Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Terrace View - What Type of Palate Do You Have?

If tasting wine can be compared to other areas of culture and sensory pleasure then perhaps an appreciation of art and music is most apt. Over time one's taste changes, especially as one becomes more interested and more knowledgeable about the subject.

We see this all the time with customers, wine is a journey and different people are at different places along the way. The length and the speed of the journey may differ but frequently the destinations are the same. The simple question for most customers is, "What type of palate do you have?", or more to the point, "Where is your palate?"

At first, many people are into wines that are big and full, delivering an impressive and showy burst of fruit and lingering vanilla oak. Even though people say that they like "nice, dry wines", the truth is that most of the wines in this style aren't that dry. That's okay, it's just a lack of experience in how to describe a wine and furthermore, the dryness of a wine is does not indicate it's quality. Frequently the next step is a total rejection of this style, irregardless of good or poor versions, condemning an entire varietal to the trash heap as in, "I don't like chardonnay."

As we go further along we start to see an exciting and real appreciation for honest wines in a variety of styles, especially wines with some non-fruit complexity and brighter acidity. These wines are made without excessive manipulation in the winery, they strive to express the grape variety and place of origin. They are all different, that's the joy. Chardonnay from Santa Barbara and Chablis don't have the same taste, not even close, and heck, even wines from different vineyards in Chablis don't taste the same. Now that's exciting! When customers reach this point it's a lot of fun because we can recommend so many great things and there is so much variety in the wine world.

So what's the takeaway? Well, the best thing for the staff here at Windsor is to be able to recognize where your palate is, what types of wines you like and what new things would be good for you to try. You might be into full and spicy, crisp and mineral, juicy and aromatic, or medium bodied and herbaceous! If we can determine this it really helps up make solid recommendations and we love to put fun, new wines in our customers' hands. So let us know.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Terrace View - Rosé Report 2013

Every year one of the most welcome and earliest signs of spring is the arrival of rosés from last year's harvest. We are happily at that point now and although high tide for rosé will be in a few months, our first new wines are just starting to come in. If you are curious about rosé and about the 2012 vintage I figured that I would answer some of the most common questions, let's go!

What is Rosé? Rosé is a wine made from red grapes in which the freshly pressed juice is allowed brief contact with the skins, usually just a few hours, then it is separated from the must and allowed to ferment. This is the most common method, although there are others such as vin gris, which is freshly pressed juice with no maceration, or saignée, when some very young wine that has a little color is removed from a tank of red wine and finished on it's own. You may also have some white wine blended in the rosé, not a common practice but we do see it.

What does rosé taste like? Generally, rosés are light to medium in body with fresh berry flavors and crisp, refreshing acidity. They are fun to drink solo and go with a wide range of foods, especially salads, fish, and white meat dishes. I love to drink them at lunch, (especially with leftovers!) or as I'm starting to cook the evening meal. They are also especially great hot weather wines.

What does color tell me about rosé? Honestly not a lot. Many people think that darker color on a rosé means that the wine is sweet, or that it is fuller bodied. That's just not true, there are many factors that contribute to body and perception of sweetness, like alcohol and acidity, and you can't see those so color is not a reliable method to determine the style of the wine. You will see rosés that are pale pink, to a full pink or pale red, and even a coppery, pale salmon color.

Are all the rosés sweet? No! no, no, no.... actually almost all of the rosé we stock is dry. If it's not we'll indicate that on the price label and we'll do our best to tell you at the register if you are buying the wine.

What to expect from 2012 rosés. We see more difference in wines from various regions than specific vintages so let's look. For the most part, rosés from hot climates will give fuller bodied wines with deeper, more forward fruit and those from cooler regions will be light and crisp. Here's a breakdown:

France - From Loire rosé we expect lots of bright acidty, fresh berries and a touch of chalky earth, mineral, and slight herb notes in the back. Very palate cleansing and refreshing. Provence yields some of the most complex rosé,  full bodied,  dry and creamy on the palate. Other rosés from southern France like the Rhône or Languedoc and generally medium to fuller with medium acidity and a rounder fruit character.

Italy - Tends to follow climate wise with crisper, brighter wines from the north and rounder wines from the south. Wines from Abruzzo and Puglia have nice fresh round fruit, especially if there is balanced acidity. There are expections (of course) like full bodied lagrein rosato from Alto Adige. Sicily is an exception as well, the elevation there can produce wines of ligher body and firm acids.

Spain - The majority of Spanish rosatos are darker in color, fuller in fruit with a softer acidity. Although they aren't as pale a some people prefer, they can be great bargains. On the other hand, we also see super steely and crisp rosado from the Basque country.

America - There is such a wide variety of styles in wines from California, Oregon, Washington, and New York (upstate and Long Island) it's hard to make broad statement. Ask us about specific wines, we are happy to answer.

Look for bargains from lesser known countries. That's right, wines from the famous regions are excellent, and there are some deals, but they are not where the cheap wines are. We will have great deals from Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and the Finger Lakes so don't miss them.

What's the best rosé? When we talk about great wines, we talk about complexity, balance, and individuality. Bandol rosé certainly qualifies as do some others from Provence. Sancerre makes some excellent rosé, and I would be remiss not to mention the Spanish rosé, R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, a magical and legendary wine.

Enjoy the rosés!