Posts Filed Under wine blogging wednesday
In this ultra-exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey, Dude and Plumboo face off against a German Wine Label, as part of Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 (this month hosted over at the venerable Winecast.net).
AND LIVE TO TELL THE TALE!
WARNING: This post contains German words. Proceed with EXTREME CAUTION!!
To give you an appreciation of just how dangerous this mission was, we offer an excerpt regarding hunting the German Wine Label (GWL) from noted South African wildlife specialist Clive Walker’s Signs of the Wild:
“One should always approach a GWL with great caution. They have poor eyesight and hearing, but have a keenly developed sense of smell. GWLs are normally nervous and will not hesitate to attack if they are disturbed, especially when young. When threatened, they will prominently display their Amtliche Prüfungsnummer, and Winzergenossenschaft, if present. GWLs are dangerous if wounded or when continuously pursued, hunted, or annoyed. An experienced wine geek may be able to drive off a GWL with appropriate knowledge of Germany’s 13 Anbaugebiet, and while easily hunted it presents an extremely difficult target when charging head-on. Should you encounter a GWL, remain utterly still – under no circumstances run. One’s inherent desire is to flee, but this carries with it the certainty of a permanent end to your days of fine German wine appreciating. There is no doubting the sheer terror that can run through one’s veins when going up against a GWL. It can turn your blood ice-cold – which, in a pinch, you may be able to use to chill a white German wine to the appropriate serving temperature…”
Or something like that, anyway.
“The only real way to disarm a German wine label, and thus open yourself up to some seriously kickin’ German wine experiences, is with a little bit of helpful knowledge.”
Hyperbole aside, the labels on German wine bottles can be one of the most intimidating encounters for any budding wine shopper. Which is one of the main contributing factors to the tough times that German wines have in the American market; the other is that they are primarily made from grapes that are not household names to most American consumers. Which is a shame, because German wines can TOTALLY ROCK.
The GWL will try to intimidate and frighten you with its cacophony of German words and wine regulations. The only real way to disarm a German wine label, and thus open yourself up to some seriously kickin’ German wine experiences, is with a little bit of helpful knowledge…
When – the Vintage year, very easy to ID.
What – the Grape & Ripeness level. Germany makes wine from several tasty varietals, but by far its most noble grape is the aromatic, long-lived and refreshingly-acidic Riesling (the focus of today’s adventure). Germany is cold. Because it’s cold, it’s not always easy to get grapes to ripen to acceptable wine-worthy levels; therefore, Germany has developed a series of quality tiers that roughly correspond to the ripeness of the grapes.
The fist and most important point to remember is this: ignore the craziness and focus on the areas where the GWL is most vulnerable:
- Who – the Producer, which is usually easy to find and often displayed prominently on the GWL.
This is where things get a bit tricky. You can see from the adjacent pyramid (courtesy of GermanWineEstates.com) that it’s not easy territory to navigate. The thing to remember is that the higher the ripeness level, the more likely it is that the wine is sweeter. This runs a pretty large gamut, from the tasteful and usually dry Kabinett to the ultra-rich Trockenbeerenauslese, which practically needs to be enjoyed with a spoon (or poured over waffles).
Where – the Region. Again, potentially tricky territory (ha-ha) here. If you stick with the major quality wine-growing regions (of which there are only 13) and avoid trying to sort out the sub-regions and individual vineyards (of which there are a boatload, some of which confusingly have the exact same names at different geographic levels), then you can navigate a GWL without too much pain.
Germany’s 13 major winemaking regions have wines with identifiable personalities and styles. For example, Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer is steely and lighter-bodied, while wines made from the same grape in the Rheingau are known for their spiciness and heavier richness.
“With a little practice, you can fell the beast that is the GWL and be on your way to enjoying some of the finest wine made on the planet.”
An example of this in action can be seen in the following action photo of Plumboo with his felled prey, a 2003 Dr. Fischer Riesling Auslese from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region:
Not too painful, right? With a little practice, you can fell the beast that is the GWL and be on your way to enjoying some of the finest wine made on the planet. Hey, if a plush monkey with a squeak-toy for a head can do it, so can you.
Now, how does a wine like this taste, anyway? Here’s the review that Plumboo and I came up with after our sampling of the Dr. Fischer:
Aromas of flowers, citrus, and wet rock, presented in an elegant way (maybe even a tad understated). A palate that is well put-together, integrating a light body with citrus fruit and a healthy amount of sweetness. If there’s one element of the wine that’s not yet in sync with the others, it’s the bracing acidity – but give it 2 or 3 more years in the bottle, and it should come together quite nicely.
Now, sally forth and get thyself some German goodness. And don’t let those GWLs scare you!
(images: gapingvoid.com, germanwineestates.com, livinghistoryfarm.org)
(images: nysaes.cornell.edu, artsci.wustl.edu, merchantwines.com)
This edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo and I tasting a French Cabernet Franc, as part of Wine Blogging Wednesday #44. This WBW theme comes to us courtesy of the irrepressible Gary V. over at Wine Library TV.
Before Plumboo and I head of to Chinon in France’s Loire valley (more on that later) & get tasting, the Dude needs to give you a bit of French Cab Franc background, lest you navigate these waters all-uneducated-like and get burned picking up a bottle of wine that you hate. Similar caution should be exercised whenever tasting any wine with a French label on it – not because French wines suck (they most certainly don’t), but because French wine labels (most certainly do) suck.
In France, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system guarantees a wine’s place of origin. It (roughly) forms the basis of most other similar wine quality systems in many other countries. You may now be asking yourself, “wait a second Dude – place of origin or quality… which one is it?”
The answer is… “Yes”…
That’s because in France, they have (with few exceptions) the belief that over centuries of grape-growing (aka trial-and-error), they know what grapes work best for each viticultural area of the country. Which is why you will rarely see “Cabernet Franc” listed on the label of a French wine. Instead, you need to know which areas are permitted to grow and vinify which grape varieties. It’s one of the ways that the French like to use to piss off Americans (caution: joke in progress).
Most French Cab Franc is grown in Bordeaux. But you’d never know it, because it’s one of the grapes (along with the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot) that goes into the classic Bordeaux red wine blends. Cab Franc is an easy-going grape (in terms of soil and climate), and it ripens earlier than it’s little-brother Cab Sav. In the Bordeaux blends, it adds some color, berry flavor, and even hints of floral and vegetable aromas to round out the softer Merlot and harsher Cab Sav.
However, Cab Franc has also found an AOC certified home in other areas of France, where it gets to shine all by its glorious lonesome self. Most notably, this vino-illumination happens in the Loire valley – a very big swath of land that runs along the (very long) Loire river. Along the banks of the Loire are many, many gorgeous castles, and many, many styles of gorgeous wines.
This tasting takes Plumboo and I (virtually of course) to Chinon, an old town that gained importance (dating back possibly to pre-recorded history) due to its location on the banks of the Vienne river where it meets the Loire. The area has been home to monasteries, forts, castles, and good winemaking.
For WBW #44, Plumboo and I chose a 2005 Jean-Maurice Raffault “Les Galuches” from Chinon. This Cab Franc is a gorgeous purple, with lots of dark berry, a bit of green pepper, and a smaller hint of vegetable (stalks) in your nose. There’s quite a bit of cheek-drying tannin and some blackberry in your mouth. A nice “everyday” wine that could end up being a crowd-pleaser at your next party. The Purple Monkey approved, anyway.
While you can find decent example of Cab Franc in many other locales, especially in the U.S. While these are also good everyday wines, they often lack the finesse of their Loire valley counterparts, who have set the Cab Franc standard (and are definitely worth the trip ‘down river’).
Mark Fisher, who writes the Uncorked blog at the Dayton Daily News, has posted an interesting piece this week with his thoughts on a recent American Journal of Medicine alcohol study.
Mark’s thoughts are always worth a read, and this article is no exception (and thanks to him as well for mentioning my previous post on the same overall topic of wine consumption and health).
While the study itself highlights the positive effects of alcohol on middle aged baby-boomers, Mark uses the study to point out that the issue of alcohol consumption and health is not a simple one.
I.e., trying to binge on wine in your 50s to make up for the booze that you didn’t have when you were younger is not gonna help you reap any wine health benefits. That kind of thinking is more likely to fatally turn your liver into a large hunk of scar tissue.
The good news is that the liver can recover from short-term damage – it just needs a break from the likes of coffee, medication, and especially alcohol. So if you’ve been hitting the wine tastings with added gusto lately, consider giving yourself and your liver the gift of a few days (if not a few weeks) of abstinence. Remember, I’m a wine nut, so if I’m saying it’s a good idea to lay off the vino from time to time, it’s not because I just like to type!
Also, for those of you playing along at home, Wine Blogging Wednesday #44 has just been announced by Gary V. over at Wine Library TV. Yes, that Gary V. The theme this time around is French Cabernet Franc. So, if you want to join the wine blogging community in a review, go pick up a wine and transcribe your thoughts! Details are available here (including what areas of France to look for at the wine store if you want to participate).