Wine Aromas – What to Expect and Not to Expect

Close up portrait of young couple at wine tasting. Man and woman smelling wine with eyes closed.Are the descriptions of wine biased toward the descriptions of the wine’s aromas?  Some would say yes and some, no.  Aromas are one of the great delights of wine.  They can vary and present much excitement with every new bottle.  What would wine be if it had little variation in aromas?

But because of this significant attraction, aromas are the selling point for lots of buyers.  Hence, the aromas are emphasized and sales focus on them.  Perhaps the competition for aromas is the point system, which can outdo the effect of aromas and secure a sale quickly.  That’s a pity since aromas are what you experience, not a number.

Most wine lovers want expressive and intense aromas.  But that is unfair.  Some grapes have a low aromatic profile, yet they are classic grapes.  Intensity of aroma is not everything.   Again, some aromas are so well married to each other that they create an impression that is difficult to discern.  A new and attractive aroma is created and only when on the palate can it for the first time be discerned as showing fruit or oak.  It is also a complex aroma and can be one of the most exciting experiences.

The number of aromas is not an indication of quality in itself.  Aromas feed the emotional response more than other elements.  Smoothness and balance is a strong second.  Seek to develop a sensitivity to the various aromas of both fruit and oak and the aromas that result from a blend of the two plus the effects of fermentation.  We all love those aromas and the more you learn about them, the better taster you will become.

What wine will you explore next?  What  will you experience of the wine’s aromas?

Time for a Party! What to Expect from a Young Wine

Beaujolais NouveauBouchard, Aines and Fils, 2016, Beaujolais Nouveau

On the third Thursday in November a celebration of  the northern hemisphere’s first wines of the year’s vintage occurs as they are released in the USA.  It’s a tradition that begin many years ago in the Old World and has spread to the New World, celebrated with Beaujolais Nouveau parties by many wine enthusiasts and is a fun way to begin the holiday season even before Thanksgiving.  Beaujolais also pairs well with the Thanksgiving turkey in the USA, so it makes a timely appearance.

Sixty percent of the production in Beaujolais is Beaujolais Nouveau.  It is light and refreshing, with acid as the dominant element.  You can’t expect much from a wine that is made and released just weeks after harvest.  It has not had time to marry, soften and blend even if the grapes ferment without being crushed, making a softer wine.  But some are anything but soft.

It is a surprise to find a Beaujolais Nouveau that is, for a such a young Gamay wine, pleasantly soft and appealing.  Raspberry features with little else.  It is a one dimensional wine and also, as expected, not in great balance.  But for those who love Beaujolais and the romance of the first wine of the season, this one is a good choice in 2016.

If you want to sense what a young wine can be like, tasting the Beaujolais each year is a good practice.  Perhaps it’s time for you to join the annual celebration or plan your own Beaujolais Nouveau party tradition to begin in 2017.  Mark your calendar so you won’t forget!

Rating:  84

Emotional rating:  refreshing!

Availability:  Widely available

Wine Tasting by the Numbers – Part 3

Wine tasters tasting wine.Wine tastings can be your training ground and your best way to learn wine so you can challenge the numbers of the experts.  Some tastings showcase up to 200 wines and you have a splendid selection.  Most wine tastings have a theme, such as a region or a grape variety.  When you are at one of these tastings, take your time and don’t consume all the wines you sample.  (Spitting is not only  acceptable, but recommended).

For the serious taster, it’s good to have a routine so that all wines are examined with the same approach, i.e. number of swirls and steps that examine the color, the clarity, the aromas and their intensity, the tastes and the texture of the wine as well as its structure and finish.  This is the only way to keep your evaluations without a bias caused by different examination systems.

Make notes of each wine and practice your sensory skills.  Above all, concentrate, because the comments of others and the many distractions will keep disturbing your focus.

After the tasting, evaluate your notes and your emotional responses. If you need to make a choice, favor your emotional responses.  Therefore,  have a simple method, like writing an “E” which means my emotional responses were great.  Price will play its role and your decisions are likely to be good.

The only thing to remember is that atmosphere and the effect of all the distractions can play havoc with your emotions and your concentration.  A wine tasting is serious business for the wine lovers who are trying to enhance their skills.  Keep your focus and take necessary breaks, if needed.  Stress is your second enemy and you must take time to destress regularly during the tasting.  Good success at the best training ground you may have.  It can be an experience to enjoy as well as to educate.

Tasting Wine by the Numbers – Part 2

Extreme close up of sommelier evaluating red wine in wine glass at tasting.Let’s examine this common experience of choosing wine by numbers and evaluate its benefits and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • If you don’t know wine, someone is evaluating it for you.
  • Simple, easy way to decide which you want.  Just determine the lowest number you are willing to accept.
  • Easy way to find a low price with apparent quality.
  • You can develop a faith in a wine taster and simply accept his or her advice.

Disadvantages:

  • The wine taster’s taste may not be your style or taste.
  • You get into a rut of tasting only wines that fall into your range of numbers.
  • You focus on numbers and don’t broaden your experience of regions, varieties, blends and the occasional wine that is very unusual and that the wine taster is biased against.
  • Your knowledge of wine can be seriously limited.  You depend on others.
  • You cannot become your own wine taster and evaluator.

Now let’s ask some questions.

  • Do wine scores psychologically influence your purchase and, more importantly, your taste?  Yes, it’s hard not to be influenced by a high score.  Your senses begin to respond to numbers.
  • Does it help to have this kind of a guide?  It can, but you become dependent on scores.
  • Should we only taste wines 90 and above?  Definitely not.  There are some great experiences below 90.  Remember, wine tasters are not always right and do not agree among themselves.
  • Should we slavishly follow a wine taster who seems to have similar likes to us?  No. Try those who disagree with your taste and disagree with your favorite wine taster and you will discover what it is that the wine taster was focusing on and what they missed.  We need to taste wines of different quality to appreciate why good is good and very good is very good.
  • Unless flawed, a wine has something to say.  Can you appreciate and value its message?  Every wine that is not flawed will teach you something.

What are some other paths to follow?  Match wine to food?  Let the moment and your spontaneity dictate occasionally?  Regularly taste outside of your comfort zone?  Become your own evaluator and use the distinct advantages of a public wine tasting.

What will your next wine experience teach you?

Wine Tasting by the Numbers – Part 1

Wine EvaluationFrom time to time, as in this post, we will look at the experience of tasting to gain more appreciation.  Let’s examine the ‘guides’ we use to help us make our selections.

How do we taste?  With our senses and our brains, that’s the real answer.  Can we evaluate a wine’s appeal via numbers?  I think you know what I mean: what is it you need to feel confident you will enjoy a wine you are considering?  There’s a store nearby with an aisle marked “90 and Above.”  It always seems to be the most visited aisle.  People seem to buy there with confidence.

Wine scores are the shopping guide for buying wine these days.  Before Robert Parker’s 100- point scoring system, people bought by region and price if it was an Old World wine they were after and by grape variety and price, if purchasing a New World wine.  In the Old World (roughly, wines from Europe), terroir was the ultimate factor in choosing a wine.  Do you want a Bordeaux or a Burgundy?  Place has always been and still is the most important nomenclature on a wine label.  Even the grape variety was regarded as not important enough to be placed on the label for savvy shoppers.

The New World (roughly all the wine regions of the world outside of the Old World) changed that and now the grape variety is of great importance to the buyer.  That is, until numbers took over and blends circled back into fashion.  “What do you want,” asks the wine sales person, and you answer, “I want a good wine, 90 or above, but not too costly!”  Is this smart buying?  Is it the ultimate bow to mathematics and the culture of brevity?

Here are two sides of the hot issue.  Wine Spectator describes the wine in brief: a number, say 90, comes first; the name of the wine or winemaker next, and a brief description fills out the body of the description, with the initials of the wine-taster at the end.  The text of the body is usually sales talk or condemnation, language and sales talk that make a decision almost impossible.  So, what is the most important item in the description?  The number, of course — seeing wines by number.  Then if we don’t like it, there is something wrong with our tastebuds, so we bear the pain or discomfort and try to enjoy it.  Later, with pride we tell our friends, “The other night I had a wine and it was a 96!”  We drank a number!

The other side?  This one sounds out of step with our culture’s worship of over simplification.  “I’ve heard Argentina makes some really good wine, so I bought a Malbec from Mendoza just to see for myself. I was told Mendoza made some of Argentina’s best wines, and it was soft with pretty aromas and as black as night.  I really enjoyed it with my steak.”  Place and grape variety find a prominent place on the label of most New World wines.  Even blends are often described with grape variety and percentage on the label for those who would like to know more.  I also feel I know more about wine now and I’ve had a good experience.

Which is the best approach?  With the first, I find some people know more about the scoring system than they do about wine.  With the second, you can get a wine of poor quality that ends up down the sink.  Is safety or adventure more important to you?