Food science, said Emily Goodstein, was “the perfect marriage” between two things she really loves: food and science. “Few people know that food science exists, but it impacts everybody, every day.”
Goodstein currently works as a beverage product developer in Seattle where, she said, she makes “tasty stuff.” Before she started her career in the product development field, though, she earned a master’s degree in food science at Washington State University.
“I was teaching a sensory evaluation class which Emily was in, and she got interested in time intensity — how long a sensation lingers on the palate,” said Carolyn Ross, an associate professor of food science at WSU and a leading sensory analysis expert. Ross drew an analogy between the time intensity of wine with that of chewing gum: the longer you chew, the less flavor you perceive in the gum. Although much more complex, wine is similar in that its flavor changes and diminishes over the time it is in your mouth.
Time intensity studies are an integral part of a branch of food science called sensory analysis. Sensory analysis combines experimental design with statistical analysis to evaluate consumer products. Many large companies employ sensory analysts to help guide decisions about product development, merchandising, and marketing.
The time intensity question that interested Goodstein is one commonly referenced on bottles of Chardonnay with a phrase claiming, for instance, that the wine inside has a “long, oaky finish.” How, she and Ross wondered, could they unpack that phrase in order to test it scientifically and also to get an idea of what it means to consumers? In other words, how long is long and what are consumers willing to pay for wines with a long finish?
What they did was design a series of experiments that would involve panelists of human assessors tasting various types of wine. The experimenters trained a group of tasters to recognize certain flavors – fruity, floral, oak, mushroom – and then trained them to use a computer interface that would let the assessors record their perception of each wine they tasted.
“Anecdotally, we know that people say fruity and floral flavors finish early and that mushroom and oaky flavors finish later,” said Ross. “We wanted to test that in an empirical way.”
Goodstein and Ross used model wines to reduce the complexity of flavors that the tasters had to assess. A model wine starts with super pure water with ethanol added to bring it up to the alcohol level of wine, a few other compounds to mimic the acidity of wine, and the flavor compound researchers want to investigate. The oaky flavor of chardonnay, for instance, is from a naturally occurring compound called lactone, which is found in oak trees as well as many other plants.
“Regular wines are very complex, full of acids, sugars and a lot of flavor compounds” Goodstein said. “We simplify things in order to target a particular flavor in our testing.”
Goodstein and Ross were able to confirm the anecdotal assumption about white wine finish: fruity flavor does fade first, while mushroom and oak flavors lasted longer.
What surprised the researchers was that a separate panel of consumers who hadn’t been trained to differentiate between the four target flavors could also distinguish the difference in finish time. Ross and Goodstein equipped the consumer panelists with timers and asked them to mark the point at which they could no longer perceive the oak flavor. “Sometimes the sophistication of consumers’ palates is underestimated,” said Ross.
Goodstein added that, in terms of willingness to pay, tasters didn’t care for the oaky finish of what most winemakers would consider a mark of a high-end bottle. The oak finish of more expensive wines is due to barrel aging. Even though barrel aging is expensive, consumers in this study indicated a taste-based preference for wines that cost less.
“Chardonnays are being marketing with a clearer indication of oak levels,” Ross said, “which will help consumers choose their preferred style of wine.”
Goodstein concurred, adding, “If a winemaker is trying to produce a wine with a broad appeal, then barrel aging might not be the way to go, while a more sophisticated consumer might indeed go for that.”
Why You Should Attend
For a wine blogger in the Northwest, Taste Washington is a must-attend event. It’s like a Comic-Con for wine geeks.
If you’ve been to Taste Washington, you’ve seen our type. You’ve seen us pouring over the list of wineries, studious expressions on our faces. You’ve seen us sticking our noses in our glasses while our eyes flutter, swishing wine around in our mouths with furled brows, taking notes. You’ve seen us holding up the line in order to ask pointed questions of the winemakers, and wax eloquent about everything we know about wine in order to gain a modicum of approval from award-winning winemakers. You’ve seen us coalescing in small groups, comparing serious opinions, giving hot tips of must-try vino, and then disbanding just as quickly to return to the fray. You’ve seen us in the middle of the room, glued to our phones while we inundate the social media platforms with our opinions.
Well, this is the image some have of wine writers. But, here’s the truth of it. We wine writers aren’t much different than you. We just love the wine.
The eyes of wine writers I know still light up when the walk into the CenturyLink Field Event Center and see the more than 200 Washington wineries ready to pour their juice, just like kids walking through the gates at Disneyland. We love the flavor of wine, the texture of wine, the smell of wine, the look of wine, and even how wine makes us feel. We like our wine with food, we like our wine by itself. We like our wine after a long day, we like our wine in the company of friends, we like our wine on an afternoon of relaxation. We just like to talk about it, too.
Taste Washington provides the best opportunity of the year to try Washington wines. A lot of Washington wines. While this is a great opportunity for wine writers, it’s just as beneficial to you.
In a single afternoon (or two if you’ve got the time and stamina), you can sample wines from over 200 Washington wineries, as well as bites from scads of Washington eateries. You can ask questions. You can collect information. You can pick your favorites. What this does for you is the same as what it does for us: for the next twelve months, you’ll know what to look for in your local wine shop, or whom to order from, or what to recommend to friends. You’ll know which wines you want to enjoy with food, which wines you want on a lazy afternoon, which wines you want at the end of a long day, which wines you want to share. Taste Washington is a delicious afternoon of window shopping, without the windows.
Taste Washington isn’t just an event for wine geeks. It’s for everyone who loves wine and food. You can take a casual approach to the event, or you can take an aggressive strategy like those proposed by Clive Pursehouse at the Northwest Wine Anthem. You can take the exhibitors at face value, or you can look for secret, hidden gems via social media like Sean Sullivan proposes at the Washington Wine Report. Whatever your method, you will get to try a grip of wine and food, and walk away armed with information to approach your wine for the next year.
Don’t miss the opportunity.
Bringing wine front and center
In 1985, Kraft ran a television commercial featuring Annie and two other enthusiastic kids who called up Kraft Company on the phone to suggest that their Macaroni & Cheese dinner should be called Kraft Cheese & Macaroni instead, because it tastes the cheesiest. While Kraft has maintained the name of their cheesy dinner, these consumer-conscious kids might have been on to something. Just a slight tweak of a brand name would get what the product is most known for out to the forefront.
Fast-forward to 2012 in Seattle, Washington, where a rebranding could have been taken right out of little Annie’s coloring book. The event we’ve come to look forward to each year, the Seattle Food & Wine Experience, has undergone a subtle rebranding of its own; this year the event has begun to be called the Seattle Wine & Food Experience. It makes perfect sense, because while the savory vittles served up by masters of the craft at this event are invariably brow-raisers, they are enjoyed in the context of wine–lots and lots of wine.
On February 26, the New and Improved! Seattle Wine & Food Experience will arrive on the scene at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Well over one hundred wineries will pack into the exhibition hall to pour their juice for attendees. While we tend to seek out the Washington wineries at these shindigs (there will be over forty at SWFE!), this year’s event will have an educational focus on the Oregon wine region.
Oregon: It ain’t just Pinot anymore. Oh, don’t fret; you’ll get to try plenty of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from the state that has hung its hat on these blends. But, you’ll also get to taste Chardonnays, Rieslings, Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignons, Cab Francs, Müller-Thurgaus, Viogniers, Syrahs, and Malbecs. Not only will there be more than thirty Oregon wineries represented at SWFE, but the Oregon Wine Board will be in the house as an exhibitor to talk to you about the exciting world of Oregon wines. Like our own Washington Wine Commission, The Oregon Wine Board is tasked with the development of the wine industry in their state, and coordinating the marketing efforts of Oregon wineries. If you’ve got your eye on Oregon (if you don’t now, you will), here is your chance to get in the know.
Still not enough wine? Scads of wineries from California, Idaho and International wineries will round out the mind-boggling selection. Need more? How about a dozen brewers and fifteen distilleries? I caution you, you’ll have a mere five hours, five wonderful hours, to taste all you can.
Of course, there’s a delicious way to increase your longevity. Twenty chefs, twenty-five local fooderies and an array of specialty food purveyors will be sampling their nosh during the event. If you’re a foodie, you could easily attend the Seattle Wine and Food Experience just for the food. If you’re a wino like we are, you’ll appreciate the small bites as a complement to all the wine and other beverages you’ll be sampling throughout the afternoon. Wine and food go together like love and marriage.
Tickets for SWFE are just $49 in advance. The price of admission is all-inclusive and comes with a souvenir wine glass for you to keep. This is a steal considering I can spend that much in just a couple of hours at a local wine bar without even looking at the food menu, and even my favorite haunts don’t offer this kind of wine selection by the glass-pour. And, while I’m glad that my dollar goes to great local proprietors when I spend a typical night out, I’m particularly glad that the proceeds from ticket sales for the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, by partnering with the Giving Grapes Foundation, will be going to a charity called Big Table, whose mission is “to transform lives by creating community around shared meals for those in the restaurant and hospitality industry and offering practical and personal support to those who are struggling, falling through the cracks, or in transition.”
I can’t wait until this year’s Seattle Wine & Food Experience. Put it on your calendar, and get your tickets early. And as for Annie, who made her branding pitch to Kraft twenty-eight years ago, call us and we’ll tell you how it worked.
If you’re using tannin additions in your red winemaking process, you may well be wasting your money, according to recently published research by Washington State University enologist Jim Harbertson and Australian wine and grape researcher Mark Downey, a lead researcher at Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries.
Harbertson, Downey and their colleagues analyzed commercially available tannin additives and found them to be, at best, an unnecessary expense for red wines made from Washington-grown grapes.
Many winemaking manuals recommend adding tannins, though, in the belief that the additions help bolster mouth feel and improve color in red wine. A red wine’s mouth feel is the result of a range of chemicals causing astringency and is described with a variety of words ranging from “velvety” to “drying.”
“At the recommended dosage, these additives are, at most, giving a slight tweak to astringency,” Harbertson said. “In higher doses, you get some aroma shifting and a negative impact on sensory character. It made them earthy tasting, and turned the wine brown.”
Harbertson and Downey collaborated with renowned sensory scientist Hildegarde Heymann, professor of enology at UC Davis, and her Italian post-doctoral student, Giuseppina Parpinello, to conduct sensory analyses of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines made with tannin additions. “In a collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle, we added commercial tannin products to both barrel-aging Merlot and to Cabernet Sauvignon after pressing the grapes,” Harbertson said. “We used a range of concentrations and a variety of commercially available additives to get a sense of what is going on when these products are added to Washington wines.”
Harbertson explained that there is a crucial difference between taste (flavor, aroma) and astringency, or mouth feel. “Mouth feel is a tactile sensation,” he said. “It’s basically the removal of the lubricating proteins that naturally occur in the mouth. Aroma and flavor, in contrast, are receptor-based and are caused by our taste buds being stimulated by the flavor and aroma molecules in wine. Astringency is thought to be a result of chemical precipitation in which tannin molecules bind the lubricating proteins in the mouth, thus taking them out of action. That’s why some wines have a drying or ‘spikey’ mouth feel, as the overabundance of tannins rob the mouth of its lubricants.”
Not only did the additives have a limited or negative impact on wine quality, analysis of the products revealed them to be, at most, only 48 percent tannin. “On the low end, we found some products to contain as little as 12 percent tannin,” Harbertson said. The products contain fillers that enable the additives to go into solution more easily. Harbertson and Downey conducted the analysis of the tannin additives.
“The bottom line for Washington red winemakers is this,” Harbertson said. “We have plenty of naturally available tannins available in red grapes grown here. In an industry with tight margins and dealing with global competition, we are suggesting that the extra expense of adding tannins is simply unnecessary.”
Downey observed that “Tannins additives are one of the many tools available to winemakers in Australia and have been used extensively by some producers without a clear understanding of their impact. Some winemakers consider their addition essential, while for others it is more of an insurance policy, but neither approach is based on science. Given that tannin additions are an added cost, understanding their impact may result in cost-savings for producers. In the current economic climate, this is of considerable interest.”
Harbertson speculated that tannin additions might control some problems faced by white wine makers, such as protein haze or Botrytis. “But this idea has not been scientifically tested,” he pointed out.
Harbertson also mentioned that certain hybrid grape varieties, once grown in Europe for their resistance to diseases and pests, don’t produce much tannin on their own, so an additive is needed. However, most hybrids aren’t grown in Europe simply because they produce wine that is too acidic for most consumers. Several hybrid varieties are still grown on the east coast of the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada, where they are popular as constituents of the ice wines enjoyed in the region.
“This study shows us what happens when you add tannins at one end of the spectrum. What we need to do is look at the other end: adding tannins to wines from low-tannin regions or fruit grown in high volumes in a warm climate. Not all of these conditions are present in Washington or Victoria (or convenient to our research programs) so it makes sense to work together,” said Downey.
Downey said that his and Harbertson’s research programs “are complementary rather than competitive. The knowledge earned from scientific research doesn’t give you a competitive advantage. Rather, it’s how growers and winemakers use that knowledge that gives you the advantage. Working together actually achieves more for our respective industries. By collaborating and sharing the load, the Washington industry gets more research outcomes for the same research dollar invested and so do we.”
Indeed, Harbertson and Downey plan to continue their collaborative research. Among other things, they will be investigating the effects of aging red wines in oak barrels. Like so much of their work, both together and individually, the role of oak and oak’s contribution of tannins, in wine quality is assumed but not well understood. Indeed, this and other questions have led the scientists’ respective institutions to sign a formal agreement, allowing them to collaborate over the long term in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
Wahluke Slope's eldest reigning vineyard couples with youngster winemaker.
*Bottle #114: El Corazon 2010 Firsh Crush Cabernet Franc, Weinbau Vineyard, Wahluke Slope
*Price Tag: $28
*Running Tab: $1,435
*Retailer: The Winery, Walla Walla
A handful of folks might already know about how I find Spencer Sievers of El Corazon Winery in Walla Walla to be feverishly hunky, including my loving, live-in manfriend and a few of Sievers’ winemaking colleagues whom I also work with. I should blush, but I’m rather shameless and so is he – shirtless on his winery Web site, I do declare. He’s just asking for it!
With that disreputable proclamation out of my system, there is one more truth — the kid produces sound juice. He also does so with a seemingly short attention span. The man is in the midst of raising a family, running his own winery business and making wine for several other Walla Walla producers on the side. He’s captivating with his raw energy and enthusiasm for the loves in his life, both his crew at home and at the winery.
El Corazon Winery was started after Sievers knocked out his first harvest (for Reininger) and joined forces with his pal, Raoul Morfin, to bring a little flavor of their own to the emerging Walla Walla wine scene. Eighth grade Spanish learned me good to know the winery’s name translates into “the heart,” a blatant testament to the passion behind the wines that are handcrafted under this label.
When we started in 1986 and for many years afterwards we entered competitions as a way to get the winery noticed. If you come into our tasting room and peruse our scrapbook you will find information about medals we have won tucked away here and there.
Eventually we realized that none of the reviews (also tucked away in our scrapbook) or medals made any difference in our sales. This was primarily because we never won the super triple gold platinum award. This is because the un-oaked, fruit forward, and unfined style of wine we make does not fare well in competitions. We then stopped entering competitions as, on average, it costs $40 per wine to enter.
Why does the White Heron style not fare well in competitions?
A recent competition near here featured over 200 wines. I have myself worked as a judge in wine competitions. You are served a flight of comparable wines, say five Chardonnays. You rate these Chardonnays without food or atmosphere. You then move on to the next flight of Chardonnays. From each flight a wine is selected, assuming enough judges liked the wine. The wine selected is the wine that tastes the best compared to the other wines in the flight in that environment. The ‘winning’ wines from each flight are then returned to be tasted where eventually the ‘best’ wine of all is selected.
Blue Ice American Vodka and Blue Ice Organic Wheat Vodka
See, I had a problem. I have long believed that the world of drinkers fell into two distinct camps: Those who enjoy the flavors of distilled drinks, and those that drink vodka. Vodka, to my mind, was a drink that served as the alcoholic equivalent of tofu; while possessing limited properties of its own, it nevertheless served the purpose only of adding meatiness to the existing flavors of the other ingredients. Vodka and cranberry juice did not become a different drink; rather, it became an enhanced cranberry juice that made cute girls in cocktail dresses talk to me, just as tofu doesn’t change the flavor of curry, it just makes it more filling.
Leave it to an Idaho company to change my mind.
Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, Blue Ice Vodka is crafted in Rigby, Idaho, by master distiller Bill Scott, using Idaho Russet Burbank Potatoes. This potato base puts it in an exclusive company: less than 3% of vodkas in the world are made from potatoes. Mr. Scott carefully controls the removal of contaminates, and uses a five-stage filtration process to ensure clarity, while carefully maintaining the delicate flavors. This effort shone through into the pure flavor when we initially tried the vodka.
Its smooth, well-rounded and slightly sweet flavor spoke to all of us. When we added an ice cube, it filled out even more with flavor. It was easy to see why the Beverage Testing Institute called Blue Ice Vodka the “Best American Vodka” in 2003. It was easily the most full-flavored and interesting vodka I had ever had. And yet, I still struggled with how to write about it. Because I was prejudiced. I couldn’t get over that vodka wall.
I tried consulting others: Curtis and Doug called it smooth and well-rounded. Sarah called it sweet and warming. Leon commented that it was mellow, with a nice finish, and didn’t hang at the back of your throat. No less experts than award-winning craft bartenders Shane Sahr and Mike McSorley at Tini Bigs showed excitement at the prospect of working with it. And yet, even knowing that it is a wonderful, flexible, smooth vodka left me with no idea how to write about it, except to recommend it to vodka drinkers, and to anyone trying to understand the appeal of real potato vodka (think difference between Bacardi and real Jamaican rum). I started, deleted, started, erased, wrote, re-wrote, and was about to throw in the towel until something biblical, something amazing, something so mind-blowing occurred that I had to sit down and write about it.
Roll out the red carpet, the rockstars of Washington wine and celebrities of the pairing sphere were in attendance at Wine in the Pines at Swiftwater Cellars a few weekends back at Cle Elum’s Suncadia.
Wine in the Pines was stacked with a number of events through the weekend, offering a three-day food and wine festival dedicated to Northwest juice and bites. Completely poised to food and wine pairing, Saturday’s kickoff affair was buried in the winery’s cellar with 60 sets of eyes and ears in full devotion to Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein and TV host and original Thirsty Girl Leslie Sbrocco.
Son of celebrated author and Chef Joyce Goldstein, Evan Goldstein was spawn into the world of gastronomic culture and in 1987, he became the one of the youngest Americans and globally to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier examination. Since then, Goldstein has been creating wine education programs, launching hospitality schools and writing books like they are going out of fashion, including Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food, which brought him to Wine in the Pines.
Leslie Sbrocco, Thirsty Girl extraordinaire and Today Show wine contributor, is also an award-winning author, national speaker and wine consultant within the culinary industry. Sbrocco’s first book, Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine, helped to put her on the map with at-home female cooks striving for the real meal deal. Sbrocco can currently be found on her PBS show, Check Please!, and regularly has guest appearances on NBC and with her friend, Oprah.
So you’ve come back. Do you really think you can just come traipsing back into my life again after leaving for an entire summer? You want me to just pick you up again as if everything was fine? Am I really supposed to just take you back?
Sorry Honey. I’ve moved on. I’ve met so many fantastic white wines after you left that I barely even remembered you. I met a Torrontes from Argentina. That’s right. We saw Shakespeare in the Park together. Did you know I spent some time on the beach with a Sauvignon Blanc from California? Yup. That was in June and I’ve had that same wine three times since then. Uh huh. Unlike you, it’s crisp and it’s bright and it refreshes me like you never did.
Did you hear I met a Viognier for the first time this July? Well I did. I even brought it to my family picnic. Guess what? They loved it. I might even take it over and introduce it to the guys on game night. So don’t even try to weasel back in like you and me got it goin’ on.
Did you know I had to put the big red wine glasses away after you left? I should have known you wouldn’t be around once the weather got nice. I was so stupid! And I have no doubt that you’re probably showing up in other people’s glasses right now too. No! We’re done! Things are different now. We. Are. Done.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish you well. I mean, you always did go well with steak. Do you still go well with steak? I bet you do. Remember that night at the cabin? The night of two bottles? You were amazing. You’re always amazing on a cold night. We were good together, weren’t we? It would be fun to do something like that again. We have so much history together. It would be a shame to just turn our backs on so much history. Okay, maybe I’ll have just one glass. For old time’s sake — but I’m not taking you back.
This week’s recommendation:
Guglielmo Private Reserve, Petite Sirah 2007 ($24.99): With flavors of smoke, chocolate, and leather, Guglielmo tastes like something we love to reminisce about but are careful not to talk about. This wine is big and meaty and buxom and delicious and a great way to welcome back the big red wine season. Grab a bottle and create some history.
To read more of Kris Barber’s insights on wine, visit his blog at www.winerogue.wordpress.com.
We will serve no wine before its time…that said, I’m also the same guy who would serve no high calorie snacks during the football game, and that didn’t pan out so well.
We will serve no wine before its time…but then again, we’re all drunk and I didn’t expect the beer to go this fast.
We will serve no wine before its time…and while I’m at it, I will serve no sushi again at the all day, fun-in-the-sun company picnic.
We will serve no wine before its time…oh, and coffee enemas are out too.
We will serve no wine before its time…unless you’re on death row and it’s your last request. We might consider it then.
We will serve no wine before its time…but if you do happen to get some before its time, discontinue use if rash or irritation occurs.