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“What makes a great wine?” has been one of the great question for the ages. California has their own take on one of the world’s most popular drink, and it’s been proven that they have the best wines in the world. But in their foray of brands one can also find that aside from excellent bottles there are also some average ones, so what makes the difference in this particular wine-making region?

 California Wine

Wine production now takes place in all 50 states in the US, however, California is considered the uncontested leader producing 90% of all American wines. They are even recognized the golden state as the fourth largest wine producer in the world behind France, Italy, and Spain. It has proven itself to be one fertile ground for the ancient art of wine making.

California is on the same latitude as Naples, Italy which explains why – just like its European counterpart- the state is able to produce excellent grapes. Its size, soil and the climate in this state makes for a perfect setting agricultural products to thrive beautifully. They are able to produce over 400 agricultural products and more than 117 varieties of winegrapes grown there.

The abundance of these fresh ingredients and superior local wines is the reason why California attracted chefs and sommeliers all over the world. This is also why the state is the haven of great food finds.

Winemaking in California

California is blessed with wonderful sunshine for most of the year, which enables them to grow grapes with wonder flavours and the right tannins. Sommeliers claim that in a ten-year period the state is able to produce several good vintages, which is also largely a result of the environment that the grapes are grown in.

Sun, heat, and soil – these three are in perfect unison in this state and makes for a perfect environment for producing great wines. Any grape can be turned into wine, however, among the thousands of variety out there only quite a few can produce excellent wines.

There are only 8 grapes that are considered to be among the list of noble wines. White wines are products from grapes such as, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and reisling. Meanwhile, red wines result from pinot noir, cabernet, merlot, syrah and zinfandel.  What is distinct about these wines is that they transmit their flavours and attributes wherever they are planted. For instance, a cabernet will always taste like a cabernet even if it is grown in Bordeoux, Argentina or Napa Valley.

The ability to grow noble grapes, on top of their good soil and climate conditions makes all the difference in the golden state.

The beauty of wine and wine tasting

Wine, particularly red wine, is one of the most complex molecular cocktails in the planet with more than one thousand distinct chemicals. The sense of smell can interpret several thousands of aromas, whereas the sense of taste is actually quite limited. But these two together, when used in wine tasting, can all pave the way for the plethora of adjectives.

Brilliant and blah

If you have browsed through a wine store, the bottles of the same type of wine there may actually come from neighboring vineyards. However, why does one bottle cost $500 while the other goes for a measly $5 price tag?

The price disparity is because of the terrior, or the influence of the place where the grapes are grown. The term originated from the French, however, it is widely used in the wine world. To explain this further let’s take two similar grapes grown in subtly different locations but treated the same way in the winery will result in wines that are somewhat different. These differences are brought by microclimates and soil properties. For instance, one vineyard may have a different land elevation or it could have certain chemical properties affecting the soil.

Just to make it easier, here are four characteristics that defines a great wine from the average.

1. Intensity

The more intense the flavours the better the drinker is able to identify and distinguish the flavours present.  Good intensity gives a beautiful concentration of flavours on the palate and intense aromas on the nose. To define its quality through its intensity, all you need to do is to bring the glass to your chest and you can already smell the aroma and it should be dynamic and flavourful on the palate.  So if you have a very complex wine where all the flavours are rather clear, then the intensity gives a leg up to the quality of the wine.

2. Complexity

This attribute differs from intensity in that the latter can be simple but give you one bold flavor. Complexity gives you a layer of flavours and a range of aromas. The beautiful thing about this is that in great wines is that the aroma changes with time. It is not flat, one dimensional or boring.

3. Balance

When judging the balance of an optimal wine, it would give you a variety of flavour profiles but they don’t overlap. Rather, each of these flavours are integrated in such a way that they are all visible. There is a good proportion of flavours and they are all in harmony together.

4. A long finish

Another good indication of quality, this shows how many seconds the wine lingers on the palate even after drinking or spitting it. For instance, a Grand Crux Bordeaux gives finishes that could last as long as 30 seconds, although a good 15 seconds is the benchmark.

These are all interesting thoughts to ponder on when opening a bottle of wine, or when planning to go for a wine tasting event. However, on an interesting note, there is research that people sometimes judge a wine based on the reputation.

French researcher Brochet conducted an interesting study where two wines, which are exactly the same, are packaged as Vin de Table and a Grand Cru. When the subjects saw the Grand Cru label, their descriptions where all positive and praises. But then the Vin de Table was rolled out, it suddenly became rather ordinary in all adjectives used. All that changed in just an alteration of a label.

Having mentioned this, it is important to point out that price isn’t necessarily the main point to be considered on whether a wine is optimal or substandard.

If you have more questions, come and talk to us or visit The Standish today, and get your fill of good wines!  We have a good selection of vintages and an interesting foray of liquors and spirits!

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