Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Tips to help you identify your favorite Wine Styles!

One of the reasons I started blogging about wine almost three years ago was to help you, my dear reader, not only to learn a bit more about wine, but also to help you identify what wines you like and what you don’t like and should avoid!

We have to agree there’s nothing more frustrating than to buy a bottle of wine and after tasting it, realizing it was not what you hoped for! I always say thank God for tastings! they happen, so that we can get a sip before we decide and in a way start filling our mental wine library/ bank. So, next time you see a person with a few bottles opened at your favorite wine store, go ahead and stop for 5 minutes and try whatever they are offering, maybe there’s a jewel there waiting to be discovered.

But the truth is, there’s so much wine on the shelves, even if you have the money and time, it’s going to be extremely difficult to taste all of it. And even if you do taste a lot, the next step is identifying the different wine styles you like. I suppose in life it is the same, you need to know what you want first, in order to pursue it!

Hopefully, this classification below will help shed some light into the sea of wine labels you encounter in stores and online. Some of which have been smart enough to classify their bottles by style, instead of by grape or country, like most retailers do. 

Now, the elements in wine play an important role here when talking about styles, since they vary and connect differently. Fruitiness can vary from nonexistent to mild, from balanced or too intense or concentrated, acidity can go from low, medium or high, body can be light, medium or full (alcohol plays an important role here) and oakiness might be present or not. In the case of the reds, we need to add one more element which is tannin. Tannins can go from non-existent to mild and smooth, or super tannic (harsh). Of course each variety has their own character/aroma profile and depending on climate the same grape could smell/ taste differently, a Chardonnay could be very tropical in warm/ hot locations:  and will show pineapple, guava, passion fruit notes or in a cool climate it could show citrus, lemon, green apple notes. 

To make things easier I created this classification below. I also took the time to explain some of the terms too. 
Once upon a time when I used to coordinate and pour at in-store tastings, the two questions I always asked to all customers that walked through the door were: Do you want to taste my wines? Followed by which wines do you like or normally drink? This helped me identify whether the person in front of me would like or wouldn't like what I was serving.

So, are you ready? Let’s play the game, If you like...? You should fill out with one of the categories below, to obtain your answer.

First, Whites: 
*Bone-dry, mineral and neutral whites: You like whites that are usually light in body with high acidity, no oak and kind of neutral with light aromatic character, some notes they may show: almond, hazelnut, lemon and pear flavors. Then go for: Muscadet, Pinot Grigio, Soave, Orvieto, Airén, Aligoté, Pinot Blanc, Gavi,Verdicchio.

*Green, tangy whites: You are like me! We have the same wine taste. You like crisp and refreshing whites, with herbaceous, vegetal notes: green pepper, peas, asparagus, fresh grass, minerality and citrus (lemon, lime) notes, good acidity here too. Then go for: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Verdejo, Gruner Veltliner, dry Riesling.

*Aromatic whites with intense fruit or floral notes: I also love this style, especially as an aperitif or with spicy foods. You like wines with intense fruit or floral notes (lychees, roses, apricot, peach). They could be light to medium bodied, usually without oak. Then go for: Viognier, Riesling, Albariño,Muscat, Torrontés, Moschofilero, Gewurztraminer.

*Bold whites with nutty notes: nutty notes come from oak, it could be a touch like in Burgundian Chardonnay or a lot like in CA Chardonnay. But also, these are the biggest whites of the spectrum so expect: plenty of body and fruit here. If you close your eyes, it will be almost as if you are tasting a red. Then go for: good quality Burgundy Chardonnay, and Chardonnay from warm climates: California, Australia, Spain, these will have more oaky flavors.

Now Reds:
*Delicate and velvety reds: then you like wines that are light to medium bodied with strawberry, raspberry, cranberry or other red fruit flavors. Light on tannin and mellow. Then go for my favorite red grape: Pinot Noir! from anywhere in the world, but Burgundy if you have $$$$, if not Oregon, California or Chile.

*Juicy fruity reds: here I include two categories, fruit forward and fun like Beaujolais (banana, bubble gum notes) and young Garnacha/Grenache (strawberry, raspberry) or mouthwatering, with light to medium bodies, high acidity and refreshing, featuring red or black fruits and some herbaceous notes.  Then go for light Italian reds, with solid acidity: Chianti, Barbera, Dolcetto, Valpolicella.

*Spicy warm reds: I like these because they have plenty of fruit aromatics and spice, but also a bit of structure from tannin from grapes or oak. These are usually medium to full bodied, some featuring black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, clove or other spicy notes. Then go for: Syrah, Malbec, Carmenere, Pinotage, Zinfandel, Tempranillo (Rioja, Ribera del Duero, reserva and gran reserva).

*Bold and Intense reds: these are big big big! Tannic, with concentrated black fruitiness (blackberry, plum, black cherry), full bodied and with oak. I like to call them A Powerbomb! These are the biggest reds of the spectrum! these you age for a long time. Go for: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Barolo, Barbaresco, Douro, Priorat, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Uruguayan Tannat.

Now Rosé: they can be fruit forward or dry.
*Fruity Rosé: with some rs (residual sugar) go to White Zinfandel or any rosé from the New World, where there’s plenty of sun and the grapes get riper, for example Portuguese,Argentinean, Chilean, Australian. They will feature aromas of watermelon, strawberry, ginger.

*Dry Rosé: is on the other hand more serious, crisp and refreshing sometimes mineral. Tons of complexity here! Then, go for Provence, Languedoc, Navarra and Rioja rosés.

Finally Dessert Styles:
*Golden and sweet wines:these are rich, full of honey, dry apricot and quince flavors. Most of them made from botrytis affected grapes. These are sweet and delicious to have as dessert or with dessert. Go for Sauternes, Quarts de Chaume, Alsace SGN or VT, German Riesling BA or TBA,Hungarian Tokaji or Canadian Ice Wines.
*Warm, fortified wines: if you like these, you like high alcohol, full bodied dessert wines that can taste of molasses, chocolate, raisins, prunes, dates,brown sugar, caramel, toffee, some have been oxidized. Then, go for Port, Madeira and sweet Sherries (Oloroso, PX).
I probably omitted a style or two, but this post should be the beginning for you my Dear Winos and a sample of everything that is out there. Now, what are you waiting for? go discover more! Cheers! Silvina.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

More Top Spanish Wine Regions: Ribera del Duero!

Located in the province of Castilla León in Spain, Ribera del Duero is about 100 miles drive north of Madrid. It's much smaller than Rioja and has about 21,000 hectares dedicated to vineyards, all of which are located in the valleys surrounding the Duero river. This river, the second most important of Spain, runs from the province of Soria and moves west across the meseta (high plateau of central Spain) ending its trajectory in Portugal (where it is known as Douro, producing ports and very good dry reds there). 

Ribera del Duero
is known mostly for its delicious and robust reds and like Riojas, these are made from the same grape variety:Tempranillo, known here as Tinto Fino.  Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are also allowed, but only in small quantities; since each wine must have, by law, a minimum of 75% Tempranillo/Tinto Fino in the blend. 

The climate of Ribera del Duero is continental with very hot summers, easily reaching up to 100º Fahrenheit during the day. Temperatures however, go down at night due to altitude, that plays a very important role here. Most vineyards are planted higher than in Rioja too, between 2,500- 3,000 feet. Ribera del Duero is also much warmer, producing reds that are usually more extracted, luscious, and ripe, I normally describe them as “Tempranillo on Vitamins”, their power and concentration come mostly from very old vines, some of which are between 50 to 80+ years old.  

There are two types of soils in Ribera del Duero, near the river, we find marl, riverbed stones and sediments and on the slopes, limestone, and clay. The river has an enormous impact in the whole area, especially during the Spring, when it moderates temperatures, keeping the area warm and preventing frosts that otherwise will seriously affect yields. 

Like Riojas, Ribera del Duero wines are aged in oak and bottle before release and are classified in the following categories:

* Joven: without any oak aging.

* Crianza: one year in oak and one in a bottle.

* Reservas: 3 years minimum, with 1 year in oak, the rest in a bottle.

* Gran Reservas 5 years minimum with 2 years in oak and the rest in a bottle. Keep in mind that most producers can/will choose to age for much longer times. Aging used to happen in American oak, but nowadays more and more wineries are choosing French oak or a mix of both.

Stylistically, Ribera del Duero wines are super elegant and long lived, they have full bodies, with nice acidity and structure. Their typical aromas are blackberry, black cherry, plum and dried fig. With aging, they show tobacco, dill, coffee, game and leather notes. 

Over 300 wineries make wines in this region. Some of which are very expensive; a clear example is the Vega Sicilia Unico, whose current vintage costs $500 + per bottle; it is by far one of the best reds of Spain, a collectible item and a treat we all should taste in our lifetimes. Other top producers are Alejandro Fernández (Pesquera) and Peter Sisseck (Pingus & Hacienda Monasterio), whose wines impress wine lovers at all price levels. In general, this region produces incredible quality wines, and it’s so much more than "the other Tempranillo appellation", it has a well deserved reputation of its own, which has translated into more and more brands becoming widely available in the US. 

My recommendations: 

I had the pleasure of receiving a bountiful of Ribera del Duero samples, and many from wineries I didn’t know. Though, I must warn you, in general, Riberas are a bit more expensive than Riojas, but so worthwhile! Here are some of my favorites that I have tasted recently: 


Barco de Piedra 2019, $18.99

Bodegas Aster Crianza 2015, $20.99

Dominio Fournier Crianza 2016, $29.99 

Finca La Capilla Crianza 2016, $32.99

Torre d' Goblan Crianza 2016, $34.99

Dominio de Ateuta 2015, $34.99

JC Vizcarra 2014, $34.99

Protos Reserva 2014, $34.99

Dominio Fournier Reserva 2014, $49.99

Protos Gran Reserva 2014, $54.99


Once again thanks to all producers and importers for the samples and to the CRDO Ribera del Duero/ Riberaruedawine.com for the map. 

Cheers! Silvina

#thoughtsoflawina #spanishwines #winesfromspain #tempranillo #tintofino #riberadelduero. 

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