545 Wine Tasting

Oh, how we love Grenache at Table Wine!  This versatile grape is one of the most prolific in the world, making up the core component of many of the wines from Southern France and Spain, but also showing up in wines from all parts of the globe.


We’ll sample five of them blind, and you’ll get to be the judge as to which region produces your favorite style of Grenache.  All wines will be offered by the glass as well!  The “545″ format is a clever title for our newest tasting format, whereby you simply taste 5 wines for $5.  The tasting is free for Grape NutsWe will hold tastings of this sort on the Fridays when we don’t have Wine Downs.  Our first one is this Friday, January 20 and the tasting goes from 4 to 7 p.m.  Join us and take the “Grenache Challenge”!


The lineup is below, but we won’t serve them in this order – you’ll each have a rating sheet and the wines will be revealed to you once you’ve tasted all of the wines.


1. Vinae Murei Garnacha “Xiloca” – This one hails from Aragon in north-central Spain, and many believe that this is where the Grenache/Garnacha grape originated.  Either way, this is one flavor-packed wine, with notes of lush cherry and raspberry framed by cedar and spice.


2. Domaine Charvin “A Cote” – The Charvin family are one of the top producers in France’s Southern Rhone region, and they make their wines as naturally as possible.  This one is a blend of old vine Grenache with just a splash of Merlot and it is bottled unfiltered to preserve all of its goodness.It tastes of bright cherry, plum and strawberry with notes of white pepper throughout.


3. Argiolas Cannonau “Costera” – What the heck is Cannonau?  It is the Sardinian name for Grenache and this one is 100% varietal.  This is probably the most rustic of the wines you’ll have – notes of leather, Provencal herbs and a slight balsamic quality make this wine a love it or hate it sort of tasting experience.


4. Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone “Cuvée Romaine” – This is Josh’s favorite Cotes du Rhone from the highly acclaimed 2010 vintage.  From the estate’s vineyards in the village of Vacqueyras, this blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah is rustic, full bodied, fully flavored Cotes du Rhone that tastes like a wine that costs a lot more. 


5. Wind Gap “Orra” Red Blend – Pax Mahle spent many years making heavy duty, highly rated wines under his Pax label, and this is his newest project.  From special plots of old vines throughout California’s North Coast, this blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise reminds me of a Chateauneuf du Pape.  

Wine Tasting Etiquette

This is my latest column in The Laurel of Asheville, and I hope that those who read it find humor in it.  In a nutshell, if you want to avoid looking like this guy at one of the many great free wine tastings in Asheville,  just follow these few simple rules.

I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to learn about wine is to taste it, and Asheville is rampant with free wine tastings almost every week end.  For the eight or so independently owned wine shops about town, free tastings are our way to expose wine lovers to new wines and give them a chance to “try before they buy”.  Most of the folks that come to these tastings are very friendly and courteous, but occasionally you get someone who acts like they’ve never been to a public, community event before.  If you’re not sure how to behave at a wine tastings, here are some general rules that will make you look like a true pro.

Don't be this guy at your next wine tasting!

Don’t be this guy at your next wine tasting!

1. First and foremost, please understand that it’s a wine tasting and not happy hour.  It’s fine to ask for a second taste of the wine, but after that it’s time to buck up for a bottle or a glass of that wine you love.  We’re not trying to be stingy; we just want everyone in attendance to get a chance to try the wines we’ve hand-selected.

2. The next rule involves the use of water to rinse your glass in between wines.  Don’t do it!  Some of the chemicals in water will negatively affect the aroma and flavor of the wine.  A better way is to rinse with just a dab of the next wine which gets rid of the previous wine’s residue and actually “tunes” your glass for the next wine.  Another great way to prepare for the next wine poured is to have a little bite of food to cleanse your palate, which leads into the next rule of etiquette.

3. If food is offered, please keep in mind that it is for everyone.  Grab a plate of cheese and bread and move on so that others may do the same.  Also, those giant pincher things on the plates are serving tongs, and I highly recommend that you use them so as not to contaminate the foodstuffs for others.  Use common sense good manners, much like you would at mom’s house for Sunday supper, and you’ll get along just fine.

4. Speaking of manners, there is a right way and a wrong way to say that you like or dislike a wine.  Saying that you don’t like a wine is perfectly fine and your opinion and feedback on a specific wine can help your wine monger hone in to what you do like.  However, making a blanket statement like “this wine is horrible” is a big no-no.  Keep in mind that wines come in all variety of styles and flavors, and just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good – it just means that it’s not for you.

5. The final wine tasting rule is a simple one – once you get your taste, please step back from the tasting bar so that others may step up to get their taste.  It’s one thing if it’s a wine bar and you’ve ordered a glass of wine — it’s perfectly fine to belly up to the bar then.  However, it it’s billed as a wine tasting, please don’t hog the bar and make it difficult for others to get in on the action.

There you have it – five simple rules to keep you in the good graces of your local wine retailer.  Of course, have a good time, but don’t let your actions impede the fun of others.  Happy tasting!