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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Fundamentals’

German Wine Ripeness Primer

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In Germany, Ripeness = Quality

Refractorometer for measuring sugar levels

Refractometer measures sugar levels

Here’s a quick guide on German wine categories. As a member of the European Union, German wines fall into two broad categories as either table wine or quality wine. I bet American consumers would be  surprised to learn that approximately 90% of German wines are classified as quality wines. Germany’s classification system  categorizes wines by their level of sweetness or ripeness. Since Germany has a cold-growing climate, it’s more difficult for grapes to ripen. Therefore, the riper the grapes, the better the quality. In essence, ripeness equals sweetness. But this doesn’t that all German wines are sweet wines.

German wines of quality come from 1 of 13 specific wine-growing regions. The grapes in these regions are typically riper than in other parts of the country and are subject to much higher production standards.

The basic quality wines, Qualitätswein are suitable for everyday drinking. They are wines designed to be consumed young. The next level is called Selection and they are of a more superior quality dry wine, perfect for fine dining.

Age-worthy German Wines

Age-worthy German Wines

The highest in this classification system, Prädikatswein means a wine with special attributes. These are premium wines made from fully ripened botrytis-affected grapes. They have the ability to age for decades.

When trying to read a German wine label, look for the following words to describe ascending levels of sweetness to help you determine a wine that is appropriate for your occasion. The German wine ripeness primer explains the six levels of sweetness.

1. Kabinett – This is a light-bodied wine with low alcohol, typically ranging between 7% and 10%.

2. Spätlese – This translates to “late harvest”. It’s a well-rounded wine with balance and intense flavors.

3. Auslese – A wine that is considered noble wine. It has a strong floral bouquet. These “selected harvest” grapes can have an alcohol by volume (ABV) up to 14%.

Riesling Ripening on the Vine

Riesling Ripening on the Vine

4. Beerenauslese – These “selected berries” wines are made from overripe grapes that were individually hand selected. They are quite rare and produce exquisite wines. They have a lovely honey aroma.

5. Eiswein – This wine is made from grapes that have been left on the vine to freeze. They are picked while frozen, which gives them an intense concentration of acidity, as well as sweetness. They are some of the most age-worthy wines in the world.

6. Trockenbeerenauslese – The grapes used to produce this wine are raisin like. Because of the intense concentration of sweetness due to the shriveled up grapes, this wine produces very low yield. As a result they are quite expensive and reserved for the most special of occasions, unless you have an unlimited wine budget.

German wines are not all alike.  Each deserves a fresh look and taste to determine just which ones are right you and your occasion.

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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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Out of the Ordinary Wines

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Wall Street Journal Columnist Discusses Interesting Wines

Lettie Teague, the wine columnist for the Wall Street Journal wrote an article this past Saturday titled, “The Unique Charms of “Miscellaneous Wines” that appeared in her column, “ On Wine”.   The article discusses the unknown wines that restaurant wine directors add to their wine lists, hoping to entice diners to select these wines instead of the more tried-and true picks.   The article shares how frequently, these lesser-known wines are listed under headings such as “Miscellaneous  Wines“ or “Interesting Wines” instead of by region or grape variety. 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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Location is key ingredient to Mardi Gras, just like in wine

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Mardi Gras is a holiday founded on ritual, tradition, and prestige, and of course, delicious delicacies served on Fat Tuesday. So why shouldn’t one hold their celebratory beverages to the same standards? And to receive an unparalleled Mardi Gras celebration, one heads to New Orleans.

Location matters when you celebrate a traditional Mardi Gras just as much when one considers the perfect Port or Champagne.  These are wines that embody the traditions of the lands where they originated, yet they are frequently imitated by manufacturers that use grapes that are not from these regions. 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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Wine School Fundamentals – Week 8

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When I enrolled in wine school it never occurred to me that I’d need to brush up on foreign language skills.  Okay. I’ll confess. Like most Americans I really don’t have any foreign language skills.   But now, going through life as a monolingual has finally bitten me squarely on my ass.

After two months, I can say “table wine” in four languages.  Vino da Tavola, Vin de Table, Vino de Mesa and Tafelwein.  Impressive, isn’t it?  Well, maybe for a 5th grader.  OMG I have lots of work to do.

Now I have to work on all those appellations in France that look and sound the same.  On our essay exam, points will be deducted for misspelling.  Right now, it’s hard for me to remember to spell correctly the Burgundy region Côte d’Or then add a “s” and an extra “e” minus the apostrophe for the commune of Côtes de Nuits but for Côte de Beaune, drop the “s” while keeping the “e” on the de.   I’m sure Madam Chittum from high school French Class taught the rule to us but I have so forgotten it.   Too bad my bilingual friends can’t sit on my shoulder during the examination correcting my mistakes along the way.  You know who you are. Read More >

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Wine School Fundamentals-Week 7

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As we enter Week 7 of wine school, I have started to believe that I have a much more refined palate than when I began and back then, I thought it was fairly decent.  Well, after a tasting session last week, I experienced a moment of doubt.

Brandon, our instructor asked me to read my tasting notes for the first of 11 wines we would be tasting that evening.  I rattled off comments regarding the appearance and then went on to the nose, which I noted had white florals and minerality.  I then described the palate or taste.  It was dry, with medium plus acidity, a bit of stone, no wood ageing.  Brandon offered encouragement and I continued.  I felt the flavor profile provided hints of Asian pear and apricot, and finally ended by explaining that the body as well as alcohol level were medium minus with a finish short in length.  I began my deductive conclusion by stating it was definitely Old World, from a cool climate.  Brandon told me I was “spot on”, one of his favorite phrases and then asked if I knew what it was. Read More >

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