More Frequently Asked Questions About WIne

More Frequently Asked Questions About WIne

More Frequently Asked Questions About WIne

More Frequently Asked Questions about Wine

The Tipsy Grape presents it's second installment of the most commonly asked questions and answers about wine. If you don't see your question answered here, maybe we already answered it in our first article Frequently Asked Questions About Wine and Champagne

Q: What kind of food do you consume with white wines? Are they the same kind of food you take with red wine?

A: White wine should be served chilled & consumed chilled but not cold. The match of wine with food is more of an art than a science. However, with all culinary endeavors, we seek harmony or contrasts. Harmony is a balance of flavor intensities between the food & wine. Delicate flavored dishes should be matched with similar wine. Heavy strong flavored foods need a strong flavored wine to match it. The same principles apply to red wine as with white wine. To do it well requires some experience. Read our wine and food pairing guide for more tips.

Q: Which are the common white / red wine favorites?

A: The most popular white wine is made from the Chardonnay grape. Practically all wine regions have at least a small amount of Chardonnay. Other white varietal wines are Riesling from Germany, Alsace (France), Australia & New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc is best from New Zealand, Loire (France) and Bordeaux (France) with good examples from California & Chile. Semillon (usually blended) is best expressed as a single varietal in Australia & as a dessert wine of Sauternes (France). Pinot Gris is found in Alsace (France) and recently, good examples from New Zealand. Trebbiano is the main white grape for Central Italy. Muscat & Gewurtztraminer are the best known aromatic varieties & are usually semi-sweet or sweet wines. Pinot Noir as a white wine is the main blend in Sparkling wines, including Champagne.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely available & enjoyed red wine. Cabernet is usually blended in varying proportions with Merlot & Cabernet Franc. Merlot is now enjoyed as the main varietal with Cabernet playing the minor role. Australia popularized the Shiraz, also called Syrah, most well known from the Rhone valley of France. Pinot Noir is the "Holy Grail" of winemakers, being a difficult wine to get right - but everyone wants a shot at it. Because quality Pinot Noir is difficult to find, good examples from Burgundy (France), New Zealand, Australia, Oregon, are very sought after. Sangiovese is the main varietal in Chianti wines, Brunello di Montepulciano, Umbria & several "Super Tuscans". Barolo & Barbaresco are made from a single varietal - Nebbiolo. Tempranillo is the mainstay of Spanish wine especially Rioja. Grenache Noir (or Garnacha) is the variety of South of France and the regions of Rioja & Priorato of Spain.

We tend to find white wines as a single varietal wine compared to red wines, which are usually blended for greater complexity & balance.

Q: What is a table wine? Is it of inferior quality? What is table wine made of? Table grapes?

A: Table wine refers to wine suitable to be served at table with a meal or wine made for consumption. This is opposed to wine made for other purposes e.g. for making vinegar & other products derived from wine. Somehow, along the way, the term took on a derogatory meaning to mean low quality wine, as these words are commonly used for cheaper wines - Vino de Tavola, Vin de Table, etc. There are serious exceptions to the use of this term on wine labels.

The most famous exceptions are high quality wines made by innovative winemakers that do not comply with the existing wine making regulations of the region. As such these wines are not allowed to use the usual DO or DOC markings. However, these are usually splendid wines that usually fetch far higher prices than the regular DO or DOC wines. DO or DOC means "denomination of origin" a marking of guarantee by the regional wine authorities to wines that comply with their unique regulations regarding grape varietals, yields, ageing, etc. All other wine, both high quality AND low quality, that do not meet the requirements must bear the "vino de tavola" or "table wine" label, thus creating complications for the consumer.

Q: Are the different types of wines all made of different types of grapes? I visited a vineyard and noticed that barrels are labeled according to the type of wines that we see on the shelves like merlot, riesling, etc.

A: There are thousands of grape varieties that are suitable to be made into wine. Similarly, there are many types of grapes suitable as table or eating grapes. Thus, the winemaker has many options available to him at the winery. These include making wine from one variety of grape or a blend of several varieties, depending on his idea of a good wine. The grape is simply the main raw material used to create his product.

When it comes to labeling a wine, each regional wine district has their own regulations. Generally, however, when a label says 'Riesling' or 'Merlot' or 'Cabernet Sauvignon', it means that the wine contain a high proportion of that grape variety such that the 'minor' variety (if any) need not be mentioned.

On the other hand, where two or more varieties are mentioned e.g. Cabernet/Merlot or Shiraz/Cabernet or Semillon/Chardonnay, etc, The first named varietal is predominant in the blend, say, in a ratio of 60/40 or 70/30.

'New World' wineries prefer using varietal names on their labels to inform consumers the composition of the wine they are buying. 'Old World' wineries have long since established the name of their unique wine or wine district that by merely mentioning that fact, the wine consumer should be aware of the type of wine they are buying.

Finally, because of many factors in the vineyard & winery, not every Riesling, Cabernet or Merlot is the same, even from the same producer. Herein lies the fascination of wine among wine lovers all over the world - the incredible variety.

Q: Normally how long is a bottle of red wine being retained by the producer before distribution?

A: We believe from the question, you mean to imply that producers withhold wine from the market to obtain an economic advantage of sorts. This is generally not so, simply because bottles of wine are money in the bottle not in the bank.

However, there are cases where a portion of top quality wine are cellared for a longer period to be released at a later date, usually at a higher price. Again, the higher price reflects the cost of cellaring. The reason for this is that a lot of wines are drunk too young and well before the optimum drinking window. The producer retains his best wine until it is showing its best to impress upon his customers of what can be achieved with some patience.

On the other hand, there are regulations in some countries that state the minimum period wines must be aged in bottle before release. This is an important aspect of wine making as wine aging in wood continue to integrate with wood and in most cases, too much absorption of the oak elements is not desirable. These wines are, therefore, transferred to bottle, which is a neutral container. Once in bottle, wine continues to evolve. This takes time, before all the different elements are in balance. Only when the winemaker decides the wine is well integrated, will the wine be released. However, this does not mean the wine is at its optimum - simply ready to drink.

Again, in some countries, Spain in particular, the top wineries cellar their wines until they reach the start of their optimum drinking window.

Thus, to sum up, the simpler red wines are bottled and shipped immediately to reach the consumer at its freshest e.g. Beaujolais Noveau. The more serious wines are bottled and left to 'settle down' for a short time, before release. Then, we have the premium wines and those wines governed by regulations where minimum aging in bottle lasts from six months to as long as 36 months before release. A good example are the wines of d, Spain, where for a wine to qualify as Gran Reserva, it must have spent a minimum of 24 months in oak and 36 months in bottle before being released for sale. Thus, you cannot find a Rioja Gran Reserva younger the 5 years after vintage. Top wines from Bordeaux are released almost immediately after bottling but these wines generally need to be cellared for 5-8 years or more before reaching their optimum drinking window. In this case, the cost of cellaring is borne by the buyer of the wine rather than the producer.

Q: How should red and white wines be stored ?

A: The ideal conditions to store wine is a constant temperature of 12 -15 degrees Celsius, humidity o f 75%, no direct light, no noise or vibration and minimal movement of the wine after bottling. Both white and red wines may be stored under the same conditions, although white wines would prefer the lower temperature within the range.

Select a fairly dark part of the home away from sunlight e.g. a clothes storage cupboard. Ensure that it is not in contact with a wall that receives the sun. It should also not be close to vibrating appliances like your washing machine. This should allow a fairly cool & constant temperature for your wine & free from vibration. If your local humidity is a little high, that is better than a dry atmosphere which may cause the cork closure to shrink & allow air seepage into the wine (that's bad). This condition will be good to store your wine for up to about one year.

For short term storage for up to about two/three months, simply let your bottles lie in the vegetable section of a home refrigerator.

The best possible long term storage facility is to build a walk-in cellar or purchase a wine fridge. A wine fridge is the most ideal way to store expensive wines for long term cellaring.

Finally,the first important step in wine storage is to purchase your wine from a reliable wine merchant that has kept that bottle of wine in the most practically ideal storage condition as you would after you purchase it. Nothing is most disappointing than to buy an expensive bottle of wine. Open it after a few months for an important occasion and find that it has spoilt due to previous bad storage conditions. For more information we have several articles on wine storage that will help.

Q: How should I store a bottle of left over wine? Do I freeze and thaw it again before drinking? What are the ways we can adopt while storing left over wine and how long will the wine keep?

A: Wine is considered a 'living' beverage that evolves & develops depending on its environment. So, you would probably 'kill' the wine if you were to freeze it.

When a wine is opened, it comes in contact with air and oxygen that tend to begin oxidizing the wine. This generally occur on the surface of contact leaving the remaining wine in good condition. In storing leftover wine, we attempt to minimize the oxidation process of the wine.

There are several ways of doing this.

There is a neutral gas canister under the name 'Private Preserve' that dispenses neutral gas, replacing air inside the wine bottle. If the wine was not exposed for too long in the first place, it should keep for a long time. The bottle should be corked back, of course, before storage.

Another alternative is the device called 'Vacuvin' which pumps out the air in to bottle via a pump & a one-way valve stopper, and leaving a semi-vacuum. The wine should last for about two weeks.

However, if it is a good quality wine and you intend to finish it within one week, all you'll need to do is cork it back and leave it standing in your household refrigerator or wine fridge. In leaving your bottle standing, you minimize the surface area of the wine in contact with air.

In the case of ordinary table wine, the best use would be to create a red wine sauce for your next meal.

The question as to how long leftover wine can keep will depend on how long it was exposed to air after opening & what condition it was in, in the first place.


Q: Which is the correct way to hold a wine or champagne glass?

A: Champagne is served at about 50.0 °F, white wines at about 60 °F and red wines at about 65 °F. These wines show their best at these temperatures. To maintain the wines cool, proper wine glasses have a long stem between the base and the bowl. The proper way would be to hold the glass at the stem or base, thus avoid warming the wine via body heat.

Q: What are the different common kinds of red wine and what are their characteristics? I've noticed the common ones are shiraz, cabernet, etc.. But I get confused with Italian, French or other foreign wines, whereby theirs are named differently probably due to different grapes. Are there any common ones for these and what are their characteristics? Which do you recommend for woody flavors?

A: Red wines are produced from grapes with red or black skins. It is the skins that give co lour to red wines. "Colored" grapes are also used to make white wines. The more common red wines are wines made from a single or dominant variety (usually not less than 80% - 85% content) or blends (where no variety is more than 80% - 85%). The major grape varieties used to make red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Shiraz (Syrah), Pinotage, Tempranillo, Gamay & Grenache (Garnacha).

In addition to these, there are hundreds other grape varieties that are used in the blending of red wines. For instance, the French wine region of Chateauneuf-du-Pape allow the blending of up to 10 grape varieties in its red wines.

A majority of red wines are aged in wooden casks or barrels. The time in "wood" vary from wine to wine and from vintage to vintage. Some are fermented in wood & then immediately bottled, whereas, some wines are aged in wood for 8 years or more. However, it does not mean that a long time in wood will render a wine "woody". Good wines will always harmonies the wood flavors with other flavors of the wine & should not dominate. Poor wines will have a dominant "woody" flavor usually used to mask the poor quality of the wine.

Q: For red wine, which is the best average year I should look for when buying off a supermarket shelf? The most common years available are usually vintage of 2009 - 2012.

A: Wines usually found on supermarket shelves are made for early drinking. As such, buy wines that are not older than 5 years. Wines older than 5 years on a supermarket shelf are either very expensive wines or wines past their best.

Q: What position should the wine bottle be placed during collaring - vertical (pointing up or down), horizontal, diagonal?

A: A bottle should be stored lying down to ensure that the cork is in contact with the wine, thus maintaining the integrity of the cork, which is to prevent air from coming in contact with the wine, thus oxidizing it. However, an unfinished bottle of wine should be stored upright to minimize the surface area of the wine in contact with air. An opened wine of good quality & stored in this way in a household refrigerator should last for 5 - 7 days without spoilage.

Q: Is it true that drinking red wine is healthy? How much is good? And how about white wine?

A: Numerous medical research results, recently, have pointed towards the health benefits of moderate wine consumption. The collective wisdom is that regular drinking of 1 to 2 standard glasses per day, offer the optimum benefit. A standard wine glass is about 150ml (5oz.) of wine. White wine apparently offer the same benefits as red wine but to a lesser extent. We go in to a lot more detail in our article The Health Benefits of Wine

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