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The Cellar: Expand Your Palate

Friday, August 01, 2014


Do you consider yourself a bit of a wine nerd? If so, you should consider signing up for a wine tasting at the Providence Wine Academy - hosted by yours truly. The Providence Wine Academy was founded in November, 2011 with the mission of providing its patrons with a series of unique wine learning experiences. We are now entering our 4th season but our goal remains the same: to create a cozy and relaxed (often comical) environment where people can taste unusual quality wines without breaking the bank. We take a lot of pride in servicing winos that find themselves seeking blind, comparative wine tasting experiences that lay in between the ‘all-you-can-drink buffets of Yellow Tail’ and the ‘sit down and take notes’ wine classes.

At the next tasting, which is this Monday August 4th, participants will be exploring the grape varietals Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Not only will participants be sampling 3 different expressions of each grape, they will also be learning about the region where the wines come from and how the wines are made.

Not your everyday Chardonnay

While many of you will be familiar with the soft and fruit driven Argentinean ‘Mendoza style’ Malbec, you might not know that Malbec originally is a blending grape from Bordeaux. You might also be unaware that the place in France that specializes in single varietal Malbec, a small town called Cahors, makes a very different style of Malbec – rustic, meaty and tannic. The differences between the various styles are amazing and must be tasted to be believed.

The other red grape variety participants will be sampling is Cabernet Franc - probably my favorite red grape varietal of them all (and yes, I do say that about almost all varietals). Cab Franc most commonly appears in red Bordeaux style blends, where it adds herbaceous accents of tobacco and dark spice. By itself Cabernet Franc is usually light to medium bodied and often shows vegetal characteristics, in particular green bell peppers. The level of vegetalness and earthiness also depends on the climate the grapes are grown in. It is very versatile and can be bottled ‘naked’ (no oak) or after having been exposed to months of barrel aging.

The white varietal we will be exploring is Viognier – a grape varietal that almost went extinct in the early 1980’s. Thank god it didn’t! If you have never tasted a Viognier you’ve been missing out. Viognier is an aromatic grape variety known for producing weighty wines. On the nose, Viognier wines are often very floral, even honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavor association, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peach. Among the Viognier that participants will be tasting is a highly rated Condrieu as well as a single vineyard example from Walla Walla, Washington.

For more information about the Providence Wine Academy or to sign up for Mondays tasting, click here. Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


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