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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Monday matchup: Bold statements

I follow a lot of wine people on Twitter. This post is a response to a tweet from the winemaker at Silver Springs Winery on Seneca Lake. In addition to an eponymous label, Silver Springs also makes Don Giovanni wines, their premium label. The tweet in question was as such:

DonGiovanniWine: my 2005 Bold Merlot in a blind taste test will beat all other merlots …yes I just said that…

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Today's competitors on "Drink the Wine"

I happened to have a bottle of the 2005 Bold Merlot at home, and I was actually planning on writing tasting notes for it soon. When I saw this tweet, I couldn’t resist having the winemaker put his money where his mouth is. For the opponent, I chose another wine that I had around the house, Ty Caton 2006 Upper Bench Merlot, which I purchased from wine.woot about a year ago and have been “cellaring” in the closet.

This test was done as blindly as possible, with identical ISO 9000 wine glasses. Both bottles were opened at the same time and not decanted. Wine was poured into the glasses from the bottle before the test began to avoid bias, as the bottles are shaped considerably differently.
 
 
Stats:

Wine Don Giovanni Bold Merlot 2005 Ty Caton 2006 Upper Bench Merlot
ABV 13.7% 15.7% (!!!)
Appelation New York State (fruit from Long Island and Finger Lakes) Sonoma Valley, CA
Price Point $27 $37

Here we go:
Wine 1
Looks: dark red, getting to be brick-red.
Nose: Vanilla and oak, not too much fruit. I do get some cherry, and a spicy potpourri aroma. There’s a bit of an herbal tint in there too, with a bit of tobacco/cigar box. It may be running a little {hot}
Palate: Firm but not overpowering {tannin}. Medium-short finish, and I really like the tannin structure. It’s slightly on the acidic side and oaky on the palate. There’s something really nice that comes through on the finish about 10 seconds after swallowing/spitting. It’s subtle and I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it is satisying.
Overall, not too bad. I like its {balance}, but the phenolic (“spicy potpourri”) element is the loudest singer in the bunch, and it’s a little out of tune.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork

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The contestants, as judged. Post-it notes are so I wouldn't get them mixed up while tasting.

Wine 2
Looks: Darker red, with hints of purple.
nose A bit of hydrogen sulfide at first whiff (dissipated after a bit), jammy, grape soda, huckleberry pie, with a little chocolate in there.
palate Sweet, very fruity. Cheek-puckering tannin, almost a smokiness on the back end, a lingering bitterness that’s not really that pleasant. Pretty alcoholic, too, finishing with some black licorice.

This is a big wine, but maybe not in the right ways. At times it reminds me of a fruity-smelling magic marker. You know the ones I mean.
Rating: 2.5 corks corkcorkhalfcork

Results: Don Giovanni was wine 1, and Ty Caton was wine 2. In a way, this probably wasn’t a fair comparison. These wines are completely different styles, and since this wasn’t DOUBLE blind (i.e. I would have no idea which wines I was tasting at all), I had my suspicions about which wine was which right from the get-go. The DG had an aroma that I pick up in many, many FL reds, which I describe as “potpourri” only because I’m not really sure what to call it. My hypothesis is that it comes from extended maceration and/or long extraction periods, which can add a lot of color to a wine from a wet vintage, but also extract some undesirables from the skins. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, the TC can come off like a typical California WAY overripe, jammy, syrupy, alcoholic mess. 15.7% alcohol? It may as well be madeira! This may be a style that some critics really go for, but for me, I prefer the Don Giovanni. That being said, it’s not without its flaws, and I definitely wouldn’t say that it could beat ANY merlot out there.


A note about blind tastings: It’s important to point out that nobody buys wine blind. Nobody goes to the store and says to the clerk, “I’ve got $20, surprise me!” (though I might do that someday, sounds like fun). With so many wines out there (on the order of 10,000 labels authorized for sale in the US in 2007), there’s no way one can try them all and buy based on experience. The more adventurous consumers will reach for varietals and regions they haven’t had before, but it seems that in general, people buy wine based on lots of psychological factors that have little to do with the quality of the wine in question. This could explain why the results of truly blind tastings can often be rather surprising, especially to the tasters. However, human psychology is rather out of my jurisdiction and I’m content to just say that people do weird things sometimes.

I’ve been to Silver Springs a few times and whenever I go, the winemaker, John Zuccarino, is pouring behind the bar. The guy is nothing if not extremely enthusiastic about wine and the wines that he makes. Many times my friends have remarked that it was their favorite stop along the way on Seneca, even if the winemaker’s presence is a bit overwhelming for some. He makes some pretty good reds, and I highly recommend stopping by there if you’re traveling up the east side of Seneca.

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This is only a small portion of the detritus floating in my spit cup after tasting these two wines.

Science!
Hey gang! Here’s an experiment that you can do at home! Make sure you get your parents’ permission, though. In the winespeak dictionary, I explain how it’s thought that the mechanism of astringency is the precipitation of proteins in saliva by tannins. Additionally, perception of astringency correlates well with protein precipitation assays (Ref: Kennedy et al.,, “Analysis of Tannins in Red Wine Using Multiple Methods: Correlation with Perceived Astringency “, AJEV, 2006) Well, if you’ve got a spit bucket, you can observe this phenomenon for yourself!  All that chunky stuff floating around when you spit out a red wine is precipitated protein, mostly PRPs (proline-rich proteins).  It’s thought that PRPs evolved as a defense mechanism against polyphenolic compounds, like tannins (Ref: Baxter et al., “Multiple interactions between polyphenols and a salivary proline-rich protein repeat result in complexation and precipitation.”, Biochemistry, 1997).

Published in: on 30 March 2009 at 3:14 am  Comments (3)  
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