Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Art of Tasting 101


Every time I teach people how to taste, I always tell them tasting wine as a wine professional will change their wine experience completely. Mostly, because there is a big difference between just sipping wine and conducting a proper tasting. So, this post is for those who want to learn how to taste wine properly, I know this is something I should have done at the beginning (in my early posts), Sorry for the delay!

The first step in every tasting is to find an ideal room, a room without any aromas, yes leave the perfume behind, if you plan to taste wine professionally! Good natural light is ideal but if this is not possible then good artificial light will do and a white background to check the wines against it, so you can detect the different colors of each variety, and other details that will allow you to tell if a wine is young or old from its color. 


The first sense we used in wine tasting is Sight. As a rule reds will have vibrant colors when young and lose their colors as they age, so ruby red or purple when young and brick, tawny, pale garnet when old. Also important is to check the rim, if it’s watery we are dealing with a young wine, when it is orange with a wine with some age. In the case of the whites, the rules change, young whites will have lighter colors, the rims will be still watery though, and older whites usually will have darker/ golden colors. This is also true for whites that are aged or fermented in oak. Swirl the wine in the glass and check the wine drops, are these drops (called legs) thick or thin? Thick legs means alcohol is present in the wine as is glycerol. Remember the denser the legs, the more alcohol and usually the more body in our wine. With practice, you will differentiate the different colors of each variety, for example Riesling has the lightest color of all whites, Sauvignon Blanc usually has a green tinge, while Chardonnay has a straw yellow color and with oak a golden color. In the case of reds, Pinot Noir has the palest red, it’s very easy to recognize in a blind tasting, while Shiraz will have the darkest color, usually deep ruby with purple hints.

Now to the second sense and most important in a wine tasting: Smell, aerate the wine, meaning swirl it once more and smell it, has the wine a strong aroma or weak/ almost mute? Besides the intensity, does it smell fresh, young, or developed? fruity, floral? after reading this post, you can look online the aroma wheel to learn a few of the aromas that the University of Davis has found in wines here. Or does it smell more herbaceous, mineral, less fruity? What about faults? Does the wine smell good, i.e healthy or is it oxidized, corked, present funky smells of vinegar, onions, rotten eggs?...if that happens your wine is no good, time to call the waiter and ask for an exchange. Learn about wine faults here.

Now, let’s go to step 3: Taste, this is the best part!  let’s have a sip, take a bit of the wine and before swallowing, move it around your mouth and cover all sides of your tongue, like you do with mouthwash, then swallow or spit it,like most wine tasters do, not to make a fool of ourselves in a public tasting! Remember, sweetness is detected on the tip of your tongue, acidity to the sides, tannins on the gums and back of your throat, body/weight in your middle palate.
Now it's time to analyze the different elements, how is the fruit on the palate, how is the acidity, how are the tannins, and the alcohol? How is the body, light, medium, full? after you swallow,
how is the length? does the wine disappear or does it stay with you and for how long? A long finish is a sign of a good quality wine.

Finally, it's time to make a conclusion, thumbs up or down? Is it worthwhile to spend money on this wine or do we need to move on?

Here are some recommendations, so that you can become an expert in no time.

Dr Hermann Wines Riesling Kabinett Urziger Wurzgarten 2017 $22

Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2017, California $19
A to Z Pinot Noir 2017, Oregon $15
Château Sansonnet St Emilion 2017, $33
San Martino Siir, Aglianico del Vulture 2016 $16

Cheers! Silvina



Saturday, October 19, 2019

@ the NY Wine Experience... What a Night!

I have a confession to make, I love wine tastings! Tasting wine is one of my favorite things in this world, and every year I indulge myself to a ticket to the NY Wine Experience. This year, this event happened on October 17-19. This is not the first time I have come to this mega tasting, I must admit that I try to save money every year to purchase the costly ticket to the Grand Tastings: $375 (being rich is not in the cards for La Wina yet). Anyhow,I was there last year and tasted way too many Cabernet Sauvignons, so this year I promised myself to try other wines too. What the heck, If I die tomorrow, at least I got to taste and spit* (breaks my heart to admit this) some of the best and most expensive wines in the world. 

This past Friday, I drank plenty of water all day long and off I went with my map of the wines I wanted to taste. I know that the Wine Spectator has this free app that you can use too, but I’m old school and prefer to use the map, knowing that on my way out I can always grab the heavy tasting book that has all the information about the wines shown.  The NY Wine Experience is for me like going to the Oscars, not only all the wines must have received at least 90 pts or more by the  magazine, but each winery serves only 1 wine, and usually by the winemaker or owner.  I always remind myself to act my age, especially when I’m facing my favorite winemakers/ producers...  Besides tasting the wines, I decided to take some pictures of my favorites too, to recommend them in future posts in my social media accounts. If you are not following me please do! My Instagram: silvinalawina, and Twitter: silvina_lawina.

Now to my wish list of wines: I saw the list on the web before attending and of course I knew exactly where I wanted to go first: Champagne! I saw several rosé champagnes this year, something that doesn’t happen very often! the best I tasted was: Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2007 $205.
Next stop Burgundy, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and my favorite wines were: Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru $238  and Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2016 $175.
Then I went to taste Châteauneuf-du-Papes, the best was: Ch. La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes 2015 $155. The Best Syrah from Washington was Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley In the Rocks 2016 $ 90. Then, I went to Spain, only a few wineries were there but still some of the very best Tempranillo blends: Vega Sicilia Unico 2009 $575 and best Rioja Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva 2011 $40.
After that, I couldn’t help myself and went to taste the wines of my country Argentina! and the very best for me were: Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae 2014 $140 and Colomé Altura Máxima Malbec 2014 $125.
Since I did have some time left, I went to eat some of the delicious buffet they had there and decided to do some Cabernet Sauvignons after all, but only from Bordeaux, France: Ch. Lafite Rothschild 2011 $690, Ch.Mouton Rothschild 2009 $1,000 and for me the best Bordeaux of the night: Ch. Margaux 2004  $220.
Finally!  I allowed myself a very happy ending with Ch. d’ Yquem Sauternes 2016 $379, the best dessert wine of the world! 

What a night! If you love wine like me, I highly recommend you do this at least once in a lifetime. 
Before I leave,  I must recognize that not every wine shown was super expensive, there were a few that cost less than an arm and a leg, here are my favorites:

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2014 $40
Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Tenuta Mocenni Caledonia Riserva 2015 $28
Weingut Nik Weis St Urbans Hof  Riesling Kabinett Mosel Ockfen Bockstein 2015 $24
Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2015 $30
Resonance Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon 2016 $35
La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2010 $32

Indeed! #lifeisbetterwithwine, Cheers, Silvina

PS: Remember to subscribe for free to continue receiving my posts in your inbox.
*Spitting is the only way I was going to be able to taste more than 10 wines in a seating without getting drunk :)
Yep! All the prices in this post are per bottle...I guess there are lots of rich people in New York.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Silentium Wines

Last week, I had the opportunity to taste the wines of Silentium, one of four brands produced by Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, a Spanish joint venture created by 17 vine growers in 1998.  Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, produce their line of wines from fruit sourced from their own 137 hectares, which are located in the D.O. Ribera del Duero, in the province of Castilla y León, about a two hour drive north of Madrid.

The appellation of Ribera del Duero (Denominación de Origen in Spanish) is known for producing some of the best and most elegant reds from Spain (This is, after all, the home of Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera and so many other well known brands… I promise to dedicate a post to this appellation in the near future). 
Ribera del Duero means riverbanks of the river Duero, in Spanish. The Duero river is the second most important river in Spain, and runs across the country from the north of the city of Soria in the west to the east, to the Atlantic ocean. It also crosses through Portugal, where it is known as Douro, another famous appellation for producing powerful reds and Port. Most Ribera del Duero vineyards are located on both sides of the river, in the valleys of the Meseta Central (high plateau of Spain), where altitudes could go from 750-1000 m. 

All of the Silentium parcels are about 1 Km south of the river, located at some of the highest elevation vineyards in Spain:@ 975 m above sea level. The climate here is continental, think hot summers and very cold winters, altitude like everywhere else in the wine world, plays a very important role here; during the summer, it’s not unusual to see 40º C/104 Fahrenheit during the day, yet at night temperatures drop considerably, which will allow the vines to rest and preserve acidity and therefore elegance in the wines.The most important grape variety in Ribera del Duero is Spain’s top red grape: Tempranillo, known here as Tinto Fino, which must make at least 75% of the blend according to D.O. regulations; Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are also allowed in small quantities. If you are wondering what is Tempranillo and how does it taste like? I must remind you that Tempranillo is also the grape variety in Rioja, another appellation known for their fine reds. I’m a Rioja fan, as many will know, and over the years I have consumed and recommended many of their wines, yet Ribera del Duero for me offers a plus, Ribera del Duero's Tinto Finos tend to be luscious, beefier than most mass produced Riojas, and this is why I normally describe them as “Tempranillo on vitamins”.

The winery sent me six samples from their portfolio, and here are my favorites:

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo, Silentium Verdejo 2018:
There’s no white production in Ribera del Duero, the whites are made in another appellation: D.O. Rueda, which is located to the south east of Ribera del Duero. This delicious white was made from fruit sourced from 12 different plots located at altitudes of 750m, planted on gravel soils and with an average vine age of 20 years old. Rueda is known for having many old vines, which by the way, is another indication of quality; old vines provide more concentration and fruit extraction, which is very often showcased in the final product. This white was made in stainless steel to preserve the freshness of the Verdejo variety and aged briefly on its lees.  This Verdejo displays a fresh nose featuring white peach, honeydew and fennel with a medium body, crisp acidity and a juicy finish.

All of the Silentium reds are made from 100% Tempranillo grapes that grow on soils which are mixed of loam with clay. The average age of all Silentium vines is 27 years old. All of their fruit is hand harvested at optimal ripeness and then divided to create the different styles: Tinto, Roble, Crianza, Reserva and Expresión. After tasting the whole flight of reds, you can easily see a progression in complexity, with more oak aging and better and riper fruit.

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Crianza 2015: by law Crianzas are aged for 2 years, 1 of which must be in oak. In this case Silentium uses a blend of American and French oak, followed by 1 year in the bottle. This is a medium bodied/every night red featuring ripe black cherry, with nice mocha and chocolate notes.
 

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Reserva 2012
: Reservas are usually aged for a total of 3 years, 1 of which must be in oak. In the case of the Silentium Reserva 2012, the wine was aged for 16 months in a blend of American and French oak. This polished red is a step up from the Crianza and combines rich stewed blackberry and plum, with spice and mineral notes. Soft tannins, make this a medium plus bodied red, with balanced acidity and a velvety finish.

Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo Silentium Expresi
ón 2015: this is Silentium’s top brand/ flagship. This wine is aged for 18 months in both American and French oak. It’s a complex red showing ripe black cherries and blackberries, with espresso and leather notes and a touch of minerality. It shows a solid structure from ripe tannins and a lively long finish.

The winery also produces  a Rosado made from Tempranillo (which I didn’t taste) Tinto and Roble, which are lighter reds with no oak and less than a year of oak aging respectively.

All of these wines are currently imported in the tri state area by Park Street Imports: www.parkstreet.com.

Cheers! Silvina.




Picture of the Silentium vineyards courtesy of Bodegas Castillejo de Robledo.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Grapes and Wines of France

Do you remember my February post when I explained to you which wines were considered Old World and which were New World? Beginning with this post I will explore the grapes of Old World Regions. Back then, I told you that one of the problems that we find with bottles that come from the Old World or Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, etc. is that they don’t usually list their grape varieties on the label, requiring you to do some investigation. 
So, here comes Silvina lawina to the rescue, I’m about to give you a cheat sheet so that you will always know or at least have an idea of the grapes in these wines, which should simplify your wine shopping.

So, I’m starting with the  country that was blessed with some of the best conditions for wine production: La France! Envied by many, la France is still the source of some of the finest wines in the world, now if you truly want to taste the good stuff, you will need to spend a little more: good French wine is not cheap! but if you know where to look, you an also find true gems. Now, if you are a rich wino, I’m basically green with envy!  If I was a rich man lalalala, I will only drink French Champagne and fine Burgundy (Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot 2013, for example).
Now it’s time to learn the grapes:
Appellation
Grapes allowed by law
Bordeaux
(all appellations)
Right bank:St Emilion, Pomerol.
Left bank: Margaux,
Pauillac,etc.
Reds are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Right bank wines are mostly Merlot and Left bank wines mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.
Whites both dry and sweet are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
Burgundy
(all appellations)
No blends here, Reds are 100% Pinot Noir and Whites: 100% Chardonnay.
Beaujolais
(Fleurie, Morgon, Beaujolais Villages, etc)
No blends here, 100% Gamay grapes.
Loire (Muscadet)
Melon de Bourgogne grape
Loire (Pouilly Fume and Sancerre)
Whites from Sauvignon Blanc
Loire (Vouvrey, Cote du  Layon, Bonnezaux, etc)
Both Dry and Sweet Whites are made from Chenin Blanc
Loire Saumur,Chignon, Touraine, Bourgueil, etc
Roses and Reds made from Cabernet Franc, but also Malbec and Gamay.
Alsace
It’s the exception to the rule, here the grapes are allowed to be listed on the label. Most wines are white and made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, some are blended. Reds are made from 100% Pinot Noir
Northern Rhone
(Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, St Joseph, Condrieu, Cornas,etc)
Whites are made from Viognier, but also from Marsanne and Roussanne, Reds from 100% Syrah.
Southern Rhone
(Tavel, Chateauneuf  Du Pape, Ventoux, Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas, Lirac CDR Villages,etc)
Several grapes are allowed, most wines are blends: the most important are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault. Most Rosés are made from Grenache.
Provence (Bandol,Aix de Provence)
Reds from Mourvedre, Grenache. Rosés from Grenache.
Languedoc Roussillon
(Minervois, Roussillon,etc)
Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Carignan.
Champagne
NV are usually a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Blanc de Blancs: 100% Chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs: 100% Pinot Noir or a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, same blend is used to make Rosé Champagne


Now I also added a bonus, a chart with more info about the style the grapes above made.


Grapes
Color 
Body
Acidity
Alcohol
Tannins
Pinot Noir
Lightest
Light 
Balanced to high 
Balanced
Low
Gamay
Light
Light to M
Balanced
Medium
Low
Merlot
Medium
Medium to B
Balanced
Medium or M+ 
Medium or M+ 
Cabernet Franc
Medium
Medium +
Balanced
Medium or M+
Medium or M+
Cabernet Sauv
Darker
Big
Balanced
Medium or M+
High
Grenache
Light
Big
Balanced
Medium or M+
Low to Balanced 
Syrah
Darkest
Biggest of all
Balanced
Medium or M+
High

Grapes
Color
Body
Acidity
Alcohol
Riesling
Lightest
Light
High
Low to M
Pinot Gris
Light
Light
Balanced
Medium
Sauvignon B
Light                          
Medium
High
Medium
Gewurztramin.
Medium
Medium to M+
Low to balanced
Medium to high
Viognier
Medium
Medium to M+
Low to balanced
Medium to high
Chardonnay
Darkest of all
Biggest of all
Balanced
Medium to high

Alors, it’s time to taste some French wines!, here a few recommendations from Frederick Wildman. Thank you for providing samples for me to taste:

Hugel Pinot Gris 2016 $20
Jolivet Sancerre "Les Caillotes" 2018 $36
Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge 2016 $22
Hecht and Bannier Languedoc 2017$20
Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Rouge 2014 $40

à votre santé, cheers! Silvina