Wine Studies Level 1-A Little Bit of Everything

In my quest to learn more about the world of wine I have started taking the Wine Studies courses offered in the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center at Boston University. Since I am currently working on my Master’s in Gastronomy I can actually take these classes for credit, which makes a lot of people I know pretty jealous. As fun as it sounds to take a class where you get to try a bunch of wine, these classes are quite intensive and very educational. So, I have decided to start a new blog series where I will chronicle my experiences class by class.

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The first class of Level 1, The Fundamentals of Wine, consisted of a little bit of everything, we discussed topics ranging from a brief history of wine, to the differences between alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, t0 how to actually taste a wine. That last bit was particularly useful because up until now I have literally just been doing what various books I have read told me to do when tasting. One fun fact that I found singularly interesting is that white wine was much more popular in the United States until 1991, when 60 Minutes aired “The French Paradox” hypothesizing that because the French diet contains high amounts of cheese and red wine they are at a decreased the risk for heart disease. They made such a convincing argument that Americans started to buy red wine by the case. I can certainly get behind that logic.

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The second half of class consisted of wine tasting, which is the exciting part. I will do my best to recreate the experience below, enjoy!

  1. 2015 Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $13: This wine was quite a nice surprise for the price point. It had a clear, pale greenish silvery hue and was fairly aromatic, with the under-ripe pear being quite prevalent, yet there were still elements of citrus, apple, and a bit of tropical fruit (which is a sign of a pretty young wine) as well as the slightest hint of grassy aromas. It is a dry wine with quite a bit of sourness, but that is balanced with a lemony-like bitterness. There is also a little bit of spritz to this wine, which makes it very nice and refreshing.
  2. 2014 Cambria Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, $20: This was a very typical oak-aged California Chardonnay, so if you like that, then you’d love this wine. It has the typical medium deep yellow hue that you would expect from a Chardonnay aged in oak. It is quite aromatic with a lot of buttery and vanilla aromas, imparted by the oak, as well as ripe peach and apricots. A nicely balanced wine with a bit of viscosity because of the higher alcohol percentage, which leaves a little bit of heat in your mouth after the wine is gone.
  3. 2015 Domaine Les Hautes Cances Cairanne Rosé, Côtes du Rhône Villages, $18: I Love a good Rosé. In fact, I am drinking one right now! I would describe this wine as a pale pink/blush/salmon color. It is not as aromatic as the first two, which made it a bit difficult to pick out the aromas but there was definitely more of a berry sent here, cherries, strawberry and raspberry, with a hint of herbal aromas. This wine is probably a Grenache or potentially a blend of Grenache with Syrah. It is pretty dry and a slight amount of sourness which is balanced by the astringency. It is my kind of Rosé.
  4.   2011 Chateau Simon Sauternes, $21: This wine gains its sweetness from a wine making process that utilizes rotting grapes. To make it sound less gross they call it “noble rot”. It is a fungus that grows on grapes that have experienced particularly damp conditions then exposed to drier conditions. What it does is create a much more concentrated sweet wine, perfect to pair with dessert. It is very deep gold in color and extremely aromatic with aromas of very ripe peach, toast, vanilla, and honey. AllI wanted when tasting this wine was some crème brûlée to go with it.
  5. 2015 Cheysson Chiroubles, Cru Beaujolais, $20: There are a few interesting things about this wine, first is that it was fermented in a process called carbonic maceration, which is where the stems are removed but then the entire uncrushed berry is fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment. This process will sometimes present itself in the wine with hints of bubblegum, in general the wine will be fruity with low tannins. The other interesting thing about Beaujolais is that it goes with so many different foods, which is why people like to drink it at Thanksgiving. This light-bodied ruby-colored wine has a lot going on aromatically speaking. There are all sorts of fruity sents, as well as hints of tobacco, baking spices, and even bubblegum. Despite it’s fruitiness it is surprisingly dry and lovely.
  6. 2014 St. Innocent Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Pinot Noir is an extremely versatile red wine. It pairs well with anything from salmon to lamb. This example from Oregon is a medium ruby, almost garnet hue. It is fairly aromatic with notes of cherry, vanilla, spice, and a lot of earth. It is fairly sour on the palate but the astringent quality and slightly mineral flavors balance it pretty well.
  7. 2012 Muga Rioja Reserva, $30: Last, but definitely not least, is one of my favorites, Tempernillo! this wine screams Rioja with its dark garnet color, and its notes of dried fruit, earth, tobacco, and oak. It was aged in American oak, which is sometimes more popular for this style because it is more flavorful than french oak. This is a dry and slightly astringent wine that wants a nice steak to go with it.
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