June 24, 2008

Palate Training #1: Apples

We drink quite a bit of Champagne at the Lab. Also Cava, Proseco, Bugey Cerdon, anything with bubbles really. But mostly we drink Champagne. The tasting notes for Champagnes, especially the blanc de blancs that we favor, often include: Apples. "Taste like apples...," "Ripe apple flavors...," "Braeburn apple and citrus..." And etc.

I've also noted that Chardonnay (not uncoincidentally since blanc de blancs means made entirely with Chardonnay grapes) is often described in various ways that can be reduced to "applely". Same is true for Riesling. We drink quite a bit of Chardonnay and Riesling. Apple is also sometimes used to describe Pinot Grigio. And old Tokay is supposed to taste like ripe apples. We don't drink as much of these. But the point remains. A lot of good wine is described as tasting like apple. And a big part of the fun in drinking wine is coming up with compelling and accurate metaphors to describe what you're tasting.

So we thought it might be a useful exercise to actually taste
apples. We also thought it might be good to give our livers a break. So we went to Whole Foods and bought one of each of the following: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Fuji and Granny Smith.

Here's the notes:

Red Delicious: Classic apple. Crisp. Not overbearing sweetness. In a way, if this were a wine, I would have said the acid and the sugar weren't well integrated. Each stood out a little too distinctly.

Golden Delicious: Medium acid with more sweet that the Red. If you had a spectrum of apple and peach, this would be the last apple on the peach side.

Braeburn: Low acid and medium sweet, a slightly metallic tinge on the finish.

Fuji: This is the winner of the tasting for me. Perfect balance of sweet and acid, and with a hint of cherry or red cassis tang.

Granny Smith: Tart, almost citrusy. Bright acid and zingy sweet. This is exactly the "apple" of a dry Chenin Blanc I drank recently.

This may seem a silly exercise. No doubt, it is. But paying this much attention to the nuance and distinctions of five different apple varieties
will sharpen your palate. And it's a fun, healthy exercise to do at home.

Next palate training? We're thinking about meeting at the cheese counter to smell marzipan, brie rind and blue cheese...


liz said...

next you should taste different kinds of "butter"

Arthur, winesooth.com said...

Again, very cool!

T recently did something similar with pears and more obscure Asian and South American fruit - in "flights". it was a cool exercise to get me to articulate the aromatic, flavor and textural qualities of these different fruit.

J David Harden said...

Arthur, I like your idea a little better than Liz's. Although Irish, French, domestic, organic... you could maybe do something with butter... (no Last Tango jokes, please).

Who's T? (pardon my ignorance)