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A Local Wine Menage-a-Trois Soiree via Twitter

Vinted on November 26, 2008 binned in Tales of the Purple Monkey, twitter, wine products, wine review


This exciting edition (is there any other kind?) of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo (that’s the monkey) and me taking on one wine, but in three slightly (but importantly) different ways.

Last week, I participated in several Twitter Taste Live events, one of them being co-hosted by BinEndsWine.com and DrVino.com titled “Drink Local!” in which we reviewed local (to the reviewers., that is) wines. My previous post on the event has more background detail (and a recap of the twitter conversations).

Because I’m a homer, and I’m lazy, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I reviewed Penns Woods’ 2004 Ameritage Reserve (a Bordeaux style red blend), but with a twist – I presented the wine in three different “formats”:

  1. Poured directly from the bottle
  2. Decanted 3+ hours before serving
  3. “Decanted” directly from the bottle using a wine gadget called the Wine Soiree.

The Soiree looks like a glass Christmas tree ornament, or a sex toy for the very, very adventurous. Or an elegant alien spacecraft for extraterrestrial fleas…

Anyway, according to the Wine Soiree website and promotional materials, it is supposed to function somewhat like a decanter, using the principle of aeration. Wine contains many volatile chemicals that impart aroma, flavor, and also help to integrate a wine’s components so that it tastes better. Exposing those volatile components to air starts the process. This is one reason why decanting hefty red wines for a time before drinking them helps to make the wine more accessible and softer.

I poured all of my “versions” of the Penns Woods Ameritage into identical ISO tasting glasses (because I’m a nerd and I do own those, thank you very much) and had a go at each in comparison.

The result? Check out the following excerpt from my twitter feed during the Twitter Taste Live event:

10:41
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl Yo yo YO! I’m tasting 2004 Penns Woods Ameritage Reserve. Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, & whatever other reds the winemaker (Gino Razzi) wants
10:42
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl From the Brandywine valley of SE PA
10:42
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl I did a little experiment. I have 3 glasses of the same wine, but each is different…
10:43
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl #1 was poured directly from the bottle. #2 was decanted 3+ hrs. #3 was poured using that in-bottle Soiree decanter thing-y
10:44
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl #1 direct from the bottle: smoke (a LOT of it); cedar; black currants; a little rough around the edges on the tannins; good finish
10:44
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl According to Mrs. Dudette: “It’s like licking a chimney there’s so much smoke! But in a good way.”
10:45
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl #2 decanted 3+ hrs: MUCH smoother, with more dark cherry; the oak is more integrated and the finish seems to go forever…
10:46
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl I might be still tasting this finish tomorrow when I brush my teeth in the morning!!!
10:47
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl #3 ‘decanted’ via the soiree: has the currant & cedar elements of #1, but not as integrated as #2; finish is la bit onger than #1
10:48
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl This Soiree does something… and it seems good to aerate a wine in a pinch or when a decanter is not available.
10:48
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl but it ain’t quite like decanting!
10:50
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl As for the wine itself – very good, not his best vintage tho. The 2005 has more promise; 2002 is… well… freakin’ sublime!
10:51
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl This 04 is a bit too expensive for what it is, but it’s a very, very well made Bord’x style blend. And YES it is from PA!
10:53
Twitter 1winedude: #ttl So in summary: Penns Woods make a kick-ass wine, and the Soiree does actually do… something; but not as much something as a decanter

As it turns out, the Soiree does indeed seem to aerate the wine… somewhat. For me, the Soiree doesn’t compare to actual decanting, which in this experiment I found to be far superior. Still, I think the Soiree could work in a pinch if you are desperate to decant and/or to take the edge off of a serious red, but can’t wait for proper decanting (winery tasting rooms come to mind).

It you can get past the sight of a Christmas tree ornament sitting on top of your wine bottle, that is.

Cheers!
(images: 1WineDude.com, drvino.com)

Twitter Taste Live: Drink Charitably! TONIGHT 8PM ET

Vinted on November 21, 2008 binned in 1WD LIVE, twitter, twitter taste live, wine industry events, wine review


Hey folks – a reminder for you that Twitter Taste Live is happening again tonight at 8PM ET.

This round will be for charity, as we will be drinking and reviewing the wines of Humanitas! (details available here).

Hope to see you online at twitter (you can also follow along with the action live below, and/or come back to this post for a recap after the event)…

——————————

——————————

Cheers!

Ditch Your Wine Tasting "Training Wheels" (The Trouble With Wine Ratings, Part 3)

Vinted on November 19, 2008 binned in commentary, wine review

“Scores are like your training wheels – hopefully you take them off at some point.” – Joel Peterson

I’ve never been a big fan of wine ratings or wine scoring systems. Mostly because I don’t know anyone who speaks in ratings. Even sports fans (who, justifiably, love numbers, rankings, and comparisons) don’t really speak in ratings.

Man, the Steelers offensive line was totally an 87 in last night’s game…

Preposterous.

I also find it odd that wine rating talk generates so much passion when it is discussed. As cases in point, I offer two recent examples:

  1. Wine Enthusiast editor Steve Heimoff’s critique of Mutineer magazine’s critique of wine ratings (and Mutineer editor Alan Kropf’s response).
  2. A thread on the excellent wine social networking website OpenWineConsortium.org, titled “What are the faults with the 100 point [wine rating] system” which, as of this writing, has eleven pages of responses.

I shudder to think of the cross-talk that might ensue on the web in response to the granddaddy of wine rating lists, Wine Spectators’ Top 10 Wines of the year (only five of which I’ve actually sampled…).

Me, I’ve changed my tune slightly on wine ratings since I wrote two articles about the trouble with wine ratings (Part 1 and Part 2). That’s because I’ve come to realize something very important when it comes to wine ratings…

There is no trouble with wine ratings.

Think about it – there is no harm at all in rating a wine. In fact, wine ratings have played an integral part in wine criticism, which itself has played an integral part in furthering wine into the incredibly exciting state that it’s in today. There are over 7,000 wine brands available to U.S. wine consumers – somebody has to help consumers make sense of it all. As former wine writer and Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson told me recently over lunch (much more to come on that, by the way, in an upcoming post): “If we didn’t have wine critics, we’d have to invent them!”

The trouble comes in how the ratings are used.

A rating system makes an assumption that there is an absolute,” said Joel. “We know that there are no absolutes. It’s a more measure of like than of absolute quality.”

To back up his observation, Joel told me a story about a tasting experiment that he performed with a group of experienced wine tasters: he took all of the Zinfandels that he could find that scored 90+ points in the big wine mags, and had them taste the wines blind. The result: all of the wines scored between 85 and 96 points.

Joel then took all of the 90+ scoring wines from that tasting and had them taste those wines again at a later time. The result: the wines scored between 85 and 96 points!

Scoring is relative, and it’s naturally tailored to the taster’s palate. The trouble is, people put too much faith in scores without reading the fine print.

Joel’s take: “Robert Parker was really the change-over point. A wine critic can make make or break a wine in the same way that a music critic can make or break a live music performance. Scores are like your training wheels – hopefully you take them off at some point.”

Would you ride down the street proudly on your shiny Schwinn bicycle with banana seat, handlebar horn, and red sparkle paint job with training wheels still attached? All the while bragging to your friends about how you only ride bikes with training wheels on them?

Well, that’s pretty much what you’re doing if you decide to only buy wines from the Wine Spectator top 100 list, or if you insist that a sommelier only show you wines rating 94 points or above when dining at a restaurant.

Where you goin’, training-wheel boy??

Far better, I think, to discover your own palate.

And then ditch those training wheels.

Cheers!
(images: allposters.com, ehow.com)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #51: "Baked Goods"

Vinted on November 12, 2008 binned in best of, wine blogging wednesday, wine review


Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday #51(WineDude)!
Dude here is hosting the 51st edition of the venerable WBW, and today’s theme is Baked Goods – reviews of wines that are deliberately heated (aka “Madeirized”), and we’re also allowing reviews of sweet Fortified wines to be included. For the scoop on how Wine Blogging Wednesday works, check out the WBW site. More details on the background of the theme can be found here.

Now… let’s get this funk started!

I love Madeira. Love is a strong word. And I love Madeira.

It’s often sweet, incredibly tasty, high in refreshing acidity, and because it’s already been exposed to oxygen and heat (which would utterly destroy normal wines), it’s virtually indestructible.

A Madeira wine from 1935 will pretty much taste the same today as it did in 1935, even if opened and enjoyed tablespoon by luscious tablespoon from then until now. Not only is it tasty, indestructible, and food-friendly, it also boasts an abv of 19% or more. It’s a bad-ass wine!…

Normally, I’d expound on the storied history of Madeira, and give you background on the traditional styles of Madeira, food pairings, etc.

But…

Rather than take you through the history of Madeira wine – which I figured might be covered by one or more of the other fine WBW participants anyway (and if not can easily be found in detailed play-by-play on the web) – I thought I’d instead show you, by way of comparison, just how bad-ass Madeira actually is.

Let’s compare kick-ass, indestructible Madeira to the so-called “Invincible” IRON MAN:

The
“Invincible” IRON MAN

Totally Kick-Ass

Indestructible Madeira


Abilities

Superhuman strength, Repulsor-ray technology, Genius-level intellect

Intense aroma

, Mouth-watering acidity

, Ass-kicking 19%+ abv
Edge: Madeira

Protection

Bullet-proof, temperature-resistant armorTIE

Impervious to hot ovens, attic temperatures, and long, perilous sea voyages

– TIE

Creator

Stan Lee

The Dutch Armada


Edge: Madeira

Nemesis

The Mandarin
, Alcoholism
, Soft spot for Pepper Pots
, Very large magnets

Edge: IRON MAN

Cork Taint


Tastes Like

Metal alloy

Nuts, caramel, dried figs. -
Edge: Madeira

Result of
Oxidation

Rust

Characteristics of nuts and honey

Edge: Madeira

No contest: Madeira totally trumps IRON MAN, 5-2.

Anyway, traditional Madeira comes in four flavors of grapes, each chosen to highlight a particular style of the wine, examples of which I tasted in comparison (witness below).


Notice how the color of each wine gets darker? This is a key to the style, which range from dry and nutty to lusciously sweet and caramely (is that a word…?):

Blandy’s Dry Sercial (Aged 5 Years in oak): Made from the Sercial grape, grown in the cooler high-altitude regions of the Madeira island. Sherry-like, nutty (almonds, baby!) with searing acidity. Pass the hors d’oeuvres!

Blandy’s 5 Year Vedelho: Made from Verdelho (also grown in the cooler Northern part of the island) – Sherry-like, but this time its darker and more ‘Oloroso-ish'; the oak is more pronounced, and there’s touch of sweetness balancing the acidity.

Cossart Gordon Medium Rich Bual (15 years): From the Bual grape (probably my favorite) from the warmer southern portion of Madeira, it ripens to higher levels so it can be made into a sweeter style. And sweet it is – as in sweet fig, vanilla, and hazelnut, with a long nutty finish.

Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Year: Malmsey is the malvasia grape, grown in the warmest and lowest-altitude regions of Madeira. These wines can become ultra-indestructible and typically have a near-perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. In this case, the wine is bursting with burnt caramel, rum, honey, and smoke, with a smooth, luscious mouthfeel.

Now do you see why I use the word “love” when I’m talking Madeira?

Just don’t tell Mrs. Dudette… she might get jealous…

Cheers!
(images: 1winedude.com, malone.blogs.com, historyguy.com, wikimedia.org, sahistory.org.za, d210.tv, wilsoncrfeekwinery.com, fruitsstar.com, purplemissues.blogspot.com)

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