Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wine 101 at Lush Wine and Spirits

Jane on the left and Kristin on your right, hosted Wine 101 at Lush Wine and Spirits in Roscoe Village (cute hat, Kristin!)

Once or twice a year, I like returning to the basics of wine. I enjoy hearing stories about its history or how its made, and how to differentiate varietals; it helps me better educate customers at The Night Thing, along with reinforcing my own wine knowledge.

Lush Wine and Spirits offers unique wine classes throughout the year; their Roscoe Village team of Jane and Kristin gave seven of us a thorough overview of six common varietals along with tips on best experience the whole tasting ritual (sniffing, swirling, sipping and spitting).

Our hostesses were friendly and casual; reminding us that the wine appreciation can seem complex and overbearing but really comes down to a few basics that anyone can master. Their mantra is keep experimenting, learn what your palate likes/dislikes, and try as best you can to put wine's flavors and textures into words you can understand.

My favorite of the white varietals was our Riesling, a 2007 Richter Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett, from Mosel, Germany. That's a long name! But the most important word in that name is Kabinett, the semi-sweet ranking in the German classification. One misconception many wine drinkers have is that all Riesling wines are sweet. Au contraire! (OK, that's French, but I don't know the similar phrase in German!) Some Rieslings are sweet, and some have the pleasant aroma of the unleaded you feed your gas tank (BTW, are all filling stations self-serve now?)

This Riesling had more of the spiky, tart "7-Up" texture I enjoy in Riesling. It really cried out for some Chinese or Thai food.

From the Chardonnay grape, we tasted an unoaked from West Cape Howe of Western Austrailia, and an oaked version (much more common) from South Africa, the 2007 Vins d"Orracne. Unoaked Chardonnays provide a different completely different approach to nurturing this grape, and you really need to treat yourself to both styles. Most wineries, will note on their bottle label if their Chardonnay has not been treated in oak (they will age the juice in stainless steel, instead).

I have a particular preference in Chardonnay; namely, the more rocks the better! I love the feeling of minerality on my palate; neither of the wines came near that taste profile, but I enjoyed exploring these different styles.

From the red wine group, I fell in love with a Merlot costing just $9.50 from the Languedoc (2006 Delas); it featured a unique combination of rasberry with strong tannins. I also enjoyed (sigh) the most expensive wine of the tasting; a Paso Robles from Tablas Creek (the 2005 Esprit de Beaucastel); strongly based on the Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah combination found often in the Rhone region of France (it also included some Counoise - that's pronounced Coon-wa). This just felt like an electric shock of sensations in my mouth; spice, smoke and a lingering finish.

Please check out the Lush web site for their frequently updated blog and information on their future classes.

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