Recently while I was reading one of my wine periodicals I ran across an article that I found interesting and I thought many of the residents of Taos who drink wine but are also mindful of the contents of the product they eat and drink would also find interesting.
The idea and some of the content of this article are attributable to the writers of The Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Wine makers and producers often, as part of the wine fermentation and aging process, add “safe” (you be the judge) preservatives to the wines.
They also add elements to the wines to help make them clearer and reduce the sediment left by the fermentation. This process is called “fining.”
In my opinion some of these additives are an augmentation to the natural process and are good while others are a way to shortcut the natural fermentation and aging process and simply try to make an inferior product palatable and marketable.
Following are some of the preservatives that may be added to your wine.
SULFITES: Kill microbes and bacteria that can be harmful to the flavor and aromatics of a wine. They also can stop fermentation to control for the desired alcohol and sugar levels in a wine. These are identified on the warning label of all U.S. produced wines.
ENZYMES: Basically specific enzymes help remove any impurities and residue left as a result of fermentation.
ACIDS: These are necessary ingredients in wine development. Many are naturally occurring in grape juice and skins. Tartaric acid is the most prevalent in wine grapes. Malic and lactic acids are also naturally occurring. They are frequently mixed with tartaric acid to enhance acid in low-acid wines.
YEAST: This element is also naturally occurring in the juice from the crush. It is the critical element in the fermentation process converting sugars from the juice into alcohol.
Following are some of the fining agents that may have been used in your wine. These elements are solids and are filtered out of the wine after they have done their job and before bottling:
FISH BLADDERS: This pure protein bonds to bitter tannins and haze-inducing particles in the wine.
MAMMAL PROTEINS: These are usually egg whites and gelatins. They are very effective in clarifying red wines.
BENTONITE CLAY: This specific type of clay is the most effective type of clay for absorption. It is used to reduce astringency in wine.
The additives listed above are some of the products that I think augment the natural process. Other additives that I did not list, like tannin powders, oak chips and Mega Purple coloring are those that attempt to shortcut the fermentation and aging process and are primarily for marketing purposes.
The following wines are some of my recent favorite white wines and have probably utilized some of the additives listed above:
2011 Burgans Albarino ($14.99 at Kokoman): Made up of 100 percent Albarino grapes, this wine is produced in the Rias Baixas region of Spain.
In the glass it is a light straw color. As you bring the glass to your nose you will notice aromas of melon and peach with a hint of spice.
As you taste this wine flavors of white peach and spice are dominant with notes of lemon zest in the background. This medium-bodied wine finishes with fresh crisp acidity for a refreshing conclusion.
Some suggested food pairings would include orzo salad, grilled spare ribs and vegetable stir fry.
2012 Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay ($16.49 at Kokoman): This 100 percent Chardonnay is produced in South Australia.
A light straw color with green highlights greets your eyes as you look at the wine in the glass. Aromas of peach and white flower blossom with a creamy note greet your nose with a hint of citrus hiding in the background.
Flavors of apple and citrus are in the forefront as you drink the wine. The flavors from the palate continue in the medium-long finish.
Food pairings for this wine include poultry and green salad with cherry tomatoes.
2013 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc ($14.49 at Kokoman): This wine is produced in Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand. It is comprised of 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
A straw yellow color in the glass the wine exhibits aromas of passion fruit and white peach with mineral notes.
Passion fruit continues on the palate as you drink this wine with the addition of gooseberry and the classic New Zealand grapefruit flavor. A refreshing refrain of herbs wafts lightly through the crisp finish. Fresh fish and green salads are suggested food pairings for this wine.
In closing I would like to digress and mention a wonderful wine dinner I attended just after writing my February column during the Taos Winter Wine Festival.
Executive Chef and co-owner George Bartel along with co-owner Isabel Alford of Mosaic Fine Dining in the La Fonda Hotel on Taos Plaza produced one of the best wine dinners I have attended in quite some time. The five-course dinner, starting with an excellent seafood medley with duck prosciutto saltimbocca and featuring entrees of veal and two rabbit preparations, was exquisitely prepared and plated. The wine pairings selected by Bartel expertly complimented each course. I am not the restaurant critic but I strongly suggest that you try a dinner, or lunch at Mosaic.