Wine tasting is a true celebration of the senses, with virtually all of the senses participating in the process. First we look at the wine and its color, then we smell the wine (a practice that can trigger boring conversations around the table, with some of the feinshmeckers trying to decipher the exact aroma profile of the vino), we feel the wine on our palate (weight, texture), we of course taste the wine – so far we have put 4 of the 5 senses to use. By raising a toast and clinking your glasses together, you will also be applying the hearing sense - and there you have it, wine tasting is clearly a multi-sensual experience.
As mentioned, the first sense that participates in the process is the vision. But what does the color of a specific wine indicate? Is it a sign of quality? Does the color provide information related to the grape varietal? I will start off by saying that color is probably the least important indicator when it comes to assessing the quality of a wine. Sure, the color can reflect a wine’s age or even hint to the grape varietal used in the process, but it is not necessarily an indication of quality.
The color of a given wine comes from the skin of the grapes. When pressed, the nectar extracted from virtually all grapes is light/clear in color. This is true of “red skinned” grapes as well as “white skinned” wines. In order to make a red wine from red grapes, it is necessary to leave the skins in contact with the juice during the fermentation process. When red grapes are pressed and the skins are kept out, the color of the wine remains white and is considered a 'blanc de noirs' wine (white of black – a white wine from dark grapes). Leaving the juice in contact with the wine for a relatively short time period can result in a blush or tinted vino.
The following wines represent a variety of styles and colors, all are new on the market:
Gvaot, Gofna, Chardonnay-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 – an off the beaten track wine from an off the beaten track winery; 80% Chardonnay (a light skinned grape varietal) and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (a red skinned grape of course), were blended to produce a white wine which was developed in new oak barrels for some 6 months. Light but slightly tinted in color, medium bodied, showing aromas and flavors of various fruit (apples, peaches and red berry fruit came to mind) with subtle notes of toasted oak in the background coming together nicely for a pleasant and dry finish.
Dalton, Rose, 2011 & Anna, NV – the Dalton winery recently released two new wines, both are well worth a try. Dalton’s rose is lovely, a blend of Barbera, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, bright pink with orange shades, the wine suggests refreshing and generous aromas of strawberries and flowers. While clearly not a dry wine, I did not find it overly sweet and at NIS 39 a bottle, I would buy 3 and keep them in the refrigerator. The second wine, Anna, Non Vintage (NV) is dedicated to Ms. Anna Haruni, mother of Alex Aruni, who owns the Dalton Winery. This is a fortified dessert wine produced using Muscat grape in the Solera style which blends aged wines (or other alcoholic beverages and even vinegars) from different vintages to a single bottle. The result is quite good, dark straw towards gold in color, rich texture, with distinct notes of dried fruits, tropical fruit, honey suckle and honey. Serve with potent cheeses, fruit or white chocolate based dessert or simply drink on its own.
Galil Mountain, Ella, 2010 – a new wine from the winery’s re-branded label Galil. The Ela is a red blend comprising 45% Syrah, 45% Barbera, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Dark ruby in color, generous aromas and flavors of dark fruits (cherries, plums) along side warm spices, herbs and supporting oak in the background. Not a “Big Wine” but well balanced and very enjoyable overall. The winery also launched a Viognier based vino from the 2011 vintage that is worth a try. A French grape varietal traditionally found in the Rhone Valley, Galil Mountain’s version suggests white peaches, apricots, hints of buttered toast and a pleasant finish.
Tulip, Reserve, Syrah, 2009 – Traditionally, one of my favorite wines from the Tulip Winery, the Syrah Reserve is based on 95% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot grapes. 18 months in barriques, dark and concentrated ruby in color, full bodied, a bit firm when first poured but them opens to reveal generous aromas and flavors of berry fruits, plums (not jammy), dry purple flowers, those followed by dark chocolate and roasted coffee all coming together nicely and leading to a long and mouth filling finish. Enjoyable now and will benefit from a year or two of cellaring. It is important to note that as the winery received kashrut certification in 2010, the Syrah reserve 2009 is not kosher.