Everybody Loves FAT
You know wine people are strange for a few reasons... they lift everything to their nose before putting it in their mouth, they plan their vacations around "appellations" not destinations, and they get excited about by things that taste like cement, dirt, and bacon fat.
Yes, BACON FAT.
Seems to be the nouveau chic flavor these days, popping up in all sorts of unexpexted places. I recently had a dessert with bacon & caramel gelato, a bac-o-bit chocolate bar, and now Syrahs boasting they come with a baconny finish. Sounds good if you like camping, right?
The first time I encountered meat in my wine was at an uber-expensive family-owned winery in Napa (most of their clients came from Europe or Malibu, and sadly know nothing about wine except that it makes them feel classy). Anyway, they had this huge cave where they aged about 70 wines...each one in a different type of barrel. I got to taste just about all of them, not because I'm anyone special or live in a beach palace, but truth be told I worked there (for a few hours) and was getting schooled. And it was quite educational, up until about the 5th tour of the day when the barrels started talking to me and I couldn't feel my face.
But before that happened, I do vaguely recall tasting 3 wines...all Cabs, aged in barrels made from 3 different types of wood (American, French, and Czech). Then for comparison, we tasted 3 more Cabs all in French oak barrels, but each oak was from a different forest in France. I never knew it could get this complicated, but whatever, I kept drinking....er, learning. It really was fascinating, how each tasted - not totally - but distinctly different.
One of the barrels was rumored to impart a "bacon fat" quality to the wine. No way, I thought. There's no bacon in that wood! Or is there...?
I'm no bacon coinossieur, but I did get a very noticeable "meaty" flavor, so I thought, hmmm maybe these wine people aren't totally demented. If I only knew that it was a contagious form of insanity I was exposing myself to...
Since that first sip of bacon I have come to enjoy the subtle liquid lard flavor in my wines. Ok, I exaggerate, its not really like drinking drippings...its more like eating collard greens that were cooked with a ham hock; the meaty essence lingering after each bite, evoking either pleasure or terror if you're of the meat-free persuasion. Same with these wines which were "cooked" in oak barrels; barrels which were "toasted" to a degree that makes whatever you put in them taste a little like smoked meat, or more specifically, campfire bacon. It's the wood, not the wine that's making you feel so carnivorous.
And that's why some of these wine freaks are so obsessive about oaked vs. unoaked, or what "type" of oak a wine is aged in. The wood can do some crazy, and often crazy-cool stuff to wine. So don't dis your wine geekazoid friend next time they agonize over a restaurant wine list.
You may score yourself a free piece of bacon!
Here's a couple of ways to incorporate some meat into your wine diet...great for vegetarians, too!
- Boxcar Pinot Noir (Russian River)
- Boekenoogen Syrah (Santa Lucia Highlands) ... this one's kinda hard to get, so just ask your local wine guy for a "meaty" Syrah.