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  1. The Burgundy Ego Trip
        Over the past few months I’ve become ever more aware of the extent of oaking regimens in the Cote de Ore. And to put this gently. I can’t fricken believe it.
        As it turns out, it’s not uncommon for Burgundian wine makers to use 100% new oak on their Grand Cru and Premier Cru level wines. Why is this so ridiculous, you ask? Because they’re damn hypocrites, that’s why.
        Simply put, Burgundy is the Birthplace of terroir. Its wine makers live terroir, breathe terroir, and preach terroir. It is in Burgundy that the same wine maker will tediously and individually vinify small and contiguous vineyard plots, often only several meters apart, in order to showcase the individuality of each parcel of land.
        To go to such painstaking effort to preserve the purity of each vineyard plot and then allow the resulting wine to be marred by the tannins, phenols, and other wood compounds of new French oak seems sacrilege and contradictory.
        What makes even less sense about this equation is that it’s only the very best (highest vineyard classifications) that see new oak. These are the vineyards that have the finest, most distinct terroir, and as a result, it gets covered by oak. I’m curious, where’s the logic there?
        Leflaive, for instance, ferments Montrachet in 100% new oak. Now, if I’m going to shell out a small fortune to experience the nuances of Montrachet terroir, there better not be new oak in the way. I know what oak tastes like. I can get liquid lumberyard at retail for ten bucks a bottle—but Montrachet is a one of a kind (there are actually 26 producers, but who’s counting?) and if I’m drinking Montrachet, I sure hope to be tasting Montrachet and not some diluted or distorted fragment of what once was.
        Dominique Laurent in fact takes oaking to a new level using 200% new oak on many of his Premier and Grand Crus. Yep 200%. That means oak aging in a new barrel for a period of time (probably 6 months to a year) and then re-racking the stuff into a second new barrel for a second round of oak aging.
        I’m not a winemaker and I don’t claim to be but come on man. This is 2012.
        Obviously there are a lot of factors that contribute to the outcome of over-oaking including tradition, overestimation of the influence of new oak on bottle longevity, and plain personal preference. But I’m wondering if perhaps the most influential is pride.
         I’m curious whether the notion that more structured and substantial wines are more apt to maintain grace even with heavy oaking has lead wine makers to use oak treatments purely to prove something about their wines. I can hear it right now. ‘My wines are so [structured, meaty, hearty, substantial] that they can handle 100% new oak.’ To be frank, the notion of a wine being able to ‘handle’ 100% new oak pisses me off in the first place. In my humble opinion, oak is merely an ingredient available to wine makers in order to incorporate particular characteristics to wine—not a yardstick at which to measure its quality. And I’m not denying that great wines can be made using oak, but in Burgundy I believe greatness occurs through transparent winemaking and true vineyard representation. Show off what you’re mama gave you, you know?
        To that school of thought, one of my new favorite Burgundy producers Jean Marie Fourrier is a wine maker that seems to have adopted more concern for the representation of his vineyards than the showcase of his winemaking. Fourrier uses no more than 20% new oak in each vintage in order to maintain the individuality of each wine. “Oak is for slow breathing of the wine, not for taste,” Fourrier explains. And I can’t help but agree. The use of French oak for its inherent wine making mechanics is just fine. But when vanillin starts taking over fruit and mineral profile—that’s a different story.
        So unless you’ve got a small population of Quercus petraea growing in your vineyard (that’s French Oak, for all of you not up to snuff on your Quercus varietals)—your brand new 60 gallon oak drum has got nothing to do with your terroir.  

    The Burgundy Ego Trip

            Over the past few months I’ve become ever more aware of the extent of oaking regimens in the Cote de Ore. And to put this gently. I can’t fricken believe it.

            As it turns out, it’s not uncommon for Burgundian wine makers to use 100% new oak on their Grand Cru and Premier Cru level wines. Why is this so ridiculous, you ask? Because they’re damn hypocrites, that’s why.

            Simply put, Burgundy is the Birthplace of terroir. Its wine makers live terroir, breathe terroir, and preach terroir. It is in Burgundy that the same wine maker will tediously and individually vinify small and contiguous vineyard plots, often only several meters apart, in order to showcase the individuality of each parcel of land.

            To go to such painstaking effort to preserve the purity of each vineyard plot and then allow the resulting wine to be marred by the tannins, phenols, and other wood compounds of new French oak seems sacrilege and contradictory.

            What makes even less sense about this equation is that it’s only the very best (highest vineyard classifications) that see new oak. These are the vineyards that have the finest, most distinct terroir, and as a result, it gets covered by oak. I’m curious, where’s the logic there?

            Leflaive, for instance, ferments Montrachet in 100% new oak. Now, if I’m going to shell out a small fortune to experience the nuances of Montrachet terroir, there better not be new oak in the way. I know what oak tastes like. I can get liquid lumberyard at retail for ten bucks a bottle—but Montrachet is a one of a kind (there are actually 26 producers, but who’s counting?) and if I’m drinking Montrachet, I sure hope to be tasting Montrachet and not some diluted or distorted fragment of what once was.

            Dominique Laurent in fact takes oaking to a new level using 200% new oak on many of his Premier and Grand Crus. Yep 200%. That means oak aging in a new barrel for a period of time (probably 6 months to a year) and then re-racking the stuff into a second new barrel for a second round of oak aging.

            I’m not a winemaker and I don’t claim to be but come on man. This is 2012.

            Obviously there are a lot of factors that contribute to the outcome of over-oaking including tradition, overestimation of the influence of new oak on bottle longevity, and plain personal preference. But I’m wondering if perhaps the most influential is pride.

             I’m curious whether the notion that more structured and substantial wines are more apt to maintain grace even with heavy oaking has lead wine makers to use oak treatments purely to prove something about their wines. I can hear it right now. ‘My wines are so [structured, meaty, hearty, substantial] that they can handle 100% new oak.’ To be frank, the notion of a wine being able to ‘handle’ 100% new oak pisses me off in the first place. In my humble opinion, oak is merely an ingredient available to wine makers in order to incorporate particular characteristics to wine—not a yardstick at which to measure its quality. And I’m not denying that great wines can be made using oak, but in Burgundy I believe greatness occurs through transparent winemaking and true vineyard representation. Show off what you’re mama gave you, you know?

            To that school of thought, one of my new favorite Burgundy producers Jean Marie Fourrier is a wine maker that seems to have adopted more concern for the representation of his vineyards than the showcase of his winemaking. Fourrier uses no more than 20% new oak in each vintage in order to maintain the individuality of each wine. “Oak is for slow breathing of the wine, not for taste,” Fourrier explains. And I can’t help but agree. The use of French oak for its inherent wine making mechanics is just fine. But when vanillin starts taking over fruit and mineral profile—that’s a different story.

            So unless you’ve got a small population of Quercus petraea growing in your vineyard (that’s French Oak, for all of you not up to snuff on your Quercus varietals)—your brand new 60 gallon oak drum has got nothing to do with your terroir.  


     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Burgundy  Wine  Review  Red  French  Artlice 

  2. Sharpe Hill Late Harvest Vignoles 2006
        This shameless golden nectar might be just about as close to Sauternes production that the state of Connecticut might ever come—and I’m not saying that with regret but with state pride. I’ve tasted a couple of the Sharpe Hill wines including ‘The Ballet of Angels’—the best selling wine produced in Connecticut—and although I don’t recall having particularly strong feelings about either of them, there is something so incredibly white Bordeaux about this bottle that I couldn’t help but share it with you guys.
        In the glass this pure, golden beauty shows radiant and rich.
        On the nose it is ripe and incredibly botyrised showing off unmistakable aromas of honey and apricots, less obvious hints of pineapple, mango, green tea, and maple, and ever so subtle hints of a late harvest Riesling minerality. I only wish I could more aptly describe the character of honey in this late harvest because the honey-like profile in this wine is so distinct and so familiar but something that I’m unable to adequately put into words.
        It is only on the palette that the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest differentiates itself from fine Sauternes. Imagine a classic ripe Sauternes, Chateau Suduiraut for instance, and just turn it down a notch. The Sharpe Hill shows just a touch less ripeness, sugar, and substantially less alcohol—ringing in at just 10.5. With so many modern Sauternes reaching upward of 13 and 14 percent, this wine is really in a category all of its own. I must admit, I’ve had a few Sauternes that came off just a little bit warm, and that was not the case with the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest. In fact, I think late harvest wine in this particularly low alcohol category is perhaps even a bit more marketable than a thicker and sweeter Sauternes—as is it just a little more compatible with food. Not only could this bottling match classic Sauternes food pairings (blue cheese, foie gras, escargot), but it could also do those preparations with a little bit of spice and zest. Red pepper infused cheese especially comes to mind, as do salty/spicy combos.
        My only reservation about this wine lies within its very structure. While it maintains good freshness, just a little more acidity would have brought it into perfect balance. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have an adequate acidity to begin with, but I like my sweet wines racy, ya know?
       I guess I also would have hoped for a little more finish but that’s not to say that it falls off the palette by any stretch. In fact, I hate to get down on this wine at all. I think it’s a spectacular effort, all considered, and I look forward to marrying it to something blue-veined and pungent in the near future. And from Vignoles! Who would have reckoned?
$24.99 at http://www.anconaswine.com/sku11592.html

    Sharpe Hill Late Harvest Vignoles 2006

            This shameless golden nectar might be just about as close to Sauternes production that the state of Connecticut might ever come—and I’m not saying that with regret but with state pride. I’ve tasted a couple of the Sharpe Hill wines including ‘The Ballet of Angels’—the best selling wine produced in Connecticut—and although I don’t recall having particularly strong feelings about either of them, there is something so incredibly white Bordeaux about this bottle that I couldn’t help but share it with you guys.

            In the glass this pure, golden beauty shows radiant and rich.

            On the nose it is ripe and incredibly botyrised showing off unmistakable aromas of honey and apricots, less obvious hints of pineapple, mango, green tea, and maple, and ever so subtle hints of a late harvest Riesling minerality. I only wish I could more aptly describe the character of honey in this late harvest because the honey-like profile in this wine is so distinct and so familiar but something that I’m unable to adequately put into words.

            It is only on the palette that the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest differentiates itself from fine Sauternes. Imagine a classic ripe Sauternes, Chateau Suduiraut for instance, and just turn it down a notch. The Sharpe Hill shows just a touch less ripeness, sugar, and substantially less alcohol—ringing in at just 10.5. With so many modern Sauternes reaching upward of 13 and 14 percent, this wine is really in a category all of its own. I must admit, I’ve had a few Sauternes that came off just a little bit warm, and that was not the case with the Sharpe Hill Late Harvest. In fact, I think late harvest wine in this particularly low alcohol category is perhaps even a bit more marketable than a thicker and sweeter Sauternes—as is it just a little more compatible with food. Not only could this bottling match classic Sauternes food pairings (blue cheese, foie gras, escargot), but it could also do those preparations with a little bit of spice and zest. Red pepper infused cheese especially comes to mind, as do salty/spicy combos.

            My only reservation about this wine lies within its very structure. While it maintains good freshness, just a little more acidity would have brought it into perfect balance. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have an adequate acidity to begin with, but I like my sweet wines racy, ya know?

           I guess I also would have hoped for a little more finish but that’s not to say that it falls off the palette by any stretch. In fact, I hate to get down on this wine at all. I think it’s a spectacular effort, all considered, and I look forward to marrying it to something blue-veined and pungent in the near future. And from Vignoles! Who would have reckoned?

    $24.99 at http://www.anconaswine.com/sku11592.html

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Sharpe  Hill  Wine  White  Late Harvest  Vignoles  Review  2006 

  3. The Romance of Old Wine
       In a 1998 horizontal tasting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape an innocent bystander once asked me, “what’s the point? Why not enjoy the wines individually on several different occasions and experience several times the pleasure?”
       I must admit, for a moment I was stumped. If our tasting group had instead tasted the eight Châteauneuf-du-Papes on eight different nights we could have certainly appreciated each wine at least a little bit more. Perhaps on eight different occasions each wine could have been even more special than all eight at once. I have no doubt that all these wines deserved more attention than we were able to give them on that night. But after a little consideration I soon realized that the answer to his question was actually quite simple.
       As I’ve said in the past, I’m a firm believer that a great wine can take you somewhere. And on that rainy night in Norwalk Connecticut we were actually quite far from home—we were in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 1998, right around harvest time.
       What I’ve just described is what I like to call the romance of aged wine. Sure, mature wine can take you somewhere. I recognize and admire its ability to do so. But past the romance I’d like to examine its transformation in the bottle with detachment from nostalgic baggage. And so, for the purposes of this article I’d like to momentarily forget about the romance of old wine and focus purely on its development and lifespan.
        In fact, I believe that for the sole purpose of improving overall quality of wine—time actually does very little, and more often than not, it actually causes detriment. Yeah. I said it. An aging wine is a deteriorating wine.
        I must admit that because of my age I haven’t had a great deal of time to lay down and mature my own bottles, which I hope only slightly discredits my accountability to write this article. I’m 22 years old. So it’s only through generous friends and acquaintances that I’ve been blessed enough to taste a fair amount of mature wines. And with those experiences I’ve realized one thing—as a wine ages, it is more often that it loses something rather than gains something. Over extended periods of time a wine lets go. It’s color fades, the fruit dulls, and everything that once was, is no more.
        Nothing is produced as a wine ages in the bottle, it merely changes form, and I think this is something that us wine lovers often lose sight of. Now, I’m not saying we should all start drinking Beaujolais Nouveau. There are certainly some wines that come on to the market just far too young—but I feel like in general, the wine world overestimates that drinking lifespans of great wines, and they’re the ones missing out.
      One of the wines that really made this idea resonate for me was a 1988 Chateau Rayas—a wine that drank marvelously in the moment, paired flawlessly with the meal that accompanied it, and could probably deliver pleasure for several years to come. But in retrospect, the ’88 Rayas was well past its prime. And when I say ‘past its prime’ I don’t mean that it wasn’t drinking well, I think it was, and I derived much pleasure from it. But what I mean is that I think it might have been even more remarkable ten years earlier.
        This is where I take qualm with suggested drinking windows. When someone like Robert Parker says that the newest vintage of Chateau Lafite will drink best from 2023-2060, what is he really telling you? Not very much, that’s for sure.
        I’m sure that within that timespan there is a smaller period of time that that particular wine will be drinking substantially better than it will be for the rest of the time within the larger window. And I’ve got a feeling it’s not 2050-2060. The end result? We end up holding onto our wine for longer, and enjoying it less. That’s poor investing.
        I agree that a small part of my argument has to do with circumstance and personal taste. Sure, you might enjoy you’re Chateau Haut-Brion at 25 years of maturity, while I more enjoy it at 10 years of maturity—and it might also have to do with factors like wine service, temperature, and food pairing. But when push comes to shove, I think you’ll find that of-age wines out perform ancient ones, and anyone who says differently is probably just caught up in the ‘romance’.
       To approach this from a different angle it might be valuable to examine what makes an ancient wine great. I’ve spent a lot of time around other wine lovers and tasted a lot of old wine. And in that time I’ve tasted a fair amount of what other people would call ‘spectacular’ bottles. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed (even loved them) too—but the one thing that every single one of those ‘spectacular’ bottles has in common is that it was drinking ‘fresh, vibrant, and as if it were 10-15 years younger’.
       Come on now. Do you realize what you just did there? You held a bottle of wine for a substantial fraction of your lifetime so it could ideally taste young (and you incurred the risk of flaw, breakage, and theft along the way). Am I missing something here, or are you just lighting candles and setting the table for a romantic dinner?
      The last thing that pisses me off about old wine is something that I couldn’t fully put my finger on until just recently. I was even hesitant to include it in this commentary for fear of sounding like an ungrateful bitch but I think it’s pretty important so I’ve decided to say it anyway: as a wine ages it departs from what it was originally.
      Over the holidays I had the chance—a chance that I am so incredibly grateful for—to taste two different specimens of 1964 Cheval Blanc. Both bottles were sound, had been stored well (to the best of my knowledge), and were opened at the same time, under identical circumstances. And yet they were two completely different wines.
        Cheval Blanc 1964 A was austere, mineral driven and earthy with hints of mushroom, cedar, and spice. Cheval 1964 B was rich, full of ripe red fruit with a background of leather, dry earth, and roasted herbs. This degree of bottle variation isn’t something that occurs at the chateau during the winemaking process but something that happens over time as each wine ages. As time goes on each bottle deviates from the original ‘chateau wine’ so that 40 or 50 years later, there is no such thing as ‘1964 Cheval Blanc’ but only variations and fragments of its original spirit. I think this has to do with a lot of things including small variations in importing, storage, and every part of the overall journey—but the greatest, perhaps, is cork variation. As we all know, not only are corks imperfect but the composition of each and every one is in fact quite different. Wines breathe through corks and when two wines breath through two different corks for 40 years—well they end up becoming two different wines. Even identical twins, two offspring with the same DNA grow up to be two different people—well it’s the same story with wine. Ultimately, ‘it could be purple or it could be pink’,  ‘pending how you age that shit.’
        So sure, hold onto your over-age wines and drink them on special occasions—I know I will—but do so with the full understanding that the value is more sentimental than quality-minded. Logically speaking, you’re much better off going out and buying a wine that is ‘drinking well’ rather than trying to incubate it yourself. Wines die. But don’t be too disappointed because 1936 Beaucastel makes a fine doorstop. 

    The Romance of Old Wine

           In a 1998 horizontal tasting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape an innocent bystander once asked me, “what’s the point? Why not enjoy the wines individually on several different occasions and experience several times the pleasure?”

           I must admit, for a moment I was stumped. If our tasting group had instead tasted the eight Châteauneuf-du-Papes on eight different nights we could have certainly appreciated each wine at least a little bit more. Perhaps on eight different occasions each wine could have been even more special than all eight at once. I have no doubt that all these wines deserved more attention than we were able to give them on that night. But after a little consideration I soon realized that the answer to his question was actually quite simple.

           As I’ve said in the past, I’m a firm believer that a great wine can take you somewhere. And on that rainy night in Norwalk Connecticut we were actually quite far from home—we were in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 1998, right around harvest time.

           What I’ve just described is what I like to call the romance of aged wine. Sure, mature wine can take you somewhere. I recognize and admire its ability to do so. But past the romance I’d like to examine its transformation in the bottle with detachment from nostalgic baggage. And so, for the purposes of this article I’d like to momentarily forget about the romance of old wine and focus purely on its development and lifespan.

            In fact, I believe that for the sole purpose of improving overall quality of wine—time actually does very little, and more often than not, it actually causes detriment. Yeah. I said it. An aging wine is a deteriorating wine.

            I must admit that because of my age I haven’t had a great deal of time to lay down and mature my own bottles, which I hope only slightly discredits my accountability to write this article. I’m 22 years old. So it’s only through generous friends and acquaintances that I’ve been blessed enough to taste a fair amount of mature wines. And with those experiences I’ve realized one thing—as a wine ages, it is more often that it loses something rather than gains something. Over extended periods of time a wine lets go. It’s color fades, the fruit dulls, and everything that once was, is no more.

            Nothing is produced as a wine ages in the bottle, it merely changes form, and I think this is something that us wine lovers often lose sight of. Now, I’m not saying we should all start drinking Beaujolais Nouveau. There are certainly some wines that come on to the market just far too young—but I feel like in general, the wine world overestimates that drinking lifespans of great wines, and they’re the ones missing out.

          One of the wines that really made this idea resonate for me was a 1988 Chateau Rayas—a wine that drank marvelously in the moment, paired flawlessly with the meal that accompanied it, and could probably deliver pleasure for several years to come. But in retrospect, the ’88 Rayas was well past its prime. And when I say ‘past its prime’ I don’t mean that it wasn’t drinking well, I think it was, and I derived much pleasure from it. But what I mean is that I think it might have been even more remarkable ten years earlier.

            This is where I take qualm with suggested drinking windows. When someone like Robert Parker says that the newest vintage of Chateau Lafite will drink best from 2023-2060, what is he really telling you? Not very much, that’s for sure.

            I’m sure that within that timespan there is a smaller period of time that that particular wine will be drinking substantially better than it will be for the rest of the time within the larger window. And I’ve got a feeling it’s not 2050-2060. The end result? We end up holding onto our wine for longer, and enjoying it less. That’s poor investing.

            I agree that a small part of my argument has to do with circumstance and personal taste. Sure, you might enjoy you’re Chateau Haut-Brion at 25 years of maturity, while I more enjoy it at 10 years of maturity—and it might also have to do with factors like wine service, temperature, and food pairing. But when push comes to shove, I think you’ll find that of-age wines out perform ancient ones, and anyone who says differently is probably just caught up in the ‘romance’.

           To approach this from a different angle it might be valuable to examine what makes an ancient wine great. I’ve spent a lot of time around other wine lovers and tasted a lot of old wine. And in that time I’ve tasted a fair amount of what other people would call ‘spectacular’ bottles. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed (even loved them) too—but the one thing that every single one of those ‘spectacular’ bottles has in common is that it was drinking ‘fresh, vibrant, and as if it were 10-15 years younger’.

           Come on now. Do you realize what you just did there? You held a bottle of wine for a substantial fraction of your lifetime so it could ideally taste young (and you incurred the risk of flaw, breakage, and theft along the way). Am I missing something here, or are you just lighting candles and setting the table for a romantic dinner?

          The last thing that pisses me off about old wine is something that I couldn’t fully put my finger on until just recently. I was even hesitant to include it in this commentary for fear of sounding like an ungrateful bitch but I think it’s pretty important so I’ve decided to say it anyway: as a wine ages it departs from what it was originally.

          Over the holidays I had the chance—a chance that I am so incredibly grateful for—to taste two different specimens of 1964 Cheval Blanc. Both bottles were sound, had been stored well (to the best of my knowledge), and were opened at the same time, under identical circumstances. And yet they were two completely different wines.

            Cheval Blanc 1964 A was austere, mineral driven and earthy with hints of mushroom, cedar, and spice. Cheval 1964 B was rich, full of ripe red fruit with a background of leather, dry earth, and roasted herbs. This degree of bottle variation isn’t something that occurs at the chateau during the winemaking process but something that happens over time as each wine ages. As time goes on each bottle deviates from the original ‘chateau wine’ so that 40 or 50 years later, there is no such thing as ‘1964 Cheval Blanc’ but only variations and fragments of its original spirit. I think this has to do with a lot of things including small variations in importing, storage, and every part of the overall journey—but the greatest, perhaps, is cork variation. As we all know, not only are corks imperfect but the composition of each and every one is in fact quite different. Wines breathe through corks and when two wines breath through two different corks for 40 years—well they end up becoming two different wines. Even identical twins, two offspring with the same DNA grow up to be two different people—well it’s the same story with wine. Ultimately, ‘it could be purple or it could be pink’,  ‘pending how you age that shit.’

            So sure, hold onto your over-age wines and drink them on special occasions—I know I will—but do so with the full understanding that the value is more sentimental than quality-minded. Logically speaking, you’re much better off going out and buying a wine that is ‘drinking well’ rather than trying to incubate it yourself. Wines die. But don’t be too disappointed because 1936 Beaucastel makes a fine doorstop. 

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  connecticut  Wine  Romance  Old  World  Red  Review  Chevral Blanc  France  Age  Article 

  4. Moulin-a-Vent Hospices Collin-Bourisset 2006
        I started buying mixed cases of wine when I turned 21 years old. As a result, I sometimes have the pleasure of pulling bottles out of my cellar that I’ve since forgotten about. The Moulin-a-Vent Hospices 2006 from Collin-Bourisset is one of those bottles. I remember purchasing it my Junior year of college from one of my favorite retailers in Bronxville, NY, where I went to school. Moulin-a-Vent has somewhat of a reputation as being the most structured Cru in Beaujolais and I remember thinking that this was one of the few Beaujolais that I could probably forget about for a few years without being disappointed.
        It is in fact Moulin-a-Vent’s unique soil composition that allows it to produce such reputable and long-lived wines. The village’s most predominant substrate is rich with manganese, a chemical compound that is quite toxic to grape vines. As a result the grape yields in Moulin-a-Vent are substantially reduced, allowing for more concentrated and structured fruit. And in case you didn’t know, the village is named after what is perhaps the most famous windmill in the world (Mykonos and Don Quixote aside)—the windmill at Domaine Hubert Lapierre.
        In the glass this wine showed deep red, darker than most Pinots. As with all red Beaujolais, this wine is 100% Gamay which often shows a bit more concentrated in color than Pinot.
        On the nose it is slightly reserved and earthy bringing fourth just ever so slight qualities of great Burgundy.
        On the palette this wine is in a couple different places. It shows the ripeness of Beaujolais with the acidity of Cote de Nuits—a disconnect that leads me to believe this wine might be slightly acidified. As on the nose, this wine showed a really nice earthiness that’s just teases but doesn’t satisfy. It attacks with a tart cherry that doesn’t really deliver on the back palette and the finish is mostly unremarkable.
        All in all this is one of those wines that is just kind of a tease. Not flawed, not poorly made—just not all there, you know what I mean? There’s a chance that I caught this bottle at a bad time and it will come out of a dumb phase over time but the way that it’s drinking right now had me just a little disappointed. Furthermore, this wine didn’t have the tannin profile I expected. Moulin-a-Vent is generally known as the meatiest Beaujolais cru, and although this wine really drank like a quite ripe Cote de Nuits rather than Beaujolais—it was still thinner and lighter than I’d hoped for.
        I paired this wine with steak and although the food enhanced the drinking experience—the wine really was a little bit thin for the steak. There’s no doubt however that this wine was born and raised for food. Although it didn’t quite work with London broil I think a cut just a little more delicate might make the pairing work—perhaps tenderloin, sirloin, or fillet mignon.

    Moulin-a-Vent Hospices Collin-Bourisset 2006

            I started buying mixed cases of wine when I turned 21 years old. As a result, I sometimes have the pleasure of pulling bottles out of my cellar that I’ve since forgotten about. The Moulin-a-Vent Hospices 2006 from Collin-Bourisset is one of those bottles. I remember purchasing it my Junior year of college from one of my favorite retailers in Bronxville, NY, where I went to school. Moulin-a-Vent has somewhat of a reputation as being the most structured Cru in Beaujolais and I remember thinking that this was one of the few Beaujolais that I could probably forget about for a few years without being disappointed.

            It is in fact Moulin-a-Vent’s unique soil composition that allows it to produce such reputable and long-lived wines. The village’s most predominant substrate is rich with manganese, a chemical compound that is quite toxic to grape vines. As a result the grape yields in Moulin-a-Vent are substantially reduced, allowing for more concentrated and structured fruit. And in case you didn’t know, the village is named after what is perhaps the most famous windmill in the world (Mykonos and Don Quixote aside)—the windmill at Domaine Hubert Lapierre.

            In the glass this wine showed deep red, darker than most Pinots. As with all red Beaujolais, this wine is 100% Gamay which often shows a bit more concentrated in color than Pinot.

            On the nose it is slightly reserved and earthy bringing fourth just ever so slight qualities of great Burgundy.

            On the palette this wine is in a couple different places. It shows the ripeness of Beaujolais with the acidity of Cote de Nuits—a disconnect that leads me to believe this wine might be slightly acidified. As on the nose, this wine showed a really nice earthiness that’s just teases but doesn’t satisfy. It attacks with a tart cherry that doesn’t really deliver on the back palette and the finish is mostly unremarkable.

            All in all this is one of those wines that is just kind of a tease. Not flawed, not poorly made—just not all there, you know what I mean? There’s a chance that I caught this bottle at a bad time and it will come out of a dumb phase over time but the way that it’s drinking right now had me just a little disappointed. Furthermore, this wine didn’t have the tannin profile I expected. Moulin-a-Vent is generally known as the meatiest Beaujolais cru, and although this wine really drank like a quite ripe Cote de Nuits rather than Beaujolais—it was still thinner and lighter than I’d hoped for.

            I paired this wine with steak and although the food enhanced the drinking experience—the wine really was a little bit thin for the steak. There’s no doubt however that this wine was born and raised for food. Although it didn’t quite work with London broil I think a cut just a little more delicate might make the pairing work—perhaps tenderloin, sirloin, or fillet mignon.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Connecticut  Moulin A Vent  Hospices  Collin Bourisset  2006  Bronxville  Gamay 

  5. Amat Tannat 2005—The Grape Rush 
       I guess it was Australia that really started the grape rush—the wine marketing phenomenon that had different New World nations grabbing up previously unloved grape varietals and calling them their own. After seeing the success of Shiraz—South America jumped on the bandwagon. First it was Malbec in Argentina. Then it was Carmenere in Chile. And now it is Uruguay that is slowly finding its way to Tannat.
       I must admit my experience with Tannat has been fairly limited, but every time we do find our way to each other in a wine shop or wine bar—the experience is magical. Not only are the wines rich and indulgent, but each and everyone manifests itself in an entirely different manner that continuously has me questioning and re-questioning what benchmark Tannat should really taste like.
       Amat is perhaps the Uruguayan producer that I’m most familiar with and in the past I have found nothing but pleasant surprises in the wines. This particular bottling is aged in 50% French oak and 50% American.
       In the glass it showed a deep concentrated red.
       On the nose it is rife with a deep mineral-driven earthiness, a slight flinty character, and ever so slight American oak qualities (dill, coconut, and vanilla extract).
       On the palette it is composed of a surprisingly ample acidity, substantial full-mouth tannin, and a full, extracted body. It brings on a tart cherry attack followed my more generous red fruit on the back palette—but over all, it is a quite tight and austere.
       24 hours did wonders for this reserved Uruguayan princess. The next day this Tannat opened up quite a bit bringing on more voluptuous fruit, some pleasing oak, and blatantly chocolately notes—something that I always appreciate in New World production.
       This wine doesn’t well compare to Cabernet, Malbec, or Zinfandel but is truly a grape all of its own. Imagine flavor qualities reminiscent of Bordeaux, in combination with the acidity and earthiness of Pinot, the herbaceous qualities of Cabernet Franc, and the structure of Syrah—and maybe, just maybe you will get some incompetent character profile of this Tannat. All and all, I’m a huge proponent of this long lost Beauty.
       A $16 bottle.

    Amat Tannat 2005—The Grape Rush 

           I guess it was Australia that really started the grape rush—the wine marketing phenomenon that had different New World nations grabbing up previously unloved grape varietals and calling them their own. After seeing the success of Shiraz—South America jumped on the bandwagon. First it was Malbec in Argentina. Then it was Carmenere in Chile. And now it is Uruguay that is slowly finding its way to Tannat.

           I must admit my experience with Tannat has been fairly limited, but every time we do find our way to each other in a wine shop or wine bar—the experience is magical. Not only are the wines rich and indulgent, but each and everyone manifests itself in an entirely different manner that continuously has me questioning and re-questioning what benchmark Tannat should really taste like.

           Amat is perhaps the Uruguayan producer that I’m most familiar with and in the past I have found nothing but pleasant surprises in the wines. This particular bottling is aged in 50% French oak and 50% American.

           In the glass it showed a deep concentrated red.

           On the nose it is rife with a deep mineral-driven earthiness, a slight flinty character, and ever so slight American oak qualities (dill, coconut, and vanilla extract).

           On the palette it is composed of a surprisingly ample acidity, substantial full-mouth tannin, and a full, extracted body. It brings on a tart cherry attack followed my more generous red fruit on the back palette—but over all, it is a quite tight and austere.

           24 hours did wonders for this reserved Uruguayan princess. The next day this Tannat opened up quite a bit bringing on more voluptuous fruit, some pleasing oak, and blatantly chocolately notes—something that I always appreciate in New World production.

           This wine doesn’t well compare to Cabernet, Malbec, or Zinfandel but is truly a grape all of its own. Imagine flavor qualities reminiscent of Bordeaux, in combination with the acidity and earthiness of Pinot, the herbaceous qualities of Cabernet Franc, and the structure of Syrah—and maybe, just maybe you will get some incompetent character profile of this Tannat. All and all, I’m a huge proponent of this long lost Beauty.

           A $16 bottle.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  The Grape Rush  Amat  Tannat  2005  Uruguay  Red  Wine  Review 

  6. Cougar Hunting the Yellow Label
        I suppose my ongoing love affair with the Widow Clicquot initiated itself in my senior year of high school when liaison with older acquaintances gained me a more reliable access to wine. I had more money then. Without a car, a multitude of lady friends, or a fake ID, I found it hard to put a dent I my summer job paychecks—so I started working my way through the NV Brut Champagnes at the wine shop up the street. And what more obvious place to start than the Widow herself? Although, I must admit, I didn’t realize that then. In fact, my first recollection of the yellow label is in kitchen at my high school girlfriend’s house in late 2006 where her eccentric mother would enthusiastically mix us mimosas in fervent celebration of simple things. It’s been love ever since—and I’m not talking about the girl, I’m talking about the Veuve.
        It’s hard to adequately characterize my first experiences of the brut without risking at least some kind of embellishment, but when I finally did taste the Veuve minus the orange juice, I remember being surprised that a sparkling wine could be so rich and so light and clean all at the same time. I don’t recall any particularly yeasty qualities, although, I don’t imagine I was looking for them either. What I do recall is youth, clean fruit, and the almost overwhelming sensation of effervescence. And I was enamored. I couldn’t get enough of it and kept placing new orders with my of-age enablers with the arrival of every paycheck.
        After the brut, I found myself experimenting with the rosé, which is a wine I regarded, and still do, as an incredibly masculine and powerful Champagne. After that it was the exceptionally rich 2000 vintage, the demi-sec, and—with the subsidy of my 2009 Christmas money, the 1998 La Grande Dame. It was after tasting the Grande Dame that I really found myself hoisting the black and yellow flag—and that’s a flag I’ve still got flying.
        That’s the purpose of this commentary, I guess. I feel like spectacular marketing in the past decade has ignited misnomers about the quality and history behind this Champagne house. In some ways, I feel like brilliant (if sometimes a bit gimmicky) marketing has tied the Veuve Clicquot wines to a notion of questionable quality—and I don’t agree.  Of course, I haven’t had the chance to taste more than the past few releases of the NV Brut—which, as we all know, isn’t enough for me to judge the consistency and quality of the wine over time. But I do know that the wine out on the market right now and the wines that the house has released since my cathartic liaisons in high school, are all admirable and well made. I am, as many, partial to grower Champagne. But I think it’s important to keep in perspective how significant large houses are in the big picture. And along with my new favorite, Laurent-Perrier, I think Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin stands at the top of large house production.
        In the past I’ve heard professionals lament that a Champagne house is only as good as its NV Brut. And I guess that makes sense—so long the only bubbly you drink is non-vintage Brut. On the contrary, I think excellent Champagne at any level contributes to the overall quality of a Champagne house. When LebBron was in Cleveland, he carried the team, so why can’t a tête de cuvée? That’s not to say that all of the Veuve Clicquot wines don’t deserve merit, they certainly do, but I think it’s a strong non-vintage production along with a superb selection of upper-tier wines that truly makes Veuve Clicquot something special. Sure, the marketing is there, but when push comes to shove the wines speak for themselves.
        And that bright yellow label that everyone’s been talking about—well that’s a piece of history all on its own. It dates back to the early 1900s when Barbe-Nicole, the widow herself, began to produce ‘Brut’ to accommodate the British palette that preferred a lighter, drier wine.  It wasn’t designed to attract attention on the table at restaurants and nightclubs, but instead to mimic the distinct orange-yellow hue in the egg yolk of a French hen.
        So take pride y’all. That black and yellow drank aint just bubble wine. It’s Veuve Clicquot.

    Cougar Hunting the Yellow Label

            I suppose my ongoing love affair with the Widow Clicquot initiated itself in my senior year of high school when liaison with older acquaintances gained me a more reliable access to wine. I had more money then. Without a car, a multitude of lady friends, or a fake ID, I found it hard to put a dent I my summer job paychecks—so I started working my way through the NV Brut Champagnes at the wine shop up the street. And what more obvious place to start than the Widow herself? Although, I must admit, I didn’t realize that then. In fact, my first recollection of the yellow label is in kitchen at my high school girlfriend’s house in late 2006 where her eccentric mother would enthusiastically mix us mimosas in fervent celebration of simple things. It’s been love ever since—and I’m not talking about the girl, I’m talking about the Veuve.

            It’s hard to adequately characterize my first experiences of the brut without risking at least some kind of embellishment, but when I finally did taste the Veuve minus the orange juice, I remember being surprised that a sparkling wine could be so rich and so light and clean all at the same time. I don’t recall any particularly yeasty qualities, although, I don’t imagine I was looking for them either. What I do recall is youth, clean fruit, and the almost overwhelming sensation of effervescence. And I was enamored. I couldn’t get enough of it and kept placing new orders with my of-age enablers with the arrival of every paycheck.

            After the brut, I found myself experimenting with the rosé, which is a wine I regarded, and still do, as an incredibly masculine and powerful Champagne. After that it was the exceptionally rich 2000 vintage, the demi-sec, and—with the subsidy of my 2009 Christmas money, the 1998 La Grande Dame. It was after tasting the Grande Dame that I really found myself hoisting the black and yellow flag—and that’s a flag I’ve still got flying.

            That’s the purpose of this commentary, I guess. I feel like spectacular marketing in the past decade has ignited misnomers about the quality and history behind this Champagne house. In some ways, I feel like brilliant (if sometimes a bit gimmicky) marketing has tied the Veuve Clicquot wines to a notion of questionable quality—and I don’t agree.  Of course, I haven’t had the chance to taste more than the past few releases of the NV Brut—which, as we all know, isn’t enough for me to judge the consistency and quality of the wine over time. But I do know that the wine out on the market right now and the wines that the house has released since my cathartic liaisons in high school, are all admirable and well made. I am, as many, partial to grower Champagne. But I think it’s important to keep in perspective how significant large houses are in the big picture. And along with my new favorite, Laurent-Perrier, I think Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin stands at the top of large house production.

            In the past I’ve heard professionals lament that a Champagne house is only as good as its NV Brut. And I guess that makes sense—so long the only bubbly you drink is non-vintage Brut. On the contrary, I think excellent Champagne at any level contributes to the overall quality of a Champagne house. When LebBron was in Cleveland, he carried the team, so why can’t a tête de cuvée? That’s not to say that all of the Veuve Clicquot wines don’t deserve merit, they certainly do, but I think it’s a strong non-vintage production along with a superb selection of upper-tier wines that truly makes Veuve Clicquot something special. Sure, the marketing is there, but when push comes to shove the wines speak for themselves.

            And that bright yellow label that everyone’s been talking about—well that’s a piece of history all on its own. It dates back to the early 1900s when Barbe-Nicole, the widow herself, began to produce ‘Brut’ to accommodate the British palette that preferred a lighter, drier wine.  It wasn’t designed to attract attention on the table at restaurants and nightclubs, but instead to mimic the distinct orange-yellow hue in the egg yolk of a French hen.

            So take pride y’all. That black and yellow drank aint just bubble wine. It’s Veuve Clicquot.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Cougar Hunting  Yellow Lable  Vueve Clicquot  Veuve Clicquot  Champagne  French  Bubbly 

  7. Wine Snobbery
        A few weeks ago I was called a wine snob. I can’t remember the exact venue or circumstance—whether it was a restaurant, a bar, or at a party somewhere—but the accusation has resonated with me ever since. And trust me. The damage is done.
        At first it didn’t mean much to me. I’ve been led to believe the term is thrown around pretty loosely as us wine people. We’re such easy targets for this cliché banter. But the more I’ve had time to think about it, the more I feel unrightiously persecuted.
        Sometimes people ask me questions like, ‘Isn’t it expensive to have such a refined taste in wine?’ or ‘Do you ever find yourself limited by your sommelier palette?’ And these questions are fair and well intended. It makes sense that exposure to more expensive wines could make any taster more partial to them. However, I find that in my personal experience it is just the opposite. The more I taste and the more I understand about wine, the more wines I find myself able to appreciate.
        Just the other day I found myself sitting with some friends around a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir—a wine I’d never tasted before. Not only was I down to taste it (and have a few glasses, I’ll admit), but I didn’t think it was half bad. I’m actually quite impressed that E and J Gallo is able to produce a wine in such bulk with such consistency. Sure, perhaps it’s a little overripe to suit my personal taste for Pinot, but it’s well made, and drinks just like a handful of other California Pinots that ring in at several times its price point. There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there?
        The fact is, in this day and age winemaking is better than ever. The market is flooded with well made wines packed with style, concentration, and depth and I feel like anyone with an (even allegedly) trained palette would find it hard pressed to resort to wine snobbery. The more I’ve learned to evaluate a wine objectively, the more wines I’ve come to appreciate for one reason or another. There aren’t many wines out there that don’t have at least something going for them.
         So don’t call me a wine snob, cause we all know I pound Two Buck Chuck on the weekends*, ya hear?
       *An exaggerated perspective on reality.

    Wine Snobbery

            A few weeks ago I was called a wine snob. I can’t remember the exact venue or circumstance—whether it was a restaurant, a bar, or at a party somewhere—but the accusation has resonated with me ever since. And trust me. The damage is done.

            At first it didn’t mean much to me. I’ve been led to believe the term is thrown around pretty loosely as us wine people. We’re such easy targets for this cliché banter. But the more I’ve had time to think about it, the more I feel unrightiously persecuted.

            Sometimes people ask me questions like, ‘Isn’t it expensive to have such a refined taste in wine?’ or ‘Do you ever find yourself limited by your sommelier palette?’ And these questions are fair and well intended. It makes sense that exposure to more expensive wines could make any taster more partial to them. However, I find that in my personal experience it is just the opposite. The more I taste and the more I understand about wine, the more wines I find myself able to appreciate.

            Just the other day I found myself sitting with some friends around a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir—a wine I’d never tasted before. Not only was I down to taste it (and have a few glasses, I’ll admit), but I didn’t think it was half bad. I’m actually quite impressed that E and J Gallo is able to produce a wine in such bulk with such consistency. Sure, perhaps it’s a little overripe to suit my personal taste for Pinot, but it’s well made, and drinks just like a handful of other California Pinots that ring in at several times its price point. There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there?

            The fact is, in this day and age winemaking is better than ever. The market is flooded with well made wines packed with style, concentration, and depth and I feel like anyone with an (even allegedly) trained palette would find it hard pressed to resort to wine snobbery. The more I’ve learned to evaluate a wine objectively, the more wines I’ve come to appreciate for one reason or another. There aren’t many wines out there that don’t have at least something going for them.

             So don’t call me a wine snob, cause we all know I pound Two Buck Chuck on the weekends*, ya hear?

           *An exaggerated perspective on reality.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Connecticut  Wine  Snob  Resturant  Bar  Snobbery 

  8. Vineyard Update: McLaughlin Vineyards (Sandy Hook, CT)
        This past weekend the FCL crew made our annual homage to McLaughlin Vineyards nestled in the very northeast reaches of Fairfield County. As it turns out, we visited right around the same time last year and we were pleased to enjoy the same exquisite autumn scenery at this picturesque Connecticut wine estate.
       I’m not shy to admit that my palette has developed drastically since our visit last November. I was 21 then (a rookie)—and when it comes to wine tasting (legally speaking, at least) I’m twice as mature. So I was excited to re-taste their flight and see not only how the wines had changed since the previous vintage but how my opinion of the wines might have changed as well. Incase you don’t recall, last year I found that all of the wines at McLaughlin were pleasant, quite unique, and a nice representation of Connecticut wine production, if a bit on the pricey end.

        This year I felt very much the same, however, I feel much more apt to put the McLaughlin wines in perspective in the grand scheme of winemaking. The estate is located on nearly ideal ground for quality production. McLaughlin stands on stony marl inclines, less than 20 miles from Long Island Sound in a microclimate not all that dissimilar from Bordeaux. And once again, I thought the wines were well made and pleasant drinking although I couldn’t help but notice that they all lacked a certain concentration that I find in most of the wines I love (except for a few white burgundies). I was puzzled why the McLaughlin wines didn’t show the flavor depth of some other cool climate producers.
       It wasn’t until we walked through the vineyard that it dawned on me. McLaughlin is still in the process of establishing itself. The vines are young and small (some of them outright puny) and it might be a while before they gain the maturity to begin to produce the same kind of concentration. I’m not saying it’s going to take 60 years for Connecticut to produce good concentration, but the vines at McLaughlin are really just beginning to take root and with vine maturity will come both depth and concentration.

       That said, the structures of McLaughlin’s Vinifera varietal wines are much more appealing to me than its hybrids. Sometimes I find it hard to understand why our local vineyards turn so heavily to Vidal, Seyval, and Vignoles (among other hybrids) when our climate can easily support a handful of cool climate varietals with the capacity to produce more desirable wines. I understand factors like frost risk, rainfall, and substrates, but by accepting the reality of slightly lower yields and inconstant vintages, we’d be putting ourselves in a position to produce more favorable wines. Connecticut has the capacity to grow not only Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon)—but Riesling, Pinot, Gewurtz, and probably a handful of other wonderful Old World varietals that I’d love to see growing in my backyard.
       All said and done, I like the wines at McLaughlin, particularly the Merlot and Cabernet Franc based wines, which show very much like some of my favorite Loire reds. However, it’s only with time and maybe a little replanting that this producer might really begin to shine at its true potential. And you can bet I won’t be shy to reap the earthy, light-bodied rewards somewhere in the intermediate future.

    Vineyard Update: McLaughlin Vineyards (Sandy Hook, CT)

            This past weekend the FCL crew made our annual homage to McLaughlin Vineyards nestled in the very northeast reaches of Fairfield County. As it turns out, we visited right around the same time last year and we were pleased to enjoy the same exquisite autumn scenery at this picturesque Connecticut wine estate.

           I’m not shy to admit that my palette has developed drastically since our visit last November. I was 21 then (a rookie)—and when it comes to wine tasting (legally speaking, at least) I’m twice as mature. So I was excited to re-taste their flight and see not only how the wines had changed since the previous vintage but how my opinion of the wines might have changed as well. Incase you don’t recall, last year I found that all of the wines at McLaughlin were pleasant, quite unique, and a nice representation of Connecticut wine production, if a bit on the pricey end.

            This year I felt very much the same, however, I feel much more apt to put the McLaughlin wines in perspective in the grand scheme of winemaking. The estate is located on nearly ideal ground for quality production. McLaughlin stands on stony marl inclines, less than 20 miles from Long Island Sound in a microclimate not all that dissimilar from Bordeaux. And once again, I thought the wines were well made and pleasant drinking although I couldn’t help but notice that they all lacked a certain concentration that I find in most of the wines I love (except for a few white burgundies). I was puzzled why the McLaughlin wines didn’t show the flavor depth of some other cool climate producers.

           It wasn’t until we walked through the vineyard that it dawned on me. McLaughlin is still in the process of establishing itself. The vines are young and small (some of them outright puny) and it might be a while before they gain the maturity to begin to produce the same kind of concentration. I’m not saying it’s going to take 60 years for Connecticut to produce good concentration, but the vines at McLaughlin are really just beginning to take root and with vine maturity will come both depth and concentration.

           That said, the structures of McLaughlin’s Vinifera varietal wines are much more appealing to me than its hybrids. Sometimes I find it hard to understand why our local vineyards turn so heavily to Vidal, Seyval, and Vignoles (among other hybrids) when our climate can easily support a handful of cool climate varietals with the capacity to produce more desirable wines. I understand factors like frost risk, rainfall, and substrates, but by accepting the reality of slightly lower yields and inconstant vintages, we’d be putting ourselves in a position to produce more favorable wines. Connecticut has the capacity to grow not only Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon)—but Riesling, Pinot, Gewurtz, and probably a handful of other wonderful Old World varietals that I’d love to see growing in my backyard.

           All said and done, I like the wines at McLaughlin, particularly the Merlot and Cabernet Franc based wines, which show very much like some of my favorite Loire reds. However, it’s only with time and maybe a little replanting that this producer might really begin to shine at its true potential. And you can bet I won’t be shy to reap the earthy, light-bodied rewards somewhere in the intermediate future.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Wine  McLaughlin  Merlo  Cabernet Franc  Sandy Hook 

  9. A Less than Scientific Look at the Science of Taste
        There are only two things that I’m certain about when it comes to beer. The first: I love it. The second: when I was sixteen years old and took my first sip of Bud Light—I damn near spit it out.
        So what’s changed between then and now? I’m relatively certain that the basic composition, recipe, and flavor profile of my favorite American lager is pretty much the same as it used to be. Sure, the labels changed a bit, but all and all we’re talking about the same crisp (albeit, slightly watery) brew.
        Truth is, it’s not the beer that’s evolved over my past six years of beverage enjoyment—it’s me. And my perception of taste.
        It’s hard for me to pinpoint the moment when beer drinking became an engagement of pleasure rather than displeasure, however, it’s not the moment of this transformation that’s significant as much as the reason behind it. One thing that I can say with some certainty is that it took quite a bit of beer drinking for me to begin surmise pleasure purely from taste alone. And the easy explanation for this change in taste would be familiarity—I’d become familiar with the taste of American Lager, so I liked it.
        Thing is, I’m familiar with plenty of things I don’t like—take cough medicine for instance. Over the course of many years of long distance running paired with my unfortunate malady of cold-induced asthma—I’ve become unfortunately familiar with the nuances of green and nasty prescription cough syrup (both with codeine and without). Despite constant conditioning to this stimuli, however, I continue to despise its flavor profile, basic structure, and unabashed full-bodiedness. So what is it that allows us to develop a negative perception of some stimuli and a fondness of others? 
        Perhaps it has to do with the circumstance in which the conditioning of these very different stimuli occurs. For instance, my initial perception of Bud Light is something that occurred mostly at parties, in the presence of friends and other individuals that were enjoying themselves. In essence, my initial experiences with beer occurred in the presence of other good stimuli, so it became a good stimuli itself. The inverse is true in regards to my experience with the green and nasty stuff. My initial (and recent) experience with prescription cough syrup occurred in the unfortunate presence of sickness and has thus become a negative stimulus.
        And according to this school of thought, had I been drinking cough medicine at parties and drinking Bud Light in illness (a very alternative mindset, I admit)—I could have developed an affinity for cough syrup and a disagreement with Bud-Light. And this is a conditioning process that I very much believe to be sound, however, I’m willing to admit that there must be other influences at play. For instance, the social standing of a particular stimulus, projected value (economically and nutritionally), and its general perceived reputation—are all influential on the perception of a certain substance. To apply this postulate to the Bud Light example that I’ve been using—in high school especially, Bud Light was damn reputable. It was tied to a certain notion of respect and rebellion, and thus I was more apt to develop an appreciation for it. All said and done, beer was too cool for school, so I wanted to like it.
        Now that I’ve laid out a loose theory of taste development using underage drinking as my framework—let us dissect how this applies to international wine consumption. But to analyze a contemporary taste of wine, we must first examine the back-history that invoked its development. And as is the case with all facets even remotely wine related, the history of consumption lies with the Romans. And contrary to what all of us wine geeks, sommeliers, and nuance-minded folks would like to think—their hearts weren’t with complexity, terroir, or fruit profile–-but with intoxication.
        You see, the Romans developed an appreciation for wine not because of how it tasted, but how it made them feel. And it was the intoxication factor that brought forth a need for viniculture and caused the spread vines and wines across Europe. That said, in the state of early viniculture, preconceptions about the taste of wine had not yet been benchmarked so over time, tastes were allowed to develop, and develop with good stigmas because that was how fermented fruit made the drinker feel—good and warm.
        So even as wine production advanced, no matter how the wines tasted, they were consumed. And taste perception evolved. In fact, prior to the previous 50 years, viticultural and winemaking practices remained so inconsistent that poorly made wines were widespread. Shoddy winemaking, questionable sanitation, and bad storage/transportation produced inconsistent, and sometimes just outright infected barrels. And despite exemplifying what we would consider today inherent flaw—the wines were consumed, and consumed with vigor—accordingly influencing the perception of taste.
        And long after the onset of sound winemaking—some of these taste perceptions still remain with us as we continue to drink certain ‘flawed’ wines because we’ve developed a taste for them. Take Madeira for instance. Despite the fact that Madeira is what we now know to be madeirized (a term for skunked wine) as well as oxidized—since we, the wine community, have come to embrace it, we continue to drink it even though we understand it is an inherently flawed. The same is true with many other wines on the market today. Even the bubbles in Champagne were once perceived as wine flaw, but we’ve quickly learned to celebrate them and use them to celebrate.
        Ultimately, I’m trying to say a couple things by writing this article, and perhaps the first is that the modern palate is too benchmarked with what it likes and what it doesn’t. I think we’ve reached a point where, if a certain wine does not fall within a very particular scope, we dismiss it without looking any deeper. And it seems to me that as time passes, that scope is becoming smaller and smaller. Furthermore, we develop particularities based on experiences with a single wine. And that’s just close-minded. Now, I’m not suggesting you to drink poorly made wine—quite the contrary actually. I’m suggesting you keep an open mind to any wine that is well made, even if it isn’t in the particular style that you would usually drink.
        If you’re one of those people that ‘can’t drink sweet wine’, chances are you’ve been conditioned that way. Whether that means you over-indulged in a particular off-dry boxed wine in high school, or you’ve had too many nights keeled over the toilet after drinking Andre all evening—or some other experience all together—allow yourself to be reconditioned in the presence of quality. Come to a well-made German Spatlese without preconceptions and see what happens. I think you might find yourself beckoned to new horizons.
        Secondly, the more I break it down, the more I realize just how incredibly subjective the sense of taste is, and how absurd it is to put a particular price point  (or rating) on the way something tastes. And sure, it makes perfect sense to us wine people, it’s how we’ve been conditioned to think—but with so much well made wine on the market these days, I think what was once black and white is coming rather blurry with more and more shades of grey.  If the average underage-drinking palette can be conditioned to love watery American lager, how can any wine be worth 100 bucks a bottle, let alone 1000. I know. You’re all shouting the C-word—Complexity. And maybe even the T-word—Terroir—but that’s a discussion for another day, and frankly, I think it’s only a small part of the equation.

    A Less than Scientific Look at the Science of Taste

            There are only two things that I’m certain about when it comes to beer. The first: I love it. The second: when I was sixteen years old and took my first sip of Bud Light—I damn near spit it out.

            So what’s changed between then and now? I’m relatively certain that the basic composition, recipe, and flavor profile of my favorite American lager is pretty much the same as it used to be. Sure, the labels changed a bit, but all and all we’re talking about the same crisp (albeit, slightly watery) brew.

            Truth is, it’s not the beer that’s evolved over my past six years of beverage enjoyment—it’s me. And my perception of taste.

            It’s hard for me to pinpoint the moment when beer drinking became an engagement of pleasure rather than displeasure, however, it’s not the moment of this transformation that’s significant as much as the reason behind it. One thing that I can say with some certainty is that it took quite a bit of beer drinking for me to begin surmise pleasure purely from taste alone. And the easy explanation for this change in taste would be familiarity—I’d become familiar with the taste of American Lager, so I liked it.

            Thing is, I’m familiar with plenty of things I don’t like—take cough medicine for instance. Over the course of many years of long distance running paired with my unfortunate malady of cold-induced asthma—I’ve become unfortunately familiar with the nuances of green and nasty prescription cough syrup (both with codeine and without). Despite constant conditioning to this stimuli, however, I continue to despise its flavor profile, basic structure, and unabashed full-bodiedness. So what is it that allows us to develop a negative perception of some stimuli and a fondness of others? 

            Perhaps it has to do with the circumstance in which the conditioning of these very different stimuli occurs. For instance, my initial perception of Bud Light is something that occurred mostly at parties, in the presence of friends and other individuals that were enjoying themselves. In essence, my initial experiences with beer occurred in the presence of other good stimuli, so it became a good stimuli itself. The inverse is true in regards to my experience with the green and nasty stuff. My initial (and recent) experience with prescription cough syrup occurred in the unfortunate presence of sickness and has thus become a negative stimulus.

            And according to this school of thought, had I been drinking cough medicine at parties and drinking Bud Light in illness (a very alternative mindset, I admit)—I could have developed an affinity for cough syrup and a disagreement with Bud-Light. And this is a conditioning process that I very much believe to be sound, however, I’m willing to admit that there must be other influences at play. For instance, the social standing of a particular stimulus, projected value (economically and nutritionally), and its general perceived reputation—are all influential on the perception of a certain substance. To apply this postulate to the Bud Light example that I’ve been using—in high school especially, Bud Light was damn reputable. It was tied to a certain notion of respect and rebellion, and thus I was more apt to develop an appreciation for it. All said and done, beer was too cool for school, so I wanted to like it.

            Now that I’ve laid out a loose theory of taste development using underage drinking as my framework—let us dissect how this applies to international wine consumption. But to analyze a contemporary taste of wine, we must first examine the back-history that invoked its development. And as is the case with all facets even remotely wine related, the history of consumption lies with the Romans. And contrary to what all of us wine geeks, sommeliers, and nuance-minded folks would like to think—their hearts weren’t with complexity, terroir, or fruit profile–-but with intoxication.

            You see, the Romans developed an appreciation for wine not because of how it tasted, but how it made them feel. And it was the intoxication factor that brought forth a need for viniculture and caused the spread vines and wines across Europe. That said, in the state of early viniculture, preconceptions about the taste of wine had not yet been benchmarked so over time, tastes were allowed to develop, and develop with good stigmas because that was how fermented fruit made the drinker feel—good and warm.

            So even as wine production advanced, no matter how the wines tasted, they were consumed. And taste perception evolved. In fact, prior to the previous 50 years, viticultural and winemaking practices remained so inconsistent that poorly made wines were widespread. Shoddy winemaking, questionable sanitation, and bad storage/transportation produced inconsistent, and sometimes just outright infected barrels. And despite exemplifying what we would consider today inherent flaw—the wines were consumed, and consumed with vigor—accordingly influencing the perception of taste.

            And long after the onset of sound winemaking—some of these taste perceptions still remain with us as we continue to drink certain ‘flawed’ wines because we’ve developed a taste for them. Take Madeira for instance. Despite the fact that Madeira is what we now know to be madeirized (a term for skunked wine) as well as oxidized—since we, the wine community, have come to embrace it, we continue to drink it even though we understand it is an inherently flawed. The same is true with many other wines on the market today. Even the bubbles in Champagne were once perceived as wine flaw, but we’ve quickly learned to celebrate them and use them to celebrate.

            Ultimately, I’m trying to say a couple things by writing this article, and perhaps the first is that the modern palate is too benchmarked with what it likes and what it doesn’t. I think we’ve reached a point where, if a certain wine does not fall within a very particular scope, we dismiss it without looking any deeper. And it seems to me that as time passes, that scope is becoming smaller and smaller. Furthermore, we develop particularities based on experiences with a single wine. And that’s just close-minded. Now, I’m not suggesting you to drink poorly made wine—quite the contrary actually. I’m suggesting you keep an open mind to any wine that is well made, even if it isn’t in the particular style that you would usually drink.

            If you’re one of those people that ‘can’t drink sweet wine’, chances are you’ve been conditioned that way. Whether that means you over-indulged in a particular off-dry boxed wine in high school, or you’ve had too many nights keeled over the toilet after drinking Andre all evening—or some other experience all together—allow yourself to be reconditioned in the presence of quality. Come to a well-made German Spatlese without preconceptions and see what happens. I think you might find yourself beckoned to new horizons.

            Secondly, the more I break it down, the more I realize just how incredibly subjective the sense of taste is, and how absurd it is to put a particular price point  (or rating) on the way something tastes. And sure, it makes perfect sense to us wine people, it’s how we’ve been conditioned to think—but with so much well made wine on the market these days, I think what was once black and white is coming rather blurry with more and more shades of grey.  If the average underage-drinking palette can be conditioned to love watery American lager, how can any wine be worth 100 bucks a bottle, let alone 1000. I know. You’re all shouting the C-word—Complexity. And maybe even the T-word—Terroir—but that’s a discussion for another day, and frankly, I think it’s only a small part of the equation.

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Wine  Review  Tasting  Article  Red  Vino  Taste 

  10. Laurent Perrier NV Brut.
        Sorry Burgundy, I’ve been cheating. I guess my Champagne rampage began with a trip to Borders bookstore a couple weeks ago where I discovered The Widow Clicquot, a Biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin—the Veuve herself. Ever since I’ve been diligently working though the stock of bubbly in my wine rack and the Champagne section at work. And let me be the first to say, the pleasure is all mine.
       Poorly made Champagnes are few and far between and the more I taste, the more I continue to be impressed with the Champagnoise undeniable mastery of the NV Brut. Sure, there are other great value sparklers out there, and they continue to become more and more prominent not only in celebration but because of their versatility with food—but no other region does sparkling wine the way Champagne does, and I find myself continually awed by the coldest fine wine growing region in France.
        So in the past week I’ve danced with the widow, savored the Billecart-Salmon, and even a 100% Pinot Meunier blend from the heart of the Marne—but the true winner for this week at least, was Laurent-Perrier.
       In the glass the Laurent poured a light golden hue that was just a tad darker than both the Veuve or the Billecart. It showed off rampant streams of baby bubbles—some of the smallest I’ve seen in a NV Brut.
       On the nose this wine was more subtle than the others showing off shy themes of citrus white bread.
       On the palette the Laurent delivers creamy, yeasty, and brilliant. Sometimes when I drink sparkling wine I feel like a school of fish being overcome by the bubble net of a humpback whale. I find that the effervescence overpowers the base wine and I feel like I’m tasting the CO2 rather than the vino. This is far from the case with Laurent-Perrier. It’s creamy, apple and mineral-driven character is more than visible through its baby bubbles and smooth texture. Its subtle but consistent mousse is delicate and silky. It drinks more like the head of a draft Guinness than a rampant tank-fermented Prosecco. What a full body experience this wine gives me. I get the chills just thinking about it.
       Although its flavor profile does not have the same development of the Billecart, nor the fruit weight of the Veuve, it is the mouth feel that makes this bubbly shine, and that’s what bubbly is all about, right?
       Drink it by its lonesome or with damn near anything edible, although, steer clear of sweets—that would be a tragedy.
       And don’t worry Frenchies. We won’t tell anyone that the Brits actually invented bubbly. 

    Laurent Perrier NV Brut.

            Sorry Burgundy, I’ve been cheating. I guess my Champagne rampage began with a trip to Borders bookstore a couple weeks ago where I discovered The Widow Clicquot, a Biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin—the Veuve herself. Ever since I’ve been diligently working though the stock of bubbly in my wine rack and the Champagne section at work. And let me be the first to say, the pleasure is all mine.

           Poorly made Champagnes are few and far between and the more I taste, the more I continue to be impressed with the Champagnoise undeniable mastery of the NV Brut. Sure, there are other great value sparklers out there, and they continue to become more and more prominent not only in celebration but because of their versatility with food—but no other region does sparkling wine the way Champagne does, and I find myself continually awed by the coldest fine wine growing region in France.

            So in the past week I’ve danced with the widow, savored the Billecart-Salmon, and even a 100% Pinot Meunier blend from the heart of the Marne—but the true winner for this week at least, was Laurent-Perrier.

           In the glass the Laurent poured a light golden hue that was just a tad darker than both the Veuve or the Billecart. It showed off rampant streams of baby bubbles—some of the smallest I’ve seen in a NV Brut.

           On the nose this wine was more subtle than the others showing off shy themes of citrus white bread.

           On the palette the Laurent delivers creamy, yeasty, and brilliant. Sometimes when I drink sparkling wine I feel like a school of fish being overcome by the bubble net of a humpback whale. I find that the effervescence overpowers the base wine and I feel like I’m tasting the CO2 rather than the vino. This is far from the case with Laurent-Perrier. It’s creamy, apple and mineral-driven character is more than visible through its baby bubbles and smooth texture. Its subtle but consistent mousse is delicate and silky. It drinks more like the head of a draft Guinness than a rampant tank-fermented Prosecco. What a full body experience this wine gives me. I get the chills just thinking about it.

           Although its flavor profile does not have the same development of the Billecart, nor the fruit weight of the Veuve, it is the mouth feel that makes this bubbly shine, and that’s what bubbly is all about, right?

           Drink it by its lonesome or with damn near anything edible, although, steer clear of sweets—that would be a tragedy.

           And don’t worry Frenchies. We won’t tell anyone that the Brits actually invented bubbly. 

     

    tags:  Fairfield County  Lifestyle  Connecticut  Champagne  Nonvintage  Laurent  Perrier  Brut  France  French  Wine  Review  Sparkling 

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