Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Touriga - More Than Just Port

Sometimes as a writer, I get caught up in drafting a wish list of subjects I am determined to research and write about. Like a lot of good intentions in life, we don't always get to the things on our "to-do" lists in a timely manor. In this case, I am acknowledge my newest obsession and had to stop all other projects to share it with you. Touriga Nacional is a grape varietal primarily grown in Portugal in low yielding crops producing a highly desirable flavour profile. Traditionally used in Port production, I have recently come across this grape being produced as a single variety in a dry wine. I was instantly hooked.

Imagine sitting atop haystacks in an aged brick coloured barn on a steep hillside on a summer's afternoon in Portugal overlooking rolling hills while lunching on hand crafted sandwiches getting ready to saddle the horses up for a trail ride through the vineyards and blackberry bushes. This is Touriga Nacional. A rustic, peaceful yet complex experience. Don't be fooled though, a slight astringency will follow the earthiness that may sneak up on you if you are not prepared.

With wishful illustrations aside, I have tasted a couple of producers lately and have been very impressed not only by the well-rounded product but the price retailing right around $15. Drinking a wine that creates an experience is powerful and in my book, the sign of a great wine. Being the most desirable grape for port production, the high skin to pulp ratio produces not only a rustic countryside aroma but is rich in raisinated fruits such as plums, blackberries and dark cherries.

With very small amounts of Touriga planted in the United States, it is not readily available. However, one producer based in Napa near my beloved Spring Mountain has vines planted in Sonoma County. York Creek Vineyards is growing Touriga for a port project they also produce this variety in a dry red wine style and a rose. They had my attention at first sip. Having selected their mountainous site to produce rich, bold and tannic wines I can only imagine my summer afternoon horse riding fantasy coming true.

With that being said, there are plenty of producers from Portugal being imported to the United States. One in particular I tasted at a local restaurant was a 2007 T. Roriz "Tradicional" Tega, Alqueve, priced at a very reasonable $8/glass.

If you happen to come across Touriga during your next dining experience, I highly recommend you give it a taste. You may not experience a rustic countryside fantasy in Portgual but it will give you something to talk about nontheless.

Charlotte :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Too Many Fake Fendis - Trusting your Palate when Purchasing Wine

I'm not sure if I am out of tasting practice (much like my muscles are out of swimming practice), or perhaps, dare I say it, my taste buds are bored. The majority of wines I have tasted lately have left me wanting more and wondering if wine consumers are settling in our wine preferences, or is one mass palate continually being catered to?

Like the fashion industry, the wine industry, unfortunately, is subject to fads. Certain varietals and styles become in season. Look at, for example, the success of overly oaked chardonnay or Pinot Noir after the movie Sideways. I am not saying these wines do not have their place and, in fact, have played a significant role to increase the number of Americans who are drinking wine on a regular basis. But has the American palate become comfortable and undemanding resulting in mediocre wines being production?

Courtesy of Yapp Brothers
Now I'm sure you are asking, "where is she buying her wine from?!" I will admit, I have been exploring more of what the grocery stores in my area have to offer. But when you look at who makes the majority of wine purchasing discussions in this country, it is women. And where do women shop? The grocery store, a one stop market for all their families' needs. Looking closer at the trend of wines on the shelf priced between $10-$15 they tend to be mediocre at best. If this is where the majority of wine buying decisions are happening, why is mediocre acceptable? Why does one trend such as, heavily oaked chardonnay, dominate the shelves catering to one particular palate?

Perhaps purchasing decisions are made based on fear. Fear of looking like a wine novice and wanting to drink whats "in." Gravitating to a certain style or brand because so and so said, "its good!" Much the like the point system drives sales of 92 award winning wines, a trend begins to dominate the market resulting in plunk producers trying to copy the style to make a quick buck much like buying a knock-off Fendi purse. These wines get marked at a reasonable price in order to increase sales and the bottom line, forget about the quality of product.

As much as I praise the point system for coming into play when consumers needed help to demystify wines, making them measurable and a way to categorize, it has also created a culture dictating what we should be drinking and doesn't really educate consumers. Consumers should untimely trust their own palates and use additional resources such as Sommeliers, local wine shops, blogs, books, social media, apps etc. to learn.

Wine is about an experience, it is something to be shared, it should evoke emotion. So maybe I have been buying too many fake Fendis lately and hoping to get the real deal, its obviously not working. My palate is bored and awaiting the next trend. With that being said, I really hope the next trend is to follow what you like but to also have high quality from around the world available at the local grocery store. Why can't the local grocery store be a local wine store that sells Vouray, Bugurndies and Chenin Blanc?

So I ask my readers, what resources do you use when making wine purchasing decisions? How do you educate yourself on wine? What trends/fads do you see in the wine industry both good and bad? Do you feel influenced by these trends?

Charlotte :)