Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wine + vocals

It's time for wine and The Voice, y'all! You can change who you are, y'all. I kind of want to see Spring Breakers again, y'all. But first, cheers, Carson!

If you've never seen The Voice, you should remedy that. I used to doubt singing competition shows until that fateful Superbowl when The Voice followed the game and everything changed.

This show has So. Many. Dreams. Every one of these people is living their dream before your very eyes. The coaches are positive and enthusiastic and funny. And the best thing about it is that the auditions are blind. The coaches don't get to see who the singers are before committing to coaching them. This leads to ugly people getting opportunities in entertainment and a lot of comments like, "how are you not a girl?" and polite versions of "wait, you're white?" Dreams come true left and right and everybody gets free Starbucks.

This amazing display of dreams got me thinking about blind tastings. Blind tastings with guessing are a badge of honor for proper sommeliers, but can be useful for the casual wine drinker as well. And no wine benefits more from a blind tasting than Chardonnay.

Chardonnay has a bad reputation, and that's not entirely fair. Sure, a lot of grandmas drink it and ok, oak gets used a lot, but like the red-headed stepchild of reds, Merlot, there are some real gems being overlooked because of prejudice.

Most people who don't like Chardonnay, myself included, just don't like the heavy oak used. But the only reason oak is used so often in Chardonnay is that its relative neutrality led it to be known as the winemaker's grape. Furthermore, when people started oaking Chardonnay, it was hugely popular. It's only recently that the oak flavors, especially combined with two other common winemaking practices, lees ageing (which gives a toasty, biscuity flavor) and malolactic fermentation (which lends a creamy mouthfeel and a buttery aroma), have become unpopular. It used to be Chardonnay was prized for allowing these winemaking qualities to stand out. Now most prefer no oak or oak they can't detect because an aromatic grape was used.

But unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnays are out there and they can be great. Shelby Ledgerwood gave us one for our final exam and we all thought it was Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Similarly, oak can be used and detectable in other whites, such as the 2011 Le Ferme Julien Blanc, which my charming friend Kate served last night, without taking over the flavor of the wine entirely.

A blend of 5 grapes, 10% of this wine is oaked with lees ageing and 90% is unoaked. It gives just a hint of the flavor but  doesn't overwhelm (unlike Carson Daly's desire to be part of every family that walks into the auditions. Watch him. It's amazing. Dude forces so many hugs). It offers citrus and a drop of honey on the nose with a little nuttiness. Pair it with chicken or salad, but don't be afraid to nibble a lemon cupcake alongside it like we did.

So push your button for a Chardonny. Experiment with a lightly oaked white. Throw a blind tasting blind auditions party (ok this is happening). You could end up achieving your wildest dream. Or just getting tipsy while Adam Levine flirts with a pregnant Shakira. Which literally happens. Seriously, how are you not watching this show?

Kate is a person with whom I would like to Freaky Friday.

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