In preparation for Open That Bottle Night (live, only on Palate Press; Saturday, February 26 from 7 pm - 10 pm EST), contributor Erika Szymanski shares some thoughts on the bottle she plans to open for the event.
From a certain point of view, winemakers don’t make wine; yeast and bacteria do. Juice becomes wine by the miracle that is fermentation, the conversion of sugar to alcohol and other compounds. Since I’ve yet to see a human person ingest sugar and expectorate alcohol (whoa…don’t follow that mental image), winemakers must delegate this key operation to yeast.
Within about ten minutes, the scales fell off my eyes. I had blithely tossed "carbonic maceration" into conversations for years while remaining almost totally ignorant of its implications. And what might those be?
If this is a raspberry, it's a slightly dusty purple raspberry rather than the showier red type. A very peppery nose prevents intense grapiness from being cloying. Classic raspberry jam flavors come through in the mouth but, again, with an overlay of black pepper and an absence of upright, perky acidity. Though not a nouveau, still a light-styled wine: peppery spice and acidity come through more on the short finish than tannic astringency. A good balancing wine for something with equal mellowed-zip, like jalepeno-laden tomato sauce with lots of dried herbs.
If someone switched the label to one reading "Dry Raspberry Wine," I wouldn't question it. Light raspberry in color, like a cool, late-evening sunset. Smells like my kitchen mid-raspberry jam production, and tastes like the raspberry puree sans heat, with a very, very fresh berry character that borders on herbaceousness. Perhaps someone tossed a few raspberry leaves in with the fruit? Absolutely no tannins, just lots of tangy berry-like astringency on the finish. Savory cheesecake (hold the berry topping), anyone?
A rich, full nose begins with cherry and chocolate over hugely coffee underpinnings for a velvety effect. Promises made by the aroma are fulfilled by a big, beautifully chocolaty mouth-feel. Dense flavors of chocolate and coffee predominate, effectively lightened and balanced by slightly spicy tannins on the finish. With more time and exposure, vanilla flavors also come through on a finish pleasantly lacking in heat. This would be a natural with anything involving wild mushrooms: rich enough to handle intense earthy flavors but smooth enough not to overwhelm. Lovely.
Open a refrigerator in the back of many wineries and you may find some leftover pizza, cheese and fruit for tomorrow evening’s mixer, and a few rectangular foil packages that look suspiciously like bread-baking yeast. However, those packages of yeast—and they are yeast—are for the wine, not bread dough.