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August 25, 2005


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Days of wine and jelly beans

New flavor chart matches wine with Jelly Bellys

By Tim Protzman 

What’s in a wine? What makes it taste the way it does? What flavors do we find? This is an age-old question that has been debated  by wine people everywhere. Ann C. Noble of the University of California at Davis has based her life’s work on categorizing wine flavors and smells. She’s produced a Wine Aroma Wheel that spells out 76 different scents found in wine. But you don’t have to know all the precise terms to appreciate a good glass of wine.

I’ve found that anyone who likes wine can come up with a few descriptive lines on flavor, aroma and taste. I’ve found that even the most casual wine drinker can tell between a nice glass and a really good glass. This tells me anyone with a sense of taste is qualified to make taste and value judgments. Just open a bottle and taste. See how the wine smells in the glass and how it changes as it mixes with the air. What fruit flavors are present? This is how the experts do it, but it’s one of the more simple things about wine.

A few days ago my editor sent me an interesting e-mail on wine flavors. De Loach Vineyards and Jelly Belly Jelly Beans have teamed up to present a wine-tasting method by using different flavored jelly beans as descriptors. Just click on the wine and flavored jelly beans come up.

Primitivo — an up-and-coming Italian grape, similar to a light Zinfandel comes up as cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, pepper, plum and licorice. The oakier Californian version loses the licorice and adds cinnamon, French vanilla and chocolate.

They’ve even come up with a nasty little flavor called pinch of dirt, which is added for the Italian Primitivos. There are 42 different varietals and even a very ambitious section that describes the regional characteristics of Californian Chardonnay and Zinfandel.

Carneros Chardonnay is green apple, juicy pear, lemon lime, peach, crushed pineapple, red apple and, once again, pinch of dirt.

The Sierra Foothills region Zinfandel is much like the Primitivo but there’s no dirt. Dirt flavors are often found in wine, but rather than a mouthful of muck they are present as an earthiness, like eating a river catfish, from the minerals in the soil that have transferred to the grapes. The website where you can find this flavor chart is found at: winexmagazine.com/jellybelly/jellybelly.htm on the Wine X Magazine site. Wine X Magazine (and its online e-zine) bills itself as “a new voice for a new generation of wine consumers.” It has a ton of good info and interesting wine articles, written in a Maxim-esque tone. It’s funny and pulls no punches.

The best thing is that the recommended wines, unlike in some wine columns, are usually readily available. The comments are short and sassy. I’m not one to subscribe to the many wine publications out there, because they seem to invoke a jealousy and longing in me that remains unrequited. I just don’t have the time or capital to do a bicycle tour of Burgundy the right way. A 3-star meal with wine costs more than a month’s rent on my apartment. But when I first started to learn a little about wine I found these publications helpful. My favorite is Yak Shaya’s Wine Page. He’s a Burgundy fanatic who has the means and time to sample the greatest wines of Burgundy, as well as a few Bordeauxs and Californians. Somehow it was easier for me to live vicariously through his wine and food adventures without getting an envy hangover. You can find Yak at www.yakshaya.com

Since De Loach Vineyards is sponsoring the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean/Wine

Varietal Tasting Chart, it’s only fitting that we discuss their wines. De Loach is a 30-year-old vineyard that started making a Zinfandel on the Barbieri Ranch Vineyard in 1975. Today they make everything from Pinot Noir to Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. Their farming techniques have moved toward using more and more biodynamic (organic) methods in the last few years. De Loach’s wines are affordable, although some of the single-vineyard wines are sold out and mostly unavailable. The top price runs around $32.99, but the 2002 Pinot Noir is only $11.99.

I haven’t tasted De Loach in a couple of years, but the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Single Vineyard Zinfandels have whetted my appetite for wines from this reliable, well made vineyard.

Find your bottle

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your beverage with a click or two. Just go to nh.gov/liquor/index.shtml, type the name of your wine into the product locator and click “go.” The site’s search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.