Jul 28

The New York Times Wine School: A great way to learn about wine as you drink it

New York Times Wine in SeattleEach month, Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine critic, presents three wines for you to drink and think about. If possible, try to write down your thoughts and questions. Each month, we will feature the three selected wines, or a close approximation, in a special New York Times stack.

This is a tremendous opportunity to learn about wine and develop your tasting skills. In each monthly column, Asimov provides a thorough discussion of each grape variety. Wine School, invites you to drink wine with Eric Asimov. In each installment, Mr. Asimov chooses a type of wine for you to try at home. After a month, Mr. Asimov posts his reaction to the wine and addresses readers’ thoughts and questions.

For a more detailed overview, here is the New York Times version:

“Over the next few weeks, we will drink the wine, and share thoughts, comments and questions at nytimes.com/dining. Next month, we will reconvene the Wine School to review our experiences and suggest the next round of wines. The goal is to have a virtual conversation about the wines from which we all learn.

This is an exercise in drinking the wines, not tasting them. The difference is important. Tasting is something professionals do as a way to gain a quick sense of a large number of wines. It means spitting out the wine rather than swallowing it, simply to maintain one’s health and equilibrium.

We’ll eliminate the guesswork by drinking the wine. This will offer far more pleasure and a more complete picture because good wines are alive. They don’t just change as they age, they change in a glass over the length of a meal. How you experience the wine will be affected by what you eat with it. Even the weather and your emotions have a role. The same wine will tell vastly different stories on a snowy winter night and a hot summer evening. It will present a different side if you are relaxed and happy, rather than tense and agitated.

But the idea here is to pay attention to the wine simply over the course of a meal: to enjoy it, certainly, but also to understand your experience. You will note how the wine presents itself before you begin to eat, and then with food; how the first glass may differ from the second, whether it changes in the glass, and if so, how.

You will want to say something about the aroma and how it tastes, but don’t overanalyze. All the vaunted clichés of tasting notes, the genre of writing that traffics in hints of cloudberries, guava, melted road tar, fig compote and so on, actually communicate very little to other people about the experience of drinking that wine. I’ve found that a more general approach conveys far more.

That is, does the wine seem sweetly fruity, no matter what kind of fruit? Or does it seem savory, tasting more of herbal, smoky, stony or acidic flavors? Maybe it’s a combination. I once suggested that tasting notes be eliminated entirely in favor of these two classifications of wine, and while I meant to be provocative, I do believe the words we use to describe wine can often be counterproductive and comical.

Just as important as the smells and flavors of the wine is the texture, that is, how it feels in your mouth. I find texture to be a crucial yet undervalued quality, possibly because words that describe this tactile sense are even more elusive than those used for what is detected by your eyes, nose and taste buds.

I think of texture in terms of its primary components, tannins and acidity. Tannins play a greater role in red wines. They are the somewhat astringent compounds derived not only from the skins, stems and seeds of grapes but also sometimes from the wood of the barrels in which the wines were aged.

Acidity is the juicy, zingy quality that can be felt more easily than tasted. Too much, and a wine can be harsh and aggressive. Too little, and it may feel flabby and shapeless. Acidity can also change during the winemaking process from the crispness of malic acids to softer lactic acids. In some wines, the presence of glycerol, a product of fermentation that is heavy and oily, can also be felt. To me, a wonderful texture expresses itself as a snappy vivacity that almost compels you to take another sip because the wine feels so good in the mouth.

All this is to say that as pleasurable as the Wine School will be, it will also require a modest bit of work. By whatever method you choose, whether pen and paper, computer or smartphone, simply record your reactions to the wine. Describe the general aromas, flavors and texture before you begin eating, and then later during the meal. Did they change? Become more nuanced, or perhaps harder to detect? Did serving temperature affect the wine? If so, contrast its character when it was cool to when it warmed up. How did your meal affect the wine? And anything else that strikes you as noteworthy.

The purpose is to retain a sense of the wine and its association with a particular meal. With time and experience, especially when you pay attention, you will develop a sense of what you like and what you don’t and why. How long does that take? It depends on how often you drink wine and how carefully you choose to observe the wine and your reaction to it. Few things happen immediately

Acidity is the juicy, zingy quality that can be felt more easily than tasted. Too much, and a wine can be harsh and aggressive. Too little, and it may feel flabby and shapeless. Acidity can also change during the winemaking process from the crispness of malic acids to softer lactic acids. In some wines, the presence of glycerol, a product of fermentation that is heavy and oily, can also be felt. To me, a wonderful texture expresses itself as a snappy vivacity that almost compels you to take another sip because the wine feels so good in the mouth.

I don’t expect anybody to buy all three bottles. Any one will do, though if you can find more than one and want to try it, by all means do. And if you can’t find any of these but still want to join in, look the region where these wines originated.”

- Asimov, Eric

Jul 23

Red Tag Sale – July 23rd – 27th (2014)

Starting Wednesday, July 23rd and running through Sunday, July 27th, Wine World is having its first ever Red Tag Sale. Throughout the store, we will have tons of wines tagged at 20% off*. We’ll also have a few select items for up to 50% off*! This is not going to be something you want to miss.
*No further discounts will apply.

Red Tag Wine Sale Seattle

Jul 16

Friday Night Flights – South Africa Wine with Arnie Millan

Arnie Millan Friday Night Flights

Come taste wines from around the world with us at Wine World & Spirits! Every Friday night from 6-8pm we will be hosting a special tasting from different locations around the world. For $10, you can come in and sit down with our wine experts and learn about the different regions we will be tasting from.

This Friday, we’re happy to announce that the finest wine mind in Seattle, Arnie Millan will be pouring South African wines at our back tasting bar.

Come in and join the fun!

Friday, July 18th – South Africa
Friday, July 25th – Spain
Friday, August 1st – California
Friday, August 8th – Washington

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