Being fairly new to the world of wine, we are still working on learning about different vintages of wine--meaning, the year the grapes were harvested. While a basic knowledge of regions and varietals provides a baseline to understand a particular wine, knowing the differences in vintages gives you an even better understanding--even if it requires a very specific knowledge base. You need to know the details of the weather in the wine region for the year in question, as well as what that means for the wines.
While we get a chance to sample Finger Lakes wines year over year (they tell us 2007 was a great year, as was 2009, and one year we traveled through and all the new Rieslings had a hint of peach in them), we don't often get to compare different vintages of the same wine from other regions. So when we get the chance, we jump on it.
We recently sampled the newest release of Gewurztraminer from Castello di Amorosa. We looked back at our notes because we knew we had tried an earlier vintage, as well. In both cases, the characteristics of Gewurztraminer shone through: bright, aromatic, crisp and floral. In the newest vintage, it seemed like there were more tropical flavors, with hints of lychee on the nose that we didn't notice last year. Why? We don't know. The vintage has an effect on the wine, we know that much, as sun and rain inform how the grapes ripen. But there are so many variables, and its difficult to follow the weather patterns from year to year.
Of course, comparing two vintages is imprecise unless you have the training and experience required. After all, this is the stuff that actual sommeliers do for a living. We can look back, however, see what our thoughts were at the time, but we can never directly compare two vintages because even in a vertical tasting, you have to account for the aging process that changes wines a little each day as they sit waiting to be enjoyed. Yet, knowing that a particular year was a "good year" in a region can help you direct your wine choices in the meantime. How do you find that out? You ask. Good luck!
"Tight" isn't usually used as compliment for a wine. Like most wine terms, it doesn't have a perfectly defined meaning, but generally it indicates that a wine doesn't "reveal" itself easily. There many not be much on the nose, or maybe there are a range of smells, but they all assault your nose at the same time.
The other end is an "expressive" wine. These wines "open up" and invite the nose, revealing all their details. Often, an aged red wine will start off a bit tight, and open up as it is given a chance to breathe. An expressive wine is preferred because we sense wine with our nose almost as much as with our tastebuds, so a tight wine limits our experience of the wine.
Alto Adige is a region in northern Italy in the Alps, on the border with Germany and Switzerland. The wines of the region have as much in common with German wines as Italian, stretching from the warm Mediterranean to the cool foothills of the Alps. The Gewurztraminer grape is originally from the village of Tramin in Alto Adige.
Thanksgiving dinner leaves most of us with a lot of leftovers. Turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole--but seldom any wine. The wine you carefully selected to accompany your holiday meal is long gone before you have grown weary of your food. So in the days following, it's a struggle to find ways to repurpose those leftovers. Just because you're re-purposing doesn't mean you shouldn't find a good bottle of wine to go along with them.
For us, we decided to re-purpose some of our leftovers in a soup: turkey, pumpkin, and turnips, with a bit of cheddar cheese and sage. It was served up in a freshly baked bread bowl flavored with coffee, molasses, star anise, and orange rind. Big, crazy flavors, thankfully far removed from yet another day of leftover Thanksgiving flavors. Definitely not suited to a delicate, fruity red wine. Instead, we looked for something with some big fruit flavors, hopefully with some spices of its own.
Of course, right now our wine rack is full of Italian wines, in an attempt to learn a bit about some unfamiliar wines, so it was a tough choice. We picked a bottle of Lagrein from the Alto Adage region because we've had a few glasses of Lagrein before and thought it might give us what we wanted. In this case, it didn't work out as well as we had hoped. The wine had the flavors we were looking for, but since we didn't know enough about the wine, we didn't give it time to breathe, and it was a bit too "tight" on its flavors. There were hints there of what we wanted, but the wine wasn't "big" enough to let us really get all of the flavors when compared to the exuberant flavors of the dinner.