Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Selecting Wine

One of the most delightful things in life is the miracle of recognizing a moment while you’re still in it rather than in retrospect.  While this isn’t hard to accomplish for the big milestones…graduations, weddings and such…it’s often quite a feat in everyday life.  I’m happy to report that I’m in the midst of one.  As a human, I live for moments like these.  As a writer, I find they are my Everest.  After several erased attempts to describe the last few hours, I’ve conceded to the fact that my description is all but inadequate.  It gives the moment no justice.  The best I can do is forgo flowery language and tell you that there’s no where else in the world I’d rather be right now than right where I am… under the vine-covered arbor my father built, catching whiffs of his cigar, listening to the Pride and Prejudice CD, and talking about wine.  This is my little piece of heaven on earth.  My Dad is larger than life, and as he tells me of his attempts to experience wine down to the taste of earth and sunshine, I can’t help but feel that (contrary to what the Dos Equis advertising campaign suggests) he is the actual most interesting man in the world.  While I may never be able to appreciate wine on the same level as my father, he has imparted in me a keen awareness that wine can be as beautiful as it is dangerous.  Choosing a good wine can be a complex process…in fact, there are entire books, magazine publications, and organizations dedicated to the process.  I can’t offer a comprehensive guide to wine selection, but I can give you some pointers on where to start.

This week’s posts build on each other more than usual, so if you haven’t read yesterday’s and want to familiarize yourself with a few basic wine terms before we go on, click here.  If you’re just starting out in your quest for wine education, making a successful selection comes down to answering a few basic questions…How sweet?...How strong?...And what flavors are you looking for?  While that may be oversimplifying things a bit in the future, it’s all you need to worry about for now.  Essentially all the information you need to make a good choice can be found by thoroughly reading the label (which will tell you everything from type, variety, flavor, region and vintage of the wine and sometimes even offer food pairing suggestions).  While red wine is traditionally paired with heavier foods and white wine with lighter, it really comes down to what you prefer to drink.  It may take awhile to discover your favorites as every vintage, brand and grape is different, but here are a few basic guidelines on what you can expect from ten of the top varieties of wine.

Red (Sweetest to Driest)

Pinot Noir- 
Varietal Aromas: cherry, strawberry, raspberry, rose petal, rosemary, cinnamon, rhubarb
Processing Bouquets: oak, vanilla, coconut, cedar

Varietal Aromas: currant, black cherry, plum, violet, rose, caramel, clove
Processing Bouquets: vanilla, coconut, oak, truffle, coffee

Varietal Aromas: black currant, blackberry, grass, licorice, clove, thyme, sandalwood, cedar
Processing Bouquets: musk, truffle, earth, vanilla, coconut, oak, cedar, cigar box, leather

Varietal Aromas: blackberry, plum, pepper, cherry, earth chocolate
Processing Bouquets: berries, plum, coffee, tobacco

Red Zinfandel-
Varietal Aromas: raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cranberry, black cherry, licorice, nettle, cinnamon, black pepper
Processing Bouquets: tutti-frutti, candy, bubblegum, vanilla, coconut, oak, tar, musk, earth, leather, cedar

Cabernet Sauvignon-
Varietal Aromas: black currant, blackberry, black cherry, ginger, green peppercorn
Processing Bouquets: vanilla, coconut, oak, smoke, tar, cedar, cigar box, musk, earth, leather

White (Sweetest to Driest)

Pinot Grigio
Varietal Aromas: lemon, apple, pear
Processing Bouquets: vanilla, sweet wood, almond, smoke, butter, cream

Varietal Aromas: rose petal, violet, apple, pear, peach, apricot
Processing Bouquets: terpene, diesel, kerosene, flint, steel, gunmetal

Savingon Blanc
Varietal Aromas: grass, lemon-grass, gooseberry, grapefruit, lime, melon
Processing Bouquets: vanilla, sweet wood, butter, cream, oak, smoke, toast, flint

Varietal Aromas: apple, pear, peach, apricot, lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, pineapple, banana, mango, guava, kiwi, acacia
Processing Pouquets: butter, cream, hazelnut, vanilla, coconut, oak, smoke, yeast, flint, mint


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