TTT&T: How to Get a Good Look

Since I’m trying to keep these segments short, today’s post is simply about how to hold the glass so that you can get a better look at your wine.  Looking at the wine is something a lot of people quickly gloss over.  However, it’s amazing how much information you can gather without even taking a sip, and trust me, it’s well worth taking the extra minute to do a quick check.

The main things that I’m looking for when I check the appearance of a wine are:

  • Clarity, which hints at the age and quality;
  • Rim color, which gives an indication of the wine’s age;
  • Overall color, which helps determine grape variety, age, and quality, as well as create expectations of what’s to come; and
  • Legs, which show the viscosity and, ultimately, how much sugar and alcohol are in the wine.

First, make sure you hold your glass by the stem.  If you’re not used to this, it might be awkward at first, but the heat from your hands can increase the temperature of the wine when you hold the glass by the bowl.  This can be particularly bad when tasting white and rosé wines. 

Then, the best way to examine your wine is to tilt the glass (obviously, this means you shouldn’t fill the glass to the brim when you pour).  It’s best to do this over a white tablecloth or napkin, this way there isn’t anything behind your glass to throw off the color.  After that, you’re ready to start making observations about the wine’s appearance. 

Overall, if you don’t already tilt your glass while checking the appearance of your wine, try it over the next couple of weeks, as I will be discussing what to look for in terms of clarity, color, and legs.  I think you’ll find it’s particularly helpful when trying to differentiate the color around the rim of the wine from the core color of the wine, although it will give you a better view of almost everything you’ll be looking for.   

WARNING: Attention Whore on the Loose

I just received the test results for my WSET Level 2 Intermediate Certificate in Wines and Spirits …and I PASSED WITH DISTINCTION!!  It took almost 5 weeks to get the results, and I’m already well into the Level 3 Advanced Certificate, but this is a great way to go into the final several weeks of studying.

For those of you who have been following since the beginning, you probably remember that when I started this blog, I was one week into my first WSET course.  For those of you who are new, the courses I’m taking are offered by the Washington Wine Academy (WWA), but are actually part of the Wine & Sprits Education Trust, which is based out of London and is internationally recognized.  The WSET Level 2 was my first foray into wine education, and I loved every minute of it.  If you’re even toying with the idea of taking a WSET class, I definitely recommend doing it.  If you’re in the DC area, check out the WWA (both for the class and for their other activities).  I learned a lot and tasted some great wines during the 6-week course.  

So, that’s my good news.  Now, the big question is what to should I open tonight to celebrate?

Come On Oregon, Light My Fire

Between Hubby’s classes two nights a week, my class one night a week, and both of us working long-ish hours, we’re lucky if we sit down to dinner before 8pm and even luckier if we sit down together.  Since we eat so late, our weekday dinners tend to be fairly simple—marinated chicken/fish/steak made on the George Forman grill, some starch or veggie, and a glass or two of wine (for me, since Hubby doesn’t drink).  Clearly, this means there isn’t a lot of variety in the food, but that also means that I like some diversity and personality in my wine.  Oregon’s R.Stuart & Co. 2007 Big Fire Pinot Noir looked like it could a wine to provide the variety I needed.

The Big Fire Pinot Noir (vineyard, snooth) comes with a screw top, although, unfortunately, mine was stripped.  I’m sure watching me figure out how to open the bottle was very amusing.  Let’s just say that I was becoming increasingly aggressive with the poultry scissors.  Finally, though, I was able to get the top off, and my efforts were rewarded with my first sip.

The wine was a medium-to-light ruby that resembled the color and intensity of cranberry juice.  On the nose, there were red fruits—mostly cranberry and plums, with a hint of strawberry—followed by a surprising, although not unpleasant, amount of spicy white pepper.  In the mouth, the spiciness was stronger than the fruit flavors, although the types flavors all matched the types aromas.  The wine could have used more body, as it felt little watery in my mouth, but, in general, the low tannins provided a nice counter to the spiciness, giving the wine enough flavor to be enjoyable. 

Is this wine worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll definitely have a decent, reliable glass of wine.  At $22 a bottle, the 2007 Big Fire Pinot Noir is a good wine to pick up and drink now, particularly as I don’t think it will benefit from any aging.  The wine would work well with a casual weekday meal like grilled chicken breast or a pizza, depending on if it’s an eat-in or order-out night. 

Overall: 3


Tuesday’s Tasting Tips & Techniques (TTT&T): Detergent Interference

A regular reader asked if I would discuss how to taste wine, since some of my readers know they like wine, but they have no interest in taking a wine class while still wanting a better understanding about the wine they’re drinking.  The request made sense to me…so, in an attempt to help those of you who are wine novices have some insight into my style and to give those of you who are wine aficionados a little refresher, I thought I’d introduce “Tuesday’s Tasting Tips & Techniques.”  These won’t be long posts, so if I don’t explain something in enough detail, just ask for more information.

Today’s topic—detergent and your wine glass. 

First, use a scentless detergent.  This is a really important because not only can scented detergent throw off your whole tasting experience by masking the honey taste in your chardonnay with the lemon scent of the detergent, for example, but also it can be downright disgusting (and confusing) when you detect lemon aromas to your cabernet sauvignon.

Second, wipe the inside of your wine glass with a clean lint-free cloth (like a cloth napkin or dishtowel) before pouring the first glass.  Detergent leaves residue on the inside of your glass, which, in any wine, can interfere with the actual tasting experience, and, in sparkling wine, can interfere with the way the bubbles rise to the top of your glass.  By wiping the inside of the glass before it is used, you remove the residue and avoid potential problems.


This Time, A French Sauvignon Blanc

Since I just posted about my first experience with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I thought it would be a fun experiment to open a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé while the thoughts about the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc were still fresh on my mind.  So, on Friday evening, I chilled a bottle of 2006 Domain du Bouchot Pouilly-Fumé (vineyard; snooth) before Hubby and I ordered some Thai delivery.  Because I’m a soy sauce addict, I ordered my favorites—crab rangoon and chicken pad see ew.

Pouilly-Fumé is a Sauvignon Blanc from, you guessed it, Pouilly-Fumé, which is in the Loire Valley of France.  Typically, the wines are known for their smoky (fumé means “smoked” in French) and mineral flavors, and the Domain du Bouchot didn’t disappoint.  The wine was a nice, medium, gold color.  On the nose, there were lime and lemon aromas blended with hints of green apple and flowers.  There was also the anticipated smoke and stone-like aromas.  In the mouth, there was a nice mixture of lime and wet-stone flavors.  I know…you’re thinking that the idea of drinking something that tastes like licking a wet stone does not sound enticing, but I promise that when done well, as it is with this Pouilly-Fumé, it’s very enjoyable!  

The French Sauvignon Blanc was very different from the New Zealand wine from the same grape.  In appearance, the Domain du Bouchot had a more golden color than the Kim Crawford, which still was very young and yellow-green.  On the nose, the Domain du Bouchot was dominated by citrus and mineral flavors, while the Kim Crawford had strong vegetal (green pepper and asparagus) flavors with only a hint of citrus.  Those differences on the nose translated to similar differences on the palate.  Overall, though, while very different in appearance, smell, and taste, both wines had a crisp, refreshing acidity that brought out different, yet enjoyable characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. 

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $14 a bottle, this wine has great food pairing potential or can be enjoyed on its own, especially on a hot, 90-degree day.  The combination of the Pouilly-Fumé with both the seafood and the chicken in my Thai dishes worked perfectly; plus, the fried aspect of crab rangoon and the salty taste of the pad see ew helped cut the high acidity in the wine, while enhancing the flavors.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter to eat, I think the wine would also pair well with a nice goat cheese or a grilled shrimp dish.  No matter how you look at it, Domain du Bouchot’s 2006 Pouilly-Fumé was the perfect wine to kick off the heat wave that hit the DC area over the weekend!

Overall:4 Corks