Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Le vin

France and wine.  Wine and France.  The two are an indelibly linked pair.  I knew a little bit about wine tasting before I arrived in l'Hexagone, and learned a little more while I was there.  I knew about checking the colour of the wine, and the legs.  I learned to swirl a little more dexterously, and to take a bit of air into my mouth with a sip of the wine.  I still don't specifically know what all these help me determine about the wine.  The "[m]any nuances in wine – say, the vanilla richness of an oak-aged chardonnay or the astringent grip of a Barolo packed with the bitter tannins found in grape skins – are simply lost on many tongues," including mine, but wine is something I hope to keep pursuing as a hobby.

Today I read an interesting article in the Globe & Mail by Beppi Crosariol about the biology behind wine tasting.  Gary Pickering, Brock University wine science professor and co-author of the study discussed, explains:
 "'A wine critic may describe the balance between, let’s say, sweetness and acidity, or sourness and astringency, or fruit and wood . . . But the overall intensity of these sensations will be different for Joe Consumer, and that’s a function of his biology. It’s not because he’s not clever or smart or verbose or because he lacks lots of experience.'" 
This last sentence resonated with me as I was reminded of how bashful and awkward I feel when trying to verbalise a description of my favourite wine from France.

In France, if not elsewhere in Europe, you can get a perfectly good bottle of wine to drink at the grocery store; I never even ventured into a Nicolas.  In France, I fell in love with Les vins du Pays d'Oc's Muscat Sec.  I don't have a photo of the bottle, nor have I been able to find one online, but each wine from this vineyard had its own colour text on a white label and cost about 3€ at the Casino at Place du Peuple in Sté.  
This Muscat Sec was dry, as opposed to the Mucat Doux, its sweeter counterpart.  What I liked best about it, and how I always described it, was that when you first sipped it and took a bit of air into your mouth it was a flavour explosion.  A bit at a loss for the exact words to describe the flavour, I likened it to an Orange Pekoe taste.  What I may be trying to get at though is a sort of spicy citrus-y taste.

Since I have been home, one of my missions has been to find a suitable substitute for this Muscat Sec.  I don't know anything about this grape, but Muscats do not seem to be as readily available in Vancouver as other whites; or when I did find one, they were the sweeter one.  Above are three bottles of two replacements I have found for my French Muscat. 
The first replacement I found was a 2010 Muscat Ottonel by Hillside Estates. I was surprised to discover that this wine was from so close to home--Naramata Bench in the Okanagan.  The 2011 will be released at the end of the month, just three days after my birthday.  I am strongly  considering buying myself a case as a belated birthday present to myself.

I found my second substitute on my recent trip to Seattle, and is why I was so victorious-looking in the photo of me exiting the Tasting Room with my prize.  The ladies manning the wine bar were so friendly.  After our wine tasting, Peter and I wanted to indulge in full glass each.  I described my beloved muscat, and they suggested this delicious 2010 Nache Heights Vineyard Riesling.  After the first taste, I knew I had to bring some back.  They at the Tasting Room (sorry I didn't get names!), knew I was allowed to bring two bottles back with me so, at US$16 a bottle, I bought two.

Frankly, I'm surprised I have three bottles of such delicious wine right now.  I bought a white a few weeks ago though, and it didn't take so well to being re-corked; I simply don't want to take the chance with these.  I'm hoping to share a bottle or two of these with my family for my birthday next week.


Anna Felicity said...

I'm always avaiable to drink wine ;)

Well not always, once Lent is done I'm always available :D

And there's right or wrong way to taste wine, and there's no right or wrong way to say what you taste... That was what I found most difficult when I started tasting with my Dad. I never wanted to say (or taste) the wrong thing. It's not possible, just say what you taste!

Vanessa said...

Some of my fondest memories are over a bottle of wine with your mum and dad at 50B <3

That is such a good piece of advice about tasting. I'm always nervous I'll come off as some combination of pretentious/uninformed or like I'm trying to be a connoisseur. I just like drinking grapes. I think Kathleen's postcard to me ties in, she said she wasn't very good about tasting the differences between wines, but it's fun.

Easter's soon. Why don't we get together for some wine and Midnight in Paris?