Tag Archives: Wine tasting

Opus One, an Iconic Wine

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

As my birthday is approaching, (October 26th) I thought, I’d crack open a seductive bottle of 2013 Opus One, a Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley. It’s made with 5 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This opulent red wine is made in the exact same fashion as a Bordeaux First Growth. The color is an intense crimson red with slow-moving legs and a 14.5% ABV.  All you have to do is, take a good whiff of it to realize that this wine is in a class of its own. The nose boasts intense aromas of cedar, chocolate, dark plums, and intoxicating spices. It has a luscious mouthfeel with hints of dark cocoa, tobacco, leather, and black pepper. The wine is dense with layers of complexity. The tannins are velvety and the finish is extremely persistent. This is a special occasion wine and I paired it with a mouth-watering rack of lamb and a delectable eggplant dish called ratatouille. The earthiness of the veggies weaved magically with this iconic wine.  A wine of such magnitude is made to age in the cellar in order to enjoy the optimal flavor profiles. However, since I have no patience, and life is passing by so quickly, I decided it was time to open it up and enjoy “Gina’s Dolce Vita” to the fullest.

The wine is perfectly balanced, and all the other elements come together harmoniously. I enjoyed sharing it with my loved ones, and it was a memorable evening. I used a decanter called vSpin to aerate it, and it opened it beautifully.

“Opus One is the realized dream of two men: Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Together, our founders set out to create a single wine dedicated to the pursuit of uncompromising quality. This singular mission shapes every vintage, today and for generations to come.” ~ Opus One Winery

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” ~ Robert Mondavi

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

I hope you have enjoyed my delightful food and wine experience. I have recently published a cookbook that contains a treasury of recipes and some wine pairing suggestions. If you would like to obtain an autographed copy, please click on this link:  https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

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Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust) Level-2
Level-2 Sommelier
Culinary Personality and cookbook author of: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover, LLC

Disclaimer:

Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this blog post and my cookbook is implied or claimed.

Wine Descriptions and Their Meaning

When it comes to wine, we all have our sense of taste, based on our palate. Wine tasting is subjective, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often time, I do rely on descriptions when I am purchasing wine. (Does that make me a sucker for these lovely wine descriptions?) I must admit, I love the sound of: hints of chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, smoky, tobacco, leather, and so on.  I simply cannot resist the temptation. Having said that, I am not always satisfied, or agree with the descriptions on some wine labels. Wine descriptions at the POP (point of purchase) are called “shelf-talkers”. They are used by companies as a great marketing tool, to lure people into buying their product.  Ultimately, you, and your palate will decide what taste good. Once, I taste a wine, I know whether I will be buying it again, or not. If I like a wine, I usually take a picture of it, and share it on my social media outlets, to have on records. I also love to explore new wines, and I am constantly searching for that heavenly taste, and wonderful aromas. Recently, I stumbled upon this lovely website Wine Folly and found this amazing list of 40 wine descriptions, and their meaning.  I hope you will enjoy it like I did. I would love to hear your own description, and/or give us your opinion under the comment section.

ACIDITY
Wines with high acidity are tart and zesty. Red wines generally have a lighter color and more tart characteristics (versus “round”). White wines are often described with characteristics similar to lemon or lime juice.

ANGULAR
An angular wine is like putting a triangle in your mouth – it hits you in specific places with high impact and not elsewhere. It’s like getting punched in the arm in the same place over and over again. An angular wine also has high acidity.

AUSTERE
This is a very unfriendly wine. It hits your mouth and then turns it inside out. It usually means the wine has very high acidity and very little fruit flavors. An austere wine is not fruit-forward nor opulent.

BARNYARD
This means the wine smells like poo. It’s never used anymore describing a wine, unless the wine writer is attempting to dig that wine an early grave.

BIG
Big describes a wine with massive flavor in your mouth that takes up all sections of your mouth and tongue. A big wine is not necessarily a fruit-forward wine, it can also mean that it has big tannins.

BRIGHT
Bright wines are higher in acidity and make your mouth water. GO TO ACIDITY

BUTTERY
A wine with buttery characteristics has been aged in oak and generally is rich and flat (less Acidity). A buttery wine often has a cream-like texture that hits the middle of your tongue almost like oil (or butter) and has a smooth finish.

CASSIS
The least fruit-like of all dark fruits. When writers mention cassis, they are often thinking of the seedy and gritty character of actual black currants. Homework assignment: try a black currant and report back.

CHARCOAL
A wine that is described as tasting like charcoal tastes gritty, it’s usually dry (with higher tannins) and has this rustic flavor. Charcoal is often associated with a similar characteristic: pencil lead (but less refined).

CHEWY TANNINS
When you take a sip of wine with chewy tannins, it dries out the interior of your mouth so that you “chew” or clean the tannins out of the insides of your mouth.

CIGAR BOX
Cigar box flavors are hinting toward sweetness and cedar-wood with an abundance of smoke. This is a super positive and desirable characteristic that wine writers love to use when they find a wine they wish they could just slowly sip on a leather chair.

COMPLEX
A complex wine simply means that when you taste it, the flavor changes from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow. As much as I love complex wines, using the word “complex” to describe a wine is a cop-out unless you go on to describe how it’s complex.

CREAMY
Creamy is a popular description for white wines and sparkling wines fermented or aged in oak. In Champagne, creamy is a favored characteristic that is associated with the famous bottles of bubbly…such as Krug. A creamy wine could be in part because of something called Malo-Lactic conversion. Look for creamy in chardonnay if you like buttery. Look for creamy in cabernet sauvignon if you like smooth.

CRISP
The word Crisp with wine is more often used to describe a white wine. A crisp wine is most likely simple but goes really well with a porch swing on a hot day.

DENSE
When a wine writer pairs down his lengthy description of flavors and characteristics of a wine into one word, he uses dense. Dense is favored for use in bold red wines such as cabernet sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône and Brunello di Montalcino but usually isn’t a positive characteristic in other wines because it implies that wine is handicapped.

EARTHY
A classic go-to move for a wine writer trying to describe that awkward green and unpleasant finish on a wine. They don’t want to hate on the wine, they just want you to know that if you don’t like the wine it means you don’t like earthy and you’re a bad person.

ELEGANT
When a wine writer says elegant he means that the wine is NOT big, NOT fruity, NOT opulent and NOT bold. Off-vintages are often referred to as elegant vintages as they have higher acid and tend to have more ‘green’ characteristics. Elegant wines may taste like crap when they first release but they also tend to age better. Elegant is that retired ballerina who puts the fat-n-sassy retired cheerleaders to shame.

Wine Tasting, wine glasses

Wine Tasting, wine glasses

FAT
Wide, Big, Massive, Opulent: These are all similar synonyms of fat. Turns out fat is the least desirable of all of them because it’s flabby. A fat wine comes in and takes up all the room in your mouth and hangs in awkward places.

FLABBY
Flabby means the wine has no acidity. It’s a negative connotation so don’t say it to a wine maker! They will spear you with their forklift.

FLAMBOYANT
A flamboyant wine is trying to get your attention with an abundance of fruit. The writer picks up on this and calls it out. No joke.

FLESHY
Imagine the iron-laden sensation of having a piece of raw steak in your mouth that is fleshy.

FOOD FRIENDLY
This wine falls on its face unless you have it with food. It’s lacking something that eating something will fulfill. Keep in mind, wines that stand on their own are better drunk without food. doh!

GRIP or GRIPPY TANNINS
With each subsequent sip, your mouth dries up similar to how my mouth did in the Minerality Tastes Like Rocks? video. Wine with grip is hard to drink, better to sip.

HINT OF..
Hint of = This-Wine-Definitely-Has-This-Character-Especially-on-the-Finish. Expect things like oak, herbs, fruits, soil or gym socks in the flavor when there is a hint of it in the description.

INTELLECTUALLY SATISFYING
This is a rare but special occurring term used by one of the most famous wine critics, Robert Parker. Robert Parker is sure that if you are not satisfied by this wine on a hedonistic and intellectual level then you don’t deserve to drink it. This is probably true, because these words are reserved for the wines we can’t afford anyway…sadface.

JAMMY
Sommeliers and wine experts cringe when they hear this term while the rest of us delight. Jam is delicious and it is part of the PB&J experience. In wine, jammy indicates a wine with a cooked berry sweetness that is syrupy and often is used to describe American wines like zinfandel, grenache, cabernet franc and Australian shiraz…don’t be a hater.

JUICY
Juicy like the wine was grape juice just a moment ago.

LASER-LIKE
Another one of Robert Parker’s idioms that I can help mentioning. pew! pew! GO TO DENSE

LEES
Lees are an actual winemaking term describing the dead bits of yeast particles that generally sink to the bottom of a wine. Lees are stirred up once a day to make a wine have a thicker, more oily, creamy texture.

MINERALLY
Imagine that smell of fresh wet concrete; now imagine that flavor in your mouth. If you don’t have time to lick concrete, don’t worry we did.

OAKED
Oh oak! The ultimate non-grape influence to the flavors in wine. In white wine it adds butter, vanilla and sometimes coconut. In red wine it adds flavors often referred to as baking spices, vanilla and sometimes dill. There are a milieu of different countries that make oak wine barrels and wine geeks freak out over who makes the best (American v. France). We don’t vote.

OPULENT
This word is a baseline word to a style of wine that is rich, smooth and bold. If you are a rich, smooth, bold wine guy, “Opulent” is your word.

REFINED
Refined is a subset of elegant wines. This term is often used while describing tannins in a wine. These wines have the “less is more” ideology about them. GO TO ELEGANT

SILKY
Silky is the red-wine equivalent word to creamy with white wines. If you like silky for bed sheets than you will most likely enjoy silky on your tongue. GO TO CREAMY, VELVETY

STEELY
A steely wine has higher acid and more sharp edges. It is the man-ballerina of wine.

STRUCTURED
A structured wine has high tannin and acid and is hard to drink. People say “structured” because they think that if you give the wine a few years, it’ll soften up and be yummy. GO TO AUSTERE.

TIGHT
This wine is not ready to drink. When I taste a tight wine it usually has very high tannins, hard-to-identify fruit characteristics and is hard-to-drink. This wine could benefit from being decanted (see How to Decant Wine).

TOASTY
Toasty is most commonly a reference to a wine that’s oak-aged in Medium Plus Toasted Oak. It doesn’t actually taste like toast (sorry to disappoint) it’s more like slightly burnt caramel on the finish.

UNCTUOUS When a wine is unctuous it is oily.

UNOAKED
A wine that is unoaked doesn’t have vanilla, cream, butter or baking spices in it. An unoaked white wine is more zesty with lemony flavors (see Minerally), while an unoaked red wine tends to be more tart.

VELVETY
Lush, smooth and silky are all synonyms of a velvety wine. To imagine velvety, visualize watching perfectly smooth chocolate pouring into a mold on a Dove chocolate commercial.

Full credit is given to Wine Folly for this fantastic list of wine descriptions.

Let’s not forget the sense of smell which is also very important. While we can taste 4-5 distinct flavors, the nose can pick thousands of smells.

Use some of these descriptions at your next wine gathering, and pretend to be a wine connoisseur. Have fun!

Happy Tasting!

 

 

 

My Wine Story

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy

 

Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Sideways was a painfully funny movie in 2004, that piqued my curiosity for wine. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until then, that I decided to do some exploring, and ordered wine with dinner and pairing it with the food.  This process took a while, but, little by little, I would acquaint myself with the various grape varieties. It didn’t take long for my palate to fall in love with this magical juice and enjoy every aspect of wine tasting.  Of course, I was still in the learning stages because, I had no knowledge of the wine making process, and how it went from the vineyard into the wine glasses.

In August 2008, my hubby and I took a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and met the most wonderful people. Some of them, I have kept in touch with, and became very good friends. Tonia, in particular caught my attention, because I was intrigued the way she was pairing all her meals with a wine. At that time, I was still considered a novice, and was “thirsty” to learn more about the art of wine tasting. I realize, she was pairing a different wine with each course, including dessert. At that point, I was eager to discover more about this interesting experience.

As I continued to learn about food, people, and cultures, I became fascinated with the world of wines.  It prompted me to attend the United States Sommelier Association, at the Cordon Bleu in my town, in 2009. I studied under the guidance of the wine master, Rick Garced, and learned about the wine making process. I tasted delicious wines from the most famous regions around the word.  I also learned how to pair food and wine harmoniously.

I met the most amazing and kind-hearted fellow sommelier(s), and instantly made a connection with some of them.  We had tons of fun in class and studied together for the test. Oh, how I dread that word, because it flares up my anxiety. I remember not sleeping the night before because I was too nervous, but with all the studying and the support of my classmates, I passed the blind tasting and the written test with flying colors. It was a big deal for me and for all of us, after spending hours studying and sipping wine together.  After earning our certificate of achievements, we would organize wine gatherings at our houses, and enjoy some luscious wine and food pairings. There was always a theme, and each person would bring a wine from a particular country/region and a dish to pair with it. Since then, we have attended a few more masterclasses together and continue to gain knowledge in wine tasting.

It’s been nearly 14 years that I have been sipping and savoring on red wine, but my passion for white wine has evolved over time. I am fortunate to have visited some of the most renowned wine regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma in California, and Long Island, New York. Most recently, my dream came to reality when I visited Tuscany, Italy, one of the most famous regions in the world. There are so many more regions and wines to explore, but one of the best ways to learn, is to drink wine, write notes, take pictures of the labels, and document them.  I also learned how the terroir has a major effect on the wine. The root of the word is terre, which means land/soil in French.  Today, I will share with you the art of wine tasting.

You will be using your sense of  sight for the appearance, smell for the nose,  and taste using your palate.  First, place a white paper or cloth on a table, pour about an ounce of wine in a clear glass, tilt a little and look at it. Make sure it’s sound.  Next, you need to swirl it to bring out all the fragrances, then smell it, sniff it so you can get a whiff of the aromas.  Please keep in mind, wine tasting is subjective and there is no right or wrong in my opinion. I may smell black pepper while someone else detects licorice.

Lastly, the best part, it’s time to taste. Take a sip and swirl it around your mouth, keep it there, you will be doing an inhaling motion with your mouth slightly open, repeat at least one more time, then swallow. At this point, you will determine all the flavor profiles in the wine, this can take some time for the more complex wines, as they are layered with various flavors.  By tasting the wine, you will find out the acidity level, the sugar content, the tannins, the length, the alcohol level. When all these are in perfect harmony, it is said to be a well-balanced wine.

As you swirl the wine, you will notice the dripping on the inside of the glass, commonly referred to, as legs or tears. The slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content.  You will also learn about the length of the wine. That is determined by how long after you swallowed the wine, the flavors remain in your mouth. The more lingering the length, the better the quality of the wine. A low-quality wine is known to have a short finish, meaning, as soon as you swallow it, the taste disappears from your mouth.

I’ve recently attended the acclaimed James Suckling’s Wine Tasting events: Great Wines of Italy and Great Wines of the Andes in Miami. I tasted some of the most delightful and highly rated wines.

In December 2016, I decided to pursue my studies further, and attended the world-renowned WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education Trust. The class was taught under the supervision of the James Beard award-winning wine and food writer, Lyn Farmer. I am proud to hold a second level sommelier certificate.  I hope you have enjoyed my wine story and my photos. For more photos, please check out my Instagram page: Foodieandwinelover.

This year, I will be working diligently on my cookbook that will include a treasury of my recipes, global cuisines and cultures, and food and wine pairing suggestions. I am also planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Stay tuned!

Cheers to a fabulous 2018!

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sommeliergina

 

The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome

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Wine tash from Italy - June 2017

Wine stash from Italy – June 2017

Tuscany, Italy - June 2017

Tuscany, Italy – June 2017

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

James Suckling and Yours Truly

James Suckling and Yours Truly

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Happy Sipping!!!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels
Future Cookbook Author
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

 

 

 

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