Yes, you might be surprised at the different ways we are now incorporating wine tastings into our daily lives, and just recently I discovered a new one: a Bridal Shower Wine Tasting. Instead of the typical Bridal Shower games, these ladies wanted to get a little education with their wine, and that is something we are well-suited to provide at ABC. Most of them were also new to wine, so had a penchant for sweeter fare, though they were willing to branch out of their typical comfort zone in a “class” context, where we could really break down the flavor profiles and learn to talk knowledgeably about the flavors that we like, and those that we don’t.
With all wine classes I teach (and have taught) it’s important to empower the opinions of your students but keep them open to new flavor potentials. Wine is like life, inherently subjective, and each of our palates is very distinct. What I taste is not exactly what you taste, and most of what we “taste” is through our nose anyway. You will not like everything, but let’s work on a shared vocabulary so that we can discuss what we like and what we don’t beyond blanketing something as a “good wine” or a “bad wine.” Telling me you like “good wine” doesn’t get us further along to finding the bottle you want, because your good may not be my good.
For this beginner’s event I chose softer wines, with less tannin and acidity, as that often turns off neophytes. I wanted some sweet, but I also wanted them to expand their horizons. I suggested some simple palate cleansers, a range of cheese in different styles from soft to hard and mild to salty. Fresh bread or neutral crackers with a selection of fresh fruit are the prototypical pairing that doesn’t even have to include meat to feel complete. Cheese and wine are magic together and improve the tastes of both significantly. The fruit helps us relate back to the aromas we can get from grape wine that are like other fruits: blackberries, blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, apples, pears, peaches and citrus. Having those components right in front of you can make it easier to distinguish them in the wines you are sampling. The cheese and crackers, and maybe some nuts, might bring out more of the wines bouquet, the smells and flavors that come from the fermentation process and oak aging. Aromas refer specifically to the fruity and floral notes we get from the fruit itself. There is the difference between bouquet and aroma in a nutshell.
Here is the final tasting list we worked out:
- Nadia Malvasia by Giorgi – Sweet and frizzante, with notes of tangerines and citrus blossoms, almost like a Mimosa without having to mix it ($14).
- Marina Alta Moscato Seco – A different take on Moscato, very floral and fruity up front but dry and refreshing on the palate ($11).
- Playtime Chardonnay – A very soft and fruity Chardonnay with minimal oak aging, hints of butter and vanilla but a strong peach and citrus profile ($9).
- Vista Peak Pinot Noir – A very light and fruity, low tannin red, that is great for beginners, not sweet but juicy with just enough classic acidity ($9).
- Astrid Cabernet Sauvignon – The heaviest and most typically “winey” of the six, though it is not heavy for a Cabernet. In a class I think it’s important to cover the whole range of styles and wanted to include a truly dry, red wine, with some real tannin ($9).
- Costarosa Sangue di Giuda by Giorgi – Sweet and frizzante, blackberry with very light acid, this Italian red blend from Lombardy has broad appeal ($14).
Some of the wines were more popular than others, and a few guests were surprised at how much they liked the drier wines when paired with food. Giorgi Costarosa is one of ABC’s best-selling red wines because it appeals to people who don’t normally like red wine. I jokingly refer to it as our “gateway red” to bring those Moscato-lovers over to the dark side. It was the most popular wine of the evening, followed closely by the Nadia Malvasia. Yes, we are hard-wired to like sweet things, and these two wines deliver, but with an elegance that can still make them appealing to classic wine-lovers.
To their surprise, some of the attendees liked the Pinot Noir, even though it is a dry wine. Getting this group to move beyond the term “bitter” to “dry” was a major accomplishment. The surprising contrast of the Dry Moscato, with its sweet and floral nose, that hint of fruit on the tip of the tongue that finishes out with brisk acidity on the palate, was an eye-opener. Wines can seem like one thing on the nose and then turn out to be quite a different experience on the palate. All in all it was a very successful event, where much wine was enjoyed and a little winey information was shared. Stop by your local ABC and come up with an occasion to create your own wine tasting; your wine consultant will be thrilled to help! Cheers!
Dan Eddy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine consultant
Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineDanE