Archive for category Wine tasting

How Many Types of Wine Glasses Do I Need?

Good question! If you believe the ads from wine glass companies, you might come to believe you need a dozen different types of wine glasses. And although you can find some (very subtle) differences in the wine drinking experience by using different glasses, it’s far too subtle for everyday drinking.

Since most people are watching their budgets very closely, I’ll describe the minimalist approach to wine glasses.

Basic Wine Glass

Basic Wine Glass

If you only buy one kind of wine glass, get one with a large bowl where the opening is narrower than the widest part of the bowl. The glass volume should be somewhere around 20 ounces. Only fill the glass to the widest part of the bowl—about 5-6 ounces of wine. That size and shape allows you to swirl the wine and keep the aromas in the glass so that when you drink the wine, you get plenty of the esthers from the wine. As you may know, most of the “taste” of wine is mostly smell. So you want as much aroma as possible.

White Wine Glass

White Wine Glass

The one glass will work for red wine, white wine and even some semi-sparkling wines (such as Lambrusco). If you can afford a second wine glass, you can use the first glasses for red wine and also get different glasses for white wines. White wine glasses should be a bit narrower and more “tulip” shape (the opening about the size of the widest part of the glass. This keeps the relatively colder white wine from warming up too fast. You still want a large volume so you can swirl and smell!

Sparkling Wine Glass

Sparkling Wine Glass

If you like sparkling wine, flute glasses are common. These keep the wine in a narrow column to concentrate the bubbles—they’ll last longer that way. Although aroma is important for all wines, most people prefer to keep the sparkling wine bubbling as long as possible. Fine sparkling wine flutes also have a line etched in the bottom to make sure the bubbles have the imperfection in the glass required for them to form.

Other “specialty” wines (for example, Port, Madeira, Ice Wine, etc.) have their own glass styles too. However, your favorite wine glass will work just fine as long as you pour a smaller amount (about 2-3 ounces is one serving for most specialty wines).

Many wine glass manufacturers now make “stemless” glasses. Lots of people will debate whether a stem is good, bad or indifferent. In my opinion, wine glasses with stems are better for two reasons. First, if you hold the glass by the stem you’ll keep fingerprints off the bowl. Second, if you hold the bowl of the glass, the warmth of your hand may warm up the wine which affects its taste. This second issue is mainly a concern at parties where you hold your glass all the time. Dinner parties don’t usually have this issue.

You don’t have to mortgage your house to buy nice wine glasses. And for everyday wines, just one style will suffice. If you get the chance to go to a wine and wine glass tasting (where you can sample wines in different glasses) you’ll understand some of the subtleties a little better. But wine is best enjoyed with people so keep the glassware simple.

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Wines for Summer

As the summer heat finally arrives many wine lovers look for a wine that won’t weigh them down. But what to choose? There are so many wines, and not enough time!

Of course there are the classics:

  • Light and crisp Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Fresh and flavorful Riesling
  • Full and rich Chardonnay

These wines are wonderful when served cold for sipping on the patio. (By the way, “cold” is ideally 45-55°F.) But if you’re looking for something different, there are still a world of choices.

In the light and crisp category, Sémillon [pronounced say-mee-yo(n)] provides a different twist and unique flavors. A grape from southwestern France, it has found a niche in the New World. Australia, Chile, and Washington State all provide good examples of this dry, golden-colored wine often with aromas of honey and orange.

Another white that you may want to try is Viognier [pronounced vyo-nyay], a warm-weather grape often used for blending in white and red wines. Some Viogniers are light and crisp while others are fresh and flavorful depending on the wine maker’s style. Many wine stewards can help you choose one that fits your tastes. No matter which Viognier you pick, a cold glass with friends fits perfectly into your summer activities.

Another favorite of ours for summer is Rosé. Some people mistake Rosé wines for the similar looking White Zinfandel. No matter how you feel about White Zinfandel, Rosés are different. They’re very dry and range from light to medium body. Many are from the south of France (Provence) as well as California, Oregon, and Washington.

Red wines are still “in” for summer. For outside sipping, you might try a light-bodied red wine such as Beaujolais [pronounced bo-zho-lay] from France or perhaps a Valpolicella [pronounced vahl-po-lee-chehl-lah] from Italy. Served colder than usual (close to white wine temperature) they make an easy and subtle red wine for a hot day.

We’re often asked for recommendations for matching wine with food. So what about summer barbecues and picnics? The best wine-food pairings match the weight of the wine with the food. Since many summer foods forego heavy sauces, lighter wines like the ones we’ve suggested work well. But if you’re grilling a steak and want a powerful and robust Cabernet Sauvignon, we say go for it! Whatever you like is what’s important.

If you’re looking for a wine to go with your neighborhood clam bake, we’d suggest an earthy Sauvignon Blanc… unless they’re prepared spicy-Cajun style; then go for the Gewuztraminer!

No matter what tastes you enjoy in your wines, have a wonderful sipping summer!

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Best Wine Serving Temperature

Generally, American wine drinkers drink their white wines too cold and their red wines too warm. Compared to their European wine-loving cousins, that is.

Unfortunately, kitchen refrigerator temperatures designed to keep food from spoiling (about 35 degrees F) makes white wine so cold it loses much of its flavor. Normal room temperature (about 70 degrees F) makes red wines seem flat too.

Ideally, most white still (no bubbles) wines should be served at approximately 45-50 degrees F. Some might argue for a few degrees warmer or cooler for specific wines but let’s face it, as soon as you pour it in the glass it’s going to begin warming up. (By the way, always hold the wine glass by the stem so the warmth from your hand doesn’t speed the warming of the wine!)

The ideal red wine serving temperature is about 60 degrees F. That’s about 10 degrees cooler than room temperature. See if a nice cool red wine doesn’t taste brighter and richer in the mouth.

But how can you get the right temperature without buying very expensive wine chillers? Just use your refrigerator! For white wines, take the bottle out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. For red wines, put the bottle in the frige about 20 minutes before serving (or the freezer for about 7-8 minutes). You may have to experiment to find the right amount of time.

For sparkling wines, most should be served quite cold. Refrigerator temperature is close enough. Let the bottle warm up for 10 minutes or so before popping the cork. Lambrusco and some other dark sparkling wines should be served at red wine serving temperature–use the same technique as for red wine. Personally, I like Lambrusco quite cold on a warm day!

At first you may find the taste quite different when your favorite wine is served at these recommended temperatures. Try it for several days to see how it compares.

You can serve your wines at proper temperatures without fancy equipment; just a little planning and some time will help you get maximum enjoyment from your wines.

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Wine and cheese?

Did you know that cheese is perhaps one of the worst foods to eat while tasting wine? That’s because cheese is mostly fat and the fat coats your tongue inhibiting your ability to taste the wine.

We’re talking about tasting here. That is, when you’re trying to study a wine and understand what you like and dislike about it’s subtle attributes.

There’s an old saying in the wine business: buy with apples, sell with cheese. That’s because the acid in apples helps keep your mouth clean so that you can taste the subtleties of the wine. Serving cheese when selling wine can hide characteristics that customer may not like. Be wary of any tasting room with piles of free cheese.

Of course, when drinking wine, there may be no better food than cheese. Wine and cheese seem to naturally go together. And when your goal is to celebrate and enjoy life, cheese with wine is a heavenly break from our busy schedules.

Here’s a cheese tip: try Spanish Manchego cheese with your red wines. This semi-hard cheese is mild and nutty and goes great with bold wines.

Vive le fromage!


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