Wine & Cheese
    July 14th, 2009

By: John St. Mark

Wine and cheese. The combination is ubiquitous, so they must go together … right?

Wine and cheese do have a great deal in common. Both are fermented, complex, and very ancient foods. Just as wine can be made from different grape varieties, cheese can be made from the milk of different animals. Where the grapes are grown and how they are cultivated will affect the wine and similarly, where the animals live and what they eat will affect the cheese. In both cases, the methods and materials used by the producer will determine many features of the finished product.

When tasted together, each can influence our perceptions of the other significantly; for that reason, professionals in both industries normally do not like to see wine and cheese together in an analytic tasting. Their goal is to evaluate the wine or the cheese based on its own merits.

Tasting for enjoyment is another matter. If we have wine and cheese together, we want the interactions between them to be interesting and pleasant, so let’s consider some of the factors that influence those interactions. For now, let’s look at the following six attributes of wine:

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Wine Aromas and Flavors
    June 22nd, 2009

 

By: John St. Mark

Wine Aromas

Wine Flavors

The label mentions "blackberry, cassis, mocha and clove." … You take a sip … it tastes like wine …

Wine Aromas

 

You have a good bottle of cabernet sauvignon. The label mentions "blackberry, cassis, mocha and clove." Your pinot noir is said to be reminiscent of "strawberry, rose and autumn forest earth." The chardonnay: "pear and melon, with a hint of butter." That sauvignon blanc contains "essences of citrus, passion fruit, and wild herbs."

You open a bottle, pour a glass, enjoy the beautiful color and aroma, and take a sip. It smells and tastes like… wine. Are you missing something? Where are all those flavors and aromas supposed to come from?

The descriptions may seem fanciful, but they are (or should be) based on characteristics the wine actually possesses. An ability to identify component aromas and flavors in wine is largely acquired through practice; don’t worry if they are not immediately obvious to you. If you want to, you can learn to recognize them.

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Wine Tasting Basics
    June 7th, 2009

 

By: John St. Mark

What’s the right way to taste wine?

Here’s the first thing you should remember: If you’re enjoying it, then whatever you’re doing works. You’re doing it right.

Analytic tasting techniques (like swirling and sniffing) are helpful if your goal is to maximize the amount of objective information you obtain from the wine. Not everyone is interested in that sort of information, but if you like to talk meaningfully about your wine, or to compare it with wines you have tasted on other occasions, it can be very useful. Here are some of the basics:

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