Tasting Taittinger

Taittinger is a rare beast for a Champagne house, it is owned and managed by the family whose name is on the label. Founded in 1734 they are one of the oldest houses in the business; and biggest with production of over six million bottles a year. The house is owned and managed by Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his two children. I have never been drawn to the big houses (except to Bollinger), but as I learn more about their history and wine making, I always have a bit more of an emotional connection to them. About a week ago, we took part in a small Taittinger tasting, and chatted with a representative of the house.  Continue reading “Tasting Taittinger”

Wineweek 75: Exploring Gamla Stan

This week, things have been moving forwards. We have finally contracted with our new warehouse, ordered all of our summer wines, and organized transport. In a week, the new warehouse in Copenhagen should be bulging with wonderful wine. I can’t wait! What is a bit special about these orders is, that we have started taking in much more small batches. The aim has been not only to increase the selection, but also have some more high end stuff to sell via the monopoly. The papers for selling at the monopoly are still lying on the table, but the intention of sending them in is (ahem) high. Continue reading “Wineweek 75: Exploring Gamla Stan”

Wineweek 73: The First Signs of Spring

There is light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel being the long winter in the Nordic countries. Temperatures have risen close to +10 C, and we have had several days with clear blue skies. The best time of the year is approaching: Summer. Spring and summer mean an increased consumption of rose and crispy white wines. That is why this Saturday we arranges a rose tasting for some of our friends.  Continue reading “Wineweek 73: The First Signs of Spring”

Nebbiolo Night

This week, we had our first tasting for our new producer to-be, Mamete Prevostini. They are a small family producer from northern Italy, making 100% Nebbiolo wines. We have already decided to add them to our selection, but we held an extra tasting to get some confirmation for our thoughts regarding the mix. We were not disappointed as our brave tasters gave us great feedback for making our decision. The wines will now be ordered (as soon as our new warehouse deal is signed), and they will be available (hopefully) for purchase in the end of April.  Continue reading “Nebbiolo Night”

The Spring Tasting Schedule

The long awaited spring comes always as a surprise to me. Our wine business builds towards the highlight of Christmas, and then we always extend our holiday from the business way too long. I know its still winter outside, but the rose season is soon upon us. At least from the point of view of a wine merchant. Continue reading “The Spring Tasting Schedule”

For the Love of Port

Oh joy! We have just received notification that our Vieira de Sousa ports are on their way to Sweden. A journey that started almost a year ago is coming to a close.

We have had plans for including port wine to our selection for some time now. December 2014 we received a tip from a friend in Denmark about a young port producer, Luisa Borges, in Douro valley, who makes exceptional wines. Now at that time, I did not know very much about Port. Continue reading “For the Love of Port”

Aroma & Bouquet

Recently I have been listening to some rather heavy wine-talk. As I am still more of a hobbyist than a professional, I sometimes fall of the wagon during discussions. One specific area of confusion has been around primary and secondary aromas as well as aroma versus bouquet. When do you use these and how do you distinguish between them? So I decided to take a few hours to research the subject. The next time someone starts describing a wine with big words, I will be ready for it.

The first thing I noticed was that there is a pretty clear system behind it. So all those “snobby” descriptions of a wine were perhaps not so complicated after all. It was just a language that I did not (do not yet) master. So if you have been cursing that “pretentious” friend or colleague supposedly showing off with their wine knowledge, read on. Perhaps they were just doing their best to share their experience. If you are a true professional, have some patience with me. I am still young and learning.

Llagrima d'Or: primary aroma fresh lemon, secondary aromas peach and apricot; a hint of brioche in the bouquet (or something like that)
Llagrima d’Or: primary aroma fresh lemon, secondary aromas peach and apricot; a hint of brioche in the bouquet (or something like that)

Aromas can be divided into three groups: primary (varietal) aromas, secondary (vinous) aromas and tertiary aromas. The first group, primary aromas, refers to aromas native to the grape. These are often fruity aromas most apparent in young wines. Secondary aromas are those arising from fermentation (aromas produced by yeast) and from aging in oak barrels. This is where most of the aromas in wine are said to come from, this supports my confidence in a good process. Tertiary aromas refer to aromas developed during aging in bottles. I have noticed that different wine guides and experts categorize aging in oak barrels into either secondary or tertiary aromas. To me, oak aging, when used to mature the wine rather than add a touch of flavor, fits better in as a tertiary aroma. However it is, it is not for me to make a definition here, this distinction really takes form in the next paragraph.

And now to the topic of the day, what is the difference between an aroma and a bouquet? Generally wine guides define bouquet as the tertiary aromas in wine, derived from the process of chemical reactions in the wine during aging. Aromas on the other hand are those arising from varietal characteristics; Some created in the raw grape (and surviving the winemaking process) and others enticed out during the fermerntation process.

So how to tell the difference when tasting wine? Practice! It depends on the grape variety and type of fermentation on whether, for example blackcurrant, is classified as a primary or secondary aroma. However one can make some general assumptions (at least an amateur like me can) like red berries and citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit etc) often being primary aromas; honey, yellow fruits (melon, apricot, pear and yellow apple) as well as wine lees being secondary aromas. Tertiary aromas (bouquet) are heavier and can have musky or smoky characteristics, like baked fruits (prune), roasted nuts, caramel, coffee, leather ad chocolate. Not exactly easy peasy, but there is a logic that I can relate to.

That was it for my aroma studies for now. The only way to really improve my nose is to practice. An aroma set, like Le Nez du Vin is a good way to get into speed. I will continue to find it completely fine to just describe a wine as good or bad, no need for more specifics. However, after making this effort, I will most likely find those detailed discussions on wine at least slightly more interesting than before. Have a great week you all!

xx Soile

Cavatast Info: Prices, Exhibitors and More..

Cavatast is approaching and I am getting very excited. Not only is there an abundance of good cava to sample, but it is a relaxed event with potential for warm weather and delicious Catalonian snacks. Cavatast is for everyone, not only professionals; and this makes it even more inviting (professional events can occasionally be a bit stiff).

Every year I, however, run into the same problem: there is very little information about the event available in English. I mainly have the same questions every year: what are the exact dates, who will be there and what does everything cost? As we are talking about Spain, things can also change without much notice. So I always hold a healthy skepticism to all of the information out there, and remain flexible if case it is needed. After doing some research online, I have been able to find what I was looking for, so I thought I would share it here with you to save you from the trouble.

Is Cavatast for everyone?
Yes it is! It is like a town party with a mix of wine-tourists and professionals here and there. People bring their whole family, children included, to the event and enjoy the festivities, lectures and of course the excellent cava.

Who will be represented at Cavatast?
In the below picture you can see the participants for this years Cavatast. Our friends from Cellers Carol Valles and Rimarts Cava are also joining, so make sure you stop by their stands for a taste. We recommend also trying out Vilarnau, Pere Ventura and Naveran who are excellent in their price class.

The producers represented at Cavatast Photo: Turisme de Sant Sadurni d'Anoia
The producers represented at Cavatast Photo: Turisme de Sant Sadurni d’Anoia

What are the prices?
At Cavatast you buy tasting coupons always four at a time. Depending on the cava, a glass costs you from 1 to 4 coupons. For 2015, four coupons plus a tasting glass (that you can keep) costs 6,5€. Further coupons cost 5€ for four. For food: pinxtos, charcuterie and other snacks sold in food trucks, there is a similar ticket system. Four food tickets cost 6€ and get you various snacks throughout the day.

How to prepare?
The most important question of all, what else should one take into account before going to cavatast? Three simple steps will save your day:

Step 1. Bring a bottle of water, or two. You should hydrate yourself in between the cavas, otherwise the festivities will come to an end earlier than needed.

Step 2. Bring some wet wipes and napkins. It is inevitable that you need to use the toilets at the event. During the day, paper runs out and the cleanliness of the restrooms deteriorates. You will be fine if you just bring your own paper and own means of cleaning up.

Step 3. Take a backpack: The cavatast shop is like a gold-mine. You can buy all of your favorite cavas for very reasonable prices, so you want to be prepared to carry some bottles home.

So now all that is left is to enjoy the festivities. Hope to see you there cavalovers!

Wineweek 43: Fall Tasting

I must say I am a bit torn about Sundays. It’s usually the calmest day of the week with ample time to just slack off, write and eat nice food. However, I also feel the looming stress of Monday in my bones. It is not like I don’t like Mondays, I do, but the calendar is often very full resulting in Sunday being the only day of the week I can really do something creative. Then again, it is the only day to really rest. What a dilemma. Writing this blog is thankfully a combination of both.

Yesterday we had our fall tasting. The doors to our (rented) tasting room were open for anyone interested in sampling our selection. Last time we held a similar event, it was crazy. We had so many people that we did not really have any time to chat with anyone, we were just serving. Yesterday was much calmer and much more pleasant. We sampled five cavas, four reds and a white from our current selection, as well as wines from Almeida Garret (Portugal), a potential new producer for our range. We had also, as per plan, prepared proper materials to keep people on top of what they were tasting. I must say the planning and the materials paid off. I am now considering if we should have custom made Winecurious tasting books printed for handing out at our events. I wonder what they would cost..

Some birthday champagne before dinner at Woodstockholm
Some birthday champagne before dinner at Woodstockholm
It was my birthday this week
It was my birthday this week
Llagrima d'Or cooling down at tasting
Llagrima d’Or cooling down at tasting
Our tasting reds clearly numbered for easy recognition
Our tasting reds clearly numbered for easy recognition

Other interesting wine news from this week: it was my birthday and we visited Woodstockholm, a furniture store/ restaurant in Södermalm. They had both an interesting menu as well as a good wine list. We had some Dhont-Grellet Champagne, a nice field blend white from Austria, and a Bourgogne red from a Japanese grower, Koji Nakada. Very interesting wines and stories, not to mention that the food was awesome.

The tartar!
The tartar!
Bourgogne red by Japanese Koji Nakada
Bourgogne red by Japanese Koji Nakada

The coming week will be tough. We will both be travelling, myself to Edinburgh and M to Antwerp. I will be meeting up with a fellow wine geek from Austria so I am expecting some exploration of the Edinburgh wine-scene (the Scots are more into whisky though). Friday we will be going (again) to Punk Royale (review here) and over the weekend we will have some friends visiting from Finland. Sunday, we will be closing our September order window and organizing transport for our customers in Stockholm. I should also be contacting some of our friends in Sant Sadurni to let them know we are coming to Cavatast. Phooh! That was it for the relaxing Sunday, looking at the agenda I better get back to work. Have a great week you all!

Tasting Notes

I am looking outside of the window and it is gray and rainy. As sure as the month changed to September, fall arrived to Sweden. So time turn our thoughts to positive things, like our upcoming September tasting. In the past few days we have put a lot of thought behind how to organize and structure the event. Our ‘Open House’ tastings are events where anyone can come by during the day (set times) and have a swing at our wines before making a purchase decision. People come and go at different times resulting, of course, in a rush at certain times and an empty bar at others. We do not regulate how many wines one can taste or in which order. However it is good to advise the guests with some structure.

Information is power
Information is power

New ideas have popped up, last time’s “mistakes” have been mulled over and our plan is that ‘this time’ all will be nice and “zen”. Well, at least a bit more organized than last time. There was nothing wrong with the event per se. We didn’t run out of wine and everyone had fun, but we were slightly under staffed and people could not in general remember which wines they liked best. They had tasted perhaps too many (hmm we had 17 wines to choose from) or we had offered them a poor set pf notes. We came to the conclusion that it was the latter. So, this time around we have planned a better set of instructions, information and note taking possibilities to offer our tasters a smoother experience. Here are a few of our suggestions for our guests and I think these work as a good guide for tastings in general:

  1. Normally I would not recommend trying more than 4 to 6 different wines during one event. If you are not used to the acidity of wine (especially when talking abut sparkling), the tongue gets easily a bit numb after a while. Trying to asses the wine after that is hard, at least for an amateur like me (my God, how did I ever think I could taste 60 champagnes in one day at Terres & Vins last April?). So the solution is that we will suggest some tasting flights for our guests focusing either on cava or our red wines. Everyone can of course choose for themselves and a cava flight can naturally be followed by a red wine flight, but I think many will appreciate a ready “agenda”.
  2. We will be numbering the wines. People will not have too much time (or patience) to actually write down the whole name or description of the bottle, so it is perhaps easier if we hang a number on the neck of each of our beauties. We can then hand out some small sheets of paper for writing down notes or our guests can just scribble the number of the wine they like the best on their hand. Whatever works best for remembering the favorites.
  3.  When it comes to writing down tasting notes, everyone should do what feels comfortable for them. We do not like to suggest what aromas one should find in the wines, rather it is good if everyone makes their own assessment. Tastes are so different. However as a bit of an amateur, I know it’s not so easy to recognize the different notes in the wine if you don’t have experience. So what I like to do is to think about what kind of event, environment or memory does the wine bring to mind? Where do I travel in my thoughts when I am tasting the wine; a beach in the Mediterranean, a murky bar in Paris or perhaps my old home in rainy London (we had so many nice wines there)? Perhaps I will not be talking like a pro, but people will be interested in my story around the wine. We will also offer some general options in our tasting sheets, so people have a list of aromas to choose from (here is a good guide from Jancis Robinsson to use in your home tastings). I hope that will not silence the imagination.

With these thoughts, we will start the preparation of our tasting materials. If you are interested in joining our tasting on the 12th of September, drop a note to info@thewinecurious.com, and we will send you the address.