It’s been just a little over a month since I’ve started this new wee venture and what a month. New Zealand, Las Vegas, San Fran, LA… it’s been a whirlwind. Now having put the ol’ suitcase in the closet coupled with a lack of employment and a late winter storm there seems to be a surplus of time available to seek out new wine blogs to geek out with.
That’s how I stumbled upon this interesting little challenge.
The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge does just as the title entails. It challenges wine bloggers by presenting a monthly theme chosen by the previous months winner. Last month the Sweet Sommelier won with this post on Devotion. As one of the new guys on the block with only 10 blog posts under my belt I wasn’t sure about entering. Then again I love a good challenge and am secretly quite competitive.
As I’ve mentioned I recently spent some time in Sin City and am feeling a bit of a familiarity towards this month’s theme of Luck.
Not being much of a gambler myself I eventually found a home in blackjack. It was the perfect balance of skill, luck, and free Corona’s.
I loved it, the trill of the unknown, the warm fuzzy feeling u get when you win, and that drive to keep going until your either filthy rich or breaking even. Funny enough I get the same feeling when picking wine.
As you know I try to never buy the same wine twice. This makes the process of selecting plonk sort of like playing blackjack.
Being a beginner you have a few sets of rules that you stick to religiously. Comfortably sitting at the $5min bet table, your not ready to pay big bucks for something in the unknown. So you stay safe and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Then you move onto the $10-15 min bet. You’ve maybe read a few web blurbs about tactics, got a blackjack app, and gained a little confidence. Now you see the value in putting a wee bit more towards your bet. Although you still enjoy that cheeky $5 bet, the felt’s just that much nicer on these tables.
Having dominated the middle ground, it’s time to play with the big boys. There’s only a few of you at this table and you all mean business. It’s high stakes, every minute detail is examined and you make your bet accordingly.
The latter can be applied to the wine world. You see although you spend the time learning the vintages/terrior there’s always a little mystery and (of course) a whisper of luck. Sometimes you can find a real winner at a bargain price, sometimes you get a wrong read n end up with a watery mess, or even worse faulty wine. Like a 10 popping up when your sitting pretty at 12 faults can poison even the best of wines. But how could that delicious fermented grape juice ever be faulty? Much like the most perfect hand there’s always a possibility of fault.
Here’s a few tips about picking out if you’ve come across faulty grape juice.
-1 The Classic Oxidation.
Wikipedia provides us with this handy graph on what brings forth oxidation
Got it? Onto our next fault…. just kidding.
I very nearly failed biology in high school so here’s how I conclude that my wines been affected by oxygen.
Red wine looses that lovely brightness. If your wine is from 2010 but looks like it’s from the1900’s you may have some fault here. Take that add a lack of fruit on the nose and a overtly bitter presence on the palate and you got oxidised red.
White on the other hand is more commonly affected due to its lack of tannins brought to you by the absence of grape skins during the winemaking process (which in red ask as a buffer to oxygen). The whiites are going to turn a brownish hue and taste a little bit like your great aunt Betsy’s sherry. Gutted.
The best way to hone in on oxidised flavours?
Try your best not to finish tonights wine (I know it’s hard but its in the name of science) and put it aside for several days. Over 5 days should do the trick, now bravely pour yourself a glass. That my friend is the taste and smell of Oxidation. Delicious, non? If your like me and tend not to smash out a bottle most nights. Investing in a wine pump might be a good idea. These guys are usually fairly cheap and act as a vacuum sucking that nasty oxygen out of your wine bottle making it last an extra few days.
Remember to feel free to bring your wine back if your first glass is tasting oxidised. Your merchant shouldn’t mind, it’s your hard earned dollar you deserve good plonk.
2- The elusive 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) or cork taint
This is probably the most commonly known fault. Althought it bares the nickname cork taint the taint in question can come from contaminated winemaking equipment. TCA is formed when natural fungi (of which many reside in cork) come in contact with certain chlorides found in bleaches and other winery sanitation/sterilization products. If a winery uses infected corks, the wine becomes tainted. If let loose TCA can contaminate not just a single batch of corks (and wine) but can infect an entire cellar or winery. So what does this sucker smell/taste like?
Everyone has they’re own explanation for cork taint. I like to describe it as wet dog, wet dingy wool/cardboard, or that smell you get when you leave your clothes in the wash for too long (i’m rubbish at laundry). Yummos!
But seriously DON’T drink up. Just return your wine (tip: try not to down 3/4 and then attempt to return). Luckly since it’s discovery in the 1990’s taint from cork is on the way out due to technological advances. Horray!
3- Brettanomyces or Brett
Everyone’s favourite fault this little guy (a yeast) can be outright disgusting or bring a new dimension to wine. In high doses it can give off cow pie, band aid, or that taste you get when you blow up balloons. In small doses it can give off lovely spicy leathery notes. Personally I don’t mind a little brett but everyone’s different. It’s most commonly found in red wines so if your dessert white wine taste like blowing up plastic balloons. Stay clear.
p.s I’m not making these wacky flavours up. I once tasted a dessert chenin blanc that tasted exactly like plastic gallons. Awful for the low low price of $35. Bargain!
Although these are the most common and effect the look, smell, and taste of wine.
There are some “faults” that do little to no damage to the wine except for the physical appearance.
The most common is Tartartes Crystals or “Wine Diamonds”. They are exactly what they sound like wee crystals (mineral) precipitates that are formed from unfiltered, high mineral wines. They sit on the bottom of older bottles and are commonly mistaken as glass shards. Ingesting them isn’t a great idea so maybe either decant leaving the diamonds behind or just be prudent during your pours.
So there you are even your perfectly crafted, super bio organic, and hand picked in the night precious wine can form faults that make it a little off. Which is part of the mystere associated with wine and well blackjack. Even the most calculated plans have an element of luck. So take a risk, get something a little different, break the mold, hit on that 16. Because no one ever got lucky by playing it safe.