Archive for the ‘Wine Studies’ Category

Wine Study – Viognier

This wine study is about a wine that is becoming quite popular and more familiar to us. It is….Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay). The grape emerged in southern France around the mid-1960s, and is the only variety of grape allowed in the Condrieu appellation in the Rhône Valley. Any bottle originating from Condrieu is totally Viognier. Outside of the Rhône but within Europe, you can find Viognier in some areas of Italy and Spain. Throughout the New World you can find Viognier being grown in the USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Since the 1990s it is the rapid increase in Viognier plantings in California and Australia that has helped emerge the wine onto the world stage. In addition to California, only a handful of USA states are planting Viognier, and luckily for us, Colorado is one of them! In fact, Viognier is one of the top white wine grapes being grown here.

Viognier is usually produced dry, is generally medium-bodied, and can range from low to high acidity depending on where the grape is grown. It is usually high in alcohol (above 13%) and is consumed young…within 2-4 years of vintage. The wine typically has medium-intensity aromas of peach, pear, minerality, and floral characteristics. On the palate these same characteristics hold true, as well as notes of honeysuckle and overripe apricot. It is the terroir that really affects Viognier’s features, as the grape requires a long, warm growing season but not a climate that is too hot.

I sampled 5 Viogniers for this wine study. One from Colorado’s Book Cliff Vineyards (Please note: many other Colorado wineries produce exceptional Viogniers, but I happened to be near the winery to purchase a bottle, so used them in my study. Additionally, they use Colorado grown grapes for their Viogniers and I wanted to ensure I was sampling CO grapes for my comparisons), one from California, Chile, Australia, and France.

Here are my results….All the wines were above 13% alcohol with a vintage year of 2014 (with the exception of CA, it was 2012). All were light straw in color. On the nose all were medium in intensity with aromas of primarily pear and floral. Some wines also had notes of honeysuckle, peach, and mineral. On the palate most had low to medium levels of acidity, with the exception of the Chilean wine, which was quite crisp. The general tastes were pear, peach, honeysuckle, floral, ripe apricot, and mineral.

In the blind tasting it was Colorado that received first place! I must say I was extremely excited by this, and proves that Colorado produces great wine and can compete against other wine regions!! Second place went to Chile, third to California, fourth to Australia, and last to France.

I hope you will purchase a few bottles of Viognier to try this new and different white wine and conduct your own wine study. And, the next time you are visiting a Colorado winery….ask to try their Viognier, I think you will be glad you did!!

Read more

Wine Studies – Pinot Gris

If people were asked to name the most consumed white wine, I’m sure they would answer: Chardonnay. This grape is so versatile, can grow in just about any wine region, and I’m sure has been sampled by anyone reading my blog. Therefore, I’m going to skip over Chardonnay and talk about Chardonnay’s competitor….Pinot Gris/Grigio.

Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir and has a long history in eastern France. But in the Old World (considered Europe’s wine regions) it is Italy who stands out as a top producer of Pinot Gris (for them, Grigio). In the New World (any wine region outside of Europe) it is Oregon that has replaced many of its Chardonnay vines with Pinot Gris, and of course California is a top producer as well.

The wine can be quite diverse based on its terrior (refers to the natural effects of land, soil, climate, growing season, and conditions in a particular area) and the winemaker. In the glass, the color ranges from almost clear to a light gold. On the nose, its aromas can be subtle to pronounced. Aromas can range from delicate apple or pear fruit smells to more complex aromas of mineral, honeysuckle and musk. On the palate those aromas can come alive and also include apricot, peach, and tropical fruits. The wine can vary from medium to high acidity, usually with medium body, and most are produced dry.

I compared 4 wines. In my experience, tasting 4-5 wines from various regions offers the ability to experience the diversity (or similarity) in the grape and the winemakers’ styles. Unfortunately Colorado is not a big producer of Pinot Gris, so I sampled wines from northeastern Italy, Wiliamette, OR (I was never sure how to pronounce this until I saw a t-shirt that said “It’s Willamette, dammit”!), and Monterey County and Sonoma Coast, CA. It was quite interesting the variety of the wines.

Here are my results…the wine from Italy received the #1 spot. It balanced both earthy and fruit tastes with minerality, was dry with medium body, high acidity, and offered complexity (more flavors representing themselves after swallowing). Next were the 2 wines from CA, although the Somona wine offered more crisp acidity and well-balanced fruit and mineral tastes, and I felt was complex for a CA Pinot Gris, which can sometimes be soft on the palate without a lot of tastes and aromas. With OR being a top USA producer, I was surprised that its wine came in last. The reasoning behind its last place finish, was that it tasted more like a Chardonnay than a Pinot Gris. What is interesting to note, is that legally a wine only has to contain 75% of the grape on the label, so maybe the other 25% was Chardonnay, and that is what stood out in the flavors?? In defense of Oregon’s Pinot Gris, while in OR a few years ago I sampled some phenomenal wines and believed them to be quite delicious.

So try a sampling of Pinot Gris for yourself and let me know your thoughts!

Read more

WINE STUDIES – Getting Organzied

Over the past few months I have continued my exploration and studies about wine. Several years ago I had decided to learn more about wines instead of simply enjoying them and that is what actually began my journey to writing Exploring Colorado Wineries – Guidebook & Journal. Between organizing the first and second editions of the book, I earned my Level 2 Sommelier certification and enjoyed that learning experience. I thought it would be fun, and hopefully interesting to you, to blog about my new wine studies. So throughout 2016 I will be sharing my experiences with you.

In my opinion, the first “rule” of wine study is TO TAKE NOTES so you can reference and remember what you have tasted. It is important to create a “tasting journal” that acts as your library of information and a “tasting form” so you can evaluate each wine in the same manner.

My “TASTING JOURNAL” is a 3-ring binder divided into several sections. Each division represents a major wine region of the world. My tabs are: France, Italy, Germany, Spain/Portugal, Other Old World, Australia, South America, Other New World, and USA, which is again divided into Colorado, NW area (CA, OR, WA) and Other USA. You can further divide each section into Reds and Whites if you choose. Within the region, I alphabetize each wine tasted by its grape. While this may seem overkill it helps me be able to locate tasted wines and information easily.

If you think the sections in my journal are overly organized, wait til you learn about my “TASTING FORM!” This is a combination of a form from my original studies as well as the form used by the International Sommelier Guild, where I took my course. The most important aspect of your “tasting form” is to use the same form with each wine you taste so your recordings and observations are consistent.

The first part of the form has basic information – Grape, Region, Vineyard, Year, Alcohol %, Date Purchased, Where Purchased, and Price. This information can be extremely helpful if you want to purchase that wine again. I also have an open area where I paste the label. There are 2 types of labels – those that easily come off the bottle when soaked in a little warm water and those that are made of paper and just rip. You will soon discover which labels are easily removed and which are not! I always make a photocopy of the label prior to trying to remove it from the bottle.

The remainder of the form is the tasting descriptions. Color, Aroma/Bouquet, and Taste are the main items. When describing Taste try to be as specific as possible. List all the fruit tastes, other tastes (like chocolate, smoky, grassy, floral), whether the wine is sweet or dry, high or low in tannin or acidity, and what is its body. Then give the wine a grade (using either an A-F or 1-5 system) and the date you tasted it. I also have a section for Overall Comments. If you have my book, in the Tasting Section I provide a list of descriptive words to assist you, or the Wine Aroma Wheel can be helpful as well. If you want to be even more descriptive you can add information about the wine’s balance, complexity, trueness to type, and what food the wine would pair with.

So get yourself organized, create your binder and your tasting form, and begin YOUR wine studies. The next blog will be about Viognier…one of Colorado’s signature grapes.

Read more