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Your Chance to Influence My Wine Drinking

Date: Tue, Aug 12, 2008 Wine Tasting

Our annual trip to Oz in early November is in the planning stages. This year its going to be somewhat of a marathon endeavor because we want to see what is left of the Murray River (at least the part that still has water) and so we plan on a road trip visiting NSW, Vic and SA. Naturally wineries will be on the agenda and I’ve put the early list below. We usually aim for about 4 wineries a day simply because I try to organize to spend a couple of hours with the winemaker/cellar door staff to talk about the wines; rather then just belly up to the bar for a few sips and talk about the weather.

There are gaps in the list, especially for Orange and Canberra; and the Clare list is probably too heavy with red wine makers. So if you feel like adding a few names, and the reason why you think we should visit, please do. (NOTE: The numbering is not in any order of preference and we haven't yet make enquiries to the wineries so its not a list of the order we will visit either.)

Orange wineries
1) Canobolas-Smith
2)
3)

Canberra wineries
1) Clonakilla
2)
3)
4)

Rutherglen wineries
1) Buller and Son
2) Campbells
3) Chambers
4) Morris
5) Stanton & Killen

McLaren Vale wineries
1) Marius
2) Mollydooker
3) d’Arenberg
4) Redheads Studio
5) Mitolo

Barossa wineries (Day 1)
1) Dutschke
2) Trevor Jones
3)
4)

Barossa wineries (Day2)
1) Seppeltsfield
2) Tuesner
3) Winter Creek
4) Red Nectar

Clare wineries
1) Kilikanoon
2) Neagles Rock
3) Tim Adams
4) Pike
5) Jim Barry

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Your Chance to Influence My Wine Drinking

Date: Tue, Aug 12, 2008 Wine Tasting

Our annual trip to Oz in early November is in the planning stages. This year its going to be somewhat of a marathon endeavor because we want to see what is left of the Murray River (at least the part that still has water) and so we plan on a road trip visiting NSW, Vic and SA. Naturally wineries will be on the agenda and I’ve put the early list below. We usually aim for about 4 wineries a day simply because I try to organize to spend a couple of hours with the winemaker/cellar door staff to talk about the wines; rather then just belly up to the bar for a few sips and talk about the weather.

There are gaps in the list, especially for Orange and Canberra; and the Clare list is probably too heavy with red wine makers. So if you feel like adding a few names, and the reason why you think we should visit, please do. (NOTE: The numbering is not in any order of preference and we haven't yet make enquiries to the wineries so its not a list of the order we will visit either.)

Orange wineries
1) Canobolas-Smith
2)
3)

Canberra wineries
1) Clonakilla
2)
3)
4)

Rutherglen wineries
1) Buller and Son
2) Campbells
3) Chambers
4) Morris
5) Stanton & Killen

McLaren Vale wineries
1) Marius
2) Mollydooker
3) d’Arenberg
4) Redheads Studio
5) Mitolo

Barossa wineries (Day 1)
1) Dutschke
2) Trevor Jones
3)
4)

Barossa wineries (Day2)
1) Seppeltsfield
2) Tuesner
3) Winter Creek
4) Red Nectar

Clare wineries
1) Kilikanoon
2) Neagles Rock
3) Tim Adams
4) Pike
5) Jim Barry

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Australian Wine Reviews Get a Needed Boost

Date: Thu, Aug 7, 2008 Wine Tasting

Two of the more active online sites posting reviews and commentary on Australian wines have announced that they will merge to form what will arguably be the internet site for information on current wine releases and wine news from Australia. The new partnership will be under the banner of Campbell Mattinson’s THE WINE FRONT which came into being in 2002 and has steadily grown to be a major resource for content on Aussie wine, winning the 2005 Wine Press Club Wine Communicator Award, as well as being a two-time finalist at the World Food Media Awards. The other partner is Gary Walsh’s Winorama which over the last three years has achieved the reputation of being a major source of (free) reviews of current release Australian wines. Mattinson and Walsh believe they can publish between 200 and 500 wine reviews each month in addition to the ongoing news and feature articles/videos that formed the foundation of THE WINE FRONT site. There is no online, or even printed, resource which I can think of that has this level of focus on Australian wines. One other feature that will be unique to the new site will be the “Double-Take” review where Mattinson and Walsh review the same wine, side by side. Some examples of this novel format have already been posted.

The merger of these two online sites is excellent news for lovers of Aussie wines. Both Mattinson and Walsh are well known and respected within the Australian wine community with Mattinson in particular being that rare breed of accomplished and enthusiastic wine writer with an excellent palate, and a true if somewhat biased fervor for all things Australian in wine. Walsh, an Englishman, has an excellent palate and his well crafted reviews are often infused with wit. His love of wines from that often neglected wine region, the Hunter Valley, adds a depth to the appreciation of Australian wines that is missing in much of the online and print media.

Subscription to the new site will be $39.95AUD per year. This is an extraordinary value when compared to other media that publish regularly on Australian wines including Winestate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, Australian Gourmet Traveller – WINE, Jeremy Oliver, etc. The only possible competition in the near term would be James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion because of its wealth of reviews from Halliday’s yearly review of thousands of wines. However the new site, with its reviews of current releases should soon rival Halliday and will be more useful to those wishing to obtain reviews before buying a current release. The site should also eclipse Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate which only publishes once a year on Australian wines and now has a reviewer with far less exposure to the Australian wine scene than either Mattinson or Walsh. The only thing THE WINE FRONT might gain from the Parker model would be a search facility similar to that used on his online site.

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Save Miguel?

Date: Fri, Aug 1, 2008 Wine Tasting

The Portuguese cork industry has begun an ad campaign designed to argue for the greenness of corks versus screwcaps. But you would be hard pressed to figure that out from the internet campaign which has actor Rob Schneider searching to discover who Miguel is and how to save him.

In Australia the campaign will include a letter to winemakers from cork maker Amorim extolling the ethical virtues of cork. But with 70% of wine bottles in Australia already under screwcap it is going to be hard sell, even if the Girl Guides are onside!.

Perhaps the better question might be - Is Miguel worth saving?

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Wine, beer, sausages…….and lots more

Date: Thu, Jun 26, 2008 Wine Tasting

The last month was pretty slow here at the Shiraz eBlog. Well, working for a living does have its down side. But a 12,000 word book chapter (no, not on wine) was finished, as were three internet courses at UCSD (no, not on wine), and a new research grant (no, not on wine) has been received. The last means even more time will have to be devoted to non-wine endeavors. But before I get down to working on cutting edge immunology I believe a little R&R might be in order. And so July has been filled with a jam packed agenda.

First we will be jetting to Chicago to (briefly) check out some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Nope, sorry. No wine there either. Then it will be off to St Louis to cross the swollen Mississippi into Illinois for the July 4th family reunion. There is a nascent plan to visit a few Illinois wineries, and taste wines from some of the less well known varieties, and native American grapes. Expectations that we will find great wine are not high, which is why there is a plan to travel with a case of wine from the cellar. I’m hoping we do find some drinkable Illinois wine because that box of wine is really destined for London, England where we will consume some with friends and then take the rest on the Carnival Splendor for a cruise to St Petersburg, Russia. Of course traveling does make one thirsty and its quite possible that we will consume all of the box of wine in London. In that case there will be nothing for it but to visit some of the local wine shops to restock. Plans are being laid for visits to Philglas & Swiggot (in Marylebone), Berry Brothers & Rudd, and Fortnum and Mason.

Naturally one cannot visit England without sampling some sausages and so while we are in Marylebone we will also be dropping by Biggles Gourmet Sausage shop and The Ginger Pig to purchase some bangers, snags and mystery bags. I’ll bet there are some that go with a big Aussie Shiraz and a BBQ! But BBQ or no, one cannot sample sausage and mash without the presence of a cleansing ale and so at some point I’m hoping we can fit in a trip to The George Inn to do just that. And while we are there we might as well pay a visit to the nearby Market Porter; after all its real close to the Borough Market where The Ginger Pig has a stall of all its current sausages. And just to be true to The Thirsty Traveller we will complete the trifecta by visiting The Lord Clyde.

Now it has come to my attention that others (notably my wife, Miranda) are laying plans of their own. These include various London Walks, and a visit to Bath, as well as dinner with Irish cousins. The latter group is not known to appreciate BIG wines, but with pleasure there is always a little pain! Basically that means me offering everyone a monster alcohol wine, just on the off chance that someone might like it!

The cruise highlights will probably be finding time to read several wine books, including Benjamin Wallace’s “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”, George Taber’s "To Cork or Not to Cork" and Alice Feiring’s “The Battle for Wine and Love”. The cruise will not disembark us at any notable wine destinations and even though the ship does have a wine bar I’m not expecting any wine epiphanies onboard, that is unless we can get enough wine in our luggage and the luggage of friends to make the dinners just that little bit more out of the ordinary.

And who knows, I might even blog about some of this!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Wine, beer, sausages…….and lots more

Date: Thu, Jun 26, 2008 Wine Tasting

The last month was pretty slow here at the Shiraz eBlog. Well, working for a living does have its down side. But a 12,000 word book chapter (no, not on wine) was finished, as were three internet courses at UCSD (no, not on wine), and a new research grant (no, not on wine) has been received. The last means even more time will have to be devoted to non-wine endeavors. But before I get down to working on cutting edge immunology I believe a little R&R might be in order. And so July has been filled with a jam packed agenda.

First we will be jetting to Chicago to (briefly) check out some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Nope, sorry. No wine there either. Then it will be off to St Louis to cross the swollen Mississippi into Illinois for the July 4th family reunion. There is a nascent plan to visit a few Illinois wineries, and taste wines from some of the less well known varieties, and native American grapes. Expectations that we will find great wine are not high, which is why there is a plan to travel with a case of wine from the cellar. I’m hoping we do find some drinkable Illinois wine because that box of wine is really destined for London, England where we will consume some with friends and then take the rest on the Carnival Splendor for a cruise to St Petersburg, Russia. Of course traveling does make one thirsty and its quite possible that we will consume all of the box of wine in London. In that case there will be nothing for it but to visit some of the local wine shops to restock. Plans are being laid for visits to Philglas & Swiggot (in Marylebone), Berry Brothers & Rudd, and Fortnum and Mason.

Naturally one cannot visit England without sampling some sausages and so while we are in Marylebone we will also be dropping by Biggles Gourmet Sausage shop and The Ginger Pig to purchase some bangers, snags and mystery bags. I’ll bet there are some that go with a big Aussie Shiraz and a BBQ! But BBQ or no, one cannot sample sausage and mash without the presence of a cleansing ale and so at some point I’m hoping we can fit in a trip to The George Inn to do just that. And while we are there we might as well pay a visit to the nearby Market Porter; after all its real close to the Borough Market where The Ginger Pig has a stall of all its current sausages. And just to be true to The Thirsty Traveller we will complete the trifecta by visiting The Lord Clyde.

Now it has come to my attention that others (notably my wife, Miranda) are laying plans of their own. These include various London Walks, and a visit to Bath, as well as dinner with Irish cousins. The latter group is not known to appreciate BIG wines, but with pleasure there is always a little pain! Basically that means me offering everyone a monster alcohol wine, just on the off chance that someone might like it!

The cruise highlights will probably be finding time to read several wine books, including Benjamin Wallace’s “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”, George Taber’s "To Cork or Not to Cork" and Alice Feiring’s “The Battle for Wine and Love”. The cruise will not disembark us at any notable wine destinations and even though the ship does have a wine bar I’m not expecting any wine epiphanies onboard, that is unless we can get enough wine in our luggage and the luggage of friends to make the dinners just that little bit more out of the ordinary.

And who knows, I might even blog about some of this!

Read Full Wine Blog Post

New High-tech Wine Cap Design: An advance, Or...

Date: Fri, May 23, 2008 Wine Tasting

A competition, called Big Bang, founded in 2000 by students at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management has awarded its top prize of $15,000 to a design for a new wine bottle closure that would allow the wine to breathe much like traditional bark corks.

The folks behind this certainly seem to have all the knowledge and experience needed to do this.

Their team, Advanced Enological Closures, set out to design a better bottle cap because cork taint, a byproduct of a fungus that infects cork and makes wine smell like moldy mop water or sweaty gym socks, now contaminates the corks of an estimated one in 20 wine bottles on store shelves, ruining billions of dollars of wine annually. Although synthetic corks have been developed in response to the problem, they allow too much oxygen into the bottle, according to Keller. Overly oxidized wine has a shorter shelf life and can develop a fingernail-polish odor. Screw caps -- another alternative to bark corks -- are a viable option for wine white, but do not allow in enough oxygen for fine red wines, Keller said. Without enough oxygen to draw on, red wines start to smell like burned rubber or matchsticks as they age. LINK

But wait! The idea does seem a bit strange, especially given that oxygen is the enemy of wine.

The team's design, a "breathing screw cap," has small vent holes and is fitted with a liner made of alternating layers of thin metal and a porous polymer. The liner can be customized to allow optimal oxidation for specific varietals, something that is impossible with bark corks. A patent is pending for the design.

"If you open up lots of bottles of the same wine, you'll notice variability from bottle to bottle because of differences in the amount of oxygen that gets in," Keller said. "With cork, you just never know. Our product will give a level of control that the wine industry has never had."


Then there was this.

Keller's design offers the prospect of a cap that eliminates the worry about taint while still letting in oxygen.

His team's patent-pending design – which so far lacks a catchy name – is a 5-cent disc that fits beneath a screw cap. Made from alternating layers of polyethylene – the same material used to make sandwich bags – and perforated aluminum or tin, it can be fine-tuned to match the oxygen demands of different varietals.

"Pinot noir needs a little, cabernet sauvignon needs a lot," Keller said.
LINK

That last statement sounds just a little, no make that a lot, like rubbish. It is known that oxygen levels can vary among different grape varieties, but that has been demonstrated during the winemaking process. To my knowledge there is no evidence that different grape varieties require different levels of infusible oxygen during aging. To reconfirm just how important a lack of oxygen is to wine I turned to the best source of knowledge on screwcaps, Tyson Stelzer. Here is a little of what he wrote in 2007.

The question of the ageing rate of wines in screw cap has been a hot topic of late. It is my belief that the rate at which mature notes (or "characters," as we say Down Under) develop in screw-capped wines is in fact absolutely no different to that under traditional closures. This is evidenced by the fact that wines under screw cap age at a similar rate to those with the very best corks. For a wine under an average cork, however, oxidation effects give the impression of accelerated ageing, which has led to the notion that wines mature slower under screw caps. I believe that the absence of oxidized characters in screw-capped wines gives the mistaken impression of slower ageing.

...................................

More criticism has been levelled at screw caps by the media in relation to reductive characters than any other fault. I encourage you to view these accusations objectively and judge for yourself. If there is a causal link between screw caps and reductive characters, as some claim, then we should be tasting more reductive wines under screw cap than under cork.

Check it out for yourself, but my experience, and that of hundreds of experts with whom I have had this conversation, is quite the opposite. In my own tastings in recent years, comprising thousands of predominantly Australian and New Zealand wines, I have encountered more reductive wines under cork than I have under screw cap.

The managing director of the AWRI, Professor Sakkie Pretorius, commented recently that "The idea that there is a high incidence of post-bottling reduction in wines sealed with screw caps is a false premise. With Australian wines, where the AWRI has particular expertise, this is demonstrably not the case…. Our position, which we believe is undeniable, remains that the propensity of a wine to develop 'reductive' aromas post-bottling is a function of the wine, and that post-bottling reduction is not the 'fault' of the closure but may be exacerbated by the closure if the wine has a propensity for such aromas to develop."

"In his Screw Cap Symposium presentation, Peter Godden discussed data from one of our AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Courses which indicates a higher incidence of reduction in wines sealed with cork compared to wines sealed with screw caps. Two subsequent courses have provided similar data."
LINK

That seems pretty clear to me.

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The Len Evans Tutorial

Date: Thu, May 22, 2008 Wine Tasting

In a previous post I mentioned that one of the major (and hopefully) lasting contributions of the great Len Evans to Australian, and indeed world, wine was a five day tutorial. Held annually since 2001 The Len Evans Tutorial hosts 12 selected scholars to a stunning array of wines. But its just not about drinking fine wine. Each day starts with the blind tastings, and judging, of 30 varietal wines. In the afternoon there are masterclasses focusing on recent vintages of the greatest wines of France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Dinner is a more relaxed affair comprising five or more brackets of wines, some 40 or more years old. On the final morning the six red Burgundies of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti are presented blind, and each scholar has to identify the vintage, and the six Appellation Controlees from which they respectively come. The complete wine list for the 2007 tutorial was an amazing collection of wines.

Want to be part of what James Halliday has called "the most exclusive wine school in the world"? All you have to do is apply to be one of the dozen selected.

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Think you know Australian Wine?

Date: Wed, May 21, 2008 Wine Tasting

Consider yourself an expert on Aussie wine? Able to identify the characteristics of a Rutherglen Fortified, an Eden Valley Riesling, or a Semillon from the Hunter? Think you know the difference between a Shiraz from the Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Grampians? Then you should be a star when you take Wine Australia’s Regional Heroes Tasting Challenge.

If taking the challenge is a little too daunting, or you don't know all that much about Aussie wine then click on the Taste Chart and drag and drop the different wine styles to learn about their characteristics.

UPDATE: I made one error for each of Barossa Valley GSM, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River Chardonnay, Grampians Shiraz, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, and Great Southern Riesling. Not bad but 14/20 correct ain't fantastic. I take some consolation in the fact that my errors are with wines that I have not seen a lot of, except what's with not knowing Margaret River Chardy?

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Does Aussie shiraz taste different from different regions?

Date: Wed, May 21, 2008 Wine Tasting

Its unfair, but irrespective of its diversity Australian Shiraz very often gets tarred with the same brush. More often than not they are called big, oaky, fruity wines that have outrageous levels of alcohol and come in bottles invariably labeled with some animal. Those with this opinion almost always have very little knowledge or experience of the diversity of wines that the Shiraz grape can produce in Australia. It is also quite obvious that those who hold this truly naïve opinion do not live in the land down under. That gives them an excuse because only a few rays of the full spectrum of Aussie Shiraz ever leave the shores of the island continent.

Fortunately attempts are being made to change this narrow perception of Australian wine. You can navigate your way around Wine Australia’s discussion on the Regional Heroes of Australian wine. Its not specific to Shiraz but you are guaranteed to learn something about Australian wine, or you can listen to Australian wine writer Campbell Mattinson talk about the regional characters of four Shiraz wines from different regions. The best part is that all four are under $20AUD. Less exciting is the possibility that most are unlikely to be available outside Australia. It can’t be helped. Australia does not export all its best wines.

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Robert who?

Date: Mon, May 19, 2008 Wine Tasting

To be quite honest I have tasted few Mondavi wines and purchased even less and have none in my cellar. On my few trips to Napa we have driven by the Robert Mondavi Winery, admired its singular presence in the valley, but never ventured past the gate. But then I must also confess that I never had many wines from the Rothbury Estate, the Hunter Valley winery which once had the famed and much loved Len Evans as its Chairman. I was never fortunate enough to meet either of these giants of the wine world. Actually that should really be giants of New World wine because both, pretty much over the same time period, were intent on advancing the growth of wine and wine appreciation on either side of the Pacific Ocean. Mondavi built Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 and in 1962 Evans had become Australia’s first wine columnist. As the Mondavi reputation grew in the 1970’s so did the Evans’ wine shop and restaurant Bulletin Place; where Jancis Robinson noted “the people who by now constituted the beginnings of the Australian wine mafia” would gather.

There are great similarities between these two men. Both labored against significant odds in their quests to have the wines of their country recognized as world class. Both had their wine endeavors disrupted by those searching for the quick buck rather than the accolades of wine drinkers. Both saw wine as a world wide enterprise. Most importantly, both had the foresight to realise that education was the way of the future for wine. Mondavi’s ventures in this sphere eclipse those of the more pragmatic Evans. Mondavi played a significant role in the establishment of Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, in the city of Napa, and was the major benefactor for the soon to open Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis. Evans was a major mover and shaker in the revamping of the Australian wine show circuit, leading to great improvements in Australian wine. But perhaps his most lasting contribution will be the Len Evans Tutorials at which carefully selected young Australian wine makers/tasters are expsosed, over a number of days, to some of the finest wines of the world so that they can appreciate not only the world of wine but Australia’s place in it.

Robert who? There will be those who ask that question. They won't be the same as those who asked Len who? None of us can know all that there is about wine or the individuals involved, but as the giants who carried much of the weight of bringing wine to the masses leave us, the question must be asked. Who will replace them?

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On the Internet Vine

Date: Mon, Apr 21, 2008 Wine Tasting

Being too busy with non-wine related work at present I can only find time to post on a couple of interesting little gems from the internet. I know they are low hanging fruit, but sometimes that is all there is time to pick!

I guess we will have to wait to see how big the hole is that Eric Asimov has dug for himself in his hasty criticism of "The Wine Trials". I'm sure it was a little bit unnerving to find not only have you dined with the target of your venting, but that the study in question has actually produced a scholarly article. It really is time for everyone to take a step back and wait for the book to make its way into the hands of interested readers.

On another tendril of the internet vine Dan Berger seems to be coming around to the idea that our genetics may contribute to our appreciation of wine and influence the wines we prefer to drink. Maybe this is the first step on the road to allowing all wine drinkers to drink the wines they have a preference for. That would certainly be preferable to attempting to impose ones’ own preferences on others.

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The Flowering of Wine

Date: Thu, Apr 3, 2008 Wine Tasting

When contemplating the question, what does good pinot noir smell and taste like, it is extraordinary how when you look through a couple of dozen reference sources, so few actually have anything substantive to say on the issue at all. Most immediately slide into the history and geography of Burgundy, the classification of the vineyards etc etc. Sometimes they mention in passing that burgundy/pinot noir is different from bordeaux/cabernet/merlot, but they do not try to put into words why. Few come to the point of characterising the wine. Geoff Kelly, Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews.

The many and varied perfumes of flowers are used frequently in descriptions of the aroma and bouquet of wines. The words used range from the somewhat generic descriptor floral to specific types of flowers like Violet or Géranium. Tom Stevenson lists 15 different flower aromas in his mind-jogging list of aromas and flavors, and that list is by no means complete because it seems that each wine critic has his/her own terminology. One very famous critic uses the term “white flowers” for Australian Shiraz, White Burgundy, and even French Riesling. Doesn’t seem very specific does it? Having spent part of last weekend helping Miranda trim and weed our, sorry her, garden I can state that white flowers, as an aroma, is almost as generic as floral. I smelt white flowers on arugula that needed to be trimmed so it would not go to seed, on several of our citrus trees and even some of the flowering weeds that I was told to remove from a neighbor's yard; with permission, of course. Not a Shiraz among them!

Why the seemingly sudden interest in floral descriptors? Well it is all the fault of the latest article on Geoff Kelly’s Wine Reviews web site. Geoff is, to my mind, the most analytical of all wine critics/writers. He goes after the minutiae of wine especially the smell; for me this is an excellent quality in a wine drinker. And to him “the key factor in fine pinot noir is the quality of bouquet, and in particular the precise floral qualities”. The problem is that Geoff has his own descriptors for Pinot Noir like buddleia in the lighter styles to boronia in wine from riper grapes. I’m no gardener, just the gardener’s helper, so I asked Miranda what was the smell of buddleia and boronia. She said she had heard of them but did not know the smell. I was nosing a 2005 Russian Hill Meredith Vineyard Pinot Noir * at the time and it really would have been helpful to know if the aromas were anywhere near what Geoff seeks in perfect Pinot because this wine was overflowing with what I call the typical aromas of this variety. But I’m like Michael Broadbent when it comes to describing the aroma of Pinot, I find it impossible and I usually resort to something like “spicy Pinot Noir”, and then go looking for forest floor or mushrooms because I’m pretty sure I know those smells. OK, reasonably sure! At least I think………

Now I don’t know whether Geoff is correct in his floral descriptions of Pinot but I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s not likely to be too far wrong. He’s also not wrong in another comment that he made regarding Pinot – “what does good pinot noir smell and taste like, it is extraordinary how when you look through a couple of dozen reference sources, so few actually have anything substantive to say on the issue at all.” I don’t disagree at all. In fact you could replace Pinot Noir by Merlot or Syrah or Tempranillo or Malbec, or just about any grape variety and the conclusion holds true. Most grape varieties don’t have distinctive aromas especially if you look at them across broad geographical regions. For example, the aromas of Syrah/Shiraz from the Rhone and the Barossa can be astonishing different, and even within those two regions, the wines can show an amazing spectrum of aromatic characters.

Is it really necessary, in the appreciation of wine, to correctly identify the smell of a particular variety such as Pinot Noir? Well if charming or ethereal or even feminine fit with how you see Pinot Noir, then I guess not. Me? I’m going to take Geoff Kelly’s advice and spend more time in gardens. Not only will that please Miranda but I might just learn quite a bit about the smell of wine.

* Disclaimer: My wife Miranda has a long standing friendship with the wife of the winemaker for Russian Hill Estate winery, and we consider both personal friends. For me to review their wines may be perceived as a conflict of interest by some which is why I try not to mention the wines on my blogs. I make an exception in this case because the wine mentioned above was the wine that stimulated, in part, this post.

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How Much Can You Drink?

Date: Mon, Mar 24, 2008 Wine Tasting

There is considerable evidence that consumption of alcohol can have beneficial health effects, however as we have seen the recommended consumption differs between countries. Here in the USA it is two standard drinks for men with a standard drink being 13.7 grams of alcohol; this is often rounded out to 14. But not all wines have the same alcohol content, usually expressed as percent alcohol by volume (ABV). How much does alcohol content affect the volume of wine that I can drink to get my two standard drinks, or 28 grams of alcohol?

Calculating the volume of alcohol in milliliters (mls) in your wine is quite simple. If a wine is 12.5% ABV that means that 100 mls of wine contains 12.5 mls of alcohol. If its a 14% wine then it will contain 14 mls of alcohol/100mls of wine. However the volume and weight of alcohol are not equivalent; alcohol is less dense than water. So to get grams of alcohol you need to multiply the volume by the density of ethanol (0.789 grams/ml). So 100 ml of a 12.5% wine contains 9.86 grams and for a 14% wine it will be 11.05. The table below shows how much you can drink in standard drinks (5 ounces or 150 ml) or in volume (in mls) to reach that magic number of 28 grams of alcohol for wines between 12.5 to 16% alcohol by volume.

Alcohol by volume*Alcohol by Weight**Standard Drinks to reach 28 grmsVolume (mls) to reach 28 grms

12.5

9.86

2.8

420

13.0

10.26

2.7

405

13.5

10.65

2.6

390

14.0

11.05

2.5

374

14.5

11.44

2.4

360

15.0

11.84

2.35

352

15.5

12.23

2.3

345

16.0

12.62

2.2

330

*mls/100mls; **grams/100mls

But what if you want to exceed 28 grams? How much can you consume before your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the legal limit. There is absolutely no doubt that equivalent consumption of higher alcohol wines will increase your blood alcohol content but what are the limits with wines of different alcohol content? For these calculations I have used the BAC from Celtic Kane simply because it allows input of a number of variables including alcohol level of the wine, number of drinks, time elapsed during drinking,etc.

Warning: BAC calculators are an estimate only and no one should assume that they are absolutely correct as they do not consider all factors involved.

As a 750 ml bottle contains 25.4 fluid ounces let’s say that a half bottle is 12.7 and if we pour a 5 ounce glass (150 mls) then we would consume 2.54 glasses; these numbers are all for convenience, anyone can add their own numbers to work out their BAC under different situations. I’ll use my weight (170lbs), a metabolic rate of Frequent Drinker, and an elapsed time of 2.5 hours; roughly a glass an hour which is about the speed I drink while having dinner or watching an hour or two of TV or doing some reading.

If I’m drinking a 13% alcohol wine my BAC would be 0.019. For a 14.5 %er it would be 0.027, and if I’m sipping on a monster Zinfandel or a high octane Shiraz of 16% my BAC would be 0.035. The difference between the 13 and 14.5 % wines is not that large; for example the time to achieve complete sobriety differs by less than 30 minutes. As expected the 16% alcohol wine will raise my BAC more but I’m still not legally drunk and in less than 2 hours I should be completely sober; with the 13% wine I’ll be completely sober in just under an hour, and in less than 1.5 hours for the 14.5%er.

If I drink 4 glasses at 5 ounces a glass then the 16% will make me just legally impaired at a BAC of 0.084, while the 13 and 14.5 % wines will not. But we are talking about daily wine drinking that uses commonsense rather than consumption for its own sake.

Of course all this assumes that the wine level on the bottle label is even close to being correct. A wine labeled below 14% can have a 1.5% variation over or under, while a 14% wine can have a 1% variation. So a 13.9% wine could be a 15.4%er, and a 14.5% wine could be a 15.5% wine.

Considering my own experience I don’t suffer any ill effects from consumption of between 2-3 glasses of (dry) wine per day; I’m sure everyone’s mileage varies on this point. However I would not drink three 5 oz glasses of some of my favorite Australian fortified wines that can be 18% alcohol, even though my BAC would only be 0.063. The reason? As much as I love them, sometimes too much of a good thing does dull the appreciation.

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