Pacific Rim
 
December 23, 2020 | Pacific Rim

Do Old Vines Make Better Wine?

So you find yourself in a wine bar and some bore is trying to impress you: Old vine wine is the only wine worth drinking. You could not get me to drink anything other than…” At this point, you stopped listening because you’d rather enjoy your glass of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon in peace. But… is there something to this? Is old vine wine better? In other words, do old vines produce superior quality?

Old vines growing wine grapes in a vineyard

What Is Old Vine Wine?

There is no strict age limit when it comes to an old vine. But we can generalize:

  • 3 Years: It takes this long for a grapevine to begin to produce fruit. Winemaking is truly an investment in time, energy, and love.
  • 7 - 8 Years: Now a vine is considered an “adult.” 
  • 12 - 25 Years: At this point, the grapevine is considered “mature.”
  • 25+ Years: We’re getting old now! Some experts say that 50-year-old vines produce the best wines!

We need to dig into some wine history real quick. A tiny insect called the Phylloxera decimated Europe’s winemaking industry in the late 1800s. This aphid-like pest destroyed ancient vineyards, causing fatal root damage and microbial infections. 

To attack the issue, winemakers grafted Vitis vinifera grapevines (from which their wine came) to North American species that were resistant to Phylloxera. But among the benefits, such as ability to cope with drought, grafting tends to shorten the lifespan of vines to 25 - 30 years. Hence why 25+ is considered “old” in most of the wine-producing world today.

At the ripe old age of 25 - 30 (perhaps extending to 50 or more in some areas), vines do seem to behave differently. How?

  • The fruit is more concentrated. As they age, old vine wines produce less fruit. Many argue that the fruit they do produce, however, is richer and more flavorful.
  • They have deep roots. This enables the vines to pull in water and nutrients from deeper into the ground. They tend to be more resistant to drought and flood, as well as more consistent in flavor.
  • They are lower-maintenance. Oh, those young vines. They need so much attention! Old vines, if healthy, pretty much take care of themselves.
  • Old vines may be more resistant to disease. They seem to have hardier, tougher leaves. But likely at play as well is “selection of the fittest.” If vines live to be old, they have developed resistance to black goo, Esca, fan leaf, and other scourges.

All this may be true - but it is also important to look at the quality of the vines, not just the age. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, many vines were grown with a “quantity over quality” mentality. This does not bode well for the resulting wine! A young vine that is grown biodynamically, for example, can produce wine that is exceptional in all ways compared to an old vine that was grown with chemical-laden conventional techniques.

So age isn’t always a determinant of quality. Look deeper: what about the vineyard itself? What type of philosophy does it follow in terms of soil treatment? Pest control? Planting? Harvesting? Producing wine? Likely that old bore talking about old vine wine has no idea what it really means!

Instead of focusing solely on old vine wine, look at where and how the grapes are grown and how they go from vine to glass. This will tell you much more.

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Pacific Rim
 
December 13, 2020 | Pacific Rim

Dessert Wine and Cheese Pairings

Is there anything more satisfying (and comforting) than wine and cheese? No? Ok, now that we are all on the same page, let’s talk about some exceptional dessert wine and cheese pairings. As we always say, the best pairing is the one that you enjoy most! But if you want to explore new flavors and combinations, and find a combo that enhances the tastes, textures, and “wow” factor of each element, read on.

Various dessert wine and cheese pairings

Classic dessert wines include Port, Sherry, and Madeira. We are also including some other sweet whites and reds. So, get out the cheeseboard and glasses, and prepare to find your new favorites.

Dessert Wines and Cheeses

Port: With Port, fermentation is stopped so there is more residual sugar. Strong fruit notes.

 

Try: Blue cheeses.

More Nibbles: Raw or candied walnuts or pecans.

Sherry: Another fortified wine, Sherry leans from slightly sweet to very sweet.

Try: Manchego, Cabrales, Mahon, Serra de Estrella, Amontillado (if these are too hard to find, try a nice Camembert, Parmigiano Reggiano, or blue cheese).

More Nibbles: Again, nuts offer a great contrast to the sweet wine and salty cheese.

Madeira: More acidic than Sherry with a slightly nutty flavor.

Try: Blue cheeses, gruyere.

More Nibbles: Dark chocolate, nuts, or even better, dark chocolate-covered nuts.

Moscato: Light bodied and off-dry, Moscato is becoming a household favorite.

Try: Pepperjack, brie, muenster.

More Nibbles: Cured meats (e.g. prosciutto) and nuts.

Riesling: Similar to Moscato, Riesling is sweet and off-dry. Fruity and light.

Try: Strong and/or salty cheeses like blue cheese, aged gouda, and feta.

More Nibbles: Spicy foods (e.g. Thai appetizers), dried fruits, nuts.

Sparkling Wines/Champagne: Bubbly and delicious!

Try: Fatty cheeses, like brie and camembert.

More Nibbles: Crudites and breadsticks with olive tapenade.

Merlot: Chocolatey and smooth, Merlot is an interesting choice for a dessert wine - and we love it.

Try: Gouda, gruyere, jarlsberg, or gorgonzola.

More Nibbles: Mini meatballs.

Syrah/Shiraz: Intense and full of personality. Syrah is typically lighter, while Shiraz is bold and rich.

Try: Sharp cheddar, gouda, parmesan.

More Nibbles: Black olives, smoked meat bites.

Which dessert wines and cheeses make your must-have or must-try list?

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Pacific Rim
 
December 3, 2020 | Pacific Rim

Why Dessert Wine Pairing Is Different

Dry wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Pinot Noir, have exploded in popularity in recent years as people seek to cut out extraneous sugar. But… sometimes, you need a little sweet wine treat. This is where dessert wine comes in! Meant to be enjoyed in small glasses and savored slowly, these options can be the perfect after-dinner indulgence. What should you know about dessert wine pairing before your next dinner party, romantic dinner, or “you” time?

A dessert wine pairing

Dessert Wine Pairing: Why It's Different

Dessert wine pairing is different because the wine itself is very different. It is meant to be enjoyed in small servings, and as we’ll discuss, it is sweeter than other wines due to the variations in the fermentation process. Because it is a “dessert” wine, it is understandable that you want to serve dessert with it! Sweet on sweet can be tricky, so it is important to balance flavors. 

Types of Dessert Wine 

First, what is a “sweet wine” or “dessert wine”? Well, if winemakers are creating dessert wine, they stop the fermentation process before the yeast transforms all the sugars into alcohol. They can do this by super-cooling the wine or by adding the appropriate amount of brandy. What you end up with is a rich, sweet wine replete with wonderful, natural sugars.

When people think of dessert wine, they typically think of port and sherry. Correct! These are two types of dessert wine - but there are more to explore:

  • Sparkling (e.g. Moscato, some Riesling, Rose, some Gewurztraminer)
  • Lightly Sweet (some Gewurztraminer, some Riesling, Chenin Blanc)
  • Richly Sweet (e.g. some Riesling, some Gewurztraminer, Sauternais, Ice Wine)
  • Sweet Red (e.g. Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and some Bordeaux-style red blends)
  • Fortified (e.g. Port, Sherry)

Now, any of these types of dessert wines can make a great dessert in and of itself, particularly if it’s a good, rich port or sherry. But what if you want to serve up a little something extra?

Your Dessert Wine Pairing Guide

The key to great dessert wine pairing is to ensure that the wines you serve compliment the dishes without overpowering them. For example, a hearty, rich Merlot with a delicate tart is not optimal because the substantive wine takes over. You won’t appreciate the elegant, airy dessert, and the wine, too, can suffer because it may seem like just too much. 

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Very Sweet Desserts: If you’re enjoying a pecan pie, cheesecake, creme brulee, chocolate cake, or other decadent dessert, try a wine that will stand up to these sweet treats. You’ll need an aged madeira or port to hit all the right notes.
  • Sweet Desserts: Those chocolate chip or sugar cookies are calling to you. Chocolate chip and Cabernet Sauvignon and sugar cookies and Chardonnay are matches made in dessert heaven!
  • Sweet/Savory: What pairs perfectly with pumpkin pie? To compliment the savory hints, try a lightly sweet wine like Riesling. 
  • Sweet/Spicy: You’ve baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies, and the scent of cinnamon is making your mouth water. Choose a sweeter wine with some hint of spice to maximize impact! Riesling is a great choice here. For desserts with molasses, try a nice Pinot Noir.
  • Fresh Fruit/Fruit Pies: If your dessert features stone fruits (e.g. peach, nectarines, apricots), try slightly sweet whites; if you’re going with dark fruits (e.g. cherries, plums, blackberries), go with a sweet red.

We have found that the best way to discover your favorite dessert wine pairing is to experiment! What’s your favorite combination? Does Sherry or Port overpower your delicate torts? Why not try a Chardonnay? Does Riesling get lost in creme brulee? You may need to up the sweetness factor. In any case, it comes down to your palette. 

Our advice: plan your own dessert wine pairing taste test, and see what you and your friends/family discover!

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