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Storing Wine | Serving Temperatures | Questions | Tasting | Wine Grapes | Wine Regions

"Wine 101"


Storing Wine
You don't need a fancy wine cellar to store wine. The basic requirements are a cool, dry, dark space.Wine Storage

  • Store your wine horizontally so that the cork stays moist and expands the most securing the seal in the bottle.
  • Don't store wine on top of the refridge, it is too warm, and the motor vibrates.
  • Don't put wines in the freezer, the cork will expand and explode the bottle (and leave you with a mess!)
  • Never serve wine over 68F, this is too warm and you will taste mostly alcohol.


Wine Serving Temperatures
Why should I worry about temperatures? Wine is perishable. Storing wine too cold or too hot can ruin it! The goal is to store wine at a stable temp. Forget the idea of “refridge all whites and store all reds at room temperature.” Most “room temperatures” are TOO WARM for most wine! Think about it, is your home 55 degrees? If it is not, then chances are your red wine is too warm to serve, and white wine is WAY too warm to serve. Below see the chart that incorporates home temperatures so that you can see how wine temperatures compare.

Temp Example
90F Warm Bath
68F Average Home Temp
66F Port Wine
64F Bordeaux, Shiraz
62F Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon
61F Pinot Noir, Rioja
59F Zinfandel, Chianti (Sangiovese)
55F Ideal Storage for Wine
54F Beaujolais
52F Sauternes, Viognier
48F Chardonnay
46F Riesling
45F Champagne
43F Eiswein, Ice Wine
35F Average Home Refridge Temp
32F Water Freezes
 0F Average Freezer Temp

Opening Wine. Cork Extracting

1 - Cut the foil away from the top of the bottle- the wine should not touch it when you pour the wine

2 - Open the wine with a corkscrew or any wine opener, making sure to center the screw in the cork and pull directly up as to not break the cork and allow cork into the wine.

3 - The wine cork- is it moist? It is most important that the cork is moist; this means it was stored on its side. The cork should not have a rotten or funny smell. It may smell of alcohol, this is not a problem. The cork may also have sugar crystals on it. This is common on sweeter German wines and is normal.

4 - Champagne: Open the foil and the cap. Place a towel over the cork as you open ( the bubbles sometimes overflow. Twist the BOTTLE, not the cork- it is easier!


Wine answers many people want to know...

What is a wine varietal?
It is simply the kind of grape a wine is made from. Many regions have regulations of what wine can be labeled as which varietal. Example, in California a wine called Chardonnay must be made from 75% or more Chardonnay grapes.

What are sulfites?
Sulfites or sulfur dioxide is a chemical that is naturally produced when wine is made. Sulfur dioxide is a fruit preservative that is widely used in dry fruits and some foods. The U.S. requires a “sulfite” warning label, as well as Australia having a “preservative 220” warning. Nearly all winemakers add sulfites, including those in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile, etc. So, the wine you drink in foreign countries contains sulfites, but you just are not being warned about it when purchased abroad, as they are not required to tell you! Sulfites are a powerful preservative, they are added to wine in small amounts and are measured in " parts per million", abbreviated "ppm". Although the legal limit in wine is 350 ppm, most wines with added sulfites contain less, generally 25-150 ppm. According to federal law, if a wine contains 10 ppm or more of total sulfites, the label must state "contains sulfites".

Why do I get a headache when I drink wine?
Histamines, found in the skins of grapes, seem to give some people headaches if they are sensitive to histamines. Red wine will affect a histamine-sensitive wine drinker more than white wine because red wine has spent more time in contact with grape skins. Sulfites DO NOT CAUSE headaches as most people think. There is something in red wine that causes headaches, but the cause has not yet been discovered. (Many people seem to connect their headache with the sulfite warning label, but sorry there is no connection).

Is there such a thing as “Organic Wine”?
Not really! Recently the USDA now defines “organic wine” as “a wine made from organically grown grapes with no added sulfites”.(allowed to have up to 100ppm) If you break it down even further, this “organic” wine, is not even wine- it is fortified grape juice! The fundamental idea behind organic wine is that making wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, and other synthetic chemicals is better both for the planet AND for the wine drinker because all of these things can damage the soil and the plant, and can end up in the wine as residue. A wine lover, Malcolm Gluck, says: 'I have tasted organic wine made totally without sulphur and though the wine had been bottled for only two months, it was already turning sour and brown when poured out. It was undrinkable and an appalling waste of what might have been delicious wine if it had been properly preserved, as only wine must be (with sulphur).'

How can I keep a bottle of wine if I do not drink it all?
Live it up! Share the bottle all in 1 day. If you must cork it, use one of our Haley's Corkers. This devise is a wine stopper, and has s tiny pour spout that does not allow red wine to spray on your nice tablecloths! The corker also has an aerator so that the wine mixes with air and “breathes” as it is poured into your glass.

What is “Corked Wine”?
A "corked" wine is one that has been spoiled by a cork contaminated by "Trichloranisole", or TCA, which can be detected at concentrations of a few parts per trillion. To the common drinker, it affects the wine, giving it a musty, dank, moldy smell and an off taste.

Cork floating in the wine does not mean it is corked. It is a sign of a dried out cork or it could simply be that the bottle has been opened poorly. Mould on top of the cork is nothing to worry about either.

Why are there crystals on the cork and in the wine?
You will quite often spot clear crystals that look rather like sugar in the bottom of a bottle or glass. This is most common in German wines. Sometimes the crystals attach themselves to the cork if the bottle has been stored on its side. They are "Tartaric Acid Crystals" (also known as "Titrates") and are neither harmful to the drinker or the wine.

Tartaric Acid is a natural component found in grapes, and therefore wine, that crystallizes when wine becomes very cold, or if the wine is old. Titrates are usually a sign of a good quality wine that has not been over-treated during vinification.

How many calories in wine?
The average glass of wine is 125ml (not the huge goblets you may be thinking of!) The range is from 80 for lighter whites, to 100 in heavier red wines.

Why does the waiter present the cork to the wine buyer?
This is a courtesy to allow the buyer to know the wine was stored properly as the cork is moist.

Should I smell the cork at the restaurant?
This is sort of silly when you think about it. Yes, the cork is moist and it should not smell, but when you put the glass up to your nose, you automatically smell it! This is when you will smell any foul or “musty” smell, indicating the wine may be bad or corked.

Should I refuse a wine at a restaurant?
This is a tough one! It can be looked at many ways. If you are at a reputable restaurant, they will take the bottle back and not charge you for it. My advice, if you do not know ASK! The wait staff should know the wine list or they will have a wine steward or Sommelier. This person will ask what you like and pair a wine with your taste and what you will be ordering for your meal.

What is decanting and should I do it?
Decanting means to slowly pour the contents of a bottle of wine into another container to leave sediment behind. This process is only necessary if the wine you are drinking has any sediment, usually found in an aged bottle of red wine or Port. Decanting also allows the wine to breathe. I personally, like to decant big red wines, to allow them to “open up”. The argument for letting the wine breathe is that the wine can benefit from the exposure to air just as it may benefit from the oxidation that occurs during the aging process. On the other hand, an older red wine may begin to break down when exposed to air for an extended period of time. I'd say decanting an hour before serving is sufficient.

Glassware
Champagne Flutes
The most famous producer of such glassware is Georg Riedel, an Austrian whose collections of crystal stemware are favored by restaurateurs and professional wine tasters throughout the world.. An excellent selection of Reidel and fine crystal can be found at Crystal Cave. Clean glasses by hand-washing them in lukewarm water with a small amount of soap. (Be sure to rinse well!) Please do not put fine wine glasses in the dishwasher! Most of us use a rinse agent such as jet dry, and this forms a “coating” on the crystal that you do not want. Do not use wine glasses for milk or other liquids. Dairy has chemicals that will cause tiny microscopic “pitting” in the glassware, and the taste will be there for a long time! Store clean glasses upright on a well ventilated shelf, or better yet, hang them upside down from a wooden glass rack.

Wine glasses come in all sizes & shapes but I'd pick clear glasses so that you can see what you are drinking! Hold the wine glass from the stem, so that you do not raise the temperature of the wine with the heat from your hand. (your body temp will sooner or later raise the temperature of the wine inside). As a rule, the bowls of red wine glasses are larger and wider than those for whites. The larger bowls allow for more surface area in the glass to allow more air to come in contact with the red wine for the tannins. White wines do not need this since they do not have the same amount of tannins in the wine.

Most table wines are served in moderately-sized (8-10 oz.) glasses, while dessert wines are smaller (6 oz.), Sparkling or Champagne are better in more slender glass known as a champagne flute, which keeps the bubbles from dissipating. Many restaurants serve 8-10 ounces of wine in a much larger glass. Do not be upset- they do this for a reason! Red wines taste better when they are swirled, and if the wine is filled to high, well then you can not swirl can you?

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Wine Grape Types

Types of Red Grapes

Grape

Description

Cabernet Sauvignon

Arguably the king of red grapes, it has an intense blackcurrant flavor.

Gamay

The Beaujolais grape produces light-styled cherry and raspberry-flavored wines.

Grenache

Produces velvety-ripe, fruity wines, especially rosés, famous as part of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend.

Merlot

A fashionable grape with soft, black cherry and black currant flavors, often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pinot Noir

Good young Pinots are light, silky and fruity. Mature Pinots often have an intense aroma of game and truffles. Occasionally, Pinots are unreliable and insipid.

Sangiovese

The Chianti grape produces light, attractive, everyday wines with herby, fruity flavors.

Syrah/Shiraz

A velvety grape that produces rich, full-bodied wines with fruity, spicy overtones.

Tempranillo

Makes stylish wines with a characteristic strawberry flavor.

Zinfandel

Also known as Primitivo, California's specialty grape is extremely adaptable and has a distinctive taste of ripe-berried fruits.

Types of White Grapes

Grape

Description

Chardonnay

The perfect introduction to white wine. Styles vary from light and fresh, to heavily-oaked, buttery, tropical-fruit-flavored wines.

Chenin Blanc

Used for a range of wines including dry and sharp, sparkling, medium and extra-sweet wines. Mature examples have a nutty, honeyed flavor.

Gewürztraminer

Dry or sweet, with an intensely aromatic spiciness. Alsace produces some quality Gewürztraminers.

Muscat

The wine actually smells of the grape itself. Muscats vary from rich, sweet and fortified to light, floral and dry.

Riesling

Rieslings range from dry, light and apple crisp to rich, sweet and honey flavored. Beware cheaper, sweeter Rieslings.

Sauvignon Blanc

Also known as Fumé Blanc, it has a delightful fresh, tangy style with distinctive flavors of gooseberries, elderflower and asparagus.

Sémillon

Ranges from dry, light lemon-flavored to sweet wines with aromas of barley sugar and peaches.

Viognier

Almost unheard of until recent years, Viognier is becoming increasingly fashionable. It produces dry wines with a rich apricot aroma.

Wine Regions

France Regions/Grapes

Regions

Grapes

Wines

Burgundy

Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay

red, white

Bordeaux

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot

red, white and sweet wines

Rhone

Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat

red, white and sparkling

Loire

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris

rose, red, white and sparkling

Alsace

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris

Riesling and some rose

Champagne

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay

white, red and champagne

Beaujolais

Chardonnay and local Gamay

reds, whites and slightly fizzy wines

Italy Regions/Grapes

Region

Wines

Flavor

Quality

Piedmont

dark reds, very light whites and sparkling wines

chewy in substance and wood-like in taste

very high quality, especially the sparkling wines

Valle D'Aosta

light reds and whites

delicate taste and light flavor

good quality but very hard to find outside of Italy

Alto Adige

every style of table wine

light and extremely fresh

high quality wines that do not need to be aged long

Veneto

reds, whites and some sparkling

nutty, fruity and sometimes bitter

good quality and pleasing to many wine makers

Tuscany

Chianti and some white wines

tannic and very rich in taste

mostly good quality with a few mediocre wines

Labeling and Rating German Wines
The German government has a regulated system for ranking their wines.

  • Tafelwein: The lowest quality level of wine,
  • Qualitatswein bestimmte Anbaugebiete (QbA): The middle level of quality.
  • Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (QmP): The highest quality level.

This information is printed on all German wine labels and makes choosing a German wine easier for international consumers.

Grapes Used in German Wines
Germany uses several different grapes in wine production. The most widespread varieties are:

  • Kabinett - very ripe grapes with at least 9.5% alcohol
  • Spatlese - late harvested grapes for the production of sweet wines
  • Auslese - individually picked ripe bunches of grapes to use for dessert wines
  • Beerenauslese - hand selected grapes used for sweet wines
  • Trockenbeerenauslese - the grapes used to make the sweetest and most expensive German dessert wines.
  • Eiswein (Ice Wine) - A rich flavorful dessert wine which is made by picking grapes that are frozen on the vine (Boytris Rot, or Noble Rot) then pressing them before they thaw. Because much of the water in the grapes is frozen, the resulting juice is concentrated-rich in flavor and high in sugar and acid. Ice wines are renowned in Germany, where they're called Eiswein (pronounced ICE-vine). These are typically 325ml bottles.

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