Wines of the World Class #2
One of the most interesting items I learned in this class was that the Verde Valley was known by the Spaniards as the “Valley of the Grapes”. We have our own local varietal named Vitis Arizonica which is native to Arizona though not a great grape for making wine.
For quality grapes you need a good growing season, and a larger diurnal shift with a gradual temperature change. Soil should be loose and gravely which helps the water to drain. Rocks are good for holding heat, but clay, silt and sand are not the best growing conditions.
Minerals such as nitrogen, magnesium, iron, phosphate, potassium and calcium are also needed to create good wine. Even the PH of a wine plays a part and ranges from 3.0 to 3.6 depending on if it’s white or red.
The latitude, attitude, slope and direction of the slope also affects the quality of the grapes. Those grapes grown on the floor of the Valley tend to be the least expensive since grapes need to struggle to create excellent wines.
I’ve always been mystified with French wine classification, but in this class I learned that if it’s a Burgundy and it’s white, then it’s a Chardonnay and if it’s red well then it’s a Pinot Noir unless it’s a Beaujolais which is a Gamay grape.
In comparing Old World Wines to New World Wines, the Old World wines tend to be food pairing driven, are heavily restricted and labeled according to the place they are grown rather than the varietal.
New World wines have less emphasis on tradition and more on technology. Plus they tend to grow in hotter climates, are more fruit forward, have higher alcohol content and are labeled by the varietal.
Wine Folly posted on Facebook an “Improve your Palate” or “Palate Training” guideline to understand the impact of tannins, acid, sweetness and alcohol in red wine. They recommended a red wine that was low in residual sugar and I chose the 14 Hands Cabernet. By itself, the wine showcased cherry, graphite, and tannins on the roof and sides of my mouth. I poured 3 ounces of wine into 5 separate glasses. One was my control glass. The other four were used in my experiment…
To show the impact of tannins, they recommended a black tea bag. Since there was no black tea in the house, I chose an oolong tea which is also high in tannins. After soaking the tea bag in 3 ounces of red wine for about 10 minutes, the bouquet was mustier and I could feel the tannins more intensely on the sides of my mouth.
Second on the list was acidity. I added ½ of a lemon to the next glass of wine. The wine felt lighter, except for the acid, which opposite of the tannins, caused me to salivate. The nose was lemony, and boy was it bitter!
To display the effect of sweetness on wine, 1 tsp of sugar was added into another 3 oz. glass. The sugar made the fruit flavors more prominent. It also shortened the finish on the wine and felt oily towards the back of my tongue. I then re-tasted the regular 14 hands and it appeared more tarte.
The last demonstration was the addition of vodka. The vodka made the wine feel heavier and taste spicier. The additional alcohol diminished the fruit flavors. It had been at least two decades since I drank Vodka, thus the Sedona Fire Department almost received a call to stop the burn!
If trying this at home, I would recommend using an inexpensive bottle of wine like I did, since so much wine used in the demonstration was undrinkable afterward. Not only did this experiment help me to identify the above situations in wine, it made me ponder the impact of sweetness, acid, alcohol and tannins on food and wine pairing. After trying this fun and instructional test, my palate feels a little more trained and a lot more eager to explore new sensations in wine.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.