• Raising the Temperature

    A funny thing happened last night at our monthly VIP wine tasting.  I was super excited to introduce an especially esoteric line-up: a White Spanish Tempranillo, a dry Spanish Muscat, a full-bodied Australian Shiraz Blend, and a late harvest Chardonnay.  I found the Punctum Vaiven White Tempranillo particularly intriguing.  It was round and delicious when I’d tried it a few weeks prior and White Tempranillo is in itself a novelty.  While Tempranillo is a red grape most famously used in Rioja, a white version can be created by stripping the skins away immediately.  This practice is fairly uncommon though and it’s rare that such a bottle finds its way into New Hampshire.

    I pulled the White Tempranillo from the refrigerator, poured the wine for everyone, waited for the reaction, and… nothing.  Everyone just looked a little confused.  I took a sip myself and the wine kind of fell flat.

    Fortunately, I saved some in my glass and went back for another sip later in the evening.  It was a brand-new wine!  Texture!  Fruit!  Acid!  Secondary flavors of flowers, minerality, and even a hint of nuttiness!  What magic was this?

    Something I’d overlooked, or at least not thought much of when serving the wine, is that the Punctum Vaiven White Tempranillo is just over 14% alcohol.  It’s a weighty white wine with a full body and round mouthfeel as far as white wines go.   Allowing it to come up closer to room temperature brought out all of its flavor and nuances.  Interaction with oxygen also stirred up its underlying character.  This was an important reminder about why temperature is so important when serving wine.

    While it’s easy to assume that all white wine should be served ice cold, service temperature actually ranges depending on a wine’s body.  This is true of white and red wines.  The Wine Spirits and Education Trust (WSET) says that light to medium white wines should be served anywhere from 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit while a full-bodied or oaky white wine should be served 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oaky Chardonnay is another good example of a wine that could be enjoyed slightly warmer than we typically think.

    When speaking to New York-based publication Punch, Zwann Grays, the wine director at Olmsted in Brooklyn, explained. “You can eat a cold piece of chicken, but that’s not how it’s meant to be; you get the juiciness… all the things dancing around on your palate when it’s served warm.  With whites, that cold temperature becomes a mask over the wine; the cold steals the soul of what the wine can express, the voluptuousness of what it can be.”

    So if you’re white wine isn’t quite speaking to you the way it should be, try raising the temperature a little bit!

    Dominio Vaiven White Tempranillo, Spain ($17.99/bottle)– A weighty white with flavors of green apple as well as underlying touches of white florals, chalky stone, and nuttiness.  Certified organic and biodynamic.  Punctum is family owned and is led by three siblings: Jesus, Ruth, and Christina.  Best enjoyed slightly warmer than expected 😉.


  • France!

    Those of you who keep an eye on the Events Calendar have probably seen that March’s Wine Class is called “France vs. United States” and will pit some fabulous French wines against their California counterparts.  As I was brainstorming ideas for the class, I started out with the question, “Why does France take itself so seriously?”  (No offense intended- I think it’s pretty evident that France has some of the strictest winemaking rules and their AOC system is one of the most intricate ones out there.)  As I pondered, I realized that France has some great reasons to consider itself the best of the best.    Not to give away the whole class, but they were the first to establish the AOC system to regulate quality.  The rest of the world has pretty much followed their lead.  France is also home to some of the most historic winemaking regions in the world like Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy.

    When I was first getting into wine, I was totally intimidated by French wines.  I remember being in rooms where winemakers and suppliers would roll their eyes at me because I didn’t know the difference between Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet.  (They sound alike and are just over the hill from each other, OK???  That hardly warrants an eye roll.)  However, as I started encountering more French wines and actually had a mentor who was patient and took the time to explain them to me, I discovered that French wines are some of my favorites.  I particularly love white Burgundy.  Over time, my mentor started calling me an “expert in White Burgundy.”  (I suspect this was largely meant for motivational purposes.  While I learned a lot about it, no one can ever really be an expert in White Burgundy and I certainly have much to learn.)

    Unfortunately, my wallet does not love White Burgundy as much as my palate does.  Mersault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet start at about $60 per bottle and go all the way up.  Therefore, if I am an expert in some component of White Burgundy, it’s finding the best ones for a great value.  The Dampt Chablis that we carry here, for example, is an exceptional discovery.  At $26.99, it is quintessential Chablis for under $30 per bottle.

    I scout out wines from Burgundy’s Macon region as well.  Located in the South, it is considered a “value” region.  This is mostly based on history and reputation though; there are amazing producers making serious wines there.  I shared an awesome bottle 2015 Macon-Villages with my mom the other night.  I’m also working on getting a delicious Vire-Clesse for the store too which I am excited to share with you.

    France is home to some lesser-known wine regions that are gems as well.  We recently welcomed in two wines from Savoie, in the heart of the French Alps.  The white is completely comprised of a grape called Jacquere.  It’s hardly seen outside of this French region.  Mineral-driven, bright, and clean, it has flavors of stone fruit, green apple, and a dry finish.  The red is 100% Gamay.  Gamay is famously found in Beajolais.  This one has the body of a Pinot Noir while embracing darker fruit flavors and hints of spice.  You can buy these wines for $16.99/bottle or as a set for $30 total.

    There is still room in our France vs. United States class on March 21 and we’re considering offering a second night of it since interest seems to be high.  Hopefully I can help explain French wines in an approachable, straight-forward way like my mentor did for me and get you to fall in love with their wines as well!