Archive for the 'Wine' Category



17
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 4 – Grape Varieties


There are literally thousands of grape varieties in existence. Most wine grapes are made from the European species, which is considered to be superior to the American vine species. The reason for the numerous varieties is that grape vines have a tendency to mutate and cross breed with ease. Advances in genetic technology have allowed scientists to determine the origins of many well-known grape varieties. The following will give you an introduction to the world of most common grape varieties.

Red Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon requires care and attention in the vineyard, with fruit exposure and yield directly related to fruit quality. However its thick skin makes it incredibly resilient to adverse climatic conditions. In the winery, winemakers often age Cabernet Sauvignon in a mixture of French and American oak.

Climate has a significant impact on the sensory characteristics of the variety. In cooler climates, minty and leafy characters are intermingled with blackcurrant and red berries. In warmer climates, chocolate and tobacco characters express themselves.

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
is a component of Bordeaux blends and Loire Valley reds. It has leafy red-berry characters.

Malbec
Malbec is a successful varietal in Argentina. Also used in Bordeaux blends.

Merlot
For Merlot to be good, it must be picked at optimum ripeness, to avoid the presence of herbal characters. Flavors of plums, red currant, mint, pimento, game, earth and leather can be found. Its tannins are invariably soft, making Merlot a good early drinking style, but this does limit its aging potential.

Merlot is most famous in its homeland of Bordeaux in France, where it is used to make some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines. Over the last ten years, plantings have rapidly expanded across the globe, most notably into California, South America, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is a red grape variety that is traditionally used in Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. It is known for its intense color, vibrant flavors and firm tannin structure making it a good choice for true red wine drinkers.

Petit Verdot has an interesting flavor profile. It can be incredibly perfumed, having aromas of blueberry and violet. Sometimes it has an attractive herbaceous and spice element, giving the variety complexity. The acidity is often prominent and due to the thick skins of the grape, the color is very dense and the tannins are firm. Structural wines with intense flavors can age well in the mid term. Due to its strength of character, Petit Verdot can have a significant impact on a blend, even when used in small proportions.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir originated in the French region of Burgundy, where it is most renowned and revered. The true character of Pinot Noir is expressed when it is grown in a cool climate. In fact, its early ripening nature makes it able to withstand some of the cooler areas.

Wines made from Pinot Noir are typically lightly colored, with cherry-to-plum red hues. The aroma, which is often highly fragrant, can be composed of cherries, red berries, violets and spice when young, transforming into gamey, leathery, mushroomy characters with age. The palate is light-to-medium bodied with fine silky tannins.

As complexity is a vital attribute of good Pinot Noir, the winemaking process is very detailed. Some winemakers choose to include whole berries in the fermentation to increase the fragrance of the wine. Others allow crushed grapes to macerate prior to fermentation to increase the depth of color and flavor. Some choose to do this after fermentation. Oak is used as an important element in both the sensory and structural aspects of the wine, however due to the delicacy of the variety, care must be taken to ensure that it doesn’t dominate the wine. It is not unusual for a single batch of grapes to be processed in different ways to give a range of blending options for the final wine.

Syrah
The beauty of Syrah is that it can flourish in a range of climates. Syrah can be made into a range of styles, defined by the terroir of the region and the winemakers’ artistry. With its soft ripe tannins, black cherry, pepper and spice characters, it can be crafted into wines suitable for immediate consumption.

Zinfandel
Substantial plantings in both California as well as Italy. In Italy it is known as Primitivo. It produces full-bodied and richly flavored wines.

White Varieties

Chardonnay
The popularity of Chardonnay quickly rose, due to its generous flavors and its ease to grow and make into wine. In fact, it is often called a viticulturalist’s dream, as it is early ripening, naturally vigorous and is relatively resistant to disease. Most importantly, it can be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions, leading to a vast array of styles.

The base flavor of Chardonnay is generous, but relatively neutral thus the winemakers’ individuality can be expressed through the winemaking techniques used. Oak usage, yeast lees contact and malolactic fermentation are just some of the ways a winemaker can influence the style of Chardonnay.

Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a classic French variety. The basis of some of the world’s greatest and long-living sweet wines.

Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer is a spicy, aromatic variety. Its style ranges from the flavorsome and fruity, to fine and delicate.

Pinot Gris
There are many synonyms for Pinot Gris. In Alsace, it is known at Tokay Pinot Gris. In Italy, it is commonly referred to as Pinot Grigio and in Germany it is known as Ruländer or Grauburgunder.

Gris, meaning grey in French, refers to the color of the Pinot Gris grapes. As a result, wines made from Pinot Gris often have a slight coppery hue. They have a delicately perfumed aroma with flavors stretching from fresh pear through to tropical fruits. Pinot Gris is similar to Chardonnay in that it has good palate weight and flavor.

Riesling
Riesling is an aromatic variety that produces intensely fragrant and flavored wines of exceptional character. Notes of citrus, honeysuckle, blossoms, green apple and mineral are commonly seen. With concurrent high acidity and comparable low alcohol, the wines retain an enviable freshness which many other varieties lack. Oak is not used and the wines are very pure and clean.

Riesling is a variety that is much loved by winemakers and wine connoisseurs due to its intense flavors and its defined palate structure. Riesling is delightful when it is consumed young and fresh. However it is one of the few white wines that has the ability to age.

Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
is a variety with increasing popularity in Australia. Although its plantings are quite small, they are expected to significantly increase over the next ten years. Sauvignon Blanc is used to make fresh, vibrant wine styles with none of the heaviness of Chardonnay or the floral tones of Riesling. Its flavor profile is in harmony with Semillon and consequently these varieties are often blended together.

The flavor spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc is quite diverse. Upon a backbone of herbaceousness lie tropical fruit, passion fruit and gooseberry. Look a little closer and you may see tomato leaf, spice and flint. The stronger styles have elements of asparagus, capsicum and gun smoke. And winemaking can add tones of oak, butter and yeast. They are a feast for the senses, especially during the heat of summer where their defined acidity adds freshness to the palate.

Semillon
Semillon is a unique minerally, lemony style, which is crisp and lean when young and is made without the influence of oak or malolactic fermentation. However the wine undergoes a transformation with age, evolving into a complex, nutty, honeyed wine of great depth and complexity.

Semillon is often seen blended with Chardonnay, particularly in mass-market wine styles. The freshness of Semillon provides a necessary balance to the often overly rich Chardonnay. It is a blend that has been very successful.

Viognier
The most distinctive attribute of Viognier is its stone fruit character, most notably that of apricot. It can also show considerable floral and spice tones. In cooler climates you can see citrus whilst in warmer areas there is more honeysuckle. It has good viscosity due to generous alcohol levels and is similar to Chardonnay in that it has a weighty mid-palate and generous flavour, making it a good alternative to this ubiquitous variety.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is the lastof a multi-part series we have been posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying your Wines – Part 3 – Storing

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting

Enjoying your Wines Part 1 Buying

03
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting


What is the “Right Way” to taste a wine?

Learning how to taste wines is a straightforward adventure that will deepen your appreciation for both wines and winemakers. Look, smell, taste – starting with your basic senses and expanding from there you will learn how to taste wines like the pros in no time! Keep in mind that you can smell thousands of unique scents, but your taste perception is limited to salty, sweet, sour and bitter. It is the combination of smell and taste that allows you to discern flavor.

Look: Check out the Color and Clarity.

Pour a glass of wine into a suitable wine glass. Then take a good look at the wine. Tilt the glass away from you and check out the “color” of the wine from the rim edges to the middle of the glass. What color is it? Look beyond red, white or blush. If it’s a red wine is the color maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or even brownish? If it’s a white wine is it clear, pale yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or brown in appearance?

Still looking? Move on to the wine’s opacity. Is the wine watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear? Can you see sediment? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a little swirl – look again, is there sediment, bits of cork or any other floaters? An older red wine will be more translucent than younger red wines.

Smell

Our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass of wine. To get a good impression of your wine’s aroma gently swirl your glass (this helps vaporize some of the wine’s alcohol and release more of its natural aromas) and then take a quick whiff to gain a first impression.

Still Smelling. Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics. Gently swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again.

Taste

Finally, take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll around your tongue. There are three stages of taste: the Attack phase, the Evolution phase and the Finish.

The Attack Phase, is the initial impression that the wine makes on your palate. The Attack is comprised of four pieces of the wine puzzle: alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar. These four puzzle pieces display initial sensations on the palate. Ideally these components will be well-balanced one piece will not be more prominent than the others. These four pieces do not display a specific flavor per se, they meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors like fruit or spice.

The Evolution Phase is next, also called the mid-palate or middle range phase, this is the wine’s actual taste on the palate. In this phase you are looking to discern the flavor profile of the wine. If it’s a red wine you may start noting fruit – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase of a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.

The Finish is appropriately labeled as the final phase. The wine’s finish is how long the flavor impression lasts after it is swallowed. This is where the wine culminates, where the aftertaste comes into play. Did it last several seconds? Was it light-bodied (like water) or full-bodied (like the consistency of milk)? Can you taste the remnant of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat? Do you want another sip or was the wine too bitter at the end? What was your last flavor impression – fruit, butter, oak? Does the taste persist or is it short-lived?

After you have taken the time to taste your wine, you might record some of your impressions. Did you like the wine overall? Was it sweet, sour or bitter? How was the wine’s acidity? Was it well balanced? Does it taste better with cheese, bread or a heavy meal? Will you buy it again? If so, jot the wine’s name, producer and vintage year down for future reference.

Why do I need to let my wine “Breathe”?

The whole concept of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is simply maximizing your wine’s exposure to the surrounding air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine’s aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.

Which Wines Need to Breathe?

Typically red wines are the ones to benefit most from breathing before serving. However, there are select whites that will also improve with a little air exposure. In general, most wines will improve with as little as 15-20 minutes of air time. However, if the wine is young with high tannin levels, it will need more time to aerate before enjoying. For example, a young cabernet Sauvignon will likely require around an hour for proper aeration and flavor softening to take place. Not that you cannot drink it as soon as it is uncorked, but to put its best foot forward give it more time to breathe. Mature wines are another story all together. These wines will benefit most from decanting and then will only have a small window of aeration opportunity before the flavor profiles begin to deteriorate.

Some erroneously believe that merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a bit is all it takes to aerate. This method is futile, as there is simply not enough room (read: surface area) at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine. So what’s a Wine Lover to do? You have two options: Decanter or Wine Glass.

Decanter – use a decanter with a wide opening at the top to pour your bottle of wine into. The increased surface area is the key to allowing more air to make contact with your wine. Keep this in mind while setting up proper “breathing” techniques for your favorite wine.

The Wine Glass – Pour your wine into wine glasses and let it aerate. This is certainly the low-maintenance method and typically works quite well. Just be sure to keep the glass away from the kitchen commotion, while it breathes in peace. A good tip for pouring wine into glasses make sure that you pour into the center of the glass with a good 6-10 inches of “fall” from bottle to glass to allow for further aeration during the actual pour.

In general, the Aeration Rule of Thumb: the more tannins a wine has the more time it will need to aerate. Lighter-bodied red wines that have lower tannin levels, will need little if any time to breathe.

How do I know if my wine is “corked”?

Fresh picked blueberries, juicy peach, toasted vanilla bean, or mold, which one does not belong? The first three flavors are great descriptors for wine; unfortunately, the last one is a pretty accurate descriptor for a corked bottle of wine. Nuances of mildew, no matter how slight, are an indication of TCA, a bleach-loving mold that infects corks and bottling facilities. As revolting as a corked bottle can taste, TCA starts out as a loss of fruitiness with no ill flavor. So that highly recommended, highly disappointing bottle may still be a great wine, just not the one you opened.

Even though it tastes like it could kill you, you can drink the wine. A faint cardboard flavor can be tolerated when the wine is still tasty enough to drink. When you encounter a bottle that is too far gone don’t dump the wine down the drain. Pour it back into the bottle, put the cork back in, and return it to the store where you purchased it. Retailers get credit for bad bottles of wine. Some experts estimate that one bottle in twelve is tainted with TCA. Just because one bottle has it, doesn’t mean that another bottle from the same case does too. TCA mold takes effect by coming in contact with the wine in the bottle. Mold on the top of the cork is usually not an indication that the bottle is corked.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is part of a multi-part series we’ll be posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying Your Wines – Part 1 – Buying

12
Jan
10

Demystifying Wine


The Book of Genesis mentions Noah as the first to make wine. Throughout the ages, wine has become an intrinsic part of religious ceremonies, ritual meals, family celebrations, special occasions, romantic tête-à-tête, etc., all the while gladdening the heart and warming the soul.

During my childhood and teenage years growing up in Uruguay, I hardly ever  remember sitting down to our daily family lunch without a bottle of wine at the table. Around since mankind’s earliest days, it is one of the oldest potables still enjoyed in ever greater demand in the 21st century, but how many of us know what a good wine really is?

All the sniffing, swirling and spitting that the professional winetasters engage in isn’t done merely to show off, in fact these actions greatly enhance the appreciation of the wine. While precious few of us will ever become professionals at the taster’s art, most of us can increase our enjoyment of wine by learning a few simple facts.

Fill about one third of your wine glass, hold it up to the light. Is it clear or cloudy? Is there any sediment or other solid matter? If it is a red wine tilt the glass away from you against a white or light surface and look at the color of the liquid at the far end. Older wines start to fade at the rim, a deep red becomes brownish or a dull yellowish brown.

Next, swirl the glass (that’s the reason for merely filling it only one third of the way), make sure you get a vigorous wave circulating in the liquid; this will activate the aromatic compounds in the wine. Bend your head slightly forward, tilt the glass at a 45° angle, insert your nose a little into the cup and inhale for about 3 – 4 seconds. The scents a wine offers can change during the course of one sniff, you may need two or at most three sniffs to fully appreciate its aroma as it is quickly neutralized. Partake its bouquet…

Yes, you could roll the wine in your mouth just like the experts because they try to expose it to all the different taste sensitive parts of the tongue. At the tongue’s tip are the sweetness receptors, just a little back you’ll taste the saltiness. The sides of the tongue will tell you about the acidity or sourness while the back of the tongue will tell you of any bitterness. Yes, you could do that or you could just relax and sip…

In the following video John Cleese explains the mysteries of wine to the rest of us, non experts, who just want to enjoy it.

Barely a few years ago, kosher wines were of the extra sweet Concord, or extra sweet Malaga variety, almost exclusively, with an occasional sweet Tokay added to the mix; those days are now behind. Kosher wines come in a variety of grapes and mixes of grapes, they range from sweet to semi sweet, from semi dry to dry. There are many world class vintages that just happen to be kosher. They come in all prices and there is always something to suit your taste. Enjoy!

CS

16
Dec
09

Chef’s Guest


This past Thursday, December 10th, I had the pleasure of being the exclusive guest of Chef David Kolotkin at Prime Grill. As I’ve mentioned in past postings,  this eatery is one of my favorite meat restaurants.

A partial view of Prime Grill

Chef David’s special menu did not disappoint. I started the meal with a House Cured Duck “Prosciutto” served with light frisee, dried fruit, almonds and a citrus soy reduction.

House Cured Duck "Prosciutto"

I found it delightful, subtly tart, with the individual flavors coming to the fore with each bite.

The House Potato Gnocchi with Duck Sauce followed next, served with tomato in a delicate herb sauce. It looked blissfully tasty and tasted even better. It left a very pleasant, unusual, aftertaste.

House Potato Gnocchi

The third course was  Southern Style Veal Sweetbreads & Grilled Tongue; which came with home-style grits, collard greens and a piquant horseradish coulis.

Southern Style Veal Sweetbreads & Grilled Tongue

The synchronicity of flavors was superb, but merely part of the buildup to the crescendo of the main dish, a 60 Day Dry Aged Reserve Steak. It was served with truffle scallion and whipped potato. Personally, I prefer my steak medium well done, but Chef David insisted I order it medium. He was right. It was tender, juicy and just perfect – in every sense of the word!

I sipped a very nice 2008 Teal Lake Shiraz throughout the four courses. When I first came the Chef asked me what I would like, I told him to surprise me. And he did, deliciously, scrumptuously so. The meal was fit for a very fortunate king or… this most fortuitous food critic.

CS

09
Nov
09

A Touch of Class in Boro Park


Nestled in this residential street of Boro Park, better suited for Park Avenue, you’ll find an unusual restaurant specializing in fish and dairy dishes… Such a jewel is the Orchideä Restaurant located at 4815 12th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11219 — Telephone: 718-686-7500 and 718-686-9100.

The almost monochrome décor of silvers and grays accented by black and soft lavender produce a unique atmosphere of sophistication and romantic intimacy. Their delicately spiced salads are fresh, delicious, and a true feasts for the eyes. Exquisite attention to color, detail and placement of each vegetable on the plate elevates the gastronomic experience into near art-form.

We started off our meal with artistically prepared sushi, and colorful, flavorful salads. I recommend the Blue Cheese or the Spring Fling.

The mixture of flavors bespoke of exotic locales in far away lands. The Eggplant Parmegiano, was the best I ever had.

The wine selection was more than adequate, the settings regal, and the portions nicely sized. I have a sweet tooth, having been weaned on Austrian pastries, so I was delighted with their unusual looking Napoleon, fruit shaped custard divided among three layers of Middle Eastern fillo pastry. Superb, is an understatement!

orchidea2

In presentation, in taste, in service, few establishments can rival Orchideä

CS

Orchidea on Urbanspoon

05
Nov
09

Manhattan in Brooklyn?


Can a Brooklyn restaurant rival any top Manhattan eatery? The answer is a resounding yes, it can, it does! SYR and I found just such a dining experience at T Fusion Steakhouse (3223 Quentin Road, Brooklyn, NY 11234 — Telephone: 718.998.0002).

We started with Chicken Lollipops, corn flake crumb crusted chicken drumsticks with sweet and sour pineapple sauce.

They were superb!

My companion then followed it with a medium cooked 21+ Day Aged Prime Rib Delmonico (smokehouse marinated and served with sauteed vegetables, glazed pearl onions and shoe string fries. It was juicy and tender.

I ordered a Filet Mignon au Poivre, a mock 8 oz. filet steak served with sautéed spinach and very thin, long, curly pommes frites.

Both of these dishes were perfectly cooked with a rare understanding of what makes each cut unique, a total mastery and control of the mysteries of flavor. Visually, they both looked very inviting. Their presentation was made with an obvious artistic eye, as their mere appearance made our mouths water. Their taste did not disappoint!

The wine selection is excellent and we opted for a South African selection, Rothberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. A delightful choice!

As a fierce chocolate lover I ended the meal with Chocolate Souffle (freshly baked and served with ice cream covered in a blueberry sauce. Look at that incredible presentation!) while SYR had the Tiramisu. Great choices to top off a true feast that delighted the eye and the palate. Service was polite, helpful and very friendly.

All in all, it was an experience to remember and one we will repeat again and again.

CS

T-Fusion Steakhouse on Urbanspoon




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