La Rioja and Spains Rioja Wine

The Middle Ages had pilgrims who traveled on the Route of St. James or El Camino de Santiago experienced Rioja wines. The eighteenth century laid the foundation and expanded the Rioja wine industry. However, it was not until the nineteenth century the Rioja wine developed into the most recognized Spanish wine.

In 1782, Manuel Esteban Quintano from Labastida was ordained as a priest. As Quintano’s career grew, later Dean of the Cathedral of Burgos, so did his contribution to Rioja winemaking. Around 1785, Quintano traveled to France to study techniques of winemaking in Bordeaux. Returning home to Spain, Quintano brought back with him technical learning on the use of French oak barrels and grape destemming techniques1.

1795, Quintano had good success and was authorized to ship to the Spanish America. ‘Quintano made his first 10 barrels and over 1000 bottles.’ Challenges happened and resistance of change by local growers (Villa y Vecinos de La Bastida) forced Quintano to approach the Royal Council of Castile, in 1804.2

The 1860’s French wine industry was nearly devastated by the phylloxera bug threatening over 2.5 million hectors of grapes. The French botanist Jules-Émile Planchon and American entomologist Charles Riley made great discoveries on how to remedy losses caused by these little bugs.3

Since April 1991 Rioja wines are protected under Spain’s DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada); Spanish wine highest level of classification.4 The DOCa governs marketing and quality control of Rioja; further providing consumers with confidence within the consumer product. If you find Rioja appealing, you can always purchase a vineyard in the La Rioja region. http://www.christiesrealestate.com/eng/localguide/rioja-spain-wine-lovers-paradise

 

Sources

1 http://www.labastida-bastida.org/en/vino-historia.php

2 Rivera Blanco, Antonio (Historia de Alava)

3 Gale, George (Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine)

4 http://es.riojawine.com/es/5-conoce-el-rioja.html

Wine and Food

People react differently to smells, tastes, and sensitivities to smells and tastes of wines and foods. Six different tastes are present while eating various foods: sweet, umami (savory), acid, salt, bitter, and spicy heat.

WSET mentions sweetness in foods increase bitter, acid, and “burning” effect of alcohol and decrease body, sweet, fruit taste in wine. Pairing sweet foods with dry wine can rid fruit taste and increase acid taste. The rule of thumb is to select a sweeter wine than food.

Savory flavors in foods cause wine to taste bitter with acid and “alcohol burn” taste. Savory foods decrease a wines perception of body, sweet and fruitiness.

Salt in foods increase body of a wine and decrease bitter and acid taste of a wine.

Acid in foods increase body, sweet, and fruitiness and decrease acid in wine.

Bitter food taste increase bitter taste in wine.

Spicy heat in food increase bitter, acid, and “alcohol burn” taste in foods and decrease body, richness, and sweetness and fruitiness in foods.

WSET describes other factors to consider including “flavour intensity,” “acid and fat,” and “sweet and salty.”

Application

High risk foods include sugar, savory, bitter, and spicy heat.

Low risk foods include salty and acid tasting foods. Note, WSET mentions to match high acid foods with high acid wines to prevent loss of structure.

High and low risk wines

 

 

Evaluate, Select, and Recommend Wines

By looking, smelling, tasting, and drawing a conclusion about wines we drink we can better evaluate, select, and recommend wines. Discovering the balance, finish, intensity, complexity, and expressiveness of wines will help us enjoy a good bottle of wine. Below are definitions defined by WSET.

Balance: Good wines have a balance between acids and tannins and fruitiness and sweetness. Acids and tannins alone result in a hard tasting and unpleasant wine.

Finish: An enjoyable finish of flavors lingering within the mouth for several seconds.

Intensity: “Extreme intense flavors” can disrupt balance.

Complexity: Empresses many different flavors.

Expressiveness: Match by characteristics of grape variety and region of good wines.

Wine selection: Selection helps us pair wines with events and occasions. When selecting a good wine for an occasion it is good to know preferences and tastes of those drinking. As mentioned by WSET, wine should not be the center of attention, but appropriate quality for the occasion. A “premium-quality” wine is always a good idea for very special life events.

Enjoy.

Tasting Wine

I always take several actions when sipping on a nice glass of wine paired with a good meal. It is funny really and like that of a tennis player bouncing the ball before a serve or a baseball pitcher gripping the ball inside a glove before the pitch or a golfer strategically adjusting a stance before the drive off the tee-box. The WEST “systematic approach” to tasting wine has me looking, smelling, tasting, and drawing a conclusion about wines I drink.

Colors: We tend to see bight and bold colors and when we think of wine we usually think white and red. Wait; there are more colors on the color wheel of wine with ruby, purple, garnet, lemon, gold, and amber. Do not forget the rose colored wines with pink, salmon, and orange. Described as “brown and hazy”, newer wines are susceptible to faults if colors are brown and hazy. However, this may not be true for older wines. Red wines with brown, orange, and amber colors are an expression of age while purple is the color of more youthful wines. White wines with yellow-green (lemon) or yellow-orange are youthful in nature and orange and brown express age.

Smells: Smelling the wine or “nose” tells us the aromas within the wine. Ask, what does this varietal smell like? Challenge yourself to put a name to the various smells you smell. A healthy wine will have intense aromas while other aromas may be less understood. Reading about aromas on wine bottle labels may give you a hint. However, as WSET mentions, some wine writers use “chemical compounds” to describe smells and you may find this useless. Make sure you swirl your glass (draw small circles on the table with the stem of your wineglass) to increase the aroma of the wine.

Taste: “Palate” is the taste of the wine in your mouth on your tongue. The taste of sweetness, acidity, and tannin is possible with sweetness on the tip of your tongue, bitterness in the back, and acidity on the sides of your tongue. Allowing the wine to stay in your mouth for a couple of seconds, the “body” can be determined. Body is also known as “mouth feel” and a tasting sensation is created when sipping the wine with air through your lips.

Conclusion: Finally, the end of the tasting process is essentially a question of liking the wine or not. This is a simple process taking 1-2 minutes to determine if the wine is enjoyable to you or not. WSET suggests a good quality wine balances sweetness with fruitiness with tannins and acidity. So, let the tasting begin and now you have a nice systematic approach to use when tasting wines with friends and family.

Enjoy.

Germany Christmas

All is good in Germany when it comes to celebrating Christmas. We recently traveled to Munich and drove to several Christmas markets. Our favorite was Nuremberg. In Nurrmberg we stayed at the Saxx Hotel with our room overlooking Christmas market.

The picture below is of a gentleman cooking Feuerzangenbowle, a traditional German alcoholic drink with a rum-soaked sugarloaf set on fire and drips into mulled wine.

Cochem Germany

In Cochem, Germany in a small hotel on the Moselle river, we stayed in a hotel. We walked the riverbanks and took pictures of the castle at night (http://www.burg-cochem.de/lage-der-burg.html?&L=1). The contours of the neo-gothic building was more than about 330 ft above the river Moselle. Cochem Castle was built around the year 1000. Additional “must do” items include: The historical mustard mill (Senfmühle), built around 1810. For around 6 Eros, take the seselbahn to the Pinnerkreuz mountain and hike up to the cross on the top of the mountain. Also, wine cellars tour and tasting possible at: H.H. Hieronimi, Stadionstraße 2.

Cochem gets quite around 18:00 hours. However, make the most of the morning and big German breakfasts most hotels offer. It is a wonderful city and fun for the family.

Summer 2015

Summer is a great time to take a break from school and work to explore new areas. We did just that and had a great time. Driving over 3,500 kl (2,100 mi), we toured through The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.

Our first stop was Cochem, Germany where the Mosell River runs through and the Reichsburg Cochem Castle stands and Cochemer Sesselbahn (or Chairlift) to take us to the top of the mountain to see the entire city. At the top was a cross that lit up the skies at night and a spectacular view.

Den Haag

The Hague is an incredible city. We live just North is a city named Wassenaar (Coordinates: 52°9′N 4°24′E). As Wikipedia states, Wassenaar is, as it has been since the days of Prince Frederik, an official residence: King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, his wife, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, and their daughters live in the villa Eikenhorst at the estate De Horsten in Wassenaar; Princess Alexia was baptized at the Romanesque church in Wassenaar. The princesses attend the Bloemcampschool in Wassenaar, founded in 1931.

De Langstraat, the main shopping street in Wassenaar is a great place to find quick gifts and shop for household items.

In addition, several ambassadorial residences are located here, including those of Canada, South Korea, Indonesia, and Ireland. In general, there is a large expatriate community of diplomats and business people in Wassenaar, largely due to its proximity to both the international organizations and embassies in The Hague and to several international schools, including the American School of the Hague (ASH) and the British School in the Netherlands (BSN). The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) is also based in Wassenaar; each year, it provides research time, space and support for foreign and Dutch scholars.

As a community, Wassenaar benefits from several parks and a network of bicycle paths. Trees, mainly beech, oak, and horse chestnut, are widespread, giving the town a provincial characteristic. The town centre supports a number of high end shops, delicatessens and bakeries as well as a cafe, bar, and restaurant. Wassenaar boasts having the best ice cream parlor of the Netherlands, Luciano’s. Luciano’s is very popular and always has a long line full of people throughout spring, summer, and fall. Furthermore, there are Football, Field Hockey, Cricket, Rugby, and Tennis clubs located in Wassenaar for locals to participate in or to enthusiastically cheer on.