Monday, August 22, 2016

Boiling Down the Facts

Ok so I got a little romantic in my last post- talking about the story that wine tells, but hey- according to Homer (no, not the lover of donuts and Duff beer, the other one- from the Eighth Century) “No poem was ever written by a drinker of water”.   I'm allowed to get a little caught up, right?

That story that wine tells though- what are the pieces?  Let’s look at some common wine terms.  I'll go into more detail on each of these in future posts:

Color: just as it sounds- we are literally looking at the color of the wine.  How much pigment is present will tell us the type of grape in the wine, and the actual color of the wine will tell us the age of the wine.  As wines age they show more and more brown in their pigment.

Legs/Tears:  Called either legs or tears, this is what people are looking at when they swirl their glass of wine and watch the liquid fall down the sides of the glass.  Simply, this is an indicator as to the level of alcohol in the wine- slow tears, high alcohol.

Nose:  Ah this where people get finicky- but this is where the story starts to reveal itself.  The presence of fruit, or flowers, the types of fruit, if there are hints of minerals, or spices…all of these start the story of the land that this wine comes from.  Each of these reveals so much about how the grapes were cared for.  

Dry/Sweet:  We’re talking about how much grape sugar is left in the wine after
fermentation.  This is pretty big deal when pairing wine with food, which we’ll get into later.  For now- just go with pairing dry wines with savory foods, and sweet wines with sweet food….um and cheese goes with either cause its cheese and cheese is awesome.

Acidity:  Ok acidity is another big one when it comes to pairing food.  What we’re talking about is literally, how much acidity is in the wine.  Sometimes this gets a little confusing if you are tasting flavors like lemon in the wine- you might anticipate that you taste a lot of acid as well.  Thats not necessarily true.  The way we tell acidity in wine is by gauging the amount of saliva that congregates under your tongue once the wine has been swallowed.  High acid wine equals a lot of saliva.  We’ll talk about this with pairing but general rule- pair an acidic food with an acidic wine.

Body:  The third biggie when it comes to pairing- body is all about mouthfeel.  If it feels like water in your mouth then it has low body, if the wine feels like it coats your teeth and your tongue it’s a full bodied wine.  Same principle applies here- pair body for body- a big dish with a lot of body (think beef stew) should be paired with a big bodied wine.  A low bodied meal (scallops) pair with a light bodied wine.

Tannins:  Oh tannins- there is so much confusion with this one.  Basically tannin is a compound that lives in the skins and the stems of grapes.  It gets imparted into wine when the juice is allowed to sit on the skins after pressing.  This is normally done only with red wine- but there are some outliers.  We’ll chat.  For now- pairing for tannin- fatty foods!  YAY!  Tannin presents as a drying sensation on the insides of your cheeks- like swiping a cotton ball down the sides.  There are varying degrees of this- and sometimes it can be unpleasant.  Eating something fatty (read cheese, burgers, cream sauces, steaks) will coat your mouth and round out the tannins.

Balance:  You see this word all the time in wine stores on those little cards that they put on their stacks- “Well balanced wine!!” - there are always multiple explanation points- always.  All this means is that all of what we talked about already is sort of in line with each other.  This will make more sense later on- but we’re looking for the levels of acidity, and body, and tannins, etc to all be in line with each other-nothing is extreme without its pals.  

Finish:  This is, quite simply, how long the tasty flavors of the wine stick around in your mouth after swallowing.  Sometimes they fade to something bitter or sour, or to just nothing at all- when we talk finish we just want to know how long the good ones are there.

Palette: Ahhhhh the palette- the flavors you taste when you drink wine- here is where the wine will really tell its story.  You got a taste of it in the nose, but here, when you taste the flavors of the wine and take into account everything else we talked about- this is where we really get the full story.  We get to know if the summer was hot, or cooler, we feel if the rain came at the wrong time, or the right time, we become aware of the effort that the farmer committed to his crop…this is what wine is all about.

It might sound overly flowery or romantic, but thats where the beauty of wine comes from.  That’s why people wax on about the flavors of the wine, thats why they train for years to be able to pick out minute aspects- because wine isn’t just a drink- wine is a representation of history.  Its a unique tool to travel the world, its a testament to hard work and dedication.  Grape juice- it does all that.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It's As Simple As Grape Juice

 Let’s start with the basics- what is wine?  Some would have you believe that its a highly complex potion.  Something brewed in rainbows and aged with fairy dust.  Let’s be frank here- wine is grape juice. Fermented grape juice, but grape juice.  Im not saying that to minimize wine, because if you know me, you know that I think that wine, its history, its present, its flavors, and all of its properties are beyond fascinating.  I am pretty obsessed.  But I want to be clear as well - this obsession is in grape juice and that it isn’t anything to be intimidated by.  

So why is there such an air of, well Ill just say it, pretentiousness to it?  

Wine has always been a hot commodity.  Greek poets included it in their prose-
raving of its sweet pleasure.  In Italy often people would mix wine into their water to make their water more drinkable.  It is well noted that wine was key in trades, country to country or family to family, throughout history. Its value was more than money.  It is frequently referenced as a motivator for England to colonize- to find a place where they would be able to grow their own wine producing grapes, and thereby be able to offer wine as a trader rather than receive it.  The British, due to proximity, most frequently traded for wine with France, and the French knew the worth of their grapes, specifically those of their Burgundy region.  Those were the choice wines of celebration for the King of France as well as the Papacy.  To follow simple economics, during the medieval ages these dignitaries placed a restriction on exporting these wines, which made their legend grow and became more desirable.  This desire hasn’t subsided yet, allowing Red Burgundy and White Burgundy to reside among the highest priced wines.

Of course these prices aren’t purely based on lure from centuries ago, the wines of Burgundy stand on their own.  

I know- I’ve already said we’re just talking about grape juice right? So why am I willing now to say that a high price tag on a bottle of this stuff is justified?  Well here’s the the short answer- wine, true wine, once that grape juice has been fully fermented and properly aged, etc- wine takes on a life of it’s own.  See here’s the thing- the flavors of wine, the personality that wine offers to its imbiber isn’t something that’s made up by sommeliers who are looking to confuse you.  No, the fruits, flowers, savory qualities - those are all hallmarks of the land where the grapes were grown.  Those flavors are telling you a story- they’re telling you about where they grew up, where they spent their summer on the vine, and how their farmer took care of them.  Every vintage will tell you about how hot or cold the season was, how much rain was present, and what the farmers had to do to make sure that they ripened.  Every bottle will tell the secrets of the soil that their vines are rooted in, and in that the history of their land.  I think of wine in this way- when we open a bottle in our home, to share with our family in friends, the wine, in turn, is then inviting us to their home, where they were developed and tells us the story.  

The simple answer to why some wines cost more than others- is some just have a better story to tell.  The earth that grew them gave them something better, and we pay for that.  So what goes into those stories that make the wines, good or bad?  Well stay tuned- I’ve gotcha covered.

Friday, August 12, 2016

It's Time

Yeah, things have been quiet ‘round these parts lately.  Im not going to offer excuses or lame explanations.  We all live life- it gets hectic and crazy.  Sometimes those things that you love, the things that you adore, the things that make you want to jump up and down with giddiness- more often than not those are the things that take a back seat to those pesky obligations.  You focus on the HAVE to do’s rather than the WANT to do’s.  I'm sure every day all of our Facebook feeds are filled with inspirational quotes, lord knows mine is,  my favorite is the one that chirps “I don’t HAVE to work out, I GET to work out”.   Yeah…when its 5 am and my alarm is being a loud jerk, you know thats exactly what Im thinking.  I'm certainly not silently cursing the mounds of food I've eaten in the years previous that make those gym trips mandatory.  But I digress, life gets nuts and my list of amazing restaurants that I want to try gets longer and longer.  The list of incredible wines I want to share with you is getting added to almost daily yet nothing appears here, and so many recipes need to be formalized and documented.  

Here’s the thing though- today I realized an honest need.  Every week I talk to people in very real terms about wine.  I work to educate every person in how to properly taste wine, what to look for, how to pair it easily and how to tune in to what each person individually enjoys in wine.  This, before anything else- this is paramount.  

However, earlier today I spied a wine review that I read, word for word, and could not, for the life of me, determine any characteristic of the wine.  Body, tannin, acid- did the reviewer even like the wine?  I was befuddled.  And then I thought about you guys- the average wine buyer.  Someone who has some knowledge of wine, but maybe not a lot.  Someone who knows they like wine, but when asked what flavors are in the nose they respond simply “wine?” Someone who stands in their favorite wine store, and chooses the same bottle week after week because they know they like it and because lets face it- there’s a little fear there in trying something new.  I read this review with your eyes and honestly I became pretty outraged.  Every flowery word, every illogical analogy, every contradictory statement enflamed my anger more.  So here it is- Im going to teach you wine.

I'm going to make sure that when you read a review like that you can tell its complete hog wash.  We’re going to compare and contrast.  We’re going to make sure that when you walk into that wine store, you reach for a bottle a few aisles over from your safety bottle- because you can.  We’re going to travel the world through our glasses - I know it sounds like a real chore right?

So join me- here and on Instagram (@fmcoxe) and we’ll sort out this wine business once and for all!  

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