The Terroirist: Tasting Troubles
One in a continuing series
One of the hazards of working in the wine industry is that one is always at the mercy of the environment. Perfect conditions for tasting don't really exist, and everything affects how a wine appears to taste. If a room is too hot or too cold, the flavours of the wine can come off as cooked or dulled. If the light is too bright, too dim, or too yellow, the colours of the wine will be hard to determine, or may appear off. If somebody in the room decided to put on perfume before going to a tasting (a big obvious no-no that seems to get repeated far too freqently at both professional and amateur tastings) then everything will smell of CKone or whathaveyou.
When tasting wine, one is also at the mercy of their body. Having a cold or a flu is absolutely trecherous; everything is dulled and insipid when trying to sample through sneezes. Attending a tasting with the sniffles isn't nearly as bad, but does have the effect of making subtle tones much more difficult to pick out, which tends to make wines seem more average than they actually may be (both for better and worse). Even having a headache can put you in a mental state when every wine is a hurdle rather than a joy.
Despite all this, there are still key points to look for (body, acid balance, tannins and the broader flavours) when tasting with environmental hazards, and hopefully the great wines still shine through.
So now the recommendations...
Terredora di Paolo Aglianico 2004 (Campania, Italy) $15.95, 602284
Aglianico (pronounced with a silent 'g', for those who want to be linguistically correct) is a recently discovered (to those outside the south of Italy) grape that looks as though it may soon become the 'grape of the moment'. Medium in body, very smooth, and quite complex, often with a lot of ageability potential. This Aglianico doesn't have the lifespan of better examples, but is a fine showing of the grape regardless. A pale garnet in colour, it really picks up the light. The nose is slightly oxidative, but full of liquorice, pepper, and herbs. In the mouth it is light but rounded, with notes of cranberry, herbs and a hint of pepper. A really nice wine at a fantastic price.
Waimea 'Spinyback' Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Nelson, New Zealand) $16.95, 694737
Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand is one of the best examples of terroir to be found. While being distinctly identifiable as Sauvignon Blanc, it is also noticeably different from Sauvignons from elsewhere in the world (most notably the Loire Valley and parts of California) in it's flavours and aromas. The Spinyback is verymuch an archexample of what makes NZ Sauvignons what they are. A pale yellow golden colour in the glass, the nose just screams NZ with powerful notes of grass, gooseberry, and herbs. The mouthfeel is full, with flavours of grass, raspberry, passionfruit and herbs coming to the fore. This is not a subtle wine by any means. It would suit grilled shrimp nicely, or for a real treat, some soft goats cheese.
Something to Dream Of:
Bollinger Special Cuvee NV (Champagne, France) $64.95, 384529
Few wines would be able to show their face in polite company after being associated with the type of people who make 'Absolutely Fabulous' so amusing. Thankfully Bollinger isn't just any wine, it's one of the best you'll find at its price-range, especially if you're a fan (as I am) of the big, yeasty, heavy style of wine, exemplified by Krug. This newest release of Bollinger doesn't fail to impress, with its bright golden robe, bursting with tiny bubbles. On the nose, you can already sense how big it is, with aromas of yeast, brioche, and apples carrying their way to your nose. In the mouth, the mouse just tastes off, almost evaporating itself when it hits your tongue, sending the same powerful, yeasty brioche citrus and apples notes to your senses. If there ever was a champagne to have with read meat, this is it.
Enjoy your wine, and keep your glasses clean.
The Terroirist is published on alternating Thursdays