Tuesday, March 5, 2013

BRAMBLES; My New Faults

Graphically illustrated, a recent chart displayed in Wine Enthusiast magazine, showed a steady decline over the last decade of global wine production. Think about it; nothing is getting cheaper, availability of wine imports seems to grow every year in this marketplace, and the quality standards adopted by wine producing countries, as well as consumers, continues to improve. With a short supply, the handwriting's on the wall: your favorite new wine should only be getting more expensive, including even the generic, lower tiered wines in the foreseeable future.
However, U.S. wine exports continue their growth for now the third year in a row.  That's new market growth, even as consumption per capita grows here.  Although exported volume was down compared to prior years, wines value grew by over 1.43 million dollars, according to the Drinks Business.  As expected, Asia continues to be the big growth market for domestic vintners, and more than 90% of those wine exports hail from our quality California producers.  Finally, there is someone willing to pay for it!

Recommended by the Society of Wine Educators, The Bubbly Professor, Dr. Jane Nickles, in a September, 2012 post,  has offered some insights into and strategies for success for my upcoming Wine Faults & Imbalances exam.  Prominent among these are to learn to describe what you are looking for in the control as well as the fault samples. I really have not fully done this in the past. She further recommends having several pre-test Faults study sessions, using the Faults kit sold by the Society of Wine Educators.  This part I have prepared for past exams, but it is obvious that I need to do more to be successful in this endeavor. What new strategies, if any, should I adopt?

Taste the control sample and analyze it. What is its hue, how do you describe its 'tears', its color intensity?  What about the aromas and it's taste components? Where exactly on the tongue(top/sides/tip) do you detect its acidity, and for how long? How would you describe the sensation of bitterness that follows?  Once completed, address the faulted samples so that you can find seven(7) imbalances and the glass that is matching the control sample.Using sight, smell and finally, a taste, detect the following:

Alcohol: it's heat driven, a nose tickle, a warmer mouth-feel, adds an oily, viscous sensation
Sugar: pleasant, slippery mouth-feel that contrasts to the control sample(less acidic?).
Acid(tartaric): as in cranberries, cherries, grapefruit or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, having the zing of tartaric acid.
Acescence: Acetic Acid combined with Ethyl Acetate offer vinegary off-aroma and flavors, reminiscent of a sweet-sour tang, like vinegar.
Oxidation: in white wines, a loss of fresh, fruity aromas, becoming flat. A color loss, turning slightly brown, adopting the apple-cider aromas of acetaldehyde.  It may remind us of a fino sherry.
Sulfur Dioxide: a matchstick, burnt rubber, or mothballs aromas, producing a harsh, bitter or even a metallic sensation on the palate.
Tannin: Grape tannin with its usually darker hue as used by the Society, produces a bitterness to the wine.

A gift of Sight;
After a swirl, the faults of sugar, tannin and alcohol should all have thicker, slower 'tears'.  One or two of the samples should have a darker hue due to added grape tannin or the effects of oxidation.  It would help to remember or isolate these visual clues.

Notable Nose:
Does the sample smelling 'less-fruity' offer a slight stinging sensation to the nose. It may be Alcohol. If the aroma in the glass is distinctively 'vinegary' then this should be Acescence. What if the sample in the glass had a noticeablly different aroma reminding you of a fino sherry or apple-cider?  Most likely, this is the result of Oxidation. That mild nasal stinging sensation from another sample having the faint aroma of burnt matchstick is probably the result of the taint of Sulfur Dioxide. Faults of tannin or acid will more than likely not have aromas detectably different than the control sample. But, we have already identified tannin as a darker sample, and it now should be easy to isolate.

Open up & Taste:
Slightly bitter, with a warmth on the palate and a lingering bitterness on the finish would identify Alcohol. With a contrasting mouth-feel, the sample with added Sugar, is richer, smoother and less acidic across the palate. I've usually thought of it as cloying compared to the others, but as yet have had difficulty in consistently identifying it.  Acid, it is said, feels different in the mouth. It should be a sharper feel, with a tingle over the top and sides of the tongue, a feeling of acidity lingering long after the comparative control sample. This finish may be distinctively dry and astringent.  If the sample has a sweet-and-sour tang and its feel of sour acidity hits across the top, not the side of the tongue, it is probably Acescence. Oxidation has a sharp, woodsy 'bitterness' that is felt on the top of the palate and middle of the tongue, while Tannin has a drying effect and astringency.  Sulfur Dioxide should taste harsh, and almost metallic.

Sampling in Bellagio, Italy
On a cloudless last day of February, I addressed the white wine samples bordering a white placemat, along with a dozen other hope-full tasters. As much as I attempted to follow my adopted strategy, recalling the unique characteristics of faults in my head, it was proving to be daunting.  All but one sample offered the same hue, and only one or two really displayed unique aromatics.  These new faults of mine were going to be challenging, but I approached this Wine Educator exam being better prepared than ever before.

Results will be offered by the Society in about six(6) weeks.   Until then, did I mention that according to market analyst John Fredrikson, the U.S. is now the largest wine market in the world!  Hopefully, there must be more opportunity here in this marketplace for someone with a wine recognition of their new faults.


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