Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Does the oversized Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass really make a difference?

As I posted earlier, during our visit to Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards, I ended up being the lucky winner of 2 Vinum XL Pinot Noir glasses. Initially, I have to admit that I was not really sure about these glasses. Large and tall (they hold slightly more than a full bottle of wine), they obviously don't fit in my dishwasher, but would their size and shape make a real difference on the wine-tasting experience?

So back at home, I had to check. I poured a 2001 Provenance Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville into the Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass (contenance 80cl) as well as into a Ouverture Red Wine glass (contenance 35cl), a glass that I particularly like because it doesn't break easily and fits nicely into my dishwasher.

Located on Highway 29 in Napa Valley, Provenance Vineyards currently owns the land originally farmed by Thomas Rutherford in the 19th century. The name Provenance means origin in French. The winery released its first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1999 and since then, has bought vineyards in the Rutherford, Oakville and Mount Veeder appellations. The philosophy of the winemaking team is to select top vineyards and intervene as little as possible during the winemaking process.

There was no comparison between the wine poured into my everyday Ouverture Red Wine glass and the wine poured into the Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass. The large bowl of the glass allowed the wine aromas to fully develop while the slightly flared top lip directed them efficiently towards the nose and mouth.

The wine had a deep garnet color and aromas of mint, figs, and blackberries on the nose. On the palate, it was full-bodied, rich, with flavors of sweet berries, leaving notes of cocoa on the finish.

These glasses are advertised for Pinot Noir but I think they really work well with full-bodied Cabernets. However, I would not bother using them for wines with much less body and a more subtle nose.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Richard Feynman, wine, terroir, and global warming

In The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman invokes a glass of wine: “a distillation of the earth's rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe's age, and the evolution of stars”, a terrific quote that Author and Professor Steven Kolpan cites in his latest article on how soil and climate affect wine.

“Grapes can grow in plenty of places,” says Kolpan, “but since the best soils for grapes are those that stress the vines, the best climates are those that are just barely warm enough for them to ripen, and wine growers are keenly attuned to the weather and temperature of their vineyards.”

So in a follow-up article, Kolpan wonders what will happen to great wines when classic wine regions get too hot. Yes, what will happen when Napa Valley becomes as hot as California's Central Valley?

“Cool climate conditions grant the grapes a healthy dose of acidity, ” explains Kolpan, “the refreshing, citrus-or-green fruit-sour flavors that make a wine interesting, even compelling. It is that acidity that makes our mouth water, and encourages us to have another bite of food, another sip of wine.” However, “grapes that grow in warm climates obviously have no trouble ripening, but their lack of acidity can translate into a flat, flabby uninteresting wine. Also, in hot climates grapes easily overripen, creating huge amounts of sugar that turn into alcohol bombs during fermentation.”

Unfortunately, argues Kolpan, global warming and wine is just another inconvenient truth for the global wine industry that has been ignoring the facts for too long, as well as for wine consumers.

“The message is clear,” concludes Kopan, “Wine is a precious product of nature, and its future is threatened. In your glass of pleasure there is also a microcosm of our shared environmental concerns, concerns that can no longer be ignored, no longer be denied.”

“How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it!” says Richard Feynman at the end of his great speech on wine. “If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that Nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!”

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