We tasted 19 wines and 2 spirits in Mixology yesterday. Our setup included a bottle of water (I took a second halfway through) brie, bleu cheese, dried figs, dried apricots, macadamia nuts, almonds, honey, apricot preserves, raspberry preserves, rasberries, butter cookies, lemon cake, brownies, truffles, chocolates, toffee, and dried cherries. Overall, the entire process was very relaxed. Ms. Carmen’s a kind and jolly woman, very laidback and softspoken, older than my parents but younger than my grandparents, for which wines and such is simply a hobby and the tastings she and her husband gives are purely for fun. In contrast to our previous tastings in which we systematically evaluated the sight, nose, etc., here she simply told us a bit about what to expect of each wine, perhaps gave a few generalizations such as chocolate and so-and-so would probably make us pucker, her husband came ’round and poured for us, our foodstuffs were generously replenished as needed, and we were encouraged to experiment and find combinations that suited our personal tastes. Ms. Carmen did bake both the brownies and the lemon cake, and we were all raving about both. She’s quite the motherly home baker =) a true kindred spirit. Loved her.
As there was no truly set method to our madness, my notes were short, hurried, and varied – it did take us an entire two hours to taste all 21 products – so I will do my best to elaborate on my notes here, if you’ll be so kind as to forgive the randomness [and redundancy] of them.
We started out with two bubblies, both new world if I remember correctly, one white and one rosé, the rosé being the sweeter of the two. I didn’t particularly like or dislike either of them, but I did learn what a delightful combination popcorn and bubbly is. The popcorn was buttery and the corn itself had its own slight natural sweetness, and these two things were perfectly balanced by the crisp acidity of the bubbly. (I do so enjoy calling sparkling wines ‘bubbly’, in case you haven’t noticed. It makes me *smile* when I say it. Or type it.) I also learned that acidity opens the palate, hence beginning dinner with bubbly, and that sweet closes the palate, hence finishing dinner with a dessert wine.
We moved on to Prosecco, which I didn’t particularly like or dislike, but I do suspect that I could care for it and would like to try some more. With my Prosecco I tried some chocolate and almonds separately, which seemed ok combinations but I wasn’t thrilled by them, if you will. Ms. Carmen also handed out a list of 3,000 varietals and informed us that 2,000 of those were grown in Italy alone, and then they shared the other 1,000 with the rest of the world =) Isn’t that fascinating?
Carisma was next, and I learned that some wines are naturally effervescent, like this one which was Malvasia[-based?], aside from which I have no details. It was easy, not too complex at all, did not go with chocolate, but paired rather well with the toffee.
Desserts should always be sweeter than the wine, btw, and I made a note to myself that I’d like to try some really sweet bubbly sometime.
The next thing I jotted down was what is apparently a general rule of thumb – that the price of German wines go up as the bottle size goes down, about double the price for half the amount. And of course, next was a Spätlese Riesling which was in a lovely blue bottle. I liked it well enough, though not nearly as much as the one Patrick and Amanda brought when they were over for dinner, but that’s ok. It paired well with lemon cake, butter cookie, and apparently really well with a butter cookie spread with apricot jam judging by the multiple *good* check marks in my notes.
Next was a side-by-side Oregon and California Pinot Gris, and wow the difference was easy to spot and absolutely stunning on the part of the Oregon Pinot Gris. I took a sip of each and dumped the Cali xD The nose on the Oregon was incredibly fruity and floral, and it tasted so sweet, comparable to a drinkable honey. *Good* check marks again indicate that it went well with dried apricots and lemon cake, and that is something I’d like to hunt down and share with the family.
I was then introduced to Tears of Dew, which is Moscato, and I just looked it up on google. That is another worth sharing with the family. Very floral nose, my first wiff was off lychee. It paired well with just straight honey, frankly, but also with lemon cake and dried apricots. And my notes on this one are littered with check marks and exclamation points =) 20% alcohol on that, btw.
Ms. Carmen brought out a German Red Sweet wine out of Rheinhessen that she herself had never tried before and was curious about. It had a very low alcohol content, only 9%, and honestly smelled and tasted like grape juice; she and Chef Huller were saying Welch’s. It was very basic, not at all complex, and not very interesting at all. None of us liked it =) Hehe.
On that note, she pointed out to us that it is chemically impossible for wine to reach higher than 18% alcohol with regular fermentation.
Moving on to a 2003 Mas Amiel which was a sweet red, 16% alcohol, a very light nose which was of honey but little else, and didn’t go with anything I attempted to pair it with… although I didn’t think to pair it with dried cherries, and I’d already dumped it when she asked if I had tried that. None of us at my table had (I was sitting with Mark and Angela), so she poured us a bit more and we discovered that it was the one thing that actually worked =) Not thrilled by the Mas Amiel, though the pairing with the cherries was nice.
I noted that tannins adhere to proteins and that the correct portion size for dessert wine would be an ounce to two ounces.
Eiswein! I have been wanting to try this ever since we covered it in our Sommelier class and it did not disappoint; I loved it every bit as much as I hoped I would. 9.5% alcohol, my notes declare that it tasted good with straight honey and dried apricots, that it was ok but not amazing with lemon cake, ok with butter cookie and also butter cookie with apricot jam, fair with dried cherries, and YUM with popcorn.
Now please realize that I do not like bleu cheese as a rule. When we had that Black ‘N Bleu Burger on the menu a year ago, I had one bite throughout the whole term to satisfy familiarity-with-the-menu-items requirements. Also, I was given about a cubic inch of this cheese which did not need replenishing at any point during this tasting, but I will admit that there were some wines that made it taste better than it ever has to me before, and for that alone, I commend them, starting with the Sauternes.
The Sauternes was delightfully sweet, and I noted that on top of being sweet, it had a moderate-high alcohol content (which I never got the exact percentage of). I described it as being “not crazy amazing” with brie, but that I liked it with bleu cheese, surprise surprise.
I did not make any notes with regards to pairing the Spanish Port that followed with anything… my only note next to that reads “ew!!!!!” which means I probably dumped it as soon as I tasted it.
The fortified Cabernet Sauvignon that followed was not much better, I described it as being tolerable alone and ok with chocolate, but that it wasn’t crazy amazing or anything.
Zero input on the fortified Syrah aside from, “yikes yikes!, noo alone,” which roughly translates as that the first sip was unpleasant, that I think it ought not be drunk unaccompanied, but that I also did not keep it long enough to discover if there was anything on my plate which might make me like it better.
I did find the most delicious accompaniment to chocolate [brownies] and raspberries next, which was a Zinfandel Port, and upon making this profound discovery, I made a point of taking a picture with a forkfull of brownie next to it to mark this momentous occasion.
We were then poured a Tawny Port and a Ruby Port side-by-side to compare. Next to Ruby Port is firmly declared, “NO w/brie, me no likey,” but I did enjoy the Tawny Port well enough and thought it was ok with bleu cheese. Really, though, an amazing illustration of how aging softens tannins and makes a wine more approachable [provided, of course, that the wine is intended to be aged]. The Tawny Port, though almost equal in terms of alcohol content (18% on the Tawny to 19% on the Ruby), was much softer and kinder and easier to drink. I wouldn’t mind trying it again, though it wouldn’t be my first choice.
My notes on the 2004 Vintage Port [which was supposed to be a real treat] read… “me no likey straight,” and I promptly dumped it. But maybe if it had been given another decade or so… you know?
And finally, as if I need more reason to wonder at the absurdity of this whole 21-shots-on-your-21st-birthday practice, I touched the cognac and the other brandy briefly to my lips, promptly dumped both and drank water. You have to understand, though; since we were learning about fortified wines, we of course had to try the stuff it’s fortified with, hence [attempting to taste] distilled spirits. Bleargh.
And that concludes my run-down of our tasting session yesterday! Lovely, lovely time, great experience, wouldn’t mind doing it again, and goodness, didn’t time fly.