Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting to Know You...Gruner Veltliner

Once upon a time, the Traminer grape met an obscure grape called St. Georgener in a faraway land. The 2 grapes began a torrid "love affair" and the fruit of their passions became known as Gruner Veltliner, one of the defining grapes of Austrian wine.

Gruner Veltliner (or GV as it will be called for the rest of the post) has small greenish-yellow berries on the vine. It grows best along the Danube river in Austria, and the best quality wines come from regions named Kremstal, Kamptal, Wachau, Weinviertel and Donauland. It is also grown in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Germany. GV is known for it's peppery notes both in the bouquet and on the palate, with refreshing acidity and the ability to age for years in a cellar. It also boasts mineral, citrus and sometimes peachy flavors in the mouth.

The wine I tasted was the 2011 Rabl Gruner Veltliner Spiegel, based out of the Kamptal region. This was part of 3 bottles given to me for my 2013 cellaring project. 

Crisp with refreshing acidity and mineral, citrus and stone fruit notes, this wine is light, yet full-bodied. It coats the throat with a smooth, slightly sweet finish that will make you want to sip again and again! I did not pair this with any food, but some recommended pairings include asparagus, smoked salmon, potato pancakes and sashimi. 

What shocks me the most about this wine is it's reputation for aging, and not just for a year or two in the cellar. Some sommeliers and websites state that GV can age upwards of 20+ years. Here's a link to an article of GVs from 1960-1979 that were tasted in 2002, and beat out some notable Chardonnays and White Burgundies. Although I'm unsure of how long I plan to keep these in the cellar for now, you bet it will be a long time! Remember, a fine wine gets better with age!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Neverending Pinot Noir Project

Way back in September I said I would be finishing my Pinot Noir project. Three months later, I'm still drinking Pinot Noir! It turns out I liked it more than I thought I would! However, December 31st, 2012 marked the now-official end to the project. Although I'm unsure of the total number of Pinots I sampled, I became well acquainted with PNs from Canada, the USA, France, Italy, and New Zealand. Here is what I learned:
-Pinot Noir grapes are the divas of the vineyard. They flourish best in a temperate climate; too much heat and the berries can shrivel and get sun burnt. The grapes are also very susceptible to mildew, botrytis and virus diseases. This also explains why Pinot Noirs tend to cost more than other wines.
-Although the wines do have red and black fruit on the nose and in the palate, Pinot Noirs are full-bodied wines that are mostly earthy, with more mineral and herbaceous notes than fruit. I also found a subtle note of black or white pepper on a lot of the wines I tasted.
-There is a special glass to best taste Pinot Noirs with that has a slightly flared rim. A picture of it can be found in one of my previous posts.
-I found Pinot Noirs paired best with beef and lamb dishes. As mentioned, Pinots are full-bodied and hold up against the stronger flavors of the beef and lamb. The New Zealand Pinot I tasted paired really well with a smoked Gruyere cheese. Go for stronger flavors when pairing a Pinot, but feel free to drink it on it's own, especially a wine from California's 2009 standout vintage.

The Best Vintages By Region
Canada: 2007 hands down! If you can't find a 2007, a 2010 Canadian Pinot is a good 2nd choice
California: 2009 all the way! The climate conditions were perfect for growing Pinots. My "silver medal winner" is from this vintage!
Burgundy, France: 2005, 2009
Sadly, I found Italy on a whole to be a miss with Pinot Noir. They specialize in their own grapes for a reason, and I'll be sure to sample them soon, especially with my return to WSET Advanced in the Spring.

The "Medal Winners" (If I had medals to give out, ha ha)

Gold: Chateau des Charmes Old Vines PN 2007. There was a party in my mouth when I first tried this gem! Full-bodied, spicy, a little herbaceous but a beautiful long finish that doesn't leave a harsh aftertaste in the mouth. It made me want more, and more, and more...4 bottles are now in my cellar. I paired it with meat but could drink it on it's own as well!

Silver: La Crema Monterey PN 2009. I love this wine because it has more abundant red fruit on the bouquet and in the palate than in other Pinots. I found this one to be very easy-drinking, with all the characteristics of a Pinot Noir on the palate. My favorite to drink on it's own! 

Bronze: Louis Latour PN 2009. If you want a good benchmark Pinot from it's homeland of Burgundy, you can not go wrong with this one! I tasted notes of black pepper, bell pepper, eucalyptus, with hints of coffee and meat. Another full-bodied, long finish wine. A great choice!

Best Pairing: Veuve Clicquot with Rack of Lamb Persillade. Because Pinot Noir makes up only a part of the composition in Champagne, I was surprised that it stood out against the harsh, bitter flavors of the lamb! The delicate flavors of the Champagne complemented the lamb in such a way that I couldn't take a bite of meat without savoring a sip of wine in my mouth right after! 

So that's it. Although the blogging portion of the project is now complete, I don't expect to stop drinking Pinots altogether, which is why the project will never officially end in my life. Besides, I've only scratched the surface! Cheers to the Pinot Noirs I will continue to taste in the future!

So what's next for 2013? I will be taking on 2 projects; the first is a cellar-based project thanks to my darling husband. I will be tasting 4 wines, and then cellaring the bottles to see how they age. This one will take a few years (if not longer) to complete and will lead into the 2nd project, a research-based project on the wines of Penfold's. Stay tuned for the tasting notes!