Monthly Archives: February 2011

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #4 – Most Wines South of the Equator are Screwy!

Stelvin capsYes, it’s true! Although I’ve stated in a previous blog that I equate ‘screw caps’ with cheap wine and hobos the fact is that if I want to review any wines from New Zealand and Australia, to name a few, I will most likely have to swallow my pride and purchase a wine with the aforementioned ‘screw cap’.

These ‘screw caps’ also known as a Stelvin cap (named for the company that first invented them back in the late ’60s early ’70s) are predominately used on most wines produced south of the Equator such as in New Zealand and Australia. Although they were met with resistance  and phased out in the early 1980’s they were reintroduced in the 1990’s.

Since then the consumer acceptance of these Stelvin caps on wines have gone from 1% in 2001 to 70% in 2004 according to Wikipedia.The main reason, or so I am told from a wise wine instructor, is three-fold.

First off, there is the debate that Stelvin caps actually preserve the wine better and virtually guarantee that the wine will reach the customer in the condition that the wine maker intended it to. Others still argue that the slight oxygen leakage that comes from cork helps the wine age better. Who’s to say who’s right?

The second reason for the re-emergence of Stelvin caps particularly south of the Equator is cost. Cork trees primarily grow in countries that run along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where there’s plenty of sunshine, low rainfall and high humidity. The countries that produce the most cork include Portugal, Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia. Because of this geographic dilemma using cork in wines produced south of the Equator adds more cost to producing a bottle of wine. When that happens you pay more for wines from these regions. (That explains that really expensive bottle of New Zealand wine with a cork I saw the other day…but I digress…)

To keep the cost of the wines down in Australia and New Zealand most wineries in those areas use Stelvin caps instead of cork. It’s easier and more cost effective to produce Stelvin caps locally then to ship in cork from all the way across the world.

The third reason that wines south of the equator use Stelvin caps rather than cork is to preserve the environment or so some are saying. I, myself, am doubtful of this. The argument is that all the cork being used for wine will deplete the cork forests however I’ve read other articles (namely this one from About.com) that state just the opposite.

Conservationist, environmentalists, and local cork regions are concerned that if wine producers stop using cork for their bottle closures then the cork forests will be discarded and the local animals and environment that depend on the cork trees to survive will also be discarded and ultimately destroyed. Being the tree-hugging vegetarian that I am I have to say that this view makes more sense to me than the former. It will make it even harder for me to buy a bottle of wine with a Stelvin screw cap.

So there you are! Your little tidbit of wine knowledge for the week. Use it as you see fit. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and base your decision on cork versus screw top on what makes sense to you. 🙂

Sebastiani Merlot 2006 – Sonoma County, CA

From the back label: ‘Our Sonoma County wines are multi-vineyard blends sourced from premium wine growing sites throughout the county. 2006, with its long, mild fall, heightened Merlot aromas and flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and black tea. Aging in both American and French Oak barrels for eight months gave this wine its silky texture and nuances of mocha and vanilla. Enjoy with roasted meats and savory stews.’

Price: $12.99

I have to be completely honest with you. I didn’t really like this wine at all. It was too harsh for my taste. It was very spicy, oaky and….well, just too harsh.

I’ve heard that the best wines come from wineries that grow, produce and bottle their wine on site and this wine may be the wine that puts legs under my table of belief in that subject. The reason being that the last couple of wines that I really like were indeed grown, produced, and bottled on site at a family vineyard. Is this a coincidence or reality? I don’t really know but I now have my interest piqued on this subject and you can be sure that I’ll be watching to see if it is indeed true or not.

So my overall feeling on this wine is that it’s not my cup of tea. Maybe 2006 was a bad year for Merlots for this vineyard or maybe the multi-vineyard sourcing isn’t working for Sebastiani. I don’t know. It’s possible that it’s not really suited for pure drinking meaning that maybe it needs to be had with a hearty meat dish or at least with something bold. I drank this wine by itself without any food influencing its aroma and taste.

Overall I give this wine a rating of 75.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!!

I’ve been informed that today is National Drink Wine Day. So the question is: what are you planning on drinking today? Leave your comments below and let us know what you’re planning on drinking today and whether it’s a red or white wine. Also, are you planning on eating something special with it too? Tell us all the exciting details….Enjoy!

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #3 – Determining the Body of a Wine is as Easy as Drinking Milk

At my recent visit to Total Wine an More’s ‘Wine 101’ class I learned a very easy way to determine what the body of a wine is. Up until taking that class determining the ‘body’ of a wine was a distant concept to me. I knew that they were talking about the ‘heaviness’ of the wine but still couldn’t figure out how everybody was coming to their conclusions so  easily and with conviction.

Well I now know that it is really easy to make this determination using something that most people have a daily experience with – drinking milk! Now I haven’t had a glass a milk in over 20 years but I am no stranger to the differences in consistency when it comes to dairy products. It was something that I wholeheartedly participated in prior to that 20 years.

Most people will agree that when drinking milk there is a distinct difference in consistency when it comes to skim milk, 2% milk, and whole milk. Skim milk, to most, has the weight and consistency of drinking a glass of water. 2% milk is slightly heavier/thicker and whole milk is the heaviest/thickest in the mouth. Knowing this simple fact is the key to determining the ‘body’ of the wine you’re drinking.

‘Light Bodied Wines’ are those that when you take a sip and move it around your mouth has the consistency and thickness of water or skim milk. It’s very ‘light’ on the tongue.

‘Medium bodied Wines’ are those that when  you take a sip and move it around your mouth has a slightly heavier weight and thickness. They are the equivalent of drinking 2% milk.

‘Heavy bodied Wines’ are those that are thick and…well…heavy on the tongue. They are reminiscent of drinking whole milk or even heavy cream. They loom large in your mouth as far as thickness is concerned.

Now that I’ve learned this little comparison trick it’s been easy for me to identify the body of every wine I’ve been drinking with little or no need for second thought. It’s an immediate ‘knowing’ now which frees me up to figure out more about the complexities of the wine like the bouquet and aromas that want to be identified.

I also want to add that a wine can fall between those categories of ‘light, medium, and heavy bodied’ too. Like anything else there’s a scale where something can be mostly light bodied but bordering on medium and thus you might say that that particular wine is a light to medium bodied wine or a medium to heavy bodied wine.

Nothing is absolute. It doesn’t have to fall neatly into just one category. Just like a person can be primarily an introvert but with some extrovert qualities a wine can absolutely do the same thing. It’s a living and breathing thing just like you and I are and even though a particular wine may be described as a medium bodied wine it can still have some slight variations too.

So now armed with this new knowledge (I am assuming it’s new to you too…if not then forgive my assumptions here) I challenge you to get out there and start to get to know the body of your wines. Feel them, touch them, get to know them! 🙂

Penfolds Koonunga Hill – Cabernet Merlot 2007 -South Australia

From the back label: ‘Elegantly structured Cabernet Sauvignon is complimented by generous Merlot in this classic blend. Spicy oak seamlessly integrates with the redcurrant, plum, and summer pudding aromatics.’

Price: $11.99

This was the first time that I am aware of that I’ve drank a wine with a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (67%) and Merlot (33%) so I didn’t know what to expect. I mean I like them both separately so I took the leap of faith that it would have to be at least decent plus the brand was a recommendation from a friend who shares similar taste in wine.

The color of this wine is a dark burgundy/garnet color and the bouquet is heavily slanted in the plum direction. It also has a very spicy, oaky aroma. It’s a medium to full bodied wine that tastes of lovely plums and chocolate as well as a slightly peppery slant. It ends with a medium lasting finish.

This wine paired very well with my warm goat cheese salad with cranberries, pears and field greens. The bold flavors of this meal stood up well to the bold flavor of this wine. The wine also paired quite well with the Lindt Milk Chocolate Truffle that I ate afterward. 🙂

Overall I found this wine to be quite nice especially after aerating it once. It does need a little breathing room to develop it’s flavors and aromas as well as to tone down the spiciness a bit. I gave this wine a score of 87. It’s a very enjoyable and nice wine.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #2 – Serve White Wines Cold

Well being last week’s Interesting Wine Facts was about the serving temperature of red wines I figured it would only be fair to do the same for white wines.

Most people already know that white wines are served chilled but most, like me, don’t know what that temperature actually is supposed to be. White wines should be served between 48-53 degrees F. This is usually the standard temperature that you’ll find in your refrigerator.

It’s also good to note that even though white wines are supposed to be served cold make sure you don’t serve them too cold. That can affect the flavors of the wine too.

Another good tip for white wines is to take them out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before you’re going to drink them.

If you’re serving a champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco it should be served between 40 to 45 degrees F. In order to get it to this temperature you may have to place it in an ice bucket filled with ice or put it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to get it to that temperature. Of course, you should have had it in the refrigerator before that but the standard temperature in your fridge is not going to be cold enough to get your bubbly to the right temperature thus the use of the ice bucket or freezer stated above.

Frei Brothers Reserve – Chardonnay 2008 – Sonoma, CA

From the back label: Russian River Valley, Sonoma’s premier Chardonnay appellation, is the source of our Chardonnay grapes. With a soft mouthfeel and long crisp finish, this medium-bodied wine has bright aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, peach, and a hint of vanilla and spice.’

Price: $16.99

This clear pale yellow Chardonnay may have just changed my opinion of myself. I have always considered myself a red wine drinker and I still do for the most part but this wine was a very nice surprise for me because I really enjoyed it.

In the past I would never buy a white wine for myself to drink. My past experiences have had me deem all white wines as heartburn makers. However in the interest of learning about wines I have been forcing myself to pick out white wines as well as reds. So when I saw this wine on sale at my local Publix grocery store with the words ‘Reserve’ on the bottle I felt it was worth a try and am I glad I took that leap of faith.

The bouquet of this wine is very lemony and citrusy and the taste was subtle, smooth and mellow. I would deem it a light to medium bodied wine although the label says it’s medium I would say it’s slightly lighter than that. It’s very fruity with a crisp, quick finish and very enjoyable.

I served this wine with a vegetarian chicken scallopini and I used a bit of this wine in the making of it as well. The chicken scallopini was accompanied by beautiful steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes. This wine perfectly complimented this meal and I would totally recommend this wine for light chicken, pasta, or risotto dishes especially if they have a lemony and light character to them.

My overall feeling on this wine was that I really liked it. I will definitely buy it again and have it as a regular wine in my wine rack. I am finding it really interesting that now that I am experimenting and learning about wines three of the wines that I gave a score of 90 and above are white wines. I never in a million years would have thought that that would happen.

I guess the lesson in this is to never say you’re a ‘red wine drinker’ or a ‘white wine drinker’. You need to experience many different types, brands, and vintages in order to really find out what suits you. All these years I thought I didn’t like white wine all that much and now I am realizing that when it comes to whites I just need to find the ones that I do like.

So the bottom line is I highly recommend this wine. I give this wine a score of 95 and will definitely have it again especially when my menu calls for a nice white to compliment it.

Here’s a nice recipe for chicken scallopini from AllRecipes.com if you’re a vegetarian like I am you can easily substitute the chicken in the recipe with any vegetarian chicken alternative. I used Gardein brand ‘Lightly Seasoned Chick’n Scallopini’ and then used the recipe on the back of the bag which is very close to this one from AllRecipes.com. It came out fantastic!

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #1 – Serve at Room Temperature

Here I would like to introduce you to a new series of posts called ‘Interesting Wine Facts’. This is where I will share a few interesting facts that I’ve learned about wines recently. So without further ado here’s fact #1.

FACT #1: Red wine should be served at a temperature of 65 degrees.

Most people have heard that red wine should be served at room temperature and never put in the fridge. The fact is that in the old days in European wine country that was indeed true and for the most part is still true however, ‘room temperature’ there is different then say here in Florida. If I serve my red wine at room temperature you’re going to get a nice hot wine most of the time.

The fact is that it is best to serve wines at their suggested temperature rather than some arbitrary, nondescript instruction of ‘serve at room temperature’. The actual  serving temperature for most red wines is 65 degrees F. If you are in a cooler  climate you probably can achieve that by leaving the wine at ‘room temperature’ but if you’re in a warmer climate it’s perfectly okay to put the bottle in the refrigerator for an hour or so, use a bucket of ice to chill it for 15 to 20 minutes, or any other method to get it to reach its optimal temperature. No one is going to take your head off for doing that especially if they really know their wines.