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Six Mile Creek Semi-Sweet Riesling 2007

SSRiesling07

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
Notes:
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.


*Science!
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.

tasteprofile

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.”

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Published in: on 9 June 2009 at 11:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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Great estate

Lamoreaux Landing Estate White (N/V)

Forgot to take a picture of the bottle, so here is a small one.

Forgot to take a picture of the bottle, so here is a small one.

Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: 55% Riesling 45% gewürztraminer
ABV: 12.8%
RS: 1.75%
Price Point: $10
Notes:
Looks: Lemony-green
Nose: Intense nose of flowers, peach, and lychee (What’s a lychee, anyway? I can only find them in cans, but they’re pretty good! Check the Asian section of the local market)
Palate: Pear coming through on the palate, and some passion fruit*. Good amount of sweetness and balanced acidity. A tad short on the finish, but all in all a nice wine. For under $10, I’d definitely get it again.
Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork for outstanding {QPR}.

Winemaker Paul Brock is new at Lamoreaux Landing, and I understand that this is one of his first wines there. He’s also trained as a chemical engineer, so he’s got that going for him. Many estate whites in the Finger Lakes are made with Cayuga White, or other hybrids or native grapes. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these, it’s refreshing to see an estate white made with the aromatic white varieties that the Finger Lakes is known for. So far, it seems he’s doing a great job out at Lamoreaux. See where a little science can get you?


*Science!

In the last science section, we talked about volatile thiols and how enzymes in saliva can free them up. One example of a volatile thiol is 3-mercaptohexanol. It smells like passion fruit, and can be quite nice. At high concentrations, though, it starts to smell a little bit sweaty. When I first smelled a sample that had been spiked with this chemical, I though I had forgotten to put on deodorant. Nope, it was the wine. At least that time it was…

3-mercaptohexanol. Fruity and sweaty.  Kind of like Richard Simmons.

3-mercaptohexanol. Fruity and sweaty. Kind of like Richard Simmons.

This is a good example of something that can be pleasurable at low concentrations, but when the concentration gets too high can be considered a fault. Some people feel this way about the characteristic aromas of {brettanomyces}. But that’s a story for another post.

Published in: on 19 May 2009 at 11:56 pm  Comments (3)  
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Monday matchup: Finger Lakes vs. Rheingau

Yep, it’s still riesling month. I decided to put some FL riesling up against another famous riesling producer, Germany.

The two competitors, plus my trusty Purity spit cup.  Featuring the festive Easter tablecloth.

The two competitors, plus my trusty Purity spit cup. Featuring the festive Easter tablecloth.

This test was done blind, 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 one is a screwcap.

Stats:

Wine Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2007 Fürst Löwenstein CF Riesling QbA trocken 2007
Appelation Finger Lakes Rheingau
ABV 12.5% 12.0%
RS 0.9% 0.9%
Price Point $17 $16

Here we go:
Wine 1
Looks: pale yellow with a hint of green, with a little spritz
Nose: very strong lime peel, dominant petrol. It’s like WD-40 (I toasted enough tent caterpillars with my friend Brian when I was a kid to know what WD-40 smells like. It’s part gasoline, part floral sweetness) Part of that may not be all TDN, it may be more sweaty/grapefruity.
Palate: nice acid balance. Also limey on the palate, like biting into a lime. Not as acidic as a lemon, and a little bitter. A bit of pear on the palate, but the finish is what makes this wine really good. After a while in the mouth it develops some tropical fruit flavors*, like the Skittles that come in the blue bag. But you’ve got to be patient!
Rating: 3.5 corks corkcorkcorkhalfcork It’s really, really good, but the petrol is a bit much.

I need some better lighting up in this piece.

I need some better lighting up in this piece.

Wine 2
Looks: about the same as wine 1, including the bubbles on the bottom of the glass
Nose: Very different. Intense green apple, cotton candy, and a little bit floral
Palate: Very acidic, almost off {balance}. Palate like the core of a pineapple, the part that’s not quite ripe and really tart. As for the finish, the only thing I get is acidity, like the one oboe player that didn’t cut off the note with the rest of the section.
Rating: 3 corks corkcorkcork Also pretty good.

Some of you reading could probably tell which wine was which from the descriptors. Well, maybe. Anyway, I had a hunch that #1 was the Finger Lakes riesling, and it was! Overall, in spite of the WD-40 on the Wiemer, I liked the overall palate better. I liked the nose better on the Rheingau, but it just wasn’t enough to carry it through. Both good wines, and I would definitely buy them again. In this case, Finger Lakes riesling takes it.

Hermann J. Wiemer also produces premium single vineyard rieslings, which I have tasted before and are really, really nice, but a bit more expensive than the standard dry (~$30 or so). Wiemer is one of the most respected riesling producers in the Finger Lakes and it’s easy to see why.


*Science!

Sometimes flavors show up only after a little while in the mouth. This could be due to the way we perceive aromas (it’s not clear whether things are parsed one at a time or all at once), but in the case of some aromas there is a molecular reason why they may take a while to show up.

Many tropical fruit, peachy, grapefruit, passion fruit and other aromas are thiols. They’ve got a sulfhydryl group sticking off of what is usually an alcohol. Now, we’ve talked before about some sulfur compounds being rank-smelling, like hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans. Some mercaptoalcohols, however, can be quite pleasant.

s-cysteine

But there’s one problem. The thiols like to bind up with the amino acid cysteine (which also has a thiol group). The S-cysteine conjugate molecules are not volatile and therefore are not perceived as aromas. During fermentation, yeast enzymes can liberate the volatiles from their cysteines, but often a large portion are left cysteine-conjugated. However, saliva contains enzymes called lyases that free these compounds from their cysteine anchors and lets them fly into the nasal cavity retronasally. This phenomenon was discovered in sauvignon blanc grapes (many, especially from New Zealand will have pronounced tropical/passion fruit aromas) (Tominaga et al., “A New Type of Flavor Precursors in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Sauvignon Blanc: S-Cysteine Conjugates”, J. Ag. Food Chem., 1998), but these compounds have also been found in riesling and other aromatic whites (Tominaga et al. (again), “Contribution of Volatile Thiols to the Aromas of White Wines Made From Several Vitis vinifera Grape Varieties”, AJEV, 2000).

Published in: on 13 May 2009 at 1:48 am  Comments (2)  
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Anthony Road Rules

Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2007
Appelation: Finger Lakes
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 12.3%
RS: 1.9%
Price Point $16
Notes:
Nose: lime and pineapple on the nose, but the first thing I notice is our old friend petrol*, which in this case adds some nice complexity to an otherwise crisp and fruity nose.
Palate: rich {mouthfeel} with refreshing acidity. Very nice on the palate. The sweetness and overall body give a lemon chiffon feel. Really enjoyable.

Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcork

I have not yet been to Anthony Road, but I have heard winemaker Johannes Reinhardt described as “dreamy”. So, that’s good for the ladies. If his other wines are just as dreamy, then they are doing a fine job out there. Riesling month is off to a delicious start!


1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, or TDN to the syllabically challenged.

*Science!
The petrol component, as we discussed in the riesling ice wine bonanza, usually shows up in riesling wines after a bit of aging. But this wine is a 2007? What’s going on? Let’s look into the origins of the aroma compound.

The molecule in question is 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, which is thankfully abbreviated to TDN. TDN’s aromas can be described as kerosene, burned rubber, or the much nicer French term goût petrol. Nothing with a circumflex (château, l’Hôpital’s rule, etc.) can be that bad, right? While it tends to add a bit of complexity to a fruity bouquet increasing amounts of this compound can make it an off-aroma.

It’s thought that TDN arises from the breakdown of carotenoids in wine. What are carotenoids? Carotenoids are color compounds. In the fall, when chlorophyll in trees breaks down, what’s left are the carotenoids, yellow, orange, red, etc. They mostly serve to protect chlorophyll by absorbing damaging wavelengths of sunlight. As such, carotenoids are usually higher in grapes grown in hot regions with lots of sun. Carotenoid concentration can affect the emergence of TDN as wine ages. Also, carotenoids are produced until veraison (i.e. the beginning of ripening), then degraded during maturation. So (1) the more concentrated your carotenoids (e.g., hot, dry year), and (2) the longer your maturation time, the more carotenoid breakdown products you’ll end up with in your wine.

2007 was a hot, dry year in the Finger Lakes. As such, many producers produced very ripe grapes, and let them hang for quite a while for maximum ripeness. In riesling terms, this could be a recipe for TDN, if not now then in a few years. On a side note, not all carotenoid breakdown products are bad. β-damascenone (canned apple), β-ionone, and the aptly named Riesling acetal all are the result of carotenoid breakdown. I’ll be tasting quite a few 2007s during “May is riesling month”, so stay tuned!

If you want some real science, check out this quote from an excellent and very detailed review of the subject of carotenoid breakdown by Maria Manuela Mendes-Pinto in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (2009) which was the source for much of the above information. This is the kind of stuff I love.

It is important to take into consideration that the model systems studied for thermal degradation of β-carotene require extreme temperature over a long period of time, sometimes in the presence of organic solvents such as ethanol and benzene and . Although these conditions are not representative of the natural conditions that can contribute to the degradation of carotenoids and norisoprenoids formation, they are valid studies because they can be indicators of the naturally occurring reactions. The formation of TDN and Riesling acetal by acid hydrolysis of megastigmane structures as intermediates has been proposed by Winterhalter in 1991. The existence of multiple possible precursors for TDN, vitispirane and also of β-damascenone, was observed in heated juice of Riesling grapes; the glycosylated forms were hydrolysed to release the corresponding aroma norisoprenoids. In Riesling wines, TDN, vitispirane and Riesling acetal were formed in high concentrations by acid hydrolysis of the glycosylated precursors. While the precursor of β-damasenone has already been suggested (megastigma-6,7-dien-3,5,9-triol) the precursors of TDN and Riesling acetal were proposed later; the glycosylated form of 2,6,10,10-tetramethyl-1-oxaspiro[4.5]dec-6-ene-2,8-diol identified in wines was considered as a natural precursor of TDN after acid hydrolysis, while 1,4-dihydroxy-7,8-dihydro-β-ionone was considered as the precursor of Riesling acetal. This work also provided evidence of multiple precursors of TDN as previously suggested in related work with the same Riesling wine (P. Winterhalter, M.A. Sefton and P.J. Williams, Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 41 (1990), pp. 277–283).[74].

I guess it makes more sense with the figures.

Published in: on 8 May 2009 at 5:13 pm  Comments (6)  
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Contains sulfites

Boordy Vineyards Icons of Maryland Riesling

Old school cartoon Oriole looks happy about this wine, but he is dying inside.

Old school cartoon Oriole looks happy about this wine, but he is dying inside.

Appelation: “American”, grapes are sourced from WA state.
Varietal: Riesling
ABV: 11%
RS: 3%
Price Point $12
Notes:
Looks: Pale yellow, a bit darker than a typical riesling from NY would be.
Nose: On the nose it is definitely not a NYS riesling. Very floral, perfumey. A bit of fruit cocktail comes in as well, but the major player in this nose is sulfur dioxide, aka sulfites, which kind of smell like when you first light a match. Wow. It burns my nose.*
Palate: Brazen acidity. Like “yeah, I’m acidic, what are you gonna do about it, punk?” So much sulfur that I can taste it on the palate and all the fruit is gone. Sweet, acidic, sulfurous. Yikes. As it goes down it feels like it will give me heartburn the next day. Blech.

Rating: 1 cork cork Maybe I am just sensitive to it, but i definitely wouldn’t want any more of this.

I went to Baltimore this weekend for an a cappella reunion concert. While picking up some plonk for the afterparty (André anyone?) I decided to review some MD wine. Boordy Vineyards is the largest winery in Maryland, a state that could be considered an up and coming wine region. Unfortunately, I didn’t look carefully at the bottle and ended up grabbing a wine made with grapes grown in Washington state. When I was there I thought I remembered them mentioning riesling vines, but upon further research it was that they had torn them out. Oh, well.

I have toured the winery and it is one of those “party” wineries. It is a fun atmosphere and they give a pretty informative and fun tour. So if you’re between Baltimore and the PA line, I recommend that you stop by.

As for this wine, a little sugar can be used to cover up some faults, but the SO2 is so profound in this wine that not even the 3% RS could save it. Sometimes you find this sulfite heavy-handedness in Mosel rieslings, as well as occasionally here in the Finger Lakes. I would avoid this one, though the label is nice. It’s got a Baltimore oriole on it.

*Science!
Sulfur dioxide, commonly called “sulfites” on the label, is an antioxidant and antimicrobial agent that has been used for making wine pretty much since wine was first made. SO2 irritates your nose, causing a trigeminal response (see the Jameson post for further discussion of trigeminal response), a burning sensation in the nose. In certain individuals, it can irritate the lungs and cause an asthma-like response. This wine likely has lots of sulfites added because residual sugars can bind SO2, rendering it inactive. If a wine has high residual sugar, chances are it will have higher SO2 to curb microbial activity. Sulfites are the most important preservative and rest assured they will keep coming up again and again in this section.

Addendum:
I didn’t want to get into the whole equilibrium thing, but yes, sulfites exist as molecular SO2 (the actual antimicrobial agent), HSO3-, and SO3–. At wine pH (3.5 or so), most (~95%) of the SO2 will be found as HSO3-. This means that to have enough molecular SO2 for microbial stability, you need to add about 20x more (usually people use potassium metabisulfite). THEN molecular SO2 can associate with ketones and aldehydes, including sugars, so you’ve got to add even more! Problem is the legal limit (US) is 350 ppm (total, free and bound), and the detection threshold is 2 ppm as molecular. And if you have oxygen pickup on your bottling line, then you’ve probably already lost it all! My theory is that the reason this was so overwhelming was that it had a combination of high RS (better add more SO2!) and high acidity, so probably a lower pH (though not necessarily), so more of that extra SO2 was available as molecular, and more went up my nose. I see too much SO2 as a winemaking mistake and it really puts me off a wine. I even tried this a couple days later after it sat in the fridge for a while and it still had biting SO2.

Thanks to Vinogirl for her comment.

Published in: on 21 April 2009 at 5:27 pm  Comments (4)  
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