Today’s Monday Musings are about consumer tastings. Last weekend I went to the American Wine Society and hosted two seminars – one on Vermentino and one on Wines from Lombardy. We had a pretty enthusiastic crowd that asked many good questions and gave me a lot of information that I hadn’t expected such as where Vermentino grows in the U.S. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to present the Lugana DOC to a group of wine lovers in a bar setting. I was very impressed with the level of knowledge and curiosity of the group. I was also reminded of something I often forget, that when speaking about wine, we need to remember to explain words such as malo-lactic fermentation or minerality or mixed maturation or sur lees. Just because we use terms often and write them, it doesn’t mean that everyone in the room knows what we mean by them.
For example, in my Vermentino class, I mentioned that Italian white wines often have a bitter almond note on the finish. Someone asked me why. Here’s an answer I found in an amazing article in Decanter Magazine, which I will link to here.
“When it comes to alcohol, almond is perhaps most associated with Amaretto; the Italian liqueur whose name translates to ‘little bitter’. Almond’s signature bitterness is thought to be caused by benzaldehyde, which is a chemical compound formed in wines during fermentation and also carbonic maceration – when grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation.
As well as fermentation, it can also come from yeast influences, in a similar vein to biscuit and brioche notes. This could include wines rested sur lie, ‘on the lees’, or those that have undergone bâtonnage, also known as ‘lees-stirring’
Levels of benzaldehyde are generally higher in sparkling wines, particularly those made using the traditional or charmat methods.”
I really enjoy speaking with consumers and am impressed by the general level of wine knowledge and interest that I am finding.