Keeping the Flor Alive

Don Benigno Amontillado

Don Benigno Amontillado

The fortified wine of the tri-city area in the region of Andalusia, comes in nine different types, though all are known commonly as Sherry. Fino is made with a flor yeast that covers the top of the wine so completely, that the wine, rather than developing the aromas of oxidation, develops the aromas of acetaldehyde, its telltale sign. Constantly fed with new wines that are part of the solera system, the fresh glycerin will keep the flor yeast alive for six or seven years. Fino is always fermented dry. Oloroso, void of the flor yeast, is oxidized and develops nutty, aromas and a caramel color. Amontillado is a mix of the two. It begins as a fino, but the flor yeast covering is broken, and the wine is oxidized, giving it qualities of both the fino and oloroso sherries. Manzanilla is a fino sherry made in San Lucar de Barrameda rather than Jerez. Paolo Cortado neither uses flor yeast nor is it oxidized. Just as Amontillado has qualities of both fino and oloroso, Palo Cortado has qualities of neither. Pale is a sweet fino. Cream is a sweet oloroso. Medium is a sweet Amontillado. Dark, rich and the sweetest of them all is Pedro Ximenez, named for the one of the three sherry grapes that makes up this wine.

Yesterday, I sat for the Certified Specialist of Wine. Over the past ten months I’ve read the text from the Society of Wine Educators three times. I’ve made 719 flash cards, and gone over them ten times each. By the tenth time I knew the information instantly. Were I to take the test again, I would not do less than this to prepare. It was as rigorous and detailed as I had expected it to be. I think I did pretty well. I’ll know in two to four weeks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been almost three and half years since I started this blog. I began a wine journey, seeking to understand both the world of wine and the world around me a little better. Since then I’ve read many wine books, taken all the online courses that Wine Spectator has to offer, gone to every wine tasting, winery tour, and wine festival I could work in and finally studied for and sat for the CSW. In a way I see that test yesterday as a culmination of sorts, a goal reached. But, on the other hand, my thirst for wine knowledge is like the flor yeast of a fino sherry that needs to be constantly fed. That’s what makes wine so intriguing, there’s always more to learn.

Beyond the Seas; Confined by Beauty

(The wonderful wine blogger, and great Riesling enthusiast, Oliver Windgatter of The Winegetter graciously asked me to guest blog on his site. His topic of choice was Beyond the Sea. I was more than happy to collaborate with him and his other guest bloggers on this fun and interesting project.)

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“What’s your favorite wine?” I don’t know how anyone could ever answer that. I’m all for a good ‘go-to’ wine, like a lovely Willamette Valley Corvallis Cellars Pinot Noir with its red fruit aromas peppered with nutmeg and orange, all nicely balanced, and when on sale can be had for $12.99. I’ll stock up on that and tuck it away for those nights when I don’t want to swirl and sniff and write and pair. You know those nights. You’ve had them yourself. You just want to sit down with a glass of wine that you already know will be good and you don’t have to analyze it to figure out why. But does its ease and accessibility make it my favorite? Certainly not.

Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt, 2009

Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt, 2009

Recently I came across an Austrian red, Blauer Zweigelt from the Niederosterreich region. It had earthy aromas with some red fruit and a lot of acidity which is not surprising since cold weather makes acidic grapes. It wasn’t my favorite wine, but it was certainly worth trying.

Callabriga, 2009

Callabriga, 2009

Last week I tried a still red Portuguese wine, Callabriga from Dao. Region. It’s made with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (two of the three primary grapes of Port,) and Alfrocheiro Preto. Dark and deep in color the wine was full of flavors and aromas like violets, cherries, blackberry,plum, rosemary and cinnamon. It was a strong wine, rich in flavor and heavy in tannins, but my favorite? As much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t go that far.

Hermes Mavrodaphne of Patras, NV

Hermes Mavrodaphne of Patras, NV

I love fortified wines and recently tried one from Greece, Hermes Mavrodaphne of Patras. It had all the flavors you would expect from fortification, raisins, prunes and nuts. The balance was good, though it wasn’t nearly as rich and delicious as a good Port. But for an inexpensive, fortified wine, it was worth the price, though, again, not my favorite.

This spring I traveled to a beautiful island in the Pacific. Everything about it was perfect, the air, the water, the flora, the gentle trade winds. My husband and I began wondering what it would be like to live there. We both came to the same conclusion. As beautiful as it was, we’d feel stuck, because it’s an island the size of a small US state surrounded by water. We’d never be able to jump into the car and drive away. Leaving would always involve a trip to the airport. That felt confining to me. It seems like a funny conclusion to come to, however, paradise is a lovely place to visit, but I sure wouldn’t want to be stuck there.

As beautiful as any one wine is, I will never claim one as my favorite. The most beautiful thing about wine is that there are so many of them to try!