Category Archives: Wine Terms

General wine terms to make us all appear a little smarter about the subject

Wine, Women and…Well…What Else Is There To Say Really?

I got this in my email today from my other half and I thought it was funny and…well…true especially today. Rough day but that’s another story and another blog but being as it’s Wednesday and I owe you all a blog I thought this would be a little diversion from the usual as well as a good chuckle. Men, this is not a joke study this chart well and learn it. It could save your life one day.
The Hormone Guide

Women will understand this!
Men should memorize it!
 

Every woman knows that there are days when all a man has to do is open his mouth and he takes his life in his hands! This is a handy guide that should be carried like a driver’s license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, co-worker or significant other!

 


DANGEROUS

SAFER

SAFEST

ULTRA  SAFE
What’s for
Dinner?
Can I help you
with dinner?
Where would you like
to go out for dinner?
Here, have some wine.
Are you
Wearing that?
You sure
look good in brown!
WOW! Look at you!
Here, have some wine
What are you
So worked up about?
Could we be
overreacting?
Here’s my paycheck.
Here, have some wine.
Should you be
Eating that?
You know, there are
a lot of apples left.
Can I get you a piece
of chocolate with that?
Here, have some wine.
What did you
DO all day?
I hope you didn’t
over-do it today.
I’ve always loved you
in that robe!
Here, have some wine.

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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. 🙂

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! 🙂

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.

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.

How to Pair Wine and Chocolate

For those of you who know me personally you know that I have several really strong loves in my life: Matt, Wine (obviously), The Beatles/Paul McCartney, and chocolate. Any time that I can mix any and of all those together, in my book, it’s heaven!

Now I have always liked to eat chocolate with wine. To me it’s natural to do that but I am constantly intrigued when friends look at me in horror as I am doing it. I usually get that bewildered look and they’ll say something like ‘Chocolate and wine? Really?’ My blissful reply to them is usually something that sounds somewhat like ‘Oh my God, yes!’

I say ‘sounds somewhat like’ because my mouth is usually stuffed with chocolate and wine and I am doing the yummy moan. You know that moan. It’s the one that comes out of your mouth involuntarily when you’re eating something that’s sooooo good that you can’t reply fully with words. Yes, that’s the one.

Now when it comes to matching wines and chocolates I’ve never really given it much thought really. I mean if I am drinking a really nice wine and there’s really nice chocolate nearby what’s there to think about? But apparently there is a skill to it that if mastered can make your wine/chocolate pairing even better than nature intended. Sounds awesome, right? So here I will attempt to share with you what I’ve learned about this skill.

Now the first thing to know is, in my opinion, there is no right or wrong when it comes to doing this. The simple fact is that if you like the combination then it’s right and if you don’t, it’s not right…for YOU. Someone else might think it’s absolutely wonderful. So there is no judgment here.

As a general rule though you should match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines and more intense-flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines. By the way, ‘lighter-flavored chocolates’ is not referring to whether it’s milk, white, or dark chocolate. It is referring to the intensity of flavors in the chocolate. For example, most people think of dark chocolate as intense but many dark chocolates are light compared with a milk chocolate with intense caramel or nut fillings.

When pairing wines and chocolates there are no rights and wrongs as I’ve said before. You can pair chocolates and wines that share the same flavors like spicy, cherry, minty, etcetera or you can look for wines and chocolates that contrast each other. Whatever floats your boat really. 🙂

Here’s a list of what wines match up well with the different chocolates (remember this is not a definitive list and let your taste be your guide):

Bittersweet Chocolate (Dark chocolate with 70% to 100% cacao): These chocolates match up really well with a Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvigon, Cognac, Grenache, Malbec, Marsala, Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel, or a Tawny Port.

I find it really interesting to find that my favorite chocolate is Bittersweet Dark Chocolate with at least 70% cacao and my favorite wine at the moment is Merlot. Perfect matches and I didn’t even know anything about pairing the two before doing my research for this post. That’s why it’s important more than anything else to go with what you like and what works for you. You will innately know what matches up for you even if you don’t know how to justify it or describe it to someone else.

Semisweet Chocolate (Dark chocolate with 50% to 69% cacao): These chocolates match up with all the same wines as the Bittersweet chocolates above and the aftertaste will be balanced and not too sweet either.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor than the dark chocolates so the pairings are going to be a bit different.

Good pairings for milk chocolate are Muscat/Moscato, Tawny Port, as well as something called Mas Amiel Rouge & Vintage Blanc (I don’t know what those are so don’t ask 🙂 ). The best match for milk chocolate is said to be the Tawny Port but again try different wines and see what you like.

White Chocolate: White chocolate is my least favorite chocolate unless it’s from Switzerland because they know how to make it in my opinion. White chocolate is not really chocolate. It has no chocolate liquor. It is made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk and in my opinion is just way too sweet to enjoy usually.

But if you like white chocolate good wine matches would be Champagne, Gerwurtztraminer, Mas Amiel Vintage Blanc, Muscat/Moscato, and a nice Riesling.

Chocolate with Coffee in it pairs well with Sherry.

Chocolate with fruit in it like chocolate covered cherries or dipped or glazed fruit goes really well with a nice Cabernet Sauvigon, a Mediera, a Merlot, or a Ruby Port.

Also any chocolate that has liqueur in it will pair really nice with its corresponding liqueur. Kind of the like attracts like concept though in my opinion that might be too much of the same thing but I’ll have to try it and let you know. Oh the things I do for you all. 🙂

So that’s the basics of it all. I hope it’s opened your eyes to the wonderful marriage of chocolate and wine and has given you the inspiration to get out there and find out what your favorite pairings are. When you do find some please feel free to comment below and let us know what great pairings you’ve found. You might just discover a combination that no one has thought of and I for one would love to try it too.

Also here’s a great short video, called appropriately enough “How to Pair Wine and Chocolate’ from About.com, to walk you through the whole wine and chocolate pairing journey.

Until next time enjoy yourself and experiment!

No Wine Shall Ever Be Wasted!

Okay, today we’re going to talk about a little fiction. Let’s pretend that you’re sitting down with friends and enjoying a bottle of wine. Now let’s pretend that at the end of the night you find you still have an unfinished bottle of wine left (I know…I know. I told you this was fiction but stick with me anyway 🙂 ).

So at the end of the night you find that there’s an unfinished bottle of wine. Now I ask you: what do you do? Now I know many of you are saying ‘THAT just wouldn’t happen”. I’ll confess it doesn’t happen in my house often either when I am sharing with friends BUT there are times when I just want a glass of wine in the evening and I DO have left overs. Why? Because in my house my other half very rarely drinks wine. He says it tastes and smells like vinegar to him. I just think we haven’t found the RIGHT wine for him yet…but I digress.

Initially when a bottle of wine is opened oxygen actually helps the wine to ‘breathe’ and express its true self better but too much of that oxygen for too long will start the rapid process of deteriorating the wine. This is where left over wines need your help. There are basically four ways to slow that deterioration process.

  1. Put the cork back in the bottle and put the bottle in the refrigerator. This is probably the most common way to slow down the process of oxidation on a wine. By doing this you are stopping the bottle from being exposed to more oxygen and the cooling temperature in the refrigerator also slows down the process of the wine spoiling. This is also the cheapest way to preserve wine though not the most effective way.
  2. Transfer what’s left of the wine into a smaller bottle. By putting the remaining wine in a smaller bottle you are in essence reducing the amount of oxygen that the wine stays in contact with. How? Well, if there’s less room in the bottle for oxygen there’s less oxygen touching the wine. Simple. 🙂
  3. Pump out the air from the bottle with a ‘wine pump’. This is slightly more effective and has a minimum amount of cost (about $10). These  ‘wine pumps’ are available at any wine store, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, etcetera. This isn’t a foolproof way though because no ‘wine pump’ can ever get all the air out of a bottle. It will preserve the wine for a few days but it will work even better if you still put the wine in the refrigerator too.
  4. Pumping the bottle with gas. You can find these gas cartridges or bottles at most wine stores or online. These gases are inert (meaning they won’t hurt you or anything else for that matter) and are usually a combination of Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide. This is the most effective way to preserve wines and can even preserve them for WEEKS if done correctly. Though me being who I am I would probably still put the bottle in the fridge just to be extra sure.

Now there are other things you can do with left over wine too. If you cook then you can use the left overs in recipes for things like risotto or gravies and other yummies.

Another thing you can do is freeze the wine in an ice cube tray for use at a future time in a recipe. This will keep it even longer then just refrigerating.

Also, as my friend Camille from Camille Cooks mentioned in a previous post here, you can make mulled or spiced wine. This is something that is popular around the holidays/winter in countries like the Czech Republic (I’ve had some in Prague. It was pretty good 🙂 ) It’s hot and spicy and so different from that glass of Pinot Noir you had last night.

So there you have it, some tips and tricks for preserving every last drop of wine. My philosophy is that not a drop should ever go to waste. Even a bad wine can usually serve it’s purpose in a recipe for something.

Also, if you live in a colder climate than I do (Florida) and the room where you have the half bottle of wine is 65 degrees or cooler and it’s a red wine then you don’t have to put the bottle in the refrigerator. I figured I would just add that last little tip in there. I forget sometimes that others live in climates that are a little cooler than mine. 🙂

Anyway, I’ll end here for now. Come back again on Sunday for my next wine review and if you like chocolate you might want to make sure you don’t miss next Wednesday’s post. Just saying! 😉

Corks or Screw Tops – The Great Debate

Now I’ll just say this now ‘I am a traditionalist when it comes to wine’. Over the last few years I’ve been hearing ridiculous rumors that soon all wines will have a screw top rather than a corks. To me that just sounds sacrilege! Why would anybody want to do that?

I equate wines with screw tops to drinking lighter fluid, homeless people, and people who just don’t know anything about wine. So why would anyone want to replace my wine corks with something with such a bad image? I decided to look into this ludicrous debate and see what everyone has to say about it.

It seems that the debate revolves around several factors. The main one being that a screw top supposedly protects the wine better and preserves it more to the liking of the winemaker. Apparently wines with corks can be ruined by a tainted cork that lets in too much oxygen. Some corks get tainted by something called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) and it can cause the wine to smell like a damp basement. It’s harmless to humans but can spoil a bottle of wine regardless of how expensive it is.

The other smaller debate among some people is that it is causing the deforestation of cork trees. I don’t really know if this is a huge issue compared to other environmental issues that need to be addressed but it is an issue none the less.

Now don’t get me wrong I am a pretty good environmentalist and I don’t want my wine to go bad but when it comes to my wine I still have a really hard time giving up my bottles with corks in them especially since I can probably only name two times in my wine drinking life that I’ve gotten a bottle of wine that had gone bad from a cork that was tainted. Both times I returned them to the store where I got them and they replaced the bottle without question.

You see, with some things in life I am a big non-conformist but with other basic things I am the most traditional person you’ll meet. Roses are my favorite flower. I like romantic dinners. I think that every woman should have a classic black dress in their closet just in case and when it comes to wine I want my corks please.

The corks to me represent how wine is supposed to be made. It’s primal to some extent but it’s really romantic in my opinion. There’s something about the thought of some Roman a long time ago opening his bottle of wine the same way I do (minus the modern cork screw…but I think you get the gist none the less). There’s also that beautiful popping sound the cork makes when you open that bottle and the slightly musky cork smell. It’s just the way it should be in my opinion.

I’ve been told that all wine will eventually turn to screw tops but I find that really hard to believe because I know I am not the only one out there that prefers good old corks. If, by chance, that should be true I’ll deal with it then but for right now I will be honest and forthright and tell you that I won’t be buying any wine with a screw top. I just can’t! It goes against all that I believe in (well maybe not ALL…I might be being a bit melodramatic…but I digress…).

So I ask you all, what is your position in the great wine cork versus screw top debate? Give me your comments and input on the whole thing.

Prost,

Veronica

The Myth of ‘Legs’ and the Taste of Tannins…

LEGS

One of the terms that always had me baffled was the one about wine having ‘legs’. I had no idea what was meant by that or what it indicated if I indeed found that my delightful glass of Pinot Noir had them. (Not that I even know how to check for them but I digress…) So I set out to find out what this term meant.

First of all there are several terms that mean the same thing as ‘legs’ depending on where you’re from. The French refer to it not as ‘legs’ but as ‘tears’. Some other terms are ‘curtains’, ‘fingers’, or even ‘church windows’ but they all refer to the same thing.

What all these terms refer to are the streaks of wine that you see on the side of your glass after you swirl it around a bit. It is said that the more ‘legs/fingers/tears/etc.’ you see on the side of the glass the higher the quality of  the wine you are drinking. There are groups of people that live by this ruling and buy wine according to that belief and if you’re one of those people that believe this then you might want to stop reading here because I don’t want to be the one to shatter your beliefs.

In actuality those ‘legs’ only indicate one thing and that’s the alcohol content in the wine and it has no real bearing or significance when evaluating a wine. The ‘legs’ are a result of physics really and was proven in what is now called The Marangoni Effect.

In plain English what it means is the higher the alcohol content of a wine the more legs on the side the glass because alcohol creates evaporation in the glass when hit with oxygen. As that alcohol evaporates the rest of the liquid on the side of the glass loses it’s battle with gravity and gets pulled down and back into the glass. To prove this all you have to do is the next time you witness a bunch of ‘legs’ crawling up the side of your glass put your hand over the top of the glass to seal it off and you will instantly see no more ‘legs’. No evaporation equals no legs.

What does this mean to the wine and the quality of it? Well, absolutely nothing! It’s a great word to throw around at wine tastings and parties but it really is no indication of the quality of a wine at all. So there! Enjoy your wine whether it has ‘legs’ or not. If you like the wine that’s all that counts!

TANNINS

Another term that had me curious is when people refer to wine as being ‘tannic’ or ‘full of tannins’ so, of course, I had to investigate.

Tannins are a group of natural organic compounds that are found in the grape skins. The are excellent antioxidants and are a natural preservative. In concentrated quantities it can cause that pucker sensation in the mouth or the back of the throat. Sometimes there is also a bitter aftertaste and that is what people are referring to when they say a wine is ‘tannic’. This might also be what a person is indicating when they say a wine is ‘dry’ particularly if they are referring to the wine’s finish.

To place this in more common perspective, tannins are that bitter taste that you get when you drink black tea (especially if it’s been over steeped) or that taste you get when you accidentally bite into a grape pip (a.k.a. seed).

White wines are fairly low in tannins but red wines tend to have higher concentrations of tannins because red grape skins naturally have more tannins in them.

I also found in my research that red wines that are low in tannins typically should be drunk at a very young age (the wine’s young age not yours 🙂 ) and red wines with lots of tannins can age and improve three or more years before being opened and enjoyed. A wine that is high in tannins will mellow out and be less noticeable after aging a bit and won’t give you such a pucker factor any more.

So that’s our education for this lovely Wednesday! I hope you learned something like I did. Stay tuned for Sunday’s wine review where I will be reviewing a Conte Priola Pinot Noir 2009.