When can wine faults actually improve the taste of wine? Does learning about wine decrease your enjoyment of it? Can wine experts really distinguish between different types of wine?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with wine writer and educator, Nikki Goddard.
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- How did Nikki end up recommending a wine that was a little too close to home for a customer?
- Which unusual query about palm wine did Nikki receive while working with wine.com?
- Why should the infamous study showing that wine experts can’t distinguish between red and white wine be taken with a grain of salt?
- What did Nikki learn from a blind tasting experiment she did with her non-expert friends?
- Can learning about wine decrease your enjoyment of it?
- What makes the wine world seem so intimidating?
- When can wine faults actually improve the taste of wine?
- Which lesser-known wine regions should you try to experience?
- I like Nikki’s fresh take on how some wine faults may be desirable, and even improve the taste of a wine, or at least, be part of its character rather than a flaw.
- I love her story about tasting Domaine de la Romanee-Conti as a way of showing how much our expectations and knowledge of wine influence our taste and perception of it.
- I have to thank Nikki for finally debunking those super annoying studies that say wine experts are easily fooled when the methodology behind is as misleading as the clickbait headlines.
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I thought about all the wines that I fantasized about that I thought I would never get to taste and I wondered… will my expectations be too high and they won’t be able to live up to that? - Nikki Goddard Click to tweet
Wine can be delicious, it can be enjoyable, it can enhance a meal, it can enhance conversation. I don’t think there’s any reason people should be afraid of it but I understand why they are. - Nikki Goddard Click to tweet
About Nikki Goddard
Nikki Goddard is a Bay Area wine writer and educator. With over 14 years of wine industry experience, Nikki has written for a wide range of companies and publications including JancisRobinson.com, Vivino, Delectable, Wine Folly, SommSelect, The Spruce Eats, Dry Farm Wines, Liquor.com, Foley Family Wines, Edible East Bay, Beverage Industry News, and more. She is certified through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust at the Diploma level and has taught courses for levels 2 and 3. Nikki worked for several years as a wine buyer and previously co-owned The Barrel Room, a wine bar in San Francisco.
Nikki fell in love with wine while studying Textiles and Apparel at Cornell University. Beguiled by the wines of the Finger Lakes and realizing that she had a greater affinity for the laid-back, epicurean lifestyle of an oenophile than for the cut-throat fashion industry, she decided to make wine her life’s career. The more Nikki shared her passion for wine with her friends, the more she became aware of a serious lack of approachable, engaging discussion around the subject—resulting in a lot of intimidation around what should be one of life’s greatest pleasures. To make wine more accessible and fun for all, she has committed herself to bridging the gap between knowledge and enjoyment.
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Nikki Goddard 0:00
He puts the glass in front of me first. I pick it up, I smell it, stop talking and I take a sip and holy crap; this is the best wine I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. And the bartender goes, don’t drink that too fast, it’s DRC.
Natalie MacLean 0:14
What is DRC, for those who might not know?
Nikki Goddard 0:17
Domaine Romanée-Conti, is considered by many to be the greatest wine in the world. It’s a Burgundy producer,
Natalie MacLean 0:25
Hundreds of dollars a bottle or more Pinot Noir.
Nikki Goddard 0:28
Yeah, thousands of dollars. And then Sarah knows that it’s DRC at that point, and she takes a sip. And she said, Well, I mean, it’s good, but it’s not like life changing.
Natalie MacLean 0:40
That’s great, what a great way to illustrate it.
Nikki Goddard 0:43
Yeah, our palates were identical. I know that if she had had the same experience that I did of trying it without knowing what it was, she would have felt the same way I did.
Natalie MacLean 0:58
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started!
Welcome to Episode 140. When can wine faults actually improve the taste of wine? Does learning about wine decrease your enjoyment of it? And can wine experts really distinguish between different types of wine? You’ll get those answers and more wine tips in my chat with Nikki Goddard, a wine writer and educator based in Oakland, California. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, links to both of my books, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Insta, Facebook, and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/140.
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show. So a friend sent me an article about a woman who is as obsessed as I am with the Canadian designed Fluevog shoes. Each one is an art piece of whimsy; I love them. I have more pairs than I’m willing to admit to. In the piece the woman says that she’s worn flat slippers for the past year due to the pandemic so she was really excited to put on her shoes as things started to open up again. But horrors! her shoes no longer fit. Either her feet had grown or had become so used to the flats. So now her beloved Fluevogs were too tight. As her soulmate, I felt her pain and her panic. So immediately, I put on a pair of my own and wore them around the house until my breathing slowed down. A lot of things have changed during the lockdown and while this may be yet another story of bourgeois stress, I do think it’s the little pockets of pleasure that make getting back to normal. I just used air quotes there; exciting. And as for that woman, I need to find her, because her shoe size is the same as mine and I am here to help you my dear. Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 3:50
Our guest Nikki Goddard is a wine writer and educator based in Oakland, California. She’s written for JancisRobinson.com, Delectable, Wine Folly, the Spruce Eats, liquor.com, Edible, East Bay and many more. She holds a WSET diploma and previously co-owned The Barrel Room, a wine bar in San Francisco. And she fell in love with wine while studying textiles and apparel at Cornell University. And particularly those wines at the Finger Lakes were her introduction to everything wine. So, Nikki, welcome; I’m so pleased that you’re here with us.
Nikki Goddard 4:27
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Natalie MacLean 4:29
Awesome. So let’s start with a couple of stories you were sharing with me before we got going here. You previously had lots of different interesting jobs and positions related to wine but one time you were giving a recommendation, I think it was in a wine store, that turned out to be a little too perfect in terms of which wine you recommended. What was that?
Nikki Goddard 4:53
Yeah, so I had a customer come in and she was describing the types of wine that she liked to drink and her palate was really similar to mine. I drink a lot of natural wine. I drink a lot of light kind of juicy, chillable reds. And so she comes in and she’s describing, you know, exactly that. I get really excited. I’m like, Oh my god, you have to try this wine. It’s like a super low alcohol Zinfandel from Brock Cellars. It’s like my favourite producer in California. And I’m just like going on and on about the wine. And she’s like, yeah, the winemaker is my boyfriend, so I’ve had that wine a lot.
Natalie MacLean 5:29
It’s great. What are the odds? Oh, my goodness.
Nikki Goddard 5:32
But I guess it makes sense that that winemakers girlfriend would like that kind of wine.
Natalie MacLean 5:37
Yeah, well, they are certainly a match at least palate wise. Did she end up buying the wine or did you point her to another one? I would think she’s got enough stock at home of that wine
Nikki Goddard 5:45
Yeah, I don’t remember what she went with instead, but it was probably something pretty similar.
Natalie MacLean 5:50
That’s great. Now you were also working with wine.com, online, and answering customer questions and help. You got another unusual request there. What was that?
Nikki Goddard 6:02
So it was a very entertaining job a lot of the time because we would just get all sorts of questions from customers. A lot of them were, you know, just Can you help me choose a winee and then sometimes they would be a little more unusual. And so one day I was chatting with a college student who he said that he had been learning about ancient Egyptian mummification processes, and he was learning about how they used palm wine to embalm corpses, and he called
Natalie MacLean 6:35
Calm wine, is it calm wine? Oh, palm wine, like the palm tree, got it!
Nikki Goddard 6:40
And so, he said do you have anything that is somewhat similar to that, so I could replicate this process as closely as possible? And we ended up having this like, two hour conversation; it was almost like being a bartender, you know, you end up being more therapist. So this really long conversation with this kid about his interest in studying death and like, post death practices. And, you know, I was like, well, we don’t have any palm wine, but maybe retsina would be a good option. Yeah, it’s like this Greek wine made with pine resin and I think he ended up buying it. But then we had this whole discussion about how he was like, feeling insecure, because he had this obsession with death and, like, people were judging him for it. And I just walked away from the chat and was like, I really hope that was for a school assignment and not a serial killer.
Natalie MacLean 7:38
That is amazing. I’m sure you got all types of calls and questions at that job. One more that you’d mentioned: You were tasting wine with friends, or you were giving them a blind tasting? What happened with that?
Nikki Goddard 7:50
I don’t know if you’re familiar with this study that often gets circulated around the internet, conducted at the University of Bordeaux by Frédéric Brochet. And there’s always articles that say, oh, like wine experts can’t even tell the difference between red and white wine if you put food colouring in the white wine. So it bothered me because that would pop up every couple of years in really popular publications and I felt like it was really doing everyone a disservice because it’s trying to get people to say like, oh, wine tasting is not legitimate and like, Don’t even bother. It’s like, well, that’s just not true. Like, I know a lot of people who can accurately blind taste wines and so I decided to dig into that study a little further. And I actually found the original paper that Frédéric Brochet had written. And the methodology of the study was not what is ever reported and also, it didn’t really prove anything, because what he actually did was, it wasn’t wine professionals; it was undergraduate students. And he had them come in two weeks apart. And the first time he gave them a red Bordeaux and a white Bordeaux and he asked them to write tasting notes. And the second time they came in two weeks later, he handed them back the tasting notes they had written, and he gave them two glasses; one was the same white wine they’d had before and the other was the same white wine with red dye. And the dye was specially designed not to alter the taste or smell of the wine. He had them re taste the wines, which he said were the same two wines, and assign a set of the tasting notes they’d previously written to each of the wines. And so they’ve got two glasses in front of them, and it tastes the same but looks different. But then they have these tasting notes they wrote for a white wine and a red wine. And they have no choice but to assign the notes they wrote for the red wine to the wine that looks red. That sounds fixed. I don’t know what that was supposed to be proving. Then all these articles are like, Oh, well, they describe the red wine as having like, jammy red fruit and like tannins, and it’s like, well, yeah, they had no choice. They were set up.
And so I wanted to kind of like do the opposite of that experiment. Because I wanted to say not wine tasting is not bull, but wine tasting is not as hard as you think it is. So I got a group of friends together while we were at like a lake retreat weekend. And I said, Hey, guys, I’m writing an article about how non-professionals write tasting notes. Can you guys do me a favour; I’m just going to give you some wines, can you just write tasting notes and like, Don’t overthink it, don’t worry about it, just whatever you want to write is fine.
So I gave them two flights; one flight was three white wines, and the other flight was three red wines. And what I didn’t tell them was that in each flight, the first and third wine were the same. And I picked things that were similar. So I think the whites were Albarino and Sauvignon Blanc, and the Reds were Gamay and Pinot Noir. And nobody figured out that they were the same wine. But every single person, even though I told them not to talk during the tasting, but they were, you know, they’re having fun. And they were like, they kept saying, I’m so frustrated, I’m like, so bad at describing wine, because I keep writing the same description for the first wine and the third wine and I’m just like running out of things to say. And you know, the whole time I’m sitting there like, just trying not to smile.
And then at the end, before the big reveal, I asked them all what was your favourite wine? Every single person said, either one and three or two. And I said, Well, guess what? one and three are the same wine. And even though you didn’t figure that out, because you didn’t expect that I was tricking you, you perceived them the same way. And it was this like lightbulb moment for everyone. They’re like, Oh my god, like, right; I do know more about wine than I think I did.
Natalie MacLean 11:42
That is a great story.
Nikki Goddard 11:44
It was so much fun. And I have all these ideas for similar experiments that I want to do.
Natalie MacLean 11:49
Oh, what other experiment would you do?
Nikki Goddard 11:51
Oh, um, I can’t think of any right now. I have a whole list of them, actually, really want to write a book about it. So I guess you’re gonna have to wait for the book.
Natalie MacLean 12:02
Wait for the book? Yes, we will. I think you should, because that would be great. You know, all the different experiments could be things that people do at home to learn or with a group, like an informal Wine Club, like, let’s do this one, like the one you just did.
Nikki Goddard 12:17
Yeah I think the plan for the book is to have like each chapter based on a different experiment, that proves a different point. And then there will be a little version of it that people can recreate at home. So if any publishers are listening right now, you know, I’d love to have a book deal.
Natalie MacLean 12:34
Yes, yes. Hear that. Agents and publishers, Nikki is available, and she’s a great writer. So jump on that before she gets taken. So conversely, Nikki, you think there are some times when too much knowledge of wine or a lot of knowledge of wine can decrease your enjoyment? Do you have an example of that?
Nikki Goddard 12:56
I do. So I had actually read this book about 10 years ago, that is called Questions of Taste. And it is a series of essays about the philosophy of wine. And one of the essays talked about exactly that. It was by Kent Bach, who is a professor of philosophy in San Francisco. And he posed this question, does knowing about wine decrease your enjoyment of it, and everyone in the book had to present a question and argue both sides of it. And so I read that early in my wine career, and I was fascinated by it. And I thought about all of the wines that, you know, I was like 24 years old, or 23, I thought about all the wines that I always fantasised about tasting, that I thought I would never get to taste. And I wondered, oh, like, if I spend all of these years of my life fantasising about these wines, and I know how expensive they are, and I finally get to try them, will my expectations for them be too high, and they won’t be able to live up to that? Because he talked about how, when you do know a lot about wine, you get cognitive pleasure from that, but it does not make the wine tastes better. There’s no aesthetic enhancement. So you know, if I’m tasting a wine, and I’m able to say like, Oh, this is Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, then I can feel really smart and good about myself, but it doesn’t change my experience of the wine. And then on the other side of that, if you know that a wine is expensive, or you know that it’s 100 points from Robert Parker, and you care about that sort of thing and then you try it and you don’t like it as much, then, you know, it’s kind of a bummer. It’s kind of depressing, especially if you just spent a lot of money on the wine. And so back in 2011, I was at RN74 in San Francisco.
Natalie MacLean 14:54
Is that a wine bar?
Nikki Goddard 14:55
Yeah, it was Raj Parrs wine bar. It’s no longer there. It was considered one of the best places in San Francisco for serious wine, especially Burgundy. And I was with my now former, then future business partner, we were getting ready to open our wine bar and we were having a little meeting to discuss our plans. And the bartender overheard us chatting and figured out that we were pretty serious wine nerds. And he started having fun with us and giving us things to blind taste from their by the glass list. And we were trying to guess what the wines were and doing pretty good job and then he puts a glass in front of me, I should mention that my business partner and I had eerily similar palates. Like, never really disagreed on our opinions of any wine and we had the same favourite grapes in the same favourite regions. And he puts the glass in front of me first, and I pick it up, I smell it. And I kind of just stopped talking and I take a sip, and I just go, holy crap, this is the best wine I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. And the bartender goes “Don’t drink that too fast, it’s DRC.”
Natalie MacLean 16:06
And what is DRC? For those who might not know
Nikki Goddard 16:09
Domaine Romanée-Conti is considered by many to be the greatest wine in the world. It’s a Burgundy producer, wines are extremely expensive,
Natalie MacLean 16:20
Hundreds of dollars a bottle or more Pinot Noir.
Nikki Goddard 16:23
Yeah, thousands of dollars. And I don’t know why it was open. I don’t actually know what it was. I was so stunned. I didn’t even write down the vintage or the vineyard. So I’m like, Oh, my God, this is like far and away the best thing I’ve ever tasted. And I think it’s just a $20 by the glass pour. And then he says that, and like when I read that book, that was the wine that I thought about, like, Oh my God, if I ever get to taste DRC, What if I don’t like it? Because my expectations are inflated. And then Sarah knows that it’s DRC at that point, and she takes a sip. And she said, Well, I mean, it’s good, but it’s not like life changing.
Natalie MacLean 16:58
That’s great. What a great way to illustrate it.
Nikki Goddard 17:01
Yeah, our palates were identical. I know that if she had the same experience that I did, of trying it without knowing what it was, she would have felt the same way I did. And so we both experienced the same wine completely different ways because of our knowledge. I was really happy that he put the glass in front of me first.
Natalie MacLean 17:23
That’s awesome. And you wrote like related to this, you wrote a great article, where I’m gonna quote you back to yourself, because it’ll set up the question that I’ll ask. You say I’ve never met anyone who felt they needed to complete a course or read a book in order to delight in a square of single origin chocolate, a wheel of triple cream Brie, or a cup of coffee brewed from fresh Arabica beans, all fine delicacies, with more than their fair share of history, nuance and terroir. And yet, in the wine industry, or wine world, we feel like we need to be experts. Why is that? What’s the difference between all of those that you note and wine. Why does wine create such a nervousness in people if they don’t feel they have the expertise?
Nikki Goddard 18:05
I think that theoretically, there isn’t a difference. Which is why when people say like, Oh, I don’t know how to taste wine, I don’t know how to describe the wine I like, or I don’t even know what I like. Like everyone knows what kind of chocolate they like, everyone knows their favourite cheese. And it’s like, the only reason that people feel differently about wine is because of the culture that we’ve built up around it especially I think, in America, because wine wasn’t really a part of the culture until recently, it’s been this sort of esoteric thing that’s controlled by a small number of mostly older, wealthy white men and it feels very exclusive. And I think there are a lot of people in the industry now who are doing really amazing things to change that.
But you know, when I started in the wine industry, I was the youngest person in every room, I was the only woman at every job. It is a really intimidating world. And, you know, you see the way like sommeliers are portrayed in movies, like, you know, it’s a punch line all the time on TV and in movies of like the snooty sommelier, and there’s just this association with wine being fancy and wine being for wealthy people. And, you know, those of us in the Bay Area who like to go up to Napa or Sonoma for the weekend, it’s like, “Ooh, let’s get dressed up and let’s be fancy, and let’s rent a limo.”
You know, there’s all this pomp and circumstance around it, but then we just go to a brewery and have a drink with friends. And you know, that’s super casual. So craft beer is really complex right now. And I would say there’s probably just as much nuance to it as there is to wine but we don’t have this culture around beer that makes it intimidating. It’s just supposed to be fun and wine should be fun, too. And wine can be delicious, it can be enjoyable, it can enhance a meal, it can enhance conversation. I don’t think there’s any reason people should be afraid of it, but I understand why they are
Natalie MacLean 20:03
Great insights, great points in terms of the cultural impact. And so one of the things that people often get hung up on or thinking it’s them and their lack of taste, rather than the wine could be off or flawed, are wine flaws. So you wrote an interesting piece on how some wine flaws can be a good thing in wine; maybe share with us a couple of those.
Nikki Goddard 20:25
Sure. So it’s funny, I actually, I really like a lot of these wine flaws, especially Brettanomyces, which is a strain of yeast that can be found in wineries or on the grapes themselves. It’s very hard to get rid of, so once you have it in your winery then it kind of becomes part of your house style. And it’s really common in a lot of European regions, that are more kind of traditional and old school. So you’ll see it in some Tuscan wines, you’ll see it in some Bordeaux, you’ll see it in some like old school Napa cabs.
Natalie MacLean 21:00
What does it smell like? Brettanomyces
Nikki Goddard 21:02
Brettanomyces ,you can describe it as barnyard, sweaty saddle, sweaty gym sock, bandaid. Nothing that sounds appealing at all. For me it actually it’s like, you know, the original chapstick, the unflavored one
Natalie MacLean 21:18
Nikki Goddard 21:20
I’m a chapstick addict. So whenever I smell chapstick in wine, I’m like, oh, there’s Brett. And it’s actually really funny. So a lot of people hate it. A lot of people like it in small doses. If there’s a lot of it, it’s pretty much always considered a flaw, but I really like it in small doses. I think it adds some complexity and interest to the wine. I love earthy, kind of funky flavours. I had a co- worker at a wine shop. He was our Italian wine buyer. And he really hated Brettanomyces. And I remember coming into work one day, he was all excited. He said, Oh my god, Nikki, I had this wine the other day that I thought you would love; it smelled like a horse’s anus. And I was like, you’re right, that sounds delicious.
Natalie MacLean 22:08
Wow, did you try the wine? Did you actually get to try it?
Nikki Goddard 22:11
I don’t think so, I think that someone had brought him a sample. And he didn’t have the bottle any more. But it’s funny because it’s such a personal thing. And also everyone has a different threshold for detecting things like that. Like some people are really good at picking up a corked wine, which is a flaw that is always bad.
Natalie MacLean 22:28
And that smells like musty, wet cardboard, damp basement, wet cardboard
Nikki Goddard 22:31
Yeah. So some people are more sensitive than others to all of these flaws. And so some people might dislike Brett, because they can pick it up more easily. Some people when you open a corked bottle of wine, they smell it from across the room and other people have to kind of like take a sip before they realise and that doesn’t really have anything to do with how good of a taster you are. That’s something physiological that you can’t control. You can practice and get better at it. But it’s really like this biological thing.
Natalie MacLean 23:05
It is and it reminds me Nikki of the whole super taster thing, which I know that can be a misnomer. But I was tested for that and I’m super sensitive to bitter because I’m in that little super taster, whatever, it’s a sensitivity thing. And they even talk about the Cilantro gene, who was that famous, Julia Child, she thought everything that had Cilantro tasted like soap. So they are peculiarities of the palate that aren’t necessarily the wine.
Nikki Goddard 23:34
I think I might be the opposite of a super taster because I love strong flavours.
Natalie MacLean 23:39
Okay, so you’re tolerant maybe, like Robert Parker was tolerant I think, or they think he is
Nikki Goddard 23:45
Maybe that’s why I like the flaws more. Like I can never have enough lemon on my food. I love salt. I really want things when I like them. I want them to be like maximum flavour.
Natalie MacLean 23:56
Yeah, well, that totally makes sense. Is there one more flaw you wanted to highlight that could be a good thing sometimes?
Nikki Goddard 24:01
Yeah, oxidation. That happens when wine is exposed to air. So that can happen during the winemaking process if you use open top fermenters or you’re ageing in oak barrels which are porous. Winemakers have the ability to control how much oxygen gets into the wine during winemaking and it can also happen if wine is stored incorrectly. So if you have a bad cork and air gets into the wine while it’s stored, the wine can end up being oxidised when that’s not the style of wine it was supposed to be. So oxidation gives this really like nutty kind of savoury umami character to wines, and I drink a lot of intentionally oxidised wines. I absolutely love them. A lot of the white wines from the Jura (a region of France) and certain styles of sherry. I just think it adds like, this really savoury, satisfying character when it’s done correctly.
Natalie MacLean 25:07
Yes. Are orange wines kind of like that? Are they a little bit more oxidized?
Nikki Goddard 25:12
I think they can be, but it’s not part of the process. Yeah, yeah.
Natalie MacLean 25:17
Okay. Now that’s interesting. Yeah. It’s definitely a taste, even like aged champagne; as it ages, it becomes sort of nutty and all wines sort of slowly oxidize as they age. So again, it’s a matter of taste in a lot of these things. So let’s talk about just a couple of wine regions that we should know about that are lesser known; that we should either be trying the wines or visiting the regions, maybe you can talk about one or two of those that come to mind.
Nikki Goddard 25:47
My absolute favourite is Goriška Brda in Slovenia, which is near the Italian border right by Friuli. The wine regions are very similar, actually, when you go to either of those regions, and you’re driving around visiting wineries; if you’re going from one winery in Slovenia, to another winery in Slovenia, you might drive through Italy for a bit on the way. So I’ve been to Slovenia twice and both times I went to Goriška Brda, because when I first started learning about Eastern European wine back in, I would say maybe 2010-2011, I got really excited about all the Slovenian wines I was trying. And they really had, like all of the characteristics that I look for in wines; there’s a lot of orange wines, which I drink probably more orange wine than white wine, because I just find it like really refreshing; it has this like salinity, it has an earthiness, you know, it’s more substantial than white wine, but it’s refreshing.
Natalie MacLean 26:45
And just for those who might not be familiar, orange wine is kind of, I should have defined this earlier, but skin fermented, like they leave the skins on longer than you would for white wine. So it gets that tint, but also some of the savoury characteristics from the skin contact.
Nikki Goddard 26:57
Yeah, and it gets some tannin as well, because that’s where tannin comes from. And white wine doesn’t usually have tannin because there’s no skin contact. So yeah, I feel like orange wines are just great for food, especially if you’re having a meal that you have a lot of different dishes, it kind of goes with everything, because it’s substantial enough to pair with heavier food and it’s got enough acidity and brightness to pair with lighter food. So I was really drawn in by the orange wines and by some of the interesting native varieties, they have there like Refošk and Friulano.
And the more I learned about Slovenian wines, the more I was just like dying to visit this region. And then in 2013, I was going on a trip to Italy. And I was looking at the map and I was like oh, Slovenia is right there, we should stop by and check this place out. And it just blew my mind. Everything about it was just perfect. It was very, like unspoiled. It’s an absolutely beautiful country. And there’s not really like a visible impact of tourism, especially from Americans. I think, in the nearly two weeks I spent there I talked to maybe three Americans total. Most of the tourists are from, you know, neighbouring countries.
So you don’t really see like big chain restaurants. Everyone has their own gardens where they grow like all the produce. And you know, they have their own cow and they make their own cheese and meat and everything is just like the freshest best ingredients you’ve ever had. Last time I got home from Slovenia, we were like, Oh my God, we need to like learn how to cook Slovenian food. And we got home and we were like, Slovenian food is just like really good ingredients; like we need to get a cow. Let’s get a cow. It’s impossible to recreate because it’s not really the recipes that are unique. It’s more just about like everything being so fresh and vibrant and full of life and the wines are that way too. And then the wines pair so beautifully with the food.
So a few years later, when I was going back to Europe, I was like, Okay, I need to like spend more time in this country. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad wine or a bad dish from Slovenia. I think everyone should go there and message me if you want tips because I have all of them.
Natalie MacLean 29:10
Excellent. Thanks. That sounds great. I’ve got to put that one on my list. I actually haven’t been there. Is there one more region you would like to highlight?
Nikki Goddard 29:17
Sure. So I haven’t been to this one yet. But Cour-Cheverny, in the Loire Valley, is a pretty unknown region. They make white wine from a single grape called Romorantin, which I believe is a descendant of Chardonnay. And the wines are just like everything I like about white wine. It’s very similar to Chenin Blanc, in that it’s kind of textural and weighty but with really vibrant acidity and kind of this like apple dipped in honey flavour and a lot of minerality and it’s a really affordable but great wine because nobody knows about it. So if you like to drink Vouvray or Savennières or even like white Burgundy; this is wine you can get like a really good one for 20 bucks.
Natalie MacLean 30:04
And how do you spell that grape?
Nikki Goddard 30:05
Romorantin, I think
Natalie MacLean 30:10
Okay, great. You didn’t realise this would be a spelling bee I suppose. Now for 60 points spell…. That’s good because people just even if it’s close, I’m sure it’s fine. People will wonder what that grape was to be able to look for it for sure.
Nikki Goddard 30:26
Natalie MacLean 30:31
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Nikki Goddard. Here are my top takeaways.
Number one, I love Nikki’s fresh take on how some wine faults may actually be desirable, and can even improve the taste of wine, or at least be part of its character rather than a flaw.
Two, I also liked her story about tasting Domaine Romanée-Conti as a way of showing just how much our expectations and knowledge of wine influences our taste and perception of it.
And three, I have to thank Nikki for finally debunking those super annoying studies that say wine experts are easily fooled when the methodology behind the studies is as misleading as the clickbait headlines. Yeah, I’m not biased at all in that kind of conclusion.
In the shownotes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online food and wine pairing class, links to both of my books, where you can find me on Zoom, Insta, Facebook, and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm, including tonight. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/140.
You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our conversation with Nikki and in the meantime if you missed Episode 70, go back and take a listen. I chat with winemaker John Williams from California’s Frogs Leap winery about dry farming and dry humour. The man is funny. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
John Williams 32:04
Well, it’s hard to think of the Napa Valley really being as diverse as it is; we’re only 25 miles long and two miles wide. It’s an extremely small wine growing region. Most people don’t realise that only 4% of the wine coming from California actually comes from the Napa Valley. There are 134 soil types in the Napa Valley. So the temperature at the bottom of the Napa Valley can be significantly lower; as much as 15 degrees on any given day during the summer, from the bottom of the valley to the top of the valley.
Natalie MacLean 32:40
John Williams 32:44
15 degrees, you’d have to go from Norway to the south of Spain to see that in Europe, right? You can grow everything from Zinfandel to Pinot Noir and the Napa Valley because of this huge temperature difference. And then there’s the diurnal effect because again of the Pacific Ocean, and so we’ll see commonly a 40 or 53 change in the temperature in Fahrenheit.
Natalie MacLean 33:08
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the tips that Nikki shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week. Perhaps a wine that’s faulted just the way you like it.
Natalie MacLean 33:32
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers!