WHISKEY 101

SUPER QUICK LESSON!
WHAT EXACTLY IS WHISKEY?

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·       All liquor made from Malted Grain (i.e. Malted means roasted & caramelized; grains can include barley, corn, rye, wheat, oats, wheat, millet, etc) are whiskies; whiskies have different flavors based on the grain or mix of grains, how they were malted, and the ULTIMATE style of flavor depends on where they are from:

                ►Scotch: From Scotland! Mostly famous for using PEAT (bricks of dead, compacted leaves) to smoke the grains during the malting process. Scotch is typically (but not always) smokey, sometimes with notes of leather, game meat, or even sausage/chorizo! Not all Scotch is peated, and some that are made from coastal grains are also famous for picking up IODINE from the ocean's seaweed. Iodine gives a brilliant smell of new leather, fresh paint, nailpolish, or a newly opened can of tennis balls!

                ►Irish: famous for lightly roasting the grain, so the color & taste of them tends to be light golden vanilla & honey. They are known to be the easiest drinking whiskies.

                ►Bourbon: made mostly from corn, so tend to be a bit sweeter & thicker than other whiskies (think of corn syrup...with notes of toffee, caramel, & butterscotch.) Most Bourbons are kept inside heavily charred wood barrels, so they can also pick up a spicy-campfire-hot cinnamon flavor too. The most famous Bourbons are from Kentucky, but they can be made in any part of the world.

                ►Rye: made from a very peppery type of grass (Rye Grass) so whiskies made from Rye are very pungent & spicy, and are sharper and leaner than the corn-based Bourbon. Because they are less sweet than corn-heavy Bourbons, they also tend to showcase more wooden/resin/forest elements. They can be made in any part of the world, but are well known from Canada and parts of the U.S.

SINGLE MALT vs BLENDS: in general, single malts are made from one grain (Barley) from ONE parcel of land that is farmed, harvested, and malted by the landowner/distillery. They are  made from a single grain but can be a blend from different barrels, but all from ONE distillery. The significance of one "controlled" parcel is that the grains grown there will be highly unique in flavor, specific to that one and only parcel in the world. Then, the influence of craftsmanship (from the distiller) is also highly unique due to the ONE artisan who is carrying out the final "recipe". Blends do not follow this protocol, AND, they may be a combination of both malted and un-malted grains.

Whiskey Protocol:

Customers may ask for no ice (Neat), ice (Rocks), or they may even specify just 1 or 2 cubes. This is based on the concept that if you add a small amount of water to whiskey (even in the form of melted ice), it breaks up the aromatic molecules and then increases & enhances smell & flavor; but, too much water dilutes the whiskey. So each customer will have a distinct preference. A very large ice ball or chunk is now the "popular" way to serve whiskey on the rocks (rock!) because the larger the ice, the slower it melts!

Even ONE DROP of water added into your pour can completely enhance the flavor!!

A DOZEN Things You Should Know About ROSES (Pink wine, not the flower!)

 

A lot of people mistakenly believe that rose wine is sweet, girly, and low-quality. It's this sugary thing you find listed on that laminated table tent next to the Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Wines for $4.00 a glass. And how could it range from the color of cotton candy to candied cherries, and NOT be sweet?? Here's all you need to know---and fall in love with this extraordinary wine that feels like a cold white, but tastes like a red!

1. First, PLEASE do not think that White ("pink") Zinfandel represents ALL roses!!! While this is a sweeter style of wine, which some find wickedly yummy, it is really the anti-christ to all the other global rosés. White Zin, often known as "Blush", is most definitely the mass-produced "fruit bomb" out of a world of other brilliant pink wines that actually have very high merit and distinction ....and are most often very DRY!

2. Rosés are made by crushing red grapes (the pulp and juice inside is white, even inside a red grape) and then removing the skins only after a small amount of red ink has seeped into the juice. Therefore, you can make rosé from ANY red grape.

3. Do not let the color fool you! Even dark red rosé may be totally dry (i.e., not fruity.)

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4. But, do not ignore the color! There is a correlation between flavor adjectives and the color: a light salmon pink usually will taste more of raspberry/strawberry/watermelon/lavender wisps, while dark red rosés do tend to have flavor profiles of cherry/cranberry/lingonberry/pomegranate splashes. At the end of the day, though, the biggest thing to remember is that wine can change literally through EACH sip; it can start with a short burst of fruit, then finish totally tart/dry, as it goes from the tip of your tongue to the back of your throat. We call this "fruit forward, but with a dry finish" (a VERY impressive comment to make at your next cocktail party!)

5. Some of the most famous rosés come from the south of France…but there are major differences among the southeast sub-regions:
           a. From Bandol: rosés are typically made from Mourvedre grape, and they usually have a pulpy, meaty, rich, weighty, creamy texture that is super-savory with equally strong flavors of  herbs, leaves, mulch, & tea along with mixed undertones of dried BLACK/PURPLE berry fruit.
           b. From Tavel: rosés are dark, and start off super fruity for a big hot second (big up-front flavors of cherry, watermelon, & maraschino), but then completely changes and finishes tart & dry
           c. From Provence: almost always light-pink salmon color, with a plummy, powdery, richer texture of melon nectar (and sometimes a 'pixie dust' feel similar to finely crushed Pez.) Classic tart raspberry & strawberry, lemon, & rose petal flavors derive most often from the Grenache grape, or sometimes another lead grape like Cinsault or Syrah. Most Provence Pinks are blends, and multi-grapes provide a complexity of multi-flavors.

6. Rosés are one of the most food friendly wines in the world; because they have the flavor of red wine, but the acid pucker & chilled temperature of whites, and lighter tannic "grip" or "muscle" (because removing the skins removes the source of the ink and most of the tannins), they can be matched with everything from salads with vinaigrette, to BBQ, salami, sausages, and steak tartare!

7. If you're a Dude, don't be afraid to order a rosé in a restaurant; it is essentially a red wine, after all! (SEE #2)

8. If you DO prefer a fruitier or sweeter rosé, check the alcohol content. If under 11%, it will probably be relatively fruity to lightly sweet because the winemaker stopped fermentation, which would leave grape juice sugar behind (residual sugar) instead of continuing to convert it into alcohol via yeast during the fermentation process.

9. Read the back label! Often a winery will tell you if the wine is unfiltered or not; if unfiltered, that means they leave the yeast in the juice, which will give the wine a smell, flavor, and texture of bread dough or donuts/scones/biscuits (among the fruit, flower, & herb flavors.) If you prefer this "creamier, cloudier" profile, buy this wine!

10. Rosés are meant to drink young; when they are released each Spring into the marketplace, drink 'em! Or, hold them for 6 to 12 months MAX  if you want to allow just a wee little bit of aging (basically, let oxygen deteriorate and diminish some of the fruit sugar over time and bring out more earthen/savory tones) and enjoy the rosé the next year. Best bet, drink roses that are no more than 3 years old…after too much time, they can lose too much fruit to the oxygen, and taste flabby or dull at some point after 3 years.

11. Don't miss pairing your rosés with any version of goat cheese, or cheeses that have fruit directly in them or mashed into the rind!

12. The words "rosé", "rosato", "Vin Gris", and "blush" all mean the same thing: pink wines! But, "Vin Gris" is typically the very quick pressing of a red grape where the tiniest bit of ink leakage causes a grey-ish ("gris") light barely-pink color, and the wine is typically super-duper tart & bone dry. Conversely, the word "blush" was developed in California, and may indicate a very fruity (possibly verging to "sweet") style. So there are some hidden messages to the wine words on the label that are there to help give you clues!

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Why Do I Hate My Favorite Wine?

Did you ever notice that when you find a wine you love, you'll drink it several times (much to your pleasure), and then all of a sudden on the next try it doesn't taste that good anymore?

Sometimes, you may even hate it. It seems like it radically changes, and where you would seemingly rely on that bottle as a guaranteed good choice, it can turn on you. So the question is, why does this happen?

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Here are some possibilities:

1. That particular bottle is "corked"—this is a condition where the bacteria inside the cork can become active, and when in contact with the juice (while a bottle is resting on its side), can alter the wine's chemistry, often leaving a wet cardboard/wet dog/mildew wet laundry musky stank on the wine. Some people are actually not that sensitive to this smell, while others can detect it the second they pop the cork out; but, in either case, the wine can have a bitter taste and leave a lingering warmth, or "burn" on the throat. Or simply, the wine just is knocked off course and just has an unpleasant "awkwardness". This is a random occurrence and may be isolated to that one bottle in the batch. And it's quite a different experience versus just drinking a bottle of wine that simply isn't that great and never quite satisfies your palate.

A corked wine will be weird...and, well, a little smelly in a not-good-wine-smell way. (Of course, if the bottle has a screw-cap, then it can't be "Corked", so don't show off to your friends making this declaration when your bottle has inert metal that can't house bacteria!) Oh...one last thing! DON'T read this whole paragraph, and then project this new-fangled fancy word onto a bottle that has a moldy, crystalized, syrup residued, or crusty cork----this would NOT be a "corked" bottle, but simply one where there was some sort of temporary leakage or compromise. A truly "corked" bottle basically has a B.O. issue!

2. Your palate changes depending on what you ATE that day. Seriously, the meal you had five minutes ago, or for breakfast, can set up different flavors on your palate that interact differently with the wine that day.

3. Your palate changes based on the WEATHER outside!! Your taste buds, body chemistry, and MOOD changes when it's either 95 degrees and muggy, or crisp & chilly, or snowing outside.

4. THE MOON CHANGES YOUR WINE. I am so not joking! It is widely believed that the lunar phases provide different gravitational pulls on plant cells & molecules, and that the sugars & acids inside grape juice will literally settle in the glass into different layers depending on the gravity pull and their densities. So if you drink your favorite bottle during different weeks, it literally may be altered! This is the same concept that drives many farmers (grape or otherwise) to harvest the fruit on specific days when the moon phase "enhances" the acid-sugar complex within the grape-skin, even before it hits your glass! While there is no hard "proof", there is a good deal of evidence. Biodynamic farming specifically and diligently uses lunar & celestial tracking throughout the agricultural process.

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5. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP changes your wine—again, think body chemistry meets psychology. When you're laughing along with a gregarious group, or with a Debbie Downer, your wine will be perceived and remembered differently.

6. WHERE YOU DRINK is so significant–notice when you are actually at The Amalfi Coast, your pizza never tasted so good, an ordinary olive seems magical, and that glass of wine in your hand is the best thing you ever had! Ever visited Napa or Sonoma? Seems like each wine gets better than the last, but could very well have been the same bottle you only mildly enjoyed some random weekend long ago in your hometown.

Is it your mood, or does the AIR around you and the MATCHING LOCAL FOOD pair with and ENHANCE the chemistry of the grapes?

The old phrase, "What Grows Together, Goes Together" is so true! Air, soil, sun, wind, moon, & technique all matches when food and wine are from the same origin.

So if your favorite wine is not tasting like its usual self, try it again another time; it probably still is your favorite wine, but is just going "through a phase", or waiting for you to get out of YOURS!