Many people sniff wine before sipping. If you don’t, you may be perplexed by this seemingly improper behavior.
There is good reason for sniffing wine and it’s even considered proper. Think about when you wake to fresh brewed coffee…the aroma is so alluring! Even non-coffee drinkers appreciate the smell. That’s because our sense of smell is highly sensitive and impressively vast. Humans can detect thousands; some say trillions, of different scents. The sensory organ for the sense of smell is called the olfactory epithelium and contains millions of nerve cells that give the ability to enjoy aromas in coffee, food, wine, etc.
Our sense of taste is strikingly limited compared to our sense of smell. There are only five sensory properties associated with taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savory, protein taste found in foods like aged cheeses or ketchup). You may think you’re “tasting” flavors but it’s your nose flooding you with those aromas. To prove this, do a quick experiment with a raisin. Eat a raisin as you normally would then eat a second raisin while plugging your nose. You will notice the raisin you eat while plugging your nose taste only sweet (sensation associated with taste). It is not until you release your nose (even after swallowing) that the aromas come rushing through. That’s because the flavors you taste are due to the scents reaching the nose when the raisin is in your mouth.
The same is true for wine. Wine contains around 200 aromatic compounds and by sniffing into your glass, you can direct all those scents to the olfactory epithelium giving you enjoyment. This sense of smell will continue as you taste then swallow the wine. So don’t be shy, get your nose in the glass and sniff!
You know wine vintage is a year but exactly what year is it referring to? The year the wine grapes were picked? The year the wine was bottled? The year the wine was put on the retail shelves?
Big reveal: the vintage of a wine refers to the year the grapes for the wine were harvested. For example, grapes harvested this year, 2016, will have a vintage of 2016 even though the wine may require 3 years of aging and you will not see it on the retail shelves until 2019. The vintage date is not required by law to be on the label; however, most wineries include it either on the front or back of the label. Still wines almost always come from a single vintage.
Fortified and sparkling wines, like Champagne, usually tend to be non-vintage meaning the grapes are blended from more than one vintage to keep the wine a consistent “house style.” There are exceptions to this however, on the rare occasion when there is an extraordinary year, and the wine is bottled as a single vintage. This happens maybe three to five times a decade.
Besides knowing the meaning of vintage, why is it important to pay attention to wine vintage? The answer lies in the weather. The weather plays an important role from one vintage to another. What the weather condition is during the year will greatly affect the outcome of a wine – how much rain, cloud coverage, sunlight, fog, etc. Poor weather conditions are not ideal for a vintage but a good winemaker can take those grapes and turn them into great wine. Excellent weather is a winemaker’s dream and can produce outstanding wine vintages (you will notice this in the price). By paying attention to very good vintages, you can reap the benefit by enjoying very good wine.
What does it mean to decant wine? Simply put, it means to transfer wine from the bottle to another container to make it taste better. Not all wine needs decanted, in fact, most doesn’t but the reasons for decanting are worth considering.
Inexpensive wine can have an off smell due to sulphur dioxide when you first open the bottle. Decanting will take away the smell.
Expensive wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, or Syrah may need tamed. Decanting the wine and letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will smooth tannins and round out the wine.
Young wine can benefit from decanting by exposing it to air and coaxing out aromas. Quickly splash the wine into the decanter to move it around. You will immediately notice the wine opening up. Letting it rest in the decanter for an hour or more will release even more aromas and flavors.
Aged wine can benefit from decanting due to the sediment inevitably found in the bottle. Decanting allows the sediment to be separated from the wine. Set the bottle upright for several hours to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom. Completely remove the foil capsule to make sure you can see through the neck of the bottle. Carefully remove the cork. With the decanter in one hand and the bottle in the other, slowly pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter. It is important not to splash the wine while pouring so you do not loose the delicate aromas and flavors that have developed with the age of the wine. Once you start to see the sediment in the neck of the bottle, stop pouring. Those delicate aromas and flavors tend to dissipate quickly with older vintages so enjoy your aged beauty immediately after decanting.
I have taken quite the hiatus (only 3+ years!) but decided it’s time to get this website back up and running again. I’ve dusted off the cobwebs, given it a new look, one that should be easy to read whether on your phone or computer and plan to fill it with life again. I hope you enjoy!
Today is Drink Wine Day! Pop the cork and enjoy a refreshing glass of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot, Shiraz, or Zinfandel in honor of the occasion! People have been producing wine since at least 6000 B.C. There are dozens of ancient legends about humans who accidentally consumed fermented grapes and became intoxicated, which is probably how wine was first conceived. Eventually, people began experimenting with the fermentation process. The methods for making wine spread from the region of Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, and eventually the New World. Today, over 20 million acres of the earth’s surface are dedicated to growing grapes for wine.
Have you ever wondered about the shapes of wine bottles? Are the different shapes random happenstance or are they part of a great plan? Believe it or not, the shapes of wine bottles are actually well calculated to match the styles of specific wines. If you love burgundy wine, then your bottle type has sloping shoulders and a tall appearance or if you love bordeaux, then your bottle type has straight sides and high shoulders.
This little bit of trivia can give you ease in spotting your preferred bottle…which can come in handy the next time you and your fellow wine shopper are both going for that last bottle of bordeaux!
This Olympics is epic in that it is the first time in history the games have their own official wine. UK wine merchant Bibendum was given the job of selecting the wines – a white, a rose and a red. The decision making didn’t come without controversy as the commercial director insisted the wines be from the 2012 vintage to avoid having confusion of the vintage date and 2012 Olympic date both on the bottle. In addition, since the wines would be available in event areas, they had to be contained in recyclable PET bottles and the alcohol level had to be lower than normal to promote responsible drinking (11.5% instead of around 13%).
To make the deadline, the wines had to be from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere and the grapes had to be picked early by a couple of weeks. For the white that meant the potential of too much acidity and green flavors. To overcome this winemakers fermented the wine with yeast strains from sauvignon blanc to enhance the aromatics knowing full well the wine would be drunk soon, age-worthiness not being a factor.
So what wines made the cut? The white and rose are from Stellenrust, the largest Fair-trade wine estate in South Africa located in the oldest, most respected region of Stellenbosch. The white is a Chenin Blanc that is easy drinking with tropical notes and just a hint of acidity. The rose is a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz and Merlot.
The red is from Seival Estate in Brazil, a nod to the 2016 Olympics. It’s a blend of Shiraz and Tempranillo with a dash of Gamay Nouveau to keep the otherwise earthy wine vibrant and lively.
If I were lucky enough to be at the Olympics, I’d have the white while watching beach volleyball, the rose while watching swimming and the red while cheering on the gymnasts.