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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Education’

Six Reasons to Drink German Wine

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Friend-worthy German Wines

Sloped German Vineyard

Sloped German Vineyard

It seems German wines have come full circle. There was a time back in the 70s and 80s when mass-produced, low-quality German wines were the rage in the United States. But as young drinkers grew into adulthood, their palates evolved from drinking sweet wines to dry styles. The wines that were imported were not seen as adult enough to enjoy at dinner with friends or while socializing. As a result, German wines became ‘so yesterday’ and got left behind along with other cheap beverages of youth.

Nowadays, there are plenty of quality German wines that are perfect as dinner companions. I believe a rediscovery of German wines is in order.

Here are six reasons to drink German wines again.

 

They are Not All Sweet

1. As a result of the American encounter with German wines in the 1970s, many wine drinkers mistakenly believe that all Riesling wines are sweet.  It’s simply not true.
German Rieslings are produced in six different styles. These levels of sweetness range from a semi-sweet, light style to an extremely sweet, rich, almost syrupy to the most-esteemed dessert wines. There is a German Riesling perfectly matched for any  occasion.

 

Esteemed Rieslings

2. This beautifully aromatic grape rewards the drinker with citrus, pineapple and honey. Wines from the famous Mosel region, are valued because of their slate flavor profile and floral bouquet. Rieslings from the Rheingau region, with its desirable south facing slopes, taste of apricot and peach. As they mature, Rieslings develop a petrol-like aroma. In addition, German Rieslings are typically low in alcohol by volume, which helps make them a nice sipping wine for a sunny afternoon.

 

Beyond Riesling
Riesling Vineyards Rheingau

Vineyards in Rheingau

3. Although Germany is primarily known for their prized Rieslings, there are other superb white wines to enjoy. White grape varieties grown throughout Germany include:

  • Müller-Thurgau – This grape is named after the Switzerland professor who created it from a cross of Riesling and Silvaner. It’s a light wine with a floral bouquet.
  • Silvaner – A full-bodied earthy and smoky wine with nice minerality grown in Rheinhessen and Franken.
  • Kerner – This grape was developed in 1969 and is a cross between Trollinger and Riesling. It too has a floral bouquet but is milder in acidity than a Riesling. It closely resembles a Muscat.
  • Grauburgunder – Translates to Gray Burgundy and is the same grape variety as Pinot Gris. It’s also referred to as Rulander, which is a full-bodied, rich fragrant wine.
  • Weissburgunder -The German name for Pinot Blanc is grown primarily in the Baden and Pfalz regions.  Weissburgunder is a great seafood wine.

There are also small amounts of international varieties grown including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

 

Wonderful Pinot Noir
Drink German Pinot Noir

Sip German Pinot Noir in the Vineyard

4. The German name for Pinot Noir is Spätburgunder. Pinot Noir is the third-most planted grape in country, particularly in Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Baden. The naturally cool German climate is a perfect growing environment for Pinot Noir. Spätburgunder has low tannins and is very fruit forward with elegant raspberry, strawberry, and cherry flavors.

 

Great food-pairing wines

5. This sweetness classification system gives German wines the ability to pair with myriad foods. Improvement in the quality of German wines has almost been lockstep with the culinary wave. German wines are often paired with regional cuisine served by internationally renowned chefs in the 250 or so Michelin-starred restaurants that spanned the country. Only France has more Michelin three-star restaurants.

 

Cellar Worthy

6. Rieslings are among the most-long-lived white wines. Their naturally high acidity serves as a preservative; and when combined with the residual sugar, you have a wine that can age gracefully for decades.

Due to the rise in global warming, German wines have actually benefited. This was particularly evident in the vintages of 2005 and 2007, which were considered two of the best in decades.

 

Mosel Riesling

Mosel Vineyard Riesling

I’ve shared six reasons to drink German wines but there are plenty more. If you want to drink wine at the source, in the vineyard, then you should seriously consider taking a trip to Germany.  We offer river cruises to many of these regions, allowing you the opportunity to experience the wine, culture and unique architecture firsthand. A river cruise through wine country is a perfect way to celebrate a milestone birthday, anniversary or other special occasion. Call us so we can plan your special European river cruise vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Impact of Oak and Alcohol

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How Oak and Alcohol Change Wine

Red Wine-Oak-aged, Tannins & high ABV

Red Wine-Oak-aged, Tannins & high ABV

The use of oak and the affects of alcohol have a significant impact on the wine that is ultimately produced. Oak aging has a definitive influence on the taste of wine, as well as the ability to pair the wine with various foods. The amount of alcohol present in a wine has to be carefully gauged so it doesn’t overpower a dish.

The amount of time a wine spends in oak barrels aging, the more the wine will take on the various flavors of the wood. Grapes contain tannins, which are naturally bitter and astringent. Through oak aging, and over a period of time, the tannins become more mellow and softer.

 

Below is a discussion of the impact of oak and alcohol in various wines.

 

Oak Barrels
Old Oak Barrels

Old Oak Barrels

The use of oak either French or American, imparts specific aromas and flavors to a wine. The newer the barrel, the more flavor it will impart.

  • In a white wine such as Chardonnay, the oak will impart flavors of toast, caramel or vanilla.
  • You’ll taste flavors of cigar box and spices like pepper and clove in red wine such Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

ABV

Alcohol gives wine a sense of body, as well as weight. Typically the higher the alcohol level, the more full bodied a wine. What determines whether a wine has low or high alcohol? It’s the alcohol by volume or (ABV).

  • A low alcohol wine has 7 to 10% ABV. This gives the wine a lighter weight and texture in your mouth.
  • A wine with high alcohol, typically ranging between 13 to 15%, produces exaggerated heat in your mouth, as well as a perception saltiness.

 

Pairing Tips
Locally Fresh Caught Fish

Fish Dish

Here are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind when you are thinking of pairing a wine that is been oak aged and/or has a high ABV.

  1. When pairing food and wine, give thought to body, or weight. Fish or chicken dish served with a cream sauce, or a hearty meat dish are nicely suited for a full-bodied wine like a Chardonnay. In contrast, a massive, oak-aged wine would quickly overpower a light, flaky baked fish.
  2.  Select a wine that echoes the flavor to your main dish. For example, if you are serving lamb, then pairing it with an Australian Shiraz, with its eucalyptus character, allows the two to complement each other.

 

These simple rules of thumb should help you understand the effects oak and alcohol play in your food and wine pairing choices.

 

 

 

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Wine Tasting Do’s & Don’ts

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12 Wine Tasting Tips

America is #1 Wine-drinking Nation

America is #1 Wine-drinking Nation

Just this year, the United States overtook France as the number one wine-consuming nation.  Congratulations my fellow Americans. I knew we had it in us! Everyone from octogenarians down to the recently legal 21 year old loves to drink wine.  But with this new title comes a bit of responsibility.  How does one go about properly tasting wine?  Here are some tried-and-true wine tasting do’s and don’ts. With these tips, you won’t look or sound like a rookie.

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting Dos & Don’ts

Wine Tasting Do’s
  • Do enjoy yourself.  Wine tasting isn’t a contest so relax and have fun with it.
  • Do eat plain crackers or wafers in-between tastings as to keep your palette refreshed.
  • Do stay hydrate.  The alcohol in wine can have a drying affect on your tongue and you want your taste buds to remain lively, not weighed down.
  • Do eat something before wine tasting so you don’t get tipsy or worse flat-out drunk.  You do not want those photos posted on Facebook.

    Many wines have spice flavors

    Many wines have spice flavors

  • Do use fruit, spice, vegetal or earthy descriptions to explain how the wine tastes.  Peach, vanilla, freshly mowed grass, or burnt wood are great everyday descriptions that should help you clearly convey your perception of the wine.  Make the descriptions relevant to your individual tastes.
  • Do think about what it is you like about a particular bottle of wine.  You can use this knowledge when selecting wines at a wine shop or restaurant.

 

Wine Tasting Don’ts
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne as it will interfere with people’s ability to sniff the wine’s aromas.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t smell or taste the same aromas or flavors as someone else.  Your palette and life experiences are different so your point of reference will differ from others. If you’ve never eaten lychee then don’t say you taste it in the wine.  Be true to yourself.
  • Don’t rinse your glass out with water.  Use wine.  Ideally, use one glass for white wine and another for red.  However, if you are using only one glass and you switch back from a red wine to white to double check a previous tasting experience, then rinse our glass using the white wine you’re about to re-taste. Swirl the wine around, toss it out, then pour your new sip.

    Wine Tasting Notes

    Wine Tasting Notes

  • Don’t get overly complicated writing your tasting notes.  Make notes that are simple enough for you to go back to in a week to decide whether or not you’d like to go out and purchase a particular wine.
  • Don’t be afraid to spit.  That’s what the professionals do.  Your taste buds can get thrashed, especially after tasting several tannin-laden red wines.  Give them a break by politely turning your head away from others and spit into a cup.  Once you’ve gotten your notes committed to paper then feel free to toss any remaining wine in your glass into a discard bucket.
  • Don’t focus on price.  Just because a wine costs $100 doesn’t mean you have to like it.  The real fun is discovering a $30 bottle of wine that tastes as though it costs $100.

These wine tasting do’s & don’ts can be used whether you host your own wine tasting party or go out to a wine bar.

 

 

 

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Wine Serving Temperatures

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Proper Wine Serving Temperatures

Chilled White Wine

Overly Chilled White Wine

It absolutely drives me crazy when I go out to a restaurant and they serve the white wine in an ice bucket and the red wine right from the shelf.  Wine serving temperatures matter!  From what sommelier school did these servers drop out?

So I’m putting it into print.  I can pull up this blog post and show them next time it happens.  And unfortunately, there will be a next time.  But I’m going to do my part to stop the craziness!

Why Serving Temperatures Matter

Enjoying the Aroma of Red Wine

Enjoying the Aroma of Red Wine

When wine is served too cold, the aromas and flavors are muted.  One of the most beautiful parts of drinking wine is enjoying the aroma prior to taking a sip. Your nose is sending a message to your taste buds to get ready for something delicious.

Also, when served too cold, white wine becomes like lemonade on a hot, summer day.   You just want to gulp it down to quench your thirst and cool down your body.  When wine is an accompaniment with food, you experience the exciting flavors inherent in a certain grape variety or highlighted by a vintner’s wine-making methods.   A too-cold wine robs you of this moment.  An overly chilled wine just isn’t cool.

White Wine Temperature

So if you are ordering a bottle of white wine to enjoy with dinner, have your server set the bottle on the table.  This will allow the wine to settle down from the shock of being in an ice-cold refrigerator.  If you prefer, you can have the server pour each guest a glass, but resist the temptation to drink it.  It will be worth the wait.  You can also use your hands to warm up the wine by caressing your glass.  Your body heat will help bring the temperature down.  White wine should be consumed as close as possible to 50 degrees F.

Red Wine Temperature

Red Wine at 55 Degrees

Serve Red Wine at 55-60 Degrees

Red wines are too often served too warm.   Red wine should be served at the same temperature range used for proper storage, 55-60 degrees F.  Room temperature is far too warm.  So that ice bucket many servers love to break out for white wine, ask her/him to chill your bottle of red before opening it for dinner service.

Red wine, especially one from sun-drenched California typically has an alcohol by volume (ABV) around 14 – 15.9%.  The wine’s alcohol “heat” is more pronounced when the wine is warm.  This means you’ll get the perception of a red wine being overly high in alcohol when all you need to do is chill it slightly to mute the burning affect.

The best way to get a bottle of red wine to the proper drinking temperature quickly is to take it out of the wine captain or refrigerator about 15-20 minutes prior to serving.  If your bottle has been sitting on your kitchen counter or on a shelf, then give it a quick, ice-water dunk to raise the temperature.  If you add a handful of salt, it will chill even quicker.

Cheers!

 

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Rhône Valley Reds – A Brief Overview

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The Rhône Valley benefits from a unique terroir that leads to fruit-forward, notable red wines for collecting and everyday enjoyment

The heart and soul of the Rhône Valley can be found in its distinctive grape Syrah.  Most Americans probably learned about Syrah by its alter-ego name Shiraz, which is how the Aussies refer to it, as do the South Africans.  Many wine enthusiasts have sipped this varietal wine while debating whether its origin is French or Middle Eastern.  Recently, DNA testing has helped quell the discussion as the grape has been shown to be a cross between Dureza and Mondeause Blanc, clearly French. Read More >

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Wine School Fundamentals – Week 9

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When I was growing up, whenever my brother, sister and I would do something that angered our father, he would say to us, “I do believe you are getting stupider and stupider.”

Well those words were ringing in my ears last Monday night.  During our first “round” of blind tastings, I turned to my classmate Heidi and said that I can’t smell anything nor can I taste anything. And she mumbled back, “Yeah me either.”  And although misery loves company, I didn’t feel any better knowing at that moment she was as wine confused as I.  Now that it is Week 9, we have tasted wines from Europe, South and North America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Let me tell you that it is confusing as hell. Read More >

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Spanish Wines for the Holidays

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What a wonderful time to be a wine drinker.  Nowadays, there are hundreds of quality wines available at incredibly reasonable prices.  But with so many choices, some people are at a loss for what to buy and serve so they end up taking home the “usual suspects” – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.   But I believe the holiday season is a perfect time to safely experiment with some awesome wines that complement the foods we love to eat this time of year. Read More >

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Why should I decant wine?

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Why you should decant wine

I can recall when I was a young woman watching an episode of Columbo where one of the suspects was decanting a fine wine.  I had never seen anyone go through such drama to have a glass of wine.  The wine connoisseur was going on and on about the importance of using cheese cloth, having a steady hand while you poured, and making sure there was ample time to allow the wine to breath before dinner as though to err on any of these points would surely result in loss of life. Back in the day, many wine drinkers were self-appointed snobs and I believe this kind of snooty behavior only helped to further taint the growth of wine as an everyday beverage to be enjoyed by the masses. Read More >

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South African Wines – Great quality wines in the Cape Winelands near Cape Town

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South Africa’s long tradition of wine making is showcased with crisp white wines and French-style reds throughout the Western Cape

Mountain View Cape Town

Mountain View Cape Town

With the end to Apartheid in 1994, South Africa began to emerge as a world-class wine region.  With a long history of grape growing, dating back to the 17th century, throughout the South African Winelands, winemakers have undergone an ambitious program of vineyard replanting, technology upgrades and a renewed focus on quality improvement that they hope will drive an increase in wine exports. Of course, lucky US wine consumers will be the benefactors of this explosion. Read More >

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Wine School Fundamentals – Week 12

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I’ve got good news and bad news.  First the good.  I’m finished with my certification class and I have my life back. The bad news. I’m finished with my certification class and I’m really going to miss it.   Unfortunately, my next level, The Sommelier Diploma Program is not going to be offered in southern California but only in San Francisco, so I will not be able to earn this esteemed title, at least not this term.

Examination grading was done on an anonymous basis using only your student ID on the testing sheets.  The instructor grades the exams and then he Fed Ex’s them off to the main campus in Florida where they receive a final round of grading.  On the first  round, the average score was a 75%.  So unless Florida finds some discrepancies, I earned a score of 87%. This old girl did all right. Read More >

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