Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wine 101

"Here's to the corkscrew- a useful key to unlock the store house of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly"- W.E.P. French

I am a member of the Wine Century Club and I love wine. My love of wine started when I stumbled into a wine store (FLOW) and met 2 sommeliers/musicians (Allan and K). The store offered 2-3 wine classes a week for $5 each. At wine class, Allan and K introduced me to the Wine Century Club application (where you have to try at least 100 grape varietals, to become a member). Each class offered tastings of 10-15wines (which you walked through each wine), a discount on wine, occasional cheese/bread/chocolate pairings, and of course laughter. Needless to say I was in their store a lot.
A few months later, I filled out my application, and became a member.

Veni Vino Vici!

The grapes I've tried so far are:
Aglianico (my 100th grape), Airen, Albarino, Alicante Bouchet, Bacchus, Barbera, Blaufrankisch, Bombino Bianco, Bonarda, Brachetto, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cargnan, Carmenere, Castelao, Catwba, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cinsaut, Concord, Cortese, Trincadreia, Duras, Braucol, Montepulciano, Mourvedre, Muller Thurgau, Muscadelle, Muscat Blanc, Muscat de Alexandria, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Nero D'Avola, Niagara, Parellada, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Prosecco, Reisling, Rondinella, Corvina, Dolcetto, Falanghina, Fer, Frappato, Freisa, Friulano, Gaglioppo, Gamay, Garganega, Gewurztraminer, Godello, Graciano, Grechetto, Grenache/Garnacha, Gros Manseng, Gruner Veltliner, Harslevelu, Kadarka, Lambrusco, Macabeo, Malbec, Malvasia, Marsanne, Mauzac, Melon de Bourgogne, Merlot, BlaurZweigelt, Jacquere, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, St. Laurent, Syrah/Shiraz, Tannat, Tempranillo, Tinta Barroca, Torrontes, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Verdejo, Verdelho, Verdicchio, Vermaccia, Vignoles, Viognier, Xarel-Lo, Zinfandel/Primitivo, Zweigelt, Nosiola, Pecorino, Passerina, Abouriou, Viura, Carinena, Zibibbo, Tinta Roriz, Huxelrebe, Mario Muskat, Cayuga

Other fruit wines I've tried are:
Blueberry, Elderberry, Pear, Apple

Special wines I've tried are:
Ice Wine, Beaujouleis Nouveau

Wine 101
When trying wines, you should go in this order
Rose to Red to White to Dessert
Order affects the taste of the wines (bear with me on the no accent marks)

Order of walking through a wine
Appearance to Smell to Taste

1. Appearance
Color can determine the age/varietal of the wine. I ordered the colors from youngest to oldest. There will be varieties between each color. I look at the color on the rim.
Rose: light pink to salmon to orange to brown
White: colorless to lemon to green to gold to amber to brown
Red: purple to fuchsia to ruby to garnet to tawny to brown

Looking at the core can determine the amount of tannins (bitterness) in the wine. The darker the core, the more tannic the wine is. 

Is there sediment in the wine? This can either mean that the wine was unfiltered during the fermentation process or the tannins are breaking down.

Upon swirling the wine, the legs on the sides can determine the amount of alcohol in the wine. The more viscous (slower moving) the legs are, the higher the alcohol content. 

2. Smell
Smelling the wine can help identify the varietal, fermentation process, region of origin, and maturity of the wine. 
Old World (Europe) vs New World (Everywhere else)
If the wine has an earthy smell, it is from the old world. If it has a fruity smell, it is a new world wine. 

Smells include: fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak, nut, and other

For example, a Spanish Tempranillo has a floral character, smelling of violets and roses, whereas an Australian Shiraz smells of mushroom and eucalyptus, and an Italian Negroamaro smells of butterscotch. 

Aroma kits are very helpful in picking out scents.

3.Taste
Tasting the wine can determine other things besides whether you like it or not. 
The acidity can determine whether it came from a warm or cool climate. If you drink it and your mouth is watering from a high acidity it means it came from a warmer region. 

The levels of sweetness can determine its fermentation level. If it's really sweet, it wasn't fermented long, like and ice wine. However, some grapes are naturally sweet, like the moscato d'asti grape. 

The amount of bitterness can determine the age. A very tannic wine can signify it's an older wine. 

Flavor can determine the varietal or the region of origin. Flavors include fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak, and other. 

For example, an Italian gaglioppo has a dark chocolate flavor, whereas a California merlot is like a fruit bomb.

You can also determine the alcohol content by taste. 

If you want to have some more fun with walking through wines, play Winerd. It's a board game for wine tasting. 

Wine and Food Pairing

Rule of thumb: If you are not sure, just pair region to region. If you are having an Italian meal, serve an Italian wine. 

Otherwise try this site. Or look at this nifty wheel.


If you have the chance, purchase Chakala (South African Red) and try it with a dark chocolate. The experience is intense. This wine is made from Rhone grapes (Shiraz, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre) plus Petit Sirah and Tannat. It has a dark core with a fuchsia rim. On the nose, it smells like tar, but on the palate it has a smooth taste. When tasted with chocolate it becomes intensified and spicy. Plus, the wine is only $14.

I hope you find this blog helpful. Happy Tasting :)

~Steff~

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