Wine Lovers FAQ

There’s no doubt that wine can be confusing, with so many wines, so much to learn about each one. During wine tastings, I am asked questions why do we do this or that. But the most common questions I get tend to be about wine in general So this month, I thought Id take the time to discuss some of them.

Why do we swirl wine?
     Swirling wines draws air into the wine. The mixture of air and wine releases and intensifies the aroma of the wine. It is customary to smell your wine prior to the first sip as part of the tasting experience. Not only is this fun to do, it gives you an idea of what you are about to taste. Never swirl champagne or sparkling wines. This removes the carbonation and causes the wine to go flat.

How many calories in wine?
     USDA states 85 calories for red or white wines “Dessert wine” has up to150 calories per glass.
How should I store wine? –      Why am I supposed to lay the bottle on its side?
Wines are affected by heat, light and vibration. The tricks to storing wine are simple. Keep the temperature below 14C/ 55F, Keep it dark, and lying on its side. Storing a wine on its side will help keep the cork in constant contact with the wine, keeping it moist to prevent oxygen from seeping in.  Leave the bottle alone.
What do the letters mean on the label?
     Each country has its own set of rules to rate the wines. Much like the USDA. French uses AOC Appellation d’Origine Controlee followed by the name of the area.  They break it down even more by using VDP Vin de Pays or Wine of the county.
Italy uses DOC or DOCG. Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the latter superior to the first. German wines use another system.   Rated from Highest to lowest, first is QMP Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat.  Quality wines with special attributesAs of 2007 now called Prädikatswein. Then QbA Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete or quality wine from a specific region. Much like the French VDP. All this just means that the wine is from where the label says it is from. Third is Qualitätswein.  Quality wine, nothing fancy. Most liquor stores sell this kind of wine.
How can I tell is the wine is dry or sweet?
     Without being a wine steward and know grapes, country and origin, you need to read the label. Late Harvest is a dead giveaway. Grapes are very ripe, picked late in the harvest.  Look for the Brix content on the back.  It will read as a number then G/L [12 g/l] 12 grams of glucose per liter. The larger the number, the sweeter the wine. Any wine with over 45 g/L would be considered sweet.
 Once a wine bottle is opened, for how long can we drink the leftover wine?
      If you put the cork back in the bottle and put the bottle into the fridge, the wine is still drinkable for up to a week, although flavor has begun to deteriorate. Tip…. Fill a clean water bottle with your wine, seal it real tight and put that in the fridge, then drink what is in the bottle.
How many glasses are in a bottle of wine?
     If you are using a standard 750ml bottle and using the recommended serving size of 4 oz then you will get about 6 glasses
How do you know if a bottle of wine is past its best or is too old to drink?
     It is difficult to tell. You may also start to worry if the bottle is not filled to the neck with wine. Another tip would be to look and smell the wine. A wine that is too old smells of vinegar or sherry. Wine turns into a brownish or dull color when past its best.  If it looks good and smells good, the best thing is to taste the wine!
What temperature should I serve my wines and what happens if we serve chilled red wine or warm white wine?
White Wine – Serve between 45 and 50°F,
Red Wine – Serve between 55 and 65° Champagne around 40 degrees.
     A chilled red wine is too acidic. It would deliver an excessive amount of tannins. Tannin is an astringent component of wine. Therefore a chilled red wine does not taste good. Serving white wine at room temperature is not such a big deal. If the white wine is served at room temperature, it will not be able to deliver all its aromas, however the wine would still taste good.
What are sulfites and should I be worried about them?
     Sulfites are organic compounds that occur naturally in grapes and many other fruits and vegetables and are a natural product of fermentation. The U.S. government requires wine labels to include “Contains Sulfites” to alert those who may be allergic to sulfites.
What does it mean when a wine is “tannic”?
     A tannic wine has an astringency and bitterness that is caused by a high level of tannins. Tannins are a group of chemical compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and sometimes in the wood barrels wine is fermented in.
Why do some wines give me a headache?
     Assuming it isn’t from drinking too much 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.
I’ve heard that drinking wine, especially red wine, is good for me. Is this true?
    
There has been more and more consensus in the last few years within the scientific community and governmental and public health circles that moderate wine consumption is in fact associated with a number of positive health outcomes. Studies have shown that moderate wine consumption — that’s a glass or two a day — can lower the risk of heart attack for middle-aged people by some 30% to 50%. Other studies have shown that red wine can raise your good cholesterol while lowering the bad. Wine is full of healthful compounds that range from tannins and polyphenols to alcohol and that so-called magic bullet: resveratrol. Pinot Noir has the highest levels of resveratrol. Ask your doctor.
What is the difference when the Champagne labels says brute, extra brute, etc….
  Extra brut: The driest of the dry. Also called brut sauvage.
  Brut: A dry sparkling wine, and the most common.
  Extra dry: Not to be confused with “extra brut,” these wines
are only slightly dry   between sweet and dry
  Sec: Slightly sweet, even though the name actually translates to “dry” in French.
  Demi-sec: A bit sweeter than sec, but not as sweet as doux.
  Doux: The very sweetest sparkler typically served as a dessert wine.
   When a label says it has “flavors of cherries or raspberries,” have they added that flavor?
     No. These descriptive terms are just a way of trying to convey flavors and aromas in a wine that remind the taster of something.
What’s that funny-looking stuff on the bottom of the cork?
     Tartaric acid, or tartrates, is sometimes found on the bottom of a bottle of wine or the cork. Tartaric acid is a harmless crystalline deposit that looks like glass or rock candy. In red wines, the crystals take on a rusty, reddish-brown color from the tannins. Cream of Tartar is made from these crystals.

What is the etiquette when friends bring a bottle for dinner? Should we serve it, or are we supposed to keep it for later?

Good question. If someone brings a bottle as a gift, then that’s what it is, and it is entirely up to you what to do with it. You might want to ask them whether the wine is intended for drinking now or keeping. If you’ve already chosen the wines for dinner, matching them with the food, thank them profusely for it and put it to one side. However, they may have brought a special bottle they are excited to try with you, in which case you would open it.  It’s a question of being sensitive, and polite.
Does wine taste different depending on the glass it’s served in?
     This one is a bit tricky, but here goes. Yes and no. Some wines are really very simple and your experience with them will vary little no matter what glass you drink it from. Other wines can have certain elements that can be highlighted, or minimized, depending on the style of glassware. For example, a wine with high alcohol will often show better from a glass that is wide mouthed. This allows the alcohol to evaporate from the surface of the wine a bit before hitting your nose, and as we know, we really do taste mostly with our noses, which is why we swirl.
      If you have any other questions or are interested in a private wine tasting email me. cmauch@internationalwinemarkets.com

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Sue Baxter