Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Tale of 2 Wine Regions: Part 3 and Conclusion

One of the most well-known white wine grapes in the world is Riesling. Although it is widely grown in many countries world-wide, it is synonymous with Germany, where the first known mention of it was found, and where it remains the most widely-planted varietal today. Other regions that are known for their Rieslings include the Clare Valley in Australia, Austria, Alsace, and Canada, both the Niagara and Okanagan regions.

With hard wood on it's trunk and hardy fruit, Riesling grapes can withstand frosts and cold temperatures, and are resistant to downy mildew. It ripens late, which make it ideal for late-harvest wines, botrytised sweet wines, and even Icewine. Riesling wines tend to be high in acidity and low in alcohol, with a wide flavour profile that includes blossom, stone fruits, citrus, and even petrol and kerosene with age. One of the most unique characteristics of Riesling is it's aging power; it can last for 20+ years in a cellar.

My husband and I compared Gray Monk's 2011 Riesling with Trimbach's 2010 Riesling. The style of the Trimbach Riesling is similar to the "kabinett" style of German Rieslings: light-bodied, with high acidity and more citrus flavours on the palate. Alsace Rieslings tend to have more body, are higher in alcohol, and show a distinct flinty note. The flavours my husband and I detected were blossom, green apple, honeydew melon and lime.

I found the Gray Monk showed similar characteristics on the nose and palate, but it also had the traditional peach flavour that attracts many to Riesling. It had a little more sweetness (off-dry) and the acidity was more mellow in the mouth. It seemed to be more balanced than the Trimbach, where the acidity in the Alsatian wine seemed to overpower the flavour intensity. This surprised me because the Alsatian was older by a year, and I thought it would have settled more than the Gray Monk, which comes from a colder climate. Both my husband and I preferred the Gray Monk over the Trimbach because of these reasons. In comparison to the standard characteristics of Riesling, the wines were on par with eachother, and we ranked both Rieslings as "good" using the WSET Advanced quality assessment. In fact, all 3 varietals were ranked the same quality throughout the project. And all wines retailed under $30 CDN.

The final "scores", based on personal preference:

Gewurztraminer: Tie. My husband preferred the Sumac Ridge, I preferred the Trimbach.
Pinot Gris: Pfaffenheim 2010
Riesling: Gray Monk 2011
Overall: Tie!

So are there differences between Alsace and Okanagan's noble varieties? I would argue yes. The differences we found were in acidity levels (in 2 of the 3 varietals), body, and flavour characteristics. If you like wines that have mouth-watering acidity and minerality with apple and citrus flavours, Okanagan white wines are a great bet. If you prefer a more mellow, fruit-forward white, Alsace wines are a must-try. These would all vary due to the climatic and soil differences between both regions. However, there really isn't a difference between the wines that were compared when assessing the quality. Try it yourself and see what you prefer, you just may be surprised like we were!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

World Holiday Wine Match-Please Vote!

Joy to the World! For the past few weeks I've been busy nominating and voting for World Holiday Wine Matches. One of the wines that I nominated, Santa Rita's 120 Sauvignon Blanc, has reached the finals for the best Collard Greens category! Please help me by clicking on the link below to vote for my wine, as well as voting for wines in the other categories!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is My Dad a Wine Snob?

Wine Snob: "A person unwilling to try other types of wines, and will only drink the wine they think is so great." Urban Dictionary. This is one of the definitions the term "Wine Snob" carries.

The term seems to be used on a regular basis these days. Some wine afficionados throw it around like confetti at an 80's wedding, and some reject the term. I've personally used wine snob to describe the author of a blog I don't like, and one of my bosses has accused me of being one when I start rambling on about wine (but he's a beer guy).

I used to associate the term with my dad because he wouldn't drink South American reds. He tends to stick to Bordeaux Blends, Californian Cabs, and Italian Valpolicellas and Amarones. He also won't touch Australian wines, but that's for a special and unique reason. He's a survivor of tonsil cancer, and after multiple radiation treatments in his mouth, his palate can't handle the spiciness of a Shiraz. I didn't want to think of my dad as a wine snob, so I set out to see if he could tell the difference between the wines he loves and the wines he won't drink in a blind tasting. All four wines were blends, ranging in price and region. All listed prices are in Canadian dollars.

Wine #1: Le Sarget de Gruard-Larose 2001-Bordeaux, France. Retails around $85.

Wine #2: Casa Silva 2011 Cabernet Carmenere-Colchagua Valley, Chile. Retails at $14.

Wine #3: Chateau Beaumont 2008-Bordeaux, France. Retails at $30.

Wine #4: Sumac Ridge's Ridge Red - Okanagan, BC. Retails at $15.*I originally thought this wine was a Cab Sauv blend, but it turned out to be composed of Shiraz/Pinot Noir/Merlot. Surprise, Dad!

Below are my dad's short tasting notes for each of the 4 wines:

Wine #1 was very full-bodied, and had a complex palate. Licorice on the long finish. Harsh tannins that seemed to smooth out with time (I decanted the wine for 90 minutes before pouring, which wasn't long enough in the end). Not an every day wine.
His original guess was an Italian wine, but then he changed it to a Bordeaux and valued the wine at $35+.

Wine #2 was smoother and more fruit-forward than the first wine, with a lighter body. Less complex, but easier to drink. He would drink again, and could sip all night.
His original guess was an American Pinot Noir and valued the wine at around $20. He also guessed the alcohol percentage at 12%.

Wine #3 was mellow, and not as fruity as the second wine. It has some complexity, with a smoky note that appealed to his unique palate. Not as high in alcohol as wine #2. Shorter finish.
His original guess was an Italian Valpolicella, priced between $15 & $20.

Wine #4 was smooth, and a good every day wine. He valued the bottle at $20-$25 with no guess on region. At this point, all of our tasting notes were getting shorter!

When I revealed the wines to my dad, he seemed pleasantly surprised that Wine #2 was Chilean, and Wine #4 was priced the way it was. He was happy to know he got the first wine correct. He doesn't tend to show much emotion so his reactions were hard to read, but I definitely picked up on some surprise from him on Wine #2's identity, which I'm hoping may convince him to drink more South American wines in the future! So the answer to the question, is my dad a wine snob, is: No. He just knows his stuff, and he likes what he likes!

Despite all the talk of wine snobbery these days, I really don't think anyone is a wine snob. Wine is meant to be enjoyed and discussed, and if one prefers to stick to the wines they like, then drink what you like! Lots of us wine geeks like to share our knowledge, which can sometimes be perceived as wine snobbery. But if you listen around, other snob terms are becoming mainstream like Hockey Snob, Car Snob and of course, Food Snob. I think snob is just another way to express your passion in any subject, and ultimately we are all just knowledgeable geeks with preferences when it all comes down to it. Myself and my dad included!

This post is dedicated to my dad, who was a big part of my wine journey whether he knows it or not. He was given Andre Domine's Wine book as a gift from my uncle when he was diagnosed with cancer years ago. I found it in the basement by his leather chair when I was home for a visit and began to leaf through it. His book inspired me to learn more about wine, and later that year I bought the same book and still use it as reference to this day (even though it is an older edition). Thanks for all the knowledge, advice, and the good wine you've shared with me Cheeftain!