Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Will this Wine Age or Not?

Consistency. Tannins. Sulfites. Acidity. Those are the key aspects as to whether a wine will age well or not. Last Friday night’s Winerdi’ at Ciao Vino, owner and professional sommelier Fabrizio Erbaggio and our ‘favorite’ enologist Vincenzo Di Meo were the hosts of the evening. Our crowd learned, through a guided wine tasting, what to look for when buying a wine. Many Americans who are stationed here often buy a few hundred bottles of wine to take back to the states when it is time to leave. The info that Fabrizio and Vincenzo shared opened many eyes.

For example, sulfites are important. Some wine buyers are afraid to buy wine with sulfites. Vincenzo explained that all wines have at least some small amount of sulfites. Sulfur dioxide is used by winemakers to keep freshly pressed wine from spoiling. It keeps down the activities of the yeast and bacteria and preserves the freshness of the wines. Modern technology has allowed the use of significantly less sulfur than was used in the past, but some is necessary to make a stable wine. Vincenzo shared of a brutto experience he had when shipping his Falanghina to the states. The wine made it to New York, and it kept its flavor. The trip from New York to California was another story. By the time it hit the west coast, it had lost ‘something’. This is important. Often during the wine making process, enologists have to ‘play’ with the level of sulfites in wines that will be shipped to the states because they may not make the journey otherwise.

Other characteristics discussed were the tannins. Tannins are a naturally occurring substance in grape skins, seeds, and stems. They are primarily responsible for the basic bitter component in wines. Tannins give the wine its astringency. The more tannins, the better it will age, though it is considered a fault when there is too much. Fabrizio discussed acidity; which is a term used on labels to express the total acid content of a wine. You know, that tart or sour taste in your mouth. The higher that is, the better the wine will age. The level of alcohol in the wine is important for aging as well. Here you are looking for wines with around 12-12.5 % alcohol. Fabrizio discussed aroma, color, and consistency as well.

During the lesson, we tried 2 whites and 2 reds. Here we were able to compare and contrast the features we talked about. The wine list? Our two whites were Ribolla Giallo 2008 from Dorigo (Fruili) vs. a Chardonnay 2008 from Tormaresca (Puglia). And in the red corner, St Magdalener 2008 from Alto Aldige (a red that would go great with fish-no tannins) vs. A Chianti 2006 from Castello di Rampella (Umbria).

So at the end of the evening, after stuffing ourselves with the now famous Ciao Vino buffet, we walked away with vital information to use when we are stocking our own wine cellars. Great job Fabrizio and Enzo!

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