Top 100 Wines of 2007 / Wine Class

Wine Spectator annouces its choices for top 100 wines of 2007, beginning tomorrow with #9 and #10, then two or three more announced each day until Friday, when their #1 wine of the year will be announced. Next Monday (19 Nov.), they’ll  provide the list of wines #11-100. (The top 100 of 2006 are listed here.)

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In related news, I’m taking a wine class this month. Last week, we learned a little about how to evaluate wine visually, by smell and by taste, and we practiced on two whites and two reds. My notes (including the teacher’s “Analyzing Wine” handout) follow.

ANALYZING WINE

Visual

Color [for reds, purple is youngest, ruby is medium, brick red or orange-ish is most aged]

Clarity : veiled, clear, crystal clear, brilliant [related to degree of filtering]

Fluidity: watery, fluid, thick [do the swirl test ; viscous = sweeter]

Effervescence:

size of bubbles

number of bubbles

persistence of bubbles

Olfactory (Smell)

Intensity (strength)

Persistent (how long does the smell linger)

Quality

Olfactory Description

Flowers: rose, geranium, violent, blossoms, honeysuckle, &c.

Fruit: apricot, peach, melon, green apple, pear, grapefruit, pineapple, banana, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, &c.

Dried fruit and nuts: almond, hazelnuts, jam, prune, currants, raisins, fig, &c.*

Sweet flavourings: honey, butterscotch, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, caramel, &c.

Spices: licorice, anise, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, &c.

Toasted smells: oak, smoke, tobacco, &c.

Animal smells: horse, wet fur, leather, &c.

Foods (loosely): vegetable (green pepper), grass, mint, eucalyptus, &c.

Gustative Analysis (Taste)

Sugar: dry, off dry, sweet [related to tannins]

Alcohol: light, medium warn, warm, alcoholic, hot [how warm/hot is it when swallowed?]

Poly-alcohol: sharp, nearly soft, soft, velvety [is there a burning sensation?]

Acids: flat, nearly fresh, fresh, acidic [I really didn’t understand this. Further clarification: flatness or denseness vs. brightness or freshness. This sounds like effervescence to me, unclear about the distinction … ]

Tannins: flabby, nearly tannic, tannic, astringent [White wine doesn’t have tannins because it’s made without the grape skins, which is what makes wine tannic; for red, the more tannins, the more age-worthy]

Minerality: tasteless, nearly tasty, mineral, salty [this refers to a stoney quality felt mid-palate]

Structure: thin, weak, vigorous, full, heavy [full and heavy tend to age well]

Balance

Intensity

Persistence (how long does the taste linger after swallowing)

Harmony (a general rating)

WINES TASTED

Macon Fuisse
Domaine Fussiacus Macon Fuisse (2005)

Domaine Fussiacus Macon-Fuisse 2005, a French white burgundy (Chardonnay grapes), 13% alcohol

Chardonnays are made in the southern Burgundy region of France; Chablis are made in the northern Burgundy region and are ‘leaner’ because the growing area is rocky.

This wine is aged 5 months in oak barrels, which is a minimal amount of aging.

Visual: crystal clear, watery, a few bubbles

Aroma: honeysuckle, pear, peach, sugar cookie, apricot, fresh grass (I thought it smelled more of hay than fresh grass)

Taste: Not bone dry, fresh acid, good structure

Bishop’s Peak Edna Valley Chardonnay 2005 (pdf link) from California near Santa Barbara, the coldest wine-growing area of Calif. 13.7% alcohol. Malolactic fermentation, which leaves the lactic acid and gives wine a buttery taste.

Almost all of my impressions about this wine were contrary to the teacher’s and most other students. The partyline on the wine was:

Visual: greenish

Aroma: not floral [I thought it was largely floral, very delicate, reminded me a lot of the Scottish heather ale, Fraockh, that I liked best at the beer tasting a few months ago], apricot, butterscotchy, pine needles [I smelled apricot, perhaps, but not the butterscotch or pine needles]

Taste: slightly sweet, warm alcohol, fairly smooth, not as harmonious as the Macon-Fuisse 2005 we tasted. [I liked it best.]

btw, The tasting notes at their website say: “ripe pear, melon and green apple.” Delicate, if not floral.

Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux 2004, 1/2 cabernet sauvignon, 1/2 merlot. 12.5% alcohol. This is the only one of the four we tasted whose wines were “bought” from various growers, not grown in one small vineyard. Bordeaux wines are grown in a colder area than Burgundys. The teacher said that this is a simple wine, made to be drunk now, not aged.

Visual: Clearish, ruby red

Aroma: cherry, dusty [almost all red wines smell dusty or musty to me; someone else at our table said the same], peppery, tobacco

Taste: dry, medium warm, soft poly-alcohols, not a strong structure, relatively balanced for “what it is.”

Note: Listed online at the Bordeaux Wine Bureau as one of the 100 Classic, Contemporary, Affordable Bordeaux

Evheverria Cabernet Sauvignon
Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon (2005)

Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Chile (where there is no phylloxera louse!), 14% alcohol.

Visual: Purpler than the Bordeaux, above

Aroma: a little unripe, cherries, berries and chocolate, leather, black and green peppers

Taste: dry [I think more was said about this, but I was preoccupied with why my smeller wasn’t detecting what others’ were, and noticing how impressionable the smeller is … When someone said “raspberries and chocolate,” suddenly that’s all the wine smelled like. Same with “leather.”]

Others’ notes say cocoa, black currant, and eucalyptus. (I appreciate that Avery’s website tells you what date the wine should be drunk by — “end of 2009,” in this case. Very helpful.)

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This coming week’s lesson: New World v. Old World wines.

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* Of course, the smell of almonds could indicate cyanide in your drink …

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