ANSWERS – Back To School Wine Quiz

Thank you for participating in the Wine Star Back To School Wine Quiz! (If you haven’t taken it yet, go take it and then come read this.) I hope you all rewarded yourself with a nice glass of something for getting in the school spirit.  Here’s a little wine-know about each of the 15 items on the quiz.  Overall, we have some super Wine Knows following this blog!! I’m impressed!!

Cabernet Sauvignon (93% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Cabernet Sauvignon is a well-known grape that often is used to make single-varietal wines (wines that only use this grape). It originates from Bordeaux, France where it is one of the major blending grapes used in red Bordeauxs.

 

Pinot Noir (100% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

I guess I don’t even need to explain this one since everyone got it right. But Pinot Noir is also often made as a single-varietal wine. It has some significant characteristic differences from its varied producing regions – fun to taste one from Oregon, from France, from New Zealand, etc!

 

Bordeaux (96% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

Bordeaux is a region in France that produces some of those most important – or influential – wines. There are several major blending grapes used in Bordeaux wines – for red they include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

 

Super Tuscan (67% answered correctly!)

This one was tricky… it would be more accurate to answer this one as “neither” a grape varietal or a region/appellation. But it is more closely aligned with a designated appellation than anything.

Basically, “Super Tuscan” refers to a wine made in Tuscany, Italy that most typically includes the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, and/or Canaiolo. These wines have a lower “quality” designation based on Italian wine laws but only because they don’t follow all the rules in order to be labeled at the higher quality classification step. However, the original Super Tuscan wines are made by some of the most well known producers and have an innovative touch to them – especially when these first started to appear in the the 1970s. So while they are down a step on the classification scale, they are often up a step on price point (especially the more famous Super Tuscans such as Sassicaia, Tignanello, or Ornellaia). You won’t see “Super Tuscan” on a label, but you may see “Toscana IGT” (the appellation). Many restaurants refer to these wines as a “Super Tuscans” on their menu.

 

Chardonnay (81% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

This is a grape varietal – it is one of the most widely planted white wine grapes and is often used to produce wine made with 100% Chardonnay. Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, France – so if you’re buying a bottle of white Burgundy, it is Chardonnay!

 

Barolo (74% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

Barolo is a designated region within the northwestern part of Italy in Piemonte. You will see “DOCG” after “Barolo” on a label, which is indicative of its quality classification. Barolo is made with the Nebbiolo grape and is one of the few wines that can usually be aged for over 20 years!

 

Burgundy (81% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

This is a region in France that produces wines primarily made with Pinot Noir in reds and Chardonnay grapes in whites. So if you buy a red Burgundy, it is most likely Pinot Noir. (But will have some distinct differences from Pinot Noirs made in Oregon, for example!)

 

Riesling (96% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Riesling is a grape that is often thought as one of the most food-friendly white wines. While many times it is used to produce sweet wines, there are plenty of dry or off-dry Rieslings as well!

 

Barbaresco (56% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

Like Barolo, Barbaresco wines come from the Piemonte region in northwest Italy and are made with the Nebbiolo grape. You’ll also see these wines with a quality designation of “DOCG” after “Barbaresco” on the label. It’s an indication (or confirmation) that the nebbiolo grapes are grown in this little zone of the Piemonte region and made according to the required practices.

 

Barbera (52% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Barbera is another grape from Piemonte, Italy. These often make delightful, fruity wines that are great with food. You’ll often see “Barbera d’Alba” on the label.

 

Sangiovese (81% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Sangiovese is one of Italy’s – specifically, Tuscany’s – most famous red grapes. If you’re drinking Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or Brunello di Montalcino, it is made with mostly Sangiovese. Interestingly, I’ve had several lovely Arizona Sangiovese wines as well!

 

Moscato (89% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

This is a grape that produces the well known “Moscato d’Asti” – a sweet sparkling, or fizzy, wine. If you have tried a $6 bottle of Moscato (as they are often available at that price point) and hated it – try one in the $15+ range. You’ll notice a difference.

 

Chianti (81% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

Chianti is a region in Tuscany that primarily uses Sangiovese grapes. It can also be blended with Canaiolo and some others, but generally, when you’re drinking a Chianti or a Chianti Classico (a more specific region), you’re having mostly Sangiovese.

 

Champagne (96% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

We all know you can’t call a bottle of sparkling wine “champagne” unless it comes from Champagne, France. That is because it is a specific appellation that has very specific rules for how the wine is made. Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and/or Pinot Noir.

 

Beaujolais (74% answered correctly!)

Region/Appellation

Beaujolais is a region in France that uses the grape, Gamay. Almost all the production from this region is for red wine. We often see “Beaujolais Noveau” in the fall – it is a young wine meant to be enjoyed immediately. But it is far more simple than a Beaujolais (non-noveau), so give them both a chance!

 

We’ll eventually explore all of these in more detail… are there any you’d like to know more about sooner than later?!

DYWK Country Series: France, Part III – French Wines With Food

Welcome to the final post in this three-part “Did You Wine Know” Country Series.  The previous posts were background info leading to this post.  In Part I, we talked about the overall wine quality/classification system in France.  Part II covered four of 14 wine regions of France.  And at long last, in Part III, we’ll jabber a bit about food pairings with wines from the four regions.

General Concepts On Food & Wine Pairings

In general, when pairing food and wine, a wino wants to pair in one of the following 3 ways:

  • Use the wine IN the food to make a sauce or marinade, etc.  Assuming you make a mean sauce, drinking the same wine used in the sauce will be an instant pairing success.
  • Complement the flavors of the wine with the flavors of the food.  This is basically matching similar flavors – sweet food with sweet wine, fruity with fruity, etc.
  • Contrast the flavors of the wine with the flavors of the food.  So having a salty dish with a sweet wine, or a highly tannic wine with a fatty/buttery dish.

I know for me, picking out the right food to go with your wine (because, let’s face it – that’s what anyone reading this post is actually doing) comes easily.  But more often than not, it’s a bit of a guess. We often aren’t very well-versed in articulating the flavors of wine, or anything really.  (For reasons discussed in this post…).  So while we know we really like a particular bottle, it’s hard to say, “This wine has these flavor characteristics, and my food has those flavor characteristics, and therefore they will pair well together.” (Note: I wrote that using my “know-it-all” voice – like a local newscaster.)  Anyway, part of my continuing journey to better understand wine is to better understand pairings. And in order to do so, I’ve got to improve my ability to articulate the flavors I taste in my glass.

Instead of worrying about if the food and wine are complementary or contrasting in flavors, winos can think about regional pairings. Typically, the wine from a particular region goes with the food of a particular region.  “What grows together goes together.”  (Note: I wrote that one using my “cheesy guy” voice.)  This is easier to do with a place like France than the U.S. There are traditional dishes and foods that are common to certain regions of France that relate closely to the traditional wines of that region.  In the U.S., we have traditional regional cuisines that are more like “Chicago Pizza” and “California Cuisine” – not exactly food that is organic to the region.  Since we are focused on France, we’ll look at regional pairing for the wines from the four regions of France discussed in Part II.  Here goes…

Bordeaux

Recap for Part II: Bordeauxs are mostly red blends (usually including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc), gentle complexity, elegant, not big in flavor.

Remember that Bordeaux is on the west coast of France and became the wine that was shipped off to England back in the day. This and back in the 1100s, the mighty Eleanor of Acquitaine (from Southwestern France) married King Henry I of England. And a strong relationship between England and Bordeaux was born. England got Bordeaux’s wine and Bordeaux got England’s food.  You lucky Bordelais!!!” (Note: That was my sarcastic voice… no offense, British friends.) The people of Bordeaux may or may not agree with the fact that their dishes were influenced by the English. But a standard meal in this region includes roasted chicken, roasted lamb, potatoes, green beans.  And guess what – it pairs very well with a bottle of red Bordeaux wine.

Wino Aside: I find this historical influence on wine rather interesting… and it also helps me remember that Bordeaux food is tasty, but not complicated. And therefore I should drink Bordeaux wine with tasty uncomplicated food.

For some of my readers, you’ll also be interested to know that one of Eleanor and Henry’s sons was King Richard I – also referred to as “Richard the Lionhearted” – and in the bad classic movie, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, is couuuusin to Maid Marion who becomes the lover of none other than Robin of the Hood!! (Thank you for the correcting my original family tree description, EKF.)

As noted above, lamb is also a classic red Bordeaux pairing.  Sheep graze the overall region and feed on the grass between the grapevines. It is said that this gives the sheep an especially tasty flavor.

Other common foods of Bordeaux that pair well with the white wines include Roquefort cheese (which is a sheep’s milk blue cheese) and foie gras.   The sweet white wine from Sauternes (a sub-region of Bordeaux) is a great contrast to the Roquefort cheese. The dry whites of Bordeaux’s Graves sub-region pair well with salty seafood like oysters.

Bordeaux Pairings Summary: 

  • Reds – Simple dishes like roasted chicken, roasted lamb, potatoes, green beans
  • Sweet Whites (look for Sauternes on the label) – Rich food like blue cheeses, foie gras
  • Dry Whites (look for Graves on the label) – Oysters and other seafood

The Loire Valley

Recap from Part II: This region is spread out and therefore has great variety in its wines, but the general characteristic across the board is that they are zesty and brisk wines. The western coast produces dry whites, the central area produces pretty much all kinds of wines from sweet to dry reds and whites, and easter Loire produces primarily dry white wines and some dry reds.

The western coast of the Loire Valley, being on the water, has a strong culinary culture and tradition with seafood.  So it only makes sense that the wines from the western Loire Valley were developed to go with seafood. They are minerally and dry whites that, when paired with a salty seafood dish, bring out the flavors of both the wine and food.

As we look more towards the central and eastern Loire Valley, we find more variety in the white wines where they are made with Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. These wines are high in acid – they are dry, crisp, and refreshing in flavor, which makes them very flexible with food pairings. This region is along the river and therefore accompanies a freshwater fish dish very nicely.  The high acidity complements salads nicely and contrasts with creamy cheeses. They will also pair well with roast duck or grilled salmon.  So – basically, try these wines with whatever you want! It’ll probably go!

Loire Vally Pairing Summary:

  • Western Loire (look for Muscadet on the label): Seafood, particularly oysters and mussels
  • Central and Eastern Loire (look for Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume on the label): freshwater fish, salads, creamy cheeses, roast duck, roast chicken, grilled salmon

Burgundy

Recap from Part II: Burgundy is the easy one to remember – the two primary grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This region is more inland and less influenced by waterways than Bordeaux or The Loire Valley. Traditional cuisine includes cooking hens/roosters, rabbits, snails – the food that we often think of when we think of French dishes. Slow cooked braised beef stew is also a traditional Burgundian dish (boeuf bourguignon).  Any of these dishes will go beautifully with a Burgundian red.  The whites of Burgundy will also pair well with many of these dishes, but try it with lobster drizzled with butter (wait – does anyone not drizzle butter on their lobster??)

Burgundy Pairing Summary:

  • Reds: hens, roosters, rabbits, snalis, slow cooked beef stew
  • Whites: snails, lobster, hens, roosters

The Rhone Valley

Recap from Part II: Red Rhone Valley wines are big and spicy!

The Rhone Valley is in southeastern France.  Since these wines are big and spicy, they will pair well with the earthy, gamy flavors. Try Rhone reds with roasted lamb – it will accompany the intensity of that gamy/earthy flavor.  Rhone reds will also pair beautifully with strong cheeses (blue cheese, goat cheese, etc) and charcuterie plates.

—-

Winos… All of this barely touches the surface of the wines of France (remember, this covers only a little about only 4 of the 14 regions).  And even less of the surface for wine and food pairing. But I hope you feel like you have a slightly better sense of French wines… I know that I have plans to hit up the wine shop and try some of these combinations. But the bottom line with any wine is – if you like it, drink it! And then experiment with it – try that wine with different dishes and see how it brings out different flavors of wine. Try a wine with a seafood dish and a roasted chicken dish and see what happens.  There are no rules with any of this – just a whole lot of experimenting to figure out what makes your palette pop with delight!

Au revoir, Winos!

DYWK Country Series: France, Part II – Key Wine Regions of France

Bonjour à mes collègues amateurs de vin!  (And thank you, Google Translate.) It is time for Did You Wine Know France Country Series Part Deux!  As a reminder, this is part of a 3-part series covering some basic Wine Know of France.

DYWK Country Series: France, Part II – Key Wine Regions of France

As you may have noticed, while strolling around your local wine shop, French wines do not have labels splattered with the name of the grape used to make the wine.  They are known by the region from which they come. It comes down to “terroir”.

Terroir: Terroir is a French term and we don’t really have an English word for direct translation.  It is is the grape growing environment that is influenced by climate, sunlight (and orientation to the sun), soil, slope of the earth, elevation, rainfall, wind, fog, temperature, etc.  It is the sum of everything that influences the growing of grapes.  Wines from a particular terroir have flavors in the wine that are associated with that particular location (as in plot of land).  Every vineyard in France is said to have its own terroir. Technically, one (with a very well trained palate) should be able to taste a wine and recognize where it is from because it should taste like it came from that region.

Terroir is embedded in the culture of French wine.  We might say it defines the French wine culture.  The classification system is based on this concept – a vineyard must show that there are flavors that are typical of the land on which the grapes grow (from that terroir) in order to be classified in the wine system.

Wino Take-Away: Terroir is très important to building your French Wine Know. Wines from a particular region have characteristics that are typical of that region.

Regions:  There are 14 official wine regions of France (a designated wine region must be part of the AoC/AOP classification system, as discussed in Part I.) There is SO MUCH to know about French wines – I mean, they have books that cover just one region or even one vineyard with lots and lots of history and meaning.  My trusty source for much of my Wine Know (The Wine Bible) dedicates 200 of its 900 pages to France and its regions.  But here on W2WK, I intend only to whet your appetite on the topic and will spend about 800 more words on the topic.

The below image shows where France’s 14 wine regions are located. In today’s post, I’m going to highlight the types of grapes grown in just four of these regions. Because of the strict regulations in the French wine classification system, only certain grapes are allowed to be grown in certain regions.  For example, winemakers in Bordeaux aren’t allowed to plant just any old grape, make wine, and call it a Bordeaux.  They must use the grapes permitted by the system.  Since we American Winos primarily choose our wines based on the grape varietal (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc), we get a little squeamish around wines without this info on the label. I tend to wander into the French wine section at the store and look around wondering if “Chateaux blah blah blah” is going to be light or heavy or bold or fruity…. I never know! But hopefully this breakdown of some of the French wine regions will give us a start and knowing what to go for in the wine shop. 

French Wine Regions

French Wine Regions

Bordeaux: This region produces more wine than nearly any other region in the world.  Over 700 million bottles of wine are produced in Bordeaux every year.  And 80% of that is red wine. Five grapes are primarily used to make Bordeaux wines – and they are almost always blended together.  “Bordeaux wines are about elegance and intensity of flavor; they are rarely massive or powerful.” (The Wine Bible)

  • Reds
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Merlot
    • Cabernet Franc
  • Whites
    • Sauvignon Blanc
    • Sémillon
  • Other “supporting” grapes used minimally to blend wines include Malbec, Petit Verdot, Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc.

Historical Fun Fact about Bordeaux: Because this region is on the waterways of France, in the 13th/14th centuries, Bordeaux wines were being shipped off to places like England. And as the English (among other countries) became accustomed to the joys of Bordeaux, its success and familiarity grew faster than most other French wines.

Wino Take-Away: Bordeauxs are primarily a blend of the major and minor grapes grown in the region, which brings about a gentle complexity.

The Loire Valley: The Loire is the most diverse wine region in France as it grows many different grapes. As you can see in the map, it is a long strip of land from west to east. The region has a cool climate and experiences temperatures at some of the lowest points at which grapes can ripen. “The signature characteristic of all Loire wines is their zesty acidity.” (The Wine Bible)  For The Loire Valley, different types of grapes are primarily used in different parts – so I’ll highlight the grapes not by red vs white, but by the regions within the region.

  • Western Loire – primarily produces dry white wine
    • Muscadet (white)
  • Central Loire – produces sweet-medium sweet wines, sparkling wines, dry red and white, and rosés
    • Chenin Blanc (white)
    • Sauvignon Blanc (white)
    • Cabernet France (red)
  • Eastern Loire – primarily produces dry white wines, some red
    • Sauvignon Blanc (white)
    • Pinot Noir (red)
    • Gamay (red)

The interesting historical influence of The Loire Valley is that it used to be the vacay spot of Kings and their courts in the mid-20 century. They’d ride on down from Paris when it got too hot and went to hang out in The Loire.  And what does one do on vacation?? Eat and drink too much, of course. So Loire Valley wines were developed to accompany food from that region. For example, the Western Loire Valley – which is on the ocean – produces wines that you will likely enjoy most when consumed with a seafood dish.

Wino Take-Away: Loire Valley wines are widely varied with many grape varietals, and may be most enjoyed when paired with food.

Burgundy: Karen McNeil – author of The Wine Bible- describes wine in such an eloquent way that I’m going to have to just quote her on her Burgundy description.  “The great red Burgundies are indisputably sensual. For centuries they have been described in the most erotic of ways, and sipping them has been compared, among other things, to falling in love.” Does that not make you want to go out to the wine shop and grab a bottle RIGHT NOW or what?! (In fact, I think I might…)

Drinking a good Burgundy may conjure ethereal feelings, so one might think there is a complex blending methodology used to bring about great balance. (No wait – we already learned that happens in Bordeaux.)  Burgundy has only TWO major grapes.

  • Red: Pinot Noir
  • White: Chardonnay
  • Note: Gamay is also used for wines from Beaujolais, which is technically part of Burgundy

Drinking a red Burgundy is not quite like opening a bottle of Pinot Noir, however. The flavors of red Burgundies are greatly influenced by their terroir and each vineyard is unique in its terroir.  Another interesting historical piece to this is that the average grower has only 3.2 acres. This primarily ties back to the days of Napolean who set in place land fracturation laws requiring that all children in one family receive an equally divided piece of their father’s land. So the land broke up into smaller and smaller chunks.  (Luckily, this did not stop anyone from continuing to grow grapes.)

Wino Take-Away: While Burgundian reds are all primarily made from Pinot Noir grapes, they vary greatly in flavor and complexity from vineyard to vineyard. But a good red Burgundy may have you floating on cloud nine upon tasting.

The Rhone: The Rhone region is divided between Northern and Southern Rhone, and these areas are very different. Most of Rhone produces red wines, but whites and roses are also made there. Northern Rhone primarily uses Syrah as its major grape and Southern Rhone reds are usually blends of a number of grapes. “The wines’ howling spiciness has no parallel. Rhones are the wine equivalent of a primal scream.” (The Wine Bible)

Northern Rhone:

  • Red: Sarah
  • White: Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne

Southern Rhone:

  • Red: Grenache Noir (is the major grape)
  • Whites: Granache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne

Because these wines are so big and bold, a good red Northern Rhone wine will age very well – upwards of 50 years!  (Who on earth can save a bottle for that long!?)  Something to keep in mind when you have things to celebrate 50 years down the road… I guess my 85th birthday is probably worth celebrating… hmmm. Something to think about.

Wino Take-Away: Red Rhone wines are big and spicy.  

There are TEN MORE wine regions of France.  As you can see, it takes a lot of Wine Know to get a feel for each region’s characteristics (or terroir) as represented in wine. For me, I feel like I have a slightly stronger understanding of at least these four regions now, and won’t have to pretend (as much) that I know what I’m doing in the French wine aisle.  Next up in the Country Series is going to be more about pairing food to these wines.

Divine Wine Sunday: Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages

Everyone needs a “go-to” wine… one that is enjoyable with or without a meal… one that you can bet you’ll find in most stores that sell wine… and one that isn’t going to wreck your budget.  This week’s Divine Wine is one that I’ve enjoyed a number of times for the reasons listed above.  Most recently, I sipped on it a few days ago to make sure it was fresh in my mind for today’s post.  So, for a go-to wine, may I suggest….

Divine Wine of the Week: Beaujolais Villages, Maison Louis Jadot Winery, Burgundy, France

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages

Price Range: $8-12 in most stores (in Arizona), $8.47 at Total Wine, available in most grocery stores as well as Costco.

Wino Assessment…

I would describe this lovely bottle as a light-bodied red that is a little watery, but I don’t mean that in a bad way…  More in a way that just makes it easy to drink.  It is fruity – strawberries come to mind.  But it isn’t overly sweet.  It’s almost like having a cup of juice (the alcohol free kind) and this Wino has to be careful not to take too many sips too quickly.  I usually buy this one in multiples because it is nice to enjoy on Saturday afternoon or on Tuesday evening.

The Grape…

French wines are known by their regions whereas most other wines of the world (though not all) are known in name by their grape(s).  So a Beaujolais wine indicates it is from the vineyards in Beaujolais which is located in the southern region of Burgundy, France. Beaujolais wines are made from the gamay grape, which is a soft, fruity, purple grape.  The Wine Bible describe gamay as follows:

“Gamay’s flavors are virtually unmistakable: a rush of sweet black cherry and black raspberry, then a hint of peaches, violets, and roses, followed by a smidgen of peppery spiciness at the end.”

Coffee Talk Interlude: Note there is a red wine known in California and referred to as a gamay Beaujolais that is neither made from the gamay grape nor is it related to Beaujolais.  It is a pinot noir clone.  Discuss amongst yourselves….

The Wine…

“Beaujolais has been called the only white wine that happens to be red.”  (The Wine Bible)  Oh my gosh, this line describes this wine so perfectly to me!! Something about this noticeably red wine is so distinguishably white.  So to all you white wine Winos out there, give this red a try!  (And here I was feeling bad that I was being unfair to white wines given the quantity of reds I’ve blogged about vs whites on Divine Wine Sunday… I feel better now.)

The grape description above translates into the flavors one will taste in a Beaujolais wine, which is what makes it so enjoyable and easy to drink.  While the flavor of the grape plays a huge role in the outcome of htis wine, it is also obtains some of its character via the “carbonic maceration” process.  That means that whole grapes (in clusters) are put into a fermenting tank and the fermentation takes place inside each grape.  It then rests in the tanks for 5-9 months and then is bottled and sold.  This carbonic maceration process can be used for any grapes, but apparently is best with super fruity grapes, like gamay.

What does Maison Louis Jadot (the winemaker) say about this wine?

Strong red purple colour. Fresh red fruits on the nose with a hint of dark cherry. Slightly spicy with a touch of grey pepper, liquorice and a touch of rose flower. The whole wine is very well balanced with a nice acidity and the tannins presence on the finish invites food pairing such as with Terrines, Charcuteries, Grilled red meat, white fish, cheese or simply as the sole wine of a meal.

!ALERT!: New phrase added to Wino’s favorite phrases list (which doesn’t yet exist, but it will): “Sole wine of a meal.”

Ok, so I’m a bit thrown off by the “spicy” description (made both by the general description of gamay and Beaujolais from The Wine Bible as well as from the winemaker’s website).  I will have to try this wine again with new taste buds to see if I can find the “spiciness”.  But I clearly agree with the “sole wine of a meal” comment!

The Region…

As noted above, Beaujolais is in southern Burgundy stretching 35 miles long and 9 miles wide with 96 villages total.  There are three categories of Beaujolais: (1) Beaujolais, (2) Beaujolais-Villages, (3) Beaujolais Cru.  (The latter being the highest quality.)  So all wines from this area are identified as one of these three categories.  Wine categorized as Beaujolais-Villages comes from one of 39 villages in the middle of the Beaujolais region and is often a blend of grapes from a few of the said villages.  In contrast, plain ol’ Beaujolais is made from “less distinguished” vineyards in the southern part of the Beaujolais region, and Beaujolais Cru is made from the 10 most distinguished villages.  (I smell future blog post diving into this topic a bit more.)

Tidbit extra of Wine Know: Beaujolais Nouveau is different than the Beaujolais wines… (another future blog post)… but don’t get it confused, Winos!

So hopefully you Wine Know a little more about Beaujolais in general.  If you run out to buy a bottle of Louis Jadot’s Beaujolais Villages, let me know what you think!

 

[Source for all Wine Know in this post is, unless otherwise stated, from: The Wine Bible.]

Divine Wine Sunday: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Observant Wino to Wine Know readers may have noticed that last week there was no Divine Wine Sunday post… and that this post did not get quite make it for a “Sunday” posting. My apologies for the inconsistency… But I hope you all will forgive me as I was on a short hiatus from consuming wine (or any alcohol) to begin 2012 with a clean start…. that and get over a lovely winter cold.  After my two week hiatus, however, I pulled out one of my “special” bottles of wine from my (fairly) recent Paso Robles roadtrip a few months back.  And today, on Divine Wine Sunday (err… Monday?), I am highlighting that delightful wine.

First, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a couple weeks without.  So when a good friend and fellow Wino invited me over for dinner, I thought, “Perfect! It is special wine time!”  As some of you may know from previous posts, I spent a few days in Paso Robles visiting a number of vineyards and tasting lots of great red wine.  I brought home about a case of wine and had yet to break any open…  Until this Pinot accompanied a delightful dinner…

Dive Wine of the Week: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir, Carmody McKnight Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Price Range: $34.00  from the winery, I have not seen it available in stores yet, but am on the look out.

Wino Assessment: This is no typical Pinot Noir.  I find that Pinots tend to be on the lighter side of red wines – very easy to drink with or without food.  But the Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir is a bit earthy but with a velvety finish.  It maintains the fruit flavors (maybe a bit of a jammy flavor) but is far less fruity than I expect a Pinot to be. From the first sip, I was immediately reminded why I enjoyed it so much (and therefore, took a bottle home).

The Grape: “Pinot” in French is “pine” and “noir” is “black”.  Pinot Noir grapes are black grapes that are clustered tightly together in a way that is similar to a pine cone. While it is grown around the world, it is most commonly associated with the Burgundy region of France.  (So next time you have a recipe calling for a Burgundy type wine, you could probably pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir if it is more convenient!)  The Pinot Noir grape has lots of clones – nearly twice as many as the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon grape in France.  This is due to the fact that Pinot Noir grapes are prone to mutations, and after many many years of cultivating these grapes, the best of the best are cloned and planted in vineyards around the world.

The Wine: Pinot Noir is a very popular wine – it is grown all around the world, making it very accessible. It tends to be a light to medium bodied wine with cherry and raspberry flavors and aromas.  That said, Pinots tend to have a wide range of flavors, textures, and bouquets (all things discussed last week on Thoroughly Wino Thursdays: Let’s Talk About Taste!) Because of this wide array of flavors, aromas, textures, etc., Pinot Noir wines can often be difficult to identify.  So a few people commented on the “animal” category of flavors and aromas in last week’s post.  I’m here to pass along a little news for you… you may think you’re all that drinking your bottle of Burgundy and feeling very sophisticated.  But according to my favorite resource, The Oxford Companion to Wine, traditional Burgundy (region of France most commonly associated with Pinot Noir), is famous for its “farmyard’ aromas.  Yes.  It is true.  I think I’m going to have to go out and find a “traditional” bottle of Burgundy to blog about the farmyardiness flavors.

A couple of other fun facts about Pinot Noir as a wine.  It is typically lighter in color compared to other reds which has to do with the coloring matter of the grape skin.  It is also used in producing sparkling wine, including Champagne, as well as Rose wines.

So, what does Carmody McKnight say about their Pinot Noir?  Well, I don’t know!  Their website is operational, but the page that shows info on their specific wines is not working at present.  (Quite a shame for a winery’s website, eh!?!)  I did find this description for their 2006 bottle (I believe I had their 2007) on a different website:

Earthy with red and dark fruit aromas, good balance and nice finish.”

I fully agree!! The wine did have a great balance (which I think I better double check to ensure it means what I think it means… but in this case, I presume it means that from the beginning of the sip to the end of the sip, it holds its flavor in an even way).

!!UPDATE!! (February 3, 2012): The winery’s website is operational again, and I have pulled their description of this fine Pinot Noir.

“The most romantic of wines, our estate Pinot Noir is surprisingly opulent, yet elegant and velvety textured, with strawberry and berry-earthy savoriness in its overture. Blackberry and spicy plum vie for attention with black cherry and currant flavors, finishing in a final act of subtle tannins, a trace of toasty oak, and a silkiness that glides seductively over the palate.”

Regions: As previously stated, Pinot Noir is grown all around the world – particularly in many regions of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and North America.  Carmody McKnight is located in the Paso Robles area (about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles), and Pinot Noir is grown heavily there.  The Willamette Valley in Oregon is known for its Pinots… and perhaps you’ll find it interesting that Oregon is approximately the same latitude as that of Burgundy in France.

With that, I’ll leave you with a Pinot Noir fun fact and a couple of quotes that I enjoyed coming across in my “research”….

Pinot Noir Fun Fact: Around 2004-2006, Pinot Noirs became extremely popular, and many believe it has to do with the movie Sideways.  (A movie that I enjoyed for the wine factor, but the plot kinda weirded me out.)

Pinot Noir Quotes:

“[Pinot noir is] the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”  -Joel Fleischman, Vanity Fair

“[Pinot Noir is] sex in a glass.” -Sommelier Madeline Triffon

I’m guessing that if the content of this post didn’t make you want to run out and buy a bottle of Pinot right now, that these quotes might.  And if you find yourself facing a bottle of Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir, then get it and let me know what you think!!

[Source for all Wine Knowledge unless otherwise stated is from The Oxford Companion to Wine.]