Wine has been around since 4000 BC and it continues to grow in popularity in the United States. Wine drinkers are always willing to try something new to expand their horizons.
The taste of wine is influenced by several factors including but not limited to:
The climate of the region where the grapes are grown(sun, rain, wind, humidity)
- Soil Quality, Slope of Hill
- Ripeness of Grapes when harvested
- Grape Skin Thickness
- Grape Type and Combination of Grape types
- Aged in Oak or Stainless Steel
- Temperature during Fermentation Acid
Alcohol is created when the natural sugars in the grape pulp come in contact with yeasts. The more ripe the grapes are, the more natural sugar they will contain and the higher the alcohol content will be. High alcohol yields a full, round and supple taste. Low alcohol wines are light and sheer.
As the grape ripens the alcohol content increases but the acid level decreases. The vintner must know the right moment to harvest the grape to achieve balance of flavors. Lack of acidity can make a wine taste dull and flat. Wines with the right amount of acid taste and feel crisp
Tannin is contained in the skin, seeds, and stems of the grape. The longer the skin, seeds, or stems are fermented in contact with the juice, the higher the tannin. Tannin is the backbone of most red wines, to varying degrees. Tannin imparts an astringent quality to wines, and too much can cause a bitter or puckery feeling in the mouth. It is also a preservative that allows reds to age longer than whites.
These descriptors are often misunderstood. Sweetness is confused with fruitiness. If most of the sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol, the wine is considered dry. If some of the sugar is converted, but a residual amount of sugar remains, it is considered sweet.
The overall impression of the glass of wine on your tongue is the body of the wine. Terms used to describe the wine can be light-bodied, medium-bodied, or full bodied.
White Wines are made from white grapes or from the juice of red grapes. White wines are chilled and are very popular in warmer months.
One of the most popular white wines. This is a full bodied, dry white wine with medium to high acidity that is usually aged in oak barrels. The oak imparts the unique flavor and aroma of Chardonnay. Terms typically used to describe Chardonnay are butterscotch, vanilla, apple, earthy, pineapple. Chardonnay can be paired with seafood or chicken.
Expect flavors of pears, melon, apricot, red apple and peach to emerge when drinking this wine. Chenin Blanc works well with Asian inspired dishes.
Riesling can be described as light bodied, crisp and refreshing, with flavors of fruits and flowers. The wine has high acidity with low to moderate alcohol levels. It can be dry or sweet. Riesling pairs well with spicy or Asian inspired dishes
Sauvignon Blanc is described as grassy, herbal, acidic, smoky, taute and lithe. It can be consumed with pork, vegetable dishes, mussels and other shellfish.
Gewurztraminer is a wine that tastes full-bodies and soft in the mouth. It can recall flavors of gingerbread, vanilla, fruit cocktail, roses, lychee, and honeysuckle. Gewurztraminer is lovely when paired with dishes that have a fruit component, like pork with sautéed apples.
Pinot Grigio is light, crisp, and simple to the taste. When you drink it, you may think of pear, spice cake, arugula and peach skins. Pair Pinot Grigio with delicately flavored fish or seafood
White Zinfandel is made by removing the skin from Red Zinfandel Grapes. It is slightly sweet and considered a drink for beginner wine lovers.
Moscato is considered a dessert wine and tastes perfumed and fruity. It is often mixed with sparkling wine to become Moscato D’Asti.
Red Wines are made in a process where the juice and skin of the grapes are kept in contact with each other for varying periods of time. The result is a more tannic wine, which has a firmer, puckery feel in the mouth.
Cabs are high in tannin and invoke the flavors of blackberry, black currant, cassis, eucalyptus, cedarwood, leather, and plum. Cabs tastes excellent with steak and lamb.
Merlot is softer than Cabernet Sauvignon and is full bodied with high alcohol content. Merlot flavors and aromas are blackberry, mocha, plum, cassis, baked cherries and chocolate. Merlot is very versatile and can be paired with poultry, lamb or pork chops, filet mignon, prime rib, and roasted duck.
Pinot Noir is lighter in body and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. It has flavors and aromas of damp earth, mushrooms, cedar, cigars, chocolate, dry leaves and baked cherries. Pair Pinot Noir with salmon, chicken, mushroom and vegetable dishes, and veal.
While drinking a glass of Shiraz, you may detect notes of leather, damp earth, roasted meat, berries, smoke and black pepper. Syrah pairs well with grilled lamb and duck.
This is a Spanish wine of moderate alcohol level that is aged in oak with the flavor of cherries.
Zin is a rich, dark, dry red with blackberry, raspberry, and boysenberry flavors. If Old Vine is noted on the label, it is an indication that the vineyard is at least 40 years old. Enjoy Zinfandel with grilled foods, spicy foods, pizza, and Mexican.
Grenache has a velvety texture, a fruity aroma and suggests raspberries upon tasting.
Lambrusco is a light, low alcohol, slightly fizzy wine
Malbec is has low acidity and it soft and juicy to the palate with smoke and leather qualities. Malbec is a popular accompaniment to steak and beef dishes.
Champagne was first made by accident in the 1700’s! True Champagne is made in the Champagne region of France. All other sparkling wines or Champagnes are made in the method used by the region. Champagne is made by trapping carbon dioxide (a natural byproduct of the winemaking process) in the bottle.
Champagne and Sparkling wines are primarily made with Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes.
Brut and Extra Dry denote the dries Champagnes. Cava is Spanish sparkling wine and Asti is Italian sparkling wine.
Rose Wine: is made from red grapes but the juice and skin are in contact with each other for only a few hours. They are served chilled and are also popular in warmer weather.
Boxed Wines: In the past, boxed wines have had an image problem, however they are growing in popularity in the United States for several reasons.
Quality—these wine makers pick high quality grapes to make their product.
Value—One 3 liter box of wine is equivalent to 4 glass bottles of wine
Longevity—Boxed wine lasts for up to 4 weeks.
Environmentally Friendly—Boxes produces 90% less waste than glass bottles
Convenience—Boxed wine is portable and unbreakable. Consider the alternative of boxed wine for your next event or outing!
Organic Wines: For a wine to be labeled “Organic” and bear the USDA organic seal, it must be made from organically grown grapes and give information about who the certifying agency is. A wine in this category cannot have any added sulfites. It may have naturally occurring sulfites, but the total sulfite level must be less than 20 parts per million. What seems to further complicate the subject of organic wine is the subject of sulfites. Sulfite or sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative in wines. It has strong antimicrobial properties and some antioxidant properties. The health effects or consequences of sulfites are debatable though a small percent of the population does suffer a sensitivity reaction to them. A wine can make the claim,“Sulfite Free” or “ No Added Sulfites – Contains Naturally Occurring Sulfites”, but if sulfites are added and the total sulfites in the wine are above 10 parts per million, it must make the statement, “Contains Sulfites.” A wine that makes the claim Sulfite Free must have no detectable sulfites. There is some controversy about whether it is really possible for a wine to have no sulfites, but no detectable sulfites means that current ATF analysis is not sensitive enough to detect the presence of sulfites at such low levels. No Added Sulfites means that the winery did not add sulfites to the wine but there may be naturally occurring sulfites in the wine that occur as a byproduct of fermentation. –from Organicconsumers.org
Wine Pairings: Pairings are suggested throughout, however, use your instincts and your tastebuds to guide you. A firm set of rules does not exist, and the best pairings are found through personal trial and error.
5 S’s of Wine Tasting
Ever wonder about all the swirling and smelling people do to taste wine and why they do it? Read on about the 5 S guide to tasting a wine and you may start swirling, too!
SEE: Pour the wine in your glass and hold it up to the light or a white surface. Observe the color and clarity of the wine. Wine should not be opaque. The color of the wine changes as it ages.
SWIRL: Move the wine around in a circular motion in the glass. Doing this motion allows the wine to breath and opens up the aromas. You will also be able to observe the “legs” of the wine–the liquid that clings to the side of the glass. The thickness and amount of legs are indicators of quality and full bodiness.
SMELL: Close your eyes and plunge your nose into the glass of wine. Take a huge sniff and consider the aromas….do you detect certain fruits, oak, smoke? There is no wrong answer!
SIP: Taste the wine and compare it to the aromas you smelled. Does it taste like it smelled? Is the wine dry, juicy, spicy, sweet?
SAVOR or SWALLOW or SPIT: Savor the wine as you finish the glass. You can also swallow it, and note how long it lingers on your tongue–this is called the “finish”–higher quality wines will have a long savory finish whereas cheaper wines will fall flat after you swallow. If you are attending a wine tasting, you might consider spit as your last S. In order to taste several wines and keep your wits about you, you’ll need to spit in the buckets that are usually provided. Don’t worry, everyone will probably be doing the same thing!