Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

Wine Tasting trick

Monday, June 7th, 2010

My palate-training journey is much like my exercise regimen.  At times it is fun.  Sometimes it seems like a chore.  I’m often humbled.  But the more I do it the better I get (or so I think).

I often tell the story of the well know winemaker I asked about the secret to wine tasting.  She smiled and said something along the lines of “sweetheart, there are few true shortcuts in life – you must taste, taste, taste…”.  Shucks!

I watch & listen as others taste.  And I’m happy to ask questions.  I don’t always follow the things I hear, but I have learned some valuable tips.

Today I’m here to tell you that it isn’t mad science – tasting wine can be rather simple…

…ok, maybe not simple.  But a really sweet woman (yes, I think women have better palates than men) I met while I was selling wine shared what I consider to be valuable advice.  She spoke of the importance of “the start & the end”.

I have heard lots of people speak of the “mid-palate”.  In its simplest form, wine has an “attack”, a “mid-palate” & a “finish”.

The attack is how the wine tastes in the front of your mouth when it first passes through your lips.  The mid-palate is how it feels as it is IN your mouth (whatever that means).  And the finish, AKA the aftertaste is how you feel about the wine one you have spat/swallowed.

When I asked the woman what she meant by “the start & finish” she spoke initially about the aromas of the wine.  Were they one-dimensional?  Where they common or simple aromas?  Or were these aromas unique, complex, and diverse?  Interestingly, she put less value on the all important (to some) “mid-palate”, skipping it over and instead concentrating on the finish.  Was it pleasant or bitter?  Was it hot (from high or out of balance alcohol)?  Was it short – a few seconds?  Or was it long – did it linger pleasantly for a minute or more?

It has been a few years since this mini wine tasting lesson but I still use this sage advice.  While I admittedly enjoy the mouth feel of an oaked wine, I have come to understand that any winemaker can age their wine in oak and give it that full bodied feel.  But only the best grapes can contribute to make a wine with pleasant, diverse  & interesting aromas (start) as well as a soft, long & pleasurably lingering finish (end).

Happy “start & end” wine tasting!


Happy July 4th!

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

July 4th is America’s independance day.

Happy July 4th wine tasting!


Country specific wine tastings & Israeli wine recognition

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Not much time to write today, but I have gone to many wine tastings throughout NYC the past few years.  Very often these tasting are Spanish wine tastings, or Italian wine tastings, or Chilean wine tastings – tastings that are specific to one country.  I think this is a great way to promote the wines from that country, or even region as the case may be.

HOWEVER, most of these tastings tend to include wineries who are seeking representation in this country.  And sadly most of the wines are pretty nondescript.  Rarely have I had a truly BAD wine, but it is even less rare that I find a wine that really excites me.  SO, are these tastings worthwhile?  Is it worth my time?  Does it help the wineries who pay a lot of money to attend, stay in hotels, pour their wine?  I wonder…

Also of note lately is the recognition Israeli wines truly seem to be getting.  At the aforementioned wine tasting I met a guy while tasting.  He asked what I did and I told him that I work with and specialize in Israeli wines.  He told me that he has been hearing good things about Israeli wines and proceeded to tell me about an Israeli Sauvignon Blanc he and others tried at a blind tasting that was the hit of a tasting.

Then, just yesterday I was in a coffee shop on the phone with someone discussing Israeli wines.  When I hung up a woman who had obviously overheard parts of my conversation asked if I work with Israeli wines.  When I told her that I did she told me that she had recently read an article about Israeli wines and that she has been hearing good things about them.

Pretty cool stuff kids.  The gospel is spreading.  Israeli wines are on their way into the mainstream.  It may take a while longer, but it is starting…

Happy weekend wine tasting!!!


Size Matters

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Back from the holyland, hence the UN-holy title.  Fear not, Wine Tasting Guy’s mind is not in the gutter.  I’m speaking of wine glasses.

wine glass sizs

While tasting wine at several wineries (and in some people’s homes) in Israel I noticed people serving wines in small glasses.  Size is relative, but I’m a believer (though not all would agree) that bigger is better.  More room to swirl, more room for the aromas to linger and easier to tilt the wine so that you can observe and appreciate the color.

In addition to size, good wine should be drunk out of out quality glasses.  There are tons of quality glasses out there nowadays.  No, they don’t have to be hand blown glass.  No, they don’t have to cost $50/glass.  But they should be thin glass bowls (I prefer tulip shaped) and they should not have a rounded lip.  The lip of the glass should be straight so that the wine runs directly down into your mouth.

Although the power of suggestion is one I fervently try to avoid I have heard MANY people say that wine simply tastes BETTER out of better glasses.  And you know what… I agree.

SO, you can imagine my disappointment when I tasted wines at some of the Israel wineries out of cheapo glasses.  If an artist was to display their art don’t you think they would use the best frames, light & background possible?  Then why wouldn’t the wineries want their wines shown in the best glasses.

I know, good glasses can be expensive.   And the good glasses break VERY EASILY.  And there were many wineries that DID serve their wines in good glasses.  But given how strongly I feel about Israeli wines I would like to see ALL wineries pouring their wines out of the best (and most cost effective) glasses.

Happy quality wine glass wine tasting!


What a Day! 2 Wine Tastings!!

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I went away (within Israel) for the sabbath to a friend of the family.  A wonderful woman and great cook it is always a nice shabbat when spent with her and her family.  But it doesn’t hurt that she lives next door to a fabulous winemaker, who is also a brilliant & warm man and whom I am fortunate to call a good friend.  After attending early services (started at 6:20AM – YIKES) we had a “kiddush” in the sukkah of the winemaker friend.  For those of you familiar with the word kiddush when referring to the blessing over wine, I’m using the word here to refer to “a ceremonial meal served … following the recitation of kiddush at the conclusion of services, in which refreshments are served. Traditionally, this often includes cake, crackers, and fish.”  BUT, this was no ordinary kiddush…and not just because we started drinking at 9AM…

wine_tastingThis was a wine tasting kiddush, and the winemaker friend and his amazingly hospitable wife prepared all kinds of salads (made from home grown tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and herbs), quiches, cheeses, cakes, etc to go along with the truly FABULOUS wines we were about to taste.  There were 7 of us around the table and we were in for quite a treat.  Since it was Sabbath I did not take tasting notes, but it is a day and wines I will not soon forget.

The first wine we opened was a 2006 Chateau Lafont Menaut Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux Blanc.  Crisp, minerally, refreshing…great start!

Normally we might save special wines for the end, but we were about to open some elegant aged Bordeaux.  And while they were the “stars” of the night, they are also wines that are not nearly as robust as they were in their youth, leaving them susceptible to being overpowered by younger, more tannic (and robust) wines – which is why we tasted them first.

So following the Bordeaux Blanc we opened a 1998 Chateau Monbousquet St. Emillion Grand Cru.  WOW.  At 10 years old, this Bordeaux tasted young!  Excellent fruit and plenty of tannins.  Some plums, great earthiness and a hint of mocha. 

Up next was a legend.  Maybe not from a legendary vintage, but…a Chateau Latour.  The 1981…yes, I said 1981 Pauillac Grand Vin de Chateau Latour – what a treat!  We were concerned that the wine might not be alive and drinkable, but fortunately we underestimated the staying power of good Bordeaux.  Very much alive, this wine started off tight, showing nice prune & leather characteristics, eventually opening up to show fruit – all packaged nicely, silky soft and round.  Its tannins and acid had dropped out over time, and this wine was quite soft.  Maybe not everyone’s preferred style, but undoubtedly a special wine.

Our third red of the morning was a negociant wine. The 1996 Tardieu – Laurent Hermitage made mostly (or entirely?) of Syrah was very interesting.  A 12 year old wine, I found it to be high in acidity.  The acid will usually drop in a wine as it ages, so this surprised me.  But I was told that 12 years is not old for Hermitage, and that it would soften with further aging.  It did have a nice minerality and some subtle mocha aromas.  A wine (Hermitage) I will definitely be re-visiting…

At this point it was getting a bit late (11AM and apparently people had lives to get to – you believe that?!) and with 3 wines left we opened up the 2 baby reds of the bunch.  A 2003 Artadi Pagos Viejos Rioja and the 2001 Grant Burge “Meshach” Shiraz.  These were fruit forward style wines.  I don’t remember much about the Rioja aside from its up front fuit and nice earthiness.  While the Meshach Shiraz was HUGE.  It actually reminded me a bit of a California Zinfandel.  It had BIG fruit and an almost sweet taste.  But this was not a one-dimensional wine.  It showed pencil shaving & cigar box aromas.  Was well structured (especially for such a big wine) and went quite well with the cakes which by this time had been served.

A final treat was a dessert wine from Alsace.  The Domaine Bott-Geyl Sonnenglanz Grand Cru Alsace dessert wine, made of Pinot Gris (and apparently given a 98 by Robert Parker) was a deliciously sweet treat.  Its acid was present, which prevented any cloying sweetness, but it was so well integrated it was almost as if it wasn’t there.  Very tasty and a special wine to finish things off with.

Assuming I haven’t lost you yet, there was another tasting.  This one at a more normal hour (7PM).  After the Sabbath I drove into Tel Aviv to meet up with a friend who I may work with on my Israel Wine Project.  He has a beautiful apartment in a hopping part of the city and he had about 8 people over for some Israeli wines.  I brought some bottles of local Israeli boutique wine and we had a lovely time.  I talked a bit about each of the wineries, told them about the wine makers, and we then tasted the wines together.  A lite Carignan based wine was casually enjoyed.  A Sangiovese/Syrah/Cab Franc blend was intriguing and determined to be a great food wine.  While the king, a Cab based wine (with 10% Merlot) was thoroughly enjoyed and drunk to the last drop. 

Happy TWICE A DAY Wine Tasting!


power of suggestion – real or not & wine?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

I poured wine at a retailer tonight.  I generally try to stop from voicing my opinion about any wines I am pouring, but I often do find myself say things such as “its a real nice wine”.  Having done as many of these tasting as I have I find the two opposite effects this leads to as quite interesting.

Often, the power of suggestion is apparently quite powerful and people agree that the wine is one way or another, depending upon what I imply.

BUT, almost as often I get people telling me that they do not agree with my take and tell me how they feel differently about the same wine.

damn red

I must admit that it is validating to have people agree with one’s opinion.  Yet I am a big believer that we all have a unique palate, and I TRULY do welcome people disagreeing with my assessment.

What I have trouble understanding are either those who refuse to taste, feeling they are being “sold” or “coerced”.  Or those who seem to disagree & demean a wine simply as a means of expressing their contrarian view or individuality.

If I have learned anything in the wine industry it is that we must possess a thick skin.  Not everyone is going to agree & some might not even disagree politely.  But it ain’t personal!

On a completely separate note, it appears more and more likely that is entering the online wine sales world.  I keep seeing comments about the impending entree of Amazon into the wine business, but I’m not sure I know what the impact will be.  Will they have low prices?  Will they do things legally (and more expensively) like  Is it their infrastructure (shipping centers) that is going to allow them to ship wine to most of the 50 states and keep costs down?  Will this perpetuate the debate over wine shipping and its surrounding issues?  Will the supreme court be involved??  More to come on this topic I’m sure…

Happy wine tasting!


Tasting – Martin Scott Wines portfolio tasting 2008

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

It has been a while, but it is fall portfolio tasting season.  Which means WTG gets to put the ole palate back to work and taste lots of new wines.  It is an exciting time, but I wont be attending as many tastings as in years past.  TOO MUCH WORK.  I’m not complaining, but the life of an unemployed, aspiring wine professional affords for much more time to attend wine tastings than that of a wine salesperson/ entrepreneur.

wine evaluation

The tasting was great.  I traveled the wine world.  I tasted France, Italy, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and some California wines.  I sadly did not have enough time to get to Germany, Austria, Argentina, South Africa, Spain or parts of the US such as NY State, Oregon, Washington State or the Sake selection from Japan.

I tasted many of the wines with a friend and we focused on old world regions such as France and Italy. Given the slow evolution of my palate preferences, I was very excited to have the opportunity to taste some special wines presumably made in an old world style.  When i speak of an old world style, I am referring to wines that are not as fruit forward or extracted as those from new world regions such as Australia or California.  These wines may have more earthy or minerally nuances rather than fresh fruit & berry ones.

In all I tasted close to 70 wines – not bad for an out of practice taster.  We started in the Bordeaux section.  And while Bordeaux style blends are (had been?) some of my favorite wines, the ones I tasted today were not special to me.  Yes these wines do show better with food (although theoretically so do many wines), but I found the Bordeaux that I tried today to be lacking in fruit or other complexities – simply being wines that were overly tannic, acidic and unripe.

From Bordeaux we settled down in the Burgundy section.  WOW.  There was a very sweet and warm woman telling me about her move to Burgundy, prompted following a “visit” there.  She encouraged me to visit and I told her that based on the wines I was tasting I would never leave either.  I tasted a good deal of both red (Pinot Noir) and white (Chardonnay) burgundy. These wines were really good.  I must admit that I still prefer a good Cab to many of these wines, but I am really starting to understand why so many people consider good Burgundy to be the best wines in the world.

As to a specific standout, now that is tough.  I still have lots to learn about Pinot Noir and Burgundies in particular.  There were clearly some made in a more masculine style – bigger, less subtle & more aggressive, while others were more elegant, soft & subtle (those considered to be more feminine in style).  I don’t particularly care for the big California Pinots and as such I was not in love with the bigger burgundies.  Similar to how Cali Pinot often turns me off with its BIG artificial cherry flavor, some of the burgundies had strong cola aromas that did not bother me as much as Cali Pinot, but lacked the elegance that I am gaining an appreciation for with Burgundies.  I actually remarked at one point that some of these Burgundies reminded me of some Chateaunuef du Pape.  But these over-the-top Burgundies were far a few between.  For the most part they were a pleasure to taste and I really do feel privileged.

As to Chardonnay, or white burgundies, I enjoy a good chardonnay, but don’t seek them out.  I find that too many are either over-oaked (from new barrels) or overly buttery (from malolactic/secondary fermentation) or both.  And they lack the crisp acidity I seek in a nice white.  WELL, many of these white burgundies had amazing acidity to go along with their fruit and very well integrated oak.  Really great!

In addition to the Burgundies I had a very nice Chat du Pape, an excellent Super Tuscan, and what may have been my favorite of the tasting,  a Cote Rotie.  I’ve only tried 1 or 2 other Cote Roties in my short wine life, and the others were quite tannic.  I’m told that these long lived wines really need time to soften.  Well of the two I had tonight, the second one was soft, complex & LOOOONG.

The Domaine Jean – Michel Stephan 2005 Cote – Rotie “Coteaux de Tupin” was special.  Its complex aromas included white pepper, cola, coffee and what I decided was a forest pine perfume aroma.  WOW!  The wine was also so soft (not tannic) it was almost sweet – but not of course.  The taste lingered on my palate with its long finish and left me envious of those with extensive Cote Rotie collections.

In all it was a really fabulous tasting.  I hope you were able to enjoy just a little bit of it vicariously through me.

Happy spectacularly special wine tasting!


Labor Day weekend – with wine

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

It has been a few days since my last post.  And I found out on a fellow bloggers site that I missed “Blog Day”.  Sorry.  My excuse – I  was away for the long holiday weekend …AT SUMMER CAMP!  It was a singles weekend at a summer camp in North Eastern Pennsylvania.  I was initially hired to lead a wine tasting for the singles, but that fell through.  I was disappointed as I have very fond memories of my days in summer camp and was looking forward to an adult weekend away at camp.  Sure enough I ended up connecting with the camp owners who brought me up to camp for the weekend as a volunteer.  YIPPEEEEE!

camp pic

I ended up having a BLAST!  Name a camp activity and I did it (or led it).  Basketball, swimming, tetherball (how’s that for a blast from the past?), kayaking, canoeing, rope climbing, camp fires, biking, fishing…I even played late night board games in the canteen.  WOOHOOO!

I know what you are thinking, “WTG, this is a wine blog, tell us about the wine”.  Well, thankfully my expectations for the wine they would be serving were low (it was donated), so I went ahead and brought my own wine.  I was not permitted to hold any formal wine tastings but I did make LOTS of friends as many of my fellow campers were not interested in the “semi sweet” red wine that was provided, (hey, I brought some nice DRY Israeli reds and I’m not above being used for my wine).

Of course there was no actual stemware and no “wine tasting” activity, but I was able to talk through (and taste through) some of the wines I had brought with me during the meals.  And as is often the case, while there were some people simply looking for a quick buzz, most were genuinely interested.    It was a great weekend  and I am one HAPPY (wine tasting) camper.

Happy summer camp wine tasting!


A beautiful woman and a fabulous wine bar

Monday, August 18th, 2008

NOOOO…I did not pass away and go to heaven (although I bet that is what MY heaven looks like).  But I must admit that this afternoon and evening were quite wonderful.

Late this afternoon I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman with whom I have been in touch for a long time.  This guy is working to promote THE CAUSE – Israel wine.  And he seems to be doing a great job of it.  His approach is unique, but his passion is unmistakable.  He invited me to meet him at an in-house wine tasting event.  At this event he poured several wines, spoke to the people about the wines and the winemakers, and then took orders for said wine.  All the wines were Israeli wines made at what are considered to be boutique operations.  And while some of the wines showed better than others, all were generally warmly received.  Way to go Richard!

From this fabulous event I went to meet a lovely young lady at a wine bar I have been meaning to check out.  The young lady looked terrific (no, not because I drank a lot at the wine tasting event) and the wine bar was doing “IT” right.

What is “IT” you ask?  Ahhh…good question.  IT is the prefect level of service where the customer feels attended to, appreciated, yet not crowded, rushed or made to feel anything less than like a king.   Just really great service.

wine bartender

Upon initially speaking with the server, she modestly deferred to the asst. sommelier for wine related issues – something I greatly appreciate rather than being fed B.S. about wines they might know nothing about.  The sommelier was cordial, polite and gracious and brought us 4 samples to try so that when we made out ultimate selection we would be sure to be pleased.  And the clincher was the follow up service.  They were attentive, but from afar.  I was thrilled to be pouring my own wine from the carafe in which it was served.  And throughout my time I noticed the server looking over, almost waiting to be summoned, but not crowding us in any way.  She was really amazing.  How she came up with what (in one persons humble opinion) was the perfect combination of space & attentiveness I will never know.  But she got IT!

Happy fabulous (Israeli) wine tasting!


A taste of Israel

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Happy B-day to WTG. Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to WTG, Happy B-day to YOU!

OK, that is out of the way. I tend to I shy away from b-day attention, but hey, a Wine Tasting Guy only turns 21 (yeah, right) once right?!?!?

Anyway, I attended a wine tasting tonight, and it was my favorite kind. It was an ISRAELI WINE tasting at the as of yet not opened 92Y Tribeca.  I poured wine at the event and it was FABULOUS! People at the event were “WINE CURIOUS”. I did get some requests for “white wine” or “red wine” or “the best wine”, but for the most part, people were engaging me in conversation about the wine. Where did it come from (Israel), what region (most from Galille, but some from Golan), what grapes were used (Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Viognier, etc.)… YES, there were some people who just wanted to drink, but that is OK. I busted balls – made all the people who asked for white pronounce “VIO-GN-IER” before I poured them anything (actually pronounced VEE-OAN-YAY).  Speaking of Viognier, the Galil Mt. 2007 Viognier was the hit of the event.  I was told by more than a few people that it was the best wine of the night.  I went through 3 bottles of the Viognier before finishing 1 bottle of anything else I had.

wine cheers at table

But seriously, it was a very productive tasting. Many of the people were sincerely curious as to the varietal, origin, winery, etc. They also wanted to know where they could find the wine. Some were truly upset that they could NOT buy some of the wine poured at the event on the spot. I had to explain to them that it was illegal to sell to them and they would have to buy it at their favorite wine shop. But overall, people were happy to engage the WTG in conversation about GOOD, ISRAELI wine. And I was thrilled to be able to oblige.

Happy Israeli Wine Tasting!