Pinot Noir frame of mind

First wine was Laetiatia Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Arroyo Grande Valley. 14.1% alc. Intense medium ruby color; classic nose: black and red cherries, cranberry and rhubarb, cola and loam; wonderful balance. I  Enjoyed this Friday night by myself and with friend on Saturday. The wine had really opened up overnight and was far more enjoyable the second day

Most Pinot Noirs at this price range are blends. For example, Laetitia is a blend of about seven different Pinots — about $25, representing Great Value.

Bill Knuttel Pinot Noir Sonoma County California. Alcohol 13.9% again cost is around $20. This wine was from my Zugart wine days and I apopligize but I have never seen this wine in any stores. (Sorry about that; I know it’s very frustrating to read about a wine that you are interested in and not be able to find it.) The Knuttle was a little lighter than the Laetitia , both in color and body. This wine is made from a blend of three Pinots.  This wine is very well balanced and was very enjoyable wine to drink.

My favorite was Argyle Willamette Valley 2009.  Clear garnet red color, great nose and a very light berry tastes.  The word “delicate” comes to mind with every sip of this wine. This wine was highly praised by Wine Spectator and deservedly so, simply a very enjoyable wine.  Hit the stores fast this wine is going to sell out fast. Alcohol 14% cost around $18.00.  I loved the little story on the back label of the wine “this wine has a screw top, because the romance is in the bottle”.  So true, the romance is in the wine.

The medicinal properties of wine!

Would you believe I only drink wine for its medicinal benefits?  Would you believe I only look at Playboy for the articles?  Okay, read on!

I was reading a wine review that began, “I had the beginnings of a cold, so I opened a bottle of dry Italian red wine.”  Later, I was watching “Games of Thrones,” and after a battle scene, the doctors were treating the wounded by cleansing the injuries with wine.   The 11:00 news had a story about wine lowering your cholesterol.   Even in the Bible, Paul tells Timothy in First Timothy 5:23: “No longer drink only water, but, use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”  Something in wine must be good for you!

So, I started reading.  There are Egyptian Papyri and Sumerian tablets that detail the medical use of wine as far back a 2200 BC. Without a doubt, wine is the oldest man-made medicine, and was humanity’s primary medicine until the late 19th to early 20th century.

Hippocrates recommended wine as part of a healthy diet.  He ordered its use as a disinfectant and in mixing other drugs.  He used wine as a treatment for diarrhea, and as sedatives, anesthetics, and an aphrodisiac.  There’s an Australian wine maker (Wolf Blass) who actually calls one of his wines “the leg opener.”

The Romans, big wine drinkers, continued using wine as a medicine. There’s a story about a Roman doctor named Galan who treated gladiators; he used wine on wounds and even soaked bowels in wine before returning them to the body.  In the four years he tended the gladiators, only five died, whereas sixty had died under the watch of the previous doctor.

In November 1991, “60 Minutes” ran a story called the “French Paradox” detailing how the French enjoy a diet high in fats and dairy.  But they have a low occurrence of cardiovascular disease.  They linked this to wine consumption.  After that broadcast, wine sales in the United States increased by 44%.

I’ve checked all major religions allow the use of wine as medicine.  The Talmud called wine “the foremost of all medicines.”  The Islamic sacred text, the Koran, forbids all alcohol, and it details wine’s use as a digestive aid and a disinfectant for wounds. In Catholic monasteries, the closest facsimile to a hospital during the Middle Ages regularly used wine for various medical treatments.  The vine always follows the Cross!

As a matter of fact, wine is so closely related to medicine that the first book written about wine was authored by a doctor, Amaldus de Villa Nova, in the 14th century, and was about the use of wine in treating dementia and sinus problems.  No, I haven’t read that one yet!

So what’s in wine that’s good for us?

Okay, here comes the science.  There are many chemicals in red wine that are good for you, but the one enjoying the greatest publicity and study is Resveratrol.  Resveratrol and other compounds mainly fall into the category of phenolics.  These compounds act as antioxidants that prevent cell damage.  I read a report that stated that 100 ml. of a 2003 Blaufrankisch had the same levels of polyphenols, which are four times the daily dose of Rosiglitazone, an anti-diabetic drug.  Incidentally, I’ve never heard of Blaufrankish, which is a red German wine.  It’s so red, there is a blend called Egri Bikaver, whose literal translation means “Bulls Blood.” It’s also called the Pinot Noir of the East. If anyone has tried it, let me know.

Resveratrol comes from the grape’s skin.  It belongs to a class of compounds known as Stilbenoid.  Resveratrol is also found outside of the grapevine family in plants such as eucalyptus and peanuts. It is part of the defense mechanism in grapevines, used as a phytoalexin produced in the leaves and berry skins in response to a microbial attack by fungus or grape disease. The buildup of Resveratrol slows and sometimes will stop the spreading infection.[15] According to North Carolina State University researchers, Muscadines contain a unique blend of several natural antioxidants that can reduce the risk factors associated with degenerative diseases.

The production and concentration of Resveratrol is not equal among all the varieties of grapes. Differences in clones, rootstock, Vitis species, as well as climate conditions, can affect the production of Resveratrol. The degree of exposure to a greater risk of fungal infection and grape diseases also appears to play a role. The Muscadinia family of vines, which has adapted over time through exposure to North American grape diseases such as Pylloxera, has some of the highest concentrations of Resveratrol among wine grapes. Among the European wines, grapes derived from the Burgundian Pinot family tend to have substantially higher amounts of Resveratrol than grapes derived from the Cabernet family of Bordeaux. Wine regions with cooler, wetter climates that are more prone to grape disease and fungal attacks tend to produce grapes with higher concentrations of Resveratrol than warmer, dry climates

Red wine tends to have a significantly higher concentration of Resveratrol than white wine, even though white wine grape varieties produce similar amounts in the vineyards. This is because during winemaking white wine spends very little if any time in contact with the Resveratrol-rich grape skins. This maceration period not only gives red wine its color but also allows for the extraction of phenolic compounds such as Resveratrol into the resulting wine. Other winemaking techniques, such as the use of certain strains of yeast during fermentation, or lactic acid bacteria during malolactic fermentation, can have an influence on the amount of Resveratrol left in the resulting wines. Similarly the use of certain fining agents during the clarification and stabilization of wine can strip the wine of some Resveratrol molecules.

So, where can wine help?

Bones

Moderate wine consumption has shown, especially in women, to increase bone density.

Cancer

Moderate wine consumption has been linked to reducing the risk of esophagus cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and breast cancers.  Women once again fair better than men in these studies.

Cardiovascular Systems

Again moderate wine consumption has been linked to a lower mortality rate and a lower risk to heart disease.  It’s been linked to a better balance of LDL to HDL bad cholesterol to good cholesterol.  The theory is the wine cleans up, or removes the LDL.  Wine has anticoagulant properties, which makes it less likely for platelets in the blood to stick together, less likely to form a blood clot.  Pour me a glass!

Dementia

Moderate wine consumption has been linked to helping adults ward off risks in developing dementia, but it can accelerate the decline in memory of those already suffering from cognitive impairment.  Wine stimulates the release of a chemical called acetylcholine, which influences brain function and memory.  I think it’s just a good exercise trying to remember the names of French wines.

Wine has shown positive effects against diabetes, reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.  Wine helps your vision by lowering the risk of macular degeneration, has positive links to weight management, and has positive influences on a person’s psychological health.

One word dominates all of these studies: MODERATE … as in moderate wine consumption.  What is moderate?

Well, if you ask Dionysus, “three bowls do I mix for the temperate; one for health, which they empty first; the second to love and pleasure; the third to sleep.  When this bowl is drunk up, wise guest go home.  The forth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar; the sixth to drunken revel; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth is the policeman’s; the ninth to biliousness; and the tenth to madness and hurling furniture.”

All of these studies say that one five-US-fluid ounce drink per day for women and two glasses per day for men.  If you use the standard set by Dionysus, three bowls is about 750 ml. or the size of the average wine bottle of today.

Jargon

Have you ever read the following in a wine review? “This wine is highly structured, with crisp, bright, firm tannins.”

Now I’m all for nice, round, firm tannins, but what the hell is a tannin?

Well, with a lot of help from Nancy Hawks Miller, we’re going to try and make sense of this jargon and improve your wine drinking experience.

So, grab a glass of red wine, gird up your loins, and here we go!

Structure pertains to the amount of acid in white wines, while tannin is found in reds. But to get the complete picture, we also have to discuss alcohol, sweetness, and body. None of these wine components, individually, are tasty or interesting. Think of them as the skeleton of the wine: with merely a skeleton by which to judge, what could you determine about a person? You couldn’t tell if he or she was an Italian fashion model or a mail carrier in Missouri.

However, critiquing a wine by its deeper elements — fruitiness, fermentation, oak, floral character, herbaceousness, and mineral qualities – is tantamount to looking into a person’s eyes or at his or her hair color and style. You get a true picture of the person’s soul, metaphorically; in our case, we’re developing a deep appreciation of a wine.

So before we begin, let me tell you that alcohol is the only component that has aroma, but the nose will only take you so far; the rest of the trip you make with your tongue. So, let me introduce you to the fine art of slurping.

Take a sip of your wine. Tastes good, I hope. Now take another very small sip, hold it in your mouth, and then carefully suck some air into your mouth. (For God’s sake, be careful. Don’t drown!) Now, swish this combination of wine and air around your mouth, as you would with mouthwash. But do so very politely. Swallow. How’s the flavor? Usually this technique produces a flavor explosion in your head. Did it? It can also cause the wine to go up your nose and leave you a coughing mess, so be careful.

Remember we all have different sensitivities; some will detect alcohol more readily that others.

Let’s start with acid:
Of course, acid has a tart flavor. Incidentally, if you refer to high-acid wine as sour, you’re going to get a very sour look from the winemaker. In wine parlance, ‘sour’ means ‘spoiled,’ as in gone to vinegar!

If you want to become acquainted with the tart flavor of relatively high-acid wine, consider the following white examples: sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Northern Italy turns out a lot of lean, zippy reds.

Some wines, especially reds, are so flavorful that it’s difficult to taste the acid. Usually, you can still gauge it. As you taste the wine, notice the way your mouth begins to water, especially along the sides of your tongue and under it. Thus, the birth of the phrase “mouth-watering acidity.” Now that you’ve noticed it, you’ll begin to differentiate the levels as you taste different styles of wine. Generally, white wines are higher in acid than reds. Well-made dessert wines can really turn on the water works in your mouth because the sweetness needs to be balanced by a high level of acidity.

Why do you care? Acid is important because it keeps the wine fresh and lively on the palate. It has a cleansing effect and makes the wine easy to pair with food. Acid is a great, natural preservative! Wines that are high in acid (but balanced) will have fairly long lives and a better chance of retaining their fruitiness and freshness as time passes.

The source: The grapes, although acid additions are permitted in many wine regions. As the grapes ripen, the sugar increases, and the acid decreases. At harvest time, timing is everything!

Descriptions: Crisp, lively, bright, racy, nervy, vitality.
Antonyms: Flat, flabby, soft, dull, insipid.

Tannin
Do you have a sudden urge to brush your teeth after tasting red wine? Then you recognize tannin – it’s that simple. It runs around your mouth seeking out protein and then clings to it, which explains the drying sense of grip on your gums – all over your mouth, really – and the furry teeth. The flavor of tannin is extremely bitter, so winemakers try to craft the wine in such a way that you feel it, rather than taste it. As you taste your wine, you will probably remember other wines you’ve tasted that were more tannic or less tannic, so you’ll begin to recognize relative levels.

Acid accentuates the hardness of tannin, so high-acid wine that’s also tannic can be hard to enjoy when it’s young. As the wine ages, the tannin enlarges with oxidation and gradually falls out of the wine as part of the sediment. So, the wine gradually softens, and the texture becomes more velvety over time.

Why do you care? Tannin is an important part of the texture of red wine – when managed properly it gives it a nice chewiness. Like acid, tannin is a natural preservative. It’s part of a group called polyphenols, which are anti-oxidants that prolong the wine’s life. The more tannic the wine, provided it’s well made and well balanced, the longer its life in the bottle when stored properly.

The source: The biggest source of tannin in wine is the grape skins. Other sources are the seeds, stems, and oak (wine barrels contribute wood tannin if they’re relatively new). Red wines are almost always higher in tannin than white because the winemaker must ferment the juice and skins together to get the purple color. Whites receive little or no juice to skin contact.

Descriptions: Astringent, drying, grippy, chalky, chewy, hard, coarse.
Antonyms: Soft, smooth, silky, round, velvety, mellow.

Alcohol
Isolated, alcohol smells sweet. Give the wine a good swirl for a few seconds and pop your nose into the glass. If you actually smell something sweet that reminds you of rubbing alcohol or feel what seems like a heat-driven tickle in your nose, the alcohol is too high for the style of the wine – it’s not balanced. You’re not supposed to notice the alcohol; it’s just supposed to be there.

The mouth-feel: Do you notice that your mouth feels warmer than it did before you sipped the wine? That’s the alcohol talking and in a very pleasant way. If it’s quite warm, or almost hot, the alcohol content is on the high side. If you actually taste the alcohol or feel like a fire-breathing dragon, it’s too high, not balanced. It seems to be most noticeable in the back of your throat. The alcohol also adds an oily, viscous sensation.

Why do you care? Alcohol gives the wine a great deal of its body or “heft.” A wine that’s meant to be robust in style feels thin and unsatisfying on the palate if the alcohol is too low. Alcohol is yet another preservative, which explains why Port-style wine can live so long in the bottle and actually keeps better than table wine once it’s opened (sugar also helps in that regard).

The source: The sugar in the grapes at harvest. In many parts of the world adding sugar is permitted. It’s called Chaptalization. During the fermentation the sugar is converted to alcohol.

Descriptions: Warm, hot, weighty, sweet.

Sugar: Well, this one’s easy – we all know sweetness, right? And that “dry” is the opposite of sweet? Sweetness also has a pleasant, slippery sort of oral sensation.

Since sugar is so familiar, this is a good time to talk about perception vs. reality. The level of acidity can really play games with your head in gauging sweetness. It makes the wine seem less sweet than it is. Sparkling wines called “brut,” for instance, are considered dry, but they may actually have as much as 1.5 percent sugar (our threshold for noticing sweetness in wine is most often at about .5 percent). They taste dry because they are so high in acid.

Try making some overly-tart lemonade and give it a taste. Then add a little sugar. Keep tasting and adding sugar until you reach a pleasant balance. Notice how the sugar has softened and rounded out the acid sensation? The acid level hasn’t changed, but your perception of it has.

Fruity flavors can also trick your palate into detecting sugar that isn’t actually there. The phenomenon is called auto-association.

If dry is .5 percent or less, off-dry can be up to about 4 percent sugar, medium sweet up to 10 percent sugar, and anything over that is very sweet, indeed. But our perception? That’s another matter.

Why do you care? Who doesn’t love something a little sweet from time to time? Plus, besides its rounding effect on overly tart wine, a bit of sugar can cover a lot of sins in the production of inexpensive wine, and it’s another of Mother Nature’s natural preservatives.

The source: The grapes. In most cases the sugar in wine is residual, unfermented sugar because the fermentation was stopped before the yeast converted all of the sugar to alcohol. In some cases, the winemaker ferments to dryness and adds back grape juice or grape-juice concentrate to sweeten the wine.

Descriptions: Sweet, syrupy, off-dry, cloying, doux, Extra-Dry (sparkling wine), demi-sec (sparkling wine).

Antonyms: Dry, austere, Brut (sparkling wine), Extra Brut (sparkling wine), Brut Nature (sparkling wine), Zero Dosage (sparkling wine).

Body
It’s all about mouth-feel and weight. Milk products make a good analogy:

•Light = skim milk
*Descriptions: Light, hollow, thin, lean, watery
•Medium = whole milk
•Full-bodied = heavy cream
*Descriptions: Heavy, full, fat, fleshy, lush, unctuous, concentrated, substantial

When the wine is balanced, the flavors, body, and the relative level of the components interact harmoniously. Since alcohol gives wine body, a glass of red Bordeaux from a poor vintage that’s only 10.5 percent alcohol may feel thin and unsatisfying on the palate. Conversely, a Napa Cab from a hot vintage better have plenty of flavor and body to stand up to 15 percent alcohol. Otherwise, you will have spent a lot of money on something that makes you feel like a fire-breathing dragon.

The source: Mainly the alcohol and grape extracts (red); barrel-aging can increase the body due to evaporation.

For more wine tasting information from Nancy, check out her blog: thetastinggroup.com.

This helped me to appreciate my wine tasting experience I hope you gain benefit too! Happy Slurping!

As you know I’ve been reading Taber’s book “Judgment of Paris,” and as most know, if I read about a wine I want to drink it. Stag’s Leap is a premium wine selling for about $150 a bottle. You need to be careful when buying this wine because you can make a mistake and buy Stags’ Leap Winery, which is not the famous Stag’s Leap which is made by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

I settled for Hawk Crest for about $15. This wine is second label made by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. I totally enjoyed the wine until I talked to a friend who has tasted a real Stag’s Leap and told me the Hawk Crest tastes nothing like the real Stag’s Leap. At $150 a bottle, I don’t think I’ll ever learn the difference.

I ran my own Judgment of East Hampton. The Judges were, me, myself, and I. The contestants; Hawk Crest vs. Les Vignes De-Bila-Haut, Cotes Du Roussilloli, France, 2009. Both wines were about $15. The results were one very enjoyable evening on the patio.

The Bile-Haut was a deep gannet red. Nose was black cherry, a wonderful blend of Syrah Grenache, and Carignan. Alcohol 14 percent — high by French standards.

Hawk Crest was a textbook California Cabernet Sauvignon, with ripe black cherry. The tannins are substantial yet smooth in this medium-full-bodied, herb-inflected wine. Alcohol, 13.5 percent.

The result: “I” liked both wines. “Me,” that Francophile loved the Bila-Haut best. “Myself” was very partisan and gave the Hawk Crest the top marks. So we have a tie. Go perform your own Judgment and have fun doing it!

“GIVE ME WINE TO WASH ME CLEAN OF THE WEATHER STAINS OF CARES” – Ralph Waldo Emerson