by Aaron Winsor
Hello Prince Albert! There are two important things I learned on my travels to France which have guided me on my lifelong wine journey and kept me humble and forever curious; one: drink what you like. Two: to create great wine, the vine must suffer.
All too often we feel pressured to enjoy what others enjoy or you may visit with a group of friends and feel embarrassed to bring a cheaper bottle of wine because it (or you) might be judged. If you like a $10 bottle of wine and it makes you happy then that is all that really matters. When it comes to the tastes of others and you are aiming to please then the selection of wines may need to deepen or expand but when it comes to yourself, go with the flow, grab your favorite bottle and let the judgments fall away.
As for point number two: vines that struggle to grow produce some of the greatest and most balanced wines. Balance in wine is achieved when all the components and attributes like acidity, body, flavor, finish and complexity compliment and support one another. When one attribute takes over the wine then it becomes “out of balance”. The perfect example is cabernet sauvignon from California which can be top-heavy with fruit and body but low in acidity and subtlety.
How do winemakers create balance and how does the vine “suffer”? A balanced wine begins in the vineyard with the soil itself. With too many nutrients, grape vines expand growth into the leaf, shoot and root system which dilutes the quality of the fruit and drops the concentration of flavors found in the juice. The same can be said if the vine receives an over-abundant amount of water and sun since the grapes can become too juicy or ripe which consequently dilutes the flavors in the juice.
Vine management is incredibly important as any mistake in the growing process will have to be “fixed” in the winery with acidification, additions of thickening agents or in some cases, additions of flavor. This practice is more common in California where grapes have a tendency to over-ripen or build up too many natural sugars with a lack of natural acidity (this is where acidification is employed).
When the vine struggles to grow, the grapes it produces are smaller and more concentrated and with proper canopy management, the amount of sunshine is limited which stops grapes from over-growing or producing too many ripe or sugary flavors. All of this is done before a grape is ever pressed. More on this another time, here are my wine and beer picks of the week!
Tenuta Rapitala Vigna Casalj 2014: (DOC Alcamo, Italy). Dry white, medium lemon color. The nose opens with notes of saline mineral, lemon zest, sea breeze, beeswax, green vegetables and hints of mushrooms. On the palate this crisp white has medium-minus body and medium-plus acidity with a slightly tangy character and crisp, sharp flavors of flinty mineral, rich lemon, green beans/peas, root vegetables and a touch of salinity. The finish is long and citrus dominated with a lively mineral zing. Great balance of acidity, lighter body and tangy mineral. Pair with fresh veggies or fresh seafood like clams and angel hair pasta. Very good! $20, 12.5% ABV
Leoh Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: (California, USA). Off-dry to medium-dry red, deep purple color. High intensity scents of dried cranberry, California raisins, soft vanilla, cassis and mouthwatering grape bubblegum burst from the glass. The palate begins with a rush of ripe and dried dark fruits like plums, prunes, cherries and dried raisins. These intense fruit flavors fade into a slightly oaky finish with sweet tannins and walnut/hazelnut skins. The flavors of this red could be described as “sun-drenched” with a round, full-bodied texture and medium-plus acid to bring some balance. While delicious, this wine is out of balance with top-heavy fruit flavors, full body and sweetness. Pair with cured meats/salamis or venison. Good! $25, 13.5% ABV
Super Galactic Space Dragon Double IPA: (Vancouver, BC). This double hopped beer pours a hazy, orange/blonde color with delicately thin white lacing. Aromas of tropical and citrus fruit with a backing of bitter, slightly resinous hops waft from the glass. The mid palate provides crisp flavors of citrus and tropical fruits with full body and medium carbonation. This beer is big and powerful and meant for slow sipping or pairing with salty snacks and there is a lovely hit of dank hops which creates a medium-length finish balancing full fruity flavors and bitterness. Very good! $6 – 473 ml can, 8.9% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!