Another week, another class! This time we went back to the drawing board, to expand on the finer details and cover the lesser-known bits of the basics, beyond fermentation, balance and complexity, and typical flavor profiles. For instance, did you know that many of the wines that you've drunk have gone through Malolactic conversion? You may associate this term with white wines, such as Chardonnay and Viognier, and the distinct buttery flavor and creamy texture it imparts on the wine. What's less known about MLF (as this conversion is usually referred to), is that nearly all reds will undergo this process, so it isn't considered a distinctive or differentiating quality. To showcase the effects of MLF, we tasted Talbott Chardonnay from Monterey, California.
We also covered "lees". Lees are, in simple terms, the dead yeast cells post-fermentation, when they've essentially eaten themselves. This may sound odd, but for some wines, keeping these little critters can enhance the texture, and add complexity to the flavor. Muscadet, legendary friend of oysters, is a great example of a wine aged on the lees, and very often the words "sur lie" will be printed on the label. Albariño and Champagne often get cozy with their defunct friends as well, except it isn't explicit on the packaging. We did in fact taste a wonderful Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie to identify those delicious bready, brioche flavors, as well as the incredible texture that results from this, and we learned that every time we heard the words "autolytic character" this is what was being talked about.
These are just two of the topics we covered in addition to oak (French vs. American, toast levels, size of the barrel), extraction, terroir, variety vs. varietal (yup, there is a difference!), decanting (when and how to do it), clones, crossings, hybrids, and mutations (Pinot Noir, Gris, and Blanc are the same grape with varying degrees of pigment). We even discussed how to interact with your sommelier at the restaurant to get your wine in perfect drinking condition! To wrap up the evening and, well, enjoy ourselves a bit, we chose a fantastic example of a crossing: Austrian Zweigelt. Delicate flavors of red currants, raspberries, violets, lavender, and earth were just the perfect kiss to send us off.
For more information on our classes, as well as our schedule, visit www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com