Red, White, and the Blues
More on wine, and our wine tasting experiences in class.
This is the first wine we tasted in class, and I didn’t particularly like it. But that aside, I learned a lot about the grape, and what I should expect when tasting a sauvignon blanc. The aromas I smelled in this particular wine were: citrus, woody smell, smoky (out of my right nostril) and fruity (out of my left). Typically, aromas will be grass, hay, asparagus, gunflint, and smoky. The name in French (from ‘sauvage’) means wild, because left to its own, the vine will grow wildly. It originated in the Loire Valley of France.
Another thing I noticed was the acidity level of this wine, which is pretty high. However, when paired with salty or slightly sweet foods, it will taste less acidic. It is also high in alcohol, which will give it a slightly sweet flavor. It is considered a dry white wine, and is the popular opposite of chardonnay.
Cambria Chardonnay (2007)
These are the two chardonnays we tasted in class, along with the sauv. blanc to compare them to. Their hue was a darker yellow, as compared to the light olive color of the sauv. blanc. I liked the chardonnay better than the sauv. blanc because they were sweeter and less dry, and had a buttery aftertaste (amazing!). After a while, I noted a cooling sensation, but I don’t know whether that was part of the wine, or just because I had been tasting three different, and yet very similar, wines for an hour. What you can expect from a chardonnay are big flavors like vanilla, butter, butterscotch, custard, green apple, tropical fruit, lemon, and pineapple. It is a dry wine, not sweet, and will be full-bodied, creamy, and lush.
The grape is historically known as the white burgundy grape, and it the wine typically used for champagne and sparkling wine. The chardonnay grape is thought to be named after the town is was first grown in (Chardonnay, France). Since it grows lots of foliage and shoots, lots of pruning and leaf plucking is necessary.
In terms of food pairing, the food should match the full body of the wine, so cream sauce, chicken, or roasted vegetables are encouraged. U.S. chardonnays are generally aged in oak barrels to add the smoky flavor, but in France, the wine is usually not aged in oak barrels.
Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon (2008)
The hue of this wine was absolutely beautiful, a nice deep red-purple color. The legs were thin on this Bordeaux-style wine, which is grown on the left bank of the Garonne River in Bordeaux, France. The soil is gravely, as opposed to the right bank, where the soil is sandy, and typically Merlot is grown (see also below). I tasted a lot of tannin in this wine, but also a fruity aroma. The characteristics of this wine are typically leather, cedar wood, plum, blackberry, black current, cassis, mint, and eucalyptus. One of my classmates picked up the leathery aroma, which I thought was incredible. (By the way, I’m lucky if I can smell anything in these wines…)
Red Diamond Merlot (2008)
The merlot was possibly my favorite of all the wines we tasted in class. ‘Merlot’ means ‘little blackbird’, and it, too, originates in Bordeaux, France. This grape is grown on the right bank of the Garonne where the soil is sandy. It has a less purply hue, more reds, and to me at least, tasted fruity, with a buttery aftertaste, and some citrus. It was soft, though it had a bit of a tannic aftertaste. Typical characteristics are blackberry, cassis, baked cherries, plums, chocolate, mocha, and leather; the texture can be soft, fleshy, and plump.
Both reds can be paired with lamb, venison, simple roasts, and gruyere or cheddar.
Overall, I definitely liked the reds better, although I have much more appreciation for the subtle differences in reds and whites. I’m not sold on the aromas and textures, and getting into all the infinite details on how wine is grown, the hue, the aromas, etc. I know there are wine experts out there, but really? I tend to be critical on the arrogance and elitism that comes with knowing wines, and selling them for lots and lots of money. So I’m a skeptic, what can I say. (The must be the blues part I referenced in my title.)