Tag Archives: wine basics

What not to do at a wine tasting

3 Feb

Psssst…you with the wineglass. Yeah, you! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m supposed to be doing statistics homework right now.

I know what you’re going to say.  “Writing a wine blog post has nothing to do with MBA coursework.” Well, yes and no. It turns out that my school not only puts on this wine-derful fundraiser, the Annual Wine Classic, but it also makes its own wine! Check it out:

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Last weekend, I got to attend the 34th annual Wine Classic, my first big wine tasting event since last fall. Boy, did I need a drink…but I digress. I often get asked what one should do at a wine tasting. The answer is: have fun. There are, however, a few things you should not do.

At the risk of being expelled from my program, I am about to share with you some faux pas I observed at the event. I’ve turned these no-no’s into guidelines that not only will enhance your own experience, but possibly the experience of your fellow wine lovers. Consider this your “Rules of the Road” for wine tasting. Are you ready? Let’s go!

1. Do not wear perfume. If you’ve learned anything from Señorita Vino all these years, it’s that most of what you “taste” when you sip wine is experienced through your sense of smell. The best way to completely mess this up is to wear fragrance of any kind. Don’t do it. Chicos, that includes you.

2. Don’t ask for a second or third pour. This is a wine tasting, not a bar. Winemakers bring just enough wine to ensure everyone gets a taste. That little booklet or handout you get at most wine tasting events is your best amigo. Circle or check off the wines you like, maybe grab a business card from the winemaker or representative, and try to find a bottle of that wine at a wine shop. If it’s a boutique winery, you may be able to buy it from their website.

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3. Don’t bring a gigantic purse. This is the sound of you with your ginormous designer bag, trying to squeeze through a sardine-like gantlet of fellow wine tasters: SPLASH. Leave the tote bag at home and opt for something smaller that will leave your hands free to hold a wineglass and small food plate–and not jostle other wine lovers as you walk by.

4. Event planners, don’t use vinyl to cover floors or tables. My only gripe about the Wine Classic itself was the noxious odor emitted by the plastic tarp covering the floor of the university’s sports complex. I get that you have to protect the expensive wood floor, but the overpowering smell of vinyl was, well, overpowering. Maybe air out the tarp a few days before, or find a covering that doesn’t give off a smell.

5. Don’t be a snob about it. Ah, the grandiose swirler, the smug connoisseur, the chummy “insider.” These textbook archetypes of Vinus Snobus can forget that they’re in a space with hundreds of other wine lovers. Once they get to the front of the line, they decide it’s a great time for a fireside chat with the winery staff. There’s nothing wrong with striking up a conversation with winery reps. Just be considerate of your fellow wine lovers and make sure there’s not a mile-long line of people waiting patiently behind you for a taste of wine.

"You're my little macaron, oh yes you are!" (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by Pierre Marcolini)

“You’re my little macaron, oh yes you are!” (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by Pierre Marcolini)

6. Don’t hoard the macarons. Or the cheese. Or the charcuterie. Like many wine tasting events, the Wine Classic featured a couple of large cheese and fruit stations, and some dessert and coffee stands. Classy! But not so classy was the lady stuffing macarons and chocolate almond bark into two ‘grande’ paper coffee cups. I kid you not. I was crushed, because I actually had a dream about macarons the night before. I couldn’t find macarons in the ol’ dream dictionary, but I suspect it means there’s a trip to Paris in my future. Or maybe not. Either way, I didn’t get my macaron. Waaah.

I think that covers it, darlings. Have I left anything out? if you have any additional tips, do share! Until next time, ¡Salud!

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¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Verdejo on #VerdejoDay

10 Jun

Great news, chicas y chicos!  You don’t have to wait until July 4 for a reason to celebrate – National Verdejo Day is just around the corner! This Thursday, June 12 marks the first annual National Verdejo Day, and if you happen to be near New York, Miami, Chicago or, yes, beautiful downtown Los Angeles, you can live it up at a rooftop party in honor of this crisp white wine from Spain’s Rueda D.O. region.

L.A. folks – get your tickets by visiting my Events page and following the link provided in the “Sign Me Up!” section. Tickets are only $25, and the party includes a little taste of Spanish appetizers from Rueda that pair well with Verdejo.

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And you know I wouldn’t send you off to a wine fiesta without some fun facts to tuck away in your hip pocket. Here’s all you need to know about Verdejo:

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Verdejo is a white wine grape from Spain’s Rueda D.O. region.

MY ROOTS: Don’t confuse Verdejo with Verdelho, the white grape from Portugal. DNA testing shows that they are two distinct grape varieties. It’s believed that Verdejo showed up in the Rueda region around the 11th century. Before that, it was introduced to southern Spain from North Africa.

ALL ABOUT ME: Verdejo is a dry white wine with zingy acidity and lovely fruit aromas of peach, pear, tropical fruit, and lemon. You’ll also get a touch of herbs (think fennel) and a trace of limestone minerality. It’s a medium-bodied wine with an alcohol content hovering between 11 and 12 percent. Verdejo develops honeyed, nutty flavors as it ages.

FOODS I LOVE: This is a wine that loves tapas, especially garlicky clams, grilled shrimp and bacalau (fried cod). The wine’s acidity holds up nicely with vinaigrette dressing in salads, and the same crispness “cuts” through a creamy pasta dish and Manchego cheese.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Verdejo is one of those wines that’s easy on the wallet. You can get a nice Verdejo for less than $15. Give these a swirl: Protos Verdejo 2013; Mocen Verdejo Fermendado en Barrica 2011; Pago traslagares Oro Pálido Organic Verdejo 2013; Castelo de Medina Castelo Vendimia Seleccionada Verdejo 2012; Pedro Escudero Fuente Elvira Verdejo 2013.

¡Salud, and see you in downtown L.A.!

Verdejo_Wine

 

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

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HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC.  Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day in style. ¡Salud!

 

 

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Soave

4 Apr

Feliz Friday, beautiful people! I bet you didn’t know that helping Señorita Vino ace her WSET Level III Advanced exam was on your to-do list today. I’m scrambling to learn my Italian wines this weekend, and writing this month’s ¡Mucho Gusto! post is actually helping me organize my thoughts on Soave, Italy’s most important white wine.

So sit back and pour yourself a refreshing glass of Soave tonight.  Your friends will be impressed with your knowledge, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to use you as my virtual study group. ¡Salud!

This grapes used in this Soave Classico were grown in 100 percent volcanic soil.

This grapes used in this Soave Classico were grown in 100 percent volcanic soil.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Soave is an Italian white wine made from the Garganega grape.

MY ROOTS: Soave is the name of a zone in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. In 1968, Soave was given a DOC designation, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata. A DOC means that those wines are considered high quality under European wine laws. As for the grape itself, it is mentioned as early as 1304 in the works of the Italian Petrus Crescentiis, perhaps the world’s first wine writer. Grapes grown in the hillside regions of Soave’s Classico zone are said to produce the highest quality wines.

ALL ABOUT ME: Soave DOC is a dry white wine. It should be noted that for a while, Soave was considered pretty “meh.” That changed in 2002 with various DOCG designations. In essence, DOCG grants “best of the best” status to Italian wines made in that region. So back to Soave…if you’ve got a quality Soave on the palate, you’re going to taste green plums, almonds and a touch of citrus. You’ll also pick up some lovely minerality and chamomile flowers.  Recioto di Soave is made from dried Garganega grapes, so if you’re sipping Recioto, it’s going to be decadently sweet. In a good way, of course.

FOODS I LOVE: Soave is a textbook example of pairing wine with foods from the same region. The Veneto’s eastern boundary is the Adriatic Sea, a reminder that a textbook example of an Italian city, Venice, is part of the Veneto region. Serve Soave with seafood pasta dishes, shellfish, shrimp scampi, and just about any kind of fish. It’s also great with a cheese plate. For a Latin twist, pair it with chupe de camarones (a Peruvian seafood chowder), chicken tamales or menudo.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Soave generally won’t break the bank. The wine pictured above sells for $13.99 but tastes like a more expensive wine. You may see some Soaves in the $30 range, but you’ll find quite a bit in the $15-$17 range. Recommended labels include Roberto Anselmi, Umberto Portinari, Fratelli Pasqua and Inama.

Is there a wine you really want to get to know? Share it in the comments and you may see it in a future ¡Mucho Gusto!

 

 

Vino 101: What the heck is terroir? #wine

30 Jan

You’ve probably heard the word “terroir” a few times during your wine tasting adventures. Maybe the person who was pouring raved about the terroir of a vineyard. Or maybe the dork at the next table was inflicting his long-suffering friends with yet another monologue about tasting the terroir of a certain wine.

Well, “terroir” is a controversial subject, even among wine experts. Simply stated, terroir gives  wine its sense of place. It’s like going to a party and spotting a chulo guy or hot muchacha who have–cliché alert–a certain je ne sais quoi. The cut of their clothes or the way they carry themselves are  little clues  that tell you the person may be from a different town, another state, or even another country.

Old World wines come from Europe and the Mediterranean.

And so it is with wine. Little clues like color, aroma, flavor characteristics and texture will tell you something about the origins of a particular vino. Terroir is the source of these clues.  

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To Spanish speakers, terroir may sound a lot like tierra, or dirt. That’s because our très chic French amigos originally coined the term, which comes from terre, the French word for earth or dirt. Soil was once given most of the credit for influencing a wine’s profile. Today, terroir can be defined as the combination of soil, climate, weather, topography (aspect, elevation, slope, proximity to bodies of water) and grape variety that define a particular vineyard.

Photo credit: Wines of British Columbia

Photo credit: Wines of British Columbia

But dónde está el controversy, you ask? Not everyone agrees on the extent to which terroir can be credited for giving wine a particular personality. Modern winemaking gives the winemaker a lot more tools to influence the taste and aromatic profile of wine.

For example, a winemaker in California can craft a Bordeaux blend wine that will display characteristics similar to a wine made in Bordeaux, France.  But California and France are–obviously–two very different places. How do they do it? Everything from how the grape vines are tended to the inclusion of oak and the type of yeast used for fermentation will influence the end product.

Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

I could go on and on about terroir, but you have places to go, people to see and vino to drink. All you need to remember about terroir is that it plays a key role in producing wine that will have a unique identity depending on where the grapes were grown. Kind of like the attractive stranger at the party. He or she may share some traits with the locals, but it’s the edgy scarf, adorable accent or exotic dance moves that hook you. Oh là là!

Vino 101: What to do when a sommelier hands you the #wine cork

16 Jan

Darlings, Señorita Vino is happily swamped with work this week, so I’m reblogging a popular post from 2012 that answers the question, When I’m in a restaurant, what am I supposed to do with the wine cork when my server hands it to me? Enjoy!

You’ve ordered vino at a restaurant and your sommelier presents you with the cork after she’s opened the bottle. You: a) Give it a sniff b) Take a look at it c) Ignore it–you just want to try the wine d) Pop it into your purse or pocket for your wine cork bulletin board project.

 

If you chose b, you are correct! You need to eyeball the little guy.

Most of us may instinctively opt for taking a whiff. After all, wine is about aromas and flavors, no? And didn’t Mr. Howell sniff his wine corks on “Gilligan’s Island?” (NOTE TO YOUNGER READERS: “Gilligan’s Island” was a popular TV sitcom back when Señorita Vino was just a chiquita. NOTE TO AGELESS READERS: Ever wonder how the Howells managed to get wine delivered to a desert isle in the pre-Internet days?)

 

As I’ve always said, sometimes the wine world is full of contradicciones. Some folks recommend smelling the cork to determine whether your wine is tainted with TCA, a chemical compound that can originate in cork and can ruin wine with a musty, “wet dog” aroma. This is what people mean when they say that a wine is “corked.”

A sommelier and trained server, however, can usually detect cork taint by smelling the wine, not the cork.

So why should you look at the cork? To make sure it’s intact and not disintegrating. A crumbly cork is  a dry cork, which can allow oxygen into your wine, causing off-aromas as the wine begins to break down. How’d the cork get dry in the first place? Most likely because the bottle was stored upright instead of on its side. During prolonged storage, corks that have  no contact with the wine eventually will dry out.

Oxidized wine will not kill you, nor will the dried-out cork particles that may be floating in your glass. Nor will TCA, for that matter. But you’re paying for the wine and you want it to taste right, so don’t be afraid to send it back if the cork is falling apart and your wine tastes a bit off.

If you see crystals clinging to the bottom of the cork, don’t panic – the wine is perfectly fine. Those are known as wine crystals, wine diamonds, or tartaric crystals. See my recent post, “What are those crystals doing at the bottom of my wine glass,” for the scoop on wine diamonds.

After bottling, Sorensen gathers friends for a "waxing party," where guests seal bottles with decorative red wax.

Last but not least, examining the cork was once an assurance that you weren’t getting a counterfeit bottle of wine. Most wineries print their logos on the cork, so making sure the cork matched the label was one way to make sure you weren’t getting fleeced.

This doesn’t apply much today, given the sophisticated skills of criminals like Rudy Kurniawan, the recently foiled Los Angeles wine counterfeiter who produced faux fine wine using fake labels, bottles and corks–and crappy wine. Also, it takes a trained expert in fine wines to recognize all the indicators that a wine is an elaborate knock-off.

So there you go, chicas y chicos. Señorita Vino just saved you from being the kook at table 4 with the sniffing fetish. De nada.

 

Señorita Vino’s holiday #wine-pairing cheat sheet

24 Dec

Felices fiestas, darlings! The winter holidays are my favorite time of year. The food, the familia, the gift exchanges, the vino. As I write this, I’m making like a wine-totin’ reindeer and dashing out to the family homestead to celebrate Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Night.

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But before I rush out the door, I’ve received some pairing questions from readers as they prepare for their holiday feasts. In response, I’m sharing this link to an article I wrote last year for Latina Magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com on the topic of – you got it – how to pair wine with traditional Latin American holiday food.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, may it be happy and in good health.

Until next week, ¡Salud y felíz Navidad!

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