Friday, January 31, 2014

What Do We Mean By "Fruity" Wine?

All wine tastes like fruit, since its a fermented grape juice. (duh.) But when we talk about "fruity" wine, we mean that the complicated flavors of other fruits created during fermentation are strong, or "forward" as some say.

Of course, "fruity" covers a wide range of flavors. In red wines, it usually means berries and tree fruits. Apple, plum, cherries, and strawberries are all common flavors. In white, it usually means something citrus or tropical: peaches, pineapple, or even something exotic like lychee fruit.

Why is this important to know? If you are not a big fan of fruit, you might not enjoy these wines as much as others with different flavor profiles. If you are having fish for dinner, you might not want a wine that tastes strongly of peaches or cherries. If it's a cold night and you are looking for something to warm you up, a mulled wine reminiscent of apple cider might just hit the perfect note.

One last thing to keep in mind: we sometimes misunderstand a wine, calling it "sweet" when we actually mean "fruity." The next few times you hear yourself saying "sweet" when describing your wine, ask yourself if you mean that you're getting a "fruit forward" wine.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Quick Review: Erste+Neue Pinot Bianco 2012

Italy, Alto Adige, Erste+Neue Pinot Bianco 2012
+ // Crisp // Peach, Mineral // Tart apple, Underripe peach, Vanilla // Light
A bright wine, very mouthwatering.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quick Review: Erste+Neue Leuchtenburg 2012

Italy, Alto Adige, South Tyrol, Erste+Neue Leuchtenburg 2012
+ // Fruity // Fresh plum // Poached peach, Pear,  Graphite, Oak // Light

A good sipping wine. Big flavor, but doesn't linger on the palate.
This is the "Schiava" grape.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What To Expect from Italian Wine?

We might not know all there is to know about Italian wines, but when we think of the food culture that surrounds them, the image of boisterous family meals springs to mind. While our personal expectation for a French wine is to be nuanced and refined, we think of Italian wines as bold and aggressive.

Apparently, we were not completely off base in our assumptions. Barolos from the best producers are powerful, flavor-filled wines that can retain a punch after decades of aging. Many of the whites are bracingly acidic, even in the warm Mediterranean climate. But in the North, as the seaside gives way to the foothills of the Alps, Italy is a very different place for wine.

In our exploration of Italian wine, we picked up a few bottles from the Alto Adige region. The first bottle we tried was something unexpected, a red more in line with the cold climate wines we know. Then, two bottles from the same producer gave us a chance to learn a little bit more. A light bodied red, full of big and bold fruit flavors with an undertone of minerality...but still "light bodied." The white wine was not such a surprise: a bright and mouth watering wine with delicate flavors.

It seems that, while we thought we had a general idea of what to expect, we learned there can be a wide range of wine styles within even a small countries borders.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Take Wine Notes?

Whenever we find a new wine, we jot down some notes, which you see as our Quick Reviews. Other wine reviewers have different systems, sometimes quite effusive and esoteric. You might ask yourself why you would bother, if you are just trying to enjoy a glass?

For us, its simple. We are always trying new and different wines, so taking notes, just like taking notes in physics class, helps you remember details. And with modern technology, you can plug those notes into your smart phone, tag them. and look back at what has made some of your favorite wines.

With those same sort of notes, you can also compare different wines. Different vintages, different producers, or even different varietals. You can use your notes to compare them all, without having to organize to taste them all at the same time.

For us, that's why we like to keep our notes simple. A description of a wine "like sitting in a swollen creek bed, enjoying the summer smells" might be evocative, but not something you can really experience again. And you really can't use something like that to explain to what your waiter you are looking for!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Quick Review: Tenute Rubino Primitivo 2009

Italy, Salento, Tenute Rubino, Primitivo 2009
++ // Fruity // Earthy, Raspberry // Cherry, Blackberry, Tanin // Medium

Think: "Italian Zinfandel"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Did You Know?... About Italian Varietals

Italy has a wine culture all its own. Many of its grapes can only be found here:

Moscato: A white grape, used to make a sweet sparkling wine.
Fruliano: The main white wine of the Fruili region, with delicate flavors.
Trebbiano: Blended with Garganega to make Soave wine, this is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world.
Verdicchio: An aggressively acidic white wine made in the Marche region near Rome.

Aglianico: A big, "rustic" wine from the Campania region
Barbera: Easier to grow than Nebbiolo, it produces a lighter wine.
Nebbiolo: The grape used in Barolo wines, probably the most renowned Italian grape.
Primitivo: The ancestor of Zinfandel.
Sangiovese: Used to make the well known Chianti wine.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick Review: San Pietro Schiava 2012

Italy, Alto Aidge, San Pietro Schiava 2012
+ // Fruity // Cherry, Oak, Orange, Forest floor // Orange rind, Blackberry, Cranberry, Prune // Medium

Monday, January 20, 2014

Learning New Varietals with Schiava

It is difficult to learn everything there is to know about wine. There are varietals that show up only in certain countries or regions. This seems particularly true of Italy. As we explore Italian wines, we come across grapes we have seen nowhere else. A recommendation for "something we might not have seen before" from Union Square Wines led us to the Schiava grape.

Trying a new varietal can be a difficult experience to quantify. Without a base of knowledge, how are you to know if the wine tastes the way it is "supposed to"? Our answer would be, don't worry about that. If you have to compare it to something, compare it to other wines you might know, and see what you can learn.

The bottle of Schiava was something unique. We thought it might be comparable to a cool climate Pinot Noir, but throw in citrus flavors to go along with the light red fruits and earthiness. This one bottle was enough to pique our interest to try more in the Schiava family.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quick Review: Ceuso Scurati Nero D'Avola 2011

Italy, Sicili, Ceuso Scurati Nero D'Avola 2011
+ // Fruity-Earthy // Barnyard, Ethenol, Mulling Spices // Chocolate, Candy Apple // Medium

This one had the higher alcohol content and bigger "mouth feel" from its counterpart that we sampled.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Did You Know?... About the Wines of Sicily

Sicily is the "ball" at the tip of the "boot" of Italy. Sicily has more vineyards than any other region of Italy, but mostly for grapes and raisins--not wine. The region is known for its dessert wines, like Marsala, but the climate and geography is well suited to growing big red wines. Catarrato is the most widely produced grape, and is often exported to other regions as a concentrate to bolster their wines. Probably the most recognized grape is Nero D'Avola, which makes a bold red wine similar to Shiraz.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quick Review: Tenuta Ididini Nero D'Avola 2012

Italy, Sicili, Tenuta Ibidini Nero D'Avola 2012
+ // Fruity-Smooth // Cherry, Spice // Cherry, Bitter Chocolate // Light

This was the lighter, more drinkable wine from the two Nero D'Avola wines we sampled. It had lighter alcohol content and was a year younger than its counterpart.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Learning About Wines with Nero D'Avola

Last year at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, we were reminded that we still don't know a lot about Italian wines. Even when we focus on New World wines, we tend to focus on France and other regions that grow the varietals we've come to know and love. Italian wines seem, well, Greek to us. So for the New Year, we made a resolution to try to learn a bit more about Italian wines.

To help in our education, we ventured to Union Square Wines in Manhattan. With a series of excited recommendations from their staff, we selected 12 bottles to round out a case of wine, all the while making plans for how we wanted to explore them. We had a lot of ground to cover: Italy has a tremendous wine industry, and we selected a bunch of different wines to kick off this exploration. We decided to at least start by comparing two wines, the same varietal from the same region.

Two bottles of Nero D'Avola from Sicili, what could we learn? Both were fruity, with cherry flavors similar to Pinot Noir. One was a deep color, almost purple, while the other was so light that it was almost transparent. Both wines had a bitter, earthy edge, like a hint of unsweetened baking cocoa. One lost some of that bitterness as it opened up, while the other seemed to intensify. The lighter wine seemed a bit more drinkable, while the heavier wine had some aggressive alcohol that gave a bit of a punch.

The similarities might give us a general idea about Nero D'Avola, but a sample size of two isn't really enough to go on. Yet, the differences that give us a chance to learn. Other than different winemakers, the only difference was the vintage and a higher alcohol content in one, so we had a ton of questions (and thankfully the internet could provide answers to some):
-Was the harvest one year warmer, leading to riper grapes?
 -The 2011 season was warm throughout the year.
 -2012 was another warm year, with some late rains that helped the harvest.
-Why the higher alcohol content?
-Does one of the vineyards have older vines?
 -The vineyards for the lighter wine are young.
-How long do the winemakers let their wines age in the barrel before bottling?
 -The lighter wine was aged in steel barrels for 6 months.
 -The heavier wine was aged for 8 months in cement vats with a glass lining.

There is still a lot for us to learn, obviously, but for now we know that we enjoyed these two wines in different ways and for different reasons.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Best of 2013: Reader's Favorite How-To's

Over the course of the year, we try to share our knowledge with you. And you seem to like to learn some of the "rules" about wine.

An all time favorite is How-To: Hold a Wine Glass Properly, where we show you some ways to grip wine glasses, since there are some social situations where you might want to know why you shouldn't hold your glass stem with both hands.

Of course, with the holidays and cold weather, lots of people want to know how to make mulled wine, a great winter drink.

And finally, we force ourselves to figure out how to best order wine, or select from wine menus at all sorts of bars and restaurants, so you don't have to.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Best of 2013: Reader's Favorite Red Wines

It's been a great year for exploring new and exciting wines. We've tried some red wines that you have been interested in.

Thanks to a quick trip to Philadelphia, we had a chance to try a wine from Pennsylvania, a Cabernet Franc from Blue Mountain.

Thanks to the New York City Wine and Food Fest, we had a chance to share a few Italian reds with you, and began exploring some on our own.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best of 2013: Reader's Favorite Tidbits

We try to share our ever expanding knowledge of the world of wine as we continue to explore and learn.

You were as intrigued as we were to learn that the Italian grape Primitivo is basically the same as Zinfandel.

If you are looking to get the most out of you glass of wine, its useful to know the best serving temperature, and you agreed.

While all of these wine reviews can seem serious and maybe a little complicated, it is worthwhile to remember that when it gets right down to it, this is all about enjoying the wine and sharing the experience with friends.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Best of 2013: Reader's Favorite White Wines

Over the course of 2013, we drank a lot of great wine. We tried the new vintages from some of our favorite Finger Lakes wineries as well as some of their different varietals and other wines from all over the world.

One of your favorites, as well as ours, was a blind tasting of wines from Castello di Amorosa, as we tested to see if we could figure out which glass was the Reserve wine.

And of course, you liked it when we tried something a bit different. While we usually focus on wines with dinner, every once we treat ourselves to a glass with dessert, and Sauternes is always  a favorite.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Best of 2013: Readers Favorite Adventures

Over the past year, we have had some great adventures that we have shared with you. Of course, one of your favorite stories is an old one, a great evening we enjoyed at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Manhattan. Maybe because it really emphasized what we love about wine; enhancing a great evening, even a casual one. Or maybe its just because cheese makes everything better.

On the other hand, enjoying a casual glass of wine at home seems a popular topic, with our story on pairing Chardonnay with takeout Sushi, and pairing wine with fried chicken piquing your interest. We love reminding everyone that wine isn't just for an exquisitely crafted three course meal. A good glass of wine can make even take-out dinner or greasy fried food something a little special.

And of course, everyone likes to see others fail. We tried our best to see if we could guess the difference between a Reserve and regular Chardonnay, and you got to see why we made the assumptions we did, and how they were wrong. It's good to be reminded that there is always more to learn about wine.

Here is to sharing some more great adventures with you in 2014!