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I am sure you have seen the trendy stemless wine glasses.  They have a modern and chic look, but I’ve only seen them used for tastings at one vineyard—one that had horrible wine, near dead vines, and seemed to be near bankruptcy.  So what is the deal?  They may enhance your image, but are they good or bad for your wine loving tastebuds?

Traditional stemmed glasses were designed to enhance wine’s taste and aroma.  The large bottom and narrow top direct and concentrate aromas to your nose; this also allows you to easily swirl and aerate your wine, releasing flavors.  Holding your glass by the stem prevents your 98.7o F hand from warming the wine—temperature distorts flavor.

Stemless wine glasses have to be held by the bowl.  This may feel comfortable and sturdier, but this will leave greasy finger-print smudges on the glass—that is not so cool!

You may want to also stay away from wine glasses that are not clear, like those with decorative designs or colored glass.  You should be able to see the quality, color, and viscosity of your wine clearly.

I like elegant wine glasses but, on the other hand, those with You had me at Merlot or Therapy stamped on them always put a smile on my face.  Stemless glasses are also great because they are easier to wash and store, and not tip-over or break!  So, neither have kept me from enjoying a good bottle of wine.

There is nothing like finding a really good bottle of wine.  When you do, it makes sense to purchase an extra bottle or two.  Since most of us don’t have wine cellars or wine fridges to use for perfect storage, here are some tips for keeping unopened bottles delicious.  They will also save you from possibly pouring a fine bottle of vinegar!

Keep Bottles in Cool Environment   Too much heat or cold is not good.  In general, try to keep bottles between 55 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit:

  • Full-bodied reds can take a little more heat (but should never be kept above 70oF),
  • Light reds and blushes prefer cooler temperatures (around 55oF),
  • Champagnes can handle even cooler temperatures (but should never be kept below 43oF).

Fluctuating temperatures are also bad for your bottles.  So, if you plan to drink a bottle and put it the fridge, commit to it!  Don’t change your mind and re-store it for another time.

Lay Your Bottles Down  Keep the bottle on its side or upside down. This allows the cork to stay moist, swollen, and firmly pressed against the bottle neck.  When bottles are kept upright, the cork starts to dry and shrink, and this will eventually let in air (not good for wine in a bottle).

Keep Bottles Away From Direct Sunlight  Too much light will change the make up of your wine (oxidizes it) and this will change the wine’s taste, in a bad way!

Keep Air Out of Bottles  Air is only good when your wine is in a glass and you are about to drink it.  Outside of the glass, it breaks down your wine (oxidizes it) and ruins your bottle. So let the cork do its work!

Avoid Low Humidity  Humidity below 50% can also cause the cork to shrink and let in air.

Avoid Vibration Environments Vibrations can prevent grape sediments from settling at the bottom of the bottle, which is also bad as this changes the wine’s taste.

When you store your bottles, keep in mind that most of today’s reasonably priced wines aren’t meant to be stored—they should be drunk within 2 – 3 years of their vintage year.  White wines and rosés in particular should be enjoyed shortly after they are bottled and purchase.  Only a very few good and full-bodied reds can be stored long-term, or should be kept to improve taste (aging).

So, keep your wine special by popping the cork, pouring it into a glass, and enjoying it!  And, don’t be afraid to take advantage of those good finds or great deals.

Red, White, and Pink

ImageHave you ever seen pink grapes?  No, neither have I.  So, what makes roses and blushes pink?  And, outside of St. Patrick’s day, why isn’t there green wine?  Don’t white green grapes give us white wine and red grapes red wine?

Regardless of the grape color, all grape juice comes out looking like white wine—it’s pretty colorless.

Red wines get their color from red grape skins.  During winemaking, the skins are left to ferment with the clear grape juice.  Roses and blushes also get their pinkness from red grape skins.  The skins are left in the clear grape juice for a short time and then removed.  White wines are never left to sit with their skins.  The skins are immediately separated from the juice.  So, drinking a white wine doesn’t mean you are consuming the product of a white green grape.  In fact, most champagnes actually come from red grapes.

Red, white, pink, or green, make sure your next wine glass is colored with happiness!

Ever wonder which wines are friendlier for your waistline?  Or, did seeing March 1st on your calendar also reminded you about that New Year’s Eve goal you set:  to not resemble a wine barrel because of your love of red wine.

If you’re counting calories, you’ll need to know how your wine measures up.  The good news is it’s not about the wine’s color.  The amount of alcohol and residual sugar in your wine will determine the calories–higher amounts of either equals more calories.  Table wines usually have 10% – 14% alcohol and less sugar, while dessert wines usually have 14% – 20% alcohol and more sugar.  So, the dryer and less sweet a wine tastes, the fewer the calories.

The type of grape used and winemaker’s technique ultimately determine the amount of calories in a bottle.  Here are some handy estimates for 4oz servings (standard restaurant amount):

White Table Wines  Dry whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis have the fewest calories (appr. 80). Wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Viognier follow with higher calories, and then sweeter whites like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Moscato.

Red Table Wines  Dry red wines give you just a few more calories than dry whites (appr. 90).  The differences amongst them are miniscule, but your Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Saugvinon, Pinot Noir, and Syrah give you the least.  A Bordeaux or Merlot may have 1-2 extra calories, and a Chianti or dry Zinfandel an additional 1-2 calories.

Champagnes  Enjoy your extra dry/brut champagnes and Proseccos–they are at the lower end (appr. 100-105 calories per serving).  A sweet sparkling wine like Asti Spumante can take you up to 140 calories.

Dessert Wines (Ports, Sherries, Muscatels)  It’s a good thing they are often served in small glasses, because a 4oz serving is about 160-185 calories.

 

Aside from dessert wines, the differences really aren’t that big!  If you want to be more exact, a number of sites have comprehensive lists and others also provide carb and alcohol estimates.  Wine bottle labels also state their alcohol percentages.  However, you don’t necessarily need the exact amount of calories.  Knowing how alcohol and sweetness effects your wine will always help you make the right decision.  Happy counting!

More Wine Speak

The Wine Glass Level

While you are enjoying that glass, you may want to show off your ability to wine.  These terms and commonly used descriptions will help you through your next tasting, order, or purchase.    

  •  Wine Terms

Acidity  Natural grape acids help wine age and influence taste.  The right amount of acids make a wine crisp, fresh, or zesty—they taste good and are the result of good winemaking.  Wines with too much acid taste sour and overly tart;  those with too little taste flat and dull.

Aroma  A wine’s taste is influenced by its smell.  Good aromas for wine are flowery, fruity, spicy, herbal, chocolatey etc.  Bad ones may be described as musty, moldy, vinegary, corky etc.  Also referred to as a wine’s nose.

Balance  A good wine will have the right amount of acid, alcohol, fruit, sweetness, and tannin—nothing should dominate and throw the wine off-balance.  Good wine is well-balanced.

Body  You can feel a wine’s weight when it is in your mouth—this is its body.  It can be light-bodied, medium-bodied, or full-bodied.  Full-bodied wines feel heavier and have more alcohol, while light-bodied wines are the exact opposite.

Complex  Description for good wine with many characteristics (flavors and aromas).

Depth  The intensity in a wine.  A great merlot, for example, can have depth.

Dry  The term for wine with little grape sugar.  Off-dry wines will have a little more sugar (aka semi-sweet / demi-sec).  Brut is also used for dry-to-very dry champagnes or sparkling wines.

Finish  Wine’s aftertaste once it’s swallowed.  It can be short, long, nonexistent, smooth, tart etc.

Green  Description for grassy or vegetable-like taste in wine.  Good white wine will have a right amount of green, but only bad red wine will taste green.

Legs  Dripping lines of wine that form inside a glass after it is swirled (aka wine tears).  They form because of alcohol, sugar and evaporation—leggier wines usually have more alcohol.

Mouthfeel  The texture of wine when it’s in your mouth.  It can be soft, velvety, course, etc.

Oaky  Description for wine that tastes or smells smokey, woody, or toasty.  Oaky flavors come from preparing wine in oak barrels.  Badly made wine can be over-oaked.

Tannin   A compound found in grape skin, seeds, and stems that gives red wine its structure.  It gives it a dry, puckery feel, and creates a wine that becomes smooth, soft, and mellow with age.  Wine with too much tannin is bitter and harsh.

Viscosity  Used to describe the thickness of wine once it is in your mouth.  Viscous wines are usually high in alcohol or sugar.

People use words like palate, earthy, elegant, peppery, meaty, mature, dull, and thin to describe what they taste, smell, and feel in their wines. In addition, there are the specific tones of fruits, flowers, spices, and whatever else you may notice in your sip.  It’s not that complicated so have fun with it.  Be creative.  Be poetic.  Make us laugh.

Speak Wine?


Wine Speak:

Vine to Bottle Level

Enjoying wine is about what makes your mouth happy.  However, knowing a few of the terms that get thrown around can make things a little more fun.

 

  • Wine Terms

Aeration  Adding air to wine to get the best flavor (softens harshness and removes bad odors).  It’s done during winemaking, when wine is poured into a decanter or carafe, and by swirling your wine glass.

Aperitif  Wine that is served before a meal—think appetizer.  It is usually dry and light in alcohol.

Appellation  Name of region a wine’s grapes were grown and made into wine.

Blending  Using 2 or more types of grapes to make wine, or using the same grape but from multiple regions.

Fortified Wine  Your dessert wines, ice wines, or liqueurs.  They are richer in sugar and alcohol (brandy is usually added), and usually a part of dessert ( e.g., ports and sherries).

Lees  Sediment of grape bits and yeast that is at the bottom of the barrel.

Reserve Wine  Wine that is made from a winemaker’s top grapes.  It is suppose to be higher in quality, is often aged longer and then made available for sale, and always costs more.

Sommelier  A trained wine expert that helps with wine selection and pairing, usually in restaurants.  Also known as wine stewards.

Table Wine  Wines with a moderate amount of alcohol that are meant to be served with dinner.  They are dry (not sweet) and still (not sparkling).

Varietal  The type of grape used to make a wine.  There are over 10, 000 types.  Chardonnay, riesling, cabernet sauvignon are 3 examples.

Vinification  Winemaking (from growing grapes to bottling).

Viniculture  Science of winemaking.  Also known as oenology.

Vintage  The year the grapes were harvested to make wine.  Some wines, like most champagnes, are nonvintage because they are made from wines harvested over multiple years.

Vintner  Person who makes or sales wine:  e.g., winery owners (even those that hire a winemaker) and winemakers.


These are just a few terms—there are plenty more you could look up!  Plus there are the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Austrian, Greek, Hungarian, and other terms.  So if you’re really into this type of thing, have fun with it.  However, I’d rather drink a good glass of wine!

A Very Good Place to Start!

Let’s start at the very beginning.        The best way to learn about wine is to visit a vineyard.  There is no need to plan a trip to France or Napa Valley because there are plenty of good wine grape growing areas in the US (Oregon, Washington, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and many more).

Ready to go?  Here are some tips to move you along:

  •  Start with a day trip and plan to visit 2 vineyards.  Pick 2 that are close to each other so that you don’t have to travel far.  This way you’ll be able to make comparisons (on the wines, vineyard, and servers) and get a fuller picture.  Make it part of your weekend getaway or vacation if you aren’t close to any.
  • Don’t visit more than 3 vineyards a day.  Hey, you want your experience to be memorable, right?  Even if you have a non-drinking designated driver and protective bestie or wing man, you’ll want to stick to this if you don’t want your palate to get tired.  Otherwise your samples will start to taste similar and … no need to elaborate on the rest!
  • Visit a small- to medium-sized vineyard on a quieter day.  Bigger or glitzier doesn’t equal better wine.  Avoiding a crowded tasting room will also give you a better experience:  you won’t have to wait or elbow your way to a tasting station and your pourer will have more time to chat and explain their wines.  Pourers that are not stressed also tend to be friendlier and more generous.
  • Consider sharing your tastings.  If you are driving or a light-weight, this is the way to go.  Plus you save a few bucks.  Pay for one tasting and then share your glass with your spouse, boy/girlfriend, or whomever else.
  • Use the provided palate cleansing crackers.  It does make a difference.  Have a water cracker between samples so that the previous wine is absorbed and you get the true taste of the next one.
  • Bring your own bottle of water.  Water also helps cleanse your mouth and is provided at the tasting table.  It also keeps you hydrated.  So, if you want to make sure you stay hydrated between vineyards or during a tour, or are picky about water and prefer bottled, bring a large bottle or two.
  • Speak to the staff and those around you.  A winery trip is about the full experience.  The pourers usually have a lot of valuable information and most owners (if they are around) happily share their stories–make sure you engage them.  You’ll get great tips, good recommendations, and intriguing stories.  Also, some of the best tips and conversations come from other visitors.
  • Have a plan for your designated driver.  We are all responsible adults but having a plan helps.  If they are not a non-drinker, agreeing that they’ll only stick to the first tasting, only have one sip of each poured sample, share their samples, or whatever other arrangement helps!

Finally, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the wine, conversations, scenery, and experience!

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