Some years ago I was invited to a small dinner party that included a few wine industry guests. I searched through my cellar for a special wine that wine enthusiasts might appreciate. I chose a bottle of 1970 Chateau Lascombes – a Second Growth Bordeaux from a very good vintage. I am a big fan of Lascombes but had never tasted the 1970.
I should have become slightly suspicious when the host took the bottle and placed it on his sideboard without glancing at the label. I didn’t expect the wine to have been served during the first course but became mildly alarmed when it didn’t appear during the main. Surely it must be served with the cheese? We finished with crème caramel. There was no cheese course. It finally dawned on me that the host was not going to open my wine.
If the host has gone to some trouble to match the food with decent wines I can understand that he or she might be reluctant to add or substitute a newcomer. In that event, the host has an obligation to warn guests that the wines have been carefully selected to match the food when they are invited to dinner. In Britain, a host might write the donor’s name on a gifted bottle and promise to share it at a later date. I’ve never seen that happen in this country. It’s more common to get a “thanks” as your precious bottle disappears into a cupboard.
Another year means more resolutions we try our utmost to adhere to before falling back into the pattern of our past familiar ways. While hitting the gym more regularly and that healthier lifestyle you are after may not be something we can help with (although the French paradox does to some extent provide evidence of the health benefits of a glass of red wine), we can make recommendations about altering your mindset when it comes to trying new wines.
There are most likely varieties that you are adamant you cannot stand and believe there are no examples of that will appeal to your palate. But each variety is so different depending on a plethora of factors, including: the region it was grown, the way the grapes were picked, the methods and the yeast used in producing the wine, whether tanks or barrels were used throughout the process and the winemaker themselves. The exact same grapes could be handed to one hundred winemakers and the result would be that no two wines were the same.
It therefore may not be the grape variety itself you are turned off by, but the methods used in its production in the winery. If you are not a Chardonnay fan because of the effects on the wine of the barrel fermentation, you could try an unoaked variety. The fruit is the star in this case and the fresh, fruity characters should shine through a lot more clearly.
A lot of people seem more reluctant to try the Aromatic varieties: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier. Perhaps the fact they are harder to pronounce means restaurant goers do not want to mispronounce their order and appear ignorant about their wine knowledge. But these are the varieties that showcase the complexity of grapes without the aid of barrel fermentation. The fruit is allowed and expected to speak for itself. There may be a lot going on in the glass, aromas that you are unable to identify, but the beauty of wine is that by drinking more and by just paying a little bit more attention to the nose and each mouthful of wine, you can train your palate to identify what each aroma is.
And you don’t have to be alone in your search for a new wine variety to try. Instead of overwhelming your senses without knowing what to make of each individual aroma- how to separate each aroma from the others- Winoceros is able to help you. We have packs of wine that are specially designed to help you try new varieties, including one that solely contains aromatic wines. This allows you to try new wines while being guided through the different aromas that each contains. You will learn some of the jargon of the connoisseurs and learn what exactly it is that you do and don’t particularly like in certain varieties. The consequence being that when you next go into the bottle shop you will be able to ask for advice while still showing off your newly acquired knowledge.
So go on, we dare you. Try new wines, different varieties. Add a new exercise regime into your schedule- giving your palate a workout!
By Emma Dodd
I recently tasted 130 samples of New Zealand wines labelled as “Pinot Gris” and one example labelled as “Pinot Grigio”. When a wine is labelled as Pinot Gris I expect it to be modelled after the luscious, opulent and rich wines from the Alsace region of France. When the wine is described as “Pinot Grigio” I anticipate it being crisp, lean and racy like a typical Italian Pinot Grigio.
The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) carried out a study of both models and, after tasting a large number of wines labelled as both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, they arrived at a 10-tier range of styles from pure Pinot Grigio (1 point) to pure Pinot Gris (10 points). Following the study, the AWRI launched a website www.pinotg.com.au and encouraged wine producers to send them wine samples which they will analyse and rate according to style. A wine that is half way between the two extremes, for example, would get a rating of 5 points. That rating can then be displayed on the back label as a style guide for consumers.
I think that the rating is a good idea in the same way that the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) offers a useful scale showing each wine’s sweetness calculated from residual sugar, acidity level and pH. The IRF scale allows the winemaker to make the calculation rather than having to send samples for analysis. It is also simpler to understand. For those reasons it is likely to be more widely adopted and understood than the AWRI Pinot Gris/Grigio scale.
Pinot Gris has a higher perceived value in the eyes of consumers, which probably explains why only one producer, Poderi Crisci, has chosen to make Grigio (tastings) rather than Gris. The wine, incidentally, is too rich and weighty to be classified as a Pinot Grigio in my view. Although it is dry, I found it to be more Pinot Gris-like perhaps 6-points (full, round and silky) on the scale.
While most of the wines labelled Pinot Gris did conform to my definition of that style, a few leaned toward the Pinot Grigio end of the style spectrum.
Church Road 2014 McDonald Series Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay (tasting) and Bilancia 2013 Reserve Pinot Gris (tasting) are both classic examples of the rich and spicy Alsace model. Astrolabe 2013 Kekerengu Coast Pinot Gris, Marlborough (tasting) and Black Barn 2014 Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay (tasting) are more Pinot Grigio-like.