Archive for the ‘Tasting’ Category

Blitzed wine?

May 26th, 2018

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Yesterday I missed yet another ‘National Day’ – apparently it was National Wine Day (or at least it was in the USA). About 10 days ago I also missed National Tea Day, which, as the world’s greatest tea drinker, came as quite a shock – albeit that every day is National Tea Day for me!

Moving on quickly I read something very interesting yesterday, well, actually quite shocking to me! Putting red wine in a blender to help it breath! Apparently it’s called ‘Hyperdecanting’…..

OK, we live in an age where everything is instant, and few people have the patience to wait for anything. Many prefer to ignore the slow, careful, perhaps more traditional method of decanting, but putting wine into a food blender? Really? Certainly this is something that I would never ever consider myself, even for a half-decent wine, but then we are told that this blitzing is ‘ideal’ for cheaper red wines – it can accentuate the fruit and make them less harsh. Well, I doubt if I will be trying this theory any time soon.

For example, could you ever imagine the sommelier of your favourite restaurant plugging in a blender at the side of your table to aerate your wine – I think not. Simply open the bottle, pour, swirl, wait and savour (or just stick to Coca Cola).

One commentator summed this idea up beautifully – it’s quicker to open a wine with a chainsaw, rather than a corkscrew – but you wouldn’t!!

OK, I know it’s Monday, but let’s talk hydrodynamics (the type of word that can be dropped casually into a conversation about wine to impress your friends)!

When it comes to serious wine tasting one of the very first steps in the process is the so called ‘swirling’, necessary to release the bouquet of the wine. The theory behind it is that a gentle circular movement of the glass generates a wave propagating along the glass walls, enhancing oxygenation and mixing. In simple terms this action spreads the surface area of wine exposed in order to make the aromas more prominent.

Scientifically speaking this motion is not yet fully understood – it is all to do with fluid dynamics and the wave shapes generated by this simple movement. Suffice to say that it can make a real difference to the olfactory sensation that you will experience.

By the way, please don’t do what I have seen a few would-be ‘wine connoisseurs’ doing at the table – holding their glass stationery and moving their nose back and forth across the glass. Apart from making yourself giddy, this 70’s disco head movement will have no effect on the bouquet of your wine! 

Posted in Tasting, Technical

Christmas tipple

December 26th, 2017

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I have to say that this year’s choice of wine for our Christmas lunch at home was something rather special… Yet again, it was a bottle that I found undiscovered in a dark corner of my private cellar. Unfortunately I think this is the last of my ‘dark corners’! I was looking for something to go with a huge rib of beef that I had bought (which, by pure luck, just fits into our oven). I knew that I still had at least one or two Bordeaux Châteaux that I bought many years ago (not quite ‘en primeur’, but shortly after, whilst they were still affordable). I was under the impression that they were mostly 85’s until I discovered one single bottle of Château Gruaud-Larose 1982! Even today, in recent tastings, this wine has still been rated in the mid-90’s, and is worth more than just a few Euros (I hate to think). Well, it won’t keep forever, I thought to myself.

Apart from the usual difficult cork (no matter how carefully you attack it), the wine was quite astonishing. For a wine that is now some 35 years old (the same age the first vintage made at Castro Martin), it had a deep garnet colour, showing surprising little ageing at the rim. Although the nose showed elements of maturity, with hints of leather and cigar box, it was full, ripe and very concentrated – typical of many of the Cordier wines from around that time. The palate was bold and ripe with a core of dark bramble fruit – still quite youthful for a wine of this age. With a good balancing acidity, it was a very memorable glass indeed.

I guess my only regret is that this was just a single bottle…. Bottoms Up!

OK, perhaps I am biased, but I have to admit that I am rather fond of our 2016 Family Estate wine. That’s not to say that I don’t normally like it, it’s simply that I think that the 2016 is singularly good. From their tasting notes below, I would say that our Australian friends appear to think the same. This is perhaps one of the most detailed tasting notes I have ever read, and to be honest, I haven’t even heard of half of the fruits that they mention!

Castro Martin Family Estate ‘Sobre Lias’ 2016

A fine sandy colour with a touch of green, this is a young varietal Albariño with a significant future.

A golden fruit nose carries granitic sand’s talcy-minerality. The fruit is sliced apple and nashi flesh with a hint of spicy breakfast radish and waft of paddymelon skin. To taste, the gorgeously rounded prickly pear fruit has an enlivened sweet-sour tug, thanks to a tangle of subtle green elements – tarragon, watermelon skin, mint, lime. But the mouthfeel really is the thing! At first, trademark Salnes Valley acidity is prominent, along with Atlantic saline and granitic edginess – these are textural and flavoursome, far from simply sharp, and house a wine of great fleshy depth. Below and within the acid frame, a surprisingly powerful bell of lively, spiced rich fruit pushes out, revealing the hidden, raw power of Albariño, from a very fine tank of supremely textural fruit. Astonishing already, with 2-3 years of positive development ahead of it, this delicious wine sets a new benchmark for Albariño.

A recent article from the Wine Enthusiast would also appear to support the’typicity’ of this wine:

Val do Salnés: The Birthplace of the Grape

Seduced by sugar?

October 31st, 2017

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Interesting…. I have read two articles in the last few days that have slightly opposing views about residual sugar in wine. A few days ago this heading appeared on the Snooth website: 

Sweet Bordeaux is the new black

“Older generations of wine drinkers are taking cues from a younger generation that see the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux white wines to create new and unique dining experiences. Sweet Bordeaux wines can be enjoyed in a multitude of Instagram-worthy moments throughout a meal. And they are available at an accessible range of prices, from value to premium and everything in between.

Sweet Bordeaux is operating around the world to promote the consumption of fruity and aromatic Bordeaux white wines through master classes, trade tastings, and trade shows. They also organize press trips that expose wine professionals to the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux, especially when it comes to food and wine pairing”.  Snooth – October 29, 2017

This article appears to suggest that the move toward sweet or sweeter wine is something of a new trend, whereas the history of wine drinking, especially when it comes to residual sugar, appears to reveal a slightly different viewpoint. Written by my learned friend Tim Hanni MW.

“We are all genetically pre-programmed with attractions and aversions. Changes in preferences, from about four years old to very late in life, are largely reorganising what certain sensations represent. So, with observation, culture, peer pressure, and learning we adapt to associate things we didn’t like with aspiration or attainment – something we often refer to as an ‘acquired’ taste. We also equally associate things in a negative light, ‘disposing’ of tastes as well, such as the current hysteria over sweetness in wine for those who have become more ‘sophisticated’. Disposing of sweetness is easy for some people and impossible for a huge segment of the global market, and our insistence on dry wine as ‘good’ wine is ridiculous and does not serve the wine industry or reflect the history and traditions of wine.

Dry wines are the new fad (in relative terms) not the historical standard; the 1947 Château Cheval Blanc had over 30 g/L (3%) residual sugar. Most prized white Rhône wines were vins de paille – dried on mats and made into sweet wines. Countless sweet wines, including Château d’Yquem, were thought completely appropriate with fish, beef, or oysters. Montrachet, in the greatest vintages, was very sweet, not dry. Champagnes, as consumed in France, often had 140 g/L (14%) residual sugar – a lot more than American Coca Cola which has 108 g/L (10.1%) residual sugar. The global sweet wine opportunity was, and still is, about 25% to 40% of the total available market. Things have just gotten out of control with the dry wine fashionistas. And keep in mind that as wine has gone dry, consumption in France and Italy has plummeted.” Meininger’s Wine Business International – October 2017

I must confess that the stats relating to amount of residual sugar in some of these old wines took me somewhat by surprise.

Posted in Tasting

Serious Eats

August 24th, 2017

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It’s rare that I simply copy and paste from another website, but I thought that this short article about albariño really hit the spot – not only does it provide a great description of our wine, but it also seems to capture the fresh, fun, ‘flirtaceous’ personality of the grape variety itself.

These few paragraphs are lifted from the ‘Serious Eats’ site.

“Summer’s warmer temperatures are a great time to enjoy a wine with lighter body, fresh flavors, and lots of juiciness that makes your mouth water. In other words, a perfect wine to go with summer snacks. Albariño is usually made without any trace of oak, and tends to have tons of great acidity. The combination means it’s flexible with food. The long zippy finish and playful nature of Albariño make it a natural flirt, happy to sidle up alongside a wide range of dishes.

The juiciness of the wine lends itself to cooling down the spiciness of Thai and Indian fare. Albariño’s lighter weight and flavors complement shellfish and grilled fish. Its freshness accents fresh garden produce beautifully. Enjoy it with fresh sliced watermelon—my favorite!

There has been a new rush of Albariño in recent years, with some really nice wines offering great quality fruit. This grape has strong roots in Portugal (they call it Alvarinho.) Its most affordable center of quality comes from its home, Spain. Look for Rías Baixas for a whole lot of yum.”

Posted in Tasting, Websites

More points!

May 25th, 2017

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OK, I confess that I was so excited that I missed this…. Our A2O also received 91 points from the American Wine & Spirits Magazine. I missed it because they (confusingly in my opinion) refer to both of our wines as Castro Martin. True, they are both made by Bodegas Castro Martin, but in the winery we refer to them by their individual brand names. Actually, the truth is that we refer to them as A2O and BCM.

So here are their notes: A2O Sobre Lías Albariño (Best Buy) The fruit of vines between 20 and 50 years old, this spends six months on the lees to enhance the creaminess and depth of its aromas. The texture is shaped by taut acidity, full of mineral flavors and notes of citrus that leave a fresh sensation of lime and white stones.

Posted in Business, Press, Tasting

CarbohydratesApparently scientists have recently discovered that there is now a sixth taste that the human palate can detect – chips (or should that be French Fries?) Well, maybe not chips per say, but more specifically, starch. Until now the five primary tastes have been sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (the latter, a group of savoury tastes, added to the list as recently as seven years ago).

To be honest I have always considered starch as almost more of a texture, or a sensation, rather than a taste – slightly drying, slightly mouth-puckering, sometimes even a little tart. We now learn however, that starchy foods, often referred to as ‘carbs’ or carbohydrates, should be treated as a separate taste, and could explain our love of foods high in carbohydrate content such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (fried or otherwise). Previously it was always assumed that our addiction to carbs was caused by the sugar element, but apparently this belief has now been disproved.

Not content with this, scientists are continuing their quest to uncover, or should I say, to classify even more tastes that the human palate can detect and/or recognise. For example, metallic tastes or the specific taste sensation from carbonated drinks. Of course, every individual has their own degree of sensitivity to smell/taste, but almost certainly professionals (such as wine tasters) who work on a daily basis using these senses, will probably be much more receptive to any new discoveries.

Posted in Tasting

OrujoAs a former buyer I am quite used to many a serious tasting in the early part of the day…. but these were always tastings of wine. The secret was, and still is, always to start with a fresh, untainted palate (avoiding such things as fresh orange juice at breakfast, and rinsing well with water after using toothpaste etc). Yesterday however, was quite different – a tasting of aguardientes – licor and orujo of Galicia (based mainly around distillations of albariño grape skins).

You may remember seeing pictures of our pomace (grape skins) being collected in containers after pressing, ready to be sent to the distillery. Perhaps what many people don’t realise is that we actually sell small amounts of the resulting aguardiente under our Casal Caeiro label. Despite the fact that the sale of these few bottles doesn’t represent an important part of our turnover, we still continue with our quest for quality, constantly re-examining and reviewing what we do. As a consequence of this policy we are now investigating a new, super quality distillery, and in keeping with all such important decisions, the first step is always to visit and taste the product!

This gold-medal winning distillery certainly didn’t disappoint, with a very high quality of orujo and licors throughout the range. From the pure, refined and beautifully clean Orujo de Galicia, to the soft, creamy, almost buttery licor tostada, macerated with caramel (a caramel made at the distillery). Another highlight of the licors was the delicious coffee blend, which oozed the authentic flavour of freshly roasted coffee beans. Delicious.

Now we just await the tariff, before we (most probably) embark on a complete overhaul of our modest licor selection.

Posted in Galicia, Tasting

Wine slurpersThis week we have bottled a couple of tanks to replenish our depleted bottle stocks. At the start of every bottling I always take a sample directly from the machine just to make one final check on the quality of the wine. Today, however, I learned something quite new about tasting!

After many years as a buyer, and even more years in the wine business in general, I’m afraid to admit that I’m a bit of a slurper…. Well, what I actually mean is that when I taste wine I always draw in air over my tongue in order to oxygenate the wine a little and hopefully increase the taste sensation in my mouth. Other people are ‘rinsers’ (washing the wine around their mouth as they taste, rather like using a mouthwash), but I am very much a member of the Ancient Confrerie of Wine Slurpers. Of course the problem is that it becomes something of an occupational habit, and I have been known to do it, quite loudly, in the middle of a busy restaurant. Naturally, this can attract some rather odd stares from neighboring tables, who probably believe that I am just some sort of wine snob who wants to show off a bit (either that or I am having serious problems with my false teeth)!

So, what was so new about my tasting after all these years? Well, when I work on a bottling I normally wear special foam earplugs to protect against the noise. Eight hours of whiring machines and rattling bottles will more than likely give you a headache, or at the very least, ringing in your ears. Anyway, the point is that I forgot to take the earplugs out when I went to taste, and I can tell you that the noise was quite an eye opener (or should that be ear opener?) To be quite honest the loud slurping noises were very, very distracting and made it quite impossible to concentrate on the real job in hand. Suffice to say that I had to remove the plugs and start again. In conclusion this is not a tasting technique that I would recommend to anyone.

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting