It’s been a busy week–a lot of stuff going on! i’ve been having fun with some new (vanilla) classes which will enhance my service in our D/s.
i started my wine class last night. As i mentioned in Wine Service, Maximus would love for me to become a sommelier, but i’m not so sure about this. As a compromise, i enrolled in an adult education course at a local college that has the sommelier and winemaking academy for western Washington. Last night was the first of three nights and it was superb! i went with RunnerGirl, as i had enrolled her in the course as a Christmas gift to her.
So here are some things i learned:
Vintage is the year the grapes were harvested, not the year the wine was produced.
Where the grapes were grown is the most important aspect of wine. It is called terroir and is the environment of the site (soil, topography, climate, etc.) that affects the quality of the grape.
The 3 most important things about wine:
- Quality of the grape
- Knowledge of the winemaker
Crystals in wine are tasteless tartrates (potassium) that come partly from yeast. Old World (European) winemakers leave it in because they believe it is part of the winemaking process, New World (US) winemakers generally remove it by a process called stabilizing. To stabilize, the wine is held in stainless steel vats and held at 32 degrees for one month. The tartrates settle to the bottom and the wine is pulled off. The potassium is generally sold to produce cream of tartar.
Don’t buy wine by price! Sometimes its due to how much the winemaker had to pay for the grapes–two bottles of different prices can be just due to a winemaker having to pay more for the same exact grapes!
First, swirl the wine in your glass to get oxygen into the wine. Swirling increases the surface area.
- Swirl the wine in your mouth
- Bring in air (oxygen) into your mouth
- Spit or swallow
- Inhale through your mouth and exhale through your nose in order to oxygenate the wine that is coating your mouth, enhancing the taste
Everyone tastes wine differently due to differences in their saliva! There is no right or wrong taste–the differences are DNA!
Information on Wine Labels
Varietal–if it lists a single varietal, the wine must be at least 75% of that varietal. The other 25% can be any other of the 10,000 varietals in the world. Why add other varietals? To make a better quality wine.
AVA (American Viticultural Area)–to list a wine as from a specific AVA, 85% of the grapes must be from that listed AVA. Note, oftentimes labels will list locations similar to, but not quite exactly, the AVA name to make it appear that it was produced from grapes from an AVA (Walla Walla ≠ Walla Walla County). Washington has 14 AVAs. This is called AOC in France and DOCG in Italy.
Vineyard–listed if 95% of grapes come from that vineyard.
Vintage–95% of the grapes must be of that year.
The wine label must include:
- Whether the wine is white or red
- Alcohol content
- Sulfited or not
- Government warning
- Winery contact info
- Importer, if imported
The rest of the stuff on the label is just marketing!
Terms on Labels
Reserve–not a legal term in the US. Used to be that wineries had a gentleman’s agreement that they only labeled the top 10% of their wines as reserve. However, some realized they could charge more for reserve-labeled wine and started labeling everything that. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Note, reserva on Spanish wines is different and does mean something–more on this next week.
Estate–is a grey area. They can either own the vineyard or have a long-term contract with a specific grower and call it estate wine. Many wineries stay away from this term.
Meritage–Really means that the winery belongs to the Meritage Society and that the wine is produced with Bordeaux varietals (semillon, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, mourvèdre, etc). $1 of each case sold goes to the Meritage Society.
Sulfites–are a natural byproduct of winemaking and every bottle of wine in the world contains sulfites! It is necessary to preserve the wine. Sometimes sulfites are added because there’s not enough naturally in it to preserve it and thus the label will say, “sulfites added” vs. “no sulfites added.”
Even if a bottle doesn’t say whether there are sulfites or not, it still has sulfites. If a bottle is not sold out of state, it does not have to list whether there are sulfites or not as the sulfite labeling is a requirement of interstate commerce.
California is the only state that can label “sulfite not detected” and only from certified, organic, special wineries.
We tasted four wines: a Washington viognier, French riesling, Italian Chianti Classico, Merlot from the wine academy.
- A varietal that was almost forgotten 20 years ago. Was often used as a blend in red wines.
- Grows very well in Washington and southern France! Didn’t do well in New Zealand or Australia, who started trying to grow it 20 years ago. Not good from California.
- Grape needs constant attention, starting in January when still covered with snow and ice, until after harvest, thus making it expensive to grow
- Have a pronounced stone fruit, tropical fruit flavor, very herbal nose (chamomile, lavender, pine)
- Because expensive to grow, tends to be more expensive to buy, approx. $25/bottle. Generally, $10-20 bottles are not good, so don’t buy them.
- Instructor does not like German rieslings, he grew up in middle of German riesling area and these are his impressions
- Cheap wine, shouldn’t cost more than 50-cents a bottle! Factory-made, mass-produced
- Grows fast and huge, 1 acre riesling yields 8 tons while 1 acre other varietals yields 1 ton.
- Terrior makes all the difference in French Riesling over German Riesling
- Have wet-stone, flower petal flavor, gasoline nose.
- Chianti Classico is the AVA, what you want to buy
- Made from sangiovese, can be any amount
- Do not age chianti
- Typically ruby red, taste of violets, cherries, hint of earthy spice.
We didn’t have info on this other than tasting this specific wine.
We do have homework (yay!) where we have to taste three wines and be able to share our tasting with the class in regards to:
- Grape Variety/Blend/Name
- Region (AVA, DOC, etc)
The instructor suggested checking out the Washington State Wine Commission‘s website for more great info.
Next week we will spend more time on French, Italian, and Spanish wines. The last week will be all about serving, storing, etc.
The other thing i tried out this week was poi spinning as my itty, bitty town opened up a dance studio with a poi spinning instructor! What is poi spinning? It is a dance/performance originating from the Maori women in New Zealand where they spin/twirl balls on tethers. You may have seen fire poi spinning, where the balls are on fire, which came into popularity from Burning Man.
We learned with poi that were basically tennis balls in long socks! It was harder than it looks but so much fun! i’ve actually signed up for a six week course to learn more and plan to buy LED lighted poi. It will be so much fun to have these to do in yard during the summer or even on the beach at Desire! I’m pretty sure i’m not ever going to get into fire poi–i see disaster and injury written all over that!!
Here’s an example of LED poi spinning: