Saturday, October 30, 2010

To Sauterne, Chateau D' Yqem and Beyond

Bordeaux Gold a mini-consortium of Sauterne producers are working to change the labelling of the sweet wines of the area, from the straight jacket "dessert wine" term used by the wine industry. They want the wines to reflect the reality of how they are matched with local food. In fact the Sauternais  have sweet wine with spicy foods, fish and roast meats as well as dessert.
In a formal French haute cuisine meal sweet wines are served along side traditional reds (ie first growth Bordeaux.)
Historically Champagne was sweet (6%) along with the great vintages of Montrachet as was Amarone (until the early 1960s).
Wines such as Barsac, Auslese and higher Qmp wines were also considered table wines with Sauternes until World War 2. This began to change when salesman and producers such as Alexis Lichine, Peter Alan Sichel, and Frederick Wildman began writing wine books stating that sugar hides off flavors that might make them tolerable in a sweet wine, but makes a dry version of the same wine undrinkable. This wound up becoming part of orthodox wine dogma.

I've been reading the fire storm of criticism of  Tim Hanni's most recent study with Dr Virginia Utermohlen, MD, Associate Professor at Cornell which indicates that people that are born with a genetic sensory sensitivity in their palate to bitterness  gravitate to sweet wines very easily. If people with this trait go on to "develop their palate" to more "complex" dryer wines then it is because of Psycho-social factors that train their minds to do it. The sensitivity to bitterness is still there when a "big" Cabernet or Barolo is sampled.

After taking the quiz at again it comes out a sweet taster. Earlier results have also  shown as  hyper sensitive depending on how  the questions were answered but the point is that I am on the other end of the spectrum from tolerant tasters.
All the criticism has been tinged with opinion and anger because they are taking the information and spinning it as some kind of scam which will result in some kind of "trailer park market place" being established with only plonk being available and the great wines of the world being a memory. What nonsense
I have these traits and do not want to restrict myself to only sweet wines because I want to experience the widest range of wines I can find and afford. At the same time I want to come back sometimes and drink an"alcho-pop"  and have it with dinner because I enjoy the taste. If my "maturing  palate "occurs and can find enjoyment in drinking a dryer quality wine because of some psycho-social process  in my mind, so what.
Others for what ever reason may not want or be able to. What is wrong with increasing quality sweet wines and have that as a stepping stone towards the higher end of the Pyramid (the sweet side of it). The answer to that is nothing because producers will not stop making quality tannic reds, there is a market and there always will be.

Addressing a neglected market segment can result in more quality wines of a sweet nature and additional potential profits for producers. Sauterne and Chateau D ' Yqem can be the sweet and Hyper Sensitive tasters "Holy Grail", just as First Growth Bordeaux reds are for Tolerant tasters. It would be really cool if an Ontario winery could see the opportunity to make value added niche market quality sweet wine. How about ice wine or late harvest as the main course wine for starters. Its okay for the Sauternais why not for Ontarians.
If you have doubts contact Tim Hanni and tell him you are from Missouri, he will show you.

To the firestorm

In this video Tim Hanni explains the psycholgical issues that can come into play when we choose a wine

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How sweet it is

I was in the mood to try something different so I decided to make a video of matching different wines with something a little more exotic. In this case some Kangaroo was purchased. It was spiced with peppercorns but no salt.
The results were a little but surprising. I didn't give a passing match to any of the wines tried, and found bitterness in every one. The Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling wine came the closest to a match. Using salt could have balanced the match but I just wanted to see how it would go straight up.
This has demonstrated to me that a sweet wine (white Zinfandel) could have worked since the Flat Rock Cellars was the sweetest of the ones used.
The video was shot with a flip cam and everthing was ad lib so don't expect a polished production. Remember that the failing marks are for the interaction of the wine with the food and not an indictment of the wines themselves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Further confirmation of the obvious

Another study by Dr Virginia Utermohlen, MD, Associate Professor at Cornell University and Master of Wine Tim Hanni confirms that people like sweet wines only because of physiological factors they possess.
We have been echoing that here too at Wine Dining so this is not surprising.
Click the title of this entry to read the article but please note the comment Tim put on at the bottom of the article. The results infer a different but equal status to sweet wine drinkers not better.