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.

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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
Notes:
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.

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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!

*Science!
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.

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Published in: on 14 June 2009 at 10:04 am  Comments (3)  
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Venial zin

Long Point Zinfandel (Reserve) 2006
Varietal: Zinfandel (not to be confused with “white zinfandel”, a wine made in a rosé-style from Zinfandel grapes, and usually drunk by moms.)

This is the biggest picture I could find of the label

This is the biggest picture I could find of the label

Alcohol by volume: 14.8%
Residual Sugar: Dry (supposedly)
Appelation: Only to be sold in NY (more on that later)
Price point: $24

Notes:
Looks: Dark violet uncharacteristic of Finger Lakes reds.
Nose: Hot on the nose, kind of smells like those old blueberry-cream Life Savers lollipops in that it carries dark fruit and vanilla.
Palate: Sweet, I tend to disagree with the “dry” rating. Rather low in acidity, {flabby}. There is a bit of {tannin} that sticks around through the black licorice finish. Overall, for 24 bucks I’m not sure I would buy it again.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork


I drove to Long Point with some of my high school friends in the middle of a snowstorm around new years. Located just off of Route 34B on Cayuga lake, it’s one of two main wineries on the east side of the lake, the other being King Ferry (Treleaven wines). In the deserted tasting room, when I expressed that the reds showed a lot of color, tannin, and flavor, the winemaker informed me that the grapes for some of his reds are shipped from California. Finger lakes wine indeed! But hey, if you have had some of the reds made in a cooler climate like this, you would probably consider importing as well. It takes a lot of energy for grapes to make all those anthocyanins (color compounds) and other polyphenols (e.g., {tannins}).

Creamy blueberry in lollipops:  great!  Creamy blueberry in high-alcohol wine: not so great.

Creamy blueberry in lollipops: great! Creamy blueberry in high-alcohol wine: not so great.

Also, what does “reserve” mean? Legally, in the U.S., it means absolutely nothing. Some winemakers use it to mean that these were the best barrels of that fermentation, some use it to mean that the wine is oaked or aged in a nicer (French vs, American, a topic for another time) or newer oak barrel. Regardless, “reserve” on a wine usually guarantees one thing: it will be more expensive. This wine is no exception.

*Science!
A fairly recent trend in winemaking, especially in California, is letting grapes hang on the vine for the maximum amount of time before harvesting to maximize ripeness (Ref: Coombe, “Research on development and ripening of the grape berry”, American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 1992). At first, this seems like a great idea: riper grapes mean more flavor, right?. (Incidentally, long hang times in the Finger Lakes are not advisable because of the propensity for rain in September-October, which leads to the growth of {botrytis} (rot) on the grapes.) As grapes ripen, sugar levels increase and acid levels (malic and tartatric) decrease. The result of a long hang is juice that comes in with very high sugar. Very high sugar leads to very high alcohol after fermentation, and this one weighs in around 15% alcohol by volume. Wow. An unfortunate downside to this approach (which frequently happens with Zinfandel, a notoriously high-alcohol wine) is the loss of a lot of the acids, leading to a wine lacking structure.
Alcohol levels in wine are increasing all over the world and it’s thought that climate change has a lot to do with this (Ref: Jones et al., “Climate change and global wine quality”, Climate Change, 2005). I don’t know if Al Gore mentioned this in “An Inconvenient Truth” but he probably should have!

Published in: on 9 March 2009 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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