Friday, November 24, 2006

A great value Zin

Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Zin 2003
California (Mendocino County)

This is a great value wine from an environmentally conscious winery intent on producing affordable wines. This ruby red Cali Zin has a fruity, cherry/berry nose that follows through on the palate. It's smooth, balanced (soft-medium tannins and acidity), spicy (clove, pepper), slightly nutty, with warm toasty oak and red berries (cherry, raspberry). This medium-bodied red has a nice spicy, peppery aftertaste and is food friendly. I also like it by itself.

What else can I say? I like it. By the way the 2004 vintage is great, too. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sniff This: The aroma/taste connection.

Wanna be able to differentiate aromas and flavours in wines? Smell everything that could be associated with wine so that your brain has a database, so to speak, of aromas. Smell and taste are linked, that’s why wine experts drag air over the wine in their mouth when their doing a formal tasting. You know, that awful gurgling sound. And you thought they just liked looking like pompous snobs.

Don’t just smell the obvious things like pineapples, melons, apples, pears, raspberries and peaches. Smell the peach pit, smell all types of melons and apples. Smell the grass (not the wacky kind), herbs that you cook with, the asparagus and mushrooms you’re preparing for dinner. Smell that new leather jacket and the worn and well-loved one. Go through your spice cabinet and take whiffs of clove, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, white and black peppers. Take a walk and smell the earth, the trees, the leaves, the flowers… Think you’d feel like an idiot? Okay, maybe don’t literally sniff everything, unless you don’t mind looking like a weirdo. But try to take in the different smells, force yourself to be aware of them. If you have to grab a handful of soil, so be it.

The more you smell, the better able you’ll be able to identify aromas and flavours in the wine that you taste. Your brain will recognize the smells and bring it to mind. Ah, that Merlot smells of coffee and ripe, dark fruit. Another sip and maybe you can specify which type of dark fruit; maybe it’s black cherries and red plums.

If you can hone your sense of smell, you can increase your ability to taste wine and decipher what your tasting—not just “I taste raspberries, cherries and spice.” After time, you’ll learn the typical characteristics of each wine so that you’ll know you’re tasting an Australian Shiraz or a California Zinfandel.

When you sniff and taste, try to find general, generic descriptors, like “I smell and/or taste apple and tropical fruit.” Then, over your next few sips try to specify what these tastes are. Maybe the apple is more like a crisp green apple, rather than a sweet red one and maybe the tropical fruit is definitely pineapple.

Take your time and savour the wine. Be a geek and let it speak to you—or rather, let it communicate with your sense of smell. Get sniffing!