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Everyone Makes Mistakes

November 28, 2010

There was another Thanksgiving wine battle that I have yet to tell you about.  Aunt N was really excited to try the Navarro Gewürztraminer, and I knew that I wanted to bring a New York counterpart.  And given the prior success of the Hermann J. Wiemer Riesling with my family, two bottles of the Finger Lakes’ finest were an obvious selection.  Especially after failing to find a suitably good magnum of sparkling wine.

The big question was what to do about red wine.

In the past I had good success with pinot noir on the holiday.  Zinfandel’s juiciness and American heritage have given it a seat at the table in prior years.  I had even once found some aged Cabernet Sauvignon which has always been John & Dottie’s go-to selection.

But this year I got an email from a local wine store that alerted me to the fact they had a Beaujolais Nouveau from a small family-run estate.  And I thought it would be fun to get a bottle of this and compare it to the bulk factory-made stuff from the largest producers in the region.

That actually wasn’t the mistake.

In fact, that was a really good decision.  Pretty much all of the six bottles I brought were consumed that afternoon, with the exception of the mass-market Nouveau.  And I was fine with that; it was really there for comparative purposes.

As expected, the estate-bottled wine fulfilled the promise of Beaujolais Nouveau.  It felt alive and kicking, young and bright, the wine cleared the palate of the heaviness of the meal, and it even played nicely with the cranberry sauce.  All of this was even more evident after tasting the bottle from the mega-importer, which was full of fruit, but not nearly as vibrant.

The mistakes came at the small wine store, which may have been the only place in the region to have this caliber of Nouveau.

Some may have been simple miscommunications.  After all, the store was busy.  It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which means last-minute shoppers, and there was even a wine-tasting class underway in the store.

Plus, I asked a hard question, “Is this wine unfiltered?”

There are lots of hard questions one can ask wine clerks: about aging in oak or steel, whether the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, or other details of the winemaking process.  But an unfiltered wine is akin to an unpasteurized cheese.  It has additional layers of flavors that haven’t been removed as a result from over-processing.  To be clear, I find unfiltered wine to be more desirable.

The clerk was unsure.  He thought it was unfiltered, but wanted to check with the owner.  The owner said no, it had no sediment so it must be filtered.  The clerk then apologized to me for his error, and said that when the wine came in they tasted it along with a Beaujolais Cru, and surely he just got the two of them confused.

Well, lo and behold, I get the bottle of wine home and look more carefully at the label.  Right there, as clear as day, it read vin non filtré.

Now I’ve never taken a French lesson, but I know what that means.

Presumably the owner must have been thinking of some other wine.  Because I also distinctly heard him say that the bottle I was holding in my hands was a Grand Cru.  The wine had Les Grandes Coasses printed on the label, but that’s not the same thing (as far as I can tell it means The Big Croak).  Nor does any parcel in Beaujolais hold that distinction.

He also advised me to make sure I chilled my dry gewürztraminer very well before serving it, since it was exceptionally sweet.  Except it’s not.  Because it’s dry.

Everyone has bad days.  Presumably the chaos and joy of the wine class on the eve of the holiday are to blame.  I’m just glad that I knew what I was doing.  It could be pretty embarrassing if a wine novice brought that very good bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and presented it as a Grand Cru to someone who knew anything about wine.

As someone who once gave a bottle of Rabbit Ridge to a wine collector, I’m speaking from experience here.

One of these days I’ll make it to one of their wine classes and see what they are teaching.  After all, make no mistake about it, the best way to learn about wine is by drinking it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2010 2:52 pm

    I’ve been to many of FLOW’s wine tastings and they are pretty fun! They seem very knowledgeable, but I’m a novice, and wouldn’t know if they were giving me inaccurate information. However, they’re generous at tastings (I usually need a ride home…), and make the effort to get to know customers personally, which I appreciate.

  2. November 28, 2010 4:30 pm

    I would mark this one up to busy pre-holiday sales. I have been there a few times, and they always seem knowledgeable and helpful. I know that when we get super busy at the distillery I can mis-speak or get flustered. It just happens when you have a million people firing questions at you while you are trying to do a million things.

    Glad it all turned out well though. I will have to see if I can get a hold of some of these wines.

  3. mirdreams permalink
    December 1, 2010 11:03 pm

    I brought the Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving and it was a hit. If it’s any consolation they were clear on the fact that it was a regular Beaujolais Nouveau and the major producer’s version they had was a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau when I bought it. Glad you enjoyed at any rate :)

    • mirdreams permalink
      December 1, 2010 11:03 pm

      I meant to say I brought the same small estate Beaujolais Nouveau that you did.

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