Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

By Aaron Winsor

Hello Prince Albert! Our expectations for how something should taste have a massive effect on the flavors our brain interprets when we have a glass of wine (or anything else). For instance, if I’m expecting a wine to taste sweet and then the wine is dry, my mind does a little flip and can exaggerate the impression I get from the flavor.

Instead of logically analyzing the actual sweetness of the wine, our brains will interpret those slightly sweet flavors as very sweet when held up against our preconceived expectations of dryness for that wine.

This scenario occurred twice in my tastings this week; First, with the Napa Valley cabernet I tasted and then again with a varietal that is new to me, a marechal foch wine from the Okanagan. Let me explain.

After tasting the Caymus cabernet sauvignon last week, I was beginning to think that most Napa Valley wines were simply not my style with plenty of sweet fruit flavor and minimal amounts of complexity. My expectation was reversed this week when I sipped on the St. Clement Oroppas from Napa Valley. It was rich and fruity like Caymus but the palate delivered assertive tannins and bright acidity, bringing the wine into excellent balance. This was a positive reversal of my expectations and makes me want to try more Napa options.

When it came time to taste the marechal foch, I only had the information from the label to guide my expectations: plummy and jammy. An interesting battle occurred between my taste buds, my analysis of the actual wine and the preconceived notion of what this wine should taste like.

At first, I thought the foch didn’t smell so good. There was overripe dark fruit on the nose and a medium-dry sweetness followed by buzzing mineral on the palate. Since my expectation of the wine wasn’t met (I was expecting rich, dark fruit and tannins), I didn’t enjoy the wine right away. With a bit of breathing and time to react to the actual flavors, I started to enjoy it quite a bit. By the end of sampling, I was coming back for just one more sip again and again.

While it can be easy to dismiss a wine based on what we expect it to taste like, it is important to experience wine with our senses first. I was taught that we need to let our bodies act like the instruments they are and to allow our minds to simply record the data. Take out our ego and preconceived notions and simply taste the wine. Is it good, bad or are we judging the wine based on what it “should” be? Most of all, let yourself be surprised by new flavors and varietals. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know. This week I discovered I like marechal foch! Here are my wine picks of the week!   

St. Clement Oroppas 2013: (Napa Valley, California). Dry to off-dry red, deep purple color with thick legs. The nose is fruit-forward with a background of toast and spice. There are many rich  scents to discover including raspberry mousse, cooked dark cherries, boysenberry, blackberry, black tea, cherry Jello, white almond and oak spice (clove and pepper). The palate is intense and fruity with an immediate rush of blackberries, black cherry, plum skins, black tea and spice. The finish is long and lingering with tea leaves, dark fruit and earth. Medium-plus body and medium-plus acidity creates a wine that is flavorful but balanced with excellent structure and chewy tannins. Pair with aged cheddar, grilled steak or dried meats. Will cellar well for an additional 3 to 5 years. Outstanding! $65, 14.8% ABV

Oak Bay Marechal Foch 2016: (VQA Okanagan Valley, BC). Medium-dry red, deep purple color with ruby tinges. Fruity and jammy on the nose with overripe dark fruits (plums, cherries), smoky jam, vanilla and caramel banana. Fruity sweetness is apparent on the first sip which quickly transitions to a light mineral buzz on the tongue and intense flavors of brambleberry,  cooked plums and a wisp of smoke. Jammy flavors stick to the tongue on the finish where light tannins provide a small touch of grip on the sides of the mouth. Pepper and nutmeg spice mingle with sweet tobacco leaf on the medium-length finish. Medium-plus body and medium-plus acidity. Reminiscent of shiraz and slightly out of balance, this makes for a very interesting sipper. Pair with sweet and tangy ribs, juicy burgers or charcuterie. Very good! $38, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!