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wine tasting

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Many years ago, as a young journalist, I often heard that Beaujolais was intended to be drunk while still very young, and if over a year old, lost its appeal and charm and is best forgotten. Older journalists jokingly referred to Beaujolais Nouveau as ‘Old Veau’ once it surpassed a year of aging.

Having explored the Beaujolais wine region in France and sampled numerous “older” vintages, I can confirm that the earlier advice was inaccurate. Interestingly, some Beaujolais wines can still be enjoyed after ten years of aging. During a visit to Beaujolais, I had the chance to taste some truly spectacular wines that were approaching 15 years old.

Beaujolais wine is made from the Gamay grape, known for its light-bodied fruity character and flavors of berries (raspberry and strawberry), red cherries, candy-apples, watermelon, and others.

Yet, when the Gamay grape is grown in the northern topography on hillside properties, the wines become riper, fuller-bodied, and more complex. These wines are often aged in wooden barrels for several years, losing much of their grapey character.

Beaujolais wine is grouped into three levels depending on quantity, quality, and price. Beaujolais (also Beaujolais Nouveau), Beaujolais-Villages, and Beaujolais Cru. Beaujolais-Villages is sourced from 38 villages in the north, known for its superior quality and subsequent higher price. The crus of Beaujolais, originating from 10 specific northern villages, are intended for aging and are of the highest quality.

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My Beaujolais tasting notes are:

2019 Georges Duboeuf “Beaujolais Nouveau.” It lost some of its intense fruit because of age. Bright ruby color with a light and fruity aroma and flavor of red candy, raspberries, and cranberry, with a tart-berry aftertaste.

2021 Domaine Romy “Les Pierres Dorées” (Territory of Golden stones) Beaujolais. Cherry color with a fruity aroma and flavor of raspberries, spicy cherries, tart berries, and red currants. There are hints of black pepper and plums in the aftertaste.

2019 Prunelle de Navacelle “Beaujolais Lantignié” (Beaujolais-Villages). (Aged 12 months in oak). Floral bouquet and taste of spicy black fruits, herbs, jam, and mushrooms. Nice amount of acidity with hints of strawberries, earth, leather, and hibiscus.

2019 Stephane Aviron Moulin-à-Vent “Vieilles Vignes” Beaujolais. Ruby-colored with an impressive bouquet and taste of black cherry, boysenberry, black currants, and bittersweet chocolate. Medium-bodied with hints of wild strawberry, spices, black pepper.

2018 Louis Latour “Beaujolais-Villages.” Medium-deep color with a fruity bouquet and taste of cranberry, raspberry, and black cherry. Additional flavors of almonds, plums, and jam are balanced by crisp acidity.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

The region of Provence sits along the Mediterranean coast at the southern end of the Rhône Valley, east of the Languedoc region. Wine has been made here for around 2,600 years, with grapevines brought by the Greeks, thus making it the oldest wine-producing region in France.

Mediterranean vegetation, described as a combination of brush, piney shrubs, spicy herbs, and fragrant plants, such as juniper, lavender, rosemary, and thyme, referred to as garrigue, grow along the limestone hills.

The refreshing rosé wines of Provence, long popular among dwellers and visitors to the French Riviera, are popular throughout the region, especially in famous gastronomic cities such as Nice and Marseilles. In 2022, over 150 million bottles were produced, accounting for almost 40 percent of France’s rosé production.

In Provence, where both red and white wines are produced, rosé makes up almost 90% of the wine and is produced in all nine appellations. While there are dozens of grapes grown in Provence, the most important white grapes are Clairette, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne. The most important red grapes are Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and the local Tibouren.

Some wines I recently tasted are…

2021 Château Miraval “Côtes de Provence” Blanc. (Made from Rolle grapes.) Pale straw color with a bouquet and flavor of apples, pears, almonds, and citrus. Clean tasting with hints of chamomile, herbs, and minerals.

2022 Château de Berne “Inspiration,” Rosé. (Made with organic grapes.) Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Syrah grapes. Light pink color with a perfumed aroma of apple blossoms, lavender, and orange peel. Delightfully fruity with flavors of citrus, peach, clove, and tart berries. There is a hint of fennel in the aftertaste.

2022 Château de Berne “Romance,” Rosé. (Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, Syrah, and Merlot grapes.) Salmon-colored with a faint floral bouquet of berries, flowers, and spices. Full flavors of honeysuckle, tart orange, and citrus. Very smooth finish, with an aftertaste of honeydew melon.

2022 Château de Berne “Ultimate,” Rosé. (Blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Rolle grapes.) Pale coppery color with a fresh bouquet of raspberries, tangerine, and some spices. Full in the mouth with flavors of strawberry jam and citrus. There are hints of jasmine, white pepper, and geranium.

2017 Domaine de La Bégude “Bandol.” (Mostly Mourvèdre grapes.) Deeply colored with a bouquet and flavor of blackberry, cranberry, licorice, clove, and plums. It is quite tannic with a spicy oak aftertaste.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

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To mark Black History Month, the Jazz Loft in Stony Brook Village will be highlighting wines specifically from Black winemakers and winery owners, for its Acoustic in the Main Room series. The series showcases small duos/trios in the Loft’s main performance room which will be set up to resemble an intimate living room, with spaced out seating. The concerts are conversational, engaging and intimate and a very special window into the heart and mind of the artists and each concert is paired with a special wine to celebrate Black History Month.

“This theme was chosen in an effort to elevate awareness and support the growth of African Americans in the wine industry,” said Director of Education Laura Landor, who selected the wine pairings. “Of the more than 11,000 wineries in the United States, less than 1 percent of them are Black owned or have a Black winemaker. We are excited to introduce these wines to our Jazz Loft patrons during Black History Month and hope to add a selection of them to our regular list of wines that are available by the glass or bottle.”

The Jazz Loft will offer tastings of a red and white selection during each performance with full glasses available for purchase.

“Our Acoustic in the Main Room series is a unique opportunity to hear some of the most talented singers and musicians that perform regularly at the Loft in a relaxed setting, reminiscent of the New York City Loft scene of the 1950’s which inspired the Jazz Loft’s name,” said Jazz Loft founder Tom Manuel. “If you don’t know any Jazz performers personally to invite into your own living room, then this is the next best thing.”

The Acoustic in the Main Room series calendar:

February 9-Featuring Mala Waldron on piano and vocals; with Mike Hall on bass; and Tom Manuel on cornet.

McBride Sisters Sparkling Brut Rose, Hawk’s Bay NZ

McBride Sisters 2020 Chardonnay Central Coast, CA

McBride Sisters 2019 Red Blend Central Coast, CA

 February 10-Houston Person on tenor saxophone; Steve Salerno on guitar and Tom Manuel on cornet.

Brown Estate “Chaos Theory” 2021 Proprietary Red Wine (California)

Brown Estate House of Brown 2021 Chardonnay (California)

February 24- Buddy Merriam on mandolin; Steve Salerno on guitar and Tom Manuel on cornet

Longevity 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Longevity 2019 Chardonnay (California)

 February 25- Grammy-nominated singer Nicole Zuraitis, with Steve Salerno on guitar and Tom Manuel on cornet

LVE Signature Series 2021 Chardonnay (North Coast, California)

LVE 2019 Cabernet (North Coast, California)

All performances are hosted by Tom Manuel and Laura Landor.

Tickets will be limited to just 85 people and start at 7 p.m., and feature two sets with a brief intermission.

Tickets for all performances are $40 and start at 7 p.m. and can be purchased at https://www.thejazzloft.org.

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook, is located just 90 minutes from New York City and is the only music venue on Long Island that features exclusively jazz music. For more information, call 631-751-1895.

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‘The first taste of a wine is like the first kiss; you look forward to the second.’

­— André Tchelistcheff, 1901-1994, Legendary Winemaker

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Tasting is the art of consciously assessing a wine’s quality or identity and the activities or mechanisms involved in receiving the sensory impressions a wine can stimulate.

Just as with food, we have preferences for certain tastes and flavors in wine. Each of us has our own history of tastes and flavors. Much of this is due to where and how we grew up—there may be cultural differences in the experiences we had for certain foods and beverages. We all have personality differences. Some of us are very adventurous and others more averse to risk. Although tastes and flavors are subjective, they are not entirely relative—that is, we often agree on what we taste and smell.

There are ways to taste and evaluate wine that are generally accepted to provide a maximum impact on our palate—I call this the Five S’s: Sight, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Spit (or Swallow).

SIGHT: Wine should be clear in appearance; color and hue tell us a lot about the grape variety, oak treatment, age, and intensity of the wine. For example, a pale-yellow wine most likely did not receive any oak-aging while a golden colored wine probably did. Knowing which grapes benefit from oak-aging narrows the field for each grape variety. Chardonnay benefits from oak aging since it provides balance with bigger flavors and body.

SWIRL: Swirling wine in a glass will release the aroma, so once you stick your nose in the glass, you can smell it better.

SMELL: More than 80 percent of what we taste is actually smell. Smell describes the fruity, floral, earthy, mineral, spicy, herbal, and oak characteristics of some wines.

SIP: Now it’s time to taste the wine. Take a good sip and swirl the wine around in your mouth as if it’s mouthwash (evaluating differs from drinking). Your tongue tastes sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, but together with smelling, you get the complete picture of the wine. Some elements to note are acidity, alcohol, body, dry or sweet, flavor, tannin, and texture.

SPIT/ SWALLOW: the difference between “tasting” and “drinking” is that once you have sipped the wine, you spit it out into a cup or spit bucket (professional tasters do this). 

SWALLOW: Allows you to evaluate and describe the finish, length, and aftertaste of the wine.

Well, there you have it. Now open a bottle of wine and start practicing!

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].