Last summer I returned home to Atlanta, glowing from an internship on a vineyard in Tuscany. It was a brilliant illustration for the lessons and books I scoured on enology throughout college. Within days I was tasting my way through the north Georgia wine country.
The result was fuzzy teeth, a sour stomach, and no plan to ever return!
That is, until a birthday celebration bribed me back to the area. And I was not only surprised by this round of tastings, but I was encouraged! Within a year, something had changed and I am looking for advice on what that "something" could be...
My first visit included a red flight, white flight, and a sweet flight from 3 vineyards. Vintages fluctuated. Varieties included Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, Touriga... Styles included barrel and non-barrel fermentations, sparkling wine, rosés, long-macerations, carbonic macerations... Most winemakers were not the owners. There was diversity, creativity, and a boat-load of people in every tasting room!
The wines had this in common: the area, vineyard age (plus or minus a year or two), and their taste. I wrongly assumed that the diversity present in the wineries would carry over to the glass! Each wine--no matter the estate, vintage, variety, filtration-- maintained to a large degree this wretched, dank, must on the nose and palate. I was never able to anchor it down as earthy, salty, sour, cheesy... It was not entirely volatile, but aeration did help.
Then, like I said, a year passed and so did this quality. One winery had changed their winemaker, but the others were still holding their post. Grapes are still at least 70-80% grown and used from the estate. And yet, the difference between my visits was remarkable.
Any advice for directing my research into this phenomenon?
- Reply by JonDerry, Aug 20, 2013.
Very interesting MQ...a lot of times there's a lot of external factors that go in to our appreciation of wine. How we're feeling on a given day, mood, expectations, etc. Then there's our tastes, or our palates.
It could be that in Tuscany you developed more of a taste for wines with more acidity and earthiness to where when you visited Georgia the next time, you found the wines a bit more agreeable. It's also possible that the current vintage you tasted the 2nd time around was a bit better.
Would also make sense that your expectations were very low the 2nd time around!
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 22, 2013.
It could be vintage variation, as simple as that, but it might also be your palate changing as well. In all honesty though it sounds like one of two things. Reduction if you were tasting out of barrel, and possibly out of bottle and/or a very assertive strain of yeast that imparted its character to all the wines. Without more info we'll never know but it is reassuring to hear that the wines are getting better!