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?!

Divine Wine Sunday: La Crema

A few years back during a lovely dinner party, someone pulled out a bottle of La Crema Chardonnay.  And I remember it distinctly – mostly because white wines do not usually make a memorable impression on me.  Sure, I like white wines and drink them regularly.  But for whatever reason, reds typically leave me wanting more than white wines do.  However, I remember so clearly sitting around the dinner table with many good friends, and taking a sip of this Chardonnay and thinking, “wow – this is lovely.”  Since then, I have enjoyed La Crema on multiple Chardonnay occasions… but it’s time to Wine Know a little more about it….

Divine Wine of the Week: La Crema Chardonnay, La Crema Winery, Sonoma Coast, CA

La Crema Chardonnay

Price Range: $15-20 in a wine store (it is available at most grocery stores, World Market, and even Costco), $22 from the winery

Wino Assessment…

What I like the most about La Crema Chardonnay is while it has some soft fruit or flowery flavors, its buttery and smooth finish is what makes it interesting.  I think it would go well salmon or any fish, but also with a steak.  I would not necessarily just sip this one without food – it seems like it would be best with a little something to bring out its flavor.

The Grape…

Chardonnay grapes are originally from the Burgundy region of France and is now one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world – it seems it is essentially planted everywhere that grapes are grown.  It makes up approximately 40% of the white grape vines planted in California and is the second most widely planted white grape in France. Chardonnay grapes are often used in making Champagne – often combined with Pinot Noir grapes.  In the Chablis region of France, Chardonnay grapes are the only grapes permitted in making white wines within the European Union “wine laws” (I put that in quotes because I believe there is a more proper name for said laws).  So basically, if you say, “I’ll take a glass of Chablis!”,  you’re really saying, “I’ll take a glass of Chardonnay from Chablis in France!”

The grape is generally easy to grow and is highly resistant to vine diseases.  It is not especially flavorful in and of itself, which means that a  winemaker has a lot of control in a wine’s taste via the winemaking process (see next section).  And in general, as a wine, Chardonnay is extremely popular, making it a relatively easy sell for winemakers.  “A typical Chardonnay winemaker is more chemist than vitner.”  (The Wine Avenger) That might be a harsh assessment, but when you read below, you may feel the same!

The Wine…

Two things primarily affect the flavor of Chardonnay grapes when turning them into wine.

(1) Malolactic Fermentation (yes – there will eventually be a wine word guide on Wino to Wine Know – this Wino can’t keep up!). According to my good friend, Wikipedia, “Malolactic fermentation (or sometimes malolactic conversion or MLF) is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.”  So, now that we know that, we know that the wines that go through that fermentation process have a more buttery taste, and those that do not go through the fermentation process have a crisper appley taste.  My guess is that the La Crema Chardonnay does indeed have some MLF happening (look at me already abbreviating my new favorite winemaking verbiage!).

(2) Barrel Choice:  There are generally three types of barrels used in wine making – stainless steel, used oak, or new oak. (The Wine Avenger).  Chardonnay is typically made in oak, and the flavor of the wine is highly dependent on how much that oak barrel was charred.  With a highly charred barrel, the wine will be rather “toasty”.  Other flavors tasted when drinking a glass of Chardonnay that come from the oak of the barrel include caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. (“New World Chardonnay”, The Wine Spectator)

So what we’ve learned so far is that Chardonnay grapes are grown all over the world, and the taste of a Chardonnay wine is really more dependent on both the maloactic fermentation process and its barrel rather than the grape itself.  I find this very interesting and feel that if I ever venture to make my own little barrel of wine, that perhaps I should start with Chardonnay!

What does La Crema Winery say about its Chardonnay?  “The 2009 vintage of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay opens with an intriguing interplay of lively citrus and subtle toasted oak, laced with just a kiss of butterscotch. The palate is round and nutty, with flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness, while well-balanced acidity creates a lovely vibrancy. Hints of vanilla and caramel add richness and texture to a long, fresh finish.”  (La Cream Winery)

Woot!  I feel like my Wino assessment was pretty close to the winemaker’s assessment! (Again, I write the Wino Assessment prior to my Wino research).  Of course, the winemaker has a much better and expansive selection of words, but I think “buttery” is close to “butterscotch” when speaking about wine flavors, and “soft fruit” is similar enough to “flavors of yellow apple and orange adding lushness.”.  Am I stretching too much??

Regions…

As previously stated, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  In the North America, it immensely popular in California, but is also grown in New York, Washington State, and Oregon.  Canada also grows Chardonnay (Canadian wine?? Hmm… I smell a future blog post.)  In Europe it is most popular in France.  And in other regions of the world it can be found in Australia, New Zealand, and South America.  Basically, if you’re seeking out some Chardonnay vines, just go to any wine country region of the world and you’re likely to find it.

So La Crema, in this Wino’s book, is indeed a Divine Wine! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]