OkieWineGirl

A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Category: homeschool wine student

Summer Reads: Wine Wars

flickr.com

 

I’ve been trying to post this for a week but between packing to head east to New York City and the Jersey Shore and all the extra shopping required because at least three of the four munchkins has outgrown their bathing suits, it didn’t happen. Even my favorite pastime – Twitter, has seen neglect! But tonight, while half the family watches the Cavs and the Warriors play, I have a moment to post. One thing, I so hoped it would have been the Thunder and Cavs but maybe next year. 

 

Summer is upon those of us living in the northern hemisphere.  Time to break out the summer novels, those saucy paperbacks, chilling thrillers, tales of romantic heartbreak, sweet memoirs, and mysteries. Whatever whiles away the hours by the pool or shore. Nothing too taxing on the intellect of a sun drenched and Long Island Iced tea soaked brain. At the start of our summer break, I picked up  a few wine books to fill my beach bag before we left for the Jersey shore. There is a cornucopia of wine literature out there that you can prop open with a bottle of Banana Boat SPF50 while lounging around.  Here’s one I plucked from the shelves and opened early:

 

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Wine Wars by Mike Veseth

It’s a fairly straightforward tale of global wine marketing told by a witty professor of economics. Wine Wars zeroes in on the influences at work behind directing wine drinkers to buy certain wines and untangles the economics behind the wine route. It starts with a lesson in British wine history and the Empire’s vast influence on wine global marketing and moves to the homogenization of wine or what Veseth calls McWine. There’s an interesting antedote about Karl and Theo Albrecht, founders of the Aldi grocery stores. Aldi, the barebones discounter,  apparently sells wine for .97 cents/liter in Europe. Their upscale American shop, for those of you in the know, is none other than that West Coast hipster, Trader Joes. Since there aren’t any Trader Joes in my area I’ve never had the pleasure of sampling a TwoBuckChuck but recently there has been a push to modernize Oklahoma’s liquor laws and allow grocery stores to sell wine. This means our neighborhood Aldi might be hocking wine for a $1.00! Now the question is Will I Buy it?  Definitely! I’m up for adventure and I can spare a dollar. Well, at least until we hand over the college tuition in August.  After that the only wine I’ll be able to afford will be Aldi’s “dump bucket red”.

In war, you need opponents and with the birth of McWine, a group of vignerons called CRAV (French acronym) or the “Regional Committee for Viticultural Action” has arisen. These wine vigilantes are the modern version of the Boston tea party. They hijack wine containers filled with what they deem as inferior wine and dump them out. They have vowed to protect wine’s sense of place, it’s terrior and the “heart of European Culture”, thus creating the wine war and their nickname of the wine terroirists.

“Globalization brings the world to you, Two Buck Chuck makes it understandable and gives you the confidence to buy, but we need terroirists so that we don’t forget that wine is a beautiful product of nature, not a commoditized manufactured good.” – Mike Veseth, Wine Wars.

Overall, I liked the book.  Now I think I’ll hunt for a wine novel about vineyard adventures with complex characters, an old wine cellar and mystery or maybe just a wine comedy with quirky characters and recipes. I’ll let ya know what I find.

 

photo credits: flickr.com & amazon.com respectfully

Spain’s Mighty Little Wine Shire

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Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas 2014

When you look at this bottle, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?

Hobbits? Elvish? The Lord of the Rings? Bilbao Baggins?

“One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!”  (Insert wine for Ring) Oh the drama!

I picked up this wine from the sale rack a few weeks back because one: I recognized the grape Albariño, two: it was on sale from $19 to $11, and three: it has a really cool Tolkien label.  To be honest, it didn’t actually click why the label was so appealing until my eldest daughter came through the kitchen and quipped, “Ah, drinking a little hobbit wine this weekend, eh, mama?”

My daughter’s full of clever quips or maybe just full of it. I haven’t quite decided yet. It’s probably both! I do know one thing, though, she keeps my eyes rolling heavenward more than I do hers.

Anyway, Albariño was one of the connections to buying the bottle, albeit a mysterious one. It’s ironic that despite the fact I read a large collection of wine blogs, retention is about oh 1/5th of what I read. Sometimes, I feel like Dorie in Finding Nemo. “Albarino? Never had it.” “We opened a bottle last weekend.” “Are you sure?” “Pale green, golden liquid, fruity tropical aromas, hints of peach and apple, crème brulee-like mouthfeel, excellent long mineral finish?”  “Oh, that was Albarino? Wow. That was good.” “Do you remember now?” “Huh, you sure it was Albarino?” Continual repetition is the key for me.  Continual. Repetition.

The label was elusive about the winery and winemaker with my memory lapses so I decided to throw it into the fire in the hopes of revealing its hidden message i.e do a bit of digging into its origin. I started in the most logical place: what did the mysterious label say? 

First the technical: Burgáns Albariño 2014 Rias Baixas DO

100% Albariñ0, 12% Alc.

Produced & Bottled by RE 6153 PO-ES Cambados Pontevedra Spain

“Albariño Burgán gets his name from the Burgán hills, the heart of the Salnes valley in N.W. Spain. The unique soil and the Atlantic climate allows the mythical Albariño grape to reach its fullest expression.”

Mythical Albariño grape? Why is it mythical?

The mythical Albariño grapes grow in northwest Spain near the border of Portugal but from what I uncovered, the area seemed reminiscent of the Shire.

courtesy of DeLong's Maps of Spain

courtesy of DeLong’s Maps of Spain

Turning to The Wine Bible (Karen McNeil 2001) I learned Rías Baixas is a tiny remote region in the province of Galicia. The area is isolated with windy cool coasts and mountain ranges. Galicia residents, known as Galegos, have grown white Albariño grapes for centuries.  The Galegos are originally Celtic which explains the Tolkien typography of the label. My smarty pants teenager was apparently very close to the truth. They also speak Galician, a Celtic accented dialect of Spanish/Portuguese mix. Originally, not many of the family produced wines were available commercially until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a group of wealthier Galegos started a revolution. A white Albariño grape technology revolution. Viva la wine techno! Through modernization and investment in well-trained young enologists, the region and the varietal has risen to produce one the best white wines of Spain.

This particular wine, Burgán Albariño is produced by Bodegas Martín Códax Winery. The name is from a 13th century Galegos troubadour whose romantic medieval poems can still be spouted at college poetry slams today.  

 courtesy Martin Codax Winery website

courtesy Martin Codax Winery website

From the Martín Códax Winery website:

The winery:

Our wines are produced following new techniques of vinification without forgetting traditional ways. Our vineyards, situated in small parcels, use the typical system of “emparrado” and are meticulously cared, advised by our viticulturists in order to get the best possible quality.

Usually harvest starts in September. It is hand harvested and the grape clusters are put in crates of 20 kg in order to avoid their being crushed and thereby decreasing quality.

Once they arrive at the winery, they are analyzed to ensure they have the essential requirements and are introduced into the de-stemmer in order to separate the berries from the stems. Finally, a neumatic press produces the juice.

Once we have the juice, the alcoholic fermentation process begins in stainless steel vats of 30.000 liters. When it is finished, malolactic fermentation starts. This fermentation converts malic acids into lactic acids, avoiding excessive acidity. Finally, the wine is stabilized and bottled.

The winery was founded thanks to the idea of a group of winegrowers; as a winery made by people for the people. Set up by 270 members, the winery also relies on the collaboration of 300 families whose grapes are supplied to us. As a big family, we work together in order to ensure our wines have the highest possible quality.

I learned “emparrado” means trained vines on an overhead frame. Emparrado. Emparrado. Emparrado. Remember repetition.

Albariño is rapidly rising to be one of my favorite varietals too. So maybe it’s not really a Hobbit wine but with its mellow, well balanced, dry yet luscious fruit flavors and long finish, it makes for great fellowship!

“One wine to bind them all . . .” 

Just Call Me Wine Snob

zazzle.com

zazzle.com

Accused! While enjoying a particularly fine winter afternoon, an accusation was leveled at me.  According to my husband, I’ve apparently turned into a wine snob. Wine snob! Hrumgh! The moniker makes me think of a pretentious, pontificating individual. The comical picture of someone with their sniffer stuck in the air, judging the world beneath them. Here’s Merriam-Webster’s unflattering opinion:

Snob

noun \ˈsnäb\

one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors

one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior

one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste

Is this observation of my character justified? Do I think my tastes are superior? Does my Sicilian-Irish sniffer rise up in a huff at the thought of drinking perceived “inferior” bottle?  Have I cultivated an attitude of snobbery when imbibing in God’s gift of the vine? I had to take a hard look at my wine attitude.

The soul searching was the result of me not finishing a glass of wine and eventually pouring the bottle down the drain. My husband took mock offense at my refusal to drink it.  I argued it was simply a personal preference and I preferred drinking something else. The inexpensive wine seemed to have a funky unbalanced way about it with a lingering too sour aftertaste. I’m not prejudice of inexpensive wine. There are several delicious bottles available. I can even do funk and weird but unbalanced just needs to be medicated and left alone. In the heat of our discussion, the term ‘Wine Snob’ was lobbed at me.

When it comes down to it, wine is always a personal preference just like fashion, art and music. However, I would argue that tastes change and mature over time. For example, when we first started enjoying wine, our palates were inexperienced. We tended to drink Merlot and Chardonnay because they are often less complex. New wine drinkers many times choose sweeter wines and gradually move to bolder, complex ones. Food’s the same way. As children, Kraft Mac and Cheese is preferred over Southern Living’s Decadent Skillet Mac n Cheese with bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, broccoli and Gouda. As we grow, our palates are exposed to broader options. Some remain content with simpler fair, while others grow to enjoy exotic or richer offerings. But does this make them a food snob?

I decided to look at it from a positive angle. Instead of a judgmental person seeking to display superiority, maybe it was a person who’d matured in their tastes and had grown to appreciate the skill, talents and time put into making wine. Someone with more experienced tastes and who drinks accordingly.

Well, it’s just something to ponder on this cold morning.

Besides, it’s not like I’m a true wine snob anyway. I lack the guts and knowledge required to give lengthy educated opinions. *wink* My tastes have simply changed due to exposure. Give me a delicious wine $10 and under any day! However, you’re welcome to call me wine snob when I turn my nose up at Lindemans. I’ll simply pass you the bottle and get myself a soda.

A Few Questions for Okie Wine Girl:

Courtesy FreshPics by Zazzle

Courtesy FreshPics by Zazzle

Where do you hail from?

I’ve lived in Oklahoma for several years now . Hence, my handle “Okie Wine Girl.” It’s a great place for my sweetie and I to raise our brood of children and since it’s centrally located we can be on the East coast to surf and shop or the West coast to wine & dine in the same amount of time. It’s a win/win!

 

How did you get interested in wine?

Well, funny you should ask that! My first foray into wine was learning to cook new, fresh, healthy or visually delectable recipes. Surprisingly, a lot of them used wine or suggested a very intriguing wine pairing. Next thing I know, I’m cooking and drinking it.

Do you know anything about wine?

A little bit. I’ve had the opportunity to go to a few wine tastings.  I’ve read a few wine books, wine blogs, and I love following online wine chats. Oh, and drinking from all types of vineyards.  There is a wonderful little wine shop where I live that actually employs a sommelier who has guided, suggested, informed and encouraged my wine selections.

What do you do in your spare Time?

 Spare time. You know a wise mentor once told our group of  wiser, in-the-know college gathering that this was the most free time we would have in our lives. He smiled and said take advantage of it. Of course, he was quickly dismissed since he quipped this nugget of wisdom during finals week. Now I have learned that indeed it was my supererogatory season of life. I mourn my youthful foolishness. Oh well. What’s done is done so now when not keeping the kids alive, I run to fill the time. Or read. Or any number of things the LORD brings my way.

If you could be any varietal  . . . ?

I live by the motto, “Favorites are the ones with you in the moment.” (I made that up.)  All are welcome here *wink*. Now, let’s get out there and taste the world!

 

Okie Wine Girl

Okie Wine Girl

 

Coming to America: Turkish Wine

“For us as wine drinkers, we expect there to be a plethora of wines available to us wherever we shop. But how exactly does it all happen? What does it take to introduce new wine regions to winelovers in the US and build a category from the ground up? What does it take to create a Turkish wine category where there wasn’t one? Persistence, dedication and a forward-thinking team of wine professionals!” – Tina Morey, Protocol Wine Studio 

Sevilen-Vineyard-2-----Mend

Any opportunity to travel aboard is always welcome in my world. However, the current state of our household puts the kibosh on jetting off to exotic locations for the moment. And let’s face it, we all have bucket lists with dream places that would require either winning the lotto or becoming a travel journalist in order to visit. The only option left is a lovely and exotic bottle of wine. As a wine drinker and consumer, I often experience a far away land by enjoying the fruits of their vines in lieu of a stamp in my passport.

If you’ve read any of my posts, you’ll know I’m a home-schooled wine student and I often follow #Winestudio by @ProtocolWine to further my education. Well, this month on the #Winestudio the discussion is about one of the oldest cosmopolitan countries on the Mediterranean whose history alone could fill libraries: Turkey.  It nurtures some of the oldest wine producing regions in the world and is well known through the evangelistic efforts of the apostle Paul. And yet despite it’s  prestigious resume, Turkish wine has been keep under wraps to western wine drinkers. That is until now.

Thanks to the efforts of Olga and Shane Rai of VinoRai –  Importers of Quality Turkish Wines, many of us wine lovers will have a chance to try and possibly fall in love with the wines of Turkey.

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Just think, ancient history, delicious indigenous grapes, and the beautiful regions of Izmir, Cappadocia  and Anatolia in a glass. No passport required.

 

P.S. Through the generosity of @ProtocolWine I’ll have a chance to experience Turkish wines without even leaving the plains of Oklahoma.  Visiting Turkey would check off a place on my bucket list but tasting is the next best thing. I’ll let you know what I discover and remember opinions are all my own.  And if you live in Montana or Washington D.C. go and get a bottle of Turkey’s finest wine and let me know what you think.

I’m a Bordeaux Groupie, er, Fan!

“Wine is a vehicle for time travel. You can literally taste what happened that year.” ~ Ian B.

Either someone has been dumpster diving in my Big Blues down at the curb or gotten wind of my homeschooling wine education because a few weeks ago I received the  most curious DM on twitter. After polite introductions, the contact said that I had been identified as a ‘Fan of Bordeaux’ and ask if I would like to participate in a Bordeaux.com blog event called ‘Bordeaux in my city: Fan Favorites‘? Shut Up! Me!?! A fan of Bordeaux???  Well, I do like to drink wine . . . so, after cautious DM back and forth I agreed and emailed my info. (This is going to be a long story so go ahead and open that Left Bank Bottle. It’ll have time to decant.)

Bordeaux.com, a wine school and website dedicated to promoting Bordeaux, issued the invitation to participate in their upcoming blog featuring various wine enthusiasts and the Bordeaux available in their areas. To aid in this Bordeaux exploration, they generously sent me a Bordeaux wine tasting kit, a gift card, Bordeaux swag, a handy informational book, a colorful regional map and a wine chart.  The wine tasting kit, alone, was an invaluable gift and one that will get lots of future use!

WineTastingKit - A wine student's dream tool

WineTastingKit – A wine student’s dream

 

The assignment was go to my local wine shop, pick up some bottles of Bordeaux and go home and play with the tasting kit! In the process,  I was to identify a few of the aromas, textures,  and colors of Bordeaux wine.  Well, the homeschool wine student in me nearly fainted from excitement. Someone wanted to teach me about Bordeaux wine and the region! After sniffing some smelling salts, I got myself to the wine shop.

This was a perfect opportunity to get a snapshot of each side of the Gironde with it’s tributaries Dorgogne and Garoone so I purchased three bottles, one left bank, one right bank, and one white. Let me pause here to  give a shout out to my favorite sommelier, Ian, who is a Francophile and walking encyclopedia of wine facts. Who better to assist in buying Bordeaux than a Francophile? May every winelover be blessed with a knowledgeable Somme in their life!  Merci beaucoup, Ian.  Forty-five minutes later, I was on my merry way with the bottles strapped safely in their car seats. What? How do you transport your wine?

Homework never looked so good.

Homework never looked so good.

Well, over the coarse of a weekend, each bottle was analyzed meticulously. Just kidding! My husband and I drank them with glee while comparing aromas and colors with the help of the 6 bottles of essences in the kit and  the color cards. It was a lot of fun taking a whiff of wine and then comparing it to the black currant or strawberry essence. If freshman Chem1001 had featured a wine tasting unit, I might have done better!  Now, per Ian’s instructions,  here’s how the actual home-school class, or as I nicknamed it, The Bordeaux Match, went down. The left bank was opened first because it would be the one sampled over two days.

Representing the Left bank and haling from the appellation of Margaux:

Chateau Mongravey 2012

Chateau Mongravey 2012

Chateau Mongravey  Marguax Cru Bourgeois 2012

Stats:

  • 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
  • Aged 14 months in French Oak
  • 30 year old vines
  • 13% alcohol

After opening, we took a sip sans swirl for the starting point. Then decanted the entire bottle and tasted an ounce every 15 minutes over the course of an hour noting the differences. Finally,  I poured each of  us a glass cause we definitely earned them and the rest was dutifully put away till the next day. Believe me, not since dropping my first born off at kindergarten have I needed sheer willpower to walk away! What I learned from this little exercise was that this big bold Bordeaux was a complex personality who came to a dinner party polite and reserved and over a delightful evening  relaxed and opened up to share rich, amusing anecdotes like an old friend.

Here’s a quick note on the tastes and smells at each 15 minute sip:

First sip: tight with vanilla, green raspberries and black current. Taste #1: Bell pepper, black currant, wet rock, minerals, pepper. There was a pleasant, familiar mystery smell but my untrained brain couldn’t place it. Taste #2: More berries Taste #3: Velvety, pepper, unsweetened raspberry jam, violets. Taste #4: A smell of green strawberry. Mellow, supple, black currants, berries with vanilla showing up again.  The second day it was velvet berries in a glass. Practically no acidity. Just full and relaxed.

I dreamed of Bordeaux that night. Since the first bottle was a lot more intense than the usual open and enjoy, I was still going over it with the tasting kit in my sleep.

Representing the Right Bank and haling from the appellation of Saint Emilion:

Chauteau Coutet 2010

Chauteau Coutet 2010

Chateau Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2010

Stats:

  • 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 150 year-old Merlot vine
  • fermented in cement tanks
  • Aged 18 months in French oak
  • Consultation winemaker, the famed Denis Dubourdieu
  • 14% alcohol

Chateau Coutet was decanted 15 minutes and enjoyed over a leisurely 2 hour steak dinner.  I was told this was a teenage Bordeaux. Our house is currently filled with the species so I can totally relate.  All I could think was Chateau Coutet was everything a teenager would be: bright, bold, in the NOW and sassy fun.  We really loved the straightforward drink-ability of this wine with it’s rich body of dark fruits, hints of strawberry and acidity.

In order to keep the bank balanced, I picked up a White Bordeaux from Bordeaux.

Chateau Ducasse 2014

Chateau Ducasse 2014

Chateau Ducasse Bordeaux 2014

Stats:

  • 60% Semillion, 5% Muscadelle, 35% Sauvignon Blanc
  • aged in stainless steel for 6 months
  • bottled unfiltered
  • producer Herve Dubourdieu

The weekend weather was perfect for chilled white Bordeaux. Warm, sunny and humid. The wine had the aroma of stone fruits and minerals. Yum. It’s crisp tartness showcased the citrus lemon-lime and saline. A nice summer, easy going patio wine.

The Bordeaux match was a trans-formative, educational experience for me. Not to mention, it tremendously enhanced this wine fan’s love of Bordeaux!  Merci to Bordeaux.com for enriching my wine education and teaching me each Bordeaux is unique but still carries many of the same distinctive qualities that shouts ‘Bordeaux’ when you drink them.

Huh. I’m still pinching myself! Wine-tasting kit. Best. Gift. Ever. The foolish grin on my face  proves it!

Next weekend, wine school’s at my house and I’ve got a kit we can play with. Cheers!

 

The samples were gifts from Bordeaux.com and I received no other compensation. The opinions are all my own. Now get out there and try a Bordeaux! 

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