Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Thoughts About Writing Tasting Notes

I still remember those days when I was preparing myself for the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Diploma. Our instructor made us memorize everything we needed to include in a tasting note, since writing tasting notes was a big part of the exam.

Normally we wrote tasting notes every class but then we had the help of a cheat sheet, to guide us through. So, most students tried to remember every single element, because we knew that if we omitted anything, points were going to be deducted from our final grade. The fun part was that first we did the tasting of the wines and then the written part of the exam, and even though we spit out the wines, some of course went through. Can you imagine trying to write an essay about the different terroirs in Hermitage with a glass or two of wine in your system…(in my case it was Ports). Don’t worry... I passed! Though I was so nervous afterwards I threw up the little port that was on my system.

For a while, I couldn’t help myself! every time I tasted a wine, I mentally went through the elements in the WSET® Systematic Approach to Tasting: appearance, legs, rim vs core, nose intensity, nose aromatics, young or developed wine, palate flavors, tannin, acidity, sweetness, body alcohol, finish, conclusion/ thoughts about the wine, quality, estimated suggested retail price, grape variety and region.  I know... it seems like a lot! most tasting notes wine critics write, focus only in one or two things, mostly on the aromatics and of course a hint or two about body and structure, I guess the idea is to make you (the consumer) want to buy and taste this particular wine. They make sure to add a number between 0-100. Drinkable wines need to be at least 87 pts, though I confess I rarely buy something less than 88, and prefer to aim at a least to 90 pts. I must confess I have seen only a few wines that received 100 points. British wine critics use a different system that go from 0-20 pts where best wines must have at least 17 pts.

So, what does La Wina do? These days, I use stars or a smile if I really like the wine and when I don’t like the wine, I add comments about something that popped out: like too tannic, needs time, bretty nose or corked, yep I was served wines that were not in good shape, many times and when I like the wines, I often write superb! out of this world, great quality! I also made sure that whenever I went to a tasting (remember those old days?), besides trying to taste as much as I could, I also asked myself which of all the wines tasted was the best of the night for me? And tried to identify at least one. Sometimes it was hard, especially when they were way too many good wines, any how, here are some that truly impressed me!

Concha y Toro Don Melchor 2016, $100, (Maipo (Puente Alto),Chile)

Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional 2015, $84.99 (Douro,Portugal)

Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Léognan 2011, $620 (Pessac Leognan,France)

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection 2008, $250


Château d’Yquem Sauternes 2016, $447, (Sauternes,France)

El Nido 2014,$125, (Jumilla, Spain)

Colomé Malbec Altura Maxima 2014,$165 (Salta, Argentina!!!)

Harlan Estate 2012,$799 (Napa,US)

Muga Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2010, $84 (Rioja,Spain)

What did you think? that because I'm a wine blogger, I was never exposed to the very best? Luckily, I am and I was... the fact that I still remember the WSET tasting approach means that at least some of what I learned at school, stuck in my mind. Cheers to the incredible producers whose mission is to make the best wines in the world! Silvina.

#thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #Tasting Notes

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Summer Wines: Provençal Rosés!

Close your eyes, for a minute, it’s a hot summer day. What would you like to drink? Maybe a crisp and refreshing glass of rosé? 

Or maybe you are on vacation, at the beach, or simply enjoying a picnic in the park, wouldn't a bottle of rosé be perfect? If you are like me, for sure! Everybody loves rosé since it has the ability to take you to a happy place and happier times. Of course, many regions in the world produce wonderful rosés, but there is one region, dedicated specifically to this category, so much that 90% of their total wine production is rosé, and this is the French appellation of Provence


Provence has a long winemaking tradition, and it's known for being the oldest appellation in France, as vines were brought by the Greeks in 600 BC. The French love their rosés so much that 1 of every 3 bottles sold in France is a bottle of rosé. At the beginning, these wines were mostly sold to locals and tourists that visited the beautiful cities and beaches of the Cote d’ Azur, today these wines, not only are sold all over France, they are also exported to the world, including the US market.

Provence is a large appellation, covering cities like Marseille, Bandol and St Tropez. As we can see in the map below, courtesy of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence, Provence is located in the southeast of France bordering the Mediterranean, but also goes a bit north touching the south of the Rhone valley appellation. 



This substantial area covers about 28,000 ha, which is divided into three main areas, some of which are not contiguous. The biggest one is Côtes de Provence, (in pink in your map) where 72% of all wines are produced, it includes 5 specific terroirs: Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Côtes de Provence Fréjus, Côtes de Provence La Londe, Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu and Côtes de Provence Notre-Dame des Anges. The second one in importance is Coteaux d’ Aix en Provence with 17% of the total production (in purple in your map) and finally Coteaux Varois en Provence where they produce the remaining 11% (in green in your map). 


In Provence, we will find vineyards planted closer to the sea, but also on rolling hills, and on small mountains, since the following systems are part of their landscape: the Sainte-Victoire Mountain, the Sainte-Baume Mountains, the crystalline Massif des Maures and the volcanic Esterel Massif. As you may imagine, soils vary, though most are either calcareous (limestone) or crystalline soils.  The climate is warm and sometimes hot during the growing season, with this appellation enjoying around 3,000 sun hours a year. This is ideal for warm climate varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Tibouren. Provençal rosés are usually blends of at least 2 or more of these varieties, though about a dozen others are allowed by law. The landscape of the vineyards is so romantic,  it’s easy to find vines growing side by side to plantings of wild rosemary, thyme, verbena and lavender. Their crispy acidity comes from the cool breezes of the sea, and also from the influence of the Mistral, a strong wind that comes from the Rhone Valley, in the north. The Mistral eliminates all the moisture in the vineyards and makes this area ideal to practice organic viticulture; so much that 19 % of all Provence wineries have the Agriculture Biologique (AB) certification, a percentage that will for sure, increase in the future.  

When you have an area dedicated to making one style of wine, what you get is a lot of quality and care, not only in the vineyards but also in the cellars. There are two ways to make rosé and these are: 1)by macerating the must with the skins for a very brief time, that usually goes from 2- 20 hours. Or 2) by direct press, without maceration, in this last case the fruit, which is usually harvested at night to keep their freshness, goes immediately to be pressed very slowly, getting in contact briefly with the skins. There are several shades of rosé, yet Provençal rosés made with direct press, are usually paler in color. All Provence wines have more of an orange/salmon tone than pinkish.

Provence rosés are super serious wines, they are dry and complex, don’t you dare compare them with your new world off-dry blush wines! They combine not only bold fruit flavors, but also mineral notes, and in some cases a touch of spice from oak. The Mediterranean sun gives these wines big bodies, some structure and texture.  Their aromas will showcase notes such as strawberry, raspberry, black currant, cherry, watermelon, orange blossom, mango, white peach, blood orange, passion fruit, buttercream and spices. Nice crisp acidity, and a certain finesse. If you taste a Provençal rosé, you will notice immediately their elegance and balance and though most of us would be tempted to drink them right away, some of them can evolve with aging and allow themselves to be drunk within two years from their vintage.

My recommendations: the wines in the picture are widely available in the US, so check availability with your favorite wine store.



*Château Beaulieu Classic Rosé 2020 $20

*Château Beaulieu Cuvée Alexandre Rosé 2020 $23

*Château La Gordonne Rosé 2020 $15.99

*Domaine Ott By.Ott Rosé 2020 $24 


I also had the pleasure of tasting some beautiful Provençal rosés in the last edition of Hopwine. Unfortunately, some of these don't have distribution in the US at this moment, but check your market to be sure.


*Domaine Terre de Mistral Rosalie Rosé 2020

*Domaine Terre de Mistral Simone Rosé 2020

*Les Maitres Vignerons De La Presqu'ile De Saint-Tropez Carte Noir Heritage Rosé 2020

*Les Maitres Vignerons De La Presqu'ile De Saint-Tropez Elixir Rosé 2020

*Domaine de Belambree Les Éphémères Rosé 2020

*Château Demonpere Prestige Rosé 2020

*Château Demonpere Rosé 2020

*Château Mentone Rosé 2020

*Château Mentone Emotions Rosé 2020

*Le Cadeniere Leoni Rosé 2020

*Le Cadeniere Vallon d' Escale Rosé 2020

*Les Quatre Tours Classique Rosé 2020

*Les Quatre Tours Signature Rosé 2020

*Domaine Houchart Tradition Rosé 2020

*Domaine Houchart Sainte Victoire Rosé 2020

*Domaine De Verlaque V de Provence Rosé 2020

* Domaine des Oullières Harmonie Rosé 2020

* Domaine des Oullières Oh Rosé 2020

*Château Carpe Diem Rosé 2020

*Château Carpe Diem Castille Rosé 2020


That's all my dear winos, it's time to buy myself a fine bottle of Provençal Rosé to celebrate #nationalRoséDay, this coming Saturday June 12! Cheers! Silvina.

#provencerose #provencewines #thoughtsoflawina #nationalroseday #Provençal

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