Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wine Tasting Lingo Part Two

So, you did your reading in Part One. Now for the fun stuff. Grab a glass of your favourite wine and try to suss out what you’re smelling and tasting. I’ve included some common terms for wine tasting to get you started. After, if you’re still intrigued, go to the links I provide at the end of my mini glossary. Have fun!

Acidity: Natural fruit acids (and sometimes added citric acid) that balance wine, cleanse the palate and help wines age gracefully. Some wines are unbalanced and either too blah or too acidic. A little acidity is desirable and gives wines a pleasant bite or zip. Too much acidity and wine becomes tart or turns to vinegar.

The combination of fruit, alcohol, tannins and acid that create harmony in a bottle.

Big/Bold: Full-flavoured and full-bodied wines like Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay, for example.

Body: Weight of a wine. Does it feel light or heavy, thick or thin?

Crisp: White wines with the perfect amount of acidity.

Dry: The wine’s sugar has been used in fermentation, resulting in a wine that isn’t sweet, but puckers the mouth thanks to tannins in red wine and acids in white wine. Semi-sweet (many whites) and sweet wines (like dessert wines) have residual sugars that are tasted.

Earthy: Native flavours of plants, minerals and soil seem infuse themselves into the growing grapes. Maybe you’ll experience sagebrush in an Okanagan wine or clover and honey in a white wine or a particular fruit aroma and flavour.

Finish: The aftertaste following swallowing wine. The finish should repeat the scents and tastes that you’ve experienced. But… some unbalanced or immature wines have finishes that are different and not complimentary.

Spicy: Some wines are spicy, like Zinfandels (the true, big reds, not the blush wines), and have bold tastes of cinnamon, clove and black pepper.

Tannins: Created by contact with grape skins, seeds, stems and oak barrels. Tannins, causing a dry, puckering sensation in your mouth, are found in red wine and oak aged white wine. Too much tannin will leave your mouth feeling uncomfortable parched.

For more wine terms, check out an extensive glossary on all things from wineanswers or go to the Epicurious site, a foodie’s fav, to check out their online wine dictionary.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Wine Lingo Part One

The language of wine can be intimidating or seem plain crazy. Can you imagine a grassy or plasticy wine? Well, at least oaky, spicy and fruity sound normal. Getting used to the unique ways to describe wine can be fun, especially since you have to drink some wine during the learning process. Just let your taste buds and your nose guide the way as you try to describe what’s in your glass.

By learning the lingo, you’ll be able to share your tasting experiences and discover what wines you prefer. Taking the time to really taste wines slows us down and teaches us wine appreciation.

I recently had a wine tasting and one guest asked how he could relay that his wine smelled like fresh baked bread. I said to say just that—say whatever comes to mind and don’t worry about trying to make it sound like the typical wine jargon.

Are you ready? Take it slow and start with swirling your glass to release the aromas of the wine. Next, take a few good sniffs and try to determine what you smell.

Now for the first sip (or slurp if you want the wine to get to all your taste buds). Are your taste buds in shock? Horribly undecided? Usually at least three sips help you determine whether you like the wine. Several sips also help clarify the flavours you experience. Personally, I normally find the first sip to be a useless judge of character; my palate seems to be adjusting to the new taste.

In between wines eat some bread or crackers to cleanse your palate. Also, rinse your glass so you don’t have residual wine interfering with your new pour. It’s also good to start with light whites, then medium, then big and rich. After the whites, go to reds and go from light-bodied to full-bodied. Always, as with anything, save the best for last: the dessert, sparkling and ice wines. Oh, and never cup the wineglass, but hold it by the stem. Wine, unlike brandy, won’t benefit by being warmed by your hands.

For more info about the language of wine check out the article Talking About Wine, which includes a few common terms.

Are you really serious about learning about the fine art of tasting? Read Thomas Matthews 10-page article The ABC’s of Wine Tasting.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Elephant Island Orchard Wines

Elephant Island Orchard Wines
Apricot (2004)
Sweetness 8
Serve chilled, 10C - 11C
9% alc/vol
$17.95 CAD for a 375 ml bottle

For my first review I’ve chosen one of my favourites – a fruit wine from Elephant Island Orchard Wines (Naramata, BC). I picked an unusual wine (not even a traditional wine because their wines aren’t made from grapes, but from Okanagan fruit) because I’ve loved Elephant Island wines since I first tried them about four years ago. My favourite is one of their dessert wines: Apricot.

This warm buttery yellow wine is perfectly sweet, with a hint of tartness (acidity) for balance. It tastes just like fresh, juicy apricots, yet there are subtle hints of green apple, vanilla and … pineapple (tropical fruits). Despite being sipped chilled, this velvety smooth wine has warmth to it, partly because it’s slightly syrupy and full-flavoured.

The mouth is saturated with rich apricot and the light-bodied wine feels effervescent on the tongue. It’s a perfect dessert wine for a lazy summer day or a snowy winter evening. Everything about this fruit wine is delicious, from the fresh apricot-apple aroma to each and every silky sip. I highly recommend this dessert wine.

Elephant Island Apricot wine pairs well with sinfully rich desserts, like cheesecake, apple pie, chocolates, vanilla pudding and crème brulè. As well, it’s tasty with fruit and soft cheeses like Camembert and Brie and flavoured cheddars, like Cointreau, and or Papaya/Mango.