Archive for the ‘Wine Education’ Category
When serving wine, it is vital that you find the right temperature. There are a number of rules that can be used. One of the first things you need to remember, however, is that white wine should not be too cold and red wines should not be too warm. The proper amount of chilling for each kind of wine will ultimately only improve the flavors within – so pay close attention for when you host your next dinner party.
When Things Go Wrong
The problem with general rules like “White is Cold” and “Red is Warm” is that there are far more nuances involved than those two simple statements. For example, white wine that becomes too warm will taste flabby and strong with alcohol while white wines that are too cold will be almost tasteless.
On the other hand, red wines that are too warm will have a vinegary flavor that results in strong alcohol and soft flavors. The opposite – with a red too cold – results in wine that is tannic and lacking in flavor.
Getting Your Temperatures Right
There are a number of different kinds of wine, and each of them will benefit from careful attention to temperature. Here are some tips for each type to ensure the optimum taste.
Sparkling Wines and Champagne – These wines should be completely chilled. Chill them an hour and a half before serving and then put them in an ice water bath 20 minutes before serving. If you are serving vintage or high quality bottles, warm it just a bit before serving to ensure you get the most out of the flavors.
- Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc – These three wines, along with other refreshing whites, should be served between 35 and 40 degrees. Some white wines, however, such as Fume Blanc, should be pulled 20 minutes early to warm just slightly.
- Chardonnay and White Burgandy – Richer white wines that are barrel fermented, or that are higher quality mixtures should be served at around 55 degrees, or cellar temperature. Chill the wine like normal, but pull it out 20 minutes before serving to get the temperature right.
- Red Wines – Almost all other red wines should be treated the same, and should be served at around 65 degrees. You’ll notice that this is not room temperature, but about 5-10 degrees below that. If you do not store your wine in a cellar or cabinet, put it into the fridge for 20 minutes before serving to optimize flavor.
- Dessert Wines – Treat the Dessert Wines the same as the refreshing white wines, unless you are serving fortified wines like Port or Sherry, which are better served at Cellar Temperature or even a bit warmer.
As you can see, there are dozens of different factors that go into how to properly chill wine. If you are serious about serving wine at the peak of its flavor, then you should rely on the above rules to dictate when and how they are chilled.
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There are a number of myths about how wine is to be drunk with different kinds of food. I’m sure you’ve heard the old tale that white wine is to be drank only with fish and white meat while red wine is to be drunk with red meat, and sweet wines are to be drinken with desserts. Luckily for all you fans of wine without borders, this is not necessarily the case.
The reality, especially today, as more forward thinking wine drinkers have written, is that the food is equally as complex as wine and each individual meal needs to be matched with a wine that complements the palate – not thrown into a general category that can result in poor pairings. And above all else, remember that your opinion is paramount. If you don’t think a particular wine goes well with a particular dish, then don’t serve it that way. It becomes up to you to determine how to match your meals.
How to Start Matching Food with Wine
To effectively start the process of matching food with wine, find complementary or contrasting flavors. A full bodied wine would go well with a hearty, filling meal, while often times, a wine with minimal flavor would go better with something that is light – such as a broth or salad. Here are some tips to help determine how different wines react with different types of food:
- High tannin foods do not mix with high tannin wines. For example, foods like walnuts cannot mix with Bordeaux, as it makes the wine astringent and overly dry.
- Full bodied red wines will overwhelm delicate dishes like veal or lightly cooked fish. On the other foot, a medium wine like Sauvignon Blanc cannot effectively complement a hearty meal with a lot of flavor, such as a casserole.
- High tannin wine can be calmed by a high protein meal. Rare beef, heavy fish like Halibut, or hearty sandwiches can go well with these wines.
- Some combinations can create unwanted and unnatural flavors. One such combination is Bordeaux with Turkey – creating a metallic taste that is unpleasant.
- Salty foods can cover up the sweetness of a sweet wine, but will enhance the fruit flavors within.
- A highly acidic wine can be offset by a salty or sweet dish, whereas the acidity of the wine can offset oily foods.
This list is not intended to layout special rules for how you select your wines, but rather to show you the different relationships that food has with wine. If you are interested in creating a meal that effectively complements itself, use the above rules to ensure you don’t end up with unwanted, unnatural, or unpleasant tastes, or even worse, aftertastes.
Want to learn more about wine? Give us a call to take one of our Niagara Wine Tours today at 716-284-7040.
© 2010 NiagaraWineTour.net – This article may not be reproduced without the express written consent of NiagaraWineTour.net and permission must be displayed.
If you are on your way to one of our Niagara wine tours, it’s important that you know the right way to taste the wines that the winery will be offering. That doesn’t mean you need to be one of the keen eyed wine reviewers that sits in the corner dissecting every minute detail in their glass, but it does mean you should focus your energies on both enjoying and understanding each wine you taste.
The Different Kinds of Tasting
You’ll quickly find that there is more than one way to taste wine. Too much focus on something you do not understand can make your trip far less enjoyable.
Basic Tasting – For those new to wine tasting who may not know or care what the difference between white and red wine is, the best route is to start with five basic bottles – a light red, a mature red, a sweet white, a dry white, and a dessert wine.
Intermediate Tasting – If you are more familiar with the differences between wines, you should choose five varietals to taste. For example, you might choose a Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Bordeaux – allowing you to delineate the differences between five traditional red wines. Another popular route is to choose multiple regions for the same wine and taste how they have been developed differently.
Advanced Tasting – For those with more advanced tastes, you should choose between horizontal and vertical tasting. Horizontal tasting would be to taste the same wine from the same year from different wineries. Vertical tasting would be to taste the same wine from the same winery from different years.
Other Factors to Consider
How you taste will also be a factor in your experience. You can choose to taste your wine blindly or with all of the details at your disposal. Most competitions and ratings are done blindly to ensure there is no bias in the tasting of the wines. However, less experienced tasters might be interested to see what they are tasting or perhaps missing in their wine.
Additionally, it is important to taste the wines in the right order, with the youngest first, followed by lightest, and finishing with fuller body wine. If you do this in reverse order, the bolder wines will overwhelm what you taste in the younger wines.
For those interested in tasting wine and learning to discern the different qualities in each type of wine, there are a number of different options. The key, though, is that you enjoy the tasting. Expecting too much of yourself can be detrimental to the process, turning the tasting into more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.
Have some tips our readers might enjoy for wine tasting? Please share them in our comments section below.
© 2010 NiagaraWineTour.net
This article may not be reproduced without the express written consent of NiagaraWineTour.net and permission must be displayed.
What matters most about the place grapes grow is the climate. Merlot won’t grow any better in Jakarta than bananas do in Minnesota. Climate is the long-term weather pattern of a place, and in general, grapes don’t like extreme weather. Some grapes like it colder than others—for instance, Riesling can thrive in Germany’s chilly Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region, the most northerly major winegrowing region. Others, such as Grenache, prefer the languorous climes of the Mediterranean, or even Mexico, which is about as close to the equator as winemaking grapevines trail.
As a general guideline, the warmer the region, the richer and fruitier its wines. Wines from colder climates tend to have higher acidity, which makes them feel lighter, leaner, less fruity.
Sun and Exposure
Grapes also need a certain amount of sun, but not too much; in some places where the sun is very strong, winemakers will use the vine’s own leaves to shade its fruit.
The ultimate situation for most grapes is to have gentle sun all day long. That’s why, in the Northern Hemisphere, winemakers will often talk covetously about south-facing slopes (in the Southern Hemisphere, they want north-facing slopes): there, the vines will get sun all day, and on all sides. The way the vineyard is positioned is referred to as its exposition.
Slopes are also favored for their aid in draining water away from the vine’s roots. Most grapevines don’t like to have wet feet.
Water and Wind
Too little water, and grapes won’t form very well; too much, and they won’t either. Most of Europe bans the irrigation of wine vineyards, for fear that doing so would make for huge crops of low-quality grapes and thereby dilute the wine’s regional characteristics. Therefore, the vineyards need to be located somewhere they’ll naturally receive enough moisture, whether from rain, fog, or nearby bodies of water. Think of the famous vineyards of Europe, and you’ll find many are located near a body of water: France’s Loire Valley (on the Loire River), Bordeaux (defined by the Atlantic and the Gironde, Garonne, and Dordogne rivers), and the Rhone Valley (along the River Rhone), for instance, or Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (along eponymous rivers).
In the United States and other “New World” countries like Argentina and Australia, irrigation is permitted for grapevines, allowing them to be grown in areas they wouldn’t naturally. Even so, most vintners take great care to limit the amount of water they use so as not to encourage excessive growth or waterlogged grapes. Rather than using the old-fashioned “flood” irrigation, in which the vineyards were literally flooded occasionally, most vineyards today are outfitted for drip irrigation, which drips water slowly at certain time and space intervals. Many vintners today also irrigate only when the vines are young and sensitive, or when drought gets so severe it puts the vines in peril. Either way, it helps to have a natural source of moisture, whether from a nearby lake, rain, or even fog.
Wind works hand-in-hand with water, as water can create humidity, and humidity can make the vines a prime place for mold and fungus to set up shop. If, however, there’s a nice breeze moving through the vines, it’ll dry the grapes before disease sets in. A cool breeze on a hot day also helps the vines maintain equilibrium in the heat.
Not all moldy grapes are bad. There’s a mold called botrytis cinerea that vintners around the world actually court so they can make heavenly sweet wines, like Sauternes. When this mold attacks, it sucks the water out of the berries, leaving behind shriveled grapes filled with sweet, concentrated juice. It also adds its own particular sultry, smoky flavor to the wine.
Ideally, grapevines want a wet winter, so that the ground can soak up enough moisture to hold them through some of the dry spells in summer. They also appreciate spring showers, which help them gear up to send out buds and new shoots. Once the vines produce grapes, though, they’d prefer to soak in sunny warmth, and work on getting the grapes ripe. A few summer showers can provide welcome rehydration, but too much isn’t good. Once the grapes are almost ripe, winemakers pray that rain won’t fall, because the grapes might suck up the water and dilute their sweet, concentrated fruit flavors, or, worse yet, burst.
Of course, the type of soil the grapevines grow in also plays in to their need for water.
The Dirt on Dirt, and the Plants It Supports
In Germany’s Mosel region, it’s sometimes difficult to tell how die vines have attached themselves to the ground. The vineyards sit at a precipitous angle to the river below; the soil appears to be sheer, crumbling slate.
In Chateauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Rhone Valley, the slopes aren’t that steep, but the ground looks to be made up entirely of round stones the size of racquetballs, or larger.
In both places, there is dirt—you just have to dig down deep to get to it. Vines tend to like this challenge. The stony layers help water drain away from the stems and channel the moisture deep into the earth, where the roots are. The deeper the roots, the sturdier the vine, and, some think, the deeper flavors die vine will pull from the earth.
Different grapes like different soils: Chardonnay, for instance, has a preference for chalky soils. The particular soils in a vineyard can also affect the flavor of the wine. For example, the Chardonnay-based wines of Chablis, France, are often said to have a chalky, oyster-shell flavor. As it turns out, the wine region Chablis sits on an ancient seabed, and its soils are chock full of decayed oyster shells. While there’s no scientific proof that the vines absorb the particular elements of the shells, the wines taste noticeably different from Chardonnays grown in, say, California.
Other plants that grow around vineyards also factor into the life of the grapevine. Not only do they provide an environment for beneficent insects—the ones that eat the insects that may damage the vines—but sometimes they may lend flavor to a wine, too. In Australian reds, for example, there’s often a minty flavor that some attribute to the eucalyptus trees that frequently grow nearby. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say a wine from Southern France smells of garrigue, the fragrant mix of wild thyme, juniper, and other plants that grow on the warm hillsides.
So, if you have Vitis vinifera vines growing in a comfortably temperate climate on a stony, sun-catching slope where there’s enough water to support their life, will you have great wine? Well, chances are better now than if you were using Concords grown in a frigid clime, but the vines need to be treated right to bring out their best.
Want to learn more about wine? Give us a call to take one of our Niagara Wine Tours today at 716-284-7040.
Faced with a row of bottles you’ve never seen before, how do you choose? By the label, of course—we all do, even if we don’t admit it. Why else would wineries spend so much time and money on design and eye-catching graphics?
The design is the most noticeable element, of course, but the least helpful. To figure out what’s inside the bottle, you’ve got to read the fine print, the gothic script, the Braille bumps, or whatever the winery used to get across the essential information. (There are Braille wine labels, actually: Michel Chapoutier labels his wines from France’s Rhone Valley in both script and Braille.) After all, the purpose of the label is to tell you what’s inside.
The thing is, when you read a wine label, you’ve got to know what to look for, and what to ignore. Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a wine by its label. But you can up your chances of finding the kind of wine you’re looking for.
There are all sorts of different styles of wine labels: Some are minimalist, some are crowded with information; some sport a grape variety, some don’t. Every wine bottle sold commercially in the United States, however, bears two labels: the front label (the flashier one, with the name of the wine) and the back label (where the fine print and government warning resides).
Some wine bottles may sport a nutritional label, too: the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) declared it legal to include calorie, carbohydrate, and nutrition content on alcoholic beverages in April 2004. Wines, beers, and liquors can also claim “low carbohydrate” status if they contain less than seven grams of carbohydrates per 5-ounce serving, but carbs were never much of a worry in savory alcohols, anyway: Liquors like vodka have negligible amounts of carbohydrates, while dry wines run from 1 to 2.5 grams per 5-ounce glass. Only some very sweet wines run over seven. On the other hand, calorie counters might want to know that most dry wines run 20 to 30 calories an ounce, and dessert wines can pack in up to 50.
The front label is your main concern. Although front labels vary widely, there are a few things you’ll find somewhere on every bottle of wine that comes into the United States. (When in the country of origin, all bets are off.) They are …
Whose wine it is.
- Where it’s grown.
- What sort of wine it is (e.g., “Sparkling,” “Red Table Wine,” etc.).
- How much wine is in the bottle.
- Percent of alcohol.
That’s all that’s strictly necessary. In addition, the label might offer helpful information such as …
The grape variety or varieties.
- The vintage year.
- Where it was bottled.
- A designation of quality.
- The name of a vineyard.
- A designation of style.
- A designation of ripeness.
Wine labels that include the name of the grape or grapes contained within the bottle are called varietal labels; regional labels leave off the grape variety and rely instead on the name of the place the wine was grown to identify the sort of wine in the bottle.
Wine is fermented fruit juice. It can be made from any fruit, from pineapple to peach to pear, though over time, grapes have been singled out as the most successful ingredient.
Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Obviously, there’s a little more to it, or we’d all have a crock of fruit fermenting away in our basements. Only it’s likely that our basement crocks would do more festering than fermenting, which makes all the difference in the end.
Wine owes its greatness to fermentation: Without fermentation, it’s just grape juice. Once fermented, formerly staid and straightforward fruit juice becomes complex with different flavors as time, yeast, and chemistry work away. Most strikingly, fermentation makes grape juice alcoholic—not so much to make the head spin after just a few sips, but about 8 to 14 percent alcohol on average, enough to lubricate the tongue and provoke an appetite for food and socializing alike.
If wine averages 8 to 14 percent alcohol, where does that put it in regard to other alcoholic beverages? In the middle, but toward the low end. Beer averages 3 to 6 percent alcohol; fortified wines, like Port, run 1 8 to 21 percent; most hard liquors reach 40 to 50 percent (which equals 80 to 100 proof). Another way to think about it is that a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 1 2-ounce beer, and a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof vodka or other spirit all contain the same amount of alcohol.
How does it happen? The short answer is this: A grape is a grape until yeast gets into it. Yeasts are single-celled sugar junkies found on grapes, in vineyards, in wineries, and in the air everywhere. When they get into a grape, they begin to devour the grape’s sugar. As they eat, they give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the yeasts have eaten all the sugar, or when they’ve produced so much alcohol it kills them, fermentation is complete.
Broken down into its simplest steps, it looks like this:
Sugar + Yeast = Ethanol (alcohol) + Carbon Dioxide
How anyone figured out that this is a good thing when applied to grapes is a mystery that historians, archeologists, and scientists have researched for ages and continue to study.
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