Light wines before heavy, white wines before red has been a prevailing principle of wine appreciation for decades. Almost without exception, that's the order in which wines are poured when you visit a winery tasting room.
But no longer, at least not at Madrona Vineyards on Apple Hill in El Dorado County. For two months now, the Bush family that owns the winery has been pouring red wines before white. The switch, says Paul Bush, may be contrary to tradition but is based on scientific reasoning.
White wines typically are higher in acidity and pH levels than red, especially when grown at higher and subsequently cooler elevations; Madrona's vineyards, at 3,000 feet, are among the higher in the state. Red wines grown at such altitudes customarily have fairly substantial tannins.
When whites from such a microclimate are tasted first, they show well, but their residual impact on the palate help accentuate the tannins of the red wines that follow, says Bush. When the order of tasting is reversed, red wines will taste more balanced, while the reviving fruitiness and acidity of white wines will be put to a better test for showing off the cleansing ability of the wine. This red-before-white tasting approach, incidentally, is what Sacramento grocer Darrell Corti has been using for years during tastings at his store, Corti Brothers.
Visitors to Madrona's tasting room have been surprised by the reversed order, but game to give it a try, indicates Bush. If you are planning to visit some El Dorado County wineries this weekend you might just want to put Madrona on your itinerary to see how you find the order.