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Snooth User: bocron

Total neophyte here :D

Posted by bocron, Dec 27, 2013.

Just a quick hello. I am totally un-educated in the wine realm. As a matter of fact I never drank a glass until over age 40 and even then barely could finish it and would usually switch to a nice dark beer LOL.  

Anyway about 2 years ago my good friend's husband decided he was going to show me what I was missing and every time we went out to dinner together he would order me a glass of wine. Gradually he got me liking it and I have since started to learn on my own.  

Looking forward to reading and learning.





Reply by EMark, Dec 27, 2013.

That's a pretty good story, Bocron.  We're all "reading and learning" here, but I might suggest that you add "tasting" to your task list, also.    ;-)

So, what kinds of wines have you enjoyed?

Reply by bocron, Dec 27, 2013.

They got me started with a Grenache and a few mixed reds. I kind of get turned off if anything is at all acidic feeling which I finally learned may be what wine people term as "dry" but I could be wrong. It's completely possible that I just have a totally unsophisticated palette. I also enjoyed a Pinot Noir called Clark and Telephone (loved the name). As to whites, I liked Kim Crawford (don't recall what varietal), a Fume Blanc by Abbeyville and a few Chardonnays. My impression is that Chardonnays seem to be looked down upon as too common, but I have decided to start there and branch out. That's just my impression from the few wine specialty stores in my area, not anyone in particular. 

I'm a dog trainer/competitor by trade and look at the Chardonnays as the Golden Retrievers of the wine world. Overall, appealing to most, easy to work with and a good start that won't get you so frustrated you switch to cats (or back to beer) :D.


Reply by EMark, Dec 27, 2013.

Bocron, your story just gets more interesting.

Grenache is a great starter wine--not totally overwhelming, good fruit.  FYI, in Spain, Grenache is called "Garnacha."  So, if you are ever offered a Garnacha, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

If you will allow me, I'm afraid I'm going to try to correct your notion that dryness in a wine is related to acid. Dryness and acidity are two different and unrelated characteristics in wine.  

Dryness is the absent of (detectable) sugar in a wine.  In the fermentation process, the natural sugars in the grapes are converted to alcohol.  Any sugar left in the wine after the fermentation process is called "residual sugar"--often abbreviated as "RS."  Most people cannot detect any residual sugar level less than 0.5%.  So, effectively, a wine that has less than 0.5% RS is "dry."  Wines with just a percent or so of RS are often described as  "Semi Dry," and, of course wines with more sugar are described as "Sweet."

I would imagine that the Grenaches that you like are completely dry.

Acidity is a desirable characteristic in wine and is detectable in the mouth by "tartness."  Personally, I am always looking for acid in wine.  I think it gives it more character, and I think that it makes a better accompaniment with food.  (I also believe that wine is best enjoyed with food, but as I get older, I am less and less concerned about ideal food and wine pairings.  Drink the wine you like to drink with the food you like to eat.)  

You mentioned that you enjoyed a Kim Crawford white wine.  I'll bet a dollar that it was a Sauvignon Blanc.  Kim Crawford is a New Zealand winery and their Sauvignon Blanc is easily available in the U.S.  Now, I, very much, like Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, and the Kim Crawford is no exception.  To me all SBs from NZ always have a characteristic grapefruit flavor.  Well I am detecting that grapefruit flavor as tartness--acid.  

I was totally unfamiliar with "Clark & Telephone."  So, I did some quick research.  The Clark & Telephone vineyard is located in the Santa Maria Valley in the Central Coast area of California and appears to be planted to Pinot Noir, only.  It is owned by the Wagner Family of Wines, and wine made from Clark & Telephone fruit is produced under their Belle Glos brand.  I have never had one of these but it sounds like it is a well-regarded wine.

Nobody here looks down on Chardonnay.  We all have our favorites in terms of origin or style, but there is certainly no shame in enjoying it.  Regarding California Chardonnays, I find that I like ones from Napa Valley, although I have enjoyed wonderful examples from Sonoma Coast and, most recently from Santa Cruz Mountains.  And of course the gold standard in Chardonnay is Burgundy.

I'm a dog trainer/competitor by trade and look at the Chardonnays as the Golden Retrievers of the wine world.

That's a pretty good analogy.

It looks like you are off to a good start in your wine exploration, Bocron.  I hope you continue to join us here on the Snooth Forum and keep us up to date on your adventures.

Reply by bocron, Dec 27, 2013.


Thanks so much for the response. I will have to read it multiple times to fully absorb and understand  :). 

I am going to focus on one statement to start;  the gold standard in Chardonnay is Burgundy. To me Burgundy is a color, a reddish brown purple.  So does this mean a Chardonnay can be another color? Seriously I'm sure I sound ridiculous but I really don't know. 

Reply by bocron, Dec 27, 2013.

Oh and feel free to send me off on a reading bend. I am happy to go off and read and learn. Anything y'all recommend would be appreciated :). 

Reply by EMark, Dec 28, 2013.

Yeah, Bocron, I was getting a bit pompous there, not to mention hyperbolic.

In France, as is common in many European countries, wines are "defined" by their geography or region.  Burgundy is a very important wine region in France.  There are very strict rules that control what grapes can be used in the wines for any region in order for that wine to use the region name, or, more specifically, Appellation name.  (If you are interested, here is a Wikipedia link of French Appellations.)  Also, generally, a given region will produce both red and white wines (and roses), albeit, more than likely, from different lawfully-defined grapes.  The predominant red wine grape of Burgundy is Pinot Noir.  This is the example you have seen.  The predominant white wine grape of Burgundy is Chardonnay.  This is what I meant.  So, getting more specific, the Burgundy Chardonnays that I meant are coming from such appellations as Chablis, Chassagne-Montrachet, Pouilly-Fuisse or Puligny-Montrachet.

Now, again, my comment that Burgundy is the "gold standard" of Chardonnay-based wines was way over the top.  As a rule I like white Burgundies, but make no mistake, in addition to making great wines, they also make some pretty ordinary wines.  Rest assured, great wines are made from Chardonnay in California, Oregon, Australia and other places.  Most of us here are dedicated to finding those great ones wherever they come from.

As an aside, the white grape of the Champagne region is also Chardonnay.  The two red grapes of that region are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  So, if you are enjoying a French Champagne (I know that is a redundancy.) this New Year's Eve, the wine that you taste is made from a combination of those three grapes.

Reply by bocron, Dec 28, 2013.

EMARK, not pompous at all! Just beyond my current level of knowledge so completely useful for learning. The section about residual sugar is perfect. I am someone who likes to know the "why" behind something in order to make sense of it. I used to own a commercial bakery and ended up finding a local "food scientist" when we were having issues with a recipe. She came in and broke it down and explained how the sugar, dairy, glutens etc were reacting based on how we mixed each batch, it was an eye opener and still useful to me today.

As to the Burgundy question, I completely forgot that there was an area in France called Burgundy, doh! (I should remember that as I have a sister-in-law who lived there for a number of years sheesh)

I am heading to Total Wine one day this week so am putting a white Burgundy on my list.

Thanks again, this is getting fun!


Reply by GregT, Dec 29, 2013.

But as Emark said, there are good and mediocre white Burgundies. Moreover, there is a ranking system by which the "better" ones are supposed to be distinguished from the "lesser" ones. So those from a single vineyard are supposed to be better than those from blends of grapes from different vineyards, and even the single vineyards are ranked, with some supposedly much better than others. You can spend thousands of dollars for a bottle or you can go to the store and get a mass-produced bottle for $20 or $30.

Take all the above with a grain of salt - it's the way things are "supposed" to be done but it's been shown repeatedly that many experts can't tell one from another if they think they're drinking a label that's been faked. The trial that just concluded was about exactly that - Rudy had convinced all the world Burgundy "experts" that they were drinking something they weren't and none of them knew the difference.

If you don't pay attention to the label, eventually you will be able to tell a good wine from a bad wine and to be fair, many of those experts would have been able to do so if they hadn't been carried away by the fact that they thought they were drinking some old and rare Burgundies.

So in your case, don't think of "Chardonnay" as representing anything more than the grape it is. It is not at all like a Golden Retriever because it comes in many different styles and iterations. So one style may be compared to a Golden Retriever, but other styles may be compared to a Chihuahua, a St. Bernard, a Poodle, and so on.  You can't draw a conclusion that ALL Chardonnay is of a type. If you drink a lot of $12 Chardonnay from California, it's likely to be very similar one bottle to the next. That's because the producers are trying to make something with a little RS, a little vanilla flavoring from some oak chips, and a texture that's not too lean in the mouth. People like that and oceans of it are made.

But look further. Look for something that says it's "unoaked" and compare it to the Kendal Jackson Reserve that set the craze for Chardonnay in the 1970s. Very different. Look for something from Washington and something from the far west of the Sonoma Coast. That latter is going to set you back a few dollars, but it will be educational. Look for a Chablis from Burgundy or even better, a white Beaujolais - that will most likely be Chardonnay too. And good luck!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 31, 2013.

I think the analogy of Chardonnay to Golden Retrievers is good if you just look at them as popular, easy to access wines that (generally) don't overtax a beginner.  I say that as someone who used to work with dogs a fair bit, and cut his teeth with Goldens. 

GregT, thanks for updating about Rudy.  Somehow I missed the news flash.  Too busy reading the obit of Mary Giambelli, I guess.  (First great NY resto I ever went to--Giambelli 50th.) So who will Bill Koch have left to sue now? 

And, though the analogy to Goldens is good, I also agree that, for some of us, the different Chardonnay styles are almost like different breeds entirely.  If I am offered Chablis, I will probably say yes and, depending on the bottle, pretty eagerly.  If I am offered Chardonnay, I will probably say no.  Why?  Someone offering Chardonnay buys either a favorite of theirs (if so, they would perhaps say the name of the maker, like Pahlmeyer or Kistler) or they buy it because it's considered safe--and it says Chardonnay on the label.  Since French wines generally don't say the grape variety on the label, they didn't buy Chablis or Meursault, they bought US or Australia or maybe South Africa.  Odds are pretty good those are made in the oaky, buttery, some residual sugar style.  Which isn't what I like.  Funny thing is you can get Chardonnays from mutt prices of $12 (even less, sometimes) up to AKC pedigreed wines that I could never afford in almost all those styles.  So I base my choice on Chablis where the great majority of the wines are lean, super-dry, with a pretty high level of acid.

Which gets us to acid:  I bet it's not really just the actual acid levels that are a turn-off.  It's any wine that has become unbalanced, where the acid stands out too much, or the tannins are too astringent.  Sometimes both things happen, and there's not enough fruit in the world to balance that wine out.  But I'm betting that most of the whites you like have a fair bit of acid, just because, unless it's punishing like young Chenin Blanc or super-dry Riesling, it's what makes whites pretty enjoyable--but it presents in the context of apples, or quince or grapefruit and you hardly notice it.

BTW, Emark, I love grapefruit-y wines, but what I get from NZ SB is lots of grass and tropical fruits and often that cat-pee thing.  I've had malvasias and falanghinas with more grapefruit, and that's why I seek them out.  In fact, I'm going to suggest to Emark that his next adventure be inexpensive Italian white wine--although I don't see great examples at K&L right now, alas.

Reply by EMark, Dec 31, 2013.

OK, Bocron, check this out.  Here we are going to have a discussion between two people whose opinions seem to be opposed, but in the end, we will both agree with the other's viewpoint.

Gosh, Fox, I seem to get grapefruit more than anything else from NZ SBs.  In addition to tartness I also get some bitterness that I might attribute to the white in the rind.  (I really don't know what that white pulply part immediately beneath the yellow zest is called, but it adds a bitter component.)  I do also get the grassiness that you mention, but,. I'm sorry, we live with a cat, and I have never understood the cat-pee descriptor for NZ SBs at all.  Additionally, I don't get anything near the grapefruit hit in Italian whites--but I look forward to the research.  The one Falanghina I've ever tried seemed to have more mineral in it than fruit.  I do see that relatively recently I had an Arneis that I described has having a lemony tartness.  I also had a Vernaccia that I described as having some tartness and, also, minerality.  A Gavi that I described as having a citrus tartness (that's pretty close).  Overall, if I were to generalize my experience with Italian whites, I would characterize them mostly light-bodied, more towards the crisp and refreshing side than the fruity more mouth-filling side.  There are, of course variations of course.  To me, for example, Gavi is pretty mouth-filling compared to most other Italian whites.

I hope you get a kick out of this,  The absolute most grapefruity SB I think I've ever had was a bottle I bought last June at, are you ready, Mauritson.  Wow, I think it almost cancelled my Simvastatin dose, that evening, but I sure did like it.


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