Pairing wine and food can make a great meal spectacular, but choosing food and wine pairings can be overwhelming. Many people are aware that certain wines and foods can and should be paired, yet they are unsure of how to do so. Restaurants can have extensive wine lists, and many liquor stores and supermarkets now carry a vast array of different wine varietals at every price point. With some basic guidance and principles, however, you can pair the right wine with food groups and recipes to enhance the flavor of each. Why Pair Your Food and Wine? In the best pairings, the flavor of the wine elevates that of the food, and vice versa; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. These enhancements are made using flavor connections and contrasts between wine and food, known as “flavor bridges.” The flavors in your wine of choice can mirror those in your food, or complement them. Think of the dominant flavors of your dish, and find a wine with similar or contrasting characteristics. You can also consider the overall “weight” of both the wine and the food to allow each element of the meal to shine equally. For example, pairing a rich, heavy or full-bodied wine with a light dish can make the meal seem out of balance. In some cases, flavors in your food can dull the flavor of your wine, and vice versa. For example, a sweet food can dull the sweetness of a dessert wine, and can make a dry wine appear positively bitter. Even the alcohol content can affect your choices. For example, many spicy foods pair best with wines with lower alcohol content, as alcohol can further intensify their heat. Traditional (and Non-Traditional) Wine Pairing Some of the traditional basics of wine pairing are relatively well-known. For example, many people are familiar with the wine pairing guide of pairing red meats with red wine and white meat with white wine. Though this is true in some cases, a more comprehensive wine pairing guide accounts for a greater number of variables, including flavor nuances in sauces or spices. Finally, remember that few wine and food pairings are truly terrible. Though you will want to consider the flavor profiles and how they work together, be sure to drink what you like. With very few exceptions, you can “break the rules” and still enjoy great flavors.
Many amateur cooks are hesitant to use wine as an ingredient when cooking. They may worry about what kind of wine to purchase or how much to use in recipes with wine. However, becoming comfortable cooking with wine is an important step in becoming a better chef. When carefully selected and properly prepared, wine as an ingredient enhances the flavor of the finished dish. Cooking with Wine Wine is most commonly used for “deglazing,” a cooking method that uses a liquid like chicken stock or wine to scrape food remnants from the bottom of a pan and become the base for a sauce, or as a marinade. In some cases, wine can also be added as a last-minute ingredient. For example, marsala wine is typically added to the sauce in chicken marsala in the last step of preparation. Likewise, you can add sherry to an English trifle or drizzle it over cream soup immediately before serving. This method generally only works for sweet or fortified wines. Dry wines added at the last minute can give the food a harsh taste. How to Use Wine as an Ingredient So what happens if you want to use wine as an ingredient, but don’t have any recipes with wine on hand? Simply follow a few general rules for cooking with wine, and you can improve the flavor of many dishes without having to consult a recipe. First, a simple way to introduce wine as an ingredient is to substitute wine when your recipe calls for water. You can do this for soups, stews, sauces, marinades and pasta sauce. Another idea is to mix a couple of tablespoons of red wine into brown gravy or au jus for a roast beef or prime rib. Allow it to cook long enough for the alcoholic flavor to dissipate. The result should be rich, flavorful gravy. Avoid the “cooking wines” you see at grocery stores. These so-called cooking wines are packed with added salt and will only lend a concentrated salty flavor to your food. Instead, use a wine that you’d feel comfortable serving.
Many amateur cooks are wary of using recipes with alcohol at first. They may worry that too much alcohol will remain in their finished dish, and they may be reluctant to serve food prepared with wine to children or guests who don’t drink alcohol. Understanding the basic chemistry of cooking with wine should help alleviate some of these concerns. What Happens When Using Wine in Cooking When you use wine in a recipe, the majority of the alcohol “cooks out” during preparation. For example, if you’re making a white wine sauce, you add the wine at the same time as the broth (or other liquid) and spices. You turn the heat up to high and let it boil until the liquid is reduced by about half. Much of the alcohol is first to go as the liquid evaporates. Meanwhile, as the wine sauce reduces, the sauce thickens and the flavors become concentrated. This means that any prominent notes in the wine will lend a lot of flavor to the sauce and to the finished dish. For example, if you’re using a semi-sweet wine like Riesling, your finished dish will have a sweet taste. Likewise, a dry white wine with hints of fruit will have a much stronger fruit flavor in the finished sauce. Cooking Alcohol Chemistry Lesson When you use wine in cooking, the alcohol evaporates quickly because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit; alcohol only needs to reach 178 degrees Fahrenheit in order to evaporate. Most stovetop wine recipes boil long enough to “reduce” the liquid by about half. At that point, most of the alcohol should be gone. Sulfites in wine are also affected by the cooking process. These salts, which many winemakers add to their wines to prevent oxidation, also evaporate when heated. The same compound that prevents oxidation dissipates when the wine is heated, leaving behind only a few salts that won’t affect the flavor of the finished dish.
Foods from specific regions, or those created by particular cultures or ethnic groups, can have strong and unique flavors. These can range from rich and earthy to hot and spicy. Pairing regional wines with food from the same geographic area helps ensure complementary flavors. Cuisines with flavor profiles that make wine and food pairings challenging can be matched with wines that complement their strong ingredients and seasonings. When Pairing Wines, Look Local Traditional regional cuisines and the wines of those regions evolved together over the course of centuries. Some traditional dishes have a particular wine as an ingredient; pair the same wine with the food for cohesive flavors. For example, match Italian wine with Italian food, as the traditional cuisine of Italy has evolved over time to accentuate the qualities of the wines available in the region. Some regions produce a variety of both wines and traditional dishes. When pairing regional wines in this case, keep in mind the flavor bridges between the wine and the food (spice, acid, etc.), and how these flavors will mirror or complement one another. The overall weight of the dish is another important factor to ensure balance in your meal. Bold foods will benefit from bold wines, whereas lighter fare calls for a wine with a more delicate flavor. Pairings for Strongly Flavored Ethnic Foods Some regional or ethnic foods are difficult to pair with wines. Strong spices often have a numbing effect on the palate, and wine’s delicate or complex flavors cannot be enjoyed fully. For example, Indian or Mexican foods can be highly spiced. Finding wine for sushi can be a challenge as well, especially if you enjoy the dish with hot wasabi. Follow a few basic guidelines to pair wine with boldly flavored foods. Avoid strong, dry wines (particularly red wines) when eating spicy foods; tannins in the wine can intensify the heat of spicy dishes. If you are set on pairing these spicy foods with wine, a slightly sweet and acidic wine, like Riesling, can balance the spice. Riesling’s low alcohol content will also help you to avoid spiking the heat of an already spicy dish.
Pairing a specific wine with food can provide an improved flavor experience; complementary flavors can enhance the flavors of both wine and food. When choosing or preparing dishes to go with a particular wine, or when choosing a wine to go with that special meal, consider the flavors of both the wine and the dish. Flavor bridges are connections between flavors in your dish and flavors in the accompanying wine. Flavor bridges in food can either echo the flavors of the chosen wine, or complement them. Where Should I Begin? When you want to take advantage of wine and food characteristics with flavor bridges, think first of the dominant component of the meal. If you want to showcase a special wine, tailor your food to its flavors. If you are trying an exciting new recipe, look for a wine that matches or contrasts its components. Look for fruit or spice notes in your dish, such as chocolate, cherry or citrus. Most wine labels describe the dominant, as well as the more subtle and nuanced, flavors in the wine. These notes can provide a nice starting point for finding flavor bridges when pairing wine with food. Matched Flavor Bridges Both white and red wines can contain a wide variety of flavor notes, including fruits and spices. These flavors can be matched with the flavors in your wine for a mirrored or overlapping flavor profile. For example, a red wine with chocolate or coffee notes can be paired with a coffee-rubbed steak. Wines with lighter, fruitier flavors can be paired with chicken or pork dishes with sauces or chutneys containing fruits like apple or pear. However, take care in matching very sweet desserts with sweet wine; even a sweet wine can lose flavor or taste bitter when paired with a rich dessert. Complementary Flavor Bridges Flavor bridges can also be used to showcase contrasts between wine and food flavors. For a complementary combination, pair a pasta or chicken dish with a cream sauce to a more acidic white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc. The wine’s acid provides a nice counterpoint to the richness of the dish. Red wines with high concentrations of tannins pair well with fatty meats, as they also tend to cut through this richness. You can pair a sweet wine, like port, with a salty cheese like blue or gorgonzola for a wonderful sweet-savory flavor contrast.
With their seemingly endless knowledge of wine and spot-on wine advice, a good sommelier is a sage to any oenophile. But there’s no reason why any wine lover can’t gain a lot of the same knowledge that sommeliers dispense every day. With so many free and low-cost ways to find out about wine, all you need is the desire to learn. Free Classes and Workshops They say that nothing’s free these days, but there are still a few things that slip by. And if you’re an aspiring oenophile, you’ll be happy to know that wine classes and workshops are often in that category. Offered by wine shops, community centers, colleges, social clubs and adult education centers, free wine classes are a great way to learn more about specific types of wine and meet other people with the same interests as your own. As an added bonus, these classes are often taught by expert sommeliers or even the winemakers themselves. To find free wine classes and workshops, check at your neighborhood wine shop. Sign up for the mailing lists of local wine clubs and community organizations. Soon you’ll be the one offering wine advice! Wine Tastings Free wine tastings are common, easy to find and a must for any budget-conscious oenophile. Sponsored by winemakers, they’re offered by wine shops and restaurants, sometimes as often as once a week. The people running tastings are generally quite knowledgeable about the wines they’re serving and are more than happy to answer your questions. Some tastings may even be accompanied by a short talk or discussion. If you attend these frequently, you’ll not only get to try a variety of wines for free, but you’ll also gain invaluable wine advice from experts. Become a Wine Bookworm Perhaps one of the easiest ways for a wine lover to learn more about wine is through reading, which you can do without paying a cent. Read the food section of your local newspaper and subscribe to wine blogs. Excellent articles, written by experts, are published by many wine-themed websites on the Internet. Books about wine and wine magazines are available at your local library. Free Wine Advice from Experts The next time you’re dining out in a nice restaurant, ask to speak to the sommelier about your wine selection, or better yet ask for a recommendation. So few people actually ask for wine advice that sommeliers are usually very happy to answer questions and even discuss particular wines. Be sure to ask questions, too, at your local wine shop. Most good shops have their wine buyer on hand to answer questions and help customers choose wines. They are a great free resource.
Although cooking with wine is typically reserved for the stovetop, it’s possible to use it for baking as well. When you use wine in baking, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, leaving only the fruity or earthy flavor of the wine. Baking with wine is a great way to incorporate a little extra flavor into baked goods. Using Wine in Baking The type of wine you use for baking depends on the type of dish you plan to make. For example, the sweetness of port wine lends itself well to baked fruit dishes. Sparkling wine can add lightness or sweetness to pound cake. Wine cakes can incorporate either red or white dry wines. Can I Use Wine Yeast for Baking? At-home wine makers typically use a special kind of yeast known as “wine yeast” in their wine recipes. If you’ve made your own wine in the past, you may have ended up with leftover wine yeast. You don’t have to discard it—instead, consider using wine yeast as a substitute for regular yeast in a bread recipe. Wine yeast can lend a delicate, fruity flavor to an otherwise ordinary loaf of homemade bread. Wine Cake Recipe This recipe uses white cake mix, vanilla and white wine to make a light, sweet cake that’s perfect for holidays. (Red wine lends itself better to chocolate-based cakes). Ingredients: 1 18.25-ounce package moist white cake mix 1 5-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3/4 cup vegetable oil 3/4 cup dry white wine 4 eggs. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, nutmeg, oil, wine and eggs in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for five minutes. Pour batter into the bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from pan and allow it to cool completely. Slice it and serve. Whipped cream and sliced fruit go well with this cake.
Chefs have been cooking with wine for ages, using it as a deglazing agent in sauces, as an ingredient to stovetop or oven cooking and even as a simple marinade. Cooking with wine takes some practice, but it’s a great skill to have, as wine can lend nuance and depth to many recipes. Why Use Wine for Cooking? Chefs use wine for cooking for several reasons. First, wine works as a fantastic marinade. It flavors meat while tenderizing it. Second, wine added as an ingredient during cooking helps enhance the flavor of the finished dish. Done correctly, wine won’t stand on its own as a flavor; instead, it’ll intensify and accent the flavors in the recipe. Best Cooking Wines Most recipes with wine aren’t specific about what type you should use. Often, the ingredient is generic: “one cup dry white wine.” If you’re new to cooking with wine, this may open up a host of new questions. What kind of wine should you use? Will an inexpensive wine do, or should you only cook with premium wine? Should it be the same wine you would drink with dinner? Which wine offers the best flavor to your meal? You can go by a few general rules of thumb. First, only use a wine you would actually drink. Price point doesn’t matter as much—you can find plenty of decent wines for less than $10, and these are fine for cooking. Second, in most cases, the wine you plan to serve with dinner should work in your recipe, as long as you’ve paired them properly—for example, crisp white wines for light dishes, or bold reds for spicy meats. If your recipe calls for dry white wine, a sauvignon blanc often lends just the right amount of flavor and crispness. For hearty meat dishes, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel work well. For lighter meat dishes, try a pinot noir or merlot. Finally, do not use the wines for cooking that you find in the grocery store labeled as “cooking wine.” These basic wines are packed with additional salt and other additives and are should not be used for recipes with wine.
Basic guidelines apply when pairing wine with food. However, no one perfect wine match exists for any particular food, despite what some wine experts might say. Though the traditional rules of wine pairing have some weight, ignoring wine pairing rules is OK; be sure to drink what you like. With some consideration of food and wine flavor profiles, you can make a great match. Using the Traditional Wine Rules The traditional rules would dictate that white wines should be paired with fish and white meats, while red wines should be paired with boldly flavored red meats, like steak. However, if you do not like red wine, you should not think that you cannot enjoy your steak with a white wine. Rather than following specific rules for wine and food pairings, think about ignoring wine pairing rules and instead following some general guidelines that can help you match the flavors of your wine to your food: Consider the weight of the wine and the dish: Pair bolder flavored wine with food that also has bold flavor to ensure each element can stand up to the other. Don’t forget that sauces can contribute strong flavors to a dish, and matching the wine to the sauce or spice can be more important than matching it to the protein. Match or contrast flavors, including acidity, spice and fruit notes. Finally, remember that price is a valid guideline, but the idea that a more expensive wine is always a better wine is a myth. Finding What You Like You probably know at least a few wines that you enjoy drinking on a regular basis. However, you may not know how to expand your repertoire of wine types. Look into wine tastings in your area to have an opportunity to try new wines without the commitment of buying a whole bottle. You can also consider trying the wine pairing recommendations listed on restaurant menus, or those suggested by your server. Branching out in a restaurant will allow you to try a single glass of wine with food pairings that accentuate it, which will bring out its best qualities.
A lot of people think cooking with wine is a task that can be mastered only by top chefs in five-star restaurants. However, cooking with wine can be quite simple, and even the most average cook can prepare a lot of recipes in the most average kitchen. Cooking with wine adds a depth and flavor to food that makes even the simplest dish seem complex. Marinating meat or fish in a red or white wine marinade transforms the meat, and there are many recipes that call for white or red wine sauces. Here are some tips on how to incorporate wine into some of your dishes. Wines Used in Cooking A lot of people become intimidated by the number of wines that are available for cooking. When a recipe calls for a cup of red wine, will any red wine do? What if it calls for a dry red wine? Here are some suggestions for wines that adapt well to cooking: American Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice for recipes that call for dry white wine. On the other hand, a strong-flavored dish would benefit from a more robust white wine, such as a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Your choice of red wine depends very much on the nature of the recipe. Light-flavored dishes might require Chianti or a Pinot Noir. Strong-flavored meats such as lamb would need more powerful reds, such as a Zinfandel. In addition, fortified wines, with their intense flavors, lend themselves well to cooking. Madeira, Sherry, Port and Marsala are commonly seen in cooking with wine recipes. Cooking Wines There are many cooking wines sold on grocery store shelves. Few, if any, deserve to be used in a cooking with wine recipe. Cooking wines are comprised of thinned wines mixed with salt. These “wines” lack the complexity of real wines, and no professional chef would use them. A decent bottle of real wine doesn”t cost much more than cooking wine and adds much more flavor to dishes. Cooking with Wine: Wine Quality When cooking with wine, keep in mind an old cooking adage: Never cook with wine you wouldn”t drink. An undrinkable vintage won”t magically transform into a delicious red wine sauce or white wine marinade. Instead, an inferior wine will add bitterness and/or a sour taste to the meal. Always use a good-quality wine for cooking. Good quality offers two advantages: The food will taste better, and you”ll have something to sip on while you cook! Using Wine in Your Kitchen Wine and food has enjoyed a long partnership, and cooking with wine marries the two in many ways. Why not try combining food and your favorite vintage in the following ways: After cooking meats in a pan, use wine to deglaze the pan and make a rich sauce. Make a salad dressing by mixing wine, herbs and olive oil. Marinate meat and poultry in red or white wine marinades and white wine marinades. Make red wine sauces and white wine sauces for pasta, vegetables, meat, […]
The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and especially the Romans all introduced winemaking to Portugal. The country even exported its wines as far back as the Roman Empire. Portugal actually has the oldest appellation system, or wine region, in the world: the Douro Valley. As the oldest appellation system in the world, the Douro Valley Wine Region (called Douro Vinhateiro in Portuguese) has been defined and protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Portugal can also boast of having approximately 500 native grape breeds, which may explain why it”s among the top-10 wine-producing nations, with 4 percent of the world”s market as of 2003. Port Wines Produced in the Douro Valley, this wine gets its name from the city that exports it: Porto. Typically served as a dessert wine, it has spawned copies produced in other countries around the world, but only true Portuguese Port wine may be labeled Port. Several varieties of Portuguese Port wine exist, including: Late Bottled Vintage (L.B.V.) Ruby Tawny White. Tawny indicates wines made from red grapes. The wine is aged in wooden barrels and is then exposed to gradual oxidation and evaporation. This gives them a golden-brown, or tawny, color. A label of Tawny Reserve Port means the wine has been aged at least seven years in barrels. When an age is indicated on the label, it means the port is a blend of vintages, with the average years aged in wood listed. Ruby Port gets stored in stainless steel or concrete tanks after fermentation to prevent oxidative aging and to preserve its rich color. White Port is made from white grapes. It can range in taste from dry to sweet. Vintage Port is the flagship wine of all of Portugal, even though it only accounts for 2 percent of Port production. It gets made entirely from grapes of a declared vintage year. Vintage Port should not be confused with Late-Bottled Vintage, which indicates a wine that was originally considered for bottling as a Vintage Port but as a result of low demand got left in the barrel for longer than intended. Vinhos Verdes After Port wine, Vinho Verde wines are the most exported Portuguese wines. Both in Portugal and abroad, the white wines of this region are the most popular. Vinho Verde grapes, produced in the northwest of Portugal, do not require an aging process. The wine”s refreshing taste, both very light and with a natural mild fizz, has developed as a result of the region”s climate, which has high humidity and a nearby ocean. Madeira Made on the Madeira Islands of Portugal, this popular fortified wine is used both for drinking and for cooking. It”s unique due to the method used for hastening its maturation. The method involves subjecting the wine to a high temperature for several months. Why is this done? It duplicates the effect that a long sea voyage through tropical climates had on the aging barrels. As an added bonus, this process makes Madeira wine extremely stable, meaning an open […]
Italy was made for grapes, or perhaps, grapes were made for Italy. Wine has been made in Italy for thousands of years, making this country one of the oldest producers of wine in the world. Today, wine from Italy is enjoyed by connoisseurs around the world. Wine is made in Italy in all three regions of the country: northern Italy, southern Italy and central Italy. Italian Wine Regions: Northern Italian Wine Wine regions in northern Italy include the following: Friuli-Venezia-Guilia has more than 46,000 acres dedicated to growing grapes. Friuli-Venezia Guilia is known for such wines as Ramandolo and Friuli-Giulia. Liguria includes more than 118,000 acres of vineyards. More than half of the wines produced in this region are white wines. Lombardy has more than 60,000 acres dedicated to growing grapes. This region produces predominately red wines. Wines include Franciacorta, a white sparkling wine, and Botticino, a red wine. Trentino-Alto Adife has over 31,000 acres of vineyards, with the majority of the wines produced being red. Red wines include Alto Adige Colli di Bolzano and Alto Adige Santa Maddalena. Valle d-Aosta, or Aosta Valley, has over 82,000 acres of vineyards that predominantly produce red wines. Veneto has more than 186,000 acres dedicated to vineyards. Veneto produces Soaves. Also included in northern Italy is the Piedmont region, with over 142,000 acres of vineyards. Piedmont is well-known for inventing the famous red Italian wine, Barolo. Barolo, which is made from the Nebbiolo grape, is meant to be aged for up to 15 years. Another noted red wine from the Piedmont area, also made from the Nebbiolo grape, is Barbaresco. Barbarescos should be aged at least two years before drinking. Piedmont is also known for its sparkling wines made from the Muscat grape. Unfortunately, many of these Asti wines do not make the grade as far as taste and quality. Wine Regions of Italy: Central Italian Wine Wine regions of central Italy include the following: Emilia-Romagna has over 143,000 acres dedicated to growing grapes. Emilia-Romagna is noted for the production of the white wine Albana di Romagna. Latiumhas more than 118,000 acres of vineyards. Latium produces fine wines, including Bianco Capena, a white wine, and the red Aprilia. Latium is also home to Frascati, a much criticized wine. Umbriagrows grapes on over 40,000 acres. Noted wines include the red Lago di Corbara and the white Colli del Trasimeno. World-famous Tuscany is located in central Italy and is home to Chianti, made predominantly from Sangiovese grapes. Look for Chiantis that are designated Riserva, as these Chiantis have been aged longer than other Chiantis. Legend has it that grapes were growing in Tuscany before mankind inhabited the area. Tuscany has over 157,000 acres of vineyards. Italian Wine Regions: Southern Italian Wine Wines from Southern Italy are produced in the following areas: Campania has over 101,000 acres dedicated to vineyards. Campania is known for Taurasi, a red wine, and two white wines, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. Sardina has over 107,000 acres of vineyards. […]
Although many of us enjoy wine, few of us are expert wine sommeliers. As a result, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes time to choosing wine and reading a wine label. Looking at a label, you may ask yourself, where does this wine come from? Is this wine from a good vineyard? Was this particular year a good year for this grape? Similarly, as you take a closer look, you may wonder, how does the vintage of the wine affect the flavor? How does the classification of the wine affect the quality? Learning what these more sophisticated wine terms mean can help you choose the perfect wine for any occasion. While a wine label may look charming on a bottle, it is also a wonderful source of information for almost everything you want to know about that particular wine. Along with telling you the vineyard of the wine”s origin, the label lists the year the wine was made, the type of grape used and any distinguishing awards the wine has won. Although some wine labels provide more information than others, the mandatory information for wine labels depends on a country”s government requirements. Generally, both the country in which the wine is made and the country in which the wine is sold require specific information to be placed on the wine label. According to U.S. law, every wine label must have contain the following information: alcohol content brand name government warning sulfite concentrations (Wines with at least 10 parts per million of sulfites must declare it on their labels.) the producer and bottler of the wine, along with contact information the type of wine (e.g. dessert wine, aperitif, etc.) the volume of fluid within the bottle (This may also be blown into the glass). Most wine bottles contain two labels, one on the front to attract your attention and one on the back to provide more details about the flavor of the wine. With all of this information, knowing where to start and where to find specific details can be tricky. Read on to learn more about how to find and interpret the information on wine labels. Wine Grape Variety Also known as the varietal, the grape variety refers to the type of grape used to make a particular wine. While it may be obvious, the type of grape a winemaker uses for a particular wine is the foundation of that wine”s flavor. Consequently, as you choose and drink wine, make a note of the grape variety so that you can get an idea of that grape”s general flavor. With a little time, you”ll be able to distinguish whether the wine is fruity, full-bodied, nutty or woody just by reading the label! Wine Region The region tells you the country and usually city in which a particular wine was made. While many countries produce wine, fewer have the ideal conditions to grow quality grapes to make good wine. In fact, did you know that nearly all grapes grown in the […]
Have you ever wondered just who decided that filet mignon goes best with red wine? Wine pairings are an integral part of fine dining and oftentimes that means a sommelier, an expert wine consultant, is nearby. A sommelier possesses a working knowledge of diverse wines and vintages and is trained in the art of pairing food with wine. These match-ups are created as a way to enhance the meal”s (and the wine”s) flavor. What a Sommelier Consultant Does Sommeliers can be found in fine restaurants, high-end establishments, vineyards and other food or drink-associated facilities. To be a certified sommelier or wine steward, one must pass courses at the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). The ISG holds classes in 20 states in the U.S., in six Canadian provinces and in two institutions in China. Sommelier consultants are trained to assist people in choosing the best wine to fit their meal, tastes and budget. These specialists study and understand the intricate variations in each type of wine and are skilled at creating a rapport with customers to ascertain their particular tastes. Sommelier consultants also: coordinate storage and wine cellar rotation create wine lists decant wines do procurement own vineyards serve wine train staff on wines. Wine stewards, or sommeliers, have to travel a great deal for their jobs. They must visit vineyards across the country, if not the world, and take part in industry events. Their travel experiences also help sommeliers design the perfect wine list for their restaurants. The highest rank for wine stewards is Master Sommelier. This position is awarded by the Court of Master Sommeliers. There are reportedly less than 160 people who have ever reached the status of Master Sommelier worldwide. Questions to Ask the Sommelier Often, patrons will be greeted by a sommelier during the early part of a dining experience at a fine restaurant. Sommeliers tend to work the floor of high-end restaurants and interact directly with diners in order to help them decide what wine best pairs with their meal. When approached by the expert, ask the sommelier his opinion on what wine and food pairing would be best, based on your preferences. If you have a hankering for a specific food item or type of wine, don”t be shy to ask the sommelier what would work best for your craving – after all, that is why he or she is there! If you are interested in trying a wine from a certain region, ask a sommelier for his opinion on what you should order. They are trained to know the history of wine, what type of grape was used and where the wine comes from, which means that they even know the vineyard where the wine was made. When you order a wine from the sommelier consultant, expect to get some fancy table service. The expert will open the bottle for you and pour a taste, which you are encouraged to smell and sample. The sommelier will guide you as you smell the wine and […]
People are sometimes put off by the mystique that surrounds viticulture (the culture of winemaking), but you don”t have to be a wine master to enjoy wine tasting. Nor do you need to be a wine expert to age wine in storage. All you need is a little wine advice. Wine Etiquette and Pouring Much mystique seems to shroud wine serving and pouring. Perhaps you”ve seen the most impressive method of wine serving, where the bottle neck is heated with special tongs and sliced off with a saber. Such spectacle is all very theatrical and impressive, but completely unnecessary. The only real rule to wine etiquette is to serve the wine correctly. There are really only two considerations to keep in mind: temperature and timing. Temperature and Wine Serving Different wines taste best at different temperatures. No wine master would dream of serving Champagne at the same temperature as a Riesling. Those of us who aren”t wine experts might not be as demanding, but can still get maximum pleasure out of our wine by following this temperature table: Wine Fahrenheit Celsius Asti Spumanti 41 degrees 5 degrees Beaujolais / Rose 54 degrees 12 degrees Champagne 45 degrees 7 degrees Chardonnay 48 degrees 9 degrees Chianti / Zinfandel 59 degrees 15 degrees Ice wines 43 degrees 6 degrees Pinot Noir 61 degrees 16 degrees Red Burgundy / Cabernet 63 degrees 17 degrees Riesling 47 degrees 8 degrees Sauternes 52 degrees 11 degrees Shiraz / most reds 64 degrees 18 degrees Tawny / NV Port / Madeira 57 degrees 14 degrees Vintage Port 66 degrees 19 degrees Unless you”re a wine master, don”t worry if you”re a degree or two off for your wine. Get the temperature as close as you reasonably can and your wine will taste at its best. Opening the Bottle Timing is as important as temperature when wine serving. Generally speaking, a red wine should be opened an hour before drinking, to let it ”breathe” (let it come into contact with oxygen and develop its bouquet). In contrast, white wine is best served immediately after opening. Pouring the Wine The glass you use is important when wine serving. A red wine glass has a wide bowl that allows you to fully experience the complexity of the wine. White wine glasses are narrower; augmenting the taste of the wine while limited the amount of oxidization that occurs at the wine”s surface. Wine Tasting Etiquette A wine tasting party sounds intimidating, but again, you don”t need to be a wine expert to enjoy one. You”ll be greeted by the host, usually a wine master who”ll provide you with glasses and explain what wines are available for tasting. A wine tasting has a set order: white wine is served first, followed by reds, and finally dessert wines. Sip the wine and consult the accompanying tasting notes to see what aromas and flavors you should be taken. It”s quite acceptable not to drink all the wine in your glass: In fact, most […]
Like food, wine is a complex, varied substance that is served in a variety of ways. While trained wine sommeliers are familiar wine etiquette, the occasional wine drinker may be far less familiar with how to order and/or serve various types of wine in different situations. However, with our wine etiquette tips, you”ll be able to choose, order and serve wines with confidence! General Tips for Ordering Wine in a Restaurant Before getting into the nuances of wine etiquette, here are some more general tips for ordering wine in a restaurant: In a party of two or more wine drinkers, ordering a bottle of wine will be less expensive than ordering wine by the glass. Never begin your meal with a cocktail, as hard alcohol generally muddies the more subtle flavors of wines. Wines that work well as a precursor to a meal include lighter white and sparkling wines that don”t overpower your palate or fill you up. Reading a Wine List Wine lists can be intimidating, especially in fine restaurants that have wine lists that are pages long. Here is some advice that can help you navigate your way through any wine list: Decide whether you and your party wants red wine or white wine. Making this decision immediately eliminates half the wine list. If you know in advance the restaurant that you are will be treating people to, consider asking for a wine list to be faxed to you so you can review it prior to your reservation. Your seemingly innate knowledge of the wine list is sure to impress your party! Try not to order the most expensive wines on the list, as they usually have the highest mark up. Stick to the wines in the middle price range because these are generally the ones restaurants are trying to get rid of and, therefore, will give you a better deal on. Whether or not you have experience ordering wine in restaurants, the most important rule to keep in mind is that asking your server for help isn”t a social faux pas. In fact, servers in fine restaurants are typically trained to be fluent in describing flavors and recommending appropriate wines off the restaurant”s wine list. Your server can help you with the wine list by: describing new wines the restaurant has to offer highlighting the better vintages of particular wines making an unusual, yet tasty, wine and food pairing for you and your guests pointing out wines within your price range. If you feel uncomfortable stating a price range in front of your dinner guests but still need to ask for your server”s help with the wine list, try asking in the following way: ”I am looking for a mid-range priced wine to suit the meal. What do you recommend?” This prevents you from having to specify a dollar amount. At this point, your server will likely point out a few options from which you can choose. Wine and Food As you are deciding between wines (whether […]
People have enjoyed drinking wine for thousands of years. Like many other happy human discoveries, wine was likely discovered by accident. By 3000 BC, people in ancient Egypt and Persia were making wines. The art and science of winemaking has changed considerably since these early times. Wine Science — The Ancient Romans The ancient Romans kick-started several developments in making wines. By 1000 BC, Romans were taking a closer look at grapes and the diseases that affected them. They were also considering the types of soils in which grapes grew the best. They started classifying different types of grapes and developed pruning and irrigation techniques that improved wines. Perhaps the largest contribution that Romans may have made, however, was to develop wooden casks. Before this, wine was stored in skins or jars. The Science of Wine Fermentation — Champagne During the 17th century, the Catholic Church, which controlled most of the best vineyards in France at the time, was not happy with second fermentations that led to wines with bubbles. In fact, the Church sent Dom Pierre Perignon (c. 1638-1715) to its vineyards to try to develop a way to stop the second fermentation that led to sparkling wines. Happily for us today, tastes in the royalty of England and France changed; Dom Perignon was told to reverse course and figure out how to improve the process of making what we now call champagne. Wine Science — The Cork During the times of the ancient Greeks, cork was probably used to seal wine containers. Somehow over time, this knowledge of cork to protect wines was lost. The same Dom Perignon brought cork stoppers back into fashion after finding that cork was much more effective at keeping champagne inside bottles than the wood stoppers currently in use. Science of Wine Fermentation — Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) Louis Pasteur discovered and proved that yeast formed alcohol from sugar during the fermentation process and that bacteria could make a wine turn sour. Pasteur”s discoveries ultimately led to more wine production and less wine spoilage, as well as to wines that were safer to drink. The Art and Science of Winemaking Today Today, many winemakers feel conflicted about utilizing modern scientific knowledge to enhance the art of making wines. While information about the interactions between grapes, soil, weather conditions and different methods of fermentation has increased exponentially since ancient times, many feel that winemaking is a refined art that should not be tampered with too much through the use of advanced scientific practices. One of the things that scientists are working on today is developing computer models to help identify what people consider to be the good traits of wine. Other scientists are trying to pinpoint the chemicals in wines that lead to certain tastes, such as ”peppery.” It is hard to imagine a time when winemakers will be able to manipulate characteristics of their wines to be completely consistent from year to year. It is also hard to imagine a time when science will […]
While a fine wine can enhance nearly any meal or social gathering, tainted wine can instantly sour the moment, as it upsets your palate and leaves a foul taste lingering in your mouth. Wine can become tainted for many reasons, including faulty production processes, improper storage conditions and contact with certain bacteria and/or fungi. However, although wine can be less than perfect for a number of reasons, the number one single reason that wine becomes tainted is cork taint. In fact, between 2 and 5 percent of all wine suffers from cork taint, which translates to about $650 million dollars lost each year due to spoiled wine. Cork taint describes wine that has been spoiled due to the presence of trichloroanisole (TCA) in the cork. Because both wine and cork are organic materials, they are susceptible to fungi such as TCA. Once wine comes into contact with TCA, it is irreversibly ruined. How TCA Affects Corks Wine is a complex beverage that results from a series of chemical processes. As such, the final product of wine itself contains a number of sensitive chemical compounds that can react with environmental elements. While some of these reactions don”t upset the character of wine, as they will naturally occur as wine ages, others can ruin wine, making it completely unpalatable. Trichloroanisole is one such factor that offsets the proper development of wine. While this airborne fungus can infiltrate cork wood before it is even processed for use as wine bottle stoppers, modern industrial plants can also breed this fungus, as it may be a byproduct of pesticides, preservatives and chlorine bleaches used to sterilize corks. Once a cork has been infected with TCA, the wine is sure to be tainted. Most people associate the aroma and flavor of corked wine to: a damp basement a dirty dog mildew mold wet cement. Other Ways TCA Can Taint Wine While the cork is the primary manner in which TCA infiltrates and spoils wine, this fungus can also affect wine in steps of the winemaking process. In fact, because TCA is a fungus that infects wood and rubber, and because different types of wood are used throughout the winemaking process, at each step wine comes into contact with wood, it is at risk of being ruined by TCA. Other ways in which TCA can affect wine occur when wine comes into contact with: drains through which infected wine has passed rubber hoses wood barrels wood beams in wine cellars. Once a wine manufacturer becomes aware that his wine is spoiling due to TCA, identifying the source of this fungus is key to eradicating it and saving his wine. If, however, TCA is allowed to persist unchecked for extended periods of time, it can end up affecting an entire winemaking plant, causing the need for a total revamping with clean, uninfected wood. For this reason, some modern winemakers have switched to stainless steel barrels, pipes and other fixtures to prevent TCA from roosting in their winemaking facilities. […]
Wine may be an acquired taste, but in some cases red wine actually tastes bad because it has been spoiled. Wine that is poorly bottled or has not been properly stored can develop an unpleasant flavor. Spoiled wine not only occurs when you leave it out after dinner; it can occur when being stored unopened in a restaurant or anywhere else. Signs that Wine is Spoiled Wine has a distinct taste with subtleties that are different for each type of wine. Those who are not exactly sommeliers may need a little help in determining whether a wine is spoiled or just not to their liking. If you suspect a bottle of wine may be spoiled, look for the following signs: A noticeably brown color Acidic/vinegar-like taste Aromas of sulfur, must or mildew (or any off-putting smell) Moldy taste Warped cork, or cork that shows signs of an incomplete seal (you will see wine stains along the sides). If you notice any of these things, the wine is most likely spoiled. In a restaurant setting, a bottle of wine with any of these characteristics is considered tainted wine and should be sent back. Preventing Spoilage: Wine Storage Solutions The culprit for many a spoiled wine is improper storage. Heat and inadequate re-corking or sealing can easily ruin a wine, but these things can be avoided. Since heat can spoil wine rather quickly, your wine should be stored in a dark, cool place between 41 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 15 degrees Celsius). An ideal place would be a cellar or in a pantry. If the wine is made with a natural cork, the bottle needs to be stored on its side to keep the cork moist and tight. If the cork does not stay moist, it will dry out and shrivel up, which lets air into the bottle. Oxidation is one of the main causes of spoiled wine. As a result, it is not recommended that leftover wine from an opened bottle be saved for another day; more so for old wines (especially old red wine) than young wines. A wine rack is a good place to store bottles on their side. However, if the wine has a synthetic cork or a screw top, it does not need to be stored on its side. Methods for Saving Wine If you do wish to save leftover wine, there are a few methods you can try: Refrigeration: putting the wine in the refrigerator can slow the growth of bacteria. Decanting: pour the leftover wine into a smaller bottle, preferably a wine half-bottle. This will minimize the amount of oxygen with which the wine is in contact. Although this method makes sense in theory, some experts say it is ineffective. Vacuuming: this method requires the use of a vacuum device that will suck the oxygen out of the bottle. A vacuum device can be as simple as a rubber bung and a pump. This method, however, seems to render the wine dull and […]
If you are a wine lover, perhaps you have considered making your own wine. Making your own wine can be an interesting challenge with an end result that you can enjoy. In order to create your own wine, you will need some basic winemaking equipment to help you through the process. The Legalities of Homemade Wine Making wine at home is perfectly legal in the United States, with certain restrictions. A single person can make up to 100 gallons of wine or beer every year. If you live in a household of two or more adults, you can make up to 200 gallons. You may not sell your homemade wine, but you can share it with family and friends. Starting the Process First, you will have to decide if you want to press grapes or use juice concentrate. If you choose to press grapes, you might want to invest in wine press equipment for your home. Fermentation You will need several pieces of equipment for the fermentation process. First, you will need a primary container that will hold four to ten gallons. This should be a food grade container or bucket with a lid. For the secondary fermentation, you can purchase carboys or glass jugs with airlocks to allow the gas to escape from the mix while keeping dust and other contaminants out. In addition, you will need a hose for siphoning the wine and a straining bag, particularly if you pressed your grapes. A straining bag will allow you to easily remove the pulp and skins of the grapes at the appropriate time. Another essential piece of winemaking equipment is a hydrometer, which measures the sugar content of your wine. Don”t forget to buy a stirrer such as a wine paddle or spoon to mix your wine during the first fermentation. Wine Bottling Equipment You will need bottles and a corking machine to complete your winemaking process. Additional Wine Equipment You might also want to invest in the following pieces of wine preparation equipment: storage rack for your wine bottles during the racking and aging process thermometer wine testing kit to test acids. Basic Wine Making Equipment Costs Rather than buying your equipment piecemeal, you should consider purchasing a kit. A basic kit with almost everything that you need to get started will cost about $100. For this $100, you will end up with about 5 gallons of wine. You can purchase winemaking equipment at a brick-and-mortar wine making supply store or from online stores. As you upgrade over time, you may be able to save some money by buying used winemaking equipment. Professional Winemaking Equipment at Home You can also buy some of the same types of equipment that professionals use in their operations. For example, you can buy small oak barrels to age your wine, which will help to add those additional subtle flavors. Making wine at home will further enhance your knowledge and appreciation of wines. Who knows? After several years of making wine at home, […]
Wine is a delicate substance that is constantly undergoing a variety of chemical reactions. Under the ideal conditions, these reactions happen naturally in a timely, predictable manner. However, if they are upset for some reason, your wine will likely spoil. As a result, building the ideal atmosphere for storing wine requires is key to properly preserving and aging it. While you may know the appropriate conditions for wine storage, being able to create and regulate them is another subject altogether. As you are building the ideal wine storage space, you will need various accessories and pieces of equipment to help you fully control this environment and, therefore, minimize the chances that an environmental factor will ruin your wine. Keep in mind that the accessories you”ll need will depend on the type of space in which you choose to store your wine. For example, wine enthusiasts with wine cellars will need dramatically different equipment than the occasional wine drinker who only needs to store a few bottles. In this article, we will break down the necessary wine storage accessories according to the size of your storage space. Storing Wine in Limited Space: Wine Racks and Refrigerators Many of us don”t have vast amounts of extra space in our homes in which to store a large number of wine bottles. Similarly, few people have the extra money it takes to invest in many bottles of wine. For those with limited space and money, storing wine means finding a space in which to preserve and age a handful of bottles of wine. If you fall into this category, then the most important wine accessory for you is a wine rack. Wine racks are shelf-like units that hold wine horizontally. Depending on your needs, you can get a wine rack to store anywhere from six to hundreds of bottles of wine. While lower-end wine racks start around $10, more ornate racks that hold many bottles of wine can cost anywhere upwards of $1,000. Once you have your wine rack, you will need to find a suitable location for it that is out of the light. If your kitchen receives a lot of sunlight, consider storing your wine rack (and wine) in an infrequently used cabinet or closet. This will not only ensure that light doesn”t upset the wine, but it will also prevent other disturbances, such as vibrations from constant jangling. Another possible accessory is a wine refrigerator (also referred to as a wine cooler). While these will definitely take up more space and energy than wine racks, wine refrigerators are reliable accessories that provide you with the ideal wine storage environment. Wine refrigerators tend to start as low as $100. While you may want a wine cooler that sits below your countertop (much like a mini fridge would), you can also get smaller countertop wine refrigerators that resemble toaster-ovens. If you have a small kitchen that can”t accommodate a wine refrigerator, keep in mind that you can install these units in any location […]
For wine aficionados, storing wine properly is of great importance. Given the delicate characteristics of wine and the ripening of its flavor over time, it is important to store wine in a manner conducive to protecting and even nurturing its maturation process. Aging Wine: To Age or Not to Age Some wines are not meant to be stored for a long time; they are meant to be enjoyed soon after bottling. If you are a wine connoisseur, be sure to clarify if a bottle is meant to be enjoyed now or saved for later. Many lovely wines are kept too long past their peak date under the mistaken impression that all wines improve with age. Many wines made today are meant to be enjoyed soon after they are made. As a general rule, reds, including Burgundies, Riojas and Shirazs, are more well-suited for aging. Out of these, those with higher tannin contents will fare best. Whites are generally meant to be enjoyed sooner rather than later, though true champagne will age well if cared for properly. Where to Store Wine Wine can be stored in a variety of locations and receptacles. The key thing to keep in mind is the temperature of the wine. Locations that are cool and out of direct sunlight work best; wine is ideally stored between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For bottles that will be used within a year or so, no extraordinary methods must be undertaken other than to keep the wine cool and at a humidity level above 50 percent. Though a high humidity level may seem counterintuitive, this is necessary to keep the cork moist and to protect the wine within. It is also a good idea to keep wines away from vibration. The consistent rattling of a refrigerator, for instance, can disrupt the delicate suspension of the wine. Wine Storage Spaces For wines that will be kept for some length of time, it may be wise to consider building a special storage space, which can range in size to meet your particular needs, from a small wine cabinet to a full wine cellar. Remember, however, to keep air circulating in order to keep mold at bay. There are also special wine storage refrigerators available, which come in a variety of sizes. Some of the larger units have different temperature controls to regulate specific areas of the refrigerator itself, ideal for keeping some wines at a level temperature while chilling others. How to Store Wine: Angling the Bottle One tip that will help keep corks moisturized and vinegar-inducing oxygen at bay is to store the wine on its side. When a bottle of wine is stored straight up and down, none of the wine touches the cork. Over time, this may lead to the drying and shrinking of the cork. Often, lovely wines can be ruined by crumbling corks that let air in to spoil the wine. After holding on to an expensive bottle, it would be a shame to lose it […]
Although wine is a popular ingredient for cooking, some people prefer not to use it. If you fall into this category, you shouldn’t have a problem finding good wine substitutes for your recipes. Cooking with Wine Keep in mind that cooking with wine has many benefits that can’t always be replicated by using wine substitutes. For example, the acidity and flavor of wine makes it an excellent base for a marinade. When cooked on the stovetop, the flavors of the wine concentrate and bring out the flavors of the main dish. If you’re concerned about the level of alcohol in wine, be assured that most of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process. When you make wine into a sauce, you cook the wine until it reduces into a fine sauce that retains only the flavor of the wine but not the alcohol or sulfites. If you avoid drinking wine for personal reasons, you can still cook with wine. Cooking Wine Substitutes Even with all the benefits that wine has to offer, you may be unwilling or unable to use wine in your cooking. For example, some people prefer not to keep alcohol in their homes, or they may be allergic to alcohol or sulfites. Others may not be habitual wine drinkers, and don’t see the benefit in purchasing an entire bottle of wine when a recipe only calls for about 1/4 cup of it. Whatever the reason for not cooking with wine, you can make some easy recipe substitutions. Simply pay attention to the flavors in the dish you’re making, and select a liquid that complements the dish in the same way that wine would have. For red wines, you can substitute the following: Beef broth Cranberry juice Flavored vinegar Grape juice Tomato juice Vegetable broth. White wine can be easily replaced with options that include: Chicken broth Ginger ale Vegetable broth White grape juice. You can even use water as a wine substitute—sparkling water in particular goes well in lemon-based dishes.
Whether you’re looking for a simple hostess gift or something special for a milestone birthday, giving wine gifts to your favorite oenophiles doesn’t have to be hard on your wallet. From wine glasses to wine baskets and accessories, here are five budget-friendly yet elegant wine gift ideas for all the wine lovers on your list. Wine accessories: While many of the wine gadgets on the market aren’t really that practical, there are some fun, useful products out there, many for under $10. Try a smart-looking set of sandstone coasters, a classic waiter-style corkscrew for travel or a wine journal for your friend to keep track off all her favorite vintages. Wine backpacks: Like picnic baskets for wine lovers, wine totes and backpacks are insulated to keep wine cool. Most come with a corkscrew, shatterproof wine glasses, a cheese knife and a place to keep a couple of sandwiches or wedge of cheese. Beginning at around $25, these handy backpacks make great wine gifts, particularly for those that like to picnic, hike or go boating with a bottle of wine. If your budget allows, stock the backpack with a bottle of light, inexpensive picnic wine and a well-matched snack, like flatbread and cheese. Wine baskets: While ordering wine baskets from catalogs can be fairly expensive, making one yourself is more personal and will save you money. Choose a nice basket or gift bag and fill it with your friend’s favorite wine, a pair of wine glasses and some cured meats, fruits or cheeses. You’ll have a great gift for under $40. Wine clubs: Membership to a wine club may seem like an indulgent gift, but there are plenty of clubs that cost under $20 a month. Many clubs offer partial-year memberships as well as discounts for members who want to buy additional wine and accessories. Wine clubs are a great way to give your favorite wine lover new wines to try every month, making them a great gift choice for special occasions. Wine glasses: There isn’t an oenophile out there that doesn’t want another set of wine glasses. With so many to choose from–red wine, white wine, stemless, painted and colored glass–you could spend days looking at all the varieties, and they make very affordable wine gifts.
What wine lover doesn’t dream about having her own wine cellar? Being able to uncork a great bottle of wine whenever the mood strikes is high on the personal wish lists of many oenophiles. For most wine lovers, however, the cost of such luxury may seem way out of range. But it doesn’t have to be. Learning to properly store wine is easy and there are plenty of good quality budget wines on the market. Custom wine cellars are within the reach of just about any wine lover willing to do some research and roll up their sleeves. Purchasing Wines: What Should You Buy? Before starting your wine cellar, sit down and make a list of wines you’d like to include. Choose wines that you’ll drink soon after you buy them, as well as some you can store. Include wines that you may want to have on hand when company shows up unexpectedly and wines for special occasions, like good Champagne. Below are tips for buying different types of wine: Red wines: In general, red wines tend to take well to storage, but not all of them. If you’re not sure which varieties will store well, ask the staff at your wine store. Sparkling wines: Like red wines, some sparkling wines can be stored for long periods of time, while other should be drunk right away. Choose some budget varieties like Spanish Cava or Prosecco for everyday drinking, and a bottle or two of Champagne for special occasions. White wines: Because they’re less acidic than red wines, white wines don’t tend to store and age well. Only purchase white wines you’ll be able to drink within 12 to 18 months of buying. Purchasing Wines: Building a Wine Cellar on a Budget Although wines can be expensive, there are ways to make building custom wine cellars more affordable. Looking for sales and educating yourself about what’s up-and-coming are great ways to score bargains. Here are a few other ideas for building your dream wine cellar without going broke: Internet wine clubs: Wine clubs are a great way to learn about new wines and discuss what you should include in your cellar. They’re also a great way to buy wine at a discount. Purchasing by the case: Whenever possible, purchase wines by the case. Nearly all wine shops offer a case discount, sometimes up to 20 percent a bottle. Many shops will allow you to purchase a “mixed case,” allowing you to get the discount without purchasing 12 bottles of the same wine. Wine auctions: If there’s an expensive bottle of wine that you simply must have, consider bidding on it at an auction rather than buying it at a store. Auctions are great ways to add some real gems to your wine cellar at great prices. Before placing your bid, however, make sure to find out how much the bottle you’re after is really worth. Some wine auctions will also allow you to sell wines from your collection. Proper Wine Storage: […]
If you are looking for a unique, refined gift to give for any occasion, why not try giving a bottle of wine! Whether you are choosing a gift for your boss, family friend or loved one, a bottle of fine wine can be the perfect gift for: anniversaries birthdays dinner parties graduations house warming parties promotions at work. How to Choose Wine to Give Although wine can make a great gift for a variety of occasions, some worry that they will choose a type of wine that the recipient may not like. For example, while getting a bottle of wine for a close friend will likely be an easy choice because you know his preferences, choosing a bottle for your boss or co-worker may be more difficult. If you find yourself in the latter situation, consider going with a more mainstream, popular wine, such as a Chardonnay or Merlot. Decent to good quality popular wines are likely to please most people. After you choose the type of wine you want to give someone, you”ll have to decide the quality and, therefore, price range of the wine. For example, do you want to give a high-end, expensive wine or a less expensive, decent quality wine? In general, who you are giving the wine to and the reason you are giving it will determine the quality of wine you want to give. Keep in mind, however, that if you are bringing wine for a party in which it will be consumed immediately, determine the quality of wine to bring based on the number of people at the event. For example, bring a slightly better quality of wine for smaller, more intimate dinner parties in which each guest will be able to savor and enjoy the higher quality. Alternately, for larger parties, bringing a decent wine is perfectly acceptable. Finding Quality Wines and Personalized Wine Gifts You can find a variety of affordable to high-end wines in many different locations, including: grocery stores liquor stores specialty beverage stores online retailers. While physical stores tend to be better options if you want to quickly buy a bottle of wine, online businesses are better options if you plan enough ahead or want to get a personalized wine accessory, as opposed to a bottle of wine. In fact, a number of Internet retailers can make you personalized wine gifts that include: bottle openers bottle stoppers gift baskets with wines, cheeses and chocolates wine glasses wine labels wine refrigerators and coolers wine racks. “Wine of the Month” Gifts Another service online wine businesses can provide is the ”wine of the month club. If you have a larger budget and want to give a gift that literally keeps on giving, the wine of the month gift may be the perfect option. Typically, this gift costs about $20 per month the recipient will receive wine. For example, if you gift your boss a three-month subscription to the wine of the month club, you will be paying about $60. Keep […]
Prominent wine connoisseurs and the occasional wine drinker alike enjoy drinking a nice bottle of wine at home. While some people may buy one bottle at a time to drink that evening, others may have a vast collection of wine, which they need to properly store until they are ready to drink it. If you fall into the latter category, you may consider building a wine cellar at home. After all, once you have spent money on fine wine, you want to be able to care for it so that it doesn”t spoil before you drink it! While building a wine cellar at home may sound like a challenge, the key to creating a successful wine cellar is the location. Ideal Wine Storage Conditions As you are deciding where in your home would be the best place to build a wine cellar, understanding the ideal conditions for storing wine is important. For example, if you are unsure how to store wine properly, you may build your wine cellar in a location that will inevitably cause your fine wines to spoil. To properly store wine, choose a location that is: Between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit: The temperature of the location you choose needs to remain in this range because extreme cold or intensely hot condition will ruin your wine. While the cold may freeze your wine, heat causes spoilage. Along with the temperature, the humidity factor of the location is also important. Ideal humidity for wine storage should be around 70 percent. However, any humidity factor that ranges between 50 to 80 percent will still maintain the integrity of your wine. Dark: Finding a location that doesn”t receive direct sunlight is another good tip as you are choosing where to build your wine cellar. Because direct sunlight will raise the temperature of the room and may even hit the bottles of wine themselves, it may not only spoil your wine, but also can cause your wine to age prematurely. Odor-free: If you build your wine cellar in a room that is exposed to a number of different odors on a regular basis (such as in your kitchen), you run the risk of exposing the cork in your wine bottles to this odor. Over time, as odors come in contact with the cork, they can seep through it, spoiling your wine. Well-ventilated: Proper ventilation goes along with having an odor free environment. While a room may be exposed to some odors, proper ventilation can ensure that these odors don”t linger around the cork and ruin your wine. Similarly, even if a room isn”t exposed to odors, over time, it can become dank and musty, especially if the room isn”t frequently used (i.e. a basement). These odors can also penetrate the cork and spoil your wine. Making sure that your wine cellar is well-ventilated will prevent any odor from being around too long to ruin your wine. Similarly, choose a spot that isn”t exposed to vibrations, as this upsets the wine and […]
There are few things more satisfying than enjoying the fruits of your labor, literally. Winemaking is a great hobby or career that lets wine enthusiasts have a hand in producing their own wines to enjoy. Some companies now sell wine making kits that contain everything needed to create your own perfect bottles of vino. Making Homemade Wine Winemaking begins after the grapes are harvested. The process for making red wines differs slightly from that used to make whites. With a red wine, the grapes are crushed and fermented with the skins and seeds. In a white wine, the white grapes are pressed and the juice is fermented. During fermentation, the sugars are converted to alcohol with yeast. A second fermentation allows the wine to become clear. After the fermentation stages, some wines are aged in oak barrels to add additional notes of flavor in the aftertaste. Others are directly bottled. Winemaking Supplies Before beginning to make homemade wine, there are a few supplies needed to get you started: 23-liter glass or plastic carboy 30-liter plastic container with a non-airtight lid 5 feet long plastic tube airlock and bung for the carboy dairy thermometer hydrometer long pipette long spoon long tube or jar. A carboy is a plastic container with a fermentation lock and rubber stopper that is used to ferment the wine. A winemaker needs a few ingredients to begin: ascorbic acid or potassium sorbate to stop fermentation bottles and corks detergent filtered water grape or fruit juice sodium metabisulfite to sanitize yeast. Of course, many professional winemakers use other ingredients as well, such as oak barrels for the aging process. Many companies sell winemaking kits that come complete with everything needed to make your first bottle of wine, as well as a detailed instruction manual. These kits are fairly inexpensive and are a great way to experiment with the winemaking process. Avoiding Common Winemaking Problems Many amateur winemakers come across a few problems along the way to their first bottle of vino. Fermentation is a tricky stage; check in on the wine to ensure it has not gone into stuck fermentation. Make sure the temperature is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit during this stage to allow the yeast to ferment at a pace that is best for wine. Always sanitize all the equipment used. There is a special solution specifically for winemakers. It is important to take note of the wine”s exposure to air, as this could lead to oxidation, thus tainting the wine. Winemaking Recipes Thanks to the Internet, there is a wide variety of choices in homemade wine recipes. Recipes from Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot to Mead are all capable of being made from the comfort of your own home. Many people enjoy experimenting with their own recipes once they have mastered the wine making technique. Recipes using dandelions, sweet potatoes, beets and watermelon all offer new aspects to the traditional grape wines.
Using wine charts can provide a gateway into understanding more about wine for budding connoisseurs. Vintage wine charts rate wines based on a 1-10 or 1-100 scale, helping buyers to discern what years have been particularly good for a vineyard or a region, so they can make informed decisions before purchasing wine. Understanding Vintage Charts A wine”s vintage refers to the year that the grapes were harvested for its making. Wine charts review the quality of a wine and can help the connoisseur to: asses the overall quality of the wine find a rating for the wine”s aroma, balance and flavor learn when it is best to drink or hold a particular bottle of wine understand the environmental conditions under which the grapes were grown. Although wine charts are based on averages, and so cannot offer comprehensive information about all the wine produced during a particular year, understanding vintage charts and staying up with the growing conditions in particular regions can help increase the likelihood of purchasing some excellent bottles of wine. The Importance of Growing Seasons One of the most important items to take note of on a wine chart is the grape”s growing season. Regional climate is everything when growing grapes. Any negative climate changes during the grapes” growing season can have a detrimental effect on the harvest. A favorable season will yield grapes with flavor that is delicately balanced between sweetness and acidity. Tasty grapes will inevitably produce a wonderful wine. Helpful Wine Terminology In order to best understand vintage charts, learning some basic wine terminology may be of help. Below, you will find some useful popular vocabulary words: Balance: The elements of a good wine will include equal notes of fruitiness, sweetness, alcohol and acidity. Blend: The blend of a wine may include a variety of different grapes. For example, a selection of champagne grapes harvested at a particular chateaux in France may be used. Body: A wine”s body refers to the heaviness or lightness of the wine once it is in your mouth. The body of a wine is key when selecting food pairings. Bouquet: The fragrance and aroma of the wine. The smell of a wine is just as important as its taste. Dry: Wines that have a small amount or no amount of sugar are considered dry. Finish: After drinking a wine, the taste and sensation left in the mouth is referred to as the finish. Oaky: Wines that have been aged in an oak barrel will have a woody flavor. Sparkling Wine: Wines that have bubbles. A popular sparkling wine is Champagne. Tannin: A taste only present in red wine. Varietal: The variety of a grape(s) used to create a particular wine. Learning about Different Wines Vintage charts are a great tool when delving into unfamiliar wines in different regions and expanding your wine horizons. Understanding vintage charts will also assist with knowing how to store your wine, as well as the proper serving temperature. Wine charts will give you guidelines on […]
Wine is a popular beverage at lunches, dinners and parties alike. Because so many people enjoy wine, why not host a party that makes wine the main event? Bring friends and family together for a wine tasting party! Whether you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just being with loved ones, centering the celebration on the enjoyment of wine will make your party more festive and memorable. Wine tasting is an event that can bring friends, family and even co-workers closer together. Not only will you be able to take pleasure in some of your standard favorites, but you can also give new wines a try. Before hosting your wine tasting party, learn some of our planning and hosting tips to be sure that your event is a success! Wine Tasting Party: Choosing a Theme The first thing to do when planning a wine tasting party is to choose a theme. Your theme will set the tone and atmosphere of your party (formal versus informal) and can help you plan the rest of the event. As you think about potential themes, decide whether you want your guests to bring each bring a bottle or to bring his or her favorite appetizers. Although you may not want to ask your guests to bring anything, hosting a potluck style wine tasting party will not only lessen your work but will also provide more a eclectic variety of either wine or snacks to choose from. Because this event is a wine party, having your guests bring some type of wine is a fun way to try new wines while getting to know more about your guests” preferences. Possible wine tasting party themes include: Bring your favorite bottle: As the name suggests, each guest brings his favorite bottle of wine. As each bottle is opened, the guest who brought it can explain why this particular wine is his or her favorite. You can further limit this theme by asking your guests to bring their favorite red or white wine. Choose a wine from region: Pick a wine region or country and ask your guests to bring a bottle from that specific location. While Spain, Italy and France are more traditional wine areas you can choose, you can also select a more obscure winemaking country, such as Australia, Chile or Japan. Select a wine that will go with the set meal or snack list: Send each guest the set meal and/or appetizers you plan to serve at your party. Have each person bring a bottle that (s)he thinks will go best with the food you will serve. Once you choose the wine party theme, you”ll need to decide whether or not you plan to serve a meal or a set of appetizers. Because you and your guests will be tasting a variety of wines at your party, serving various smaller appetizers is likely the better choice. This will prevent everyone from becoming too full before the wine and too drunk (because they can snack as […]
Wine has a complex and detailed history from its development to the spread of wine production methods throughout the world. The earliest evidence of wine production comes from an area in Iran called Hajji Firuz Tepe. Here, archeologists discovered the first primitive wine press along with an amphora (a large vase with a narrow neck used primarily to store wine and olive oil) that was layered with the residue of tannin and tartrate crystals, both of which are found in wine. Carbon dating estimates that these artifacts to date back to approximately 5000 B.C. Wine Spreads through the Ancient World Soon after the ancient Iranians developed wine, winemaking practices spread to Egypt, where the ancient Egyptians used wine in social and religious practices. While the Egyptians stored their wine in large vats, they also began perfecting bottling methods. As soon as they refined bottling wine, Egyptian kings started to request to be buried with bottles of wine, presumably so they can have some merriment with friends in the afterlife. While wine artifacts reveal that both Iranian and Egyptian cultures were among the first to make wine, most wine experts contend that the Phoenicians are responsible for truly popularizing wine. In fact, evidence reveals that the Phoenicians themselves began exporting their wines to Egypt around the year 3000 B.C. Since the Phoenicians were explorers, they soon discovered that it was necessary to pack wine tightly in resinous wood barrels to preserve it on their long journeys. Barreled up and yet exposed to sea salt, wines developed new, unique flavors, setting a new standard for various types of wines. As the Phoenicians traversed the world and traded with various peoples, they taught new peoples their winemaking methods, spreading wine production to a number of cultures, including the Greeks. The Middle Ages In the Middle Ages, monks nearly took over wine production, as they ran most of Europe”s vineyards. While today a number of families and corporations also run vineyards and make notable wines, monks still run some of the oldest vineyards throughout Europe. During this era, France dominated the wine market with its famous vineyards in Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhine Valley. However, the French wines lost their high ground after the Hundred Years War, a long conflict that destroyed the French countryside and, therefore, the grape harvests. The Industrial Revolution and Science Although wine has been around for thousands of years, only recently have people been able to fully control the winemaking process, as the science of how wine is made was discovered. Once French scientist Louis Pasteur discovered the link between yeasts and making wine, vineyards around the world could refine and vary their wines. These scientific discoveries lead to significant advancements in winemaking, such as the creation of sparkling wine. Over 260 years ago, monks Dom Perignon and Dom Thierry Ruinart discovered a second method of fermentation that caused carbon dioxide to develop in the wine, creating sparkling wines. Although most people refer to any sparkling wine as Champagne, […]
Wine-making and drinking bears a long and varied past, steeped in both fact and supposition. From the Bible to ancient legends, tales of intoxication by ingesting fermented grapes abound. Some scientific evidence also traces the remnants of wine”s sediments to dated artifacts. In addition, fossilized vines add proof to the fact that the earliest humans recognized the pleasures of this tantalizing liquid. Wine as an industry has much newer roots in the timeline with respected varieties and vintages coming from around the world. Deep interest in their origins, including a fascinating history of wine in France, leads novices and connoisseurs alike in search of the perfect taste. From the Americas to Europe and beyond, there certainly is a wine available for everyone. The Earliest History of Wine Many experts agree that wine probably dates to 6000 B.C. Mesopotamia (an area including Southern Iraq) apparently was a proper host for wild vines. The popularity of home growing eventually spread to Egypt, along the Nile Delta. Greece and Rome soon followed. Spain also played an important role in wine production, later introducing a skill for wine growing to Mexico and the United States. As time progressed, the wealthy enjoyed the fruits of the vine while some rulers tried to keep this treasure a secret. Christianity swept parts of the world and monks made good use of their time developing the process. Detailed notes on climate and soil became the cornerstone of vineyard growth throughout today”s recognized regions. France emerged as a leader with some of the world”s most recognized wines. History of French Wine French wine history, like many other regions, began with an influx of trade ships and the migration of wine growers. Records reflect early imports into Gaul (France) by 600 B.C. However, interest was slow to develop, partially because of Italy”s resentment of competition. Monastery-run vineyards persevered and a revival began around 1200 A.D. Interim years experienced development of many familiar areas, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The first sparkling beverage also found its place here in Champagne. Wine”s heyday continued for France until the American and French Revolutions. Vineyards transferred from churches and wealthy landowners to commoners. A lack of knowledge contributed to decline. Worse yet, American imports were arriving, bringing Phylloxera with them. Americanized vines were immune to this plant louse, but native European crops became widespread victims. Grafting original vines into American root cuttings eventually resulted in new growth. While not accepted as an improved alternative, growers soon rebuilt their crops, gaining an edge over the competition. Indeed, when other countries tried to “copy” their wines, France brought “Institut National des Appellations d”Origine” into law. This protected, to some extent, the integrity of regional names, including champagne. Wine History in America Early attempts to establish European grape varieties in America were met with no success. No one knew why areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts were so inhospitable. On the other hand, Pacific regions appeared to be more habitable. Under Church auspices, monks […]
Acquiring the title of “Master of Wine” takes a great deal of time, money and effort. The qualification is given out by The Institute of Masters of Wine, which is based in the United Kingdom. To enroll in the program, those seeking the distinction of wine master must submit an essay and tasting notes. In addition, the candidates have to convince a Master of Wine to act as their mentor. Candidates typically work for many years as sommeliers before pursuing the title of Wine Master. Becoming a Master of Wine is usually easier if you have already earned a Diploma level qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, an organization associated with The Institute of Masters of Wine. If accepted, it costs approximately $4,400 to attend the seminars necessary to complete the program. What it takes to be a Wine Master To become a Master of Wine, one must possess an extensive amount of knowledge about wine and the business of wine. This includes understanding wine: distribution marketing packaging regulation sales production. Once accepted into the program, candidates have to pass four exams and three blind tastings during a four-day final examination. It is virtually impossible to pass both parts of the exam in one fell swoop, so those who pass one section can try again over the next two years. When the candidate passes both sections of the exam, they then have six months to turn in a dissertation (Six months from when their synopsis is approved by the Education and Examination Board of The Institute of Masters of Wine). One of the most interesting aspects of the Institute of Masters of Wine program is that it is almost entirely self-guided. Accepted candidates have to familiarize themselves with the wine business, as well as the products” tastes, smells and history. Courses and exams for the Masters of Wine qualification are held in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. Master of Wine History The title of wine master has been in existence since 1953, but the program has not always been open to all. During the first 30 years of the program, it was only open to U.K. importers, merchants and retailers. In the 1980s, the playing field opened up to include people who made their livelihoods in the wine business, no matter where they lived. The first American earned the qualification of Master of Wine in 1987. The Institute of Masters of Wine proudly touts its goal of promoting the highest standards of quality in wine and in conducting wine business. The Institute claims to be working toward these goals by: acting as a leader in industry discussions and international events assisting and supporting members as they pursue their professional and personal wine-related goals encouraging wine enthusiasts around the world to take the exam gaining the support of all the players in the wine business. There are currently 264 Masters of Wine, hailing from 22 different countries. Eighty-two of the Masters of Wine work and reside outside of […]
Wine has been a popular beverage throughout human history. Ancient records and artifacts show that people have been enjoying wine for at least 4,500 years. First Sips of Wine As early as 6000 B.C., people may have been drinking wine. Wine residues from this period were found in ceramic jars from Neolithic sites in present day Iran and Georgia. Scientists, however, are not sure if the results of their tests are conclusive or if there may have been false positives. The earliest firm evidence for wine”s presence is from Iran and has been dated from 5400 to 5000 B.C. While no one can be sure exactly when wine history begins, we know that many people were drinking it in the Middle East as far back as 2500 B.C. Egyptians from this time period left written records about using grapes to make wine, and many references to wine are found in the Old Testament. Wine in Ancient Egypt Wine was popular in ancient Egypt and played an important part in many rituals and ceremonies. Most of the wine the Egyptians drank was red, although a recent discovery shows that white wine was also produced. Ancient Egyptian Wine Fact On Ancient Egyptian tomb walls, winemaking scenes are found along with lists of the types of wines to be enjoyed in the afterlife. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome The ancient Greeks started many of the traditions that have become modern wine culture. This beverage was important enough to the Greeks that a deity was created: Dionysos, the god of wine and revelry. There was a festival in his honor called Anthesteria, which included wine-drinking contests. References to wine also appear in Greek writings of the time and can be found in famous works by Homer and Aesop. Wine was also a popular beverage in the Roman Empire. It was considered an important part of the Roman diet. It was during this time that wine-making became a big business and methods of wine-making improved. For the first time, bottles were used for storage and barrels were used for shipping. Dark Ages During the Dark Ages, the world was in a state of chaos and instability. Methods of growing grapes and wine-making were lost in many cultures. This technology, however, was preserved in the Catholic Church, which remained stable during all the social changes of the period. Wine in Modern Times Since ancient times, wine has remained a significant part of human social culture. In recent times, wine is becoming more popular than ever, with retail sales increasing in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent over the past few years. More people are ordering wine in restaurants, and wine bars have become a hot new trend. Wine still plays as important a role in religious ritual as it did in ancient times. You can find wine in churches and synagogues during many services, including weddings and other major events. Popular Modern Uses of Wines Aperitifs are often referred to as appetizer wines and […]
Wine grape cultivation occurs in several regions of the world, often at fairly high altitudes and in dry, temperate areas. Humid regions tend to be bad for viniculture because the humidity promotes bacterial growth and disease on the vines. Extended cold periods during the winter can kill the vines. The tropics are also bad for cultivation because their temperatures don”t drop low enough during the winter. Grape vines require a period of dormancy during the winter. Italian Wine-Making Italy harbors some of the best grape-producing land in all of Europe. Almost every region in the country is suitable for a vineyard. There is so much area to grow grape vines on, in fact, that there the country has more than one million vineyards. Many families have handed down their vineyards from generation to generation, and many even do their own wine-making. Some of these vineyards still follow old traditions and squeeze the juices out of the grapes by trampling them. Other vineyards either sell their crops to a wine-maker or pay a wine-making company to produce their wine. These smaller Italian wineries are not limited to wine, but also create their own liquors by distilling their wines. The Grapes and Specialty Wines of Italy Marsala wine comes from the area surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily. This wine is made from a mixture of several different white grapes, and has a deep amber color. Marsala is typically fortified with ethanol, and has quite a high alcohol content. Spumante is a type of sparkling wine that is produced in the northern regions of Italy. After the initial fermentation, Spumante is shifted into a tank for its second fermentation. Champagne is normally shifted into bottles, rather than a tank, for its second fermentation. Sangiovese is a red grape that was originally cultivated in Tuscany. It has a strawberry flavor with some spice to it when young, but ages to have a nuttier oak flavor. This specific type of grape has traditionally been used only by the wine-makers of Tuscany, but its popularity is beginning to spread. Sangiovese is a major component of the Chianti made in Tuscany. Classification of Italian Wine Italy has a system of classification for different classes of wine produced in the area. Two of the classes are for what they call ”table” wines, and two are for quality wines produced in a specific region. Table wines are split into two categories: Vino da Tavola and Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). The Vino da Tavola is generally from Italy, but it is inferior in quality, or the wine-makers did not follow wine laws. IGT categorization means that the wine is of excellent quality and from a specified region, but the makers did not follow wine laws. The other two of the four classifications are for quality wines from specific regions. Denominazione Di Origine Controllata means that the grapes used in the wine were controlled, and the region is very specific. A wine that falls under the category Denominazione Di […]
In a tasting menu, a chef creates a selection of food and wine pairings that showcase a variety of dishes and wines. They may be composed by a vineyard to showcase their collection of wines, or by a restaurant to showcase special menu items. Tasting menus are excellent opportunities to experience connections between wine and food, and to try a variety of wines. What Is a Tasting Menu? Tasting menus can take on a variety of shapes. Sometimes a restaurant tasting menu includes appetizer-sized portions, while others make up a multi-course dinner including appetizer, main dish and dessert. Some tasting menus are themed around a particular ingredient or wine type, while others showcase a wide variety of wines from a single distributor or geographic area. Some restaurants and hotels will host special wine tasting events; these can be multicourse sit-down dinners, or cocktail hours with wine and hors d’oeuvre pairings. Wine Flights Some restaurants or vineyards also offer “flights” of wines. This serving style involves serving a taste (usually about a half glass) of several types of wines. The wines are generally related in some way. For example, you may try a flight of various pinot noir wines from different regions or vineyards, or a variety of wine types from a single vineyard. Wine flight tastings often provide information about the wine’s characteristics and flavor profile. Wine flights may be served with or without accompanying foods. What Can I Learn from Tasting Menus? Tasting menus allow you to try new types of wine without making a commitment; most tasting menus provide only one glass (or a half glass) of each wine with its paired food. Attending a food and wine tasting is a great way for beginners to develop a better understanding of the connections between wines and foods, and see how different wines can have specific flavor-enhancing effects on certain dishes. Trying pairings from a restaurant tasting menu can give you ideas for making food and wine pairings at home, and for ordering wines to go with your dish in a restaurant. You can even host a party at home where you create and serve different food and wine pairings to your friends. Be creative: There are no “perfect” parings, so drink what you like and try new combinations.
Wine is one of the truly universal beverages that not only crosses cultural distinctions but also serves an important role in religious rites and social circles all over the world. In fact, since its discovery, wine has had a tremendous impact on a number of different societies. Here is a look at the impact of wine throughout the centuries. Wine’s Beginnings Archeologists have found evidence that wine drinking began in 4000 B.C., possibly even as early as 6000 B.C. However, because winemaking methods were still being refined, wine wasn”t widely consumed during this time period. By looking at evidence, anthropologists have concluded that wine was first developed around the Fertile Crescent area, by the Caspian Sea in Mesopotamia, which is near present-day Iran. Wine in Ancient Egypt Wine began to penetrate other cultures as Egyptians started cultivating wine grapes and learning winemaking practices. In fact, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in the tombs of the dead depict that wine was a significant part of ancient Egyptian culture as early as 2700 B.C. During this time, the Egyptians grew grapes now known as the Muscat grape of Alexandria, stomping and fermenting them in large vats. While generally only the wealthiest Egyptians, such as pharaohs, were able to enjoy wine, wine was widely available at religious ceremonies, namely during funerary rituals for the god Osiris, the Egyptian deity for death, life and fertility. Greco-Roman Civilization and Wine The Phoenicians, masters of seafaring, were likely the people who spread winemaking from the Middle East and Egypt to the Greek civilizations. Making wine in Greece is believed to have begun around 1600 B.C. Along with being used in social and religious circles, the Greeks also used wine for medicinal purposes. Specifically, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, prescribed it to his patients. Wine experts attribute the Romans with developing wine culture as we know it today. For example, the Romans started the practice of classifying wine by colors and grape varieties. By the first century, wine was being exported from Rome to Spain, Germany, England and early France. As these countries eventually developed their own vineyards and wine regions, they forbade the import of French wines to eliminate competition and bolster support of the local wines. Wine in the Middle Ages Over the centuries, France came to rule the wine market with its fine wine from vineyards in Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhine Valley. Because monks were the primary winemakers in France, wine once again assumed an important role in religious ceremonies, such as the sacrament of communion. While wine production and consumption flourished throughout Europe, it came to a sharp halt in the Middle East and Africa. Specifically, regions under Muslim control (such as Southern Spain, North Africa and North India) ceased any wine production due to the fact that it was forbidden by Islamic codes. In time, French wines also took a hit. Although England was the principal customer of Bordeaux by 1152, after the Hundred Years War during which France successfully expelled the English […]
Before you go out and spend a bundle on wine glasses and accessories, whether for yourself or for a gift, find out what you really need. Though the selection of wine accessories in kitchen stores and catalogs can be both impressive and tempting, enjoying wine really only requires a few basic tools and wine accessories. See below for a list of items that will help you enjoy any type of wine on any occasion. Corkscrews Of course, you need at least one good corkscrew to open all that great budget wine you’ve bought. To start, consider purchasing one waiter-type corkscrew for travel or picnics (also good for home use). You may also want to purchase a more advanced, lever-style or winged corkscrew for home use. Wine Accessories Some wine accessories are necessary for the full enjoyment of a bottle of good wine. To get started, you need: A decanter or aerator for red wines A wine air removal stopper or pump (for re-corking, so unfinished bottles don’t go bad). If you want to expand on your accessories collection, consider purchasing: A drip ring to prevent wine from dripping down the bottle after it’s been poured A foil cutter A marble or stainless steel wine cooler sleeve or bucket for the table A wine tote or backpack for travel. Wine Glasses Proper wine glasses are also widely considered a necessity. While you can certainly drink Bordeaux out of a mug, many wine connoisseurs posit that the shapes of different wine glasses help enhance the tasting experience by allowing the wine to “open up” and tipping the contents into a certain place on your tongue when you sip. While countless options are available, start with the basics: A few red wine glasses (stemmed or stemless) A few white wine glasses (stemmed glasses are better than stemless for white wine; keeping hands off the glass ensures white wine stays cool). Once you’re ready to expand your collection of glasses, consider purchasing: Shatterproof glasses for outdoor use Sparkling wine flutes Glasses for different types of wine you drink often, like chardonnay or pinot noir. Wine Racks If you plan to store wine for more than a week or two, it should be kept in a rack, on its side. Storing wine on its side prevents the cork from drying out and allowing oxygen to enter the bottle, which can spoil the wine. If you’re starting a collection, therefore, a rack is essential. To start, consider buying a wall-mounted or countertop wine rack for your kitchen or dining room to store wines you’ll drink in the near future. If you plan to start collecting and/or storing wines, it’s time to buy an upright wine rack or shelving for the basement or other wine storage area.
Why swish? While it was originally thought that certain regions on the tongue detected specific flavours, we now know this is not true. The front and back of the tongue contain the taste buds and rather than specializing in a particular taste sensation, all taste buds are capable of detecting sweet, sour, bitter and salty flavours, although there may be some slight differences in sensitivity. So that you get the most out of your taste buds, when tasting wine, swish the wine around your mouth, which will allow all of your taste buds (and your sense of smell) to participate in the detection of the finer flavours of the wine. To develop your senses in the methods explained below you will need to practice. It is advised that you join a wine club of some kind so you can not only be exposed to a wide variety of wines but also save yourself money in the process while you practice. Smell and Taste Have you ever tried desperately to detect flavour from a food or beverage when you had a terrible cold? You probably tasted very little, if anything at all. Research indicates that 70 to 75% of what we taste is actually due to our sense of smell. Specialized “aroma” nerves in the nose are necessary to identify tastes more subtle than sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Smell and taste go hand-in-hand when wine tasting . . . without your sense of smell you would be unable to detect the delicate flavours of chocolate, herbs or smoke in your wine. Wine Tasting Techniques Wine tasting is not just like art, it is an art. While wine tasting can be subjective in nature, wine connoisseurs follow some general “guidelines” when judging a wine. It”s very easy to learn the techniques of wine tasting, and if you already enjoy wine, learning the nuances will simultaneously increase the pleasure you derive from tasting. The Three Steps in Wine Tasting are: Look, Smell and Taste Look You can tell much about a wine simply by studying its appearance. The wine should be poured into a clear glass and held in front of a white background (a tablecloth or piece of paper will serve nicely) so that you can examine the colour. The colour of wine varies tremendously, even within the same type of wine. For example, white wines are not actually white; they range from green to yellow to brown. More colour in a white wine usually indicates more flavour and age, although a brown wine may have gone bad. Where as time improves many red wines, it ruins most white wines. Red wines are not just red; they range from a pale red to a deep brown red, usually becoming lighter in colour as they age. Rim colour: You can guess the age of a red wine by observing its “rim.” Tilt the glass slightly and look at the edge of the wine. A purple tint may indicate youth while orange to […]
The variety of wines available to enjoy is practically endless. Some of the major wine types available include: blush fruit/country non-alcoholic red sparkling white. A description of different types of wine begins with classification. Wines of all types can be classified by either the primary grape variety or the region where the grapes were grown. Wines classified by the type of grape they contain are called varietals and wines classified by the growing region are named for the region itself. Even within types of wine there is a great variety of flavor and texture, due to the climate of growing regions. A warm, wet year will produce grapes with a different flavor than a cooler, dryer growing season. This is why some labels and years are more valuable than others. Types of Red Wine Red wine comes from black grapes. The grapes are fermented whole, with the skin and pips intact. These wines can be light or sweet, refreshing or mellow. Here are some of the major types of red wine: Barbera: This grape is similar to Merlot, but not as well known. Barbera wines go well with many dishes, including those prepared with tomato sauce. Their taste is similar to black cherry and plum fruit, with a silky texture. Cabernet Sauvignon: Considered one of the world”s best varieties of grape, Cabernet Sauvignon is often paired with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It is often served with red meat and has a full-bodied flavor. Merlot: Merlot wines are considered “easy to drink” and are a good introduction to red wines. They can be served with any type of food and have a rough, tannic flavor. Pinot Noir: These grapes are difficult to grow and are rarely blended with other varieties. They are often served with chicken, lamb and salmon. The taste of Pinot Noir wines is delicate and fresh, with a fruity aroma and earthy notes. Syrah or Shiraz: Syrah and Shiraz are both names for the same variety of grape. These red wines go well with beef, steak, stew and wild game. The taste is fruity with black pepper/roast meat overtones and gripping tannins. Zinfandel: Considered the world”s most versatile grape, Zinfandel is used to make wines from blushes to rich, heavy reds. Depending of the heaviness of a particular Zinfandel wine, it may be served with pasta in tomato sauce, pizza or meat. Zinfandel has a zesty berry and pepper flavor. Types of White Wine Since all grape juice starts out colorless, white wines can be made from white or black grapes. Flavors of white wines can range from very dry to sweet and golden. The five main types of white wine are: Chardonnay: This popular grape can be made into sparkling or still wine. It goes well with fish and chicken dishes. Chardonnay has a wide-bodied, velvety citrus flavor. When fermented in a new oak barrel, it has a buttery tone that can resemble coconut, toast, toffee or vanilla. Gewurztraminer: Wine made from this aromatic grape is often […]
Serving wine can be intimidating: A novice wine opener can easily break the cork, especially if he uses the wrong wine accessories. With a little practice and the right type of corkscrew, however, anyone can become an accomplished wine opener. Here are a few tips on how to open wine. Opening Wine with Wine Accessories If you”ve never tried opening a bottle of wine, you might want to take a trip to your local wine or kitchen store. There, you”ll find a number of wine accessories and corkscrew designs. Often, the stores will let you try out the wine bottle openers before you buy them. Ask for a demonstration, and then see which one works best for you. Opening Wine with a Waiter”s Corkscrew Though there are many expensive wine openers on the market, most experts agree that the best corkscrew for opening wine is the folding corkscrew called the “waiter”s pull.” If you”ve ever ordered a bottle of wine at a restaurant, you”ve probably seen this type of wine bottle opener. Follow these simple steps to open a bottle of wine using a folding corkscrew: Open the blade of the corkscrew and use it to cut the foil or plastic covering the wine cork. Most wine bottles have an indentation at the top of the bottle to guide the blade. Be careful: A corkscrew blade can inflict a nasty cut. Close the corkscrew blade and wipe the top of the cork with a moistened napkin. This will remove any dirt that may have accumulated on the cork. Open the corkscrew spiral. Hold the wine bottle by the neck with one hand and the corkscrew in the other. Twist the corkscrew into the cork until the spiral is almost through the cork. Beginner wine openers often make the mistake of not screwing the spiral in far enough, as they are afraid of punching through the cork. If the corkscrew spiral isn”t screwed in enough, however, the cork may get torn. Using slow, firm pressure, pull up on the cork until it is two-thirds out of the wine bottle. Next, slowly twist the cork as you pull upward. Opening Wine: Dealing with Broken Corks Beginner wine openers see a broken cork as a disaster. There”s even a long-standing myth that a broken cork will spoil the wine. Certainly, a broken cork makes the wine bottle opener”s job more difficult, but by carefully and patiently working with the corkscrew, openers can often remove a broken cork. There are also wine accessories specifically designed to remove broken corks from wine bottles. You can use such wine accessories if you like, but, quite frankly, the best solution to a broken cork is to drive it down into the bottle. This won”t affect the taste of the wine, and you can use a wine decanter to remove any pieces of cork. Storing Wine vs. Immediately Opening Storing wine and allowing it to age to perfection is a long-standing tradition in wine culture. Wine lovers can […]