Tips & Tricks
White wines can be tricky. Chardonnay is one of most popular ones on the market today, but many people still find it to be a bit too “oaky.” Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand, another top contender, is often criticized for being a bit too “grassy.”
No matter which white wine you select – whether ordering for your table at a restaurant or serving it while entertaining – there always appears to be someone who has something to say. Enter a rising star in the white wine world, a near-foolproof crowdpleaser that is neither too oaky nor too grassy: Chenin Blanc.
Originating in France’s Loire valley, Chenin Blanc is a grape that experts praise for its extreme versatility, with any two varieties from any two winemakers unlikely to be too similar.
Although the grape comes from France and the United States led the world in acreage in the 1980’s, South Africa currently leads the world in production, with the varietal resulting in over one-fifth of all vineyard plantings, producing about half the world’s supply annually.
It’s also been the fastest-growing South African varietal in the United States in recent years, up over thirty-five percent from five years ago. “I think it’s a fun grape for wine drinkers to explore,” said a Wines of South Africa rep.
To read more online, click here.
Open for over a week? It’s past its peak…
As a general rule, if a wine bottle is open for over a week it’s probably gone “bad.” There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, including fortified dessert wines (like Port or other wines with 18+ ABV).
Learn the secret to storing open wine for 2 weeks or more
How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad
An experienced drinker can tell almost instantly if a wine is past its prime. Question is, how do they do it? Well, this comes with a little practice, and here’s what to look for:
How it will look
Wines go bad when they are left open for too long. While some claim that open wines last for weeks, most will lose their luster after just a couple of days, so it’s wise to store open bottles properly. First thing to look at is the color and condition of the wine.
- Wine is cloudy and leaves a film in the bottle
- There are several wines that are cloudy to begin with, but if they start out clear and then go cloudy, this may be some indication that microbial activity is occurring within the bottle.
- It will begin to brown and change color
- A wine browns much like an apple does when exposed to oxygen. While ‘browning’ itself is not bad (there are several awesome “tawny” colored wines) it will tell you how much oxidative stress has occurred to the wine.
- It may have tiny bubbles
- The bubbles come from a second unplanned fermentation in the bottle. Yes, you just made a sparkling wine! Unfortunately, it’s not going to be delicious like Champagne, it’s going to be oddly sour and spritzy.
“Browning itself is not bad, but it does indicate the amount of stress the wine has undergone.”
What it will smell like
Second thing to observe is the smell. Wines that are “bad” could be for 2 different reasons.
- A wine that has a wine fault. About 1 in 75 bottles has a common wine fault.
- A wine that was left open too long.
A wine that’s gone bad from being left open smells abrasive and sharp. It will have sour medicinal aromas similar to nail polish remover, vinegar or paint thinner. These aromas are from chemical reactions from the wine being exposed to heat and oxygen which causes bacteria to grow that produce acetic acid and acetaldehyde.
What it will taste like
A wine that’s “gone bad” won’t hurt you if you taste it, but it’s probably not a good idea to drink it. A wine that has gone bad from being left open will have a sharp sour flavor similar to vinegar that will often burn your nasal passages in a similar way to horseradish. It will also commonly have caramelized applesauce-like flavors (aka “Sherried” flavors) from the oxidation.
Practice smelling bad wine
If you ever let a wine go too far and you know with certainty it’s bad, give it a whiff before you dump it out. Make note of the sour flavors and the oddly nutty aromas that you find and you’ll be able to pick them out with more accuracy each time. It won’t hurt you, so why not?
Barbera Wine Profile
FRUIT: Dark Cherry, Dried Strawberry, Plum, Blackberry
OTHER: Violet, Lavender, Dried Leaves, Incense, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Anise
OAK: Yes. Large neutral oak casks.
AGEABILITY: Traditionally enjoyed within 2-4 years.
SYNONYMS & REGIONAL NAMES:
Barbare, Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Aosta, Barbera Sarda, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato
The Taste of Barbera Wine
Mish-Mash Flavor Somehow Barbera wine tastes both rich and light-bodied. Why is that? Well, one reason is that it has dark staining pigments that dye the wine to near-black. However, the taste of Barbera has notes of strawberry and sour cherry: flavors synonymous with light-bodied wines. Light tannin and high acidity make it taste ‘Juicy’. Most of the Barbera you’ll find is from Italy which leans towards more herbaceous flavors, you can see the differences below.
Barbera Food Pairing
Wines and foods that are single-noted can be made whole when put together. With Barbera wines try rich dark meats, mushrooms, herbs, herbaceous cheeses like blue cheese, higher tannin foods like root vegetables & braised greens. The idea here is that the bright acidity in the wine will make a rich fatty or high tannin dish complete.
Match the flavors within Barbera to make them stand out. Try sour cherry, sage, anise, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, citrus and the Morrocan spice blend called Ras el Hanout.
Monferrato’s regional dishes include: tajarin pasta, Guinea fowl and porcini stew and carne all’albese (a Piemontese version of steak tartare with parmesan, olive oil and rocket.)
Read the full article on Wine Folly Sa
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For some people it is basic instinct to taste an array of flavors and aromas in any wine, but the majority of us struggle to pinpoint that specific smell or taste.
WineFolly gives us more information, to help us understand and identify different aromas in wine.
Where do flavors in wine come from?
If you ever have a chance to taste a fresh Chardonnay grape you’ll see how wildly different it is than Chardonnay wine. A Chardonnay grape tastes very different than the apple, lemon and butter flavors associated with Chardonnay wine.
Why are grapes different than wine? This is because all the aroma compounds —stereoisomers as scientists call them— are released by the fermentation as well as the alcohol in wine. Alcohol is volatile (i.e. it is a gas at room temperature) and it carries these lighter-than-air aroma compounds into your nose. Every wine has many different aroma compounds. Each compound can affect the flavor of another or the overall flavor of a wine. This is why some Chardonnays taste different than others. Also, our brains can think of multiple answers to one stereoisomer (crazy, right!?). For example, the lychee fruit flavor in Gewürztraminer can also smell like roses.
Red wines typically fall into two different categories: red fruit and black fruit flavors. The reason to differentiate the two types is to be able to identify a wine in a blind tasting or to pick a favorite. Within each style there is a fair amount of variance. For instance, Lambrusco is typically considered a light red wine in terms of color and body. However in tasting a Lambrusco, many of them exhibit tart blueberry flavors making Lambrusco an example of a ‘black fruit’ aromatic wine. Also, we always have to separate aromas (smells) from tastes (sweet, sour, bitter) in wine…
Most wines with ‘black fruit’ aromas are full-bodied red wines with all the associated extra tannins. Of course there are some full-bodied red-fruited wines and some lighter, fresher, black-fruited wines. As always, there are exceptions. Knowing this about a wine will make you more adept at food pairing.
White wines offer two major fruit types: Tree-fruity vs. Citrusy. The more you taste, the more you’ll realize that the same type of wine will vary wildly depending on where it’s grown. For instance, tasting a Chenin Blanc from South Africa will taste much riper and lusher, whereas Chenin Blanc from Anjou in the Loire Valley, France will have much more ripe-to-under-ripe fruit aromas, even though aromas for all typical Chenins will always center around bruised apple and lemon-y type aromas.
When you taste a white wine, think about the type of flavor and then focus on the ripeness of that flavor. Below is a great example of how ripeness affects the flavor of white wine:
VinePair also have an informative video on “How to become a super wine smeller”
Understanding acidity in wine
Acids are one of 4 fundamental traits in wine (the others are tannin, alcohol and sweetness). Acidity gives wine its tart and sour taste. Fundamentally speaking, all wines lie on the acidic side of the pH spectrum and most range from 2.5 to about 4.5 pH (7 is neutral). There are several different types of acids found in wine which will affect how acidic a wine tastes. The most prevalent acids found in wine are tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid.
How to taste acidity in wine
Sit for a minute and imagine yourself tasting lemonade and pay attention to how your mouth puckers just from thinking about it. This sensation is how our mouths anticipate the acidity in lemonade. The next time you taste wine, pay attention to this specific puckering sensation. After tasting several wines, you’ll create a mental benchmark of where the acidity hits your palate and you’ll also begin to notice that some wines (such as Riesling) tend to have higher acidity than others.
Acidity in wine is important
As much as modern health has demonized acidic foods, acidity is an essential trait in wine that’s necessary for quality. Great wines are in balance with their 4 fundamental traits (Acidity, tannin, alcoholand sweetness) and as wines age, the acidity acts as a buffer to preserve the wine longer. For example, ice wines which have both high acidity and sweetness will age several decades.
How climate plays into acidity in wine
Acidity is a perfect example of one of the fundamental taste traits that are affected by different climates(warm vs cool).
When wine grapes are still green they have very high acidity. As they ripen, the acidity tapers down and the sweetness increases. The perfect moment, of course, is when the grape is perfectly sweet, ripe, and still possessing enough acidity to make great wine. This is where climate comes in. A region that produces wines with naturally higher acidity will have either cooler nighttime temperatures or a shorter growing season. The cool nights and cold weather stops the grapes from losing their acidity. In a region with a shorter growing season, there’s also the possibility that the grapes never quite get ripe enough, which results in both more tart and more herbaceous tasting wines.
What is Wine?
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made with the fermented juice of grapes. Technically, wine can be made with any fruit (i.e. apples, cranberries, plums, etc) but most wines are made with wine grapes (which are different than table grapes). Speaking of differences, the difference between wine and beer is that beer is made from fermenting brewed grains. So very simply, wine is made from fruit and beer is made from grains. Of course, there exceptions –that push the boundaries of beer,–but that story is for another time.
What are Wine Grapes?
Wine grapes are different than table grapes: they are smaller, sweeter and have lots of seeds. Most wines are made with a single species of grape that originated in Caucasus called Vitis vinifera. There are thousands of different varieties within the Vitis vinifera species–the most common is Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Origin of the term “Vintage”
Wine grapes take an entire season to ripen and thus, wine is produced just once a year. This is where the term vintage comes from: “Vint” stands for “Winemaking” and “age” implies the year it was made. So, when you see a vintage year listed on the label, that’s the year the grapes were picked and made into wine. The harvest season in the northern hemisphere (Europe, US) is from August–September and the harvest season in the southern hemisphere (Argentina, Australia) is from February–April.
A single-varietal wine is made primarily with one type of grape. It’s common to see these wines labeled by the name of that grape variety. For example, a bottle of Riesling is made with Riesling grapes. It’s useful to note that each country has different rules for how much of the variety should be included in order to be labeled as a varietal wine.
Percentage Required to Label as a Single-Varietal Wine
- 75% USA*, Chile, South Africa, Australia, Greece
- 80% Argentina
- 85% Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand
*Oregon requires 90% of the varietal
The Taste of Wine
There are several facets that explain wine’s unique flavor: acidity, sweetness, alcohol, tannin, and aroma compounds produced in fermentation.
- Acidity: Wine as a beverage lies on the acidic end of the pH scale ranging from as low as 2.5 (lemon) to as high as 4.5 (greek yoghurt). Wine tastes tart.
- Sweetness: Depending on what style of wine you drink, sweetness in wine ranges from having no sugar at all to sweet like maple syrup. The term “dry” refers to a wine without sweetness. See the wine sweetness chart
- Alcohol: The taste of alcohol is spicy, palate-coating and warms the back of your throat. Wine’s average range of alcohol is about 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) to 15% ABV. Of course, there are a few exceptions: Moscato d’Asti is as low as 5.5% ABV and Port is fortified with neutral brandy upping it to 20% ABV. Look at a chart of the alcohol levels in wine
- Tannin: Tannin is found in red wines and contributes to the astringent quality of red wine. Put a wet, black tea bag on your tongue for a great example of how tannin tastes. Read more about tannin in wine
- Aroma Compounds: Within the tiny minutia of wine (the phenols, esters, higher alcohols, acids, etc) is where you’ll find the complexities to wine’s flavors and aromas. Each grape variety exhibits aroma compounds at different levels. This is why some wines smell like berries and others smell like flowers. Another contributing factor to wine’s aromas is aging. Nearly all red wines are aged in oak, which not only contributes an oak barrel’s flavor compounds (like vanillan) but also acts as a conduit to expose the wine to oxygen. Oxidation and aging produce a range of unique flavors to wine including nuttiness, and dried fruit/flower flavors. Find out where wine aromas come from
Wine is a seemingly simple beverage that becomes more complex the more you study it. The good thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you know, nearly everyone can appreciate wine. In short, wine is good.
Sabrage/səˈbrɑːʒ/ is a technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions. The wielder slides the saber along the body of the bottle to break the top of the neck away, leaving neck of the bottle, open and ready to pour. The force of the blunt side of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. Note that one does not use the sharp side of the blade. The cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck.
The Art of Sabrage is perhaps the greatest legend in the history of Champagne.
Legend has it Napoleon Bonaparte’s infamous cavalry, the Hussards, began the Art of Sabrage, a technique to behead a bottle of Champagne with a saber or sword. When Madame Clicquot lavishly entertained Napoleon’s officers in her vineyard, she offered them bottles and bottles of Champage. At sunrise the Hussards rode off on horseback and whipped out their sabers to behead the bottles to impress the young widow.
This may not be the most accurate of stories, but it is certainly the most spirited. Sabrage has since remained a tradition in the French Army and has come to signify celebration.
How to saber:
- Chill a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. Or a case. This could take practice. Stand in the back yard or another place where no one will be hit by a sharp piece of flying glass.
- Remove all foil and the wire basket from the bottle. Locate the seam in the glass that leads up to the lip of the bottle. Where the seam meets the lip is the weakest part of the bottle. You will follow this line with your blade.
- Firmly grip the base of the bottle with your off hand and hold at a 30-degree angle, with the top of the bottle angled away from you. Rest the blade flat against the bottle seam, blunt edge toward the cork, to avoid damaging the knife.
- Quickly slide the blade along the seam, up the bottle, aiming for the ring near the top of the bottle (not the cork). Glass is so brittle that any nick weakens it greatly. Sliding the blade along the bottle causes just enough of a nick that when the blade hits the lip, the glass separates. This doesn’t take as much force as you may think. Too much force, in fact, can just cause the knife to bounce off.
- Done properly, the top of the bottle will fly off. Drink responsibly!
Please note: Sabrage can be very dangerous if not done correctly and under the proper conditions.
If you’ve nailed sabering with a sword, why not try a spoon, credit card, or even your phone!?
Though not many of us know what “leftover” wine is (especially not leftover Merwida wine…)! We came across this article of unusual uses for that once-in-a-blue-moon leftover wine. We elaborate on some, but for the full article, visit ecosalon.com.
Wine is more than just a social platform.
You pop the cork on that 2004 Bordeaux that you’ve been saving for a special occasion, only to find that it’s gone so tart and vinegary, even the most ardent wino wouldn’t touch it. Don’t pour it out! You could use it to trap flies, dye fabric, clean the counter top and make your skin glow. Try these unusual uses for spoiled or leftover wine, and learn a few enticing reasons to knock back a glass of the good stuff at least once a day.
- Fabric dye
- Skin softener – All of those antioxidants that make red wine a healthy beverage may also provide benefits when applied directly to the skin. Some women recommend using red wine as a toner, which may help smooth and refine skin thanks to the acidity which is similar to that of vinegar. Actress Teri Hatcher reportedly pours a glass of red wine into her bath water, and in India, wine has many beauty uses, like softening and brightening the skin in spa facials.
- Frozen cubes of flavor – Pour leftover wine into an ice tray so you always have easy-to-use, single servings of extra flavor on hand for soup, stew, sauces and other cooking uses.
- Clean fruits and vegetables
- Kitchen disinfectant
- Glass cleaner – Spoiled white wine is on its way to being vinegar, so naturally it works like a charm on dirty glass. Add a few tablespoons to a spray bottle of water, apply to windows and mirrors and wipe with a newspaper.
- Fruit fly trap – Few things are more tempting to pesky fruit flies than an aromatic glass of red wine. Use this attraction to your advantage and soon these unwanted guests will disappear from your kitchen. Just pour a half-inch of red wine into a glass and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Then, poke a few small holes in the wrap, which will let the flies in, but won’t allow them to exit.
- Remove grease stains – Pour leftover white wine onto grease and oil stains on garage floors and driveways, and the alcohol and acidity will help them dissipate.
- Heal bruises
- Use wine to clean wine – You’re at a dinner party, and an enthusiastic hand gesture knocks your glass of red wine over right onto the host’s new white carpet. What to do? Grab the nearest glass of white wine – not to help you forget your embarrassment, but to pour onto the red wine stain. Flood the stain and then blot it up immediately with a towel.
- Help your heart
- Meat marinade
- Turn it into jelly
- Relieve dyspepsia – While wine itself can be the culprit of heartburn in some people, it can actually cure it in others. At least, that’s according to old European folk wisdom, which advocates drinking a glass of light white wine, which has low alcohol content. Some types of white wines contain added sodium bicarbonate – otherwise known as baking soda, a proven heartburn remedy – to temper acidity, so that might explain it.
- Make red wine reduction – If you’re left with just a little bit of a wine you don’t particularly like, try turning it into an extra flavorful sauce that pairs beautifully with steak (and Portabello mushrooms, for vegetarians.) Red wine reduction sounds fancy, but it’s actually pretty easy. This recipe from Cooking Light uses broth, wine, shallots and tomato paste.
- Boost brainpower – Two new studies have shown that polyphenols in wine (and chocolate!) increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, boosting cognitive ability. The effect gets even more beneficial as you age, since there is a natural reduction in blood supply around the brain later in life. All the more reason to have a glass of ‘medicine’ and a little dessert every chance you get.
- Improve health… in space
- Slow the aging process
- Turn it into vinegar
- Power Prince Charles’ Aston Martin – If you’re loaded like Prince Charles, you can use wine to power your ultra-pricey vintage Aston Martin. The British king-in-waiting converted his 38-year-old car to run on bio-fuel made from surplus wine as a way to reduce his carbon emissions. Of course, we plebes can apply this to our own lives (and less fancy cars) by purchasing pre-made wine bio-ethanol or even possibly making it ourselves.