Chardonnay: Barrel Fermentation
I’ve heard guys warning their buddies not to fall too quickly for that pretty face across the room until he’s seen her au naturel. Brutally put: What does she look like without any …makeup? Let’s face it, if it’s heads we want to turn, it’s better to understate rather than overstate. Whether we’re highlighting our assets or a winemaker is tweaking a wine’s flavors: what matters most is that it is done in good taste.
The pendulum of business paradigms seems to swing from diversification to core strength. Businesses divest themselves faster than a 70’s-stadium streaker, only to swing back to another acquisition spree with all the ferocity of a Black Friday shopper. Perhaps such shed-and-grow changes are necessary to keep businesses on their toes. However, when a pendulum swings in one direction, it is to the exclusion of the other direction, right? One grape in particular seems to defy these dynamics: its core strengths, offset by its ability to diversify its market appeal, makes it a grape for all reasons.
I’ve always kept my distance from bees, especially on hot summer days. It seemed the more sweltering the temperatures, the more menacing their mood. It wasn’t until we moved across the proverbial pond and a couple of latitude lines closer to the North Pole, that I discovered warm weather had the opposite effect on the European bee. Instead of being ready to sting first, ask questions later, the bee would dreamily drift off with the summer drafts until it settled onto some shady spot for a mid-day snooze. Grapes too, can become lackadaisical when the thermometer goes up, sapping their acidic energy.
The first time Mad Dog and I had ever sampled a French Gewürztraminer, we had to call over our very French maitre d’, Grégoire, to ask whether the wine had gone bad. The aroma was so pungent, we weren’t quite sure whether the nose was reminiscent of ‘feet’ or Limburger cheese. However, Grégoire assured us that this ‘aroma’ was common. As with the truffle, the first encounter might be daunting but once past the nose, the taste of Gewürztraminer can be quite addictive.
First Know Your Grape
Around late September, on warm and sunny autumn afternoons, the open markets of Europe’s wine growing regions feature tables piled high with Muscat grapes. The air is so thick with their sweet grapey perfume, you could almost cut yourself a piece of Muscat pie. Wines made from the Muscat grape are aromatic and actually do taste like the grape itself. However, the Muscat and its varietal cousins are the exception: wine often tastes quite different than the grapes from which it is made. In short, the fruit in your wine doesn’t necessarily taste like the fruit on the vine.
Sometimes less is more. Much as we might yearn to taste a 1948 Château Pétrus, we probably wouldn’t want to drink such a phenomenal wine day in and day out. Sometimes, a simple table wine is exactly what the occasion calls for and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Do schools still mark on a curve system anymore? Although there are many formulas for grading on a curve, it boils down to one thing: grade trumps education. Tasters assess wines on a curve when they base their quality judgment on the label or the price. If you thought that blind tasting wasn’t a terribly useful skill, it certainly becomes essential when you don’t want a wine’s reputation to trump true quality.