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story.lead_photo.caption (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

The best way to learn about wine is through tasting. And the best type of tastings is comparative tastings or better known as "wine flights."

Flights are an ideal way to quickly master the art of tasting and gain a better understanding of the subtle, sometimes extreme differences of wines. You don't have to invest a lot of money or consider yourself a professional to organize a flight. All you really need are a few friends (to share in the fun and cost) and a theme.

Speaking of themes, here are some ideas to get you started.

Unoaked vs Oaked Chardonnay

This is one of my favorite wine flights. Not just because it's a tasty exploration but because I enjoy seeing people experience, sometimes for the first time, the subtle delicate flavors many of the world's best unoaked chardonnays bring to the glass. Many people misunderstand the taste of chardonnay because they associate it with butter, vanilla, high alcohol and full-body. These characteristics are generally not from the grape but the use of oak. Remember to taste the unoaked versions before oaked in this wine flight.

THE VALUE

2017 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay, Washington (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2016 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay, California (about $40 retail)

The Wide World of Pinot Noir

This wine flight will generally have a few at your table leaving the tasting with a "light bulb" moment of this grape. Not all pinot noirs are light-bodied and thin like so many flooding our market. Some of the greatest wines of the world are made from this grape so having the comparisons will show you the many styles this grape will have depending on region and also price. It's interesting to identify the cool climate tart, cranberry and lighter-bodied styles versus hotter climates generally showing raspberry, cherry, sometimes jammy and much higher alcohol and body. Compare a few of these cool climate regions (Marlborough New Zealand, Burgundy France, Oregon, Mendocino California) with warmer regions (Australia, Napa Valley California, Santa Barbara California.)

THE VALUE

2017 Angeline Pinot Noir, California (about $13 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2017 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $29 retail)

Tannins

Red wines are known for their tannins and tannins are sometimes the reason consumers don't enjoy red wine. But not all red wines are high in tannins. This is an excellent wine flight to better understand your personal preferences on the taste and intensity many red wines show depending on the tannin levels. Tannins are responsible for the mouth-drying and sometimes bitter taste of some red wines. Be sure you taste the wines from light-bodied (lower tannins) to full-bodied (higher tannins) — a good line would be pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese or tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, and tannat or petite sirah.

THE VALUE

2017 Tercos Mendoza Sangiovese, Argentina (about $12 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2017 Earthquake Petite Sirah, California (about $29 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 01/29/2020

Print Headline: Three 'flights' to expand your wine knowledge

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