Monday, March 5, 2012

Lady in Red - day 3 of wine training

So on the third day of wine training with WSET we covered a fair bit of information. We talked about wine and health, services and storage and the main red grape varieties. The most interesting of all these being the last one. Obviously.

Okay so how do we get the "red" into a wine and why does it vary between wines? Great question! Basically when the grapes are crushed, they are left to sit on “the must”. The must is the pulp, the skin and sometimes even the stems of the grapes.
The wine then goes into a process called maturation; this is where the juice and the must are kind of stirred together to help extract the tannins and flavors out of the must. Some other methods are racking and pressing, but maturation is the most effect and time efficient.

Now, our biggest red wine varietals are Pinot Noir (my personal obsession), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah/Shiraz. Now each varietal is going to be different because of their terrior, any blending, aging, what they are barreled in, and countless other things that wine makers do to make a wine their own. However each grape is going to have its own set of boundaries that it exists in so lets take a look at some of those.

Pinot Noir – aka The Heart Break Grape
This wine is typically very light in it colour, this is because the grape skins them selves are very thin. This wine is also considered This wine is light to medium body, medium acidity and dry, with soft tannins, often described as elegant, complex, with finesse and this sort of elusive power. I don’t know about you but the last one might be a bit much but it is a very sexy kind of wine when done well. Coming from a variety of places it is known best from Burgundy (mid region of Burgundy is known for an earthy barn quality in their wine), Oregon (because this is considered a newer region they are prone to a lot of vintage variation, but we are seeing some really great stuff starting to come out), New Zealand (pinot noir is the second most grape produced there and for good reason. They produce some of the world’s finest light and fruity pinot noirs) and Champagne (pinot noir is one of the 3 grapes they use in the bubbly).  As for flavors in most pinot noirs you get a range from cherries, strawberries, vegetal, spice, red fruits and even to that French barnyard I was talking about earlier.

Merlot – “if any body orders merlot, I’m leaving!”
Merlot, despite its Hollywood bad rap is actually quite the little grape. Remarkably resilient, incredibly versatile and has the ability to stand up to almost anything. Even bad PR. Often deep in colour, dry and medium to full body but softer and more approachable then a Cabernet Sauvignon, ages incredibly well in top tier wines. We see a lot of well-done Merlots coming from places like Bordeaux (St.Emilion and Pomerol), California (Sonoma and Napa) and Chile. With right bank French Merlots we have vines that are grown in clay and moist soils, where they absolutely thrive!
In my honest opinion I believe that merlots, or any wines for that matter, are always going to be better when done in small 10 to 30 thousand lots rather then being mass-produced.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Rawr
This wine is usually deep in colour, dry, medium to full body, firm and grippy tannins, often blended, it matures well and has huge aging potential. Some of its key regions are Bordeaux (left bank specifically because its gravel and these vines don’t like to get their feet wet), California (single varietal wines that often have a benchmark flavor of dill), Australian, specifically Barossa Valley and Chile – Colchagua Province (where we see a lot of mint and cassis, and over all is excellent value on cabernets).  Some of the main flavors we find are black currant, cedar, bell pepper in cooler site, but this is often seen as a fault. Over all we get complex earthy notes and tobacco. It’s typically ages in some sort of oak barrels where we can get another huge range of flavors.

Syrah/Shiraz – What’s in a name?
Theses two wines are actually the same grape, deep colour, full bodied and rich. Medium to high tannins, and yet another very versatile grape. Some of its most common regions are Northern Rhones, France, where it can age 10- 20 years, Hermitage, where it can age 30 – 40 years, and Côte-Rôtie. Out of Barossa Australia we see wines that are developing towards hedonistic flavors with. With this grape we taste a lot of spice! White pepper to baking spice, black and blue berries, raisins, leather, black current, and smoked meat. This wine is often oaked to soften tannins.

There are thousand of types of grapes that are produced through out the world, these just happen to be the most main stream ones that I know of. If you want a complete list you can click here, but as this blog goes on I’ll go into discussing them as we meet them.


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