Faves from the Grand Tasting Food & Wine ’14

With approximately 225 exhibitors, the Grand Tasting Tent at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic is a mecca of all things culinary, a place where in the span of 60 minutes you can not only taste over 50 wines (this is an educated guess…not drawn from experience), but also sip rum that has been aged seven fathoms beneath the sea, down a raw oyster with a cucumber mignonette, indulge in jamón bellota, and chat with a few of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs.  It’s not for everyone, especially if you are not a fan of crowds (the boys bailed after the first 15 minutes), but if you have nary a qualm about elbowing your way to the front of the Jordan Vineyard and Winery line, then grab a tasting glass and head on over.
Tasting glasses in the colorful Spain tent
A lovely array of Spanish cheeses and nuts
5J 100% Jamón Bellota…wouldn’t this make a fun dinner party idea?
I always love checking out what is going on in the Patrón booth

The Patrón mojitos are especially refreshing

This poor chap had to work for his margarita
The Patrón pops are dreamy…my fave being the Coconut Latte
But it was a difficult choice, as you can see
Seven Fathoms Rum from the Cayman Islands is aged seven fathoms under water
Chef Eli Culp of Philadelphia’s Fork restaurant, voted one of the best new chefs by Food & Wine Magazine this year
OMG…is that Geoffrey Zakarian (of Chopped fame) serving martinis?
A closer look of these cute little guys made with Hendrick’s gin
Biggest Loser Chef, Devin Alexander, and her Little Dev (Burger)
Hasta el próximo año!

Marnie Old – Wine By Numbers: Alcohol, Vintage and Price

Philadelphia Sommelier Marnie Old is a very
entertaining and gifted wine educator.  I write down so much
in her classes that I fill several pages in my notebook.  If I can just learn a little at a time (and retain that info!), hopefully it will
all add up to a pretty comprehensive knowledge of wine one day.  This year, in her Wine By Numbers class, she walked us through three
pieces of vital information on a wine label: the percentage of alcohol, the vintage date and the price.  Tasting six wines, and comparing them two at
a time, she tested each of these factors.

“Grape varieties alone are not going to tell you what a wine is going to
taste like
.” Marnie Old

The first factor of alcohol content is “hugely
important”, she said.  Keeping in mind that the norm is 13.2%
alcohol, we tasted two Chenin Blancs, one containing 12.5% alcohol and one containing 14.2% alcohol, both from 2012.  The first one smelled crisp and refreshing, of fresh fruit salad and granny
apple.  It was a tart, light bodied wine, most likely from a cooler climate.  A cooler
climate lends itself to wine with lower sugar and alcohol content, wines that result in mild, herbal flavors and high
acidity.  Where #1 smelled of fresh apple, #2 smelled of baked apples, of sunshine and warmth.  It was less acidic, more
cooked, as it had been fermented and aged in oak barrels.  Acidity and alcohol have an
inverse relationship.  Lower
alcohol wines will be lighter and refreshing.  Higher alcohol wines are richer, more opulent. In sum, more sun = more sugar = more alcohol.  There is a direct relationship in
flavor and intensity.   

For the second comparison, we tasted two Spanish Tempranillo wines.  They came from the same producer and had the same alcohol content, but the vintage date of wine #3 was
2010 (a rioja tinto) and of #4, 2008 (a rioja riserva).  “The age of the wine tells us what the winemaker was doing.”  Wine #3 was young and
fruity, having been aged in stainless steel barrels.  It was
light, refreshing, tangy and vibrant.  The older wine, #4, has spent more time in
barrels, most likely oak barrels instead of stainless steel.   It is more complex, and, therefore has great aging potential.  Aging wine in oak barrels accomplishes many things: specifically, it helps
the wine breathe while concentrating and carmelizing the wine.
For the final and third comparison, we tried two Cabernet
Sauvignon wines of the same vintage and alcohol content, but vastly
different prices: fifteen versus
seventy-five dollars.  Number 5
smelled of dark berries and tasted rich, but was a bit tanniny and puckery, not ambitious.  Number 6 was rich, leathery,
sophisticated.  Cost of wine is affected by such factors as rarity,
supply, demand, and production costs. 
Hillside vineyards, for example, generally produce lower yields as the plant strains to produce on difficult terrain, and the costs associated with harvesting the grapes will be higher.  This leads to various trade-offs: quantity versus quality/
efficiency versus excellence/ popularity versus personality.
All this being said, go out and try this kind of comparison for yourselves…it would make for a fun wine tasting party!

Cheers to a wonderful 4th of July weekend!
xo M

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