Vendredi du vin 24: La sommellerie moléculaire

Bon jour, readers. I have been lax in postings lately (even though I have about 5 written… in my head), but this idea really caught my eye. We anglophones have “Wine Blogging Wednesday“, in which I have participated twice so far. Francophones, on the other hand, have “Vendredi du Vin“, or “Wine Friday”. I don’t speak French very well but I can read it OK, so when I saw the theme to VdV 24 on the twitter feed of burly bonhomme Remy Charest (of Wine Case and À chacun sa bouteille), I had to participate.

The theme: Sommellerie Moléculaire. As soon as I saw molecules, I was in.

Cliquez ici pour lire en français…

In this example, sommelier François Chartier has proposed that we explore the connection between sauvignon blanc and what he calls “anise-flavored herbs”. Examples he gives include parsley, mint, basil, fennel, and many more. On Sunday, while Sarah prepared a roast chicken from our meat CSA, I went out to pick up some sauvignon blanc. I chose two and sampled them by themselves first:

Long Point Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Appellation: none, sold only in NY state… (probably CA grapes)
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
ABV: 13.6% (another clue that it might be CA fruit)
Price Point $13
Nose: not too pushy on the nose, some cat pee and bell pepper. Also a bit of apple. I think this has a bit of {oxidation} to it. Hmm, plastic cork? It’s possible that we have some oxygen ingress on our hands.
Palate: Full-bodied in the mouth, the acid isn’t overwhelming. Again, the oxidative note glows like an ember in the back-palate. Not overwhelming, but definitely a distraction.

Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Recycled the Long Point before I had a chance to take the picture.  Whoops.

Recycled the Long Point before I had a chance to take the picture. Whoops.

Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
ABV: 13.5%
Price Point $13
Nose: Major bell pepper on the nose at first, grassy, grapefruity. Very true-to-type NZ sauvignon blanc.
Palate: I do get a tiny bit of licorice on the palate as well. Like those black Luden’s lemon-licorice cough drops that weren’t really cough drops but just a good excuse to eat candy in school. Gives way to some tropical candy after a while on the finish.

So I took these notes on the wines by themselves, then tucked into a delicious dinner to pair with them, prepared, again, by Sarah.

  • Roasted local chicken with apple-pecan stuffing and thyme
  • Garlic scape mashed potatoes
  • Greens salad featuring parsley with fennel-seed dressing
  • Chard with pine nuts and feta
  • Home-made mint iced tea
(clockwise from top left) parsley, fennel seeds, mint, and basil

(clockwise from top left) parsley, fennel seeds, mint, and basil

The herbs weren’t dominant, but did make a nice accoutrement, and pairing this meal with the wines certainly got the point across. Indeed, each time I took a sip of wine, then ate a bite, I was impressed by the accentuation of licorice/mint-type notes in the food. After dinner, for the sake of science, I tried the sauvignons blancs with straight up herbs: fennel seed, basil, parsley, and mint. Again, my perception of the anise-type flavors (especially in the fennel seeds) seemed to increase dramatically.

Science! (warning: hardcore science ahead: may involve molecules…)

How could this be? I did a little research. Some impact odorants:

source: Marsili, <em>Sensory-directed Flavor Anaylsis</em>.

source: Marsili, Sensory-directed Flavor Anaylsis.

Anise methylchavicol (aka estragole), anethol
Basil estragole, linalool
Parsley menthatriene, 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine, linalool
Fennel anethol, estragole, fenchone
Mint (R)-carvone, estragole

Source: Marsili, Sensory-directed Flavor Analysis, CRC Press, p. 225

It appears our sommelier is on to something. On the molecular level, these herbs share some aroma compounds in common. Looking at the molecules, the structures are quite similar. But why is perception of these molecules amplified in the case of sauvignon blanc?

To answer this we should talk a little bit about how we perceive smells, tastes, and other phenomena. The human body has been designed (intelligently?) to detect changes in its environment. For example, movement is more easily detected than stationary objects. If a room or object smells bad or good, after a while we get used to it (Try leaving some discarded chicken parts in the garbage on a hot day, then leave the house for a while and come back. Wow.) This is known in the sensory world as adaptation. We adapt to our environment so we do not experience sensory overload.

Graph from Lawless, 1987.

Graph from Lawless, 1987.

Adaptation plays a role in our pereception of mixers of smell and taste. A famous study by Harry Lawless (a professor at Cornell, incidentally) is summarized as follows. Subjects were separately exposed to pure samples of vanillin (vanilla odor) and cinnemaldehyde (cinnamon odor) and asked to characterize their perception of vanilla and cinnamon. After a while, they smelled a mixture and recorded the vanilla/cinnamon character in that. When they smelled the same mixture directly after exposure to cinnamaldehyde, the mixture smelled more like vanilla. When they smelled it after vanillin, it smelled more like cinnamon. The conclusion is that their olfactory system became adapted to the pure aromas, allowing for the other aromas to increase in perception (Lawless, “An olfactory analogy to release from mixture suppression in taste.” Bull. Psychon. SOC, 1987). This phenomenon is known as mixture suppression. It also can explain in part why wine appears to “evolve” in the glass. That is, the aroma changes the more you smell it because you become adapted to the initially perceived aromas, allowing for perception of new ones.

My hypothesis: Sauvignon blanc, especially the Babich example, has many vegetal aromas, e.g., bell pepper (isobutylmethoxypyrazine), grassy (3-hexanal). Since the herbs in question are, for the most part, leaves, it is not surprising that they also have a vegetal character (parsley even has a methoxypyrazine as a major component). I suggest that rather than a small amount of anise character intrinsic to the sauvignon blanc itself “harmonizing” or “creating resonance” with the anise character of the food (although the language is poetic…), the vegetal characteristics of the wine suppress the vegetal characteristics of the herbs, allowing the main aromatic compounds to shine through.

If my theory is correct, then we may be able to apply some science to the largely empirical (though certainly successful!) field of food and wine pairing. Understanding suppression may go a long way towards improving your own pairings!

Et maintenant… en français!

Dans cet exemple, le sommelier François Chartier a proposé que nous explorions le lien entre le cépage sauvignon blanc et le goût anisé. Il donne des exemples: persil, menthe, basilic, fenouil, et bien plus encore. Le dimanche, alors que Sarah a préparé un poulet rôti à partir de notre CSA de viande , je suis sorti pour prendre quelques sauvignons blancs. J’ai choisi deux et j’en ai goûté sans aliment.

Long Point Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Appellation: vendu uniquement dans l’État de New York … (probablement des raisins de California)
Cépage: Sauvignon Blanc
ABV: de 13,6% (une autre idée qu’il serait peut-être les fruits CA)
Prix $13
Nez : pas trop insistant sur le nez, quelques “pipi de chat” et de poivron. Aussi un peu de pomme. Je pense que cela a un peu de {oxydation} . Hmm, bouchon synthétique? C’est possible qu’on ait un peu d’oxygène.
Goût: Corsé dans la bouche, l’acide n’est pas écrasante. Encore une fois, la note oxydative brille comme une braise dans l’arrière-bouche. C’est pas grave, mais certainement une source de distraction.

Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Recycled the Long Point before I had a chance to take the picture.  Whoops.

Recycled the Long Point before I had a chance to take the picture. Whoops.

Appellation: Marlborough, Nouvelle-Zélande
Cépage: Sauvignon Blanc
ABV: 13,5%
Prix: $ 13
Nez : poivron sur le nez en premier, herbe, pamplemousse. Un sauvignon blanc typique néo-zélandais.
Goût : j’y goût un petit peu de réglisse. Comme les pastilles Luden de citron-réglisse qui ne sont pas vraiment pastilles pour le toux, mais seulement une bonne excuse pour manger des bonbons à l’école. Cède la place à quelques bonbons tropicales, après un certain temps sur la ligne d’arrivée.

Donc j’ai pris ces notes sur les vins par eux-mêmes, alors rentré dans un délicieux dîner à deux avec eux, préparés, à nouveau, par Sarah.

  • poulet rôti avec pommes et noix de pécan avec le thym
  • purée de pommes de terre
  • salade de persil avec une sauce des semences de fenouil-
  • Cardes avec noix de pin et feta
  • thé glacé avec menthe
(clockwise from top left) parsley, fennel seeds, mint, and basil

(clockwise from top left) parsley, fennel seeds, mint, and basil

Les herbes ne sont pas dominants, mais a fait un joli accoutrement, et la liaison des vins avec ce repas, c’etait génial. En effet, chaque fois que j’ai pris une gorgée de vin et mangé une bouchée, j’ai été impressionné par l’accentuation des notes anisées / menthes dans la nourriture. Après le dîner, pour l’amour de la science, j’ai essayé avec les Sauvignons blancs les herbes eux-mêmes: fenouil, basilic, persil et menthe. Encore une fois, ma perception de la saveur d’anis (en particulier dans les graines de fenouil) semble augmenter de façon spectaculaire.

Science! (attention: des molécules à venir…)

Comment cela pourrait-il être? J’ai fait un peu de recherche. Des odorisants:

source: Marsili, <em>Sensory-directed Flavor Anaylsis</em>.

source: Marsili, Sensory-directed Flavor Anaylsis.

Anise methylchavicol (alias estragole), anéthol
Basilic estragole, linalool
Persil menthatriene, 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine, linalool
Fenouil anéthol, estragole, Fenchone
Menthe (R)-carvone, estragole

Source: Marsili, Sensory-directed Flavor Analysis , CRC Press, p. 225

Il ressort que notre sommelier à quelque chose ici. Sur le plan moléculaire, ces herbes partagent certains composés d’arôme en commun. En regardant les molécules, les structures sont assez similaires. Mais pourquoi en est la perception de ces molécules amplifiée dans le cas de sauvignon blanc?

Pour répondre à cela, il faut parler un peu sur comment nous percevons les odeurs, les goûts, et d’autres phénomènes. Le corps humain a été conçu (intelligemment?) pour détecter les changements dans son environnement. Par exemple, le mouvement est plus facile à détecter que les objets fixes. Si une pièce ou un objet sent bon ou mauvais, après un certain temps, nous en habituons (Essayez de laisser quelques morceaux de poulet jetés à la poubelle par une journée chaude, puis quitter la maison pendant un certain temps et revenir. Wow.) Ceci est connu dans le monde sensoriel comme l’adaptation. Nous nous adaptons à notre environnement que nous ne voulons pas d’expérience surcharge sensorielle.

Graph from Lawless, 1987.

Graph from Lawless, 1987.

L’adaptation joue un rôle dans notre pereception des mélanges de l’odorat et du goût. Une étude célèbre de Harry Lawless (professeur à Cornell, d’ailleurs) est résumée comme suit. Les sujets ont été exposés séparément à la pure des échantillons de la vanilline (vanille odeur) et cinnemaldehyde (odeur de cannelle) et demandé de caractériser leur perception de la vanille et la cannelle. Après un certain temps, ils ont senti un mélange et a enregistré la vanille / cannelle dans la mesure où. Quand ils ont senti le même mélange directement après l’exposition à aldéhyde cinnamique, le mélange sentait plus à la vanille. Quand ils ont senti une odeur de vanilline après, il sentait plus comme la cannelle. La conclusion est que leur système olfactif devenu adapté à la pureté des arômes, ce qui permet d’autres arômes pour augmenter la perception, (Lawless, “Une analogie olfactive de libérer de la répression dans le mélange de goût.” Bull . Psychon. SOC , 1987). Ce phénomène est connu sous le nom de répression des mélanges. Ça peut aussi expliquer en partie pourquoi le vin semble “évoluer” dans le verre. C’est-a-dire que l’arôme se change parce que vous vous êtes adaptés aux arômes perçus d’abord, permettant la perception de nouvelles arômes.

Mon hypothèse: Le sauvignon blanc, en particulier l’exemple Babich, a beaucoup des arômes végétaux, par exemple, le poivron (isobutylmethoxypyrazine), herbe (3-hexanal). Étant donné que les herbes en question sont, pour la plupart, des feuilles, il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils ont aussi un caractère végétal (persil a même un methoxypyrazine comme une composante majeure). Je suggère que, plutôt que d’une petite quantité d’anis caractère intrinsèque de l’sauvignon blanc lui-même “harmonise” ou “crée de résonance” avec la caractère anisé de la nourriture (bien que les mots sont poétique …), caractéristiques des végétaux du vin suppriment les caractéristiques végètaux des herbes, ce qui permet au principal des composés aromatiques à briller.

Si ma théorie est correcte, alors nous pouvons appliquer un peu de science avec la domaine surtout empirique (mais certainement réussi!) de l’alimentation et vin. Comprendre suppression peuti aller un long chemin vers l’amélioration de votre sommellerie!

Published in: on 30 June 2009 at 2:51 am  Comments (5)  
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Finger Lakes Wineries on Twitter

Twitter is awesome. If you’re not on it, you’re missing out. Join the conversation with me and these Finger Lakes Winery personnel. This will become a permanent page on the site, so check back for new additions as word spreads to winemakers and owners that allowing people to get to know the people behind a product is a great way to sell it.

twitter-bird = very active

Winery Twitter username Representative Lake
Billsboro Winery @Billsboro Seneca
Cascata Winery @CascataWinery Kurtis Vondracek (general manager) Seneca
Damiani Wine Cellars @DamianiWinetwitter-bird Seneca
Fox Run Vineyards @foxrunvineyards Seneca
Fulkerson Winery @FulkersonWinery John Iszard (sales/marketing director) Keuka
Glenora Wine Cellars @Glenorawine Seneca
Heart and Hands Wine Company @FLPinotGuytwitter-bird Tom Higgins (co-owner/winemaker) Cayuga
@FLPinotGirl Susan Higgins (co-owner)
Heron Hill Winery @HeronHillWinerytwitter-bird Keuka
@KittyOliver Kitty Oliver (marketing/PR)
@tambi13 Tambi Schweizer (tasting hall manager)
@StacyYeater Stacy Yeater (office manager)
Keuka Lake Vineyards @KLVWines Keuka
Keuka Spring Vineyards @KeukaSpring Keuka
Knapp Winery @knappwinery Cayuga
Lakewood Vineyards @Lizlakewood Elizabeth Stamp (co-owner/manager) Seneca
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars @LamLanding Josh Wig (general manager) Seneca
Ravines Wine Cellars @Ravinous Lisa Hallgren (co-owner) Keuka
Red Newt Cellars @FLWinetwitter-bird Dave Whiting (winemaker/co-owner) Seneca
@FLChef Debra Whiting (chef/co-owner)
Silver Springs Winery @DonGiovanniWinetwitter-bird John Zuccarino (winemaker/co-owner) Seneca
Six Mile Creek Vineyards @SixMileCreek Cayuga
Wagner Vineyards @WagnerVineyards Seneca

Let me know if there are other wineries that I should have on here in the comments section. If you want a more general list of wine people on twitter, check out DrinksAreOnMe for some of Dale’s famous “Wine people on twitter” posts.

Published in: on 19 June 2009 at 7:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Wine Blogging Wednesday 58: Pairing wine with music

I know, it’s Sunday and this is an entry for Wine Blogging Wednesday. I obviously do not get the point of this exercise. Anyway, this wine blogging wednesday I decided to go along with the theme, hosted by Katie of Gonzo Gastronomy.


Thin-sliced ribeye, steamed broccoli raab, homemade cheese sauce, all on a toasted roll. Awesome sandwich, Sarah.

The theme resonates a bit with some things that I’ve been saying before on the blog. Mostly, I believe that your wine experience is largely influenced by your environment and psychology at the time. I put iTunes on random, tucked into a delicious homemade cheesesteak with broccoli raab made by Sarah (see picture), and popped a wine unlike any I’d had in quite a while. This should give you an idea of how I normally taste a wine. I like to go through the bottle, at least two glasses, taking time to observe nuances that may show up over time. I usually devote a whole evening to tasting a wine. Please, don’t judge my playlist.

Mollydooker “The Scooter” Merlot 2007
Appelation: South Australia
ABV: 16.0% (WHAT?!)
Price Point: $22
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Warlocks This wine is big. Flea’s funky bass slaps along as I pick up some massively dark, black fruit on the nose, with vanilla and lots of heat.


The Scooter

Meat Loaf: Out of the Frying Pan (and Into the Fire): Taking a taste, it’s bitter and sweet. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a good bit of residual sugar in this wine. I find this wine overwhelming and Wagnerian, much like the epic nature of pretty much every Meat Loaf song.

Grand Dérangement: Dieux de l’Univers: An Acadian group that sings in French. Made me think of Rémy Charest. I wonder if he did WBW this time. It also made me think, as the hugeness of this wine loomed, about French winemakers who complain about the “Parkerization” of wine. In case you don’t know, Robert M. Parker Jr. is widely considered the most powerful wine critic in the world. 90+ points from his publication, The Wine Advocate can sell out a wine practically overnight. A bad rating from him can be devastating. Thing about him is he tends to like wines like this. Big wines that are hugely oaked and overly extracted. I don’t deny anyone his own palate, and he has certainly built a great reputation. What is unfortunate is when winemakers make wines that Parker would like in order to gain “Parker points,” crafting wines to the palate of one man in Maryland. But we digress…

Simon & Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence (live) The wine is mellowing out, man. Or maybe I am just getting drunk on this ridiculous wine.

Phish: Scent of a Mule reminds me of {brettanomyces}. There is certainly nothing stinky or funky about this wine.

Man of La Mancha: What Do You Want of Me? Do you want me to like you, wine? I assume you do. So far, not really winning me over.

South Park: Merry Fucking Christmas A little non sequitur, but I do love the South Park “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” album. In a way, this song reminds me of the wine. Harsh and offensive to some, obnoxious, yet endearing to others. The wine’s beginning to grow on me.

The Beatles: A Day in the Life: This is the first song that has given me some time to actually concentrate on the wine. There is this bitterness* that resounds even through the big, almost {jammy} fruit. The orchestral ending to this song belies the initial cacophony of fruit and alcohol that resolves and ends on a slightly discordant note.

Songs for a New World: King of the World At this point, I’m about halfway through the bottle, and yeah, I feel like I’m king of the world, probably because I’m getting hammered.

Phish: The Squirming Coil another more contemplative song. This wine burns my mouth, kind of like Listerine. The ABV on Listerine is 21%, by the way.

Jewel: You Were Meant For Me Sorry baby, we had some good times, but I think you’re just too much for me.

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones: Lochs of Dread During this song I discovered the part of the label that is a stamp that you can rip off and conceivably place in a wine journal or something. Pretty cool.

Miles Davis: ‘Round Midnight This is great “bottom of the bottle” music. Pencil lead, celery seed, the wine is starting to reveal some complexity under its initially powerful and bulky first impression.  However, after a little break (smelling some fresh air and coming back) the wine is as obnoxious as ever coming back.

Overall, I found that the music was a more distracting than anything to my overall tasting experience.  Perhaps I was putting too much thought into the process, trying actively to pair the music up with the wine.  At any rate, I think that while my impression of the wine did sort of change over time, it didn’t really have anything to do with the music.  The music was more of a conversation starter, inspiring ideas for tasting notes rather than influencing my mood or perception.  Then again, that’s just me.  I really enjoyed the WBW theme, so kudos to Katie for hosting!

Continuing our discussion on balance, a report from 1994 by Fischer and Noble (“The Effect of Ethanol, Catechin Concentration, and pH on Sourness and Bitterness of Wine”, AJEV) found that ethanol concentration increases the perception of bitterness in wine.  The researchers took de-alcoholized wine (alcohol removed by reverse osmosis), and evaluated bitterness with tasting panels for 8%, 11%, and 14% alcohol by volume.  With increasing ethanol concentration, the bitterness in the wine increased.  This could explain why a recurrent tasting note in the process of tasting this wine was a lingering bitterness.  Sixteen percent? Yikes.

Published in: on 14 June 2009 at 10:04 am  Comments (3)  
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Home semi-sweet home

Six Mile Creek Semi-Sweet Riesling 2007


Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: “table wine” an email to the vineyard asking for details got no response. tsk, tsk.
RS: ~5%
Price Point: $13.50
Nose: Something spicy/cinnamony on the nose like Dentyne gum with some light floral aromas.
Palate: Canned peaches, sort of like fruit cocktail. Sweetness and acidity* are {well-balanced} in this wine. It doesn’t taste like 5% (50 g/L) residual sugar, but it is still pretty sweet. Many dessert wines come with an absurdly long finish, but this one drops off almost immediately. It’s easy to forget you’ve been drinking this riesling.

Rating: corkcorkhalfcork

Six Mile Creek is pretty much in Ithaca and because it’s about 5 minutes away I end up there somewhat frequently. I like the tasting room and the view from the deck out back is really gorgeous (vines and a pond). I think that this and the vignoles I reviewed earlier are some of their best offerings. This wine’s a pretty good value at $13.50. It’s not too complex, but will definitely be a crowd-pleaser.

Perception is a tricky thing. Every individual expresses different levels of smell and taste receptors, and many different alleles for those receptors. After that, everyone’s brain seems to handle the information that those receptors provide differently. Often, perception takes place over complex chemical mixtures (e.g., food and wine). It’s not entirely known how the brain handles multiple signals (in series? in parallel? or as a mixture?). What is known is that some qualities of a sample can suppress or accentuate other qualities. In this case, let’s talk about acid-sugar balance.

Try this without sugar.  Just try it.

Try this without sugar. Just try it.

I first learned about this particular topic when I was about 9. I was mixing up some Kool-Aid (unsweetened, in the paper packet as opposed to sweetened in the large container) in our big orange pitcher. I emptied the packet (which may have been Purplesaurus Rex) into the pitcher. For those unfamiliar with Kool-Aid, the contents of the packet are pretty much citric acid and dye, and you’re supposed to add about a cup of sugar to a 2-quart pitcher. You can probably see where this is going. I took a big gulp of the liquid BEFORE adding sugar, and it was awful. Extremely tart. Added a cup of sugar, and I had purple-lemonade goodness.


The scale that could be coming soon to riesling labels near you.

Turns out there is some science to back up the concept that sugar can balance acidity in wine. (Nordeloos and Nagel, “Effect of Sugar on Acid Perception in Wine”, AJEV, 1972). Basically, increased sugar decreases perception of acidity. The International Riesling Foundation has taken this into account. The idea behind their new “taste profile” is to give an idea of the sweetness of a riesling on the label so consumers know just how sweet their riesling will be. However, this rating is not just based on sugar content. It is based on sugar/acid ratio with a small adjustment based on pH. You can read more about the IRF and its new labeling scheme at their website or on a nascent Finger Lakes riesling blog called Stressing the Vine, which did a fine job covering this. For the record, I would guess that despite its hefty sugar content, this wine is probably on the high end of “medium-sweet.”

Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 11:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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Megapost: Anthony Road Open Cellar Tasting

Two weeks ago I went on a wine tour of Cayuga Lake (west side) organized by the Cornell Glee Club and Chorus. It was intended to be a social trip, and even though I brought my trusty notebook, I considered myself off the clock. We even had freshmen to drive us around! However, right before the trip, I got a comment on the blog from Peter Becraft, associate winemaker at Anthony Road Winery in response to my review of their 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling. It invited me to their Open Cellar Tasting event, where they were pouring around a dozen rieslings from their library (and tank samples from not yet released rieslings!), but it was the same day as the Glee Club wine tour, which wouldn’t get back to Ithaca til about 4:30. I know, rough life I have, right?

Anyway, I was bummed that I couldn’t make it but as we went along I did quite a bit of spitting anyway (turns out that the people who just buy a bottle and sit outside usually get drunker on the wine tour than those who are actually tasting…). It turned out that we got back into Ithaca early, around 3:45. I decided to give it a shot and head out to Penn Yan (on the other side of the OTHER lake) to try and get to the tasting by 5…in a thunderstorm.

Grapevines on a grey and gloomy evening, lake esconced by billowy fog.  The view from AWRC.

Grapevines on a grey and gloomy evening, lake esconced by billowy fog. The view from AWRC.

Long story short (too late?) I arrived at Anthony Road at 5:05, walked in the door to see a tasting room employee not too pleased about my arrival, who then directed me to the cellar where Peter and Johannes (the winemakers) were holding the riesling event. I arrived at the cellar, breathless, as the last patrons were leaving and they were starting to clean up. I introduced myself and Johannes and Peter were gracious enough to pour me every single wine (and a few extras), with Johannes staying to chat until 7 PM (in spite of multiple phone calls from his wife!). I even got 3 glasses at once to compare and contrast. I took quick and, frankly, illegible notes, so I won’t go into too many details about the wines.

Flight 1: Tierce

The Tierce logo.  I like it.

The Tierce logo. I like it.

Tierce wines are a collaboration between the winemakers at Fox Run, Anthony Road, and Red Newt. The aim of the project is to develop a riesling blend that showcases the best of three Finger Lakes growing regions, and the best that the three winemakers have to offer. The winemakers seem to lock themselves in a room with their wines until the ideal blend shows itself. Anthony Road was pouring 2004, 2005, and 2006 Tierce. 2006 is the vintage currently for sale, but I believe you can still get some 2005 at Fox Run. Tierce 2007 (not yet released) is a red blend, taking advantage of the hot, dry 2007 growing season, which according to many winemakers was a banner year for Finger Lakes reds. Another notable fact about Tierce wines is that they are all bottled under screwcaps, somewhat of an anomaly in the Finger Lakes region.

Tierce Riesling 2004 (library)  petrol around, still great acidity, herb/shrimp component
Tierce Riesling 2005 (~$30) looong finish, petrol/rubber amongst the fruit.
Tierce Riesling 2006 (~$30) really nice. I wrote a better descriptor for this than “nice,” but I can’t decipher it. It looks like “Cronunt”, but alas, that’s not a word. I will have to scare up some of this wine for a real review.

Flight 2: Anthony Road Dry Rieslings
According to Johannes, the cleanest fruit goes into dry rieslings. These should be able to stand on their own without relying on the balance and sweetness that leaving some residual sugar can provide.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2006 (library, 0.6% RS) good fruit, not as long on the finish. unfortunately, a bit of oxidized character is creeping in.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2007 ($16, 0.6% RS) I got an interesting piney note from this one.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2008 (NYR, 0.7% RS) Wow. Tropical, citrus, and green fruit (think honeydew melon). I wish I could have bought some of this, but I don’t think it’s been released yet. Quoth my notebook: money!

Flight 3: Anthony Road Semi-Dry/Semi-Sweet Rieslings
Just because the cleanest (read: not infected by {botrytis}) fruit goes into dry riesling doesn’t mean that semi-dry riesling can’t step up to the plate. In all of these, the sweetness is not just there for sweetness’ sake. It provides not only a bit of balance to the acidity but the sugar also seems to contribute to the mouthfeel.
Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2007 tasted great, see previous review
Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2008 ($15, 2.5% RS) stick candy (like you might get at an old-timey general store), passion fruit, with a nice acid background.
Anthony Road Semi-Sweet Riesling 2008 ($14, “around 3″% RS) big acidity on this one, tutti-frutti

Flight 4: Martini-Reinhardt Selections
These are the cream of the crop. The best wines from the best fruit of the year. They don’t make these every year. It seems like they really want to showcase fruit that really stands out from a vintage. Very limited production on these.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling 2005 (library, in fact I think that the one I had was from the very last bottle!) again, some oxidation leaking in. I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing, as a little bit can add a toffee/caramel type note.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Semi-Dry Riesling 2007 ($22) great harmony of sugar and acid. Very well-balanced and complex! Also, full-bodied mouthfeel.

Flight 5: Non-rieslings
Some non-rieslings thrown into the mix for good measure, including some interesting red blends.
Anthony Road Gewürztraminer 2008 ($16, 1.1% RS) good balance of floral and fruit on the nose.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Cabernet Franc 2007 ($30, 85% cabernet franc, 15% lemberger) black pepper is the name of the game here, but with great fruit in the mid-palate. Not too much tannin, but it is certainly there.
Anthony Road Cabernet Franc-Lemberger 2006 ($18, 55% lemberger, 45% cabernet franc) fruitier than the 2007, and a bit more {astringency}

Flight 6: Berry Selections (unreleased so far)
These wines are very labor-intensive. Most of the work is done on the sorting table, selecting berries shriveled and dried by the noble rot, and separating them from those shriveled by sour rot, foot-stomping, then what I assume is a very slow-going fermentation in a syrupy {must}.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Riesling Berry Selection 2008 (NYR, Beerenauslese-style, ~60% {botrytized} grapes) pineapple, white peach, currant (currants smell like ketchup to me, so I guess you could say ketchup too). Some {volatile acidity} up in this piece, not too obnoxious though.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Trockenbeeren 2008 (NYR, 100% botrytized grapes) rich, syrupy, apricot. Spicy on the tongue. The only wines I can compare this to is Sauternes, Barsac, and Montbazillac, and well, that’s saying a lot. Will be worth the likely high price tag.

Overall impressions:
One topic that came up, and one that has been discussed lately a bit on LENNDEVOURS as well, is libraries. This was technically a series of vertical tastings, but the oldest wine was from 2004. Peter apologized, but noted that holding on to wines for a while just isn’t a priority for many wineries. It could be a financial decision. Lots of wineries don’t have the space or the capital to hold on to cases and cases of wine. (Overheard: “In the Finger Lakes, they make money with wine, in Long Island, they make wine with money.”) Storage is also an issue. When you’re next to a lake, it’s hard to find a passive cellar. And in an aluminum-sided facility, it gets hot in the summer. Johannes laments the lack of good storage space and library holdings but seems powerless to to anything about it.

With 25 years combined of vineyard management and winemaking experience, Johannes Reinhardt has a pretty good idea what he’s doing. When I asked if they whole-cluster pressed or destemmed the grapes, his response was that it depends on the fruit (then he showed me their destemmer-crusher, which can be adjusted to just destem in a modular fashion, pretty cool.). There is never a set policy. He’s not just following a recipe book, he is reacting to what the vineyard gives him. The BA/TBAs are a good example of this approach. When the climate was right to make botrytized wines, he did it, even a difficult and labor-intensive 100% botrytized berry selection. And those wines are something special, believe me.

and PS: Soft-spoken, extremely polite, slight German accent? Johannes is pretty dreamy.

Botrytis cinerea can be a blessing and a curse to vineyard managers. Most of the time, it will destroy grapes. However, under certain conditions, a controlled infection of botrytis dries the grapes out, concentrating the sugars and acids inside. It’s way too complex of a topic to blow in one “Science!” episode, so I’ll only be looking at one characteristic aroma compound this time. Plus, I love botrytized wines, so I want to taste and review more!

4,5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone aka sotolon, sugar lactone, or my personal favorite, fenugreek lactone

4,5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone aka sotolon, sugar lactone, or my personal favorite, fenugreek lactone

The molecule of the day is sotolon, also known as 4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone. At low concentrations, it smells somewhat like maple syrup, while at higher concentrations it tends to smell more like curry, and, if you get a whiff of it really highly concentrated, vomit. Just trust me on the vomit part. It was first isolated in botrytized wine (Masuda et al., “Identification of 4, 5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (Sotolon) and Ethyl 9-Hydroxynonanoate in Botrytised Wine and Evaluation of the Roles of Compounds Characteristic of It”, Agricultural and Biological Chemistry, 1984), but exactly how it shows up in BW’s is not quite clear. It also shows up in fino sherries, madeiras, and vin jaune, hinting that acetaldehyde may contribute to its formation. Others propose that it is a product of Maillard browning reactions in the berry, which also makes sense to me (Slaughter et al., “The naturally occurring furanones: formation and function from pheromone to food”, Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1999). At any rate, it’s a characteristic aroma compund of botrytis, and one to think about with your next Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, or Trockenbeerenauslese.

Published in: on 1 June 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (5)