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Tag: noble grape

Getting to Know the Nebbiolo

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we jumped into the world of Sangiovese, and today we stay a little while longer in Italy to get to know the Nebbiolo.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Characteristics

First of all, can we just take a second to appreciate the name, Nebbiolo? Say it with me now – nnnnnneeebiooooooooolooooooo. So good.

Nebbiolos are most commonly from the Piedmont region in Italy. But what we do we know about Italy? They like to blend! So, Nebbiolo is commonly used in blends like Barolo, one of the more famous Italian wines out there. Also, I find it interesting that Nebbiolo is considered a noble grape when other regions have had trouble creating high quality wines from it – but I guess being noble is about how great the wine is, not how easy the grapes are to grow.

 

To try out Nebbiolo I tasted Enrico Serafino Barbaresco.

(I want to note that I found it very tough to find a wine that was purely a Nebbiolo and not some sort of Italian blend. I eventually found this bottle which, admittedly, is out of my everyday wine price range. But, in the interests of fully committing to the Noble Grape Challenge, I decided to splurge. Plus, it looked like a good wine and a nice treat.)

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Tasting Notes

I’ve never had a Nebbiolo before, so this is a complete adventure for me. I’ll have to use the other things I know about wine, along with the research I’ve done, and trust my palate and my own tastes, which is what you should do every time you taste too.

My first observation: wow, is this ever light in colour! You can see the entire glass under the wine! This wine is super transparent, which isn’t something I usually see outside of a Pinot Noir, though, to be honest, I tend to favour big reds that often look like ink in my glass.

This wine also looks a little brownish at the edges, which isn’t surprising considering the only Nebbiolo I could find was from 2010, and wines start to get some brown in colour as they age, especially around the edges.

The wine had been in the glass for a while before I got to smell or drink it, and I’m happy it had a chance to open up. I found the nose to be earthy, with a bit of spice and some vanilla. Overall very soft and smooth.

I found the flavour pretty similar to the nose – smooth, spicy on the finish, with some tang/tannin/acidity, which is a common neb trait. I also found it quite big and full-bodied, which isn’t surprising knowing that Nebbiolos are common players in a Barolo, but was surprising given how lightly coloured the wine is. This wine is definitely keeping me on my toes. I was disappointed not to get any smoke from this particular Nebbiolo, knowing that’s also a common trait. I love me a smoky wine.

 

Bottom Line

So, what do I think of this wine? I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I drank it over a few nights and was disappointed that it didn’t mellow much over that time – I think I was hoping the tannins would settle down, which they didn’t. I liked the full body in the flavour but the acidity got in the way of true enjoyment. If I’m going to buy a big red I’ll steer more toward something from Chile or Argentina. That being said, if you like Italian wine (and can afford $20 a bottle) then I would recommend this wine.

I do want to note the cork. The wine had crept halfway up – wow! This is a often another sign of age, or sometimes of a bad seal. I’m happy this bottle found its way to me before the wine crept all the way up, since it would have meant the end of the cork and therefore the end of the wine. Luckily I managed to save it first and give it a good home.

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Are you familiar with Nebbiolo? What do you think of it?

 

Next up – Tempranillo! Olè!

A Noble Trip to Italy

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we got to know Merlot, and today we’ll get acquainted with that old Italian grape, Sangiovese.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Characteristics

Before we talk about the wine, let’s talk about the word – Sangiovese. It doesn’t look English, does it? In fact, you might think it looks straight-up Italian – and you would be right. This is your first clue that Sangiovese is a special varietal.

Sangiovese is really only grown in Italy. It’s one of the few varietals that is so scarce beyond its ‘home’ location. But! Before you go feeling all sorry for the little Sangiovese grape, let me tell you that there’s actually a big variety of it within Italy, which means its bouquet and flavour can vary quite a bit depending where in Italy it’s found. That’s the second clue that the Sangiovese varietal is a special one.

 

To try out Sangiovese I tasted Farnese Fantini Sangiovese IGT.

Very New World style label - I like!

Very New World style label – I like!

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Tasting notes

As you can see, it colour is pretty gentle. It’s not super clear like a Pinot, nor is it completely opaque like a Malbec. It’s got a nice red colour and is a little orange-y along the edge, which I’ve read is a typical marker of a Sangiovese.

I found it difficult to get much off the nose of this wine, which I always find disappointing. After I left it in my glass for a while (almost an hour!) I started to smell some candied fruit, and a bit of cookie, actually. You know the classic vanilla Girl Guide cookies? I smelled those. Weird, I know.

The flavour was quite full. I got a fair amount of fruit (cherry, I think) off the top and a bunch of oak on the finish. In fact, the aftertaste was a bit like lickin a tree. Jury’s still out on that sensation.

 

Bottom Line

Despite being disappointed by the nose I quite like this wine. It goes down easy, and might just be my next go-to pick for a party or dinner with a friend. And, the best part, it was under $8! I was wary of the price and but decided to take a chance, and I’m glad it paid off.

 

Have you tried Sangiovese lately? What did you think?

 

Next up in the NGC: Nebbiolo – if I can find it!

The Soft and Sensuous Side of Wine

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we explored Grenaches, and today we get to know our new friend Merlot.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Get to Know Merlot

Merlot often gets a lot of hate in the wine world, which isn’t something I agree with. Merlot will always have a place in my heart because it was the first varietal I got to know when I started getting more serious about wine. Don’t expect to hear me muttering these words any time soon.

Merlots are pretty middle of the road in terms of body, which is probably part of why they get a bad rap. I think the medium body makes a Merlot quite approachable, especially since it’s often accompanied by a really nice softness on the palate. Soft and versatile – that’s Merlot to a tee.

Merlot grapes are grown a lot in France, California (and Washington State) and Italy. Since France and Italy like to blend their grapes I found it a little challenging to find an affordable bottle that was a good price, but I eventually settled on one from California.

Flavours vary depending on whether the grapes were grown in a warm or cold climate, but for  California Merlots the flavours that tend to stick out are red berries (raspberry, cherry) and some chocolate flavours (mocha, cocoa). I like that Merlots have both zing and depth in their flavour.

 

To try out Merlot I tasted Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi 2013 Merlot.

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Tasting notes

The colour is red with some brownish undertones, and is more opaque than the wines we’ve tried so far in the Noble Grape Challenge. The nose has a bit of wood and smoke on it, which I always love smelling. The flavour was very smooth and inviting – the typical Merlot softness is definitely there. There’s a bit of zingy tannin on the finish, which I’m not a fan of, but overall I like the flavour. I didn’t finish the bottle for this tasting so I’m hoping that the natural oxidation that happens when you open a bottle will help mellow the zing.

 

 

Bottom Line

It’s in line with what I expect from a Merlot, and it’s a good wine for the price. If you’re looking for something that’s a step up I would recommend checking out something from Robert Mondavi Winery (as opposed to the Woodbridge line) or Beringer.

 

Have you tried any Merlots lately? What did you think?

 

Next up in the NGC – Sangiovese!

 

I Say Grenache, You Say Garnacha, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Wine

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we explored the delicious world of Pinot Noirs, the lightest red wine on the spectrum. Today we take a step up in terms of body and meet our new friend, Grenache.

 

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

 

Step up and meet Grenache!

Grenache (aka Garnacha en Español) is grown mostly in Spain and France and is used more often in blends than on its own. In fact, I had a tough time finding a solely Grenache wine to do this tasting! I found lots of Grenache/Syrah and a fair bit of Grenache/Syrah/Mouvedre (good old GSMs!), by far the two most common Grenache blends I come across. I actually quite like Grenache blends but wanted to isolate it for the purposes of the Challenge.

Grenache wines are a step up from Pinot Noirs in terms of body, but is similar in colour, often looking quite red and ruby-ish. Common flavours include strawberry and cherry and can be a good introduction to tannin – the thing in wine that makes your mouth pucker and leaves it feeling dry – because it has some but not so much that it would be off-putting to a newbie. As far as what to drink it with goes, I would pair it with anything you would have candied strawberries or cherries with.

 

To try out Grenache I tasted Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha.

IMG_0789Cute label!

 

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Tasting notes

It certainly looks like a Grenache, I can actually see the design of my curtains through the wine! My novice nose smells cherries and something else with some weight or earthiness that I can’t name. The flavour is definitely a step up in terms of body from our old friend Pinot Noir, and I definitely taste those mouth-puckering tannins, though not as strong as I’ve tasted in other wines. I also taste a bit of cherry, but find it a bit tough to get to other flavours because of the tannins.

 

Bottom Line

It seems representative of the Grenache varietal, but I think the flavour could be more well balanced. A decent if not truly satisfying buy.

 

Have you tried the Beso de Vino Old Vine Garnacha? What did you think of it?


(Next up in the NGC – Merlot!)

Pinot Noir – Your New Best Friend

A few weeks ago I was hanging out on my favourite wine website and was introduced to their Noble Grape Challenge. Goody – a new project! Sure, I’ve tasted most of these varietals before, but not in such a methodical, deliberate way.

So, I thought, what better series for me to do that the Noble Grape Challenge – an excuse for me to learn a bit more about wine and then share that knowledge with you.

Wine Folly created this list as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines – we’ll have to find another way to learn about sparklings, rosés, and fortifieds. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

Before I delve into the first grape, why don’t we figure out what the heck a makes a grape noble. Noble grapes are the varietals most commonly used to create the world’s highest quality wines. There are lots of other varietals out there that aren’t on this list, but this challenge is as good a starting point as any for getting to know wine.

 

Our first noble grape adventure is pinot noir!

 

Pinot noirs are grown all over the world, but are most commonly associated with France and California. Pinots are on the lightest end of the red wine spectrum, are less opaque than most other red wines and often have a vibrant red colour – think ruby, garnet, or even blood. The flavour of a pinot is usually both earthy and fruity, with berry flavours but enough depth and body to keep it interesting. Because of this complexity I think pinots have more flexibility than some other reds in terms of food pairings (I’m lookin’ at you, Malbec).

What would a wine education be without a tasting? I went to my local LCBO over the weekend and chose a lovely little French pinot noir to taste: a Gilles Louvet O Pinot Noir.

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Tasting notes

It didn’t have a big nose, but did smell a bit earthy and I smelled a bit of cherry (a common pinot noir marker). It did have lots of flavour – fruity, with some berries in there (another common marker). It stayed on the sides and back of my tongue after tasting, but the aftertaste wasn’t as long lasting as other reds. I would call it medium bodied (all pinot markers!).

I tend to find pinot noirs a little tangy (which I really like!), and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Bottom Line

Does it taste like a pinot noir? Definitely. If you want a wine to learn on, this would be a good choice.

Did I like it? It’s a solid wine, though not one I’d add to my roster of favourites.

 

What’s your opinion of Pinot Noirs?

(Next up in the NGC – Grenache!)

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