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Article – No sugar please, I’m sweet enough

August 13th, 2010

Dont mention the Trip

I will not mention travel, foreign food or even nice views from hot climate terraces in this piece. I think I have flogged my recent wine trip to within an inch of its life, if transient ramblings through vineyards exist as an entity, and actually have a life. Have I swallowed a dictionary or am I abusing a thesaurus again? Alas I have not. I ate a Pizza late last night and spent the night having mad, crazy dreams and my conclusion is that one of those dreams must have involved a duel with words. Suffice to say, I don’t remember my dreams and this is a very longwinded way of telling you that I will not talk about my trip to France.

pizza

Confusing Times in One’s Head

So what else can I talk about? Lots of things I hope you agree. For instance, rather than mention a wine, or a region or price or quality, I will attempt to answer a question that I get asked about regularly. How does one taste wine properly? One must first desist from referring to ones self in the 3rd person, for that gives the impression that one is full of one’s own importance, and this is one of the many regular battles we in the wine world are trying to change. So, we and oneself shall become myself, yourself and whoever else is tuning in. “Dear Doctor, come quickly. I am having the dreams in the daytime now”. Begone foul cheese dream monster and leave me in peace.

inside_head

Tasting Wine

I have covered the topic of tasting wine before and at the risk of repeating myself ( as opposed to oneself ), I will attack it from a different angle. Even though the jelly bean test is a great way to reveal the importance of smell in tasting, I will refer to someone whom I have a lot of time for when in comes to wine, the first lady of the critics, Jancis Robinson MW. The MW means she is a Master of Wine, of which there are only 280 in the world today. Apart from all that, she is great at getting to the heart of a wine, and is very level headed about the hype and most important, she has a great palate. She has a book called, “How to Taste Wine”, and for someone who wants to go past the “I know what I like” stage of wine appreciation, this is a good place to start. It covers the basic questions and moves with consummate ease up through the more complex parts of tasting.

jancis_robinson

Sugar or Spice

The first thing she discusses is what formed the basis of the last article I wrote on tasting, which amounts to, “its all in the nose”. Hold your nose as you eat a pineapple and then release it as you chew. The huge rush of flavour comes from your nose and your sense of smell. Draw air in as you eat your food to enhance the flavours. I don’t have enough space to go into all the various aspects involved, but I think they are all important, so I will start with Sweetness in wine. Depending on how it is received, I will cover acidity, tannin, body, balance and the rest of the equation in later articles. Sweetness in wine is one of the most misunderstood descriptions of a wine. The tip of the tongue is the place where we assess how sweet something is, be it ice cream or wine. The science goes back to the basic principle that “grape juice becomes wine when yeasts act on the sugar in ripe grapes to convert some, or nearly all, of it into alcohol”. The sweetness is determines by the amount of sugar left in the juice, the residual sugar. This sugar varies between 1 and 200 grams per litre, and a ‘dry’ wine is a wine containing between 2 and 10g. You will see a lot of cheaper wines ( think Chilean and Austrian ) containing a lot of sugar, as the enhanced sweetness can often mask the rougher edges that might exist. The wine world wouldn’t be what it is if there was not a direct contradiction to this. In this instance, it is the wonderful sweet German wines and the desert wines of Sauternes and places like it. These are super sweet, and a million miles away from the commercial wines with added sugar. People talk about excessive sulphites giving them a hangover, but added sugar isn’t the best thing for your head either. Have you ever had a Coca Cola Sugar hangover? To sum up, most wines are dry and when you are asking for a sweet wine, as yourself if you want a sugary desert wine, or do you mean off dry.

Name the Wines

For reference, bone dry wines include Muscadet, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc ( Sancerre ; Pouilly Fume ). Dry wines account for most of the wines out there, and they include most Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, white Burgundy, white Rhone & Provence wines, Pinot Grigio, and many more. To experience medium dry, you should look to my favourite white variety, Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and the German wines labelled Kabinett, Spätlese or Halbtrocken. You then move up to Medium Sweet with late harvest wines from Asti and Moscato or Tokay from Hungary. There are varying levels of Sweet and then very sweet above this with Sauternes being the standout wine. All of the above are white, and while Red Wines do vary in sweetness, 85% of them are Dry, but if you want a slightly sweeter one, try Pinot Noir, Chateauneuf du Pape or a juicy Australian Shiraz.

Don’t forget that the Tipperary Food Producers Long Table dinner is coming up on August 25th in Chez Hans, The Old Convent, Inch House and Brocka on the Water. I’ll be representing the Network in Clogheen myself and look forward to a wonderful night with Christine and Dermot.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 12 2010

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 12 2010

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