Every once in a while, the stars align, the moon is full, and everything in the world seems right. You might not be able to explain it, but something magical is happening and suddenly, in between delectably juicy bites of your baby lamb tenderloin and sips of a pretty darn decent Chianti, you have a flavor epiphany. This is it! You think to yourself. This is what all those Wine Spectator folks have been talking about! A total eclipse of the sun: the light goes off; there is darkness. And then, bang! It hits you. The sun comes back out and it seems as if it has never before shone so brightly. You, my friend, have just experienced a perfect pairing.
We’ve all heard the phrase “bigger is better,” and perhaps, at least once in every person’s life, this has proven true. But a wise and witty master sommelier once taught a roomful of eager oenophiles that this isn’t necessarily true when it comes to assessing the quality of wine, and that sometimes, it is the bigness of a wine that earns the high scores of the most respected experts.
That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with preferring big wine flavors—nothing at all—and there’s nothing wrong with taking the advice of your favorite wine expert. The point he was trying to make is simply this: form your own conclusions and don’t believe the hype. Which, of course, has been a common theme of this column from the start. Perhaps instead of saying “bigger is better,” we should say “interesting is better,” or “cleaner is better,” but then we’d be alienating those wine drinkers who don’t share our palate preferences. And there is an interesting paradox which exists when it comes to enjoying more delicate wines.
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As one of the leading Old World wine producing countries, Spain continues to churn out some of the best wines in the world. As the world’s third largest wine producing nation, behind Italy and France respectively, Spain has literally had thousands of years to get it right. And while Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation, 80 percent of the country’s wine production comes from only 20 different grape varietals. Amongst one of Spain’s centuries old regions is the Denominacion de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero, located along the Duero river on the northern plateau of the Iberian peninsula. While this region has long been established for wine growing and production, it was, until the 1970s, mostly recognized as the location of Vega Sicilia, one of Spain’s most notable wineries.
The advent of the new year has us looking at the past with reminiscence and regarding the future with a sense of hope and renewal. It is the time when that old adage, “out with the old and in with the new!” is most declared. Speaking of old and new, now might be an appropriate time to elaborate on the terms “old world” and “new world” (when it comes to wine of course) and discuss a bit about the ideas behind them.
Keeping it simple is often the best philosophy, and the same method can be helpful when exploring this subject--particularly because wine is anything but. Any self-respecting winemaker would be aghast to hear his finished product referred to as such. A wine may be straightforward, clean, focused. But it should never be simple. After all, the process of making wine is not simple; it is integrated, complex, and involved. And, as many know, it revolves largely around the intent and desire of the wine crafter.
As the tropical Florida weather finally cools down and settles in for a crisp, refreshing winter, many of you may be tempted to reach for a toasty warm bottle of red. But for those of you who prefer white and like your toasty in the form of oak notes, a chardonnay might be just what you’re thirsting for.
As the primary grape in Champagne production and one of the world’s most commonly planted vines, chardonnay has earned the love and respect of drinkers and winemakers alike. In fact, certain sources have been known to call it the world’s favorite white wine. This is due largely in part to chardonnay’s adaptability, expressiveness and diversity.
Yes, diversity. It is no secret that chardonnay has a bit of a misconception surrounding its flavor profile. In fact, there are many people who won’t touch the stuff because all they think of when they hear the word chardonnay, is a wine that is over-oaked, with an obnoxious, movie-theater-butter nose and a big, creamy mouthfeel. Almost every wine drinker has probably had a wine at one time or another that could fall into this category. And many may have loved it, which is fine. (Snowflakes, remember?) But to think that all there is to chardonnay is Champagne and oaky butter bombs, is to sell the grape short.