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LOVED a particular wine... now what?

This will probably teach me to do a better job of keeping record of my purchases and reactions. I'd been trying, but obviously not hard enough...

A couple of nights ago, I opened a bottle of 2003 Veramonte Primus (a Chilean blend of Merlot, Cab and Carmenere). I really really really liked it... it really drove home how little I've liked a lot of what I've tasted lately.

I think I can figure out my options for obtaining more of this particular wine. (The lesson on record-keeping ... I don't know when or where I bought it, nor how much I paid, although I usually do record when and how much, I've been slack of late.) My problem is that I don't know how to articulate what it is about this wine that I love so much. So, I don't know what to say to my local shop vendor to help him guide me to other bottles I'll love.

Which leads to two questions: a) If you know this wine, do you have any thoughts on what the probable descriptors are that distinguish it? and b) How do I learn how to articulate what I'm tasting? (Beyond "practice"... e.g., are there excercises/experiments that are helpful?)

I usually use "big, bold, jammy... pepper, cedar, spice". Is there more I could/should be saying? Less?

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  1. My best suggestion is get more and then sacrifice a bottle (and build your relationship with your wine merchant) and open it up with the merchant. Talk about the wine with said merchant and hopefully you'll 1) learn how to articulate what it is you like and 2) get some ideas directly from the merchant.

    I also use "leathery", "berries", "vanilla" (a big one for me). One thing that seems to me to be a key feature just from what you noted is that its a blend. Further, you can tell what region of Chile it'll be from and look for similar types of growing regions in different places in the world. I often chase wine styles this way, it bounces me all over the wine world, but its fun and I often find things I wouldn't have otherwise. Good luck!

    14 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      Thanks. I actually did consider carrying it to him for him to have a taste! Glad to know it wasn't a completely loony thought! By today (day three), though, it had definitely lost its shine. I only had one glass left, thankfully! It was a lovely two day romance, though.

      1. re: abowes

        Well, to be fair, not many wines fare too well after 3 days. But, perhaps problem solved and all is well!

        Definitely not a loony thought...some of the best things I've ever done are take wine to a wine merchant or food to a food merchant, especially if you make a particularly good dish with something a cheese shop supplied or a fish monger sold you...its really great to keep them in the loop on things, it can only benefit everyone.

        1. re: ccbweb

          "Well, to be fair, not many wines fare too well after 3 days"

          So I've learned! :-) At first, it wasn't until 5 days that I could tell. And, often still, it's not until the 5th day that I pour out the remainder. But this one, this one was so marvelous the first day that the change by day three was remarkable. Again, I think I've been drinking a lot of wines that I'm not crazy about on day one. Hopefully I'll get better at finding what I like most, as I get better at describing what I like most.

        2. re: abowes

          One thing to consider, would be to purchase a Vac-u-vin pump with a few stoppers. Insert the stopper, give it a few pulls, to evacuate much of the air, then pop the bottle into the 'fridge. Just let it warm up, before serving. This is not an end-all, be-all to opened wine storage, but might well get you a few more days out of a wine. There are other methods of oxy evacuation, and I've got examples of most of them, but the lowly Vac-u-vin does such a good job and so elegantly simple, that most other devices just gather dust at my home.

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Thanks, Bill. I do have, and am using, the Vac-u-vin. I have not, though, been putting the wine in the fridge. Not sure why... will try it next time.

            1. re: abowes

              Like anything edible than can degrade with exposure, wine will last a bit longer if it's refrigerated. Cold temps retard the growth of bacteria in food and appear to keep wine more stable as well,

              I've used both Vac-u-Vin and gas, and I have a question for anyone who wants to tackle it. I've seen lots of professional wine preservation installations and they all use argon or nitrogen (or a mix). None use the simple 'pump the air out' method of the Vac-u-Vin. Does that mean it's really better to use? One wine shop guy told me that he thought that wine kept under gas for a long time begins to take on taste and smell from the gas. Depending on the turnover of the wine bar, some bottles will last a few weeks in the more sophisticated setups.

              The good thing about the Vac-u-Vin, though, is that, if you keep the rubber stoppers clean, you can re-use it pretty much indefinitely.... no need to keep buying cans of Private Preserve or other brand of gas. I just wonder, if it's as good, why it's not used as a professional method.

              1. re: Midlife

                Vacuum pump systems are better than nothing for short-term storage but not by much. They don't remove all the air from the headspace, so oxidizing continues, albeit at an initially slower rate. What's more, they aren't airtight, as you can prove for yourself: seal a bottle and count how many pumps it takes to remove the air; 24 hours later, pump the bottle again. You'll find you can pump nearly as many times as 24 hours before. Some people also knock the pumps for removing aromatics, as you can smell when you pump.

                Wine bars and restaurants use inert gas because it works. And pardon my French, but your wine shop guy is full of *merde*. The gases used are odourless and flavourless, so how can they affect the wine's aroma and flavour? They're also inert, i.e. they don't react with the wine. I've kept wines, including quite delicate wines, under gas for weeks with no ill effects.

                1. re: carswell

                  Good to hear. I use a custom set-up with a tank or argon and his comment gave me pause. It's surprising in that he seems very knowledgable and now works as a rep for a wine broker. Perhaps there's something in the equipment itself (they have Enomatic units where he worked), maybe in the tubes inside the bottles or in the sealing material??? He said that there was a common taste and aorma, regardlessof the varietal. H-m-m-m-m.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    The gas units that I have, other than the canned inert gases, that is, all have Nalgene tubing, that *should not* impart any taste. Since my storage is but for a day in the 'fridge, I have gotten lazy and almost always just use the Vac-u-vin. It also makes for easy travel. I've got one, plus ~4 stoppers in all of our larger suitcases - plus an Ah-so and a "waiter's friend." These are all "checked" luggage, so no problem having to tell the folk at Heathrow how I do not intend to attack the cabin personel with a corkscrew!

                    One day, I'll get very ambitious and do a control test with all of the devices, just to see what differences I can detect. Until then, however, the laziness will trump, and I'll just pump.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Couple of questions: when you refrigerate the wine after opening, assuming you are not going to finish it the 2nd time either, do you take the bottle out and let it warm up, pour a glass and put the remainder back in the fridge, or do you pour a glass and let the glass warm up while you put the bottle back in the fridge right away? Also, I know you use the Vacu-Vin more but for the canned gas like Private Preserve, the directions say 1 spray of a couple of seconds and then 4 short sprays into the bottle does the trick. Do you feel that's enough? It always seems to little to me.

                      1. re: monkuboy

                        Re the Private Preserve..... they do suggest one more long spray, at the end, if the bottle is down near the bottom..... but what's important here is that you only need to put in enough gas to form a layer over the wine. You don't need to fill the empty space completely because the gas you're addding is heavier than air and will form a barrier betweeen the wine and the any air left in the upper part of the bottle. It IS important to keep the bottle vertical for this reason.

                        As to your other question..... I really dont think it makes that much difference, but if you know you're only going to have one glass', the purist answer would be to pour it and keep the bottle cold. Repeated significant changes in temperature can have a negative impact on the wine.Most people, though, don't know how much they'll drink in advance and/or don't have a palate that is sensitive enough to detect any difference caused by this fluctuation. I don't think I'd be overly concerned about it.

                        1. re: Midlife

                          Thanks. I guess it is a matter of do you let the bottle keep warming and then chilling, or do you let the wine sit in the glass exposed to air for longer than normal waiting for it to warm up.. only one thing is for sure, I have OCD about this, haha.

        3. re: ccbweb

          You shouldn't have to do that. If the merchant doesn't carry the wine, they probably still have a clue to its flavor profile. there ae several Chilean wines made similarly, and if the merchant is worth his/her salt, they'll pull several corks for you to taste and see what you like. If they won't/don't offer, you're at the wrong wine store!

          I suggest you fond a wine store that holds weekly complimentary tastings and make yourself a regurlar at those. Ask lots of questions, and make friends with the owner/manager of the store. You will find lots of benefits to that kind of relationship. I know from experience.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Thanks. I'm working on developing such a relationship now. I had one... but the store closed :-( I also don't think I buy enough to make it worth his while to pull a few corks for me. But, I have been going to the open tastings. I think I'm still pining away for my old shop, and just need a little more time to decide on this new relationship.

            I agree that I shouldn't have to bring in the wine for him to taste, but I do think it's a much more surefire way to handle it, when I'm not feeling articulate.

            Baby steps.

        4. Here's part of how WS described that wine. "Ripe and smoky, with dark plum, tobacco and cocoa notes followed by plenty of bacony toast on the finish."

          Developing the vocabulary to articulate what you do and don't like in a wine can come from reading and learning about wines, or you can buy a Wine Wheel such as this one to get you started http://www.vadim.com/Wine/wine_wheel.jpg

          As for the exercises you asked about, a series of guided tastings sounds good to me.

          1. One thing I often encourage customers to do when they're trying to develop their palate and get a better feel for the types of wine that they most enjoy, is to save the labels from their wine bottles and make copious notes on the back of said labels. I try to convey to them that they should write down any flavors and aromas that they pick up, in addition to characteristics that they both liked and disliked. While I don't suspect that all that many people actually follow through on this, I have had a few people come back with labels that they've saved, full of little notes. Sometimes they'll also have similar notes on the same label for other wines they've recently tried. It helps them and myself make much more informed decisions when picking out new wines for them to try.

            I also tend to warn people off putting a lot of faith in some of the more exotic (read: bullshit) terms used in rags like Wine Spectator. I mean, c'mon, "bacony toast?!"

            1 Reply
            1. re: braineater

              Great suggestions...we keep our labels in a little book that someone gave us as a wedding gift. It started as a joke...but it works. granted, we're of the "try anything twice" variety so we get around to all of it eventually.

              bacony toast....not for wine, but now I'm hungry for breakfast.

            2. Veramonte Primus is a great wine. Very value oriented as well. Chilean wine has a particular characteristic that you probably enjoyed. The vineyards are surrounded by eucalpytus that growns like kudzu in the south (its everywhere). this adds a cedar and mint quality to the wine that is hard to duplicate in other parts of the world. Also, a lot of American oak is used in Chilean wines adding to the vanilla and toasty flavors.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chickstein

                Thanks, chickstein, that was both informative and interesting! I have, actually, noticed that cedar is a note that I recognize almost immediately and almost always enjoy.

                I got another Chilean winery's similar blend. Haven't opened it yet, but expect to soon. That should be enlightening. I'll also focus on trying a few more Chilean offerings, and then see where that leads me.

                1. re: abowes

                  There is a wine my husband LOVES, called Arboleda Carmenere. I haven't seen it in Texas, but we drank a lot of it in Georgia. It retails for $14.99 in Georgia and is very tasty!

                2. re: chickstein

                  The "cedar" effect from eucalyptus occurs quite often -- wherever there are eucalyptus trees in or near a vineyard. It's the bane of many a winemaker's existence -- often there is too much of the cedar/eucalyptus flavor and it overpowers/eclipses other aroma/flavor notes. BTW, I'm differentiating this eucalyptus cedar aroma/flavor from that caused by oak aging or that inherent in the Cabernet Franc and other grapes.

                3. IMO, if you try to find more wines like this by giving "flavor descriptors" to a wine salesman, you're going to be very disappointed.

                  Instead... 1) Try and find the same wine 2) Try and find similar-styled wines from the same REGION and same YEAR.... from your description this is a red meritage type style, but also look for the straight cabs and straight merlots, if any, from same region, same year.

                  Also, I would suggest you focus on Chile for a bit, and not wander all over the map. The particular wine you tried (Veramonte Primus) is from the Casablanca Valley, north of Santiago. As well as trying wines from the same region and year, why not also try a red or two from the Maipo Valley, one of the world's great vinicultural regions just south of Santiago.

                  Then, do some verticals, taste different years to see if there's quite alot of variation or consistency...

                  By doing this you'll come up with some benchmark expectations and quality levels for the great red wines of Chile, and you can use that to compare to other same-varietal reds from around the world.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    Wow, that sounds like a very well-organized approach! I will give it a try, if I can manage to keep track of what I'm doing. (Record-keeping is not my forte.)

                    I'm definitely looking to buy the Veramonte Primus again... unfortunately I'm pretty sure that I got it from a place that has since closed -- and, without even having an inventory clearance sale! :-(

                    Thanks again for the advice, I will endeavor to take it. This is going to be a fun ride.

                    Oh... if you don't mind... would you explain a little bit why "if you try to find more wines like this by giving 'flavor descriptors' to a wine salesman, you're going to be very disappointed", please?

                  2. I am gald to hear you like the Primus. You should try the 2004 which is the current vintage. I beleive it is the best one we have ever made.

                    My name is Agustin. I am the owner. If you tell me where you live I will get a list of retailers that carry it.

                    thanks for the support!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ahuneeus

                      Too cool!

                      I'm in Durham, North Carolina. (Raleigh and Chapel Hill are nearby)

                      Thanks!

                      1. re: ahuneeus

                        Agustin...

                        I would be interested in your thoughts about the similarities and differences of wines from Casablanca and wines from Maipo....

                      2. now that's cool! Actually getting a note from the owner.

                        1. I will get back to you in a couple of days with some stores.

                          1. try these stores:

                            The Wine Merchant
                            Preston Corners
                            4240 NW Cary Parkway
                            Cary, NC

                            Harris Teeter
                            Cameron Village
                            501 Overlin Road
                            Raleigh, NC

                            call first just to make sure, And if you can, tell them to torder more!

                            saludos

                            1. I live in Radcliffe, ( small town in manchester, england) I've been looking for veramonte primus everywhere but no joy. Can you please help!