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Wine Basics Class

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     Another week, another class! This time we went back to the drawing board, to expand on the finer details and cover the lesser-known bits of the basics, beyond fermentation, balance and complexity, and typical flavor profiles. For instance, did you know that many of the wines that you've drunk have gone through Malolactic conversion? You may associate this term with white wines, such as Chardonnay and Viognier, and the distinct buttery flavor and creamy texture it imparts on the wine. What's less known about MLF (as this conversion is usually referred to), is that nearly all reds will undergo this process, so it isn't considered a distinctive or differentiating quality. To showcase the effects of MLF, we tasted Talbott Chardonnay from Monterey, California.

    We also covered "lees". Lees are, in simple terms, the dead yeast cells post-fermentation, when they've essentially eaten themselves. This may sound odd, but for some wines, keeping these little critters can enhance the texture, and add complexity to the flavor. Muscadet, legendary friend of oysters, is a great example of a wine aged on the lees, and very often the words "sur lie" will be printed on the label. Albariño and Champagne often get cozy with their defunct friends as well, except it isn't explicit on the packaging. We did in fact taste a wonderful Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie to identify those delicious bready, brioche flavors, as well as the incredible texture that results from this, and we learned that every time we heard the words "autolytic character" this is what was being talked about.

     These are just two of the topics we covered in addition to oak (French vs. American, toast levels, size of the barrel), extraction, terroir, variety vs. varietal (yup, there is a difference!), decanting (when and how to do it), clones, crossings, hybrids, and mutations (Pinot Noir, Gris, and Blanc are the same grape with varying degrees of pigment). We even discussed how to interact with your sommelier at the restaurant to get your wine in perfect drinking condition! To wrap up the evening and, well, enjoy ourselves a bit, we chose a fantastic example of a crossing: Austrian Zweigelt. Delicate flavors of red currants, raspberries, violets, lavender, and earth were just the perfect kiss to send us off.

Cheers!

For more information on our classes, as well as our schedule, visit www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com

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Traveling Vicariously - Tuscany

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     Wine can be, and often is, an expression of the place where it's made; a representation of the local taste and culture, a sense of 'what grows together goes together.' As part of our ongoing Italy class, and thanks to Mark Orsini of Orsini Wines, we tasted our way Tuscany. This means we got really friendly with Sangiovese, as well as other much more rare, but no less tasty varietals: Malvasia frizzante; a Vermentino blended with Fiano, Verdicchio, Incrocio Manzoni, and Petit Manseng; a Bordeaux left-bank style beauty with the kingly name of Atis. While these uncommon wines showcased Italian artistry and creativity, the more familiar names reminded us of the power of tradition: Chianti Classico, Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 

     And then, there was Jassarte. Oh, Jassarte! Where old meets new, tradition meets experimentation, and the diversity of the world grows in one small lot of land. This wine is a blend of thirty (yes, THIRTY) grapes, all contributing the same 3.3% to the bottle, with origins that go beyond Italy, both in location and in history. France, Spain, and Greece lend their flavors, as well as the Saperavi grape from Georgia! Saperavi was found in amphorae dating back over 8,000 years, and it is still planted in Georgia today. All of this amounts to a wine that is powerful, but not opulent or hedonistic; complex, yet approachable; great friend of food, and a pleasure to enjoy on its own. 

     This experience would not have reached such heights without Mark and his wines, and Mr. Michele Scienza of Guado al Melo, who was beyond kind to connect via Skype with us so late in the day and take us through the history, land, fruit, and flavor of his little piece of Tuscany. For that, the team at Metro Wines are infintely thankful!

Cheers!

    -Juan.

*For more information on our classes, visit www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com

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