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Wine Tasting - The Sense of Sight
Wine tasting basics begin with knowing how to use your senses to understand, interpret, and enjoy the wine. The ability to recognize what you see, and furthermore describe it in clear terms, is a very important wine tasting skill.
Although some may say the appearance of the wine is the least important aspect with regard to the senses, it is still worth noting. When examining appearance, we are looking for clarity and color. We want the wine to be free of any sediment, leaving it clear and brilliant. Red wines tend to lose their color as they mature, while white wines tend to grow darker with age. A good quality wine generally will be intense in color. The "legs" seen running down the sides of a glass after being swirled, are an indication of flavor density. It is best to use a plain white background, and tilt the glass slightly as you observe clarity and color.
Merlot (pronounced Mare-LOW)
Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in France’s Bordeaux region, although it is eclipsed in stature by cabernet sauvignon, the grape with which it is routinely blended. In recent years, Merlot has enjoyed a explosion in popularity, especially in the United States, South America, Italy and Australia. In California, plantings have risen from 4,000 acres in 1988 to over 50,000 today.
A thin-skinned variety, merlot ripens earlier in the season then cabernet sauvignon and is less hardy, prone to a variety of ailments from shatter (the loss of potential fruit during flowering of the vine) to rot and mildew. It is more adaptable to cool climates than cabernet sauvignon, but similarly prefers a relatively warm growing environment.
Merlot’s popularity is due to the fact that it is softer, fruitier, and earlier-maturing than cabernet sauvignon, yet displays many of the same aromas and flavors – black cherry, currant, cedar, and green olive – along with mint, tobacco and tea-leaf tones. Although enjoyable as a varietal wine, it is probably most successful when blended with cabernet sauvignon, which contributes the structure, depth of flavor, and ageability merlot lacks.
Like cabernet, merlot is a good accompaniment to simply prepared beef and lamb dishes.
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