The second class focused mainly on the different grape varieties. Not all the different varietals because there are thousands, of course, but the most well known and distinctive. All of the grapes covered are known as Vitis vinifera grape varieties. Vitis vinifera is actually the genus and species name of these grapes. For those of you interested in etymology, vitis is the latin word for vine. Vinifera is a bit more interesting as it is a combination of two words, vinum meaning wine and ferus meaning wild or untamed. Just by looking at the breakdown of these two words you can understand what exactly a Vitis vinifera grape is, one of the indigenous species of grapes that were growing prior to any sort of cultivation in Europe. Among this illustrious classification are many favorites: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, and one of my personal favorites Sangiovese.
For this class we tasted all what are referred to as Vertical Wines, or wines that are made from a single varietal of grape. Something that can be actually quite confusing about wine labels is that the label can say Pinot Noir, for example, and not be made up of 100% Pinot Noir. The regulations on this vary from country to country. In the United States the wine only has to be made up of 75% Pinot Noir in order for the bottle to carry that label, in Europe the rule is 85%. Quite often the back label will indicate the percentages of different grapes used, however, not always. If the wine has the label of a certain Vitis vinifera grape it is meant to be an indicator of the style of wine, and what you might expect when you buy that bottle.
The tasting notes of these varieties of grapes will tell you what you might expect when buying a bottle of this type from a certain region.
- 2015 Paul Nicolle, Chablis (France) “Vieilles Vignes” Chardonnay $20: The color of this wine is a clear, pale greenish tint. It is not very aromatic except for the smell of alcohol on the nose, although from what I could smell there was a lot of green apple, and a bit of earthiness. It is a quite dry wine and sour. You can definitely tell this wine has a higher alcohol content by the medium body. Although Chardonnay is grown all over the world, the cooler climate of Chablis produces a more interesting wine because the vine retains more acidity which balances the naturally soft texture of the grape.
- 2015 Twelfth Night, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $13: Let me start by saying that I much preferred the Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough that we tasted last week to this one. It is a clear, pale sort of silvery greenish color. This one is quite aromatic and has a rather strong grapefruit and petrol aroma, along with some vegetal and grassy notes. It is dry and very sour, slightly bitter and the alcohol is kind of high.
- 2011 Mönchhof, Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling, Kabinett (Germany) $24: Rieslings are hit or miss for me, since I always prefer the dry wines. This one was quite good, a clear pale straw yellow color, and aromatic. The initial strong aroma was that of petrol, then the more I smelled the more the peach and floral aromas came out. This wine was kind of in the middle of being dry and sweet, which was balanced by a bit of sourness. It did not taste anything like the petrol aromas I got at first and had quite a long finish.
- 2011 Colterenzio, Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige (Italy) $15: Like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio is another grape that is grown all over the place but takes on characteristics depending on where it is produced. Italian Pinot Grigio is mostly fermented at a cool temperature in stainless steal, and bottled after a short maturation period, generally with no oak aging. Depending on location it is also called Pinot Gris. This wine is a clear medium greenish-yellow color. It is semi-aromatic and has aromas of apple, white pepper, and some pungency. It is dry and a bit sour and bitter. The higher alcohol content makes it tactile in the mouth.
- 2014 Marc Bredif Vouvray “Classic” Chenin Blanc (France) $20: Chenin Blanc originates in the Loire Valley and normally presents characteristics of high acidity and earthiness. This wine is a medium green/straw yellow color, and has aromas of apple, pear, vegetation, earth, and a hint of honey. It is dry to medium and is both sour and bitter. In the mouth the pear and peach are evident. The wine is well balanced with a medium finish. Overall a very medium wine.
- 2011 Santa Rita, Cabernet Sauvignon “Medalla Real” Chile, $19: This Cab is a medium ruby color with hints of brown. It is aromatic with notes of cherry, black currant, oak, and some earth and vegetation. It is dry and sour, which is nicely balanced by hints of bitterness and astringency. The earthiness comes across much more in the mouth, as well as some smokey flavors
- 2013 Matanzas Creek, Merlot, Sonoma (California) $28: Merlot is often very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is generally softer with rounder tannins. A clear medium ruby color. The wine is semi-aromatic with jammy raspberry and blackberry notes prominent, and hints of chocolate, oak, and buttered popcorn. This dry wine has a bit of sourness and bitterness, balanced by the medium body and semi-high alcohol content.
- 2013 Chateau D’Antigny, Pommard (France) Pinot Noir, $45: This wine is a pale garnet, with more of a ruby hue toward the rim. It is not very aromatic with notes of cherry, oak, and spice somewhat detectable. It is dry and sour, balanced by a slight bitterness. A nice light example of a French Pinot Noir.
- 2013 Lone Birch Syrah, Yakima Valley (Washington) $13: Syrah is another one of those grapes that sometimes goes by another name, Shiraz. Typically when you see Syrah on the label you can expect something that is a little more earthy and vegetal, with more acidity and tannins. This wine is a deep purple and very aromatic, with lots of berry notes, coffee grinds, and a bit leathery. The palate has a little bit of everything, slightly sweet, sour, bitter, and astringent. In the mouth, in addition to the berry flavors, there is a hint or two of chocolate. This is a nicely full bodied wine with a medium long finish.
- 2012 Produttori del Barbaresco, Italy, Nebbiolo $40: So we ran out of time in class to actually taste this wine and take notes on it, so I just drank it. This one was by far my favorite, but I am slightly biased toward the wines of northern Italy, as you may know from my previous posts. From what I remember it was a good example of a classic Barbaresco, a bit brownish orange in hue, some cherry and earthy vegetal notes, and tannic.