The idea to compare these regions came to me a long time ago, when several representatives of my profession, who were trained not in Latvian wine schools, expressed the opinion that these regions are very similar in taste characteristics of grape varieties, and if the winemaker also works on a modern image, then these regions will be almost impossible to distinguish.
I seriously thought about it. Even if it is difficult for people who specifically learn to understand the aromas and tastes of wine, it is difficult to distinguish wines, then what can we say about clients who claim that they do not like Rioja and prefer Tuscany, or, conversely, they do not even offer France, but give Rioja! Or that they hate Cabernet Sauvignon, they prefer Sangiovese. In theory, it’s hard for me to disagree with clients, because sometimes I also don’t feel like Margaux, and Chianti Classico is drunk very well at dinner.
To what extent are our theoretical knowledge of wine constrained? We used our sense of smell and taste buds. It remains to mention that my colleagues knew only that there would be three wines from the above-named regions, plus one surprise.
How the wines were chosen
- Comparatively similar vintages (there is probably no point in saying that 2005 Tondonia was the very surprise wine).
- The winemaking philosophy should have been with a “modernist” bias: new French oak for aging wine, alcohol over 14%, intense fruity tasteManufacturers who fully reflect the style of the region represented. No freaks!
- R.Lopez de Heredia «Vina Tondonia» Reserva Tempranillo 2005, Rioja, Spānija
- Château Bernadotte Haut-Médoc (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot) 2010, Bordeaux, Francija
- Bodegas Muga «Torre Muga» (Tempranillo 75%, Mazuelo 15%, Graciano 10%) 2011, Rioja, Spānija
- Tenuta Bibbiano Chianti Classico Grand Selezione Sangiovese 2011, Tuscany, Itālija
Out of five participants, that is, out of 20 attempts, we managed to guess REGION correctly only 2 times! How is this possible?! Maybe it’s a lack of analysis and concentration? Perhaps, but I have another explanation. The first wine was the only representative of the old school, but in our defense we can say that 2005 was the best and most intense harvest in the last 20 years.
These three regions have some similarities.
All three regions use a lot of barriques (225 L) and new oak barrels. The new oak barrel not only promotes microoxidation, thanks to which the wine not only softens and acquires the right balance in a short period of time, but also saturates it with aromas that overlap the fruity aromas of the grapes. Typical flavors: jerky fruit, smoke, toasted almonds, toasted sugar, wood, coconut, Christmas spices, vanilla, etc. I think these aromas are common in wines, and now you understand why they appear. But aroma is one thing, but what about the taste? The new French oak barrel gives the wine a dry texture with bitter notes in the aftertaste, like cocoa powder or almond bitterness. And although historically these regions have always used oak in the process of wine production, the percentage of new barrels is very high in modern winemaking.
There must be a balance in everything, you cannot go too far with new oak barrels, so as not to completely overshadow the wine itself. This is especially true for young wines with their pronounced fruitiness, as with age, oak is very well integrated into the wine and elegantly complements it.
But can all varieties cope with the new oak tree? No. The grapes must be powerful, concentrated and able to counter the oak with enough fruitiness to achieve balance. So…
All wines were 14% ABV. What does it do for a quality wine? This gives intensity, concentration, which means more mature and ready-made fruity aromas, as well as a richer and richer flavor spectrum. How can we achieve this? One way is to harvest the grapes later, so that the concentration of sugar and other trace elements in the berries is higher. The second way is to interfere with the winemaking process using smart machines that can make grape juice more concentrated by removing a certain percentage of the water from the juice. But most often the reason lately is global warming, when even in Burgundy it is possible to get wine with 15% alcohol.
As the intensity and fruitiness of a wine increases, it is very difficult to distinguish the distinct flavor characteristics of each individual sample. Wines produced with this philosophy lose their identity and unique connection to the place where they were created. They are made to please the global taste buds.
Putting it all together, we came to the conclusion that, using the example of Bordeaux, Tuscany and Rioja, you can clearly see what happens when successful historical regions adjust to world taste trends and partially lose the typicality of their region.Although I do not like this word in relation to production and the style of wine, I cannot but agree that all the wines we tasted are really very similar to each other in their properties and lose the characteristic qualities of the region represented. Both Muga and Bibbiano produce the main wines of their houses using classical methods, but some of them are specially made to please the world wine fashion. The wines of this style have one big plus – they become usable very quickly, especially with Rib-eye, T-bone steaks of the highest quality. Perhaps, in relation to wine, I am a supporter of the classics, but it seems to me that such a romantic product as wine should not be produced for quick enrichment, which pushes winemakers to make wines for quick consumption. What’s good for business is bad for the soul.
And in conclusion, the thought, which I myself tested on myself more than once: “Be open. The style and taste of wine are not limited by the borders of the state. And the next time you think of wine from Bordeaux in a store or restaurant, expand your perception by choosing wine in Bordeaux style, but from any other country. It is not for nothing that the concept of Bordeaux blend or Bordeaux style is popular in any wine region.
It should also be noted that within the same region, using different winemaking methods and from the same grape varieties, you can get wines of completely opposite styles. And especially in these three regions, I mentioned above!