Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Exploring Wine: Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

I don't know about you but I'm already in need of a little vino this morning...

Quatro Mani, Montepulciano D'Aruzzo, 2009, $9.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a glass.

Montepulciano D'Aruzzo hails from central Italy. This is the most popular [plentiful] grape in the region and it does well grown and harvested in large quantities. As with many American style wines, it is made with a single type grape (*there is a small percentage of mixing allowed for it to still be considered a single grape). It's easy to drink and rather affordable. You can imagine drinking this in a street cafe on a hot Roman afternoon in between a visit to the Villa Farnesina and the Colosseum.

To taste wine it is important to pay attention to first what you see, then what you smell, and lastly what you taste.
See: Hold the wine up to a white background to see the color. This looks like a deep, dark red cherry.

Smell: Do not swirl your glass. Swirling the glass exposes the wine to more oxygen and "opens it up". This might be necessary for a big robust wine but for something like this Montepulciano, it is not. (*Swirling will change the smell of the wine so since we are investigating, after you taste it, swirl then repeat the exercise to see if you can tell a difference.) Tilt the glass so the wine is almost at the edge. Then stick your nose in and take a deep breath. This one smelled like juicy summer cherries, very simple. Hmm, do you see a pattern here? Perhaps a preview of what it will taste like...

Taste: Light tannins, light to medium body, juicy, tart fruitiness like cherries or strawberries. To imagine the flavor of this wine, pretend it is a hot summer day and you are biting into a strawberry, peach or cherry. It is so perfectly ripe that the juice runs down your hand to your elbow. You don't mind as you bite into it again more quickly this time to try and catch some of the liquid. The tartness makes you smack your lips and it dries your mouth a bit. Then the sweet juices make your mouth water again in anticipation for the next bite.

I mention "light tannins" in the taste. What the heck are tannins anyways? They are released through the skin (mostly), seeds, and stems of the grapes. When you are tasting something that is tannic it makes your mouth dry and you want to smack your lips. The drier your mouth feels the more tannins are in the wine. Generally speaking, the skin, seeds, and stems are only added to red wines during their creation, also giving it the red color. This is why white wines don't have that same lip-smacking dryness.

Here are some fun little exercises you can try to help hone your wine drinking skills:

1. How to taste the tannins: While at the store purchase a deliciously ripe peach. When you get home, cut the skin off, then cut up the fruit. Eat the skin first. Note the texture and how it makes your mouth feel. In my experience you get (even if slightly) that same dryness just from the raw skin of the fruit that you do with the wine. What do you experience?

2. How to tell which fruit the wine smells like: Next time you are in the grocery store, go to the produce section. Then pick up a few different fruits and smell them. What does a strawberry smell like? A plum? What about a peach? Being able to recognize the scent of fruit will help you better dissect and describe what you are tasting and smelling in your next glass of wine.

I mention this because I struggled with taste when learning to drink wine. I knew that I liked something or thought it was good. However, I would read the description on the bottle or review and not quite connect what the words said and what my mouth tasted. It wasn't until I was at the farmer's market walking through prefectly fresh peaches this summer that my senses were awakened. So while it seems obvious to smell the fruit, I had not previously paid attention to each individual scent and I found this to be helpful. I hope you do too!

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