Whew. Coming back to work after two weeks is hard enough, but getting caught up on other projects, including the blog, really took some doing. When you break up your rhythm — for whatever reason — it seems to be twice as hard to get back into it again, perseverance be damned. For those of you wanting more food-based posts, those are coming soon, along with some Aerogarden updates, because there are fun things happening at the moment!
In week 4 of my wine challenge I went into detail about that specific wine of the week, while this time I’ll focus more on wine in general. During week 5 I tasted a highly recommended New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc while still on vacation, and last week I moved on to a long-time personal favorite: Argentinian Malbec.
All right. Red wine and white wine. What’s the big deal, and what’s the difference?
Grapes come in a variety of colors when ripe, ranging from pale gold to deep green, to red, to grey, to almost black. The juice, however, all comes out as the same clear liquid no matter what the outside looks like. The colors you see in final wines come from primarily the grapes’ skins, but they can also be affected by barrel use and ageing prior to bottling.
Normally, white wines don’t see much (if any) skin contact, which is why you don’t usually see them with a ton of color. Sometimes, such as in a style called orange wine, there’s a ton of white grape skin contact, but this process is normally reserved for rosés and reds. The longer the juice lingers with the crushed grapes, the deeper the resulting color.
It’s said that red wines are healthier for you? Why is that?
Many studies show that red wines, due to the skin contact I mentioned, offer beneficial compounds and chemicals which can lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. In addition, they can also provide the body with necessary antioxidants to reduce cell decay. However, this information is less than definitive. Furthermore, moderation is (obviously) key to gaining the benefits while reducing risks that go along with high levels of drinking.
Enjoy wine responsibly, people.
Okay, but what about sulfites? I can’t drink red wine because they’re supposed to have lots of sulfites.
Without going into excruciating detail on this topic, as many reputable sources have done the same and with a lot more flair than I can currently provide, here are some big points to keep in mind about sulfites.
- They’re created as a natural byproduct of the fermentation process in wine.
- Yes, sometimes they are added as a preservative, but in controlled doses and amounts.
- Sulfites are actually more present in white wine than in red; the reason for this is grape skins offer natural preservatives (which is the purpose of added sulfites). Therefore, red wines have more of their own means of staying fresh and fruity during winemaking. White wines need more help.
- When you look at the numbers, sensitivity to sulfites means you also likely can’t consume soft drinks or french fries without an issue, either, because the sulfite levels in those and other foods are much, much higher.
Instead of looking at sulfites as the culprit, consider factors such as your hydration levels, how much wine you’re imbibing, and even the ABV (alcohol by volume) level of the wine itself. Red wines tend to have much higher levels of alcohol than their white brethren, so take a look at the last bottle that gave you a heachache and try a lower ABV option next time. Chances are, it’ll make a difference.
Tannins could also be an issue for headeaches that’s easily mitigated — your local wine merchant or a resource like Wine Folly can tell you how much tannin is typical for your favorite red. If it’s pretty high, try something a bit easier on your system: gamay, malbec and pinot noir are three such options.
Week 5 Wine: Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc
It’s always a joy to try something made by a female in a male-dominated industry. Personally, I rejoice in celebrating the often mold-breaking examples that women offer through their wines, and Jules Taylor is no exception; you can find her products in most wine stores due to its widespread popularity for around $15-20.
Unlike the crisper, more citrusy versions of Sauvignon Blanc from cooler climates such as found in France, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are warmer in flavor, with juicy and tropical notes of melon, guava and often passion fruit.
Fun fact: Sauvignon Blanc is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon; the other genetic parent is Cabernet Franc.
Producer: Jules Taylor
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Style: Dry white
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
The wine is a clear, pale lemon.
Many aromas are readily apparent when poured and even stronger in the glass, including ripe lemon, yellow apple, nectarine, guava, and a hint of passionfruit. The aromas are clean and of medium-plus intensity. This is a simple, young wine with lots of bursting fruit notes.
The wine is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium levels of alcohol, and a full body. Flavors are medium-plus intensity and clean; there’s some grassiness and minerality along with fruit that closely follows the nose, slightly crisper on the palate. Apple, melon, herbs, and lemon are most apparent and resolves into a medium finish.
Because of the high levels of both aroma and flavor intensity, distinctiveness of the flavor profile in multiple categories (despite its overall simplicity) and good balance between elements, I would categorize this as a wine of very good quality.
The Jules Taylor contains the hallmarks of typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc while elevating itself by softening potentially sharper fruit notes (like lemon, grass and passionfruit) into careful balance. Freshness and a full body, combined with a clean but medium finish make it a great companion for seafood dishes. In order to preserve this, it’s best drunk now and isn’t suitable for ageing.
Week 6 Wine: Bodega Noemia Patagonia “A Lisa” Malbec
Full disclosure — I fell in love with Malbec years ago, and it remains to this day one of my top five wines, maybe even top three depending on how I’m feeling that day. It’s so versatile, and juicy, and yummy, and it’s super food friendly. Personally, I call it the grilling wine, because it’s perfect to bring to an outdoor barbecue for burgers, steaks, or lamb… even grilled veggies.
Malbec rose to fame once its first plantings in Argentina began to, well, bear fruit. Prior to this, however, it had been relegated to an uninteresting, difficult-to-ripen blender grape in the Bordeaux region of France, primarily due to the region’s higher levels of (unpredictable) rainfall and much cooler temperatures. Malbec needs lots of sun and warmth to really reach its potential, so when a French botanist yearning for home first brought Malbec vines across the world, I have to wonder if he knew what a difference such a move would make in the wine industry.
Producer: Bodega Noemia
Region: Patagonia, Argentina
Style: Dry red
Grape: 90% Malbec, 9% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot
This wine is a clear, deep ruby.
…it is so hard to not fangirl as soon as I set my nose to this wine! But I promise to be objective here.
The nose is clean, with medium plus aromas of cassis, blackberry, black cherry, black plum, violets, and anise. The fruit has a juicy, mouthwatering quality that invites you to take a sip, which is a testament to its youth.
Dry, with medium-plus alcohol levels, medium low acidity and medium-low powdery tannins, the “A Lisa” has a medium body and a medium finish length. Flavors on the palate include slightly redder fruits than on the nose such as underripe raspberry, but it also displays plum, a touch of cedar, black cherry and blackberry with some cocoa in medium intensity overall. This has mostly primary notes but some secondary from oak use (cedar) and tertiary from ageing (cocoa), though the latter is at times associated with malbec as an indicator, even in relative youth.
Lack of balance affects the quality of that wine, as does the medium finish. However, high points for complexity and intensity allow me to name it a wine of good quality. Despite its youth, the “A Lisa” should be drunk now or within three years to preserve its flavors, and it isn’t suitable for ageing.
As mentioned before, definitely pair this malbec with food prepared at the grill; you could also do well with skirt steak with chimichurri, “stinky” cheeses such as Roquefort, or roasted eggplant.