• When I ask someone what kind of wine they like I tend to lead with a general question to help narrow the field. I first ask if they want red or white. If the answer is red I ask if their preference is light, medium or full bodied. I use this information to help narrow the choices exponentially. I want to find something that will be enjoyed, not to force something I enjoy on someone else. So with the answer to body I can get an idea, but I have a sort of cross reference question to help steer me in the right direction. Do you like a more fruit driven wine, or do you like dust, earth, herbs and vegetation? Given the supposed choices of light bodied and not fruit dominated I would lean towards French Burgundian Pinot or North Eastern Italy or if you really want to go off in left field an Austrian red. Now if the choice was a fruit forward full bodied red I would then ask if you want aggressive tannins and a long finish or a more complex wine with supple (well integrated) tannins.

    Here is where it gets a bit more complicated. Tannins as discussed in the past are the mouth drying components found in the skins, seeds, stems and in the oak barrels used to age wine. They give body to the wine and allow for longevity in the wine. Tannins also bond with proteins in meat (especially steak) and allow the wine to not be overpowered. So if you want big tannins and a long finish you either are eating food or just want the wine to be taking over your mouth for the time being.

    Taking over your mouth also coincides nicely with the long finish. When talking of a long finish one goal of wine drinkers is taking a sip of wine and having the tasting experience last for a long period of time otherwise known as a finish.

    If the response is big everything then I lean towards Napa and Australia. When complexity is desired Bordeaux, France comes to mind as well as Central and Southern Italy, but figuring out Italy is oh so much more insane than grasping basic France.

    Big fruit comes largely from warmer climates. With grapes the fruit component increases with the sugars during ripening, while the acidity decreases. When harvesting grapes the goal is to pick when the sugars and fruit are big yet the acid is still present to give it a balance. In warm regions the fruit gets big too quick and so acidity has to be added back to keep the wine from tasting “flabby” as most refer to it. One other method is to harvest on two seperate occasions. Early in the season to get the bright tartness and a somewhat more complex palate, and then again later to get the more fruit heavy juice that only comes from extended sun and hangtime.

    I’m reminded of the time I went to an Austrailian wine tasting many years ago and I asked a wine maker if he added acidity to the wine. I knew it was probably the case, but I wasn’t certain. He turned to me with his handle bar mustache and cowboy hat and said with a thick aussie accent “Of course I added acidity..everyone in Austrailia does!” This isn’t actually the case, but a majority do and its out of necessity.

    To recap big wines: we have aggressive tannins often largely from the oak aging, and a fruit dominate palate that comes from later picking in warmer climates.

    In a larger wine the conversation your wine is going to have with you is going to be greatly reduced. Next I will discuss conversational wine 🙂

    -Jonathan Hood