Tag: Tasting

Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout: When wine goes high tech

For a drink that’s been much the same for thousands of years, wine, or at least how it’s consumed, has become increasingly high tech in the last few years.

For instance, this website lives entirely in the digital age. As well as numerous images, the recently launched Heard on the Grape Vine podcast makes sure that there’s a good multimedia mix. Amateur Wine is plugged into social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. And then there’s apps like Vivino

All of this digital talk can feel a bit lonesome (and no one wants to drink on their own), until a couple of weeks ago when I took part in my first Google Hangout with Côtes du Rhône wines.

The Hangout was hosted by Dr Jamie Goode, wine blogger turned wine journalist and fellow IWC wine judge, and as well as Amateur Wine, there were also eight other wine enthusiasts. Over the course of an hour and half, we tasted six red wines from the Côtes du Rhône appellation.

It was intended to be a mix of educational and fun, although we were relying on all our internet connections so there were times when it cut out and times when it was slow (You can watch an edited version of the video here.), but as a way of bringing wines to an audience, it was a very innovative approach. We had some great wines of course.

More than anything though, it showed that wine, as a sensory object, can be shared from just about anywhere. Which, in a round about way, leads me to think about vlogs. In the world of beauty and fashion, vlogs are incredibly popular so why not for wine?

Well, watch this space.

The Côtes du Rhône wines

Here’s the wines we tasted, in order, for the Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout (the tasting notes are mine from the night):

 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013. A grenache dominant blend. Light and fruity. Strawberry forward with gentle oak. Simple but effective. RRP£6 available from Sainsbury’s.
 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012. A little hot on the palate. A touch of funkiness with a sourness on the finish. Possible fault. Not very attractivec. RRP£9.99 available from Majestic.
 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012. Biodynamic. Lots of fruit, very fruit forward and expressive. Wine to drink with after-dinner conversation. RRP£12.25 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012. Noticeably more alcoholic though balanced considering high ABV. Dark fruits much more prominent. RRP£16.75 available from H2Vin.
 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012. From Northern Rhône, a cooler climate wine. Rubber and maybe thyme notes. Almost minty with a touch of black pepper. Light cherry. Elegant. RRP£19.95 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012. A lot of sweetness and fruit coming through. A hint of development with gentle tannins. Needs time to open up. RRP£16.63 available from The Little Big Wine company.

Appellations and the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP)

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

The Douro Valley has been demarcated as a wine region since 1756. In fact, it’s one of the earliest demarcated wine regions in the world. Originally, this was accomplished with rudimentary stone pillars, one of which can still be seen in the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto, or IVDP.

Located in the centre of Oporto, one of the IVDP’s main roles is to certify the port and Douro wines for DOP status (the Portuguese appellation system). A task it’s had since 1933.

Lab, IVDP, Oporto

There are some 130 people who work for the IVDP, not all of them are tasters of course. Some work in the lab where the wines are tested for, well, anything that shouldn’t be there, to ensure that chemically, the wines are up to scratch. The tasters, meanwhile, taste a maximum of 20 wines a day and declare their sensory suitability. Incidentally not all of the tasters have formal qualifications, e.g. from the WSET, but they apparently go through four months of training (in tasting as well as being tested for consistency) before being officially approved on to the tasting panel.

It’s worth talking about because what it really means to have an appellation status isn’t always clear. I alluded to this in the main post for Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley. The appellation system varies from region to region and country to country, and arguably doesn’t always result in great wines; terroir or no terroir.

In the Douro Valley, the port and dry Douro wines must be made from grapes sourced within the demarcated region, as for any other appellation, and the resulting wines also have to be tasted and tested at the IVDP before being allowed to be exported. As a consumer, you can actually take a guided tour at the IVDP.

It’s not a fool-proof system but I think through this two-stage process, ultimately, better wines will be made. Albeit ones that fit snugly into the IVDP’s idea of port and Douro wines.

What’s in a glass? On Riedel and glassware

Riedel tasting, Qin Xie

I dare say the majority of us never stop to consider the humble vessel that carries our favourite tipple and delivers it to our palate with ease. Instinctively, champagne comes in flutes and whisky in tumblers but then what?

For one company, the shape of the glass is everything. And that’s Riedel.

Based in Austria, the fine glass company has over 250 years of history and makes everything from glasses to decanters. More decorative pieces are produced under Spiegelau and Nachtmann but the Riedel branch of the business is all about the varietal specific design.

It was the 9th generation Claus Josef Riedel who first unvealed the company’s varietal specific glass in 1973. The idea was that the shape of the glass changed the way that the wine and its aromas were delivered to the palate and nose respectively. That means a different glass is needed for each type of wine to enhance its properties, say the fruit in a Pinot Noir or spice in Shiraz.

Riedel is still the only company to tailor glasses to the grape and remains the industry leader, releasing new designs every year. Most recently it partnered with luxury boutique tea merchants Lalani & Co to examine the changing profile of tea according to the service glass, with future plans to develop and tailor glasses for teas (current library can be found at Browns, Trishna and Hibiscus).

Riedel tasting, Qin Xie

So what is it about the glass?

I went to a tasting with the 10th generation Georg Josef Riedel at Lord’s Cricket Ground to find out more.

Having previously received a short demonstration of Riedel glasses, I knew vaguely what to expect – that wines will vary in taste and smell in the different glasses. What I hadn’t expected was that the tasting would begin with bottled mineral water.

The water was poured into Riedel’s Vinum Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet glasses and sampled in turn. The aromaless liquid served well to demonstrate how the different glasses delivered the water to various parts of the mouth making the liquid seem at times more refreshing and others higher in minerality.

Wines representing Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet varieties, presented in labelless cups, were then sampled in turn. They were of course, as expected, enhanced or diminished according to the glass they were in.

What was really surprising was the results of the small food and wine pairing session.

In your average food and wine pairing session, you’d expect to learn that certain foods work well with a wine depending on things like sugar, salt, acid and fat content in the food. In the Riedel tasting, it was all about how the perceived compatibility of a food and wine pairing changed according to the glass which the wine was drunk from.

The conclusion?

A remarkable difference was revealed despite the small selection of chocolates for tasting against the various wines and glasses. So much so that a pairing was noticeably improved or indeed otherwise depending on the glass used. It seems, the shape of the glass not only had an effect on the wine drinking experience but also the food pairing. Now that’s food for thought.

(First seen on The Prodigal Guide)

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