Monday, June 18, 2018

Gosset Champagne- What Wine Should Be

I recently had the opportunity to sit across the table from, and share a meal with Bertrand Verduzier, the International Business Director for Gosset Champagne.  The food was incredible, but the Champagnes they served were exquisite.  What truly got me that evening was the way Verduzier spoke about wine.

I've had incredible opportunities to speak with wine professionals- makers, somms, vineyard owners.  I've had the chance to learn about what inspires them, to hear how they've perfected their craft, to understand their joys and challenges.  Never before however has one embodied so closely everything I know and feel about wine.  

If you've ever sat down over glass of wine with me- either at a restaurant, or in a friends home, or on one of my City Wine Tours, you've heard me, sometimes ridiculously, talk about the story that wine tells.  It is truly the case however- just like any party guest- that your wine should regale you with tidbits from its life thus far.  It should wax on about the early days when the fruit was simply a dream to the bud, to when the yeast met the juice, to when you finally pull the cork. Every stage of its life influences its taste and attributes.  

Every wine you meet should tell you its life story.

Verduzier, speaking for Gosset Champagne, is of the same mindset.  Champagne, generally, is a funny wine- its often a blend of different vineyards for each house, and for that matter its a blend of years.  Where still wines showcase the year in which the grapes were grown, sparkling typically blends together several different years to provide a consistent product. Consistent- but lacking in story.  Consistent wines, showing the same flavors year after year, are lacking in personality.  Gosset knows this.  They limit the blending of years so that the majority of their wine is all from a single year.  That means that it weathered the same storms, sought shelter from hot days together, and ripened into perfect worthy fruit together.  

When you pop open a bottle of Gosset, you've popped open one of your most interesting party guests.  The tales of growing in same vineyards as their forefathers when Gosset began in 1584.  They speak to the time honored traditions passed down as the house transferred from making all still wines to adding bubbles.  Their fruit forward presence testifies to their growers commitment to not use malolactic fermentation.   Their flavors aren't manipulated but instead showcase the great and tough weather of its year along with the talent of their winemaker.    

Gosset Champagne is a true testament to what Champagne, and really all wines should be.  The fruit is the star and whatever it has to say- we're listening! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rock Steady or as Balanced as a Sea Saw?

It is virtually impossible to listen to a wine discussion without hearing the words - "well balanced".  Every time you order a glass or a bottle at a restaurant the server always ends their description with "it's really well balanced", or even better- wine stores have an incredible habit of underlining the words multiple times on their description cards.  Honestly, more than any other wine term, I find that that phrase is the used the most, and somewhat haphazardly.  Based on how frequently we hear it, you might assume that it is the paramount facet of what makes wine great.  

Here's the thing- balance really just refers to how all of the other facets of the wine are working together.  If you've ever been in a wine discussion with me- I often comment that it really just means that all the kids are in the pool playing nicely with each other.  

We've spoken about sweetness, body, acidity, tannins and flavor.  When you're examining body- ask yourself - is anything WAY out in left field?  Is the body off the charts but body the sweetness, body and flavors don't match up?  Are the tannins crazy expressive but everything else playing back up?  

Now here's the thing- a balanced wine doesn't necessarily mean its a GOOD wine.  I'll say that again- balance DOES NOT indicate good quality. Let's take a look at the Nebbiolo grape for our example.  Nebbiolo is the grape found in Barbaresco, Barolo and Langhe wines.  Now these are some of the absolute best wines in the world.  A good vintage can often age for 20 - 30 (and beyond!) years.  Here's the thing though- a young Nebbiolo can be abrasive and tough to drink.  The tannins are off the charts- and though usually there's wonderful flavor and fine acidity and body- those tannins make it unbalanced.  However- let them age and everything comes into play and all is right with the world.  

Sometimes an unbalanced wine just needs time.  Sometimes however it is a poorly made wine.    Sometimes a balanced wine means that the winemaker manipulated their wine with sugar or other additives to make it that way. 

As you get more comfortable with different varietals and how they perform in your glass it will become much easier to tell the good from the bad based on balance.  Rule of thumb for now- if you trust your server or your wine store- you can trust their recommendations.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Case of the Aggressive Tannins

Every time I run a wine education seminar I find that tannins are the piece of wine that cause the most confusion.  People seem to love the word, but what they are and what they mean to wine remains a mystery.  

Tannins are a compound that live in the skins and stems of grapes.  That's really the simplest explanation.  They infiltrate your wine during the wine making process.  

Even more simply explained- when we make wine we crush grapes to get the juice out.  The fun fact is that whether we crush red grapes, black grapes or white grapes the juice is always clear.  If we're making white wine- we just push that juice through to fermentation, but if we're making a red wine we'll crush the grapes and then let the juice sit on the skins and stems to pull the red color from them.  I love that fact- that's how we make white wines from red grapes, and that's why rose wines are so lightly colored- we minimize the skin contact.  Pretty cool right?  

OK so back to tannins- when the juice is pulling color from the skins- they are also exposed to the tannins.  Now when tannin presents itself in wine it feels like a drying of the inside of the cheek- sort of like a cotton ball has been wiped down the inside.  The level of this expression can vary greatly- from hardly recognizable to abrasive.  This is determined by several factors but for our purpose here- the root of it comes from how thick the skin of the grape is.  The thicker the skin, the more tannin it can give to the wine.  This will also be a strong reason for the varied colors of red wine.  

Think of a Pinot Noir- the color is pretty light, you can usually see through the wine to a surface below. The tannins are very light.  Now think of a Cabernet Sauvignon- the color is much deeper and the tannins are far heavier.  

Tannins are pretty crucial when pairing wines with food.  If you're dealing with a wine with big aggressive tannins, than you'll want to pair that with a food high in fat.  Cheese, hamburgers, steak- anything with a fair amount of fat to it- the fat will coat your mouth and round out the tannins so they aren't as aggressive.  A lightly tannic wine however can be served with less fatty foods.  

I remember a few years ago the big news was the ability to drink red wine with seafood.  As most sea foods are so light, and limited in their fat content, this was noteworthy.  Of course the idea was to pair Pinot Noir with your fish- the light red wine does a wonderful job of complementing a big flavored fish- like the swordfish.

Tannins are nothing to be scared of, nor should they have an air of mystery.  Paired correctly (when they are present) they will simply enhance your experience and deepen the wine.  

Gosset Champagne- What Wine Should Be

I recently had the opportunity to sit across the table from, and share a meal with Bertrand Verduzier, the International Business Director ...