frequency of deliveries and that you can quit at any time.  I had a bad bottle only once and with a phone call it was quickly replaced, no questions asked.  Continue the journey and enjoy.

Wine Bits: Broadening Your Tasting Experience

This ‘Wine Bits’ post was written by ‘Dad’ Wolfe for Two Dancing Buckeyes.

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How do you try different wines, especially ones with which you may be totally unfamiliar, without the risk of getting something you don’t like and spending a lot of money in the search?  I’m going to tell you about three ways, which are great for the experienced wine-drinker, as well as the novice.

First of all, visits to wineries are a good way to taste a variety of wines.  Winery visits can be very interesting experiences.  Wineries vary greatly from very simple to very elaborate, so keep an open mind.  Most will offer small tastings at a very nominal price.  If you taste something you like, make a note of it and buy a bottle, if you wish.  Many wineries will offer light snacks to full meals.  Many also have gift stores which enable you to become more familiar with the range of wine supplies that are available.  Sometimes, the winery will have a pre-set group of tastings (usually 4 to 6), known as a flight, often three whites and three reds.  This is a very good way to experience a range of wines.  The only drawback is that all the wines are from the same winery.  The solution is to visit other wineries.  Sometimes an area or state wine association will sponsor the visiting of a number of wineries, within reasonable proximity to each other.  This is sometimes referred to as a “wine trail.”  The trails usually have a theme and involve appetizers, tastings and a gift at each winery, for a blanket price.  I have done such trails several times and have found them to be very enjoyable and reasonably priced (eg. $45.00 per couple to visit fourteen wineries over two, two-day weekends).  This way I become aware of what the wineries have to offer and have found a number that I wish to visit again, such as for dinner and musical entertainment.  A great way to spend a day.

A similar way to expand your tasting experience at a reasonable price is visiting wine bars, if you are fortunate enough to have any in your area.  I recently visited one, nearby, and found it very enjoyable.  It had a nice atmosphere, offered some excellent appetizer plates for a reasonable price and had several different six-wine flights on the menu.  The great feature of this is that the flights are planned to fit together in general categories and include wines from different wineries all around the world.  I tried the “South American” tour and discovered a wonderful malbec.  I bought a bottle to take home and it was sold at retail price, not the higher restaurant price, and cost only $10.00.  I must get more of it.  This is the kind of wine that I refer to as a good value—it tastes good and the price is good.  The wine was Trivento Reserve Malbec.  It is described as a powerful mix of typical red fruits like plum and cherry with vanilla hints from the oak. It is from the Mendoza region of Argentina.  Some excellent wines are produced in South America, and this is just one example.

A third way to taste a wide variety of wines are wine festivals.  These events are usually in the nature of a one or two day activity, including a variety of wineries and often food and entertainment.  Most times, for a set admission price for the day, you may avail yourself of numerous tastings.  If you want to relax with some food and enjoy the entertainment, you can purchase of glass of a wine that you may particularly like.

These are several ways to taste a wide variety of wines at a reasonable price.  Enjoy the journey.

A Fortuitous Wine Find

I recently visited a restaurant which was new to me.  The restaurant did not appear to be particularly “fancy” or “up-scale,” but was very pleasant and, reportedly, served good food.  Upon asking for a wine list, I found it not to be particularly extensive, but it did have several wines that caught my eye, including a couple with which I was completely unfamiliar.  My dining partner and I decided upon chicken marsala and beef tenderloin as our entrees and shared both with each other.  The soup of the day was a crab chowder, which we both ordered.  Thus, we were having seafood, chicken and beef.  Having chosen our food, the more challenging task was to select a wine that would be compatible with the wide variety of food.  I noticed a wine, the type of which was totally unknown to me, but the description sounded very appealing, and it appeared to be a wine that would be suitable for both entrees.  And, it was reasonably priced ($42.00).  I usually avoid experimenting with new wines in restaurants, unless highly recommended by the sommelier or wine steward, but this wine turned out to be a delightful surprise.  It was an Aglianico (a what?).  Aglianico is the type or grape varietal.  It is a red wine.

Aglianico may be of some interest to our Dancing Buckeyes, as they have connections to Greece and Italy through their spouses.  The Aglianico wine originated in Greece and is believed to have been brought to southern Italy by Greek settlers.  It is not prevalent, but is found in southern Italy, Australia and California.  This Aglianico was produced by Amador Foothills Winery, in the Shenandoah Valley, Plymouth, California.  The bottle label described the wine as “southern Italy’s most prestigious native grape” and said it “is thriving in our estate vineyard.”  It further said “this wine displays intense ruby color, spicy aromas and concentrated boysenberry flavors.”  I agree with this statement, particularly as to the color and aromas.  It further described it as “great with grilled lamb, pizza or robust and spicy Italian dishes.”  This was enough versatility for me, and it turned out to be great, also, with crab chowder, chicken marsala and beef tenderloin.  By the way, the food was excellent, as well.  Remember, a wine should not over-power the food, nor should the food over-power the wine.  In this instance, the food and wine worked very well with each other.  The wine was very easy to drink from the outset, was full-bodied (but not too powerful or overwhelming) and had a nice, graceful finish (mouth-feel).  I was very pleased to discover this wine and heartily recommend that you try it if you have the opportunity.  Of this vintage (2007), Amador only produced 203 cases (i.e. 2436 bottles), so happy hunting.  Ask your favorite wine merchant to check with distributors to see if it can be ordered or contact the winery directly.  But, as always, enjoy the adventure.

A Particular Wine Will Not Necessarily Be Exactly The Same Year After Year

If a certain winery makes the same kind of wine year in and year out, shouldn’t it taste the same each year? The answer is “not necessarily.” If the same type of grapes, grown in the same area, are used, and the same process to make the wine is used, perhaps even by the same wine maker, the end result should be pretty much the same from year to year—especially for larger producers. However, there are many factors which can influence a particular “vintage” (the harvest and resulting wine of a particular year). Such factors include, but are not limited to, amount of rainfall, when the rains occurred, heat and dryness, nighttime temperatures, plant diseases, pruning methods, harvesting, barreling, fermentation, alcohol content, aging in the bottle, etc.

One must marvel at the final product when one considers all that goes into putting wine in a bottle and onto your table. Likewise, it can be an economic mystery of sorts when you see a bottle of wine on the store shelves for even $8.99 (sometimes half as much) and think about the fact that the grapes had to be grown and harvested, the wine made, barreled and bottled, labels produced,  the product shipped, and that a profit can still be made, especially when you think that wines come from all over the world, literally. Certainly, many wines are more expensive, likewise, for a lot of reasons. However, back to the question ‘du jour”—why will the same wine vary from year to year?

I have previously mentioned Pomum Cellars and listed the percentages of grape varieties in its Bordeaux-style blend called Shya Red for the 2004 vintage. To recap: it was 51% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 11% cabernet franc, 4% malbec and 2% petit verdot. The alcohol content was 13.7% and most, if not all, of the grapes came from the Columbia Valley AVA. 2280 bottles were produced. Let’s compare that with the 2006 and 2007 vintages, 2007 being the current vintage. 2006—45% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 2% malbec and 1% petit verdot; Yakima Valley AVA; 14.7% alcohol, 3720 bottles produced. 2007—47% cabernet sauvignon, 28 % merlot, 13% cabernet franc, 5% malbec and 7% petit verdot; Yakima Valley AVA; 14.7% alcohol and 5880 bottles produced. Notice that from 2004 through 2007, the grape varieties have remained the same, but the percentages used have varied slightly. There is some difference in alcohol content and grape growing location and production has gone up each year. The latter point tells us that this winery is becoming better known and its wines are growing in popularity.  To get specific information about a particular winery, you should look for its website. Most wineries have websites and provide detailed information about their wines, including prices.

Along the same line, if you like a particular variety of wine, will all wines of that type taste the same? Absolutely not; sometimes not even close. Well, come on, man—a chardonnay is a chardonnay is a chardonnay. Not so. When talking with a new wine drinker, I always caution the person to be prepared to taste some wines which he or she may not like, but not to let that deter one from continuing with the tasting journey. Wines vary—from type to type, from winery to winery and from vintage to vintage. You have to find the ones that consistently please you more than others. Just because the same type of grapes are used, there may be great differences in the end products. Such factors include the items mentioned above, as well as the terroir (soil conditions), growing regions, barreling (oak-what kind?; stainless steel, how long), and differences in the wine-making technique. Several years ago, I found that I didn’t care for chardonnay as much as I used to because I found it too buttery and too oaky. Just about that time, a number of wine-makers were shifting to stainless steel barreling, causing the wine to be much less oaky, and, to me, more pleasing. If, on the other hand, you prefer the buttery and oaky flavor, there are still plenty of chardonnays made that way. It’s all about finding what suits your individual preferences. It’s a continuing process. Enjoy the journey!

Let’s Continue Tasting!

Before we go any further, let me mention that wine is an alcoholic beverage and the consumption thereof should be done legally and responsibly.  I do most of my consumption in my own home.  If you are going to be away from home and doing any traveling, the good ole’ designated driver is very helpful (or a taxi).  Or, you can fall back on the spitting method (my last resort).  What about dining out  and consuming wine?  I think it’s  great to have wine with dinner.  Should you order wine in a restaurant by the glass or the bottle?  Depends.  Do you know what you want to drink and will you have more than one glass?  If you want to change wines during the meal, then you should probably order by the glass.  When ordering by the glass, ask the server how long the bottle has been opened.  A good restaurant should be able to give you an answer.  If they don’t know, you may want to order a bottle.  That way you know when the bottle is opened.  A number of states now permit a bottle to be re-corked so that you may take it home.  You should not hesitate to inquire about this.

When considering wine, you should think about how many glasses are likely to be consumed.  Generally, a bottle of wine amounts to four medium-sized glasses.  If there will be two people drinking wine through the course of dinner, a whole bottle will do very nicely—two glasses apiece.  What if two diners each want a different wine?  Rather than purchase two or more glasses each, I would prefer to purchase two bottles, and take whatever is left over, home.  Sometimes, half-bottles are available.  This might, on occasion, be a viable solution.  Usually, wine by the glass is a little more expensive than by the bottle.  I suggest the 4 to 1 test, that is, is the price of a bottle less than four times the price of a glass?  A number of restaurants and wine bars have certain wines available for half-price and/or certain days when many wines are half-priced or otherwise discounted.  Wines in a restaurant or wine bar will usually be more expensive than when purchased at retail—2 ½  to 3 times retail is not unusual, to my observation.  Much more than that might justify another selection (although many factors go into pricing of wine—to be discussed another time).

How should you choose a wine at a restaurant?  First of all, I decide what foods I am going to eat, including appetizer.  I usually like to have a glass of wine at the outset of a meal, and often, one of the first questions asked by your server, is whether you would care for something to drink.  If I have not yet made any decision, I request only water .  If I have decided on an appetizer, but have not yet decided on an entrée, I may order a glass of wine that complements my appetizer and/or soup and then order a bottle of whatever I wish to enjoy with my main course and, hopefully, that of my dining companion.  If you have planned your dining destination ahead of time, it can be helpful to peruse both the menu and the wine list on-line in order to have an idea of what you wish to order.  If you have questions and/or desire suggestions, you should not hesitate to ask your server or, preferably, a wine steward or sommelier (a person particularly knowledgeable about wine).  They can be very helpful in guiding you to something that is in line with your tastes, your budget, and your food selection, even if you may already know quite a bit about wine.

So what about the pomp and circumstance of opening the bottle you choose at your table?  What is a diner to do?  Typically, you will be shown the bottle to be sure it is what you have requested.  If you wish, take a minute to read the label and the brief description of the wine.  Make sure it is something you think you will like, especially if you are unfamiliar with it.  At a restaurant, you may not wish to be making a quantum leap from your comfort zone, because, if you select something you don’t enjoy, it could detract from your overall dining experience.  Stretching your tasting experiences should probably be saved for winery tastings, festival tastings or at-home tastings.

The cork will often be placed near you (unless it is a screw off cap—a subject for future discussion).  It is not necessary to smell the cork.  (However, if you do and it smells pungent, be prepared to examine further.)  I usually feel the cork and look at it.  If it is totally dry, that could be a concern and,  if there is a line going the length of the cork, that is really a concern because that probably means that air has gotten into the bottle and the wine has turned bitter.  You may hear someone say the bottle is “corked.”  Generally, this means that the wine has turned bad.  Sometimes it is characterized by a wet-newspaper sort of smell.  At this point, I should tell you that there are millions of bottles of wine produced each year (don’t hold me to that number—I didn’t count them, but there are a lot), and one shouldn’t be surprised if, occasionally, you get a bad bottle.  Stuff happens.  Usually, wine which has been shipped and stored properly and is not excessively old, will be fine.  Also, a good wine steward will make every effort not to put a bad bottle before you.  However, if you think there is something wrong with the wine, DO NOT hesitate to say so.  You are the customer!

You likely will be poured a small amount of the wine.  Proceed to taste.  SMELL.  Swirl (we’ll talk about that later, also).  And then taste.  If it meets your approval, indicate the same to the steward or server and then glasses will be poured to all those who are sharing, usually ladies first.  Do not expect your wine glass to be filled.  Typically, it will be filled to 1/3 or ½ of the volume of the glass. Smell the wine throughout your drinking experience, as that greatly enhances your perception of the wine.  Most importantly, ENJOY!

Is Bigger Always Better?

I have found some absolutely wonderful wines from small, obscure, little-known, low-production wineries.  Such wineries are sometimes referred to as “boutique” wineries.  One such winery is located in the State of Washington and is known as Pomum Cellars.  There may be something out there that I might like better, but, at this point, the Shya Red is my favorite.  Some wine producers grow their own grapes and make their own wine.  Some purchase the grapes from vineyards which may or may not produce wine of their own.  Pomum is one which carefully selects the type of grapes (varietals) from the growing locations (AVAs—American Viticultural Areas), which the wine-makers, Javier and Shylah Alfonso, believe will best enable them to produce the wine product that they desire.

I first met Javier while on a wine-tasting trip through the State of Washington and into the Willamette Valley area of Oregon in 2007.  During this trip I had the opportunity to taste many excellent wines, visiting close to fifty wineries.  I was traveling with a friend, who also enjoys wines, and who had set up a private tasting with a winery located near Woodinville, Washington.  This winery produced some very good wines and had just recently received a very high rating for one of its wines from renowned wine expert Robert Parker, Jr.  This was certainly impressive.  While the three of us were tasting, the wine-maker invited his next-door business neighbor, who turned out to be Javier Alfonso, to join us in some after-hours tasting.  I began talking with Javier and learned that he was an engineer by day and a beginning wine-maker at night and that he made his wine in the small commercial, warehouse-type space next door.  I asked if he would show me his facilities, which he graciously did.  It didn’t strike me as being much bigger than a two to three car garage.  I don’t specifically recall, but it seems like he had about five or six large metal containers in which the wine was being made.  It was not particularly impressive, especially after many of the other wineries we had visited.  But, remember the book by its cover saying?  That definitely applied here.  I asked if I could taste some of his wine.  It was wonderful!!  It was better than anything I had tasted next door.  I bought a few bottles and, after figuring out a way to ship my wine home to myself (no small problem, I assure you), I euphorically enjoyed the few bottles I had purchased, at home.  I asked Javier if Robert Parker, Jr. had ever rated his wine to which he responded “No, I don’t make enough to give him any (to taste),” a response which I found somewhat amusing.

At that time Pomum Cellars produced primarily two wines:  Syrah and Shyah Red.  Both are good, but the Shyah Red grabbed my attention right away and has never let it loose.  As I understand it, Javier’s heritage is Spanish and he comes from a wine-making family.  Shylah is from Oregon.  The Shyah Red (that name seems to bear a resemblance to the name Shylah, doesn’t it?), is what is called a Bordeaux-style blend, that is, a blend of three or more grapes to arrive at the finished product.  Such a wine (as is true with most wines) may vary, somewhat, from year to year, due to the quality of the grapes, the growing conditions, barreling and other factors (disclaimer—I am not a wine-maker, just a wine enjoyer) AND due to the respective percentages used of the various grapes that are blended together.  Javier’s 2004 vintage of Shyah Red consisted of 2280  BOTTLES, not cases.  That’s only 190 cases.  The blend was 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot.  It was wonderful.  Oh, I already said that.  I asked Javier if it really mattered whether the blend was…say 5% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot, for example, as opposed to his 4% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot.  His answer, very simply, was “It matters to me.”  He is the winemaker and that was an important lesson in wine-making.  The percentages of the blends are by design, not haphazard.  I find it interesting that I discovered my favorite wine entirely by accident.

How To Find Out What Kind Of Wine You Like (Now)

If you haven’t already established one, you need a starting point for determining your individual tastes (or preferences) in wine.  I say “tastes” because you may have a few.  You may have many.  Your particular preferences may change from day to day.  Your general preferences may shift over a period of time, and may very well, shift back.  The point is that wine-drinking is not necessarily static and can be very dynamic.  I say “can be” because, as I will often reiterate, what YOU like is what matters, not what others may suggest you should like, and if you like only one type—that’s okay.  Just try to keep an open mind toward considering other choices. What others suggest can be very helpful and informative, but, in the end, YOU must be the judge for yourself.  And I say “individual” because there are many different wines.  I don’t see how anyone could possibly try them all.  So, what you like is what you like and that’s just fine.

Now let’s get started.  Do you prefer a sweeter wine or one that’s not-so-sweet?  “Not-so-sweet” is another way of saying “dry.”  Why do we say dry?  If it’s wet, then it’s not dry.  Don’t worry about it for now.  There’s a lot of terminology that can make wine-drinking confusing and intimidating.  Tannic, acidic, etc.  Let’s not get hung up on terminology.  Although reading the label on a wine bottle can be interesting and even amusing.   Wines are described in many ways: robust, full-bodied, long legs, great finish….  Hey, what are we talking about?  Well, wine-drinking can be seductive in some respects, but we are still talking about the wine.  I have said that the two main things a person needs to do to learn about wine is taste and read.  But reading serves little purpose unless you taste.  You can read about how to drive a car, but, if you don’t get behind the wheel and “experience” it, your reading knowledge will serve little purpose. You must experience the wine.

I suggest that you start with whites. (If you want to start with reds, go for it.)  Find a shop that is devoted primarily to wine and has informed personnel .  (We will talk more another time about why this is important.)  State that you are wanting to find out where your preferences lie and that you would like a nice, middle of the road, sweeter wine such as a pinot grigio (or gris), a not-so-sweet wine such as a chardonnay and something somewhere in the middle. Prices will be another topic as well as what to eat with wine, how to store it, what to drink it out of, etc.  Whoa, let’s keep this simple for now (but please remember that heat is very bad for wine).

You will need a good wine bottle opener.  There are many varieties.  Don’t get too exotic at first.  You’ll find the style that’s right for you.  Alright, now go home and taste.  Chill, slightly (there are actually charts on chilling wine and they are helpful).  Open.  Spit out your gum, lozenge, hard candy or breath mint.  Swish some water in your mouth and have a go at it. Smell the wine.  Smelling is an important part  of tasting. Sip.  Close your eyes. Thinking about what you are sensing.  Now, take some notes for your own benefit (the type of wine, the winery, the year, the price, the alcohol content and your thoughts about it).  After tasting a number of wines, it can be difficult to remember them all.  Hence, the notes.  There are actually forms available for this, but it’s not a requirement.  Then swish some more water, spit it out and move on to the in-between wine.  Follow the same process as with the first and continue on to the third.  Give it a break and then go through it all again.  Are your observations the same?  Then, perhaps, try it all again the next day.  The wine will keep.  Put the cork back in (NOT ALL THE WAY!—or it may be difficult to get it back out).  Put it in the refrigerator, if you prefer.  Some people, especially professionals in the field of wine, spit the wine out after tasting.  We’re in this for the fun of it, aren’t we?  I generally don’t prefer to spit out perfectly good wine.  However, after a certain amount of tasting, failure to spit can have an adverse effect on your tasting abilities and your recollections.  Enough for now.  Let’s get going on the journey.