See last week’s GMG post for the first installment of “Become a Wine Expert.”
In this week’s “Become a Wine Expert,” Kathleen introduced us to the world of fine white wines. They are her favorites and she believes strongly that white wines will only gain in popularity, for both women and men, as people become increasingly more interested in fresh fish, vegetables, poultry, and pork. She showed us how to taste using the front, mid, and back of the palette, and by trying this technique you really do discover more about the complexities of the wine. It is also fun to do!
Our first sample of the evening was Rainer Wess Wachauer Grüner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria ($18.99). We looked at the color of the wine by tilting the glass over a piece of white paper. A wine can show a range of hues from clear, sparkling bright white to golden yellow, and also cloudiness if the wine is unfiltered. It is logical that grapes grown in cooler climates are lower in sugar and higher in acidity because the growing season is shorter; the Grüner Veltliner from Wachau is no exception. Its color is clear and bright and Kathleen recommends pairing it with all kinds of veggies, including asparagus, which is not that easy to pair. With its name derived from Veltlin (Valtellina) in northern Italy, the Grüner Veltliner grape is believed to date back to Roman times
I found our next sample, La Monasesca Verdicchio di Matelica from Marches, Italy ($22.99), wonderfully enjoyable. Kathleen paired it with their very tasty Salame Gentile and she recommends it for a wide range of foods including nuts, cheese, antipasto, artichokes, and fish. She feels it is the very best wine to serve with lobster and showed us the beautiful Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva, bottled in a special type of bottle called the Empress. The Verdicchio grape is another ancient variety from Italy and is grown primarily in the Marches region of the central part of the country.
Our third tasting of the evening, Roaring Meg Pinot Gris from Mt. Difficulty Central Otago, New Zealand ($19.99), was also a favorite of the evening. I loved its effervescent, almost sparkling quality, and there is an apt term to describe wines that have this dancing quality; the actual term is “jazzy”! Kathleen cautions against inexpensive wines labeled Pinot Grigio, which are generally Franken one note wines made for the American market. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are both made from Vitis vinifera; the gray-blue color of the grape lends its name to the grape (gris, meaning gray in French).
The L’Oliveto Chardonnay from the Russian River, California ($19.99) was interesting and provided Kathleen an opportunity to talk about white Burgundies, which are also made from the Chardonnay grape. The Chardonnay grape is itself very neutral, with the many flavors associated with it derived from such influences as terrior and oak barrels. The Chardonnay grape is vinified in many different styles, from Chablis to Champagne, and is the second most widely planted grape worldwide.
The Clos Habert Chenin Blanc from Montlouis-sur-Loire, France ($26.99) was tasted next, and is Kathleen’s unabashed favorite; it is the wine she always keeps on hand. She paired it with Ewephoria smoked sheep’s milk cheese and the combination was fabulous. The Chenin Blanc grape is known for its ability to age well and has been cultivated in France for nearly 1300 years; official French documents mention Chenin Blanc as early as 845. Because they are organic, not filtered, and with no additives, Kathleen is a huge fan of wines from the Loire Valley and believes they are the best and purest in the world. Chenin Blancs are easily paired with a range of entrees including grilled chicken and roast pork.
Our last wine of the evening was Weingut Karl Jostock Piesporter Treppchen Riesling Spatlese from Mosel, Germany, which Kathleen paired with some out of this world bleu cheese, Cambozola Black Label Reserve. The Riesling grape originated in the Rhine region of Germany and it is used to make dry, sweet, and sparkling wines. Rieslings become more complex as they age, often taking on a golden honey color. Tracey, a fellow student, described the Piesporter Treppchen Riesling as having a honeysuckle quality, and I couldn’t have agreed more! There are many levels of sweetness in describing Rieslings; Spatlese is in the mid-range of sweetness, and as the grapes linger longer on the vine, their sweetness increases and becomes more concentrated.
The “Become a Wine Expert” series of classes are held on five consecutive evenings, from 7:00 to 9:00, at Savour Wine and Cheese, located at 76 Prospect Street. Kathleen also provides each student with a terrific reference notebook full of maps from every wine producing country and region, articles, recommended books and links, descriptions of wine varietals, an interesting wine aroma wheel for describing wines, and much more.