Ask a Wino – February ’09
February 7, 2009 by Christine Go
With Christine Go
Do you speak “wine geek”? If you’ve been reading this column, you already do, at least a little. Now, I’m not talking about “wine snob” – some wine writers use that language to make wine seem mysterious and confusing. Remember Miles teaching Jack how to taste wine in Sideways? “…there’s just the faintest soupçon of asparagus…” That’s a classic example of “wine snob.” When I say “wine geek,” I’m referring to wine terms that actually mean something, (e.g. AVA, tannins, TCA, nose.) Wine has its own vocabulary, and it helps to know the lingo to learn more about the wine. The more you understand, the more you’ll enjoy what’s in your glass. So what crazy wine terms have you heard? Send them firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the economic downturn, I’ve been hearing people talk about QPR. What is that?
QPR is a wine geek acronym for quality-price ratio. Basically, it’s a ratio of how good the wine is to how
much it costs. How do you judge how good the wine is? Professional wine judges look at the length of a wine’s “finish” and its “balance.” A wine is considered balanced if the major components (acidity, tannins, alcohol) are evenly proportioned to each other, instead of one thing overwhelming the wine. When you swallow a wine, notice how long the wine seems to linger. That’s the finish, and good wines will have a long finish. Of course, QPR is entirely subjective. If the wine is well-balanced with a long finish, but you don’t like it, then who cares about the QPR? It all boils down to this: drink what you like. For example, if you find a wine you love, and you would pay $30 for a bottle, but it only costs $15, then that wine has a great QPR for you.
I hear WINO refer to the “mid-palate.” What is a mid-palate?
Here’s what I learned in my Sensory Evaluation class (thanks, Cyril!): when tasting a wine, mid-palate is the main phase of the wine’s interaction with your palate. Sip a wine, and the “attack” will give you your initial impressions. Next, as you swoosh the wine aroundin your mouth, hopefully you’ll discern other flavors – that’s the “mid-palate.” Basically, the mid-palate is your second impression of a wine, when you’ll observe its complex aromas and flavors, if it has any. Finally, swallow the wine and notice the “finish.” Repeat these three steps until your glass is empty.
What are “workhorse grapes?”
Webster defines a “workhorse” as hard-working, consistent, and dependable. Workhorse grapes are sturdy, hardy, disease-resistant, easily grown, and traditionally used for blending. For example, Marsanne is considered the white workhorse of the southern Rhone. You’ve probably seen bottles of wine made from other white Rhone grapes such as Viognier, and even Roussanne, but Marsanne is rarely bottled as a single varietal. Workhorse grapes can also refer to grapes that are widely planted and high-yielding. For example, Barolo (made from Nebbiolo) may be the king of Piedmont, but Dolcetto and Barbera produce the largest quantity of wine. Other workhorse grapes include Colombard and Ugni Blanc (known as Trebbiano in Italy), Carignan and Petit Sirah, even Merlot. I’ve read that “Cabernet Sauvignon is the workhorse of Napa Valley,” but I’m not sure I agree with that designation. Just because Napa produces some famous Cabs doesn’t mean Cab is a workhorse grape. What do you think?