How to taste barrels?


At this time, we are not going to taste the liquid of grape but the wood in the wine. We will taste out the barrel from the wine. The seance will take place in the headquarters of Borigo in Kenyérmező street. The barrel tasting is part of an experiment, which was started by Dezső Magyar, who is the main principal of the Lővér Cellar by Sopron.

As many barrels, as many customs
The word is spinning around wine - discussions multiply while out of the jungle slowly a stoned way leads towards yield control, biodynamics and soon we can approach ’terroir’ in its high-heeled shoes. Although, the barrel is not a fully surveyed territory yet. However, it is easy to see easier to love but taste it out from the wine is quite difficult. The barriqe is still a magical word, which rule most of the wines. What is more, it gives more meaning to it. Which barrique is the real one? Which stave does not lie? Which barrel suits to which wine? Is it a trusty product? As many barrels, as many customs? Such questions moved us to answer.
A barrel without wine is not possibly tastable. About wine, Dezső Magyar took care from Lővér Cellar. Important factor: the liquid was taken into the barrel at the beginning of January. The same Shiraz-Cabernet-Cuvee was matured during 16 months in 29 different coopers’ barrels. During this time, they constantly surveyed the changes and fully analyzed the barrels’ content. Out of the general laboratorial surveys no conclusion could have been taken which underpinned the sense inquiry. Roughly the same results were produced by all the 29 barrels, that is a good mark for the coopers.
The real benefit of the story is the dialogue of wine-makers and coopers. A valuable exchange of thoughts started about cooperating with the formula one driver and the wheel-changing assistant. At first, the wine-makers of Sopron tasted the barrel in April and September. In November, they invited outsiders as well and for the final tasting the coopers themselves. Next to others, there is one interesting lesson of the story. Six pieces of Szerednyei barrels were tested by the gentlemen. The difference between those from Bourdeaux and from Szerednye is almost insignificant, the cubic capacity is almost the same, those from Szerednye are less with 5 litres, and their shape is more stumpy. Till the middle of September, the barrels from Szerednye acted well, they did not break the wine. By the end of the month, the ones from Bordeaux took the lead and their advantage was kept till the end. In the barrels of Szerednye, the wines started to nose down by the end of October. The lesson is that, the barrels of Szerednye worth to be used when roughly only the fruits should be kept in the wine. Basically, this is suitable for maturing white wines but only for a short time.

Suck my craw the much barrique
A quite simplified American testing method (Kendall Jackson Profile Tasting Sheet) helped us to find our way in the world of barrels. The task is to see in each glass the change of wine due to the wood. Has it enriched or exactly the opposite happened? So, we try to filter the flavour components of wood. Let us see an example, the charming vanilla. The vanilla is the flavour which can not be produced by any type of grapes, this is a typical roasting flavour which goes to the wine from the barrel every times. This is the favourite of coopers, which is a challange at the same time, because it is very hard to produce. During the charamelization of e.g. cellulozes, at a certain temperature it appears very quickly. If it is possible to smuggle into the wine, it is still not sure whether it suits to her at all. The other simple flavour component is the green oak character, to which closely connected the bitterness as well. This is not that attractive, but we always bump into it. Why does it happen? The explanation is simple. In Hungary, an oak tree is ready to cut down at the age of 100-120 years. 10-15 year before the action, a small thinning happens the forest is cleaned away from the bushes to make the saplings to grow as high as they can. After 10-15 years, they cut the whole place down. Consequently, they cut the 6, 20 and the 100-120 year old oaks as well. Then come the bad wood traders, amongst them coopers, who choose and bargain. So, from a lot of young rough oak, stoves are made also which green tannins cooperate with a weak year’s wine and its immatured tannins and result a fatal misfortune to the drinkers taste. Of course, the French cut a tree at the age of 200-240. There, they do not clean up a territory entirely but apply careful selection and sacrifice the best quality trees on the oltar of the coopers. This is why the French barrels are good and expensive.
The barrel maker is trying to sustain a balance, like an architect. They want to show the vanilla and the other delicious flavours and cut the tannin to be likable. The relationship of the barrel and the wine is strongly influenced by the year. The weak year’s easy liquid interacts with the barrique differently, than an excellent year’s production. The wine of 2006, is drunk by the barrel like the little cock’s craw did with the fire and water in the tale of sixpence. This is why, they offer a huge playground to the wine makers, who can play with marriaging the different aged barrels and can grow a certain percent in new ones while others in second or third poured barrels.

We are tasting 13 barrels, because this amount of samples are brought by Dezső Magyar. I’m a bit sceptical about the result, as it seems to be one simple constellation: those barrels, which will be suitable for our taste, would not work the same way with wines of other regions. The test coordinator ensures me though, from the results we can conclude certain tendencies. I relax my doubts. We agree on not marking from 1 - 7 the line of found aromas but from our complex impressions we will mark the content of glass plus or minus. While tasting, everyone chooses one zero wine, that works as a kind of ’neutraliser’. What are we looking for? The aromas coming from the burnt wood barrel into the wine, such as sweetness, tannin level, sourness in taste, toasted bread, smoke, spices, green, rough oak, vanilla, fruitness, complexity, taste, intensity of flavours, intensity of aromas. A total aromatherapy.
For me, wine starts where wood finishes. Here, we have the abundance of wood and can’t see the forest. Now, I’m sharing my notes with the reader. The first phase contains next to the unquestionably rough, green, vegetable-like signs, a lot of fruits as well. The second phase calls forth the feel of a sawmill and some experts can even hear the scream of the saw. I rather feel the tooth of the saw as they bite into my palate. The tannin basically ate the wine. The third phase is starting with the smell of boiled potato but brightens the chocolate-like syrah and the cabernet can also be felt. In the after-taste acids arrive but the wine is still valuable. In the forth phase, we have a luxury of fruits, even so the tough arrogant acids demolish the picture. The fifth is rum-cherry tasted, liqueuric, that kind of wood that is appreciated by a beginner wine fan, at the same time its taste is flat just like the Hortobágy. In the sixth, appears the coconut. In spite of its simple structure, the amazingly tastful flavour and exotic body raises out from the crowd. In the seventh, dogs can look for the smell but even them wouldn’t be able to find anything but some aldehide character. In the eights glass, again liqueuric, green, watered herb and medicine taste and sour after-taste can be found. It is time to appear harmony in the ninth, plain chocolate and marzipan. The tenth is again a falling, such like in a roller coaster. Very green, very rough. In the eleventh, at first discreetely and then more radically appear the fruit taste. Multipled and complex. In the twelth, animality remains with a medium but well built body and moderate after-taste. This is for me the ideal benchmark, the zero base. In the thirteenth can be felt best the wine, flavours, richness. Finally, I am concluding in which case served the barrel the wine. What is the thirteen barrels like together? There is one altogether, too. In this summerized wine there is no Aristotelian logic. No conclusion occurs. Although, the imperfections equalise, and the virtues raise; the final cuvee is not prettier than the thirteenth or sixth. At the end, the veil drops and we can see which cooper’s barrels were recognised. To mention all, I name them one by one: Association of European Coopers, Dynamis, Kalina Cooper Trade Factory – Gábor Kalina, Gyula Gaál, Tibor Dósa, Transilvania Bois, Trust, Miklós Kalla, Winery of Crown, Co. Of Budapest Coopers, Attila Dósa, Péter Buglyó.
A striking ending should be drawn, something about the role of the barrel when it infiltrates into the wine just like a spy in the line of the enemy. An invisible, firm base should be. As a symphony by Mozart is not valued by the numbers of pianos. The harmony and union count. The rest if forgettable.

28.07.2007. VII. Year/5. copy. By Imre Móser

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