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: Norton Malbec Reserva

Yes, yes.  I know that the category of these posts are “Diving Wine Sunday” and that I keep ending up with “Divine Wine Monday“, but I’m going to keep aiming to get these posts out on Sunday….  until then, I hope you all find Mondays just as valuable to learn about Divine Wine!

I thought it was about time to post a Divine Wine that one can get just about anywhere. I’ve tried this one a number of times, but most recently after a long, busy day and – as weird as it sounds to say this about a bottle of wine – it really “hit the spot“!

Divine Wine of the Week: Norton Malbec Reserva 2008, Bodega Norton Winery, Mendoza, Argentina

Norton Reserva Malbec 2008

Price Range: $13.99 at Costco, $11-15 at most Grocery Stores

Wino Assessment…

I have found this wine consistently pleasant to drink.  I would say this is a medium-bodied red that may have flavors in the “Herbs and Spices” type category (as discussed in “Lets Talk About Wine, Part I“), but it has a nice finish – there is no “bite” or tartness.  Quite frankly, it goes down easy!  I prefer to let it “breathe” (or to decant it) for about 20 minutes before drinking (though this doesn’t always happen for this eager Wino).  When I don’t have time to run to a proper wine store, the Norton Malbec is a standard purchase for me at the grocery (or, of course, at Costco).

The Grape…

Malbec is a black grape and has become heavily associated with Argentinian wines.  It is also grown in France, where it is referred to as the “Cot” grape.  Cot is the dominant grape in the Cahors region in southwest France but has been planted less and less over the years.  Malbec grapes typically make up less than 10% of French blends, whereas Argentinian wines often use 100% Malbec (or majority Malbec) in many wines. Malbec-grown grapes tend to be more “ripe and lush” in comparison to French grown Malbec, which may explain the difference in popularity between wines made of the same grape but from different regions of the world. (The Oxford Companion to Wine)

The Wine…

Argentinian Malbecs “can make wines of surprising grip, depth, and velvety texture”. (The Wine Bible) [Wino Note:…I think that wine glossary is really in need… I’m not sure what “grip” really means when describing a wine.]  The Wine Bible highlights this wine in particular and says,

“Among all of Argentina’s moderate to low-priced wines, those of Bodega Norton stand out for being consistently satisfying.  Though simple and rustic, the malbec is full of flavor of juicy red berries and aromas that suggest smoked meats.”

I think “rustic” really does fit in this description.  I’m not sure I can yet articulate synonyms for “rustic” but if you try it, I think you’ll understand!

If you have ever dined at any Argentinian restaurant, you know that meats are a staple in the Argentinian diet.  In fact, Argentina has the highest beef consumption in the world at 103 pounds per person in a year.  Wowsers! (To compare, the U.S. ranks third highest with 69 pounds per person per year.) Anyway, with all that steak, one must have a sturdy wine to accompany it.  And which wine do you think Argentinians prefer?  Malbec! 

The Region…

Here’s an interesting fun fact… Argentina’s wine region is located in the west central part the country which maintains an elevation of up to 4,900 feet.  And guess what, Winos… that is unusual! This is some of the world’s highest altitude for grape growing.  (If you’re wondering whether or not Chile is a close second, it is not.  Chile’s wine region is on the coast and much lower in elevation. )  Argentina’s wine region is “semidesert-like” with nearly 320 of sun per year with little rainfall. What difference does this make? Well, the dry air helps the vines avoid diseases – a definite benefit.  However, with all that dryness, grape growers have to rely on irrigation to maintain the vines.  And, instead of steadily watering the vines, Argentina’s irrigation system has been used to flood the vines, which results in lots of grapes. This was more common in the 1970s, but since then the “watering” of the vines is not longer quite so excessive.

 

So now we all Wine Know a little more about Malbecs of Argentina.  Consider checking out this very reasonably priced red wine that is readily available all over the place.  …And let the rest of us Winos know what you think!

 

[All Wine Know – and beef consumption stats – are 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.]

Thoroughly Wino Thursday: Let’s Talk About Taste – Part I of II

All of us Winos have been there… that moment when you go out with other friends who like wine, and seem to know a little something about it.  You feel good about checking out the wine menu… you pick one out confidently.  The server brings it to your table and you reach for your glass to take a sip.  You look up… and then it happens.  Your seemingly Wine Know friend is swirling that glass more comfortably than you… they’re more willing to take a big ol’ sniff of that wine while there in public… they swish their first sip – maybe even second – in their mouth… and there you have it.  Your Wine Know confidence is shot and you’ve just downgraded yourself back to a Wino.

This Wino knows that self-wine-doubt… So I figured some tips on tasting wine should be shared.  There are essentially four key areas to consider when tasting wine: Aroma, Body, Texture, and Flavor.  Today on Thoroughly Wino Thursday, we’re only going to get into Aroma and Flavor.  Next week (Let’s Talk About Taste – Part II of II), we’ll take a look at Body and Texture.

Aroma

There are a couple of parts to getting the sense of a wine’s aroma.  You can start with the swirl of the wine glass – it helps aerate the wine, which I like to think of as a bit of a “loosening up”.  (Just try not to get carried away and swirl that wine right out of your glass.  That’s embarrassing. – or so I hear.)

After swirling, get your nose in there and sniff that wine.  Don’t sniff it as if the aroma is wafting its way towards you.  Seriously get your nose in the glass and take a handful of small sniffs.  “Sniffing creates tiny air currents in the nose that carry aroma molecules up to the nerve receptors and ultimately to the brain for intpretation.” (The Wine Bible)

Now here’s the hard part.  Articulating that which you just sniffed.  The Wine Bible suggests not trying to think of what that aroma is, but to run through a list of possibilities in your mind.  We human creatures seem to have difficulty in our current evolutionary state with verbally articulating smell.  “Scientists call this the “tip of the nost phenomenon.” Smell, they hypothesize, is elusive because it is the most primitive of the senses.  … smell is not easily grasped by the verbal-semantic parts of the brain.” (The Wine Bible)  So true, right? We always say things like, “that smells like…”.  Nothing has its own smell.  Except maybe roses… which I hear is what my breath smells like early in the morning.

Here’s a little nugget of Wine Knowledge regarding wine terms… “aroma” and “bouquet” are often used interchangeably in the wine world.  But they actually are two different things.  Aroma indicates the smell of the grape, while bouquet should be used to identify the smell of the wine once it has matured or evolved in the bottle.   Next time you pop open a bottle, be sure to say something like, “My, oh my, this wine’s bouquet is lovely!”

Flavor

The flavor of a wine may prove to be just as difficult to articulate as the smell.  Basically, one may want to be able to articulate the flavor so that the wine can be remembered.  I have so many memories of enjoying a bottle of wine… and while I can almost taste the wine from my memory, I would have difficulty describing it to anyone. As noted above, it may be easier to start with a general list of potential flavors so you can pick and choose familiar descriptors, and from there it will be easier to come up with something that may not be on your flavor list.  Everyone’s flavor list may be different, but I’ve copied a starter list from The Wine Bible to help get you started.  In general, I like this approach… I feel like many of the words below are often used on the back of bottles.

One thing my wine sipping sister likes to do describe a wine using her own words before reading the description on the back of the bottle.  Then she can see how her assessment matches up to that of the winemaker. It’s a great way to better understand your own preferences… I suppose in many ways, that is what Divine Wine Sundays are all about as well!

The below list of descriptions for Flavors and Aromas are taken directly out of The Wine Bible.

Flavors and Aromas of White Wines

Fruits:

Fresh – apple, apricot, banana, coconut, fig, grapefruit, lemon, lime, litchi, melon, dried orange peel, peach, pear, pineapple;

Cooked – baked apple, baked pear

Butter and Cream: Butter, butterscotch, caramel, cream, custard

Vegetables: Asparagus, bell pepper, green beans, olives

Grains and Nuts: Almond, biscuit, bread dough, brioche, hazelnut, roasted nut, yeast

Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, white pepper

Flowers: Gardenia, geranium, honeysuckle, rose

Earth: Chalk, flint, grass, hay, minerals, stone, straw

Barrel Aromas and Flavors: Oak, toast, vanilla

Other Aromas and Flavors: Honey, gasoline, rubber boot

 

Flavors and Aromas of Red Wines

Fruits:

Fresh – blackberry, black currant, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, dried orange peel, plum, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry

Cooked – baked blackberry, baked cherry, baked raspberry, jam, prunes

Vegetables: Asparagus, bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms, olives, truffle

Chocolate and Coffee: Bitter chocolate, cocoa, milk chocolate, mocha, coffee, espresso

Spices and Herbs: Black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, mint, spiced tea

Tobacco: Cigar box, pipe tobacco, smoke

Flowers: Geranium, rose, violet

Earth: Cedar, damp earth, dried leaves, eucalyptus, forest floor, gravel, pine, stone

Animal: Barnyard, horse blanket, manure, sweat

Barrel Aromas and Flavors: Oak, toast, vanilla

Other Aromas and Flavors: Cola, game, leather, tar, tea, worn boot

 

Next time I taste a wine that I might describe as “asparagus like” or “like a worn boot”, you can be sure that I’ll post about that wine!!  Do you have any other wine flavor and aroma words that you often use in describing a wine??