Tasting Notes: Underwood "The Bubbles"

Canned wine was very trendy last summer, and it certainly hasn't died down yet. In fact, Underwood has released even more options this year! Their rosé and Pinot Noir have been around for a while, but I came across "The Bubbles" at Whole Foods the other week and obviously could not resist. I'm a sucker for anything bubbly!  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I gave Trader Joe's canned Simpler Wines a try a few weeks back, and let's just say it was $4 down the drain. Then again, four cans for $4... did I really expect it to be good? After that debacle, I was curious to see how Underwood's would turn out.

The Facts

  • Producer: Union Wine Co.
  • Region: Oregon
  • Vintage: Non-vintage
  • Variety: Doesn't say on the can or website, but I saw Chardonnay when I scoured the internet.
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: $6.99/can

Eyes: Well, it's hard to tell because it's in a can, but the can looks nice and classy! Just kidding... I mean not about the can looking nice, but I did end up pouring some into a glass just out of curiosity. It's a very pale color and the bubbles are very fine. 

Nose: Silly me forgot to smell the wine when I poured that small bit into the glass. I think that brings about a good point, though, that the biggest downfall to wine in a can is you lose the aromas which play such a large part in how a wine tastes. Convenience is great, and I like what Union Wine Co is trying to accomplish with their #pinkiesdown motto, but you can't argue that smell and aromas don't matter with wine.

Mouth: I was a little apprehensive, but I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. It has a slight sweetness to it, which is not surprising given it's only 11% ABV (lower alcohol percentages means more residual sugar in the wine, average is probably 12.5-13.5%), but it was definitely not overwhelming in sweetness. Perhaps the residual sugar was a way to combat the lack of aromas from the can? Anyway, there was a good acidity to it which helped counteract the sweetness, and the apple and citrus flavors were front and center. The bubbles are very subtle, not like normal sparkling wine. It's almost like mineral water. When cold, it's very refreshing.

Thoughts: Is this the best wine I've ever had before? No, but I didn't (and you shouldn't) expect it to be. Is it the best wine I've ever had in a convenient container and affordable price? Yes, hands down. This stuff can be dangerous... wine in a can seems to go down much faster than in a glass! And be careful because a single can is half a bottle of wine! If you think about it that way, this would equate to a $14 bottle of wine which is a pretty great price point. Plus, with the added convenience of being in a can, that can be priceless. Are you going to a BBQ and don't want beer? Will you be heading out to the beach or on a boat or to a picnic and don't want to carry a bottle, corkscrew, and glasses? Definitely pick yourself up a can and be sure to keep it cold. I'm looking forward to trying their rosé that's in my fridge, and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the sparkling rosé. If you've seen it in Charlotte, let me know where!

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Konzelmann Estate Winery

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, but we've been on vacation! Washington DC was the first trip, and then Kevin, his mother, and I went to NYC and Niagara. It was a fun-filled trip, including Hamilton (yipee!) and seeing the beautiful falls. While in Canada, we went on a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and had a tour of the quaint town. This is a large wine region within Ontario, and we had one stop on our itinerary -- Konzelmann Estate Winery. I was mostly excited to try icewine, although I was curious how their table wines fared against what I was used to from other regions.

Konzelmann is a beautiful winery directly on Lake Ontario. Konzelmann wines actually began in Germany in 1895. Friedrich Konzelmann was frustrated by how expensive it was to purchase wines from other German winemakers for his restaurant, and since his family had been growing grapes since the 1500s, he decided to make his own wine to serve. He later noticed that people who visited the restaurant loved the wine, but felt the food left something to be desired. Konzelmann decided to shut down his restaurant and focus all of his efforts on wine. The winery had to close during WWII, and once it was over, the Konzelmann family only received a small plot of barren land, so Herbert Konzelmann, the great-grandson of Friedrich, decided to immigrate to Canada.

Once in Canada, Konzelmann purchased a 40 acre peach farm directly on Lake Ontario, which gave rise to their best selling wine today... Peachwine! Yes, that is wine made from peaches! There are no longer peach trees on the property, but they purchase the fruit to make the wine from their neighbor's grove. Spoiler alert: while it doesn't necessarily sound appealing, the Peachwine was actually quite tasty (if you like peaches) and the sweetness was cut by including Chardonnay in the blend. They now grow 17 varietals with the most being Riesling, make 30-35 different types of wines, and have a production of about half a million bottles annually.

On our tour, we got to taste their Canada Red (Cabernet Sauvignon and Zweigelt), Canada White (Riesling), Peachwine, and Vidal icewine. After the tour, the three of us also shared a tasting of their Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Sparkling Riesling, and their Vidal Late Harvest. I was surprised by how many I liked as many had more residual sugar than I was used to, but my favorite was the Sparkling Riesling. No surprise there!

I've mentioned their icewine quite a bit, and you may be asking, "What is icewine?!" Icewine is a specialty of Ontario, and they make something like 90% of the world's icewine. Icewine is produced by leaving grapes on the vines to freeze in the winter months of the year. The grapes must be on the vines for three consecutive days of frost and then they can be harvested. The frozen grapes are put through a press, where sometimes as little as a single drop of liquid can be extracted from each grape. The water content is frozen, but the sugar is not, so what is left is a very sweet and concentrated juice. After fermentation, you've got a delicious dessert wine! Since it is very sweet, be sure to only pour a couple of ounces, sip it slowly, and pair it with a sharp cheese or nuts!

If you ever find yourself in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, definitely check out Konzelmann Estate Winery! What are other regions we should visit?

Tasting Notes: Starborough Sauvignon Blanc

Guys, it's almost JUNE. Where did the year go?! How is it already (almost) summer time? Some of you may be excited for the new season and others are likely in mild shock like I am. While I can't believe it, the weather outside is forcing me to come to terms. We've been lucky enough to get some beautiful days recently, but I've already felt the heat and the summer storms have been around all week. What's a plus side to the warmer days? Getting to enjoy some chilled white wines! 

The Facts

  • Producer: Starborough
  • Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Where I purchased: Grocery Store -  Harris Teeter. You can also find it at Total Wine. 
  • Price: $10.99
Starborough Sauv Blanc
  • Eyes: First off, I thought the label was pretty cool. I try not to choose a wine based on the label because I think they can be very deceptive, but I do like this one. Sauvignon Blancs have some of the best labels in my opinion because they're usually bright and fun. Anyway, I digress. You can kind of tell from the picture above, but once I poured a glass, this wine is so pale that it's almost white or clear. 
     
  • Nose: Smells just like what you would expect from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc! It smells citrusy, and I specifically think it smells like grapefruit. There's a hint of that herbal, grassy smell that often accompany wines from this area. I also got a slight whiff of peach, but citrus was front and center. Bottom line is it smelled good! 
     
  • Mouth: Crisp, light, refreshing. Exactly what we were looking for! The citrus notes came through, but wasn't overpoweringly acidic. It was super easy to drink and perfect for those who want that zing of an acidic white. I desperately want to say "gooseberry" because everyone always uses that descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, but I have no idea what that tastes like. I might as well be this guy. Gooseberries, you elude me for now, but I'll find you some day.
     
  • Thoughts: If you like Sauvignon Blancs, this one is a great choice because it is a classic example of the wine from Marlborough. It's affordable, tasty, and would be perfect for a drink on the patio during a warm summer's evening or paired with a light afternoon picnic (hello, screwtop!). Kevin and I actually bought it to make this chicken piccata recipe, and it paired very well with the lemon and parsley in the dish (don't judge my amount of pasta). This type of Sauvignon Blanc would go well with any poultry (avoid the cream sauce, though) and would go especially well with veggies. Also, just a random thing to note, 2016 was apparently a very good vintage for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so keep that in mind while shopping!

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Chardonnay

In the spirit of learning about Champagne and all of its deliciousness, I thought a great place to start would be the grapes. Yes, history of the region is also a good place to start, but without the grapes, there'd be no wine! Champagne can be made from three different varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. I've already done a grape series on Pinot Noir, which you can find here, and I felt that Chardonnay was a natural next place to go. It's recognizable, accessbile, and even if you don't like or are unfamiliar with Champagne, you may be Chardonnay fan!

Chardonnay

Key Facts for Chardonnay:

  • It is the most planted white (or green) grape in the world.  
  • Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, France.
  • The grape is more neutral in flavor which is why it tastes so incredibly different depending on where or how it is grown and/or the winemaking process (oaked vs. unoaked). 
  • Unlike Pinot Noir, Chardonnay is fairly easy to grow and is very adaptable to different growing conditions.
  • Wines you may not know are Chardonnay: Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Chablis, and White Burgundy.

As I mentioned above, Chardonnay is a grape whose flavor ranges widely. Flavor depends on the ripeness of the grape, which is linked to the region it is grown in. In colder climates where the grapes don't get as ripe, the flavors tend to be more crisp like lemon and green apple. In warmer climates, the flavors can become more tropical with notes of pineapple or peach. When researching, I came across these other, more unexpected flavors: Beeswax, smoke, saline solution, and wet rock.

What's with the buttery Chardonnays?!

Buttery and oaky Chardonnay has to be the most polarizing wine. Totally love or hate with that one. The vanilla and oak flavor is imparted from... well, oak. Oak barrels, to be specific. The buttery and creamy texture that is often paired with oak comes from malolactic fermentation (MLF). I've discussed it before in this review of Ramey's Chardonnay, but to recap, MLF is a secondary fermentation with a different kind of yeast where the tart malic acid is transformed into a "creamier" lactic acid. This produces diacetyl which is the chemical compound that causes the buttery flavor. Love buttery Chardonnays? Be on the lookout for wines that have gone through MLF... a good wine professional will be able to point you towards those, but Napa Valley Chardonnay is well known for these types. Hate it? Maybe look toward Old World Chardonnay (specifically Chablis) or Australia, as wines from that region have minimal to no oak aging. 

Chardonnay Pairings

Chardonnay is very versatile when it comes to pairing with food and is a great white if you're uncertain what to do. Keep in mind that the style of Chardonnay, mostly whether it's oaked and buttery or unoaked, will be the most important factor in deciding what to pair with your food. Oakiness can overpower lighter fish dishes, while the acid and citrus notes of an unoaked Chardonnay would work great with shellfish (ex: oysters). Oaked chardonnay would work very well with poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.), especially when roasted or more bold in flavor. But what have I always said? Drink what you want with what you want! 

Tasting Notes: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages

A couple of weekends ago, Kevin and I did a virtual class with Elizabeth from Wine for Normal People where she walked us through how to taste wines. I have done several different classes around tasting skills, and I always pick up something new from each class. Every person has their own way of describing things, and I enjoy learning tips and tricks from all! Elizabeth is so personable and has a (for lack of a better word) no-bullshit approach when it comes to wine. Hence, Wine for Normal People. Anyway, this Beaujolais wine was the red wine selection for the class. Kevin and I were both surprised by how much we liked it, so I thought I'd share!

As a little background for those unfamiliar with the region, here are some notes on Beaujolais. There is a classification system, specifically three (or four) levels:

  • Cru Beaujolais - The highest level, and only 10 of the 96 villages are able to label their wines as such. These typically are labeled as the Cru name and the 10 villages have their own personality. To get a summary of the different personalities, check out this post from Wine Folly.
  • Beaujolais-Villages - Tier below Cru. There are 38 villages that are in this bucket, and the wines are a bit lighter than Cru and more fruit forward.
  • Beaujolais - The lowest level and most general description. I think of this as the "Kleenex" issue... all Kleenex are tissues, but not all tissues are Kleenex. Similarly, all Crus can be Beaujolais, but not all Beaujolais can be Cru. Note that wines just labeled as "Beaujolais" can vary widely in quality.
  • Beaujolais Nouveau - These wines are released the 3rd week in November. I've seen some in stores that have crazy colorful bottles. Many feel that these wines have not fully developed before they're shipped because there isn't much time between harvest and bottling. You can therefore get sort of funky notes like banana and bubble gum. 

The Facts

  • Producer: Louis Jadot
  • Region: Beaujolais, France (south of Burgundy)
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: 100% Gamay
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $9.97

Edit: I also found this at my local grocery chain for $15.99.

Jadot Beaujolais Villages
  • Eyes: Lighter and more of a cherry red in color, fairly transparent. This immediately gives me the impression it'll be a lighter bodied wine.
  • Nose: Very fruit forward! Smelled like ripe red berries. Some other students picked up on a more earthy smell, but the fruit is what was most apparent to me.
  • Mouth: This is one of those wines where what you smell is what you get. It is very fruity with cherry and strawberry shining through, but don't confuse fruity with sweet. It's not sweet. I also picked up on a hint of earthiness, which is common in French wine, but I didn't feel like I was eating dirt or anything. It's had a nice medium body with good acidity. Tannin was not apparent, which is characteristic of the grape. 
  • Thoughts: This red, and Gamay in general, is a great summer wine because it's light and fruit forward. It's also best when slightly chilled, so perfect for those warmer days! I think think the fruit flavors and slight earthiness would work great with pork dishes. For die-hard cab lovers, this is probably too light, but if you like Pinot Noir or other lighter grapes, give Beaujolais a shot!

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