All posts filed under: SOMM Journal

Alentejo’s Dark Horse, Alicante Bouschet

As grape varieties go, it’s fair to say that Alicante Bouschet (Ahlee-KANT Boo-SHAY) is flashy in the vineyard. It’s one of the few—along with Chile’s Carménère and Campania’s Piedirosso— whose leaves turn a deep, brilliant shade as the growing cycle winds down.

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Falling hard for Petrichor

INTERPRETING OUR ATTRACTION TO THE SMELL OF WET ROCKS

The Multitasking Tongue

Although we understand the physiology of the olfactory epithelium, the organ where volatile aroma compounds are converted in to the electrochemical signals that we perceive as aromas, smell or olfaction is still largely a mystery. For example, we have 400 types of olfactory receptors but we don’t know which volatile aroma compounds activate the majority of them.

Orchestrating the microbiome of a whiskey

Ask Jack Daniel’s enthusiasts what they like most about their preferred whiskey and the term “consistency” comes up time and time again. According to Kevin Smith, a microbiologist who serves as the Distillery Manager of Reliability & Technical Services for the brand, “The character and consistency of our spirits are the result of several different factors, and that is what defines our terroir.” The concept of terroir expression in distilled spirits didn’t gain prominence until fairly recently, a shift driven both by research and best practices that determine desired flavors and character. While grain sourcing is proving to be a factor of this expression for single malts, the use of multiple grains – as seen in the Jack Daniel’s grain bill of 80% corn, 12% barley , and 8% rye – makes the influence of any one component more difficult to detect. “At Jack Daniel’s, we find that sourcing the highest-quality grains is far more important than the location in which the grains are grown,” Smith says. A grain bill is destined for conversion and …

Snapshot of New Mexico

The recuperation of New Mexico’s wine industry began in earnest when Italian, German, and French viticulturists brought their expertise to the state in the 1980s. Winegrowing in New Mexico continues to be influenced by these modern-day founding fathers, their families and a host of young winegrowers who are quickly elevating the quality and style of the region’s wines.

New Mexico winery makes some noise

Young winemakers in New Mexico are leveraging the wisdom of the region’s winegrowing founding fathers and creating some buzz for the state’s expanding industry. One of whom is Ruidoso native Jasper Riddle whose Noisy Water Wine Co. sources fruit from no less than eight different vineyards and often more from sites focused in the northern regions of the state.  “We champion the fruit of local growers,” he said and in doing so he’s found a ready local market for his wines. Riddle is a fifth-generation farmer and winemaker who bought Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso in 2010. He credits his Italian heritage and early exposure to wine culture by his sommelier father for helping him dial in his passion for wine. “2018 was good for us with new vineyards coming online. However, we did see a late freeze after bud break in the Las Cruces area and that reduced yields there by 70 percent at some sites.”  Riddle who finished his tenth harvest in 2018 said he crushed about 200 tons of fruit in 2018.  A …

Thickheaded Somms: Examining the neuroscience behind expert wine tasting

Among our many activities, wine professionals devote a considerable amount of time to perception, the state of being where we become aware of something through the senses.

Fifty Years of Secco Bertani Amarone

When winemaker Andrea Lonardi took the stage at September’s Full Circle Beverage Conference in San Francisco to present a tasting of Bertani Amarone Classico, he had what amounted to a Sommelier Justice League by his side: Master Sommeliers Brian Cronin, Tim Gaiser and Peter Granoff, all of whom provided perspective and humor as they tasted through 50 years of Bertani winemaking prowess. Born and raised in a vine-growing Veronese family, Lonardi began his tenure at Bertani in 2012. Although he didn’t personally make any of the wines that were tasted during the masterclass — the 2008 Amarone was bottled in 2016 — the pride he showed while presenting them was rather paternal. “The wines we are making today will be presented by another winemaker 50 years from now,” he told attendees. The Birth of Bertani Amarone Being both modern and ancient, Amarone is a paradoxical style; its rising popularity and commercialization in the 1950s gave the Valpolicella region a wine of true cult status; one that holds its own next to ageworthy Barolos and Brunellos. …

The breath of life

It was an oxygen epiphany. Could oxygen be the key to making wines that shimmer with life? I, for one, have now added it to the long list of factors that may determine whether a wine seems dead or alive.

A tranquil moment with Didier Depond

In a rare tête-a-tête, The SOMM Journal joined Didier Depond, President of the Champagne houses Salon and Delamotte, for an effervescent lunch featuring their current releases at San Francisco’s Piperade. We began with the superbly chalky 2008 Delamotte, which hails from just six Grand Cru villages. The 100 percent Blanc de Blanc brims with texture and ripe golden apple notes, and after observing the intensity of fruit on the mid-palate, I queried Depond on the risk climate change poses to the houses’ iconic style. He was quite circumspect in his response: “The culture of the vineyards in Champagne relies on balance, and we will balance them with this shift.” Despite more extreme weather events like the freak hailstorms earlier this year, warming temperatures in this marginal growing region may in fact work to the advantage of Champagne producers. Addressing the elephant in the room, we discussed the hotly debated expansion of the Champagne AOP area by an additional 5 percent. “Historically, these approved areas were under vine,” Depond said. “And, despite what you’ve read, there …