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: Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling

Sweet white wine drinkers… this is post is for you!  And hey! Yeah you, red wine drinkers who think you don’t like sweet whites enough to keep reading! I recommend you read-on, Reader (as my 5-year old niece would say).  In his book, “The Wine Lover’s Cookbook”, Sid Goldstein says about rieslings…

“Riesling is one of the less-appreciated grape varietyals in the Western world. Considered one of the world’s great white wines since the nineteenth century, Riesling currently enjoys precious little popularity among American wine drinkers.”

Let’s add some worldliness to our palettes, and a little precious popularity to this wine while considering its potential delights!

Divine Wine: Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling, Mosel, Germany

Price: Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling, $35-40, Dr. L Riesling, $15-20

Wino Assessment: So I was preparing for a dinner party one day and had planned to make a recipe out of Karen MacNeil’s cookbook, “Wine, Food, & Friends”. The dish was a pork tenderloin with nectarine-apricot sauce and it recommended the meal be paired with  the Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling.  So I mosied on down to one of my favorite Phoenix wine shops (Sportsman’s) in pursuit of a riesling that may serve as a decent substitute for this pairing recommendation. After all, I never thought that of all the gazillion rieslings that are on the shelves out in the wine world, that I’d come across THE WINE that Ms. MacNeil recommended in her book. Especially not at this small wine store that probably carries only a dozen rieslings in total.  But, much to my giddy delight, right there on the riesling shelf was THE WINE…. Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling.  Now I don’t often go spending over $30 for a bottle of wine… but how could I go on knowing this wine was sitting on the shelf at my local wine shop and recommended by a world famous wine expert with the dish that I was making that evening for dinner? I couldn’t. So in my wine bag it went, along with that winery’s less expensive riesling.

There’s no doubt about it. This wine is sweet. Rieslings have their own classification/style designation that indicates their level of sweetness. This one is a Spätlese, which is one of the drier rieslings. But to me, and to the other Winos around the table, this wine still tasted very sweet. What was interesting to me was the complexity of the wine despite its sweetness. While almost like liquid sugar, it also maintained a sort of crispness that reminded me of honeydew melon.  There were lots of soft peach and apricot flavors in it as well.  So while I ordinarily don’t love sweet wines, I feel that this one piqued my interest in sweet white wines, especially when paired with the right dish. The Dr. L Riesling was also sweet but seemed to have more of that crisp fruit flavor to it. Both went down very easily!

Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten RieslingWinemaker’s Tasting Notes: I couldn’t find many tasting notes from the winery itself, but here are tasting notes from www.wine.com:

“Peach, mango and a hint of honey on the nose. The sweet, but austere peach flavor with its subtle spiciness is highlighted by the slate. Well-balanced, extremely elegant and nicely persistent.”

 

Dr. L Riesling

Dr. L Riesling

The Dr. L Riesling is described by the winery as:

“Citrus blossom, lime, and crushed stone aromas are followed by apple and citrus flavors in this just-slightly-sweet wine.”

Again, perhaps relative to other rieslings, both of these may not be terribly sweet. But if you pick up a bottle, expect it to be a sweet white wine with lots of citrus and melon flavors.

Diving Wine Bite: Riesling generally pairs well with sweet or spicy dishes. That goes back to the pair sweet wine flavors to sweet food flavors, or complement the spicy factory in a dish with the sweet wine. So rieslings tend to go well with Asian or Latin dishes. As noted above, I enjoyed this wine with pork tenderloin with the nectarine-apricot sauce, which included some jalepeño. This sweet flavors in the sauce aligned nicely to the sweet flavors of the wine, while the spicy factor with the jalepeño served as a contrast to the riesling. It was a great pairing!

Give either of these bottles a try! Let me know what you think! And let me know if you have other rieslings that you’ve enjoyed!

Divine Wine Sunday: Kung Fu Girl Riesling

Winos – let’s be honest.  A lot of times we pick a wine out at the wine shop not because of the vintage or our Wine Know regarding that region or varietal or anything of the sort.  We pick it because of the label.  And THAT is exactly why I picked up Kung Fu Girl Riesling.

After I got home and looked at the label a little more closely, I realized this wine is made by a winery with which I’m already familiar – Charles Smith Wines. I’ve tried their Boom Boom Shiraz (at La Grande Orange in Phoenix and elsewhere) and their Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon (at Kazimierz in Scottsdale) – the latter being one of my favorite wines, but both I enjoyed immensely.  Ordinarily, I think of Rieslings as overly sweet and – not having a sweet tooth when it comes to wine – I do not usually seek it out.  However, earlier this week, I was talking with Sister Kai (my actual sister, not a nun) who commented on how she enjoys Rieslings… AND I read something about how Rieslings pair with many different types of food.  So I took it as two indicators of needing to study up a bit on Rieslings.  And when I came across one from a winery that I knew I liked, it just seemed that the stars had aligned.

Diving Wine of the Week: Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, WA

Price Range: $9.99 at Sunflower Market and other grocery stores, $12.00 from Charles Smith Wines

Wino Assessment…

I approach Rieslings with a bit of an attitude to start – primarily because of that presumed sweetness factor that I previously mentioned.  But if I had to guess what Kung Fu Girl was on a blind taste test, I probably would have guessed a Pinot Grigio.  The wine had flavors of apples and peaches or apricots and was very light and delicious.  Cousin K enjoyed the bottle with me and she has a similar feeling regarding Rieslings.  But for the sake of the blog, she went with it, and we both were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the wine was. Overall, it was light and easy to drink – it was sweet, but not sugary sweet – it was appley sweet… which was lovely.

The Grape…

Riesling grapes originate in Germany and have “been arguably the world’s most undervalued” grape. (The Oxford Companion to Wine) What makes the Riesling grape so impressive is its ability to not lose its unique style as a wine while allowing a winery to place its own characteristics on the end product.  The Riesling vine itself is extremely “cold-hardy” meaning it can withstand colder temperatures than most vines – convenient in its home (cold) region of Germany.  The difficult growing conditions in which Riesling grapes ripen results in the acid-sugar balance that is so uniquely Riesling-esque.  (The Wine Avenger)

The Wine…

According to The Wine Avenger, “no grape, white or red, goes better with more foods than Riesling.”  I was pretty surprised to read that as I would never have paired a Riesling with any food, quite frankly.  But The Wine Avenger also notes that Riesling is the most misunderstood wine.  The alcohol levels in Rieslings are below average, and the wines can range from dry to “opulently sweet”. (The Wine Avenger)  In fact, most Rieslings are around 8% alcohol content compared to about 13% for Chardonnays.  Depending on the wine-making process, most Rieslings are busting with flavor due to their “high acidity, high extract, and low alcohol levels”. (The Wine Bible)

As stated, I always associate these wines with über-sweetness, but Kung Fu Girl – while sweet in a fruity way – was not über-sweet.  (Do you like my use of a German word in the post about wine originating from the Germanic regions!?!).  I would indeed go and get another bottle of this wine to enjoy it on multiple occasions.

In general, Riesling typically has flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, and melons, and sometimes a mineral-like quality (The Wine Bible).  But what does Charles Smith have to say about Kung Fu Girl?

“A long cool awesome vintage. Heightened minerality. White stone fruit, you know, apricot, nectarine, peach also satsuma and lime leaves. This girl is kickass as ever! We love Riesling from Evergreen Vineyard in The Ancient Lakes area of the Columbia Valley AVA.”

90pts Wine Spectator

“Vivid, distinctive and immensely appealing for its juicy Winesap apple, apricot and citrus flavors, finishing with zing to balance the sweetness.”

Ummm… I’d just like to remind you Winos that I always write my assessment before looking up what the winery or world-wide-web says about a wine that I’m blogging about.  And can I just say that apples, apricots, and peaches were ALL in my description!?! (Having a proud moment here…)

The Region…

Riesling’s home is Germany and is very popular in Austria and Alsace (which is the French side of the Franco-German border).  But Kung Fu Girl comes from Columbia Valley in Washington State.  This state is known for its “bright fruit and relatively crisp acidity” in wines (The Oxford Companion to Wine).  White grapes are the most commonly planted grapes in the state, and Rieslings in particular do especially well.  The region in general prides itself on high value wines for less than high dollar (something most of us Winos appreciate).

 

I especially hope you all give this wine a try as it was surprisingly delicious in my humble Wino opinion (for Ms. Snodgrass, that abbreviation is IMHWO).  If you do, let me know what you think!

 

[Source for all Wine Know, unless otherwise stated, is The Oxford Companion to Wine.]