Wine tasting is a total experience. As I attend wine tastings, I am always amazed to see so many wine lovers and so-called wine connoisseurs knocking back every drink as if they were guzzling cheap beer. I’ve learned that the enjoyment of a wine is dependent on the entire experience—from first volatizing its esters (swirling to oxygenate) to nose to mouth-feel to taste to finish. Before you drink that glass of wine, stop, swirl, and smell the noses.
I know, I’m suggesting something you wouldn’t let your children do (“don’t play with your food!” I also spit wine a lot, but that’s the subject of another blog). Yet it’s the combination of smell and taste that allows us to discern flavor. So, BEFORE you pour that wine down your throat, please take a moment to swirl the wine in your glass to aerate it. Then sniff its content to evaluate the experience. Ask yourself some questions—What does it remind you of? What smells come to your immediate mind? Thoughts can range from barnyard to forest to fresh fruits, candies, and more, depending on the wine; but each concept holds promise of greater flavors and mouth-feel.
I recently received a bottle of Concannon Conservancy 2009 Crimson & Clover for review. Although the name is reminiscent of a sappy 1968 song by Tommy James & The Shondells, I thought I’d give it a try anyway. Lesson: Don’t let a song that represents bad taste keep you from trying a wine of the same name.
On first swirl and sniff, I noted currants and clove and a hint of oak. After a second swirl and sniff, vanilla and dark berries came to mind. A slosh of the wine in my mouth across all parts of my tongue burst the sweetness of luscious blackberries and vanilla to life and depth, and the finish offered my personal favorite leather and tobacco tones. My conclusion was that this is one of the best Petite Sirahs I’ve tasted, although the label proclaims that that grape is blended with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah 10% Zinfandel.
As I continue to explore wines, I typically enjoy the ‘back story’ of how and why each was created. For example, Crimson & Clover 2009 was produced by John Concannon as a tribute to his dad, Jim Concannon, the “Father of America’s First Petite Sirah.” The wine was presented to dad on his 80th birthday this year at the Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, CA. This wine would hold up to a black pepper-crusted filet mignon with goat cheese. Sounds like supper. At $18 per bottle, Crimson & Clover 2009 is a gift-priced wine.
Learning how to taste wines has been an adventure that has deepened my appreciation for wines and their makers. As you hustle through the holiday rush, I wish you joy and plenty of time to take a few moments to swirl your wine glass and stop to smell the noses.