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Wine Racks, Judging Blogs and an Anti-Oak Rant??

Wine RackThis weekend, we built a wine rack. When we first moved to Terrassa almost 3 years ago, we were regularly lacking in wine as a result of less income, less samples and less travel. Consequently, we never had a formal wine rack. But when you change any one of these factors, you end up with a lot more wine. Now imagine if you changed all three like we have?! We not only needed to figure out where to store it all, but also how to inventory it. I still have most of my cellar in Cellartracker, though I quit putting in my tasting notes. I like Snooth and Adegga as well, but they both need better cellar management for me to move to them exclusively. Since this past weekend we created the wine rack, maybe next weekend we’ll inventory the wine. Let’s see what happens.

As for building the wine rack, it actually turned out to be much easier than we expected. Odd note though: untreated, uncut, plain wood costs more than planed, beveled whole sheets of wood here in Terrassa. So instead of needing to sand and polish it, we simply bought nice sheets of solid, shelving wood and then cut it to fit. Yet, we still need another. So later today, I’m off to buy some more wood for wine rack number two!

Enough about housing. Next Monday, we’re off to judge wine blogs! It feels a bit odd to mention, after we realized at the EWBC that judging a wine blog is quite subjective once you get past the aggregators and plagiarizers. Once into the meat of the blogging world, where the hard work and effort is being spent, judging wine blogs is a bit of a silly endeavor. What’s good for you is not always what’s good for me. But none the less, we’ve been asked to judge Spanish and Catalan wine blogs this coming week in Reus, Spain, a short train ride from where we live. The grand prize is 3,000 euros, which seems a bit excessive and makes me wonder if we’ll see a lot of blogs that were “recently” launched. Oh well, anything to promote more social media in the Spanish wine world can’t be all that bad. We’ll keep you informed. DO Catalunya is hosting it, and while their website is a nightmare to look at, let’s hope this initiative leads to some good ideas.

In other news, we still want to talk to you about the wines we tasted at the EWBC2008; however, it may take some time. At the end of this month, we’ll be retasting several of the wines with an American Importer who will be staying with us for a few days. But remember, for our Keynote tasting, our intention was to select wines that we had either tasted before or that we respected. And on the night of the event, I tasted through the wines a few times; and while they all showed well, I didn’t take the time to write notes or analyze the wines. So this past Friday, I did analyze one of these wines, and I’m sad to say, it just pissed me off more than anything else. Dominio DosTares Leione 2005Prieto Picudo, is a wine that I have loved in the past. Now, maybe it’s as a result of the vintage, or maybe I’m drinking this too young since it does still have some stuffing to it, but I’m sorry, Oak is not a Fruit! This wine has so much going for it with the funky fruit notes and exotic touches of spice, but over it all sits a river of vanilla, syrup and sweet oak. I have a few bottles left to celler and taste again in the future, but even after 3 days being open, the wine is still bugging me. Note to Spain(rather wine makers everywhere): OAK is NOT a FRUIT. Just to be clear here are the aging and oak stats from the Dostares website (a well done website, that deserves mention!):

Pre-fermentation maceration: 3 days at 12ºC
Alcoholic Fermentation:
Duration: 12 days
Temperature: 27ºC
Malolactic Fermentation: in French, American and Hungarian oak

Ageing process in barrel:
Capacity: 225 litres
Age of barrel: New & second-fill.
Type of oak: French, Hungarian and American
Toasting level: Medium and medium+
Ageing time: 9 months

What stuns me is that I assumed this wine saw 100% new oak, and as you can see it is not.  Now for contrast, we were just in Miguel Merino’s winery, who is using 100% new oak, (mixed barrels, American Staves, and French tops and bottoms). That is a lot of new wood, and a lot of American wood influence and yet his wines are perfumey, full of terroir and complex fruit, without the sickening vanilla oak sheen.

Too many factors go into winemaking to pinpoint anything specific as the problem, but in the end, 100% new oak is not always a bad thing, despite the bad reputation people give it. If you hear anyone ever say 100% new oak is evil, well tell ‘em to shove off, or at least explain what wine they are talking about. Sometimes they are right, sometimes their not, Almond Joy’s gots nutz, Mounds don’t…sorry…

Other than that, the weather here is starting to chill down a bit, which is nice and sad at the same time. I unfortunately, have not had enough sherry this year. Too busy? Not sure why that is an excuse, but it is somewhat true. Therefore, I’m making up for it with a steady intake of Osborne’s Fino Quinta and a new cheap Manzanilla I picked up a couple of days ago that is quite nice, Bodegas Barbadillo’s Muyfina. Full of honey notes, and light nuttiness, I really have to say this is a treat, and pairs great with a late afternoon siesta! :)

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

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  • Remy

    Oak is a puzzling thing, sometimes, isn't it? Your post is very useful in reminding us that 100% new oak is not necessarily public enemy no. 1. The level of ripeness of the grapes, the concentration, acidity levels of the wine and the grape variety all count. And I wouldn't even want to get into the possible influence of the choices made at the fermentation stage. Oh, and how about the size of the barrels and the type of oak; a winemaker I know, here in Quebec, had a nasty surprise when she had to change an older French barrel for a new American barrel, and wound up, even after cutting the time the wine spent in barrel by half, with one very spicy, woody white. I remember tasting whites in the cellar at Matassa, in Roussillon, and being bowled over by the freshness and varietal character of a barrel of grenache gris: that barrel was new, yet the oak character was less apparent than in an older barrel of muscat à petits grains. There are no simple answers in the world of wine. Thank God.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    Remy, Isn't the diversity and complexity of wine part of the reason why adore this stuff? While we are all prone to making sweeping generalizations, such as oak is bad and lower alcohol is good, there are too many exceptions to the "rule". This is the number 1 reason why we emphasis on this site, over and over again, to keep your mind open to regions, styles, grapes, etc that you may not know or previously enjoy. There are some fantastic wines made in new oak and some incredible higher alcohol wines, along with some horrific ones, but why not continue pushing our comfort zones to seek out that which challenges our preconceived notions :-)

  • Dylan

    I'm impressed with the story about the wood for your wine rack. Working at Tin Cross this Summer, when we weren't in the fields we were involved in the reconstruction of the ranch house deck. It was a grueling process of measurements, cutting, removing old planks and nails, and driving in new 4" nails (which by the way if you don't hit it right on the head the first time, the nail is useless). Just a tad more involved than the wine rack, glad it has been an easy going project.

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