Interview with a Master Sommelier, Part 2
Note: This is part 2 of a 3 part interview with Master Sommelier, Emily Wines. If you missed part 1, it’s here.
ME: When you say superior quality what exactly does that mean?
EMILY: There’s a couple of things that lead to that. First of all, it’s the place that the grapes are grown. There are some parts of the world that are just premium for grapes. They have perfect exposure to the sun, the right kind of soil, lots of aspects about that specific region are really special and even within a region, there’ll be certain sites that are better than others.
So it starts with that and then it’s about how you farm. If you want to make a lot of wine you would farm in a way that’s about quantity whereas if you want to make a high-quality wine you’d be farming differently.
For an example, when the wine starts to first make their clusters of grapes if you go out and pick out a good percentage of those grape clusters and only leave a select number of clusters what ends up happening is that what’s left becomes much more concentrated in flavor. It develops much more intensive flavors but that’s a really expensive way to make wine. So if you’re looking at a $200 bottle of cabernet they’re doing that in the vineyard to help boost that concentration and intensity.
And during wine making, there’s things like oak barrels are really expensive. A brand new French oak barrel is about $1200 a piece and there are some very high-end wines that are only aged in new oak. So that’s another example of what would make it just more expensive. So there are many different factors that play into that.
ME: Is there a special way to taste wine?
EMILY: Kind of. When you’re tasting wine the majority of what you’re tasting are actually smells and as you go to drink your wine you’re inhaling so you are smelling the wine. Make sure you smell it. You want to swirl the glass which releases the (vol aromatics?) and you can smell a little bit more so smell it as your tasting.
And then when you’re tasting you want to make sure that you’re covering the whole palette so you’re not just tasting in the front of your mouth. Also, notice how you sorta taste different things throughout. So when you first put the wine in your mouth the acidity really stands out first especially if it’s the first wine you’ve tasted for that day. I always say you taste the wine a couple of times to get your mouth used to tasting it and you start to pick up all the other flavors.
But also understand, and this is something that takes a little more time to develop, but pretty soon you could start to identify what are the things you really love about the wine and what things you do not like about the wine. Like for example if you know, I like wines that are a little bit on the fruitier side versus wines that are little bit more on the tart side. Those are kinda ways that you can benchmark the flavors that you like and then hopefully you select something else similar in the future.
ME: What role does the glass play in the way it tastes?
EMILY: There’s actually quite a bit. With glassware, you want to have glassware that’s very thin. In part if you have very thick glasses or glasses with a heavy beaded rim what happens they’re a lot more durable in the dishwasher but when you’re drinking it actually makes the wine skip over the rim of the glass and hit your tongue in the middle as opposed to up front. Whereas a thin glass actually makes the wine first hit the front of your mouth. It’s a small quirk but the front of your mouth is where you taste sweetness in the wine.
You really want to taste that great fruit right up front. Other things are, you want to make sure you have a big enough glass that the wine can breathe. What that means is that you want there to be enough air in there so that when you go to taste it you can really smell it. If you’re tasting wine out of a glass, like a little short glass that’s filled up to the top you can’t really smell it that well.
For that matter, champagne glasses, they look great but they’re not the best glass for tasting champagne. So very expensive champagne, I drink out of a wine glass because then you can actually smell it. You don’t see the pretty line of bubbles going up but as far as tasting it’s a better experience.
ME: So all these cute little glasses out there that are stemless, what do you think about those?
EMILY: I think they’re really great because you don’t knock them over as easily. The only challenge with the stemless glasses is that wine will start to kinda warm-up in your hands and also typically when you’re drinking out of those you’re getting fingerprints all over the glass and visually they sorta lose their appeal. Other than that they’re fine.
There’s nothing wrong with a stemless glass for that matter if you’re in a pinch and you’re drinking out of a paper cup you’re probably pretty happy too.
ME: I would actually have to agree with that. Lastly, let me ask you this because I find this interesting. I went to Italy at the end of September. I tell you I’m just really into wine these days I kinda felt smarter after I left. When we’re talking about tasting terms or tasting terminology, what would you say are some tired tasting terms?
EMILY: I don’t know if they’re tired per se but sometimes I hear people using terminology with their wines and I never really know what they mean. “I want a wine that doesn’t have a bite”. I’m like, what do you mean doesn’t have a bite, are you talking about acid, are you talking about tannin are you talking about alcohol?
There are different things that you could be more specific about. I feel like if people have better language for talking about wines they can more quickly distinguish, this is what I mean by a bite. It’s too full body and it’s too intense or if it’s too tart and acidic or if it’s too tannic or it’s too harsh in my mouth. That’s where people can be helped a lot.
The difference between tannins and acidity, the “rule of regionalism” and what pairs well with desserts. We’re discussing those topics in the part 3 of my interview with Master Sommelier, Emily Wines.